31 Days/2 – Gift Payments

I think better when I am doing two things. The first is that think better when I am regularly involved in challenging conversations with those I love and respect. Pam and I have the best, challenging, conversations. Really you should hear our bedtime conversations. They usually involve us sharing a quote with each other from whatever we are presently reading and then discussing that subject with each other. It is wonderful “pillow talk.” I do the same with friends around coffee or lunch (except that isn’t “pillow talk”, because that would just be plain weird. This is one of the things I loved about working at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge. I was in an office suite with people who held the best conversations. Over the past seven months I haven’t had as many such conversations with friends. Life was hectic and I was doing my best to just to stay a float. Thankfully one of the reasons for the busyness has ceased and life is back to at least a sense of normality.

The second thing that helps me to think better is writing on my blog. I’m not a great writer (just ask Pam who generously read all my M.Div & D.min papers and corrected them), but I do believe that regularly writing something on the blog helps me to think deeper about the things going on around me. It helps me to observe the world, rather than just walking through it. I write about the things that I have spoken with Pam and others about and things that I’ve seen or heard about that make me wonder. That’s where I believe my problem has been lately. The thing that I have been thinking about and talking with Pam the most about over the past six months is something that I don’t believe I can write about at this moment. I’m not “vague booking” here. I’m talking about my dad’s cancer. It just isn’t my place, at the moment, to write down any of my thoughts concerning his illness.

What has happened instead of writing about this is that I have basically stopped posting anything on my blog. I’ve maintained this blog for 10 years and I don’t want to stop writing on it. I enjoy posting things, from the meaningless to the at least meaningful to me. So I have decided to steal form my genius wife and do one of the 31 days things that she does with many others each year. The goal is to get me back to writing about something. I believe it would be stupid of me to try posting 31 days in a row after basically not writing anything for months. Therefore, I am going to try something every other day. We’ll see how that works. This will still probably be too much after this break. Succeed or fail, hopefully the attempt will help me to get back into the groove of writing something regularly.

Today’s post has to do with this photo of Thule Commuter Bicycle Panniers.




This is what I received as payment for the wedding I officiated last Saturday. I use italics on the word “payment” because I tell members of Tapestry that they don’t need to pay me anything for doing their wedding. I ask that they cover my expenses if the wedding is somewhere other than the Point region, but other than those expenses there is no need for them to pay anything. You see, I LOVE doing premarital counseling. I really enjoy helping couples think through what a good marriage looks like. I regularly tell young couples that I don’t care that much about the ceremony (really I’ll do anything they want as long as it is moral and ethical) but I care a great deal about their marriage. So I focus on the marriage instead of the wedding. I usually do around five 1 1/2 hour sessions of premarital counseling (if you want to see what we normally talk about you can view them in reverse order here). I don’t want to ask young couples who are a part of Tapestry to pay for that, nor do I want to ask them to pay for the time writing the ceremony or doing the ceremony. So I do the opposite. I ask them not to pay me anything and tell them that I am doing their wedding as a friend.

But most people still want to give me something to say thanks. I’m okay with that. Saying “thanks” is a great thing. So what has often happened are gift payments for me officiating the weddings of people connected to Tapestry. I LOVE this.

First, I love it because it is so much more relational than a check. The gifts usually reflect who the couple is and also my relationship with them. Take the above photo above as an example. This is a couple who loves to bike and with whom I have had a lot of conversations concerning good quality bicycle panniers. They have loaned me various panniers for me to try out, in hopes of me determining the next set of bicycle panniers I should purchase (when you have two kids who like to bike you tend to “lose” any nice bicycling equipment you might own). When they gave these panniers to me I smiled so much that my face hurt. I have received many such gifts. From journals, to Chuck Taylor All-Stars, to a single fishing lure that had a World Vision fishing kit sponsorship attached to one of the hooks. These gift payments are some of best pay I have ever received, because they reflect a knowledge of who the couple is and who I am. They are so much better than a check.

The second reason I love these gift payments is because they make me feel like an old time, small town pastor. Seriously, it is like someone stopping by the house and saying “Pastor, I want to thank you for that ceremony and thought you could possibly use some eggs or a slab of beef.” It really floats my boat because I think gift economies are pretty cool and very inline with the kingdom of God. One day I hope someone gives me a chicken or a goat … though I have no idea where I would keep such a payment.

Anyhow the above bicycle panniers have been used multiple times since the wedding last Saturday and I am very thankful for them.

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