New family members . . . a hoped-for daughter-in-law and her son, Muslims whose journey has taken them from Somalia to Italy to France to England to America. The world with its news and conflicts and politics has landed in our living room, where the young people played a game on the floor last night, as loud and boisterous as any game ever played there before. The challenges of religious interface have landed in our kitchen, where the dinnertime conversation covered holidays, and around the tree, where presents have been carefully wrapped so that all are included.
A new and soon-to-be former church . . . I have been pastoring a Lutheran congregation this year as they have worked through the transition from former pastor of nearly 40 years to someone new and unexpected. They are ready, I think, to say good-bye and hello, and to embrace ways of being church which will bring fresh delights as their gifts are ignited and expanded. Tonight and tomorrow, probably my first and last Lutheran Christmas liturgies as I near the conclusion of a year of surprise and growth.
A new sense of where I fit in my family’s puzzled pieces . . . my dad died six weeks ago, and with him went most memories of my mother and youngest brother. Not that he mentioned them much over the past 56 years, but he knew them better than I did, better than my brother who recalls them not at all. The moment which has flashed into my mind most frequently over the past weeks? I am six years old, and my dad is teaching me to ride my bike without its training wheels, out in front of our new house on Azalea Lane in Vero Beach. I am terrified, and the bike veers in lopsided arcs across the street and onto the sidewalk — without crashing, for reasons which remain a mystery to me. My dad seems confident that I will triumph in the end.
I have never had much of an idea of how to do anything that my life has demanded of me. How to care for a daughter-in-law and grandson from other worlds, pastor a church, ride a bike. But the light shines and the darkness has not overcome it. The light shines, as I tell sometimes skeptical Christians, on all of us, and it seeps into places of worship, and it flashes from the metal of blue Schwinn bikes.