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“My father sat on that chair every morning to put on his socks and shoes.”

So said the elderly gentleman, a member of my congregation for decades before I arrived on the scene. He and his wife were emptying their house, moving to a care facility, and trying to find homes for their prized possessions.

This isn’t an entirely rare occurrence. Homes being broken up, by death, moving to be closer to children, or as in this case, moving to a facility of some kind. People looking to foist, er—give, things to their pastor or the church. Their children and grandchildren have taken a few things they want. But silver services, outdated blenders and toasters, and fifty year old church anniversary booklets all have a way of finding their way to the church.

When I’m offered something personally, I usually reply “Thank you, but I don’t really have a place for it,” although I did accept some crystal wine glasses and the spindle back chair of the elderly gentleman’s father.

I didn’t need a chair. It was the story that got me. That this frail, aging gentleman could still see his father sitting on that chair each morning, putting on his socks and shoes.

Now that’s how I try to use it, as a part of my daily routine. To put on my socks and shoes. Keeping the tradition alive. To sit where some man I never knew sat, probably a century or more ago.

Routine

It used to be that routine and habits implied empty, lifeless, tedious—especially to jaunty, modern Americans, most especially perhaps to Protestants, enterprising and vigorous as we are.

But it seems that these words and ideas have enjoyed a rejuvenation in the past few decades. I attribute it to people like Stanley Hauerwas, Kathleen Norris, Wendell Berry, Barbara Brown Taylor, and indirectly to Benedict and Aquinas. We’ve seen how our habits structure our lives. We become good at the things we practice regularly. We’ve (re)discovered comfort in familiar words. We’ve realized the joy of small delights.

For me this is especially true in the morning. A cup of strong coffee. Often, in the cold months, oatmeal. Perhaps a psalm. Trying to remember to sit on the spindle back chair to put on my socks and shoes.

Reading the daily installment of The Twelve is also part of my morning routine. Often I don’t wait until coffee and oatmeal, but sneak a peek on my phone while still toasty under the comforter. Sometimes I am inspired. Sometimes I laugh. Sometimes I yawn. But probably most often I’m touched by beauty. It isn’t usually breathtaking beauty, stunning and life-altering. It is simply a dollop of goodness to enjoy, to savor and swirl around in my soul before the day begins.

I hope you feel something similar about The Twelve, as well as the larger enterprise of the new/old Reformed Journal. The work isn’t colossal. But like old spindle back chairs and a morning cup of coffee, it contributes to the betterment of your life, and dare I say—the betterment of the Christ’s world.

One of you told me that for you The Twelve is an afternoon pick-me-up. Maybe around 3:30 PM, most of the day’s important tasks done, you unwrap the daily post of The Twelve like a piece of hard candy to bring a little rush of energy to finish the day’s labor. That works too.

Your support is needed. Comments, likes, shares—yes, please! But on this Giving Tuesday, especially financial gifts.

And speaking of routines, if you would be so generous as to contribute regularly, on a monthly basis, that would really, really help us find some financial equilibrium.

Thank you very much.

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Thank you very much!

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell

Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell and his wife, Sophie, are the pastors at the Second Reformed Church in Pella, Iowa. Steve has served on numerous Reformed Church commissions and task forces, and also edited the journal Perspectives for many years. Before coming to Iowa, he lived and served as a pastor in upstate New York. Sophie and he have two adult children. He holds a Ph.D. from Boston College in theological ethics.

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