Last month in the Smoky Mountains
Personal Notes from Mike
  • Looking forward to family coming to Mattoon for Thanksgiving at the end of this week:  all three daughters, grandson, sons-in-law, parents...  Looks like Saturday will be our big meal celebration.
  • Watching "Crown," the Netflix series on the royal family of Great Britain.  It is well done, exploring the human dimension of individuals caught up in the struggle between individual desires and the traditions of institutions.  It avoids some of the salacious drivel that has often marked news reports of the royal family.
  • Reading Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley. It is a suspense novel that includes an airplane crash, a Wall Street personality being investigated, and a political/media mogul.  So good.  Will get back to it as soon as I mail off this letter to everyone.

November 20, 2016
Boring People Never Blunder
Our water bill arrived today:  $244 for the month.  Apparently, someone in our family blundered, leaving the water hose running during the weekend we went to the Smokey Mountains.  Matrimonial tranquility demands that we refrain from deciding who in the family is the perp.  But in the likely scenario that it was not me, it seemed that it would be a magnanimous gesture on my part to recall and confess some of those times when I most certainly was the goof-up.
So here is my confession, before God and all my dear readers:  A written list of ten times I have blundered.  

But first, let me lead you in a short exploration of the word "blunder."  It comes from Old Norwegian and has something to do with falling asleep or shutting one's eyes.  This etymology allows us to distinguish our blunders from our sins.  Sin usually occurs because we see all too clearly:  opportunities for insult, greed, lust, sloth, etc.  A blunder, on the other hand, is the result of our failing to see...or foresee.  

You might suspect that I use my fat dictionary (with its myriad etymologies) in order to procrastinate from actually tackling the writing task at hand.  Procrastination, of course, is a sin rather than a blunder.  It stems from the deadly sin of "sloth," a sort of laziness that takes over when we would rather avoid the hard mental, physical, or emotional challenge and divert instead into something lighter.   Let me therefore hasten on to my blunder list.  

Of course, hastening is the cause of 50% of all blunders.  So before I hasten to write my list, allow me to plead for your leniency.  As you read my list of blunders, please be merciful with me and refrain from calling me names:  such as blunderbuss or nincompoop. (According to the fat dictionary, these are common names for someone who blunders.)  Calling someone a name is a sin, not a blunder, and if you call me a nincompoop you will have to ask for my forgiveness. 

As far as I can tell, the primary difference between blunderbuss and nincompoop is that the first is protected by the Second Amendment and the second is protected by the First Amendment.  If you are totally confused by all this, perhaps you should forget reading the rest of this letter, get out your fat dictionary...along with a copy of the U.S. Constitution...and see if you can catch up.
Okay.  What I just wrote was not a blunder, it was a sin.  I knew as I was typing that I was getting snippy with some of my readers.  Forgive me. 

Of course, this raises an important question:  while my sins require that I beg forgiveness, what about my blunders?  It would be a blunder indeed to elevate mere blunders to the level of moral depravity. But on the other hand it seems that a blunder demands more than a mere four-letter exculpation:  oops! 

Okay.  So a list of self-disclosed blunders is not a confession but rather a gracious gesture of humility.
So give me just a moment to become humble, self-effacing, and meek. ...... it.  I now recount of some moments when I failed to see...or foresee the bigger picture.  

Just a week ago I decided to take a pitcher of iced tea with me on the staff retreat.  I kept it on the car floor, between my feet.  As I swerved onto the interstate just outside Mattoon, it tipped over.  Oops.  I had already taken my shoes off so I could enjoy the long drive in comfort.  Soaked socks are not comfortable.  

That reminded me of the time many years ago when I left a youth group event to do a bereavement call with a family.  We had fried some food for the kids that night and I didn't want to waste a whole vat of oil...thought I could reuse it at home.  It was winter and a wicked ice storm hit during my visit with the bereaved family.  Long story short:  car accident due to ice...vat of cold oil splashed all over interior of car...drenched my trousers...hard to explain my appearance to police officer...oops.  

 Then there was the time I was a student pastor in college...invited a missionary to be a guest speaker at a potluck dinner...before anyone got there I made the instant iced tea...which generates immense amount of tea foam...thought it would be fun to put foam in a serving dish and fool people it at the potluck...but only two others from the church came that night...missionary arrived...said my dish (one of only two on the table) looked good...what was it?...potatoes?...oops...had to send out for fried chicken...
Told my little brother he could go down the slide faster if he let me pull him with a rope...he agreed...I pulled the rope before he got sat down on the is debated to this day whether this was a sin or a blunder...I still say "blunder."  

My church at Glen Carbon had 10 acres of land and we had to get a little Ford 8N tractor to mow it.  I decided to help out one day, and the guy I relieved got off the tractor, rested his hand on the radiator cap, and told me tractor needed gasoline.  I'd never put gas in an 8N before...couldn't figure out why an empty gas tank only took two cups of gasoline before overflowing...oops.  

Oldest daughter Mindy was four...she needed a haircut...I needed to save money...(attempts to save money cause of other 50% of all blunders)...cut her hair myself...oops.  

Next Sunday woman at church comes up to me...says "I see Mindy tried to cut her own hair."...I said, "yes"...(okay...that was a sin.)  

Do I have ten blunders yet?  Just ran out of time and room...oops!


 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS