On a whim…

Life without whimsy is not much of a life at all; without it, a walk in the dark is no laughing matter.

Archive for the ‘epiphany’ Category

Under Used Talent: Absent Without Leave

with one comment

Sitting in church while the words of the gospel lesson wafted about something clobbered me on the head; the under used talent. Momentarily stunned into a moment of reflection I wondered, how often have I sat glumly listening as someone else preached? Even now, days after that Sunday, I find myself retracing events that led from my tenure as senior minister of a large church to the moment when, as a ubiquitous presence in the pew, I was struck by a word flitting about the sanctuary.

When I retired from ministry I was weary. I needed rest. My need for an extended respite was due, at least in part, to choices I made. After all, I took upon myself more than I should have. Now, in retrospect, this is self-evident. I rarely, if ever took vacation. I preached two different sermons every week, conducted two other worship services, and attended to the pastoral needs of a pretty good sized congregation. And there was more. At the time, though, it seemed I had no choice. The end began just after Thanksgiving a number of years ago.

My wife died on a Saturday. It was unexpected. She was gone from us only hours after I called the church officers to inform them I would be late returning from our annual holiday. The aftermath was jumbled. From her parents home I clumsily began making funeral arrangements while struggling with how I could comfort our children. I had not rehearsed what I would do “if or when something happened” and I felt eerily disconnected as though I were talking of and tending to the needs of someone else. I conducted her funeral on Tuesday. Time seemed to accelerate. On Friday of that same week I conducted another funeral. This was for a member who had been a friend to my family during my wife’s illness. Again time skidded and a few days later I preached another funeral. The deceased was the son-in-law of another good friend.

In any season so many funerals so close together would have taken a toll but, as Christmas approached, I felt especially bleak. My young children clustered around me and, I suppose, their proximity alone kept me afloat. As the year turned there were more stresses and little relief. I felt estranged from myself and, whether it came as a shock or a relief to my congregation I cannot say, I retired in July at the ripe old age of 41. I had no prospects for work. In the course of one weekend, I remarried (a scandalous act in the minds of many), retired, and moved what was left of my family from the coastal Georgia to New England; a distance of little over a thousand miles by road and by cultural measure a distance of galactic proportions.

I needed a rest but how much; how long; from what? Here I am years later, pondering the past when, more to the point, I should be perplexed by the future. I am transfixed by a word; I am confronted with an under used talent. The sermon had not even begun when my typical Sunday reverie was interrupted. The intrusion reminded me of something. The gospel can break in on its own. I have learned this from my own, too frequent, bouts of homiletical mediocrity. Many times, despite my ineptitude, the gospel launched an incursion into someone’s life. Its message is not always constrained by the skill of the messenger.

How I got ‘here’ has value but only in so far has it contributes meaningfully to what happens next. When I consider the future I feel I am squeezed between two mutually exclusive realities. On the one hand I ‘am’ a preacher. Perhaps one with some talent? On the other hand, I have no pulpit. In the first place, Jeremiah’s words reveal my own existential crisis, “But if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in” New International Version (©1984) In the second place I am filled with self loathing for the jealousy that I wish to deny but must in honesty confess.

Since then I have been greatly blessed to a degree and in ways I do not deserve. Every day I wake to a home filled with people I love and who, in turn love me. I am stunned by the good fortune that I have a job that permits me to care for them. I discover some measure of purpose as a leader of cub scouts. I do not discount that these are all good things but, well, I owe and am capable of much more. And it is a whispering realization that has broken into into an uproar today.

Oh the nuisance a word can cause. I wish to be the un-afflicted comfortable pew warmer but the the gospel won’t let me go. That this nuisance is not ‘good news’ for me does not mean that, in the end, my torment might not be the source of good news for others. So be it. I relinquish the cherished goal of letting my small talent lie fallow. Though the return that may be earned is diminished from small to trivial through years of neglect, I do here with commit myself to speak – or write- and in so doing to preach.

‘This is what the LORD says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death’.


Written by David Wilkerson

7 December 2011 at 9:52 pm

Posted in Creativity, epiphany, hope, Writing

Tagged with , , , ,

Winter Blah

leave a comment »

Let me be clear, I love snow. I love seeing flakes accumulate in ominous piles foreshadowing a frozen end of days. I like huge snow-ball sized globs of it falling on balsam and fir lending an air of Christmas to the early days of Lent. I love snow. What I do not love is the deepening chill of night when the air is wet and the wind bores a hole through to my gizzard; the premature sense that this chill is of the grave.

Written by David Wilkerson

8 February 2011 at 6:47 pm

Posted in cold, death, epiphany, hope

Heading to Epiphany

leave a comment »

In the provencial naivete of my youth I was curious why, while traveling in Spain,  they still had Christmas lights up in January. Having no familiarity with Epiphany and only vaguely aware that the “Twelve Days of Christmas” had some basis in fact left me clueless.

 Since then I have aquired an affection for a theological understanding of the term and I have adopted it as a frame of reference to explain the unexpected intrusions of good ideas into my otherwise mundane life.

 Epiphanies, if not ‘the’ Epiphany, are intrusions in fact. I imagine being seated in a comfortable chair quietly assimilating the characteristics of a potatoe when an idea, a good one, lands somewhere above and to the right of my hippocampus. My rapid transformation into barely sentient starch is halted by an immediate, if not always welcome, reaction.

I find, as years pass, that the frequency of these intrusions has not abated but my ability to resist them has grown. My resitance to these is unfortunate for some but as my epiphanies have not produced any vaccines, life transforming technologies, or even a particularly good sermon, the declining number of reactions has hurt no one other than myself.

Realizing this leads me to think that it may now be time for me to pursue such moments rather than wait for them. I need to hitch myself to a team of verbs and ‘go’. Of course I recall my preferred cliche for explaining my inaction, “My get-up-and-go got up and went.”

Why don’t I want to ‘go’? Is it because those with whom I would most wish to share are unaffected or, worse, alienated by my experiences? My children are generally disinterested in the things that interest me. This is as it should be, I suppose. Their epiphanies may have another source and, in any case, another direction.

As for me, I find myself aware of God’s presence, or more often God’s absence. I find myself seated in church and keenly aware that God seems to have taken a long sabbatical. Maybe “The Almighty” is looking for new material or is engaged in the plight of more interesting parishoners.  I can’t say where God is, but I feel pretty certain of where God is not.

 God seems to have little relevance to my children which is a shame because I am certain despite God’s prolonged absence it is a temporary state. Perhaps their generation has confused God with church? Church, temple, mosque, shrine, mantra, etc, as expressions of religion, are not synomyns for God. But that is an epiphany for another day. The point here is that sooner or later God will come looking after us whether we happen to be looking for God.  Surprise!

Someone, a friend now estranged by distance and time, recently called me. (An epiphany?)  He found my number in the debris of abandoned letters and called. “How are you?” came the question to which I replied, “I get up. I eat breakfast. I go to work. I come home. I eat supper. I go to bed. I start over.”

Even as I complained about the grossly mundane nature of my life I realized that it is far more complicated than that. “How are you?” “Oh, well, I am on the road to Epiphany.”

I know not when, where, or how but the day is closer now than ever, the day of my greatest Epiphany. It is not simply a matter of ‘the great sleep’ that awaits us all. It is the moment of final wakefulness when some of us, at least, find our conscious minds alert to the reality that the road has reached it’s end and the moment of transition has come.

 Whether it is simply a transition from sensibility and intent to decaying matter vaguely familiar to the bereaved (“Oh, he looks so natural.”) or something more I cannot say. I do not know. It is a mystery. The most avid athiest can be no more authoritative in this regard than the most ardent fundamentalist cleric. It is a mystery but I hold to the notion that in that moment there is a cosmic ‘surprise’.

I am on the road to Epiphany. I hope I have a ways to go; A long ride down a bumpy road loaded with smaller ephanies. And I hope, in the meantime, to be more vigorous in response to the little epiphanies of each day.

Written by David Wilkerson

26 December 2007 at 11:51 pm

Posted in death, epiphany, theology

Tagged with , ,

%d bloggers like this: