I was asked recently what inspires me. I had a hard time answering the question. Not because I did not know what inspires me, but because there are so many ways to answer that question.
I get inspired in my personal life by beautiful nature, blessed friendships, connections to family, the laughter of my child, walks in the woods, awesome sunsets, opening buds of flowers, changing colors in the fall and so many other things. I also get inspired by music, art, pop culture (some, not all), movies, and stories of overcoming obstacles.
And I get inspired by the turn of a fantastic double play by baseball players who are paid too much, but jump up and down like little boys when they make a great play. I get inspired by theater and a lofty song sung from the heart by a tremendous talent who has committed to their craft for years and paid their dues.
In my professional life I get inspired by the work of other homileticians (preaching professors) who work to teach their students options to express the Gospel in ways that engage and lift the people in their pews. I am inspired by my students who reach for new learnings - sometimes forward bursting with enthusiasm, sometimes backward to safe shores, and sometimes shakily with fear and trepidation but who reach anyway.
I am inspired by the affirmation of others who like my work. I got some of that this past weekend in Austin at the Academy of Homiletics. Folks responded to my work and asked me questions that will lead me into further exploration. I sat with PhD students who shared what they are working on and it inspired me to keep at it. I had breakfast with fellow scholars from Drew University who are in the Academy and heard ways they are doing fantastic things in their field with the education they received from that institution. I got inspired by being in the room with some of my heroes of the art of preaching and hearing their stories of teaching and preaching.
I am inspired in my spiritual life by great preaching (of course), rituals that move my soul, the singing of many traditional hymns and some contemporary stuff, meditation and prayer, reading the Bible, working on a sermon, being in cathedrals and back rooms of pubs doing worship, talking about my faith with other journeyers, and feeling the breath of God. I am inspired by the social justice work done by so many churches and individuals on so many issues - but especially working for the poor and marginalized.
I am inspired by the questions my teenage son asks about life and death, the ways my church celebrates the Eucharist, the prayers of the people of God lifted in unison, and the lighting of Advent candles in preparation of the Coming of Christ - as a babe the first time and again in the Second Coming.
These are just some I the ways I am inspired generally and how I have been inspired this past week. I hope you have a hard time answering that question, too. I hope it is hard to think of an easy answer because so many different things inspire you in many, many ways.
I thank God for inspiration and for the opportunity to use those inspirations in my life, my work, and my faith.