Thursday, October 22, 2015

A Magical, Mystical, Mysterious Moment

Last Friday, I spent the day in Yellowstone National Park with a friend, a congregant in my church. It's shameful to admit to my fellow Bozemanites, but this was only my second trip into the Park in my life...but it was certainly a day I won't soon forget.

In contrast to my Yellowstone inexperience, my friend has spent about a day per week in the park for the past 27 years. Needless to say, he knows his way around. We bypassed many of the standard park attractions, opting instead for some off-the-beaten-path goodness of which only the most fervent park aficionados might know. And one of these obscure locations served as the setting to a profound, mystical experience that caught me off-guard and about had me in tears.

We were heading back to our car after a short hike near the Firehole River, when we detoured down a riverfront trail. It was cold that morning, about 35 degrees, and a thick layer of steam hovered throughout the valley. After a few hundred yards we came upon an incredible mud pot, bubbling and boiling and projecting mud as much as 10 feet into the brisk, morning air. We were thoroughly enjoying this thermal anomaly, captivated by its mysterious oddity, when I heard a noise and turned around to a great surprise.

It was a more than a hundred feet from us. And as I peered into the thickness of the steam, I could see more and more arriving behind him.

My friend and I moved up the hill to a safe overlook and both stood speechless for 10-15 minutes. There were about 35 buffalo, innocently walking and grazing and playing in the meadow below us, all within a few hundred feet. The buffalo snorted, the river babbled, the steam moved gently across the plain. So peaceful. So serene. So beautiful. And in that moment, I felt closer to nature and God than I have in quite sometime. It was most-certainly a spiritual experience. Surely God had been in that place and I was unaware.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Finding My Sermon-Writing Rhythm

I'm pretty new to all this. I've been preaching and pastoring for quite a while, but this is the first time being senior pastor and full-time preacher. So the past six weeks have been a process of figuring out how I work best. And when. And where. I'm searching for rhythm.

One thing that has surprised me, thus far, is the PLACE I have written most of my sermons. Most of my sermon preparation has taken place at...McDonalds. The trendy side of me is ashamed. My seminary colleagues might disapprove. I'm in my early 30s, lived in one of the more trendy cities in the world, and studied at one of the more creative, hip seminaries in the country - I shouldn't be writing sermons at McDonalds. I should be downtown at some trendy coffee shop - in tight jeans and a v-neck t-shirt.

And yet, here I am at McDonalds. And I'm Loving It.

Firstly, on a purely practical level, I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but I drink soda like crazy. So for a dollar, I can sit and drink soda and read and write to my heart's content.

But more importantly, the atmosphere at McDonalds is more closely aligned with the demographic I do and want to connect with. The clientele at McDonalds is generally pretty different than me, but I love how that stretches me as a person and a professional. They are down-home, salt of the earth folks - they aren't rich, they aren't pretentious, they work hard. Fox News plays on the TVs incessantly. The conversations I overhear are fairly right-of-center. These folks are pretty different than me and I'd probably fit in better at some local coffee shop. But these folks need me and I really need them.

So I'm learning to embrace this place. I'm learning to own and accept it. I'm learning to love this new rhythm. I'm coming to grips with my shame. I'm learning to recognize my judgment and condescension. I'm learning...and McDonalds is my teacher.