How is it with your souls, my friends? Since this is supposed to be a humor column, I won’t list all of the recent news stories that have troubled my spirit or explain the disruptions in my personal life that caused me to forget to post a prayer on this very web site last Saturday. Because that stuff is not funny. Except to the extent that it is ridiculous. But that kind of “it’s so ridiculous/awful I need to laugh so I won’t cry” humor is best left to the late night comedy hosts.
This space should not be about desperate “laugh so you don’t cry” humor. This space should be a bright ray of sunshine warming the dark and chilly chambers of your heart. (Or, you know, some other, better metaphor.) So, despite my general reluctance to jump on the November gratitude bandwagon, I have compiled a sunny list of things for which I am grateful:
- I am grateful for the woman who told me she cleaned out all of the dead mice caught in traps in the church kitchen. I am slightly less grateful for the man who, before disposing of the dead mouse from my office, showed me the mouse and said, “It was right by your feet a few minutes ago when you were sitting at your desk.”
- I am grateful that my mom’s pastor came to pray with us before her knee surgery. Even if the nurse and anesthesiologist were standing there impatiently while he prayed (slowly) for each and every aspect of the surgery and recovery process. I got to be the daughter and not the pastor.
- I am grateful that my meeting last Saturday morning got canceled (though still a bit grumpy I had to show up for the meeting to find out it was canceled). Instead of a meeting, I got to go bird watching with a church member and his professional ornithologist brother-in-law who can identify birds by ear and who let me use his outrageously expensive and totally awesome Swarovski crystal binoculars. In between bird sightings I got to hear my church member tell about how his wife bought a new Bible that week and it has, to his amazement, a First, Second, AND THIRD JOHN! Which is good since she was scheduled to read scripture from Third John in worship the next day.
- I am grateful that after two years of using the tiny shower stall in our en suite bathroom (where I had to stand outside the actual shower to shave my legs), it finally occurred to me that I could use the full bathtub shower in our main bathroom.
- I am grateful that I got to take a weekend off and attend a board game convention. Where, yes, I played board games all weekend with my husband, my daughter, and several strangers. My friend Ruth said I was crazy for wanting to play games with strangers all weekend. But she had recently run 13.1 miles because she wanted to, so we can’t really trust her assessment of crazy. Plus I got a whole weekend where only three people there even knew I was a pastor and nobody asked me to pray out loud or told me about their health problems or argued theology.
- I am grateful that my 13-year-old daughter brought the emptied trash can back into the garage last week without being asked. Really, I am grateful any time anyone does something that obviously needs to be done without being asked. It’s such a gift. Because sometimes asking is hard and I just end up doing stuff myself.
- I am grateful for church members who recommend books and movies that have absolutely nothing to do with church, theology, politics, ethics, the Bible, or the triumph of the human spirit. These recommendations are validating acknowledgments that it’s OK for the pastor to take a break from deep thoughts and enjoy Jane Austen parodies once in awhile.
I hope that, in the midst of the ridiculous/awfulness that sometimes is life, you also have people to throw away the dead mice and put away the trash cans; that you have birds to watch and games to play and moments when, even though you are a pastor, you can not be The Pastor. Mostly I hope you have your own list of things to be thankful for during this hectic and holy season.
Joanna Harader serves as pastor of Peace Mennonite Church in Lawrence, KS, where apparently there are a lot of mice. Her blog is SpaciousFaith.com.
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