I never dreamed that I would find myself so familiar with death as a pastor. I studied theology in seminary, and learned about expositing a text and church leadership. However, I don’t remember reading a book about what to do when visiting someone on their deathbed. Looking back over the past seven years as a pastor, I’m astonished at how many times I’ve found myself in that exact position. Along the way, I’ve seen firsthand how uncomfortable with death we are as a society. Most people don’t know what to do or say in those moments, and so they call for a pastor.
I enjoy making New Year’s resolutions. It’s an opportunity to put aside past mistakes and failures and start over in the coming year. I can start anew with my devotional or exercise program that I abandoned last year. My gym sent me an e-mail which declared this to be the “year of . . . you”. The e-mail went on to say, “It’s 100% your choice. It’s your decision. It’s in your hands. YOU are in control. YOU.” That’s the kind of talk I like – talk that centers around me. Of course, as a Christian I immediately recognize this to be worldly thinking, but I need to be careful. My thinking about resolutions can easily end up as worldly thinking masked by a thin veneer of Christian language.
With a few words from a stranger, one story ended and another started—suddenly and unexpectedly. The mysterious visitor had not come to bless her plans, but to announce a reality. God was calling Mary out of her story and into His.
Dan Anderson has written a book with his daughter, Jacquelyn, which I believe will be a major asset for parents to use when talking to their daughters about dating. Both are high school teachers in Portland, Oregon. Dan writes from the perspective of both a teacher and a parent, and provides tremendous insights from these two contexts as a Christian man.
All of us have influencers in our lives, people who have had a transformative effect. Somewhere around the late 80’s, as a young and rather desperate pastor, I read Working the Angles. I was still getting my bearings for this thing called ministry, and Eugene Peterson’s work drew the lines and the worked out the angles. It is perhaps his most distilled description of pastoral work. Prayer, reading Scripture, and giving spiritual direction give shape and integrity to ministry. They are the angles that inform the lines–preaching, teaching, and administration.