Thursday, November 30, 2017

Contrasting Clergy Privilege -- then and now

Good morning friends! It'll be time to hit the road in a couple minutes. It's 5:37 AM right now and my alarm will go off at 5:42, telling me to stop doing other things and get my jacket on so I can make it to work on time.

Oftentimes I think about how much our life has changed in the last 10 years. Beginning when Toni and I moved to Ladysmith, Wisconsin in 1984, I was supported as a member of the clergy. Toni and I moved from St. Paul, where I'd been a seminary student, to the place where I'd serve as associate pastor of an established church. Most of our married life, and all the years during the time Toni and I were raising our children, we were privileged and well supported. Now things are different.

I wrote the item below as I was thinking about how different my younger son's life is. It's kind of a mish mash because I didn't go back and edit it.

Jon is also serving as a pastor, but the church is very small. He's needing to have a second job and even so he and Breanna are barely "making it" financially. They trust God and they are fine, but it does make me consider how privileged I have been. My older son, Dan, is at a more established church. He, I think, shares in a bit of the privilege that I enjoyed in years past.

OK... my alarm went of 2 minutes ago. Got to run.

Written on Saturday, November 18

Toni and I are out in Cokato tonight, at our younger son's home, caring for our granddaughters while Jon and Breanna are at a wedding celebration. Another of their high school friends was married tonight. I imagine it'll be late before they get back. (It's 9:30 now.)

I'm glad they can have the night out. I can't imagine how exhausting it must be to do everything they need to, with the church they're leading, their three daughters (a 3 year old and year-and-a-half old twins), and doing everything with far less financial support than Toni and I had when we were in a similar position. At least they have Breanna's parents in town here. What a blessing they are!

When our children were small we lived in Ladysmith, Wisconsin. I was associate pastor of an established church, and, as Breanna and Jon do, we did a lot together with high school age young people. Jon & Breanna's work is more challenging though, because they don't have a lot of parents who are eager to have their middle and high school age children involved in youth activities. They're starting from scratch, in many ways, though they do have a great core of spiritually mature adults who are standing with them. There are so many reasons to give thanks!

Last night (Friday, November 19) our older son, Dan, and his wife Shatera, were at our place in Roseville making lefse with Toni. They were well on their way with the project when I got home from work. Dan & Shatera are involved in church work also, and one of the things we talked about with them is the possibility that they may have an opportunity to rent a large home (with another couple) for a reduced rate starting sometime next year, thanks to the generosity of people from Dan's church. They're expecting their first child in January, so obviously that's a great thing considering that they're now living in a one bedroom apartment.

Now that I'm working a "regular job" I'm more and more aware of how our ability to do what God calls us to do, even our ability to come out here (to Cokato) today to be with our grandkids, depends on having a regular, steady and "fair" income.

Last night Dan and Shatera and Toni and I were talking a bit about my work, and, specifically about my work schedule. Shatera asked what I would have done if I had started working as a bus driver when our kids were small. At that point I would have needed to be working full time. Hours are so crazy when a person starts. I know it's hard for bus operators who are parents today. I'm sure it would have been for me back then too. I told Shatera that I'd probably have looked for other work back then, even if it paid somewhat less money.

Though that's true, it's hard for me to even think about or imagine, that is, that I would have had to think about work and income differently. I've been privileged. As I said, I was a part of an established church, called to serve there, though that wasn't my plan. We were well taken care of. Somehow, though, it was God's.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Trusting God

I went to bed at about 9. Toni thought that was mighty early, but I reminded her that I do get up at 5, so if I had slept straight through that would have been 8 hours. That's about what I need to feel well. I usually don't sleep straight through though. So I get good naps during the day. One at some in the morning after my first work shift, another just before I go back for my second shift in the afternoon.

It's good, and important, for me to trust God -- not only in the abstract, not only in general, but also in the particulars of life, trusting that He has my best interests in mind even as he guides, in some ways that I can't fully understand, the daily and weekly pattern of my life, my comings and my goings, my waking and my sleeping, working and resting, my time with others and my time alone. It's good for me to trust God for all of that, to believe that He has, in some rather mysterious way, appointed certain activities and situations for me to "live into" each day. It's good for me to believe that, not only because it gives me peace, but because God does actually do that providential work in my life. And in yours too.

It's time for me to go back to bed now. More about this at another time.

Here's quote from a book I read earlier this year:
We do not learn to dance by watching our feet. Dancers do more than contemplate moves; in the dance they enjoy the partner. To follow in the dance of life is to look for, be thankful for, and pray for God's love, mercies, and providence. We may not know which events... display[] God's providence. But we can justifiably believe that the unlikeliest rock even may turn out to be a treasured jewel, that some events are miracles, and through them we can see along and encounter God, and in everything give joyful thanks. - Bruce Reichenbach in Divine Providence (final paragraph)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Live, Work, Study

It's so great to have a warm place to be on a cold night. It's wonderful to be able to do worthwhile things. My job is a delight. I LOVE my family. It's so great to have a clear mind and a strong body and, more than anything else, to be absolutely secure in the unconditional love of God, love I know about because of Jesus, love that I know is for everyone everywhere.

from Democracy In America Part 1, Chapter 13
Sure, I can still complain. I can say, like I did in my last post on this blog, that I don't have enough time to do everything I want to. I'm one of those who, as Alexis de Tocqueville observed, is "constrained to work in order to procure the means of physical subsistence." And even though I mostly enjoy my work, especially when my bus is full of people, those hours do keep me busy, and, when I get home, there are lots of practical chores to do, and different sorts of "good things" that it's "good to do" with and for my family and friends.

But tonight I do have some time -- and I'll use it for this. I'll use it to write a bit, since I've done so reading, or better said, "listening" to audio versions of books, in recent days. That possibility of listening as I do other things, instead of just needing to sit and read, it's so wonderful! It might even be a partial solution for busy people to become better informed member of society. I believe that's a part of our calling to love our neighbor as ourself.

It's possible to be listening to a variety of educational materials while we do chores, and while we commute to and from work, and at other times when our hands might be busy but our minds aren't. That's how I managed to continue with the "Political Theory" study. I "checked out" an audio book from the library and was able to listen to The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli- that didn't take too long. Now I'm about halfway through Part 1 of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America. I found that book for free online -- both in virtual "print" and in an audio recording.

One of the things de Tocqueville lamented in his book was how few of the "common people" were well informed about what's going on in their country, even though they could, "strictly be said to govern in the United States." The people are supreme here, so it's sad when they often ignorant of anything other what their political party says, or what they read in the newspapers, or what their friends are saying.

In the 1830s, at the time when de Tocqueville was writing, very many of the people--at the time white men only--were involved in political decision making, at least at the local level. Most of those decisions, he said, were wisely made. However, when it came to situations beyond the areas where they lived, for example, things going on with the Federal Government, they were not well informed. The "common people's" work left little time for reading and writing and study.

This was a problem because it's the people, writes de Tocqueville, who "may strictly be said to govern in the United States." It's an evil thing, and a harmful thing, when such opinions, the people's votes, and the influence of the people's representatives, are driven along by "incessant agitation of parties" and whatever was printed in the newspapers. He was also aware of the simple power of crowds, noting the common observation that our "emotions in the midst of a sympathizing crowd are far greater than those which [we] would have felt in solitude." Ain't it the truth.

The same is true today, though now it's not just parties and newspapers that drive the people's thinking, and it's not just being physically present in crowds that amplifies our feelings. #socialmedia On the other hand, we do have a technological fix available to us. We can both work and study. We don't need to choose.

So it's good to spend time learning, as deeply as you can, so that your thinking can be clear. I wonder what would happen if people in general were to read more, and study more, instead of just being entertained, even by the news. Perhaps we could find solutions to some of our national and local issues, and stop shouting so much.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Back to the 70s

It's the end of another weekend. My, my, how time flies. It's been a good weekend, but, as Jim Croce sang in 1973:
There never seems to be enough time
To do the things you want to do

Once you find them
And what I want to do is some writing. Specifically, I want to write about something I've been studying this past week.

Political Theory.


Strange but true.

I was led to listen to some lectures on the topic this past week when a young friend said that Alexis de Tocqueville observed, in the 1830s, that "the reason why religion, mainly Christianity, was so prevalent and strong in the U.S." had to do with "avoidance of politics and holding strong ties to public office." That got me searching for an actual quote on the subject by de Tocqueville, and that led me to the lectures.

Why care about this? Partly it's because I've been concerned that some of us (Christians) are so connected to political parties or ideologies--or even political candidates and office holders--so dedicated to them that they're known more for those ties than for their dependence on Jesus.  

I wondered if public political positions of Christians make a difference to others, specifically, to non-Christians, as we speak about Jesus and His love?

I found an article written just after the election quoting various Christian leaders who were concerned that Trump's win would "harm the church's witness." I couldn't find any followup to that article, but then my young friend brought up the de Tocqueville quote.

That's how I was moved to study his work and the work of other political theorists during this past week.

It's interesting and important stuff. (After all, political science was my first college major.) Political theory is interesting and important because politics and government affect all of our lives, especially, perhaps, the lives of those who have the least power of their own.

Interesting, important, and often, nasty, corrupt, full of compromise and impure alliances. It's been a long time since I dropped that poly sci major (in my first college semester -- fall of 1974), but I haven't lost interest -- because somehow we need to work with others to do that "love of neighbor" work... work that brings us alongside sinful and self-interested and idealistic people (and parties, etc.), each of whom have their own reasons for being in the politics game.

This week, by the way, we'll be having elections in Minnesota -- and an election in our "Amalgamated Transit Union" local. I do tend to vote... so I'll need to do some looking into the issues and candidates in the next couple days.

And maybe I'll have time to get to the meat of Political Theory. We'll see.