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Why I Am At Princeton This Week

So it's been a busy week: Annual Conference met, the new Lectio worship service and a new Bible study on Acts of the Apostles both begin this Sunday (what was I thinking??? YAY IT'S EXCITING!)... and I find myself in Princeton, New Jersey. Mom has taken our boys and Julie's three boys to cousin's camp near Houston and Christy is studying for the CPA exam at home. I signed up for this conference months ago. I have mostly, sort of secretly been writing a book over the last nine months or so. It's a summary of my musings on the Gospel of John. I am calling it A Gospel of a Different Color and dedicating it to my grandfather, who is 93, and always has random sayings like, "Well that's a horse of a different color!" when someone makes an unexpected play at Spades. Anyway, John seems that way to me-- it is full of unexpected, surprising teachings. I have a start, but only a start, for the book and I am reluctantly seeking the support of others to push the thing along.

When I heard Princeton Theological Seminary would offer the inaugural Frederick Buechner Christian Writer's Workshop, and it would feature writers such as Barbara Brown Taylor and Rachel Held Evans and Elizabeth Dias I was immediately interested, kind of like Moses when he sees the first spark of the burning bush: "Dude-- I've got to check this out!" I've attended two workshops on writing for magazines, which were interesting but not what I intend to do, another on responding to criticism, and my next two are about thinking and writing like an editor and getting the thing done (these two, hopefully, will be the most helpful for me).

I've also found time this week to pop in on my friend Dr Amy Butler of the Riverside Church in New York City (we did our doctorates in preaching together), a quick 3 1/2 hour trip into Philadelphia, PA and Camden, NJ (I mean, why not-- they are 40 miles away! Northeast geography kills me.) and tonight I will "train it" back into NYC for a Mets game. And tomorrow I am driving to Pittsburgh for a Pirates game (again, it's five hours away, and the opportunity to cross off two more ballparks from my list is too tempting; unfortunately the Phillies are playing in Pittsburgh rather than their rightful home or I could have knocked out three games.).
The Riverside Church, NYC

The Battle of Princeton

Philly and Camden

But the highlight of the week so far was an unexpected conversation with another friend from my doctoral studies, Dr Donna Claycomb Sokol. She is a pastor in DC and we spent an hour or so yesterday at a local coffee shop catching up after several years apart. She had wonderful, honest, challenging words for me as I considered my ministry for the coming year, including Lectio and the book project. It's a real blessing when I consider the folk God has placed in my life over the years.

So I would like to offer an invitation for folk to constantly ask me throughout the year how the book is progressing. I am thankful for those Sunday school classes who invited me to share about John for a two-week series, as well as those who attended a Bible study I led on John more than a year ago. Those conversations, your questions and feedback, your laughter and encouragement, led me to pursue this project. I am very grateful.

And being in an ancient place of theological training has helped too. Literally as I write this in the basement of Stuart Hall (built in 1874) there are two plaques on the stone walls. One honors the memory of William Miller Paxton, (1824-1904), Professor of Ecclesiastical Homiletical and Pastoral Theology 1883-1902. Another remembers the Rev. James Clement Moffat, Helena Professor of Church History, 1861-1888. As Bishop McKee reminded us at Conference this week, thanks be to God for the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on, exhorting us to follow Jesus on the path, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. Thanks to all of you who have, and will, exhort me to do the things God is calling me to do, especially, and including, Papaw, Christy, and my family.


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