Leibster Award

liebster_awardI was flabbergasted this afternoon to learn that I have been nominated for my first award.  As I understand it, the word “Leibster” means beloved in German.  What a wonderful way to be honored!!

I cannot thank Vida enough for thinking of me in her nomination process.  I thoroughly enjoy reading her blog “Good Graciousness” mainly because I share an affinity for those who are not comfortable with the prevailing definition of what it means to be a Christian/Conservative.  I especially grow from reading blogs by women on this issue and Vida graciously challenges me with her observations!

Part of receiving this award includes answering a set of questions that Vida has prepared for me.  So, here goes:

Why did you start your blog?

I was encouraged way back in 2006 to start a blog by a dear friend and former parishioner, Roy Blackwell.  Truthfully, at the time I did not see the need and “A Pastor Ponders” kinda slipped away.  However, shortly after moving to Princeton I felt a strong desire to “write” something beyond my normal weekly sermon.  “Not Quite Home” developed from that desire.  At first, I let my work as a pastor really determine the content, but in the last six months, I have moved the focus away from that and really have attempted to use this as a creative and spiritual development tool for myself.  (Other than the short story “Sarah’s Story” I can’t recall the last sermon I posted.  It just doesn’t seem to fit anymore.

What is your favorite hobby or activity – one that really makes you feel happy and peaceful?

This one is fairly easy to answer.  I love to walk.  Although the weather in Southern West Virginia isn’t great in the winter months, I still enjoy getting out as often as possible just to wander around.  I have worked this in as my “reward” for completing certain things on my daily “to-do” list…if I actually manage to write one out.  Either way, a good walk beings me happiness and peace.  The best ones I remember were the hours and hours I walked the gorgeous Duke Memorial Gardens while a student at Duke.  I can still smell the Japanese Paper Bushes blooming and even the memory brings me to a great place.

What is your favorite book?

This is almost like asking me which child is my favorite.  My heart is literally torn as I look at the shelves of books across from me in this study.  I honestly have to answer in two parts.  My favorite book for reading purposes has to be the “Harry Potter Series.”  I know that they were written as separate books, but give me any one of the seven – I will read it again.  I think I am fond of these books because first, they got me interested in reading and writing again.  Secondly, I read the first two volumes to my daughter Erin out loud.  Those are memories I will cherish for a lifetime.  (And yes, she read the others on her own.  We did the midnight book purchasing together and, with her sister, even dressed in costume for midnight premieres of the movies – I was Professor Lupin.)

I also have a favorite book that sits on my shelf.  It is Stephen King’s “The Dark Tower” (Book VII).  Once again, I love everything written by King, but this book is special to me because it is a signed first edition.  I actually like the book “The Stand” the most from King’s collection and I have a first of it also, but alas…it remains unsigned!

Tell us something about you not many people know.

When I was a teenager, I used to do a fairly regular “bit” on a local radio station during their Friday late night shift.  I wasn’t a DJ but I would call in and the DJ would put me on the air for his time with the “Mt. Hope Madman.”  I know I told a lot of very corny jokes during those bits and occasionally gave “road reports” which is where I first developed a love for sarcasm as a form of humor.  I am not even sure everyone in my family knows I did this!!

What was the most magical day of your life, and why?

One day, my oldest daughter, Leslie, had to attend classes with me at Duke Divinity School.  While I was in class, my classmates would keep her entertained.  Between classes, we would walk around the campus and just find things to do.  During one of those breaks, I pulled out a jump rope that I had brought with me and the two of us began taking turns jumping rope.  Sometimes we would jump solo, sometimes in tandem.  At some point in our little “fun time” I looked up and noticed that we had attracted something of an audience of Divinity School students.  They were all cheering us on.  At first, I was embarrassed.  Almost immediately, though, Leslie encouraged me to take my turn and I did.  I realized in that moment what it meant to be “Daddy” and I hope and pray I never forget it.

I have had many magical moments – births, marriage, and even ordination – but none of them hold a candle to that day and that event.

Do you believe in love at first sight? Why or why not?

Nope.  I believe in lust at first sight…even strong attraction at first sight, but sadly, not love.  The reason for me is that love is something that must be worked at like any other art in our lives.  I deeply and truly love my wife, Pam, but I know that this is something much more than any attraction I have.  I have the desire to make her happy.  I have the desire to share life with her.  I want to communicate openly with her.  All of this is work.  Rewarding and wonderful work, but work nonetheless.  This can’t happen at first sight.

What is your favorite childhood memory?

Riding with my brothers and friends on the tailgate of Mr. Summers’ truck as we headed out to his farm several miles from our house.  I’m sure it either was against the law or is now, but we loved those trips up the mountain to that farm.  Good times!!

Describe yourself in three words?

Husband, Father, and Wanderer

If you could spend a day with one person, living, or dead, who would it be and why?

I would choose to spend that day with Deitrich Bonhoeffer.  First, I would pray that his English was better than my German – which is non-existent but I would still choose him.  Bonhoeffer’s ability to maintain a loving presence even while fighting one of the greatest evils to have possessed our world is something I would just love to experience for a day.  I think he would have a lot to say to those of us fighting for a new definition of conservative Christian in the United States and I am sure I could learn something from him about that battle.

Who is the one person who can always make you smile?

I could easily pick my wife for this one but I want to choose someone else.  (Hopefully, she will understand.  If not…well, I will have more work to do!)  I also have two other daughters that I could choose because they too bring love to my life, but since I have to choose…

My youngest daughter, Allie, is the one who can always make me smile.  She is special to me because she is my youngest, but also because she reminds me of all the things I love about myself.  When she was very young, she made me feel like the Dad I want to be and treated me as her hero.  Now, we share a great love for “Superheroes” and “Doctor Who.”  For years, she was at the mercy of my wit and humor but now this Dad is being schooled by his little girl.  Thanks, Allie.  You make every day brighter.

Now, for those that I want to nominate – should you decide to accept it, here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.
2. You must answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.  (That list is below the nominations.)
3. You must nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.
4. You must come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

(Drum roll please…) And my nominees for the Leibster Award are:

Appalachian Preacher
Love, Life and Dreams

Purpose Filled Journey
Pulpit Shenanigans
A Walk Between Words
Better Than Reality
Relax and Inhale
Swirls of Truth
Occasional Stuff
My Writing Box

My questions for you are?

1. Why did you start your blog?
2. If your life were a movie, who would play you?
3. Describe yourself in five words.
4. What is the next thing to do on your bucket list?  (If you don’t have one, why not?)
5. What was the best day in your life thus far?
6. Who was your childhood hero?
7. If you could have any “superpower” what would it be?
8. Coffee, Tea or “Just leave me alone in the morning”? (What gets your day started?)
9. Who is your closest family member (not living in your house) and why are you so close?
10. Describe the perfect vacation for you?

I am looking forward to reading each and every one of your answers!!

Outsiders Grace

I sat at the end of the bench.  If there were a spot beyond the end of the bench, I would have gladly sat there.  The floor was a thought but Coach would not allow it.  The corner at the end would just have to do.

Greg, Walter and a few others had the best seats.  They were the starters.  Their seats were empty right then simply because they were out of the floor playing the game of basketball.  It was the United Methodist Youth team v. the Baptist Youth team in the remnants of the city of Mt. Hope, sometime in February of 1977.

I probably would not remember the date very well but forty laps at a practice that week kind of burned it into my brain.  When you are the ninth man on the team, you hardly think anyone would notice that you aren’t at practice so I blew one off that week to go see “King Kong”.  (It was the 1976 version with Jessica Lang and almost any eleven year old boy might choose laps to watch Jessica Lang.)  When I showed up for the next day’s practice the coach simply asked where I was and when I fessed up to being at a movie he thought it was worth forty laps.  At least he did not make the whole team run them.  They would have finished a long time before I did and each time they would have passed me the taunting would have been unbearable.

Perhaps that is why I was hiding in the little corner on the end of the bench so well at that moment.  It was not the laps.  It was not the impending taunts.  The Coaches were way to close for any of that to take place but I knew the locker room was just a couple of short basketball periods away.  The real taunting would start then.

I had played in the game.  It was a rule in our little church league that everyone got to play one quarter.  The coaches decided to put our weaker links out on the court in the second period and I marched out with them.  I remember Coach Groves words well, “Just play good defense.  Don’t let them score too much and when you get the ball, get it to Greg.  He can work it from there.”

Well, I played pretty good defense most of the time anyway.  I was the shortest guy on our team and could often sneak around without being noticed and occasionally steal the ball.  Shooting?  Forget it?  I was about 1 for 30 from the free throw line, another place I would never stand except during those interminable practices.

basketball net

But something strange happened in that game before I found my corner of the bench.  The other team had the ball.  One of their not-so-good players took a rather wild shot and it bounced off the front of the rim like a bullet and came right towards me.  I didn’t think.  I didn’t hear Greg yelling for the ball.  I dribbled twice and worked my way into the lane and shot…

…And scored…

…For the other team.
I didn’t even wait for the Coach to pull me out when I heard the laughing Baptists congratulating me for the extra two points.  I simply walked to the bench.  Grabbed my corner and stayed there till the end of the game.  I knew the taunting would come in the locker room.  It almost always did.  Meanwhile, I sat on my little corner of the end of the bench.

Even now, I still find myself sitting on the edge of the end of a pew from time to time.  I have even caught myself moving forward on those huge cushy seats that they give preachers to perch upon during the rest of the worship service.  Every once in a while, it is a comfort to sit on the edge and wonder what kind of grace it is going to take to allow God to use me the way God wants to use me.  Trust me, I am far enough forward in my seat as I type this to feel the back wheels of the chair lifting off the ground.

Sometimes, I know that being on the outside, well, that’s the only place to find true grace.

Daily Prompt – The Outsiders

 

Mired

He felt mired in the muck of mediocrity, that was for certain.  The Book lay open before him on the desk.  The damnable cursor on the computer screen blinked.  And blinked again.  And as if for good measure, it continued blinking well into the night. “Go into all the world and make disciples…”  The words mocked him.cold weather

It was Saturday night and inspiration had escaped again.  Perhaps it went out the window on Thursday afternoon when the parishioner dropped by to tell him that there were lots of problems with the church.  “We just can’t seem to get our act together and go any one direction.”  Go into the world and make disciples…

Perhaps it had left even earlier in the week.  Tuesday maybe?  That was when the counters let him know that there was not enough in the end of the year offering to meet the total obligations that they hoped to pay to the denomination.  Something left him them.  He wasn’t sure if it was inspiration or hope.  Go into the world and make disciples…

Or maybe Saturday morning when the other parishioner stopped by to say that he was leaving the church.  “Nothing wrong,” preacher.  “I just feel it is time to go on in order to keep the peace.”  Yeah…that could have been it.  Go into the world and make disciples.

He got up from his desk in the little study and stood by the Kuerig© as he waited for another cup of decaf to brew.  He walked over and got a couple of the leftover chocolate chip cookies.  He then stood in the living room where his family was watching some movie or another on the screen.  “Sermon fuel?” his oldest child asked.  He swallowed and nodded and then took the ten steps back to the study.  Go into the world and make disciples.

“This really shouldn’t be that hard,” he said to the blinking cursor or himself.  Or maybe it was a prayer uttered to God.  He really didn’t care all that much.  The coffee was hot.  The cookies were good.  His mind wandered back to the mornings earlier that week when the wind chills were well below -20.  He thought of the so called “Polar Vortex” and how interesting it was that meteorologist always seemed to be coming up with new names to call weather patterns that had been around for years.  “Winter Storm Ion?  Really?  We are naming snowstorms now?” he thought as he finished the last cookie.


A song played in the background – something from YouTube. His mind continued to dwell on the storm and cold and he remembered the phone call he received on Tuesday just after the counters left.  Someone wanted to do something about the few homeless people in the small town they lived in.  Maybe they couldn’t do it for this cold snap, but there would be others.  They had places for people to stay warm.  There were plenty of people around to help open doors, prepare food, share seats and conversations.

The cursor stopped blinking about then and letters started to appear on the blank page.  Go and make disciples.  Go, make, disciples.

A New Look for a New Year

The New Look

The New Look

I spent quite some time looking around for a new them for my blog today.  I tried on several to see what they would look like.  In fact, I think that if my daughters would have accompanied me on this little shopping trip, I might have worn them out!  Given the fact that I usually have glazed eyes after the third pair of (aren’t they) identical jeans, I am quite certain of it.

However, I found something that I really, really liked and I want to try it out for a while.  It’s cleaner.  You can search my posts by their categories – may I recommend the not so full one “Stories”?

I also just like the feel of this new them – Opti.

It feels like me.  Enjoy!!

And remember – Welcome, well, almost home!

Community of Grace??

zero-to-hero-badgeToday’s Zero-to-Hero challenge is one that is near and dear to my pastoral heart – building community.  However, this is a very different kind of community.  It is one of writers, thinkers, and bloggers.  For “Not Quite Home” the community I would like to hang out with and read more from time to time would have to include people who are willing to look for grace wherever it may be found – or wherever it finds them.  So, I did a search on “grace” and found some new (hopefully) friends that I intend to read.  They are not in any specific order, but I do recommend reading them.

http://www.dianewbailey.net/blog/

Not a WordPress blog but someone who looks for grace in the moment.  I look forward to reading her blog!  I found poetry and prose on this blog and though I am a great fan of poetry, I haven’t ventured into the sharing of poetry…yet.  There is powerful stuff here.

http://dimlyburning.com/

I read a few entries in this blog and I found a whole lot of promise from this blog by a mother.  I really hope to see more here.  I don’t know what it is about mom’s that allow them to see grace so clearly, even when the light is “dimly burning” but it is there more times than not.  I am glad she is sharing her thoughts and observations!

http://.wordpress.com/20totallyjoyouslyimperfect14/01/05/small_3547128317-jpg/

You had me from the title!  This is a blog that is just getting started but a whole lot of possibilities in this one. Sticking to that joyously imperfect theme makes a great companion on my so-called endless journey toward home.

http://pulpitshenanigans.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/burning-love/

A Presbyterian pastor with two tattoos…Okay, I’ve got to follow this one.   Yeah, I’m United Methodist and male but there are some things about being a pastor that, well, are just about being a pastor.  I laughed out loud at the thought of “white” tattoos of “Grace” and “Love.”  I’ve never had the boldness to take that step but will enjoy reading from someone who did.

http://abysparchemins.wordpress.com/

Finally, I will be honest and say that I thought I had to find at another guy beside the new blog above (the “imperfect “ one) to follow.  But the truth of the matter is that after reading about 25 extremely dogmatic and/or tired writings on “scriptural truth” I was beginning to get discouraged.  Do all male bloggers about “grace” feel like they have to have the right answers??? Eventually, my journey allowed me to stumble upon this breath of fresh air.  Glad it’s there.  Look forward to reading it.

http://geekergosum.wordpress.com/

Okay…just for fun.  Read this guy.  He’s hilarious!!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and yes, I recommend reading and following those listed above!

Peace!