As I sit here in my office (which is newly organized and clean and has actually stayed that way for almost three weeks. Miracle!) I can see a bunch of pictures. There is a wedding picture on the window sill directly to my left and a little farther on the side of a book shelf is a whole bunch of pictures, some of which I found when I was cleaning up my office those weeks back. There are pictures of groups of kids from Youth Gatherings, Mission Trip, and even my first youth trip to the Synod Middle School Gathering with my first group of confirmation students. There are a few pictures of me from weddings, a couple of me when I dressed up as Santa for stuff, a picture of me with our first dog Henry when he was a puppy, and some pictures of me at Halloween with various kids. But there are also three kind of special pictures.
One is a picture of OK Hedlund, which was included in his funeral bulletin. There is a picture of me, Linda Soleimani, Lois Oakland, and Lois’ sister Sharon that was taken at Joyce Hopkin’s funeral. There is a picture of Richard and Harriet Suneson and their kids taken at the 100th Anniversary of Trinity. Why would I have these pictures up? For one, there are pictures of members I was close with before they died. But they are also there to remind me of things. All of the pictures in my office do that in one way or another.
The wedding picture of Amy and I (and there some others of us in my immediate eyeline, like a picture of us and Donald Duck and a picture from early in our relationship) that remind me of how lucky I am to be married to such a wonderful woman and that when I got home all tired out and stressed she is there to lift me up, hear my whines, and make me laugh. The pictures of the kids (and a picture of me baptizing my goddaughter Genna Gretzlock which is also one a shelf in my immediate eyeline) remind me of the seeds that we plant in kids and the often special people they are, even if they have moved far away.
But those pictures of OK, Richard and Harriet, and Lois are there to remind me of certain things. The picture of OK reminds me that I am to be a servant, just as he was for so many years, taking the garbage or standing at a sink washing dishes. Not worried about recognition or acclaim, but that we are called to be servants. The picture of Richard and Harriet reminds me that I am part of a legacy of ministry at Trinity and to value that legacy of ministry which will continue long after I leave as pastor.
The picture of Lois reminds me to dream, to think about the ways the Holy Spirit is guiding and sometimes pulling against our own fear and stubbornness. It reminds me to not be content, to not settle, but to keep exploring for new ways that the Spirit is leading our ministry. It also reminds me to not be afraid to ask for something or to ask someone to do something because what is the worst that can happen? They can say no. But many times they say yes.
As a husband, I am privileged to be loved by an amazing woman who accepts (and tolerates) my uniqueness. As a pastor, I am privileged to be a part of people’s lives in every stage, sharing in the joys and the sorrows. But as a child of God, I am blessed to have the love of Christ shared with me by the people of this place and community of all ages. The pictures that I see remind me of all of that and that in the end, it is the people in our lives that matter the most. Not the stuff in our houses or the amount of money in our bank account. What matters most is the people we love and who love us back, even for a moment.
Lastly, I look up and I can see a sign that was given to me at my 40th birthday celebration here. It says, “Life is short. Eat the bacon.” It reminds me to not take for granted this life, the people in it, or the joy that is in life. That life is a gift but a fleeting one at that and we should enjoy it, appreciate it, and give thanks for it. And so I do. And so I say, “Thanks be to God!”