• I'm not sure why, but I've let Jordan (my pastor of youth and children) talk me into helping him chaperone a 25 mile canoe and camping trip in Arkansas this week.  If I survive and return, I'll be heading straight to a psychiatrist to have my head examined.  There is a part of it though that is appealing, mostly being with the kids (and Jordan) in a setting that will help us experience God's gifts of nature and each other more intensely.  It reckon I'll either come home with a great memory...or a great story.  The rest of the group drove down there yesterday.  I'll be making the 7 hour trip myself after worship services are over.  (And then I'll return a day earlier from the rest of them, Friday, so I can recover and get ready for next Sunday.
  • Reading Wendell Berry's book of poems, Leavings.  Also reading Brady Carlson's whimsical book, Dead Presidents:  An American Adventure into the Strange Deaths and Surprising Afterlives of Our Nation's Leaders.  

June 17, 2018
Ten Things About My Dad

1.  The Joy of Storytelling  

My dad loves to tell stories about things that happened to him. And people love to listen to his stories, unless they were actually there, in which case the details of his stories start you wondering whether he is losing his mind or you are losing yours. You may think that the most important thing about a story is the facts. But he always operates on the conviction that the most important thing about a story is its entertainment value to the listeners.  Sad to say, about 20% of his stories end up in an argument with someone else who was there (usually my mother.)  But those arguments are just as entertaining.
2.  When You Travel, Camp Out 

I'm not sure if my dad did this because he liked camping, or because the only way our family could afford to travel back in the olden days was by paying a $2 tent fee per night rather than a $20 motel fee.  The first camping trip I remember was to Wisconsin, and my parents and myself and my three brothers stayed in an old fashioned canvas tent near a glorious pine forest.  I also remember that tent sitting in two feet of water during a flash flood in Kentucky a couple years later.  When I was 10 he bought a homemade camper that a fellow pastor had built. (The guy should've stuck to preaching.) He and my mom eventually graduated to a real pop-up camper, then to a motor home.  But I think I was so traumatized by that homemade job (the subject of a future Sunday letter) that I've never been able to camp out in anything other than a tent.
3.  The Love of Reading 

I was never a reader until I got out of seminary.  And my dad was never interested in academic stuff.  But he loved to read, mostly novels.  He can get so immersed in a book that the rest of the world fades away. And I used to get frustrated, because I was part of that world that had faded.  But I realize now the necessity of being able to have an alternative world at one's fingertips.  And I've become a little like him in that respect.
4.  When You Travel, Stay with Relatives  

Okay, so I'm a little more like my mom on this subject.  She hates staying with relatives.  This may be because my grandmother always assigned my parents to sleep on the floor in the kitchen when we went to visit. But wherever we traveled, my dad always wanted to find out if we had some cousin in the area, or someone who knew a cousin.  And he was really good at talking people into letting us stay with them.  And with a name like Smith, we could usually find a cousin anywhere in the country, or someone who thought they knew one of those cousins.
5.    It's Great to Eat Breakfast at a Restaurant 

We almost never ate breakfast at a restaurant while I was growing up.  My mom was too frugal for that, and my grandmother didn't believe in letting anyone cook for the family but her.  But one year when we were visiting the grandparents, maybe I was about eight, the house was so full of people that my dad realized he and I could escape and walk six blocks to the restaurant.  He told me then how much he liked eating breakfast out.
( Confession here:  numbers 6-10 are extremely boring, as they are simply about my dad's character...that part of a person that keeps there from being endless stories about us.  But boring as they are, they make for a GREAT DAD)

6.   Establish and maintain good relationships with lots of people

7.  Take responsibility for the problems you see and develop the strength to handle them.

8. Try everything at least once, don't be afraid to take risks and have adventures.  

9.  Dream further than you will ever be able to go, but don't be surprised how many of those dreams, or some mutation of them, come true.

10. Count your blessings and then leave none unshared.  

Happy Father's Day, John Smith.  

 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


Quick Links