Imagine a scene in your mind. You’re helping a friend set up for a yard sale when she sets out a beautiful old violin and music books for sale. It seems much too beautiful of an instrument to markdown so dramatically to sell at a yard sale, and so you ask her about it.  She explains that she first learned to play the violin in middle school. “I started by studying music theory,” she says. “I learned the history of the violin and how they are made. I listened to endless hours of music that was played by accomplished musicians. I Read more
Hello GRC! [This is Part 2 of 2 – read last week's Part 1 article]. So what does a pastor do on sabbatical, which can be infrequent for most pastors and non-existent for many?  One pastor I know left NYC on the first day of his sabbatical, went to Scotland where his family rented a place and didn't return until the week his sabbatical ended.   Others make the sabbatical an extended vacation time.  If a pastor receives a grant, lots of travel and unique experiences are possible.  My upcoming sabbatical is a 10-week benefit provided to the Senior Pastor.  I'll add a couple of Read more
Hello GRC! Over a year ago, as we were still learning about the “novel coronavirus” and naively thinking we’d be back to normal routines within weeks, we held a Town Hall meeting – via a livestream – because it happened to be the first Sunday when we decided, before the government ordered us, to cancel in-person worship.  It was March 15, 2020.   A working group of GRC members presented a proposal to apply for a Lilly Foundation grant that funds pastoral sabbaticals.  Long story short, around August we learned that GRC’s application did not make the cut.  But that didn’t Read more
Most children growing up in Nigeria know what "hear word" means. It's the expression your parents use when they mean to say, "listen to wise instruction because you so often don't!" This saying would sometimes be followed by the ominous "a word is enough for the wise''. Of the many Nigerian-isms I love, "hear word" is one of my favorites for two reasons: 1) It's hilarious and 2) it's deeply profound. Why is it so hard for us "to hear word" even when we are converted? Why does it so often feel like even though we hear with our ears, our Read more
My office outlawed hugging years ago. I work in a big newsroom, part of a huge corporation, and hugging, in general, is not encouraged at work. I’m a hugger, so I know all about HR’s specific hug-time allowances, like if someone gets a promotion or if they are leaving the company. You can offer to hug them then, if they’re clearly open to it, but that’s about it. But then, the pandemic came. Forget hugging. We suddenly weren’t even allowed to stand in the same room. Like the rest of the country, our newsroom was sent home to quarantine in Read more
Did you know that there are at least 10 different kinds of figs: mission, belmandil, bourjassote grise, colar, milagro, negra gigante, lampa branca, velez, ficus carica, and aberdin? Mission figs are my favorite (possibly because they are the only kind I can pronounce properly). They are dark purple on the outside and have a nice plump, sweet inside. Recently, figs have become one of my favorite fruits. My kids noticed my deep affection for figs and took the time to whisper to me during service this past Sunday that my beloved fruit was interwoven into the sermon. Yum! Kids are Read more
There are many stories from the Bible that have gripped me in such a way that I have imagined how great it would be to see them played out on a movie screen (the actual event, not a reenactment!) if not actually seeing it in person. The parting of the Red Sea; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the furnace; Angels announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and so many more! One particular story that comes to mind today is Jacob wrestling with God. You might find this interesting to know that I Read more
Most of us recognize prayer to be a central part of the life of a disciple. But sometimes we tend to think of prayer as more of a duty—something that we should do. It can feel like an external requirement or burden, and it’s easy for us to feel guilty about our prayer life. That is not God’s intent. Part of our problem is that we tend to think of prayer as something we need to perform, rather than a way of being. Our hearts easily forget that the Christian life is first and foremost a relationship. The Apostle John Read more
My family is no stranger to mental illness and dementia.  We’ve had several family members over the years who have found their mental faculties declining due to mental illness or age-related dementia.  It wasn’t (and isn’t) easy to watch these family members decline and forget even the most basic things like their children’s names, the concept of numbers, or lose their grasp of reality.  It was especially difficult to watch my great Aunt Vivian decline mentally.  She was my Dad’s aunt and she was always a favorite relative of the entire Jacobsen family.  She was that aunt that would get Read more
Many of you know that I’ve been back in school, starting a Master’s of Divinity degree at age 59.  What I can tell you is that the mind doesn’t work as well now as it used to, but you can not improve on the subject matter.  I’ve had the joy, yes, it is really a joy, to study Biblical Hebrew.  Recently I had to translate Genesis 1 and was struck by verses 26 and 27.  Don’t worry, I’ll give it to you in English:  “Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…' So God created Read more

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