April 29, 2010


Yesterday morning I was sitting in a coffee shop, which is where I work from every Wednesday morning for ninety minutes or even two hours before heading to church.  I'm not a coffee drinker, but they have green tea, which I do drink.  I am, however, a coffee smeller, and I have no idea what coffees I am smelling when I'm there, but I can think of few things that smell better than the inside of a coffee shop.

I always take with me a book or two, some pieces of paper, and a pencil.  I do not take my laptop - on this one morning of the week, I am free from the burden of email and other social networks, free to read and meditate and perhaps develop some ideas for future sermons without the interruption of electronic communication. 

So, yesterday, as I sat there reading Putting Away Childish Things by Marcus Borg, rereading parts of An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, and then composing a prayer for next Sunday's worship, it suddenly occurred to me to check the day's date.  When I did, I realized that it was on the same day two years earlier that I began my ministry at Bixby Knolls Christian Church.

Experience has taught me that the first year at a new church in a new city is mostly about learning how to get around:  how to get to the store, the bank, the post office; how to get around a new sea of faces, learning people's names, getting to know them; how to travel through the seasons and holidays.  The first time through the calendar, everything is new.  It's a time of discovering what traditions and rituals give shape to a congregation's liturgical year.

In the second year, things are more familiar, and "familiar," in this case, is nice in a comforting sort of way.  I don't remember when it was exactly, but at some point during the past year, when my family was driving home after a road trip of several days, I found myself looking forward to "getting back home" to where the scenery, routines, and faces are all familiar.

Suddenly I was startled to realize that, for the first time, "getting back home" meant Long Beach and Bixby Knolls.  What was once new, exciting, unfamiliar and even anxiety-inducing in its newsness had become a place of comfort and familiarity, a place where I belonged.  And now, as I write these words, I wonder if I ever reached this stage in my last place of ministry, the last place I called "home" ... which makes me realize all the more just how good it is to be here.

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