A Sailboat for Christmas…

sailboatMy wonderful daughter Sophie got some new galoshes a while back when we went as a family to the pumpkin patch. As soon as she found out they were water proof she fell in love with them. She has great fun splashing around in Oregon’s many puddles. It is great fun to watch her play. Recently, as Liz and I have tried to figure out what to get her for a Christmas present, we just asked her. Her reply? She wants a sailboat. When I tried to explain to her that a sailboat would cost five years wages she just looked at me like “do it, Daddy.” God, I love my daughter so much!

This made me think of things like dreams and goals and cynicism. My daughter’s dream is pretty epic. She wants her own ship! I can imagine her piloting around the ocean on a great adventure, going wherever the winds push her, masterfully looking to the stars and navigating the tides. I see the look of sheer joy on her face as she lives out this vision. What better could I want for her? For now anyway, the five figures it would take (not to mention the physical strength) to live this dream make its realization impossible. But I have to admit to beaming with a little fatherly pride. Some people don’t have a dream that good at thirty, and my daughter isn’t three quite yet!

Dreams seem so foolish in our cynical world. Many of us don’t dream much bigger than a stable job and an 80 inch plasma T.V., but for some of us, underneath the surface is a passion, a vision, and drive. I count myself in this group. In the Burl Ive’s claymation classic Rudolph there is this elf named Hermy. He wants to be a dentist, which is pretty far from what I would want to do, but it is something noble and good. He just doesn’t fit in with all his dentist books and infantile attempts at practicing dentistry on toys. Just as in the song he sings, he is a misfit. In my quest to answer my call to serve as a pastor, this is the awkward stage where I live now. Most of the people in my life glaze over when I speak of the things I am passionate about. My passion to preach and teach is often not appreciated much more that Hermy’s vision of healing by pulling teeth. Most people could care less about the books I am reading and the things I am learning. These things just don’t fit the vision of those around me. At seminary I am bright student with great potential, at work I am Hermy. But some day these gifts I am itching to use and the preparations I am making now will find their home. Dreams don’t have to stay dreams. We equate the word “amateur” with a lack of skill, but it actually means to love something. GK Chesterton reminds us that “a man must love a thing very much if he not only practices it without any fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well.”My moment will come and I will rise to the occasion. Some day…

But for now, I am looking to Sophie’s example. Perhaps it is a little naïve, but even though there are challenges, it is about time I looked up from them now and then. The challenges are all I ever see these days, and it is easy to forget the God-given passion and vision for which I am facing them. It is time to dream again these “pastor dreams.” To dare to dream of where I would love to serve instead of just feeling like I will be forced to wait around for some church that is just small enough, just dysfunctional enough, just on the brink of closing its doors enough, to risk casting their lot with someone new like me. To get outside of my own worries about how the math of day to day living will work out if I even land a pastor job. To get outside the cynicism of feeling like I have washed up on the “island of misfit toys” (or pastors).

My process of ongoing discernment has been a frustrating one to say the least, yet there is something about crystallizing a life giving hope for the future that is downright necessary. It helps strip away the things that are not a part of the vision. Michelangelo was once asked how he made his sculpture of David from marble, to this he responded “I sought out what wasn’t David and I removed it.” I pray that God will help me to find the place that this vision can be lived out, if it is His will to do so.

My dream job is to serve as a pastor: to be intimately connected with a community of faith’s hopes, dreams, pains, and journey. I would love to minister at a church while slowly continuing my education to the doctoral level, and later on to teach classes as an adjunct at either a Christian or a secular school. This would keep me involved in the lives of college students as well as keep me current in the world of ideas. I feel called to connect the ivory tower with the practical world in every way possible. I would love to help equip energetic college students to find new ways to “love thy neighbor, and to dream of ways in which the church could adapt to engage this world Jesus died to save. I hope that this will also provide many opportunities for research and writing in ways that serve the church. In a perfect world, this is what I would want. I hold this vision loosely, but if God lets me, I will live it out. Of course, He may have something unimaginably better in mind…

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About jtower11

Hi there! I am James Tower: A husband, father, dreamer, visionary, thinker, poet, mystic, metal-worker, and scholar. I have served College Avenue Friends since 2013. I like to describe the way God has been at work in my life by saying that "He has been creating in me the heart of a pastor, the mind of a scholar, and the zeal of a missionary." I have an extremely nontraditional background as Jesus has given me freedom from the slavery of addiction to drugs, and my journey to faith came later in life after an overdose in 2000. I graduated with a M. Div with an emphasis in biblical studies from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in Portland Oregon in 2016. I have a love for teaching and revealing the historical and doctrinal context from which the biblical text arises, and connecting its redemptive message to life today. Other interests include teaching a leadership class based on the Friends Testimonies at William Penn University, writing, and metalwork such as blacksmithing, a passion which I enjoy teaching others as a way of discipleship. View all posts by jtower11

2 responses to “A Sailboat for Christmas…

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