Mongrels at Work

Not feeling poetic today, so I am sitting at my favorite diner, listening to the Grateful Dead, watching the people. Mind wandering. Very stream of consciousness this morning. As I write this line, I have no idea where I am going. Where I will end.

Saturdays are my Sermon writing morning. By now, I have generally chosen scripture, sent it off to my organist and partner in ministry, spent a week studying, started to lay it out. Generally, all I have to do then is put all the pieces together, build the power points (for the online folks). A relatively easy 2-3 hours.

Some mornings though. I have no idea what I am going to preach on. Not the first clue. The lectionary (a selection of scriptures put together for preaching and used by lots of denominations) scripture is just not dead on for the times, and I have had no inspiration.

And other mornings are like this one. I have a good scripture that I have researched. It will make a good solid sermon. But things happen during the week that make me think I am being tugged to preach on something else entirely. Sometimes, again like this week, there are several of those and I wrestle with which of them will have the most impact. Which one I can find the best guidance in the bible for. Often, if I use one of these topics, they are my best sermons, but they don’t come easy.

The truth is, I am not in the mood to be a preacher today. I came to this whole preaching thing late and I have never been comfortable in the role. Most likely because like so many people, my image of a pastor is someone far more holy and perfect than me. And yet, broken life and all, here I am. Called to ministry in my tiny little church in my tiny little corner of Vermont.

I had someone write me the other day (Lots of you do, and I love it!) saying I had not written much of my depression lately. There have been times when I wrote of it often and evidently it has resonated with my fellow depression fighters. “Has it gone? Have you beaten it?” they asked.

As if.

No, it is still part of my life. Most mornings are a battle. I don’t use the phrase “I fight depression.” lightly. It is a battle. I refuse to merely suffer it. I fight it. It pisses me off nearly every day, particularly in the mornings, which are hard. I have written of it often here, and in my book, Dancing with Depression. I still do, time to time. But at times, you have to let a topic go for a while. You have to just live it. Let it sink in. Re-evaluate. It will burble up right now. It always does.

I am making some changes in life and work. I do that every so many years. Between the cancer and the pandemic, my old work has faltered and it seemed a good time to rethink and reimagine.

Part of that has been a new understanding that I am not really a creature of the times. I seem to be something from another era, though I am not quite sure what era that might me.

Part of me is hopelessly old school. I like simple. Give me two or three knives, not a smorgasbord of them with half a dozen appliances designed to chop everything just so. Give me old tools to work with. I love antiques, Colonial, with its clean straight simple lines. Shaker furniture with its perfect balance and simplicity. Not so much Victorian.

I like old cars, forties and fifties in particular. I like fashion from the same era. I do my work in a very old school way, with no fine print in my contracts, no twisting of words or trickery. I tend to trust more than is healthy.

Part of me is more modern though. My desks (I have two, one at home and one at my studio) are full of computers and screens and peripherals. Very command post-like, except it’s on an antique plantation desk. I have always been an early adopter of technology.

Politically, I am a mix. My parents were mostly Republican, and from them I came to believe the basics – fiscal responsibility, infrastructure, a strong defense, basic decency. My mom though, had a liberal heart, I think, and from her, I inherited a belief that America was a place where we welcomed and included everyone. Or at least it should be.

Age and experience has brought out that side of me. When it comes to caring for people, accepting people, including them, I am hopelessly liberal, Almost radically so.

I don’t do anger well. Part of that is emotional. My father, who was mostly a wonderful man, was also an alcoholic, and angry alcoholic, so for me, anger became a frightening force of nature. I know it can be used in a good way, but it rarely is. It tends to erupt in the most violent of ways. Destructive ways.

Part of it is practical. Love works. Unleashed anger doesn’t. That is what I have seen in my life. In large scales and in relationships.

Do I have a point? Not really. I am a mix. Sinner and saint. Half Republican and half Democrat. Old school and modern. I don’t seem to be wholly anything. In a world of specialist and polarization, I seem to be an anomolly, equally loved and hated depending on the topic. That used to confuse me. Now, I just accept it. It’s the world we live in, too apt to accuse. Too apt to attack. Less willing to listen to anything that does not fit a particular “side”

It took a while. Decades. I am finally OK with that. I’ll stand my ground one what I do. I don’t force it on others. But neither do I hide it. It is worth aging to get to this point, even though I do wish I had come to it sooner.

And through it all I write. Poems. Essays. Meanderings like this. Grateful that some of you find it worth reading. Some of you are touched, moved, made to think, even at times, stirred to anger.

Is there a point to this? I didn’t think so when I started. Now that I look over it, maybe so. Just this: Few of us will ever really fit in, because more people are like me than we like to admit. Not adherent to one side or another on almost any topic. We often try to hard to fit in. Or hide. But it is OK to be a mongrel. Mogrels are good natured. They get along. But only if they admit they are mongrels. Sometimes I think we live in a world where everyone want to be a pure bred, looking down their nose at everything else. No wonder we’re all angry.

It is the mix of things that makes us interesting. Gives us depth. Makes us the most human, not automatons. It is the mix that makes us think. And often allow us to listen. Because we know the mix is not always clear or logical, and we have to reconcile it in ourselves, so we are more likely to be willing to listen to others.

But only if we allow ourselves to be that mix.

So if you are, be a glorious mongel. I am sitting here now, looking at two burly men at a nearby table. What many of you would think of as typical Vermont men. Thick black hair. Stong bodies in flannel shirts. Glorious beards. And clearly in love with each other (Not what you might expect when you think Vermont men). They are talking politics. One is liberal. One is conservative and their discussion is full of humor and intelligence and passion. it is a raucus and fun discussion and from time to time others in the room join in. Everyone is in a good mood. No scowls.

Is that old school. New school? I don’t know. But I like it. Mongrels at work.

Woof. Woof.

Have a good day. Thanks for listening. I have a sermon to write.

Tom

2 comments

  1. Well, if our lives have “gone to the dogs” I want to hang with the mutts ! They are more interesting . Here’s to finding your Sunday Sermon mojo- You always do – One of my favorite experiences was when you brought in a toolbox and set it right in the front as a prop.

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