Hawkish Wisdom

hawkOnce we had a predator settle into our neighborhood.

Which fascinated, but didn’t frighten, my wife and me.

What did you think when I mentioned predator? How about if I had written Buteo lineatus instead? Somewhere nearby, probably less than a block away, and way, way up in the one of tallest trees, a red-shouldered hawk had unpacked its suitcase in our neck of the ‘burbs. For weeks, we heard a sharp, repetitive cry across the street. At first, I was convinced it was a bird and probably a robin or blue jay protecting its nest. A few times I wondered if it was a bird in trouble, fallen from nest and parent.

I also imagined the sound could be one of our brash, street smart squirrels. They always seem ready to rumble. Not long ago, I had a squirrel scamper away from me and then dash up a tree. Out of harm’s way, it settled onto a branch to squirp-and-chirp at me. I felt like I was a bad boy and being scolded.

Finally, we spotted Buteo lineatus. A red-shouldered hawk was perched at least twenty feet from the ground, in a tree beside our driveway. Continue reading →

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Retired, Still Foolish

I’m taking some PTO today from hospice . . . personal time off. Not long from now, after walking the dog and munching on breakfast granola, I’ll aim the car north on Highway 99 for a church meeting.

This year, the Annual Conference for the California-Nevada region of the United Methodist Church, will gather in lovely Modesto. A nice little city.

I will attend for a few hours.

Today, in the last calendar hours of spring, I will be at the Modesto conclave so that I can hear my name read as one of the newly retired clergy. This gray-haired old coot will do the official deed, shifting from an “active” to a “retired” minister.

No bells. No whistles. No parade. Rumor has it that I get a swell medallion for a keepsake. The church is nothing if not generous.

Maybe forty-five years ago, I had my first wade in the water of denominational gatherings where ordination was discussed. At some hazy point in the past, I declared my candidacy for the ministry and a group of men (yeah, it was mostly men then) had to ask me a few come-to-Jesus questions and either recommend or not recommend that I move on to some other committee for more approval or disapproval. I was ordained a deacon on a hot June night in Redding, California in 1977. The rest is history and mystery, rural churches and campus ministry, hospice and new church starts. Oh, the failures I had. Oh, the joy I shared. Continue reading →

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How Much Should a Pastor be Paid for a Wedding?

It was my first church where I was a full-time minister.

I recall spotting the best man striding purposefully towards me. It was after the wedding service, but before the reception had begun. He was pale, skinny, and so (so) young! In a tuxedo looking like he’d co-starred in a teen slasher film that ended badly and predictably at a prom, he stopped in front of me.

“Thanks,” he said, “for doing Tommy’s wedding.”

“You’re welcome.” (I don’t remember the groom’s name, but why not Thomas? Tommy to his pals.)

“He wanted me to give you this.” The best man reached into a jacket pocket and then handed me a folded envelope.

“Gotta go take pictures for the wedding party thing,” he said. “But thanks, again.”

I slipped the envelope in my Bible. Since the wedding was for the granddaughter of one of the long-time church members, I knew quite a few in attendance. I socialized, soon moseying over to where pictures were being taken and posing for a friendly photo with the new newlyweds. The reception followed. Boring me, I left early.

It was on the way home that I glanced at the envelope. Continue reading →

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