I got next year’s reading list for my academic program, and I’m chomping at the bit to get started. But I have a big assignment due for this year first.

Christmas worship needs planning. But first there’s a youth retreat this weekend.

Those summer youth trips aren’t going to organize themselves. And neither is my credit card reconciliation–due in two days–going to assemble itself and turn itself in.

I am never more responsible about advance planning than when I’m facing some urgent deadline.



I watched the first day of impeachment hearings. Like, a lot of it. Like, hours. That didn’t stop me from watching the PBS News Hour reporting on it that night.

It also didn’t stop me from reading the news summary of it in the New York Times. And the Washington Post. And NPR.

Nor from listening, the next day, to analysis of the hearing’s import by The Daily, What’s News, Post Reports, Up First, Today Explained and What Next.

Over the rest of the week I added analysis by the NPR Politics Podcast, the Slate Political Gabfest, and the Editors of the National Review.

My sources were almost all within the box of high reliability and neutral political bias on the ad fontes media bias chart. Where I indulged the less neutral (Slate, The National Review), I did so equally.

And after all that watching first hand followed by reading and hearing reporting and commentary from a variety of reliable sources, somebody is still going to say that I (and people like me) are being duped by “the media.”

Maybe it’s not me. Maybe it’s them.



While we’re singing the closing hymn, my pinky finger is subtly tucked between pages 12 and 13 of the hymnal, holding the place where the charge is printed. The charge, in my church, is the penultimate thing the preacher says in the worship service, right before the benediction. The benediction I got. My charge needs work.

I like to use this one that says things like, “support the suffering” and “return no one evil for evil,” but I don’t do it quite right; last Sunday I heard my colleague do it and she said parts of it that I don’t. Hearing that filled me with a sense of professional negligence that I have to remedy.

Fortunately, there’s a service outline in the very front of our glossy purple hymnals, and, sure enough, the full text of that charge is printed right there:

Go out into the world in peace;
have courage;

hold onto what is good;
return no one evil for evil;
support the weak;

help the suffering;
honor all people;

love and serve the Lord,

rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The organist hits the final not on the hymn and I nonchalantly slide the hymnal onto the table in front of me, open to page 13, and Nail. The. Charge. The transition to the benediction puts the final punctuation mark on the service.

“And now may the . . .

. . .

. . .

“How does this go again?”

In focusing on the charge, I lost the benediction. “And now my the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit go with us all today and every day. Amen.” I’ve said it dozens and dozens of times over 15 years of ministry and never forgotten it. Yet today all it took was some concentrated focus on the charge to forget it entirely.

This is how it starts, right?



Much more important than what we think and say, how we think and say it divides us. The polarization we hear so much about is a matter both of substance and attitude.

I am trying to take in commentary and analysis from different points of view, because it is challenging in an important way to hear people express opinions that contradict mine. The really challenging part, though, is choosing expressions of opposing viewpoints that take mine seriously and treat it respectfully. So much of our editorializing relies on tone.

The takeaway from the frustration that results is that 1) I don’t ever want the people I disagree with to feel ridiculed or disparaged when I talk to them; I need to watch my tone. And 2) there is limited value in seeking out commentary that makes me feel ridiculed or disparaged. If the tone upsets me, I can switch it off.


The Innkeeper

When his kids went off to college, my friend from California moved to upstate New York and bought an Inn. I know him from rec. league softball and high school water polo, and now he’s cooking breakfast every day for bed and breakfast patrons, employing a staff of locals, and throwing shade at anyone who leaves a bad tripadvisor review. All signs point to him enjoying himself immensely.

What’s something you can only imagine yourself doing? Maybe it won’t always be in your imagination.



I would write more this morning but I have to stir the oatmeal.

I would write more this morning but Meredith’s coffee needs made.

I would write more this morning but the cat threw up.

I would write more this morning but the dog peed on the floor.

I would write more this morning but the other cat is toying with a bug.

Some mornings’ occurrences feel like a conspiracy.

What if they’re an invitation instead?



Some days I don’t have the resilience it takes to endure the reckless cruelties a pre-teen dispenses almost without thinking. “You look like a turtle,” she said on our way out the door to cheer practice. I was wearing the green felt beanie I bought at the army surplus store in Pomona, January 2009, to prepare for my first winter retreat with the youth of Claremont Presbyterian Church. It’s not my only winter hat, but it’s the one I’ve worn the longest.

It now litters the parking lot of a Jewel -Osco in Old Irving Park.

Some days I don’t have it.



Two things I contribute to most conversations I’m in:

  1. “That reminds me of an old SNL bit . . . “
  2. “I heard this on a podcast . . . “

I’m not sure what it says about me that my major sources of knowledge and insight are dated comedy bits and whatever I heard in my podcast feed this morning.


Answering Machine

Twice in the past month I’ve had a call returned at least a week after I left a message on a home answering machine, and both times the caller has apologetically explained that they check their landline messages only rarely.

Technology changes. I used to maintain this as a point of professionalism: call the home phone during the day and leave a message. It allows a person to respond in their own time, unlike a mobile phone call, which is more intrusive and demands immediate response. Never text.

But the default has clearly shifted now to calling the mobile phone first, and the stigma around texting someone in a professional capacity is dissipating. I’m learning.


Dollar Tree

As soon as Daughter got home from school yesterday she started asking if we could go to the Dollar Tree. Her friend’s birthday is tomorrow, and she wants to assemble a gift bag for her. Also, on the way home, we need to pick up flour, sugar, butter, and eggs so she can make a birthday cupcake.

This is my kind of errand.

The Dollar Tree is a mess of dollies teetering in the aisles with boxes and once-shelved items strewn on the floor. Twice while we’re there a box falls over onto a shopper. Two frazzled employees are doing their best to hold it all together, and shoppers seem surprisingly unbothered by the mess, gently kicking items out of their way as if they were sliding garments aside on a clothes rack. I think I’m the most stressed person in the store.

That’s partly because I’m with an 11 year-old who is clutching exactly $11 she intends to spend on this birthday basket. She is systematically striding through the debris, making a mental list and expressing her every thought out loud. She made some general suggestions on the walk over–hair ties, Takis–but when I point those items out she has a reason at the ready why they’re not suitable. “She likes candy better.” “Pink isn’t her color.” I take two cleansing breaths and decide to let this take as long as it takes; we have nowhere to be and she has no homework for tomorrow. I’m kind of fascinated, actually.

We end up in the checkout aisle with a pens, Twix, hand lotion, a small stuffed animal, scrunchees, conditioner, a card, and a drawstring backpack to hold it all. In front of us is a man buying a bag of frozen french fries accompanied by two jars of minced garlic and two shakers of garlic salt, and behind us is a man on the phone with “Babe,” as in, “Babe, have you ever considered that you have enough charisma to start a cult?” Daughter’s got her dollars at the ready, but so do I. I’m certain she’s busted her budget.

“$10.46” says the checker. Daughter is exceedingly satisfied to hand over her money and receive back her 54 cents change. We step outside into the post daylight savings dark, and I silently wish for every person we pass on the sidewalk a friend who will spend $10.46 on them at the Dollar Tree.