When I was in kindergarten, I made a dinosaur. No, really. He took up the whole width of the classroom, and had as many names as there were children in the class. Parents came in and helped our inept hands slap papier mache on to the form, of what would be a green diplodocus. (That's dip-LO-doc-us. Making the dinosaur also inspired a 27 year debate between me and my dad. He, mistakenly, thinks it is a di-PLOD-o-cus. That's just plain silly.) But 27 years later, I'm still pretty awed by the whole experience.
I had some phenomenal teachers: one who helped me imagine I was in France by having a group of us over to her house to watch Sleeping Beauty in French and giving us brie and baguettes and sparkling grape juice; one who was brave enough to take a group of middle schoolers to New York City; one who finally taught me about vectors by teaching me about a pool table; one who opened the world of writing to me; one who taught me to see the Bible in a whole new, living way; one who taught me that art was mostly about seeing; and one whose job was to teach me about literature, but who really taught me about life, and knitting, and relationships.
The fact that these people were so passionate about their love of learning that they took the time to make it an experience still impresses me. They went way beyond the bounds of their "job" and they invested themselves. They were wildly creative, but I'm sure that didn't come without cost. I'm sure these are the ones that stayed awake at nights daydreaming and brainstorming and planning the best way to show us things that really mattered. All of these people in some way moved me to excitement, which far exceeded the boundaries of book learning.
It occurs to me as I look at a brand new year that this is the pastor I want to be. Not that I want to generate experiences of the gospel, but that I want to do everything I can to move people to excitement by the ways they have already experienced the Good News. I want to tell the stories of a God and covenant people in a way that draws people in so that they can continue to experience love and hope and joy, and in a way that invites them to share the stories with all that they meet. I want to be the pastor who will look for ways to put new life in ancient wisdom. I want to be the pastor who helps people know, not just in an intellectual way, but in a lived way, the depth and bredth of Love their God has for them.
That's what I want to be when I grow up. That's all.
"Graceland" is the name of my favorite song and album. It's by Paul Simon, but more importantly, it's what "home" sounds and feels like to me. We always listened to this album as we traveled from my home in Tennessee to my parents' childhood homes in Florida. But today, it's also a pretty good snapshot of my theology. Somewhere I really believe that the Christian journey is all about a wild trip to Grace-land. As I see it, Grace-land is the place where God is waiting to meet even us–with all the baggage and brokeness that we tote with us. Grace-land is the place where we will be received with open arms, even though our attempts at “getting it right” have been miserable failures at best. But, I think, every step we take is a step on the journey to Graceland.