• Went and saw the play Mindy is in (Urbana.)  "The Women of Lockerbie" continues at the Station Theater in Urbana (through February 2).  Click here for information. It was a powerful play (and my favorite actress did quite well also.)
  • Just started a new Barbara Pym novel, after being reminded last summer what a wonderful writer she is.  This one is A Glass of Blessings.
  • Two projects in the church began this past week:  I'm teaching a Bible study on the book of Revelation for 13 weeks, and I'm starting a new sermon series...preaching a separate sermon on each book in the Bible.  We so often read scripture in such fragmented pieces, that I wanted us to see the whole of each book and discover the relevance and guidance each one gives. Sermons are posted on my website, usually by the Tuesday after I preach.

January 20, 2018
Snow Days
We were supposed to get hit with a whopper of a snowstorm today, but no such calamity materialized. Weather forecasts had us envisioning sheets of ice, snapping trees in two and turning our vehicles into uncontrolled demons on the roadways.  But alas, the fair citizens of Mattoon awoke this morning to dry earth.  The only thing that took our breath away was a gorgeous blood-orange sunrise...and deep freezer temperatures.  
Some churches had cancelled services in anticipation of the bad weather.  But it has been decades since a church of mine cancelled Sunday worship. The last time I can remember was in February 18, 1979, when I was serving churches in West Virginia.  The third worst snowstorm in the state's history dumped over 20 inches of snow that Saturday night.  The mostly elderly people in my two congregations never even made it out of their driveways that morning.
I had a little country church up near Shepherdstown, West Virginia. There were a few Sundays (over the 4 winters I was their pastor) when only three of us showed up.  But except for the "President's Day" snow of 1979, we always managed to stay open.
One would think, that on a bad-weather Sunday, only those with youth and vigor would show up at church. Not so.  It's usually the great-grandparents who make up the majority of attenders on those Sundays.  And glad as I always am to see folks coming out to church, I get a little queasy when I think what could happen to some of them.
As a kid, I loved snow-days. They were an unexpected treat in the middle of winter's drudgery.  We got a break from school, and whatever complaints the adults had about the weather just went in one ear and out the other; we were oblivious to their distress. It was always my mom's job to listen to the radio in the early morning and see if our school district was one of the closures.
When I became a parent, snow days lost their glitter.  Our kids were a part of the Edwardsville, Illinois School district, in the metro-east part of St. Louis.  I would set the alarm for 5 a.m. on bad weather days, so I could listen to KMOX and find out the school closures...whether Edwardsville was on the list.  My normal waking time was never 5 a.m., and especially in those years when my kids were young...and I felt continually sleep deprived. But the alarm would go off, I would roll over, prop my head up using my elbow, and hope I could stay awake until the radio announcer got to the schools that started with "E."  KMOX had a long list of schools to cover...it 
was the metro St. Louis area.  And far too often I would doze off sometime during the "C" schools and not wake up until the "M".  And since the radio announcer only read the school closings at the top of the hour... I would have to reset my alarm for 6 a.m. ....and try to do the whole thing over again. Back in those days, you couldn't just fire up the internet and log in to get the information on your own terms.
I am now at a stage in life where snow-days don't exist. While we don't cancel church on Sundays, we will postpone meetings on occasion, due to snow.  But it's not very fun as we have to make them all up. Travel plans can get cancelled...or excruciatingly slowed down...or fraught with worry.  There is none of the exhilaration a school boy feels when his mom tells him, "No school today."  (She always said it with a period at the end of her sentence.  I always heard it with an exclamation point!)
I can get work done from home just as easy as I can get work done from the church office.  (I can almost always get 
morework done at home.)  So, snow days don't really exist.
But I'm still a believer. There is this lingering (albeit faint) fantasy that a day will suddenly appear when all my mundane tasks will be cancelled, and I will be able to do 
anything I want...around the house.  My fantasy plans aren't yet set in concrete (or ice), but I think I'd build a fire in the fireplace.  And there are all the old photos I want to go through.  And if I can make it to a good grocery store, there are some cookbooks that are collecting dust...and a snow-day would be great for some time-consuming recipe. I could listen to some vinyl records I haven't heard in decades...or CDs that I forgot I had.  And with Netflix etc., I could see any of a hundred movies I have always wanted to watch.  
Ah, I see now why I haven't written down any of my snow-day plans before.  It would take 40 days and 40 nights of snow for me to shovel through all my nostalgic wishes.  And so, instead, I'll just cash in a little wisdom suddenly drifting my way:  people don't really need a snow-day in order to slow down a little...and take in more good things of life. We don't so much need to cancel school...or church...or meetings...we just need to cancel our excuses.  Life awaits, snow or not.  --Mike

 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


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