Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Birthday Cake Alone

My birthday cake this year was a Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookie that I ate alone in my hotel room.

Cry me a river. Boo hoo!

ABSOLUTELY NOT!! That chocolate chip cookie, alone in my hotel room, capped the best birthday I have ever had.

(Disclaimer - I was attending a conference that day and the leadership and attendees recognized my birthday and had a small party for me and one of the organization’s leaders celebrating a birthday on the same day that included cake and cupcakes. I never ate any because I was too busy visiting. The recognition is much appreciated - sugar rush or not.)

I am not someone who enjoys getting much attention on his birthday. Well-wishes and greetings are welcome, but anything that draws much attention is not. For many years, I would invite some friends to dinner and treat them without ever letting them know it was my birthday. Their company was the gift I sought.

This year, I attended a pastor/seminarian workshop and enjoyed a worship service in The First Baptist Church of the United States (and when they say first - they mean it!). I do not qualify in either category, but the idea of spending a day in spiritual discussion attracted me. It also happened to be sponsored by an organization I have supported since discovering - AWAB: The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. The topics and ideas that stuck with me have provided ample food for thought for the next few months. I went into the day, knowing that I valued and respected the opinions of the people present.

I exited the day valuing and respecting the opinions of the people present even more than I expected.

As enjoyable as the educated thought and discourse was, the disconnect from technology and the interaction with individuals in a small enough setting to connect with them, enhanced the spiritual renewal of the day. Many of the deep and sincere discussions connected to questions I had been pondering while seeking to reconcile my personal feelings with my social-justice theology. None of the conversations resolved any of the theological questions, but they provided fodder for my meditation and writing for some time.

The location for the event set the mood for contemplation nicely. Spending a day in a building 199 years old and worshipping in a building 238 years old (for a congregation celebrating 375 years years together) forces you to consider a broader span than we normally contemplate. Holy places draw us in, safely, opening us to more than we could get elsewhere. Even the grounds around the sanctuary for the buildings presented a holy feel.

Following the worship service, I arrived back at my hotel, bounding with energy. As I sat at the desk reading the email, Twitter, and Facebook birthday well-wishes, I indulged in the cookie and rejoiced at the day I had.

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