Insight, Inspiration, and Resources for Daily Life

  • Trains and Liminality

    All Aboard!

    Hello Beloved,

    Here’s something not many people know about me – I watch passenger train videos on YouTube for fun.  Two of my favorites are Solo Travel Japan and Downie Live

    An overhead view of a trainstation interior.  The building is made mostly of steel.  There is an expansive skylight above.  To the right of the picture is a passenger train.  To the left is an empty track.  In the center is the train platform.
    By Thiago Matos

    Trains are interesting forms of transportation, if you think about it.  They are designed to be liminal spaces – places where people are betwixt and between destinations – but for a good subset of the population (like myself) they are the destination.  Furthermore, while many liminal spaces (such as waiting rooms and hallways) are little more than parking lots and passageways, where we place life on hold, trains are places where life happens.  Trains are places where people eat, sleep, fight, make love, wonder, talk, work, etc.

    First Church has been in a liminal state for the past several years.  Between the pandemic, and this year without a minister, we’ve been in a waiting room of sorts.  Oh, sure, life still happened at and around First Church – people got married, children were born, initiatives were started – but for many at First Church, the life of the church was put on hold.  That, however, is likely to change.

    Six candidates have expressed an interest in becoming First Church’s next developmental minister.  I am hopeful that we’ll find one to lead us in the next year, which means it’s about time we leave this waiting room, and hop on the train. 

    We’re about to enter a new liminal period at First Church, one which is defined by rapid change – just as quickly as the scenery changes on a moving train, that’s how quickly change will come to First Church.  That sort of change can scare people, raise their anxiety, and cause conflict, but it can also lead to great innovation and much needed culture change.  The key to success will be in our perspective.  Will you view this incoming train as simply a means to an end – lamenting the track its chosen and the time it may take to get us to our destination?  Or, will you join me in viewing this incoming train as the destination – reveling in the experience and the life which will unfold therein?

    As Downie Live often says, “I don’t know where I’m going next, but I know I want you there with me.”

    Learn more about liminal space, and how it may be managed and utilized here:

    Liminal Space: What Is It And How Does It Affect Your Mental Health?

    Learning from Liminality: The Importance of Purpose During Organizational Change

  • Religion and Math

    Happy Pi Day!

    A picture of an apple pie surrounded by apples.  The crust of the pie has been cut to show the mathematical symbol for pi.
    Picture by Alex Cockroach

    Happy Pi Day!  In case you didn’t know, I’m a bit of a math nerd.  In elementary school, I would do mental math at night to fall asleep.  In High School, I competed in math competitions at the national level.  And, in college, I tutored both children and adults in the subject.  These days, I don’t get to do much math, beyond budgeting and counting my crochet stitches, but the subject still holds a soft spot in my heart.  Hey, here’s an interesting tid-bit of information, did you know there was once a religion based off of the man who gave us the Pythagorean Theorem?  True story!  The “Pythagoreans” believed that the body was like a tomb, within which the soul was buried deep inside.  They believed in reincarnation, and that, by adhering to strict rules, they could attain purity, break the cycle of reincarnation, and join the gods.  You can learn more here.

  • Perfection or Connection

    Carpet Tiles and the Purpose of Church


    May I tell you a story? 

    One Sunday morning, several months ago, I found myself arriving late to church.  Not late enough to miss the service, mind you, but late enough that my to-do list suddenly went from being practical to aspirational – no way was I going to get it all done before 10 AM.  I sat for a spell to think: was there anything from my to-do list that I could drop?  To my horror, I realized, there was not.  The worry must have shown on my face, or in the frantic scramble I immediately launched myself into, because as I began to set up the VIP Lounge, a member of our church, who we’ll call “C” approached me. C wanted to know, was there anything he could do to help?

    “Yes!” I exclaimed, “Thank you.  Could you finish setting up the VIP Lounge?”

    At that, my daughter loudly proclaimed “I want to help too!”  And, so, C and my daughter began, starting with the carpet tiles – my daughter, with her limited mobility, handing carpet tiles over to C, and C locking them together on the floor – the two of them smiling and chatting all the while.

    In the end, the VIP Lounge and all the other tasks on my to-do list were finished before the start of service.  What a relief!  However, I couldn’t help but notice that the carpet tiles weren’t exactly ‘perfect.’  Instead of two distinct carpets – one brown checkerboard and one all green – there was only one large carpet; and all the browns and all the greens were all mixed together.  As a detail-oriented person, I couldn’t help but feel I had failed by delegating this task to another person.  However, there wasn’t anything to be done, as the service was soon to start.

    I don’t recall much of that Sunday’s service.  I think it may have been an intergenerational service, but I honestly don’t remember.  Here’s what I do remember: Children playing in the VIP Lounge without any concern for the carpet tiles, my daughter beaming with pride that she was able to help, and me, reflecting on my own thoughts and feelings…

    If I wasn’t late today, I could have set up the VIP Lounge by myself.  And, I probably could have done it before my daughter asked to help.  But, what if I hadn’t?  Would I have allowed her to help?  Sometimes her help is not helpful at all.  Maybe I would have allowed her to help, but I probably would have been more focused on the task than chatting.  And, I probably would have become visibly frustrated when she didn’t hand me the ‘right’ carpet tile.  That probably wouldn’t have made her feel great.  She looks like she feels great now, and so do the children playing in the VIP Lounge.  I really need to remember that church isn’t about perfection, it’s about connection.

    After church that Sunday, I approached C.  “Thank you,” I offered.

    “For what?” he asked.

    “For reminding me that perfection is often the enemy of connection,” I said as I proceeded to explain about the carpet tiles.

    It’s easy, I believe, to fall into a pattern of thinking perfection is the end goal.  If the devil is in the details, then perfection will surely eradicate the devil, and bring us everything we have ever desired.  This year alone, I’ve been involved in several conversations which seemed to hint that perfection will bring First Church everything from increased member engagement to happier members all around.  But, if my anecdote can be seen as indicative of real life – and I believe it can – that’s just not true!

    So, I want to leave you today with a song (see below) and an affirmation, for the next time you feel drawn to perfection at First Church…

    I am not perfect.  No one is perfect.  That is okay.

    Nothing I do will be perfect.  Nothing anyone does will be perfect.  That is okay.

    Perfection is the enemy of connection.  Connection is the purpose of church.

    At church, I do not have to be perfect.  At church, nothing has to be perfect.  That is more than okay.

    In appreciation for all your imperfect offerings,


    Leonard Cohen - Anthem