Saturday, January 5, 2013

on the twelfth day of Christmas

In July, 2003 I left behind a 20 year career in television marketing and promotions for seminary and a part time student appointment as pastor of Apple River United Methodist Church.  I was thrilled to begin my journey as a pastor in this small village in NW Illinois.

Gordon Lamont became one of our favorite Apple River citizens.  Gordon was a widower who made homemade caramels and sugar cookies from scratch, the soft kind with sugar on top like my grandma used to make.  I think its fair to say that Gordon was the patriarch of the church and he was loved and respected by one and all.  Gordon was also a wood worker and I am pleased to have several pieces made by him in my home.  Among my treasures made by Gordon is a Christmas card holder.

Each Christmas when I pull out this simple Christmas card holder I think of Gordon and remember his kindness to me and my family.  Each Christmas as I decorate the tree I pause as I unwrap the ornament he gave me with a picture of Apple River UMC on it - so I would never forget my first church.  His church.  The church he helped to rebuild after a fire when he was but a boy, where he raised his family and buried his wife.

Gordon is gone now, home with the Lord and his beloved wife.  I will never forget Gordon, or any of the other fine people who loved me into being a pastor and taught me lessons that I still draw on today.  The stories they shared, the experiences that we all shared make me who I am today, they make me a better person let alone pastor.

Christmas and the Christmas season is a time of memories, both making and sharing them.  Christmas is supposed to be a happy time, and there is much to be happy about, but it can also a challenging time with family gatherings, unmet expectations and the basic funk that can happen after Christmas is over.  

I believe that a lot of what I do as a pastor is create an environment for people to experience God in new ways.  I seek opportunities for memories to be made with the help of a variety of people who share their talents and gifts as an offering to God at our worship services.  These memories, I pray, will help to encourage and sustain us when we face challenging times in our faith journey.  

Christmas Eve 2012 at Trinity UMC
I am grateful for my senses and the ways that a certain smell or a color or image or the taste of something can evoke a memory and take me to a place that helps me to remember the beauty and meaning of the Christmas season.

It is my prayer that as Christmas winds down this weekend and our decorations are put away for another year that the memories created this year will be with you to encourage and sustain you in your faith journey in 2013 and beyond.

journeying together to Bethlehem and beyond,

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