Random thoughts around Thanksgiving

Whenever I start counting my blessings, I begin right here at St. James. That I have been entrusted with a parish that is filled with such a sweet, sweet spirit is a constant source of joy to me. I could not love a group more than I love this one.

 

Of course there are things I’d like to tweak. I wish we had more members. More money. More children and youth. I wish we had newer computers. I wish I knew the secret to enticing folks out after dark.

 

But really, those wishes are minor compared to the extraordinary level of abundance and blessing we enjoy as a parish. For instance, we have a choir and a music program that didn’t even exist a year ago. We have a stellar vestry. World’s hardest-working staff. We have a deacon! We have a new roof and new stained glass windows. We have a new bathroom, and a building that’s paid for. Our outreach program feels like it’s finally kicked into high gear, and we are transforming lives. We are growing, at a time when many churches aren’t. I know it often feels like it’s “one step forward, one step back.” But we do keep taking those steps forward.

 

I am grateful to God for bringing me here to be part of this, and grateful to each of you for your love and support.

 

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Charles Manson, the greatest bogeyman of my childhood, died this week at age 83. It’s hard to imagine him as an old man. Every picture or video I’ve ever seen of him shows him as wild-eyed and, frankly, crazy. He always seemed angry and was always spouting narcissistic nonsense that made you just want to smack him and tell him to shut up.  As far as I know, he never repented of his actions.

 

But his so-called “family” members did. All those involved in the gruesome Tate/LaBianca murders in August, 1968, later became devout Christians while in prison, though they’ve all repeatedly been denied parole. They’ve all talked about Manson’s mesmerizing effect on them when they were younger. I don’t understand, because he always made my skin crawl.

 

All of which begs the question: How is it Charles Manson could successfully recruit multiple people to go out and commit cold-blooded murder, then later shave their heads and carve Xs into their foreheads … and I can’t seem to recruit a single person willing to serve as usher one Sunday a month? What’s wrong with this picture?

 

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If you ask people what happened on Nov. 22, 1963, most of us of a certain age can not only tell you what happened, we can tell right where we were and what we were doing when we heard the news: President John F. Kennedy was killed.

 

But he was not the ONLY renowned person to die that day. The world suffered another profound loss on Nov. 22, 1963 when author C.S. Lewis died of renal failure at his home in England, just about an hour before President Kennedy was shot. Later that afternoon, the great English philosopher and novelist Aldous Huxley, suffering from advanced laryngeal cancer, died from an overdose of LSD.

 

Of the three, only Lewis is commemorated on the church calendar. And what a gift he gave us with his writings, especially his “Chronicles of Narnia,” a seven-part fantasy series for children that is the most beautiful and engaging re-telling of the story of Christ you can imagine. If you have not read them, I commend them whole-heartedly. I try to re-read the novels every year, because they are, hands-down, my favorite work of literature.