• I'm sorry there was no letter last week.  I was fighting a respiratory flu, and no one wanted to hear what I had to say.
  • I got well enough in time, however, to enjoy visits from Nelson-Alison-Isobel, Mindy, and Tristan-Sean.  Unfortunately, we missed Scarlette and Maple because Maple was fighting the same virus that hit me.
  • Today's letter is a review of all the articles I have sent you during 2019.  
    Each article I mention can be clicked and you will be taken online to it.  You may also see the entire online archive of Sunday letters (going back several years) if you click here.
    Finally, I have assembled my 27 favorite personal photos from 2019.  You are welcome to click here to see some of the faces and places I tell you about each week.

December  29, 2019
Sincerely Yours...2019
This is my 40th "Sunday Letter" of the year.  I have been writing these letters now for about 30 years, putting my amusements, peeves, curiosities, and sorrows into words.  And for several years now, I have taken the last letter of the year to review what I've been telling you...trying to learn from those letters how to be a better writer in the year to come.  
This past year, in "One Tough Baby" you probably decided to cross me off your "approved babysitters" list.  You also probably crossed me off your list of who to call when the plumbing goes bad when you read "The Preacher and the Plumber."  And you likely decided to consult some other expert when you read "Pickles and Peppers."
You celebrated the birth of our third grandchild with my essay "Birth...and a Brush with Death," and you walked with me through my dad's devastating stroke with "My Dad's Stroke Yesterday."  Right before my mom's heart attack, I had honored my parents' 66th wedding anniversary by writing about their wedding and honeymoon in "I Never Knew That about My Parents."  And you celebrated my 10th anniversary of beating prostate cancer in "And Am I Still Alive."
You were the first to officially hear about my upcoming retirement in "For Everything There is a Season:  Retirement."  And I gave you a glimpse in how my ministry all began in "How I Got to be a Pastor." 
You accompanied me (and perhaps suffered) in my forays and deviations into alligators in "Alligators in the Congregation," hogs in "Long Live the Pig," shipwrecks in "The Titanic and this Year's Confirmation Class," odd Easter traditions in "Hams and Lillies," innkeeping in "Looks Like No Room in the Inn," and the history of picnics in "Eating Out...the Old Fashioned Way,"  
I shared my grief with you about the sexuality wars in the United Methodist Church in "Can You Get Kicked Out of the Church" and "Special Report:  What's Next?"  I also wanted you to know that there is still humor and laughter in the church, no matter how much the powers of hell assail us, in "Can You Wear Your Playboy Jacket in Church?" and "They're Laughing at Me."

I shared my deepest griefs with you over the continuing tragedy of racism in "Too Many Stupid Conversations About Race."  And while the political situation in our country dismays me deeply, I tried to provide a little levity and strategy in "Keeping My Hands to Myself," and "The Story of Two-Face."  
A seminar that Jie attended on cross-cultural appointments (pastors of one race...parishioners of another) got me angry.  And so I wrote about it in "Okay...Now I'm Really Mad."  And then I tried to explore the subject with more curiosity and grace in several follow-up essays:  "I Thought My Wife Was Trying to Kill Me," "Getting Along Better with Hillbillies," and "The Good Old Days."  
You got to read about my family, and some weeks I inflicted news about my health problems on you (nothing terminal.) 

I tried to let you know most of what I was reading, but tried not to bothered you with my "work" reading.  My favorite read during the year was Rachel Joyce's The Music Shop.  My favorite TV series was the multi-year Canadian production of "Slings and Arrows."  And my favorite movie was a tie between the sentimental and evocative "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" and the delightful mystery "Knives Out." 
Finally, I want to thank all of you for reading what I write.  And I'm sorry that I don't always get your notes answered (a New Year's resolution to do better about that for 2020). Your comments, emails, and Facebook reactions are all important to me.  
I hope you are taking some time during these days of Christmas to rejoice...and that joy finds and surprises you.  And I hope the New Year brings you a brightness of spirit.  

And I hope we will have many dialogues together in this coming year...in person if we can...by letters and emails if we must be apart.  
You may have noticed that each article mentioned above can be clicked and you will be taken to it.  You may see my entire online archive of Sunday letters if you click here.
You may also check out my 27 favorite personal photos from 2019 by clicking here.

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I used to write it when I first woke up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation. Now I write it on a Saturday, revise it, and send all of them out by email.This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than pontificating.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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