Personal Notes from Mike
  • Thought we lost Earl-the-Cat yesterday.  He went outside and neither of us could remember letting him back in.  We searched all over the neighborhood until after dark.  But he showed up this morning in the spare bedroom.  Jie had shut the door yesterday afternoon without realizing he was in there.  He's obviously not an assertive cat, as we never heard a peep from him until Jie got ready to leave for church this morning...when he decided to meow real loud.
  • Enjoyed a visit to Naperville this past week (during some holiday time off) to visit Sean, Scarlette, and Tristan.  Got to see the new house they are buying in Lisle. Sean (a year and a half) is walking fast enough now that I have to trot to keep up.
  • Heading to and on this week and teach in the conference's License to Preach School.  
  • This month's sermon series is on Sexual Ethics.  I've been presenting a methodology for interpreting those Bible verses that are phrased as moral codes.  (e.g. that women should be silent in church, that a bride who is not a virgin should be stoned to death by the men in her town.)  Today's sermon death with a wide range of moral laws for women, most based on the notion that women are the weaker sex.  I welcome dialogue, debate, and insights on these subjects.  The audio sermons are posted each week on the church website (usually by Tuesday.)  Click Here to listen.

July 9, 2017
Summer Favorites
Ten things I like best about summer
  1. Gardening:  The dirt makes me happy.  That a seed spouts into a plant still baffles and thrills me.  The anticipation of beans and peppers and squash and tomatoes excites me.  (Guess I'm easily excited.)  The knowledge of what to do with sweet basil and radish leaves and carrot tops makes me feel smart.  In late summer, I try to make a whole meal with just garden stuff.
  2. Baseball:  Okay, as a Cub fan I've learned not to get too excited (except last summer.)  But I still love the game:  to catch a couple innings on TV (more than two innings and I fall asleep) and to play softball (the church's version of baseball) and to travel to a few ballparks to catch some professional games.  My favorite baseball hobby is to travel to minor league parks.  So far this summer I've only caught one minor league game (in Peoria with my daughter Alison.)  But this season's yearbook of all the minor league teams and their schedules sits right on top of my desk.  My goal is to catch 3 or 4 places before the end of August, when the minor league season ends.  The Toledo Mud Hens are one of the teams on my bucket list.
  3. Thunder and lightning and rain:  We get weather all year.  But in the summer you can enjoy clouds sweeping across the sky since we're outside more to experience it firsthand.  I like lying in bed at night, or early morning, and hearing the roll of thunder and the patter of raindrops.  And during the waking hours, I'll sit out on the porch during a storm. Thunder and lightning entertains.  It's best if you have a daughter on hand to enjoy it socially.  If we get wet on the porch, we can take our lawn chair to the garage, open the door, and watch from there.  But I don't like heavy winds or tornadoes.
  4. Morning coffee outside:  After I boil the water, grind the coffee beans, let it brew a bit in the French press, and fill my thermos, I'll take everything outside.  After checking the flower beds, I'll sit down and read three or four newspapers (electronically) while I alternate between my coffee and my water bottle.  If the day isn't too busy at the beginning, it's a good time and place for Jie and I to have some conversation.
  5. School's out:  I used to be really happy about the end of school...back when I was a student.  But now that I don't go to school anymore, I'm mostly happy because I have the school playground (across the street from the parsonage) all to myself.  I like to go over there late afternoons and shoot basketball.  I don't do that when the kids are around.  (Else they'll laugh at me...or try to join me...which I don't like...because I'm likely to trip and knock one of them over, or trip and injure myself.
  6. Summer Foods:  My favorite is a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich...with tomatoes from the garden, crisp bacon, and a really good bun from the bakery.  I also like summer's gourmet offerings of wilted lettuce, grilled brats, local melons, fresh sweetcorn, pan fried okra from the garden, stewed tomatoes, Bing cherries, chocolate banana malts, fried green tomatoes, fresh spinach salads, and green beans cooked in smoked ham hocks.  Peach cobblers are pretty good too.
  7. Fireflies and cicadas:  The first half of summer charms us with the sight of the fireflies, especially mesmerizing when you have a large grassy area banked by trees.  The middle and late summer charms us with the sound of cicadas, a sound for falling asleep that rivals the patter of rain.
  8. Memories:  I am often content to simply remember the joys from all the other summers of my life.  Vacations, church camps, mission trips, little league, pickup sandlot games, outdoor tennis in the wind, beaches, camping trips, swimming pools...  The smells and sounds and sights of summer trigger reminiscence.  
  9. State Fair:  I think I'll try to go twice this year.  Like most things, the delights of the fair come and go.  The free handouts from the state government agencies have dried up in recent years, but maybe they'll return now that the legislature has decided to raise my taxes.  I hope so.  I'm also thinking about setting a goal in life to attend all the state fairs in the US.  Does anyone know if Rhode Island has a state fair?
  10. Fourth of July:  I like the fireworks.  I also like to tell stories from American history...from the 1700s.  And I like to tell how three presidents died on the 4th of July, especially John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, probably the two greatest leaders of the 2nd Continental Congress, who both died on that holiday exactly 50 years from the signing of the Declaration.  (James Monroe also died on the 4th.)


 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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