August 13, 2009

Perhaps They Come From God

Good things in the pastor's office. Relationships are nurtured through phone calls and emails. Counseling is given. Sermons and newsletter articles are written on the office computer while--often simultaneously--facebook and twitter are kept up to date. There are often four or five windows open on the computer at any given time.

To the right of the computer, one whole wall is given over to books. Commentaries, dictionaries, Bibles, biographies... books on everything from preaching to history to psychology fill shelves that rise up almost to the ceiling. Even a few favorite novels are there.

A few books are not on the shelves, but on the large desk; books I'm in the middle of, books I've just finished, and books I've yet to start. There's also one or two books loaned to me by well-meaning parishioners with the admonition, "you must read this." There is, next to the books, a candle and a ceramic skateboard, which was a gift from my son.

(After several painful occurrances that happened while cleaning my desk, the small potted cactus has been moved to the windowsill.)

Across the room are hymnals used for worship planning, a box of promotional items for this fall's boy scout popcorn fundraiser (wanna buy some popcorn?), a lava lamp that needs a new bulb, a guitar, the bike I rode to work, and a crate of supplies that I took to camp but haven't yet unpacked even though it's been over a month.

Many of these things call out to me. Some represent tasks that need to be done. Others distract my thoughts from whatever they had been focusing on. Is it any wonder that, every so often, I need to get out of the office for inspiration to come?

About once a week, I'll take a pen or pencil and some paper and head to the coffee shop; not even the laptop gets to go. There, I'll spend several hours writing a sermon, a newsletter article, or a blog post. The only distraction is my cup of green tea--hot in winter, iced in summer--which really isn't much of a distraction at all.

Sometimes, inspiration comes as I walk. That's one piece of advice they never give you in preaching class: go for a walk. One could also go for a drive with the radio off, but here in southern California, the roadways aren't often conducive to quiet, undistracted reflection. Besides, shelling out money for gas and polluting the atmosphere isn't very holy.

One final source of inspiration is the nap. As one lets go of consciousness, one also lets go of distractions. The mind begins to wander, dream, sometimes even before the body is fully asleep. Sometimes those dreams are history: events from the past mixing with the present in a strange warping of the time-space continuum. Sometimes those dreams are fantasy. I won't say anymore about that, except that you have yours, and I have mine.

Sometimes, those dreams and thoughts are pulled in new directions, pulled into unchartered territory; and in those new lands, new thoughts emerge. What agent is it that pulls the subconscious and semi-conscious? The landscape is so new and unfamiliar, nothing in your conscious living could have led you there. From where did these thoughts, ideas, and images come?

Perhaps they come from God.

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