Monday, January 03, 2005

An Autobiographical Note

Ten years ago today, I left Minneapolis for seminary in Atlanta. I boarded my plane with a one-way ticket, two suitcases and directions to a campus I'd never seen before.

It was 8 below when I packed up my rusty Toyota in Minneapolis, but the night I arrived in Atlanta, it was 70 degrees. I thought I was in hog heaven: cigarettes and a gallon of gas were each about $1.00, half their price in the Twin Cities.

I learned a great many things in seminary, beyond what you'd expect: that given the right combination of alcohol and desire, I could be attractive; that sometimes, you didn't even need the hooch to find me attractive; that I was authentically smart and authentically crazy--and that there would always be some who were smarter and crazier than me--that master's students angling to get into a doctoral program in a seminar can be some of the worst people you'll ever meet; and, perhaps not coincidentally, my calling was to pastoral ministry, not academia.

I lived with a murderer in Atlanta, learned to eat Indian food, cracked up a car, worked in the belly of the corporate beast, attended the 1996 Olympics and God knows how many Braves games.

I left Atlanta on a sunny and mild winter day almost exactly four years after I arrived. A few days later, I moved into a rented house in Central PA in the midst of a snowstorm. We almost had to cancel church the next day.

In all the years since I left Minneapolis, I have had my share of ups-and-downs. I'll only mention a few of the ups: in 2000, I married Mrs. Pastor, and later that same year, she correctly intuited that I might be bipolar. In 2001, I met our beloved goddaughter for the first time on a beautiful summer evening. She said about two words to us, then went to rejoin a baseball game. Three-and-a-half years later, she still says about two words to us--and we're talking about going to see her play basketball.

But through all of the struggles, I have had the sense of God's compassion, and a sense of direction in my life. Even better, I have come to learn more and more about how God's love finds its vessel in the bodies of the people I meet. That includes you, gentle readers.

For all that, I am profoundly grateful, and hope that I can live up to the grace I have been given.


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