Monday, July 15, 2013

The Elephant in my Brain

Preaching is a strange animal. It's a big, fuzzy hybrid created by the breeding of the unidentifiable mutt that is my creativity, energy, and intellect with the pedigree Holy Spirit. Perhaps that's why, when someone makes a positive comment about a sermon I've preached, I feel a little like I do when someone tells me that my dog is adorable: I say "Thank you", but it's awkward because I know that I'm not really responsible for what's good about this. I'm very thankful for that hybrid aspect of preaching. It's the only thing that keeps me writing liturgy and standing in pulpits. It's only by the power of the Spirit that I have the confidence to stand up and talk to people, to think that the words coming out of my mouth have value and relevance to the people who will hear them. Please don't misunderstand: I'm nervous every Sunday when I stand up to speak in worship. But I've learned that I can trust the Holy Spirit to show up there, and that helps me get through the anxiety.

That is why, when I'm asked to speak in a totally different context that I get very, very nervous. I don't have the same assurance that God will show up and fill in the gaps. I'm afraid I'll be standing there, in front of a room full of people, with nothing interesting or valuable to say.

That's what I'm afraid will happen this week. Several months ago, I was invited to teach a workshop on worship at an event for our provisional members. (For those of you outside the denominational box I live in, that's pastors who are serving churches but haven't totally finished the ordination process yet.) I was shocked and humbled by the invitation. Of all the pastors in the conference who could have been asked to teach, I was on the short list. I don't feel like I'm necessarily qualified for this honor and responsibility, but I immediately accepted. There are very few things I like better than talking about worship and theology, and this is the perfect opportunity to talk about worship with knowledgeable folks, so it is right up my alley.

Except, of course, that it is public speaking that isn't preaching. And that makes me nervous. I've been pondering what I'll say for weeks now. I've gone through possible presentation formats with my friends and my fiance. I've plotted out an outline for the presentation, then reworked it. I even went into a panic and overplanned possible activities on the off-chance that all of the participants absolutely refuse to take part in the discussion and leave me stuck.

I really, really want this to go well. I want it to go well so I don't look foolish. But, more than that, I want it to go well because provisional members are important and so is worship. These are people just starting their ministry, who will be leading worship in churches for years, probably decades into the future. These are people who have experience and are trying to learn to be even more effective and fruitful in their ministries. I remember--not long ago--when I was a provisional member; I went to these events hoping to learn and leave with helpful strategies and lessons. I don't want to let these provisional members down. And I don't want to let their congregations down. What they learn (or don't learn) will be reflected in the worshiping communities they serve. This is a HUGE responsibility. And I wonder how on earth the powers-that-be selected me to undertake it. Me, a pastor with only 4 years of experience in a church, who just 18 months ago was sitting right where they're sitting now as a provisional candidate--who thought this was a good idea?

While I know that the Holy Spirit will be just as present in this event as she is in the pulpit at my church, this isn't preaching. It feels like a different animal, something wilder, with more mutt and less pedigree. And I'm just praying that it doesn't maul me or bore the class to sleep. That prayer goes something like, "God, please show up and help me out here! Amen."

Sunday, July 14, 2013


Wise people will write wise words about the events of this week. I don't have wise words today. I have tears.

I'm not generally an emotional person. It takes a lot to make me cry. But last night, as I heard about the verdict in the trial of George Zimmerman, I wept.

I wept for a young man whose life was cut short for no good reason. I wept at laws that allow violence and do not protect unarmed people from being shot without reason. I wept for all the young black men who heard, in a verdict of "not guilty" the subtext: Your life is not valued, your life is not protected, there is no justice for you. I wept for mothers who raise sons knowing that those young men are more likely to be mistrusted, incarcerated, or even killed just because of the color of their skin. I wept for a nation that seems to make so little forward progress on issues of hate and injustice. I wept for systems so steeped in racism that I wonder if we'll ever fix them. I wept for the racism that I know lurks within even me. I wept because, yet again, one beloved child of God has killed another. I wept because I cannot understand it, and because I understand it all too well.

With the tears streaming down my face, I found myself repeating over and over again the words of Psalm 13: "How long, O Lord? [...]
How long must I bear pain in my soul,
and have sorrow in my heart all day long?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?" (Psalm 13:2, NRSV)

How long, O Lord?
How long must we go on in this broken world?
How long will we let inequality and prejudice reign?
How long until we see precious children of God instead of skin color?
How long until all people get equal treatment under the law, and in our own minds and hearts?
How long will this violence go on?
How long, O Lord, will my heart be broken?

I do not believe in retributive justice. I don't think that we get any benefit from simply punishing someone. Putting someone in jail in a vengeful attempt to make them suffer as "we" have suffered does not achieve anything. But I believe in restorative justice. I believe in the reconciliation that can come from people taking responsibility for their actions, acknowledging their guilt, and working to repair the relationships that were broken by their actions. In this verdict, no justice was served. George Zimmerman walks away, free, not taking responsibility for the fact that he killed another human being. He does not have to acknowledge his guilt, and there is no process of healing here for him or for the Martin family. Zimmerman gets his gun back, and the Martin family becomes one more angry, hurting family grieving the loss of a child to violence.

And so the cycle continues: Violence breeds further violence. Anger feeds more anger. Broken, hurting people walk wounded through the world, often unintentionally breaking and hurting more people. Without justice, without healing, there is no end to the cycle.

How long, O Lord?
How long, America?
How long?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bad News Week

It has been a rough week. In Boston, bombs at a marathon wounded more than a hundred people and killed 3. In Iraq, a bomb in a coffee shop killed 27 people and injured dozens more. In West, Texas a fertilizer plant exploded killing thirteen people and destroying homes and buildings. A massive manhunt closed the city of Boston. There was an earthquake in Pakistan, and violent fallout from an election in Venezuela. Here in Richmond, we heard the announcement that Freedom House is closing after almost 30 years of caring for those most in need in our community—closing not because there are no longer people in need of food and shelter in Richmond, but because they do not have the financial support they need to stay open. And that’s to say nothing of the ongoing problems of violence in Syria and tensions with North Korea that were bumped to the back burner by stories of destruction closer to home.

With all that going on, I didn’t want to write a sermon this week. I didn’t want to try to create anything, or do anything. I just wanted to pray, to cry out to God in anger and frustration, to read the news and weep for the victims, the survivors, and a world where such horrible things happen every day. I sat staring at the blinking cursor on my blank computer screen for HOURS.

Then I started to snap out of it. I remembered that the very reasons that I don’t want to write this sermon are the reasons that we, my congregation and community, need to have the word of God proclaimed. It’s when we’re surrounded by this sort of pain and brokenness that we most need the healing and restoration that God gives in worship, in prayer, and in Scripture. It’s when the bad news seems to be everywhere that we most need God’s good news to shore us up and spur us to action.

Yes, terrible things happen. There is bad news. There is suffering, violence, disease. There are unjust trials and crucifixions. But they are not the end. Those things do not get the last word. After the long night there is dawn. After destruction there is recovery. After torture, suffering, and death there is resurrection.

Yes, there were people who planted bombs in a coffee shop in Iraq and at the marathon in Boston. But there were also people who came running to help. There were more people who offered their help and their prayers than there were people who caused this destruction.

This is the Easter season. This is the season when we remember that a horrific death on a cross was overcome by an empty tomb. This is the season when disciples who denied Christ get a chance to proclaim their love for their Savior. This is the season when we face down death and rejoice, trusting that life is more powerful than death, that hope is more powerful than despair, that good will ultimately overcome evil—because that is the victory Christ has given, and that is the kingdom of God that has been promised. Thanks be to God!

Monday, April 15, 2013

One of Those Days

Today is one of those days. It's not that it's been a bad day for me, personally. My day in my neatly insulated world has been fine. No, today is one of those days when there's a voice nagging at the edge of my consciousness telling me that all is not well.

Today the local news affiliates are reporting that the Freedom House, one of this small city's homeless shelters, is closing. The Freedom House opened in 1983, and has served 83,000 meals since then. They have provided temporary shelter and helped people transition to permanent housing. You can learn more about their powerful work here. But without the necessary financial support to keep its doors open, this organization that provides warm meals to the hungry, safe housing to those without shelter, and transitional housing to help people on the road to self-sufficiency is going to close at the end of the month.

Today, too, an Op-Ed piece from yesterday's New York Times is circulating my social networks. The piece, found here, was dictated to a NYTimes reporter by a detainee at Guantanamo Bay named Samir. Samir describes the confinement he has endured for the last 11 years without trial. Arrested at age 24, he has had no opportunity to see his family in 11 years and, with right to trial suspended for "enemy combatants", he has no idea when he might be free again. He writes of being trapped with no hope of release, and of being force-fed when he attempted a hunger strike to resist this loss of liberty and human rights.

There is something deeply broken here. There is something very wrong in a society where we cannot bring ourselves to provide food for the hungry and shelter for the homeless here in our own community, but we invest in holding and feeding men and women against their will thousands of miles away. There is something wrong with our idea of what it means to be human. We are a country that promises the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but we allow our own citizens to die of hunger and exposure. We drag people halfway across the world into prisons, deny their freedoms, and forbid them even the escape of death. How does that in any way promote life or liberty, much less happiness?

It's sad and sick and sinful. And what makes my heart break the most is that I haven't done anything about it. These things are happening around me, and I haven't even tried to stop them. I know about Freedom House, but I have never actually been there. Our church youth collect money for them every year with our Souper Bowl Sunday, but aside from that small annual donation, we haven't done anything to help with this organization's vital work. I've read about the conditions at Gitmo and the human rights abuses of holding people without trial and without hope. I celebrated when, in 2009, President Obama signed the order to close Gitmo. But haven't kept careful track of the situation, I haven't utilized any of the avenues open to me as a U.S. citizen to speak for the prisoners whose right to speak for themselves has been stripped away.

There are men and women, people created and loved by God, who are hungry, who are homeless, who are in need, and I have done nothing. There are men and women, people created and loved by God, who have been taken captive and silenced, and I have done nothing. I follow the Christ who came to preach good news to the poor and proclaim release to the captives (Lk 4:18), and I have done nothing.

I have put on my privileged American blinders and ignored my brothers and sisters in need. I have stayed in my comfortable, insulated world and pretended that I didn't know better.

But not today. Today the Spirit is tugging at my soul, refusing to let me pretend that everything is fine. Today is one of those days, and I cannot sit by and do nothing.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

To the End

I always get stuck on the sermons for the big church holy days. Holy Thursday is no exception. This year I wrote the starts to three separate sermons before finally settling into the groove and finishing my sermon for tomorrow. But, even though this one didn't make the cut for worship tomorrow night, something about it intrigues me. So, here you have it: A meditation I'm not preaching tomorrow.

John 13:1: “Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.”

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. She’d married a strong, smart, capable man. And they’d enjoyed decades of marriage, they’d raised a family, and life had been, not perfect, but beautiful. But then the Alzheimer’s took over. His memory faded, his personality shifted, some days he didn’t even seem like the same man. But still she cared for him. She prepared his meals, she helped him dress, she even bathed him. He had forgotten, but she hadn’t. And she loved him to the end.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Jesus had chosen good, faithful, courageous disciples. He’d taught them and allowed them to witness his healings, his miracles, even his raising of Lazarus. They’d fished together and walked miles side-by-side. But they still didn’t understand. They grew scared when the storm came, they misinterpreted his teachings, some days he couldn’t believe that these were his disciples. But still he cared for them. He prayed for them, welcomed them to his Passover feast, he even washed their feet. They misunderstood, but he didn’t. And he loved them to the end.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. God created the world and everything in it good. God made humans in the divine image, shaped a perfect natural world, and shared a perfect relationship with creation. But we chose to sin, to walk away. We harmed one another, we damaged God’s perfect creation, we broke God’s heart, some days we didn’t even seem like the same people. But still God cared for us. God let us out of slavery, sent the prophets to lead us, reached out again and again. God even came down to live with us so that we might understand, to die our death, that we might live God’s life. We sinned, but God remained steadfast. And God loves us to the end.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Finally Found What I'm Looking For

Five years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Middle East. I spent three weeks traveling through Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Greece with seminary students and some really awesome laity. While we were in Jerusalem, we had the opportunity to do a little shopping in the markets. Several of us went to a little store with lovely hand-embroidered textile products, where we found stoles for sale. I purchased two stoles, one for the pastor of my home church, and one for myself. It was a bit of a gamble, purchasing a stole for myself before I'd even finished seminary, but I decided there would be no better place to get a stole than in the place where Christianity began.

I took the stole back to Atlanta with me. But as I began writing my commissioning papers, I started getting anxious. It's an arduous process, and many candidates get delayed or even removed entirely. I was worried, and the stole seemed like too much pressure. I was afraid I'd never get to wear it. So I hid it from myself. I stashed it in a box and put it out of my mind.

I passed my provisional interviews, moved to Virginia, and started serving a church. As a provisional elder, though, I did not have the authority to wear a stole. For three years, I led worship in a plain robe. After three years of ministry, I was finally eligible to apply for ordination. I wrote another set of papers, survived round of interviews, and was recommended for ordination. I was ecstatic, and I knew I'd finally get to wear the stole from Jerusalem. Except, I couldn't find it.

I am, apparently, very good at hiding things from myself. I searched everywhere in my apartment. I had my parents search my room at their house. For months, I couldn't find it. I got ordained and had the opportunity to wear stoles for each liturgical season: Green for ordinary time, purple for Lent, white and gold for Christmas. But each communion Sunday, I would think of that Jerusalem stole. I would wonder where I'd put it and wish I could wear it. After almost nine months, I gave up the search.

Then, this week, several of my friends passed their ordination interviews. I spent this evening celebrating with one of them. When I got home, I had an epiphany. I remembered one last place where the stole might be. I looked in a closet, in a box within a box, and THERE IT WAS! Apparently, the stole was waiting for my friends to be approved for ordination.

So this Sunday, FINALLY, after five years of waiting, I'll get to wear my Jerusalem stole. I'll preside at the table wearing my much-anticipated white communion stole. And I must say, I'm pretty excited about that.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Getting Causey

"You just sound cute when you get causey." - Adam's Rib

From time to time, I get a bee in my bonnet about a political issue. I have been known to sign petitions, write to my congressional representatives, and even call my state representatives. Often, my feelings on these issues arise from my faith.

This morning my fiance called to remind me that the vote about Uranium mining is coming up in a committee in the Virginia Senate. So I looked up my Senator's contact information and dialed his phone number. I was ready to give him a piece of my mind. I planned to say something like this:

I am a clergyperson from your district, and I ardently oppose lifting the ban on Uranium mining. I believe that God created the world and gave us the responsibility of caring for it. Mining uranium would be exploiting the gift of creation in a destructive and dangerous way. It would harm God's creation irreparably. In addition, Uranium mining cannot be done safely in an area with the sort of humidity we have in Virginia. It would be dangerous not only to those who work in the mining industry, but also for nearby residents. It could harm innocent people. We already have enough uranium for this nation's use for many years to come, so lifting the ban is not about balancing needs versus risks, it is about profit, pure and simple. No amount of money is worth endangering this number of people or risking this sort of catastrophic damage to God's creation.

Moreover, United Methodists from across the Commonwealth oppose Uranium mining. We passed a resolution at our Annual Conference in June to continue our opposition of this hazardous practice. So, as a citizen, as a representative of the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, and as a person of faith, I ask you to oppose this bill.

After just one ring, an aid answered my call. She took down my contact information, then asked what I wished to say to the Senator. I said, "I want to tell him to oppose the Senate Bill on Uranium mining."

She replied, "You know that's his bill. Senator Watkins wrote and sponsored the bill."

Suddenly the synapses fired the connection in my brain: the Watkins Bill. Senator John Watkins. Oops.

I replied, "I still think it's a terrible idea."

The aid said, "I'll let him know. Thanks for calling."

I didn't get into my big speech. Frankly, I don't think it would have done much good. A Senator can't very well go around sponsoring bills and then opposing them. I suspect that the aid I spoke with will have a lovely time laughing about my call with her coworkers. I suspect my actions will have no impact on the vote at all.

Still, I feel good about calling. I am pleased that I could put together a theological and political argument on an issue. I'm proud that my Annual Conference has taken a stand on the issue. And I'm hoping that today, the committee will, as expected, vote down the bill, continuing the ban and protecting our region and its people.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Growling at my NewsFeed

My dog is a chicken. He's scared of loud noises and engines. Even though he's huge, he allows uppity Jack Russell Terriers to boss him around. He's been smacked on the nose by cats on a number of occasions, and responded simply by looking surprised and whimpering. Big and ferocious he is not.

And yet, whenever he hears a noise outside the door of our home, he growls fiercely at it. If the noise startles him, or if it lasts longer than a few seconds, he'll bark at great length, as though to scare it away. My neighbors have been moving today, and all afternoon he's been growling at their voices and footsteps outside the door. This is all despite the fact that he really likes them and, when we encounter them on the sidewalk, he goes straight up to them to have his ears scratched. But when he's inside his own home, he gets all grumpy.

I realized today that I do the same thing.

As a twenty-something person who was in college when Facebook was first created, I'm an avid social media user. I'm on Facebook every day, both for work and to maintain connections with personal friends. I am "friends" (in the loosest possible definition of the term--Facebook friends) with people from high school, college, grad school, different places I've worked...probably every chapter of my life. And usually I enjoy being able to keep up with folks I've known. I like to note the big occurrences in their lives, send a note to them or a prayer up about them every now and then.

But I also spend a lot of time growling at them. Facebook is the home of cute animal pictures, interesting articles, and personal posts, but it's also a place where political vitriol and religious rants flow unchecked. Memes come through my newsfeed that make my blood boil. And then I growl at my laptop, muttering, "How could they believe something that STUPID?! Have they been brainwashed? That's so OFFENSIVE!" Occasionally I will rant about these things to my fiance or my friends, but mostly I just let them simmer; they nag at the edge of my consciousness and cause me to lose faith in humanity. After all, these are mostly people I respect, people I've engaged with, people I can't dismiss that easily.

I usually type out a response, then delete it without posting; I don't want to get into a fight on Facebook. It isn't worth it. So, like Charlie, I growl from behind the doors of my home, but I don't engage.

In the interest of restoring my sanity, though, I'm rethinking that strategy. There's no point to letting my blood pressure tick up because someone I used to talk to ten years ago made an offensive statement or said something with which I vehemently disagree. So, I'm instituting some measures of control.

If someone says something on Facebook that drives me crazy, I think about who the person is and how important they are to my current life. If it's someone I haven't talked to in a while, someone I wasn't all that close to in the first place, I've started unfriending them. Frankly, I haven't been talking to them, and their comments are persuading me that I don't want to start now. Goodbye, person I used to know.

If it's someone I talk to regularly, I try to think about how best to manage. If it's a close friend, I'll send a private message asking about it. If it's a church member or an acquaintance I see regularly, I go into the "friend" settings and make sure that I'm getting only the most important of their posts, in hopes that the offensive posts won't fall into the "most important" category.

But more importantly, I'm trying to think about how I live, and what that communicates to the people around me. Do the people posting the offensive items know where I stand? Have I posted things that might offend them? What example am I setting in my online and offline behavior? And how can I teach, by example, that saying such offensive things is NOT OK, whether it's in face-to-face interactions or in a Facebook post?

I mean, I enjoy a cute animal meme or a theology joke as much as anyone, but some of these posts are getting ridiculous. They require some sort of action. I either need to engage them directly, which I will with some, or I need to ignore them completely, which is the plan for the rest.

Now if only I could teach my dog to do the same...

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Big Announcement

In my last post, I told you to stay tuned, so here's the update: I'm engaged! After more than a year of dating, my wonderful boyfriend proposed on New Year's Eve. When I announced this news to my congregation, I heard repeatedly, "Engaged? I didn't even know you were dating anyone!" I admit, I rather intended that outcome; I have kept my romantic life largely quiet. But, now that the word is out, I can share the story with you:

We had our first introduction online. I was impressed that he made a reference to Pinky and the Brain. He was intrigued by my sarcasm. I never really expected it to go anywhere.

We decided to meet up at a local restaurant. It was a typically awkward first date. We started with drinks and, once I made up my mind that this wasn't the sort of disastrous first date that requires an "emergency" call from a friend to get away, we stayed for dinner and conversation. The first date became a second date, then a third. I learned, to my great joy, that he can cook. He discovered, to his chagrin, that I love football. He took my vocation in stride. I didn't panic when we accidentally bumped into his parents on our third date.    Things were going along swimmingly, so sometime in December 2011 we decided to be an official couple. (In retrospect, I probably should have recorded that date somewhere...)

We went through the usual dance of meeting one another's parents and friends. He introduced me to his grandmother. I took him to visit my home town. We danced in my kitchen and laughed over terrible jokes. We went on road trips and got lost. We discussed politics and religion. His cat tolerated my presence. My dog wagged and pawed his way into his heart.

As weeks and months passed, I came to appreciate his integrity, loyalty, and patience. I fell not only for his adorable curls and quick smile but also for his gentleness and wisdom. I found that he could challenge me one day and support me through a difficulty the next. And I started to think that I could spend my life with this man. Apparently, he felt the same way about me.

He came to pick me up for a New Year's Eve Party. When I answered his knock at the door, I found him on one knee, with a ring box in his hand and a question on his lips. I said yes. We celebrated first with a surprise dinner with my friends, then with a party with his friends. We've been giddy for weeks, sharing this news with friends and family.

In September, we will make vows and celebrate with our loved ones. And then we will start a new journey side by side. For, as Antoine St. Exupery wisely said, "Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction." 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Arrows 2012

In 2006, I began a tradition of reviewing the year with arrow ratings, based on the old Newsweek format for their commentary on current events. In late December or early January, I would go through the events of my year and give commentary on different categories. While I skipped last year in the post-ordination-papers-haze, I've decided to pick up the tradition again this year. So, here goes:

↑  Ministry - This year was filled with joy in my life as a pastor. In January, we moved our emergent service from the evening to the morning. The move was a little bumpy, but it helped the service to grow. We've seen new faces in worship and there's been a new energy in the Chapel. Then in June, after years of writing papers, going to mentoring meetings, interviewing, and reflecting theologically on all of my practice of ministry, I finally completed the provisional process. I was ordained as an elder in full connection in the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church. It was a really powerful experience, as I felt the Bishop's hands on my head as she said, "Take thou authority." I also got to celebrate the event with some of my favorite people: My family came to the service, many of my friends and church members were in attendance, a family-friend from home came to celebrate, and the pastor and his wife who first mentored me in my call to ministry were there to participate in the service. July brought an opportunity to go back to Appalachia Service Project, this time as a Group Leader for our youth group. It was so much fun to be back in my steel-toed boots, handling power tools, and working with youth. I even had the opportunity to preach a Christmas Eve worship service for the first time in my ministry! 

Travel - I didn't get to do any oversees travel this year, which is always a little disappointing. But I did get to take some marvelous trips within the U.S. I got to go to Denver for my cousin's wedding in February, and it was lovely to see family while I was there. I had a blast at the Festival of Homiletics in Atlanta, enjoying the excellent preaching and having a great time with my friends. In the summer I spent a week in Colorado with my parents and some extended family members. We rode the Durango to Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad, hiked a bit in the mountains, and enjoyed time together. In the fall I got to go home for to help baptize my friend's infant son. It became difficult to get home, though, when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and a blizzard ripped through West Virginia the same weekend. I ended up cancelling my third rescheduled flight, renting a car, and driving back to Virginia a day later than I had planned. 

↑ Friends and Family - I have been so blessed with the relationships I get to have. This year I gained three new family members: Reid, who married my cousin Angie, Matt, who married my cousin Emily, and Elisha, my first nephew. I grew even closer to my friends in Richmond through deep coffee shop conversations, lunches filled with laughter, and late nights of trivia and celebrating.

↓  Sports - The college sports world is totally in flux, with teams changing conferences in ways that make no geographical sense. Mizzou got trounced in the SEC, which was thoroughly disappointing. The Cubs were terrible, as usual, and the strike in the NHL will probably cancel the season. The only bright spot is my Denver Broncos who, under the leadership of Peyton Manning, have finished the season in the middle of a win streak and are headed for the playoffs. Still, overall, between my college and professional teams, this has not been a great year for my athletic affiliations.

Romance - Things are very, very good. Stay tuned for details!

?? 2013 - There's no way to know what this new year will bring, but I'm excited to see what will happen. I suspect that it will be a year filled with laughter and a few tears. I will get to officiate weddings for some pretty great folks, and I might even have the opportunity for some really exciting travel. I am certain that God has some exciting, powerful ministry in store for me and for the church I serve. All in all, I'm exciting to see what will happen in the next 12 months, and I hope you'll be part of the fun!