We walk into the small waiting area.  There are four mismatched chairs, two garage sale end tables, one wth a 70’s style lamp and one laden with Time magazines.  Some sort of bookcase is tucked into a corner with a boom box that’s playing classical music, resulting in the volume ring and falling.  The placement of the future and the pictures on the walls are clearly not the work of a trained decorator.  A plant sits by the window… it is a mirror reflection of how I’m feeling, extremely dry and two-thirds dead, struggling with depression.

A man opens the inner-office door and greets us warmly.  He is short, very bald, dressed in a white shirt and a pair of pants that carry the marks of sitting for long periods of time.  His shoes are black and I notice that his feet are small.  He invites us into the inner office.  It is obviously related to the outer office!  It is first class thrift store quality; the walls dotted with pictures of sailboats.  I am thankful that the artist chose bright colors.

He motions for us to sit which is the first awkward moment of our time together.  After playing a brief game of musical chairs we all find our place.  Dr. Puffinnoggin* leads the way by choosing his favorite chair situated in the corner, I choose the comfy rocker separated from Dr. Puff…. by a small table adorned with a lamp and a box of Kleenex.  The tissue box clearly drew me in.  John is left to close between the desk chair, which is facing away from us, or the large, overstuffed couch lining the wall across from us.  He reluctantly, albeit wisely, chooses the couch.

Dr. ….noggin breaks the silence by giving us a short autobiography and asks for the same from us.  “What brings you to my office today and how can I help?”  Since he can plainly see the black cloud over our heads, I’m surprised that he doesn’t already know.  While reaching for the strategically placed box of tissue, I pour out a recital of pain.  John follows me with his own interpretation, minus the floodwaters.  As we wind down, the good doctor takes a moment to collect his thought, adds something to his short masterpiece of notes, and echoes our sentiments in the form of an outline and offers a treatment plan.  I am both impressed and disturbed by the act that my overture has been reduced to a page on a yellow tablet.

Now, avoiding direct eye contact with my ugly cry face, he makes his way to his appointment book and schedules our next meeting time.  He jots down a note on a sticky pad to ‘buy more Kleenex.’  Drained, we make our exit, strangely relieved by the fact that someone completely uninvolved is now involved.  We continue to work under the guidance of Dr. Puffinnoggin for several more sessions. Thank God that His Spirit is with us in this process.

Several visits later I notice that the two-thirds dead plant has been removed.  Significant, I think.

“Counsel:  to advise, advocate, exhort, recommend, suggest, urge.”  (Oxford Dictionary)  I recommend counseling.

“Be merciful to me, God; be merciful to me because I come to you for protection.  Let me hide under the shadow of your wings unit the trouble has passed.”  (Psalms 57:11).

*The name has been changed.








A portion of the introduction to the Book of James found in The Message by Eugene Peterson reads like this:   “When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.


The letter of James shows one of the church’s early pastors skillfully going about his work of confronting, diagnosing, and dealing with areas of misbelief and misbehavior that had turned up in congregations committed to his care.   Deep and living wisdom is on display here, wisdom both rare and essential.” (I love that line).   “Wisdom is not primarily knowing the truth, although it certainly includes that; it is skill in living.   For, what good is a truth if we don’t know how to live it?   What good is an intention if we can’t sustain it?   …Prayer is always foundational to wisdom.”


And Real wisdom, God’s wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others.   It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced.   You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.   James 3:17-18.


Pastor Chris (known to his friends and congregants by his full name, Christopher Robin) understood this need for wisdom and how it is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings. The little congregation had called him to pastor First Church of the Wood in their home, the “100 aker wood.”   Now many of you have ministered to characters not unlike those living in the forest.


Who hasn’t had a Winnie-the-Pooh in their church?   You know, a character such as Pooh “known as a bear of little brain.”   They do a lot of thinking, they have a heart of pure gold and they need a good deal of TLC.   They can consume large ‘jars’ of energy, but the rewards are sweet.   They love with honesty and purity. “So with a nod of thanks to his friends, he went on with his walk through the forest, humming proudly to himself.   But, Christopher Robin looked after him lovingly, and said to himself, ‘Silly old Bear’.”


Then there are those that resemble Rabbit, a faithful member of First Church.   Always busy organizing in their cautious, thrifty, often anxious, way.   “One has to be careful” is his life theme.   Their sometimes overbearing involvement and their freedom with opinions can make one ‘jumpy’, to say the least. But if you need it done, and need it done right, ask Rabbit!   And let’s not overlook the Piglets under our care.   These are the helpful, sensitive, nurturing, never wanting to disappoint, characters.   They always seem a bit bewildered by church and well, life.   “I think that I have just remembered something that I forgot to do yesterday and shan’t be able to do tomorrow.   So I suppose I really ought to go back and do it now.”   They are careful to guard relationships and they love camaraderie; “I wish Pooh were here—it’s so much more friendly with 2.”


And what about the Eeyores’ among us?   “Sometimes, he thought sadly to himself “Why?” and sometimes he thought “Wherefore?”   In response to realizing that his tail was missing Eeyore said “Somebody must have taken it.   How like them,” he added.”   Ah yes, the Eeyores.   A great deal of time could be spent defending our selves and everyone else to the Eeyores.   Forever we are lifting them out of the miry clay.   And yet, they are faithful.   And let us not forget the ever-present Owl.   Dignified, full of knowledge, borderline self-righteous and prone to “longer and longer words” which can sometimes lead to misunderstandings.   “Well,” said Owl, “the customary procedure in such cases is as follows.”   “What does Crustimoney Proseedcake mean?” said Pooh.   “It means the thing to do. …First, Issue a Reward. Then —–“ “Just a moment,” said Pooh. “What do we do to this—what you were saying? You sneezed just as you were going to tell me.” “I didn’t sneeze.” “Yes, you did, Owl.” …”What I said was, ‘First Issue a Reward.’” “You’re doing it again,” said Pooh sadly.


The horizon of the church is ever changing.   It can be disconcerting at best.   “What I don’t like about it is this,” said Rabbit. “Here are we—you, Pooh, and you, Piglet, and Me… and Eeyore, and Owl—and then… suddenly, we wake up one morning and, what do we find? We find a Strange Animal among us. An animal of whom we have never even heard before! An animal who carries her family about with her in her pocket!” Those new people coming in… people different from us.   What do we do about out-of-our-box, out-of-our-comfort-zone animals?   Maybe we could invite Kanga and Roo in and learn from them as they learn from us.   Michael Dell said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room…find a different room.”


“And that is really the end of the story, and I am very tired after that last sentence.   I think I shall stop then.” All quotes not otherwise noted: Winnie-The-Pooh by A.A. Milne.