Saturday, December 19, 2009

Re-cognition and the Christmas Story

Gratitude -
1. Peace - Hope - Joy - Love
and the message of preparation during ADVENT!
2. O Come All Ye Faithful... Christmas hymn
3. Anticipation - through the eyes of children
4. Anticipation - through the eyes of adults who have tasted the story, first hand!
5. Beth's fruit cake cookies.

Deep calls unto deep. Psalm 42:7

You will seek only what you have partially already discovered and seen within yourself as desirable. Spiritual cognition is invariably re-cognition. (RR)

Ask anyone who has known me for a long time - since childhood - and I have always been a bit different when it comes to faith issues. I always found it hard to find lots to 'repent' of, since I was born on a church pew and my parents made sure I would continue to be there each Sunday morning until I left home for college. I was never a deeply disturbed, nor problem child. I caused no one alarm when it came to being a well behaved son, brother, school student, etc. I was a good 'little man'.

Therefore when the pastor or my Sunday School teacher would preach or teach on 'changing your ways, or you will burn in hell' I generally thought they must be talking to the neighbor kid. I didn't have too many bad habits to 'change'.

Because I spent so many years in Sunday School and church, Vacation Bible School, and Training Union (be glad to explain this one) I knew the story and knew the players - most of all Jesus. It was not my heavenly father that I feared. It was the punishment my earthly father might dish out if he ever caught be doing anything bad.

I anticipate Christmas in a whole new light today. It is a special celebration to say the least. I look forward to it - but not for the same reasons of old. I use to look forward to preaching about Mary, Joseph, Wise Men, and Angels and Shepherds. But today, I look forward to the reminder that God loved us so much that He chose to come to earth in human terms. Incarnational terms. He was human like me...

That means that He looked on my personhood and said 'this is my creation, and it is good!'. I don't have to do anything to be saved. He has saved me all along. He created me. He is my FATHER and all He has ever wanted for me was GOOD.

What a shame that I learn to fear HIM. What had He ever done but loved me. He loves ALL His children - the whole of the human race. This Christmas business is just an annual reminder along the path.

I think it is sad that we get caught up with the 'baby' and never realize that He became a MAN! The MAN. The one true MAN of GOD. What a gift. He won - I don't have to win... He is worthy, even when I am not... He loves, even when I am unlovely...

What a GIFT - it has been there ALL LONG.
Yes indeed - Spiritual cognition is invariably re-cognition!!!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

What we resist, persists...

Gratitude -
1. The gift of Kathleen Harris for 90 years!
Aunt Katie - may you rest in peace...
2. Bumping into one of my distant Joshua brothers
on line last evening and our time of instant chat!
3. Our decorated Christmas tree (thanks to Beth)
4. Being held...
5. Receiving unexpected Christmas cards

"But what I tell you is this: Do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you..." Matthew Matthew 5:39

Interesting concept - what we resist, persists (RR). It seems I most often judgementally look for evil in others (and myself) in order to fight it, hate it, eliminate it, or (God forbid) project in on some herd of swine - hoping it will fall off some cliff somewhere and I will be rid of it forever.

However Lord,when do I seriously attempt to hold onto the 'evil within me' or even the 'wrong done unto me' and try to learn from it?

Leonard Cohen has a verse in one of his songs that says some thing about trying to be sober, 'but I had to do it drunk'...

When will I too realize that I am addicted too, to so many things and instead of escaping, maybe there is something about those recurring themes that I need to learn. God knows that they persist... I have tried too long to run and hide from my sins, and they kept returning.

I guess I could identify with brother Paul when he says 'the things I want to do I resist, and the things I don't want to do, I do.' Lord I bet Paul listened and learned! Lord, take my heart this day and teach me something I don't already know - about my sin and about your grace.


Lord, may I have true eyes to see and ears to hear. Teach me Lord - teach me...

Friday, December 4, 2009

Give Him my heart...?

Gratitude Journal
1. Happy Birthday to Beth
(I won't tell her age, but we have been married a long time!)
2. P.I. Christmas Party
(Different this year - change is good!)
3. The difference one candle can make in a dark room.
4. Reconnecting with old friends on Facebook!
5. Even the 'suggestion' that snow might make it to Columbus...

What can I give Him - I will give Him my heart.

While I don't know the whole hymn I do love the words (above), particularly when sung during the ADVENT Season. However, my challenge is to pull apart the term - 'give Him my heart'. What does that exactly mean?

Are we talking about some sentiment or emotion? No - my emotions change too often. They are not under my will power as I would like. They are too erratic!
Maybe our thoughts - that's it, I won't think of anything but Jesus... No, that doesn't seem to work either. My mind drifts and it is always changing according to the topic.

What does it mean then to give Him my heart? Christmas is coming...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Seeing things...

Gratitude -
1. Visits with acquaintances that turn to friendship
2. New wheels!
3. THANKSGIVING - and American tradition...
The gathering of family and friends!
4. My health
5, Early morning quiet time for reflection.

"Where should we look for the Day of Coming? And Jesus answered, Don't look here and don't look there!" Luke 17:23

We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are...

How often do we hear some modern day prophet 'yellin' in our direction and asserting that THEY have the answer. Just listen to them and they will provide all the answers we need to overcome any obstacle.

The older I get the more I realize no one has the answer. We are all on a journey and my experience ALWAYS colors the answers I may profess to have at any given time.

While I agree we should respect those in authority and grant due respect toward our elders, far too many of them are just becoming 'elderly' and have not done enough homework on their own path for me to listen to them for guidance. It is so confusing and unreasonable as to why one should listen to these 'prophets' for any understanding about God or anything else! I am sickened by folks that 'got their religion and all the answers they needed' when they were ten or twelve and their faith stance has not changed one iota since that time long ago. They have the 'formula' and nothing about their walk with God has grown.

I am most frustrated with myself. I am the worlds worst. I catch myself oh so often living as if God's story is over and done. Living as if there is no more movement of God in 'burning bushes' or 'walks on water;, much less as if the 'still small voice' has been stilled and there is nothing left for me to seek or grow toward!

God grant Your mercy and grace this day as I consciously seek to be open to where You are leading and changes in my long held patterns of relating not only to You, but my brothers as well.

Through Christ I pray.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

When is change a gift? Change always equals some type of death...

Gratitude -
1. Dwight - moving toward lay Dominican
2. Donovan's blog
3. Brandon's ordination
4. Cleaning out and throwing away
5. The gift of CHANGE!

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; REPENT (change your mind) and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:15

“Your old life is dead. Your new life, which is your real life – even though invisible to spectators – is with Christ in God. He is your life. Col. 3:3

Some of us enter the Thanksgiving season with sadness. We may have lost significant people in our lives. Grandpa will not be sitting at the head of the table to carve the turkey. Aunt Elizabeth’s disease finally took its toll and she will not be with the children and grandchildren for this annual family gathering. Some families may have lost younger members too – a child, a spouse, maybe a sibling…

Loss takes many forms. It might be health which may entail chronic physical pain. A host of people in America have lost jobs. Due to economic stressors others have lost their homes over the past twelve months. Some have experienced ‘natural’ disasters forcing them from home and livelihood.

In the midst of all this loss can we say any of this is ‘gift’?

Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of ‘Cradle Episcopalians’ – meaning the person was born and reared in that particular denomination. I sorta chuckled and with some degree of pride thought to myself how thankful I was I had not been ‘born’ into any church. I was a Baptist and at the ripe old age of 11, I had made my own decision regarding church membership.

As ludicrous as this might sound to me today there was a time when I had to change my understanding of just what a free choice I had made. In all actuality I too was born on a denominational pew like most others attending church. My pew just happened to be a Baptist pew and it was the only faith tradition I had ever known. So the thought of making my own decision regarding church membership was almost laughable. I chose to be Baptist in large part because that was where my parents attended and I wanted to ‘belong’ too.

Now as an adult I find I am called to change (to die) to lots of old understandings. In her recent book “An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith,” Barbara Brown Taylor talks about the benefits of going through loss. She suggest that we stick to predictable routes through life, preferring what is efficient and safe to that which is dangerous, unknown or wild.

“And yet,” she writes, “if someone asked us to pinpoint the times in our lives that changed us for the better, a lot of those times would be wilderness times.” She cites times like divorce, a move, illness or a career change as times when change (death) forces us to put on new glasses; to see though different lens.

Recently my journey has begun to shift and I have been challenged to consider other ways of looking into the Mystery we call GOD.

As we enter these two special seasons of the year – one secular and the other very sacred territory – I invite all of us to embrace this time as seasons for change to happen. Some new considerations might cause us to die to some items in our life that may have served their function. Maybe it is time to let them go. Stand and risk a new idea, a new way of being embraced by the Mystery and possibly a GOOD NEWS way of seeing things might arrive as a gift. It will not be easy. But it will be a gift if we dare to follow!


Friday, November 6, 2009

A reason for joy...

Gratitude -
1. Harper Elizabeth Adams - born 11-5-08
2. The colors of autumn
3. Being back in Art Class
4. A NEW computer...
5. Unbelievable joy - not giddy happiness -
but serious, deep, abiding joy with life

"My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I'm happy. I can't figure it out. What am I doing right?" CHARLIE BROWN aka Peanuts Cartoon

Have you ever had a day or a period in your life when you were happy or filled with joy and you were not exactly sure why OR where it was coming from? Such is this time in my life.

I have been on a high since my recent retreat where we focused on Male Spirituality. I have a friend who was reared in Texas and she insists it is the Texas air. 'It gets deep inside and you are never the same.' (thanks Sandy - makes as much sense as anything else - ha)

However, I have to believe it has to do with relationships and new insights. The relationships with my seven new brothers - now known as the Joshua Brothers - was deep and real. Although we did not know titles and background, we begin to be vulnerable with one another almost immediately. We shared our hurts and pain. We talked of old wounds and baggage we had carried to cover our pain for an incredibly long time.

Then we sat together without speaking and honored one another. We prayed for each other and we offered hope, without trying to fix or change anyone. Ever so slowly we trusted ourselves to each ritual and never judged another.

There were indeed differences between us. Faith, age, nationality, probably our vocations were very different although we never ask, fears over sexuality issues, wounds to those we loved, past addictions that were still fresh, suicide ideation, and much more... We were all struggling.

We had all built big walls. The walls were in place to cover our pain and protect us. Over time the walls began to crack. One of our leaders shared 'the LIGHT shines through the broken places'. And that was the case for each one of us. We all found grace!

I must admit that I had known this word for a long time. I have preached it for years. However, I had never known grace in relationship to other men. I had felt they were generally judging me and I was coming up a failure. This feeling was almost as old as I am...

So the relationships with these new brothers and with God were pivotal. The insights still come as I learn to sit in silence, contemplating my brothers, their grace toward me and God and His grace too. (more about contemplation in the future) While I know I am broken - I also rejoice that the light shines through...

May you too know such joy!


Sunday, November 1, 2009

The old way has to go...

Gratitude -

  1. New brothers!

  2. Being touched, deep in my soul
  3. En-courage-ment
  4. Texas Hill Country
  5. Wes Eades

Jesus said: “You're looking for proof, but you're looking for the wrong kind. All you want is something to titillate your curiosity, satisfy your lust for miracles. The only proof you're going to get is what looks like the absence of proof: Jonah-evidence.” THE MESSAGE – Matt. 12

Over the past week I have experienced the most transforming event of my life.

Now I have begun to look over every aspect of life – my life – and assess my priorities and energy. I am filled with questions and joy like never before. I am excited about life! While I do not doubt past decisions and commitments, God has definitely opened new doors of understanding that continue to rattle old ways of thinking! But it is more than intellectual growth – it is a heart change too.

I was blessed to take part in the Males Rights of Passage (MROP) retreat in the Hill Country of Texas. About 40 men gathered for sharing and study for five days. We only shared first names - no titles or vocations, no passing of business cards... I joined seven men as my 'home group'. We spent an incredible amount of time baring our souls with one another, along with our deepest fears. All sorts of anguish rushed forth. Hopes for the future, along with failures and losses of the past.. Woundedness inflicted not only by our families, but also ridicule and pain perpetuated by our young friends became almost too difficult to bear. We cried together about the pain we too had inflicted on others!

We took part in rituals and teachings. We played drums with abandon. We walked though mud and took long hikes. We started and ended the day with prayer and reflection. We spent over 8 hours in total silence and we also spent this time fasting.

So, what did I learn? What has changed? What did I experience? GOD'S LOVE – deeper and more cleansing than ever before! Jesus loves me, this I know... I learned that I have developed a shell (ego), thinking it would protect me and keep me safe. However, it has only caused more and more pain for me and those I love and become heavier and heavier to carry and maintain.

For way too long I have been a part of a worthiness system when it comes to my faith journey. If I did just the right things, (attend church, contribute money to the poor, be kind to neighbors and strangers, etc...) then I would make God happy with me. He/She was sitting in heaven with a big black book, keeping score. Unfortunately I was rarely, deeply happy. Didn't laugh much and joy was a thing of my past. I had adopted a sick system and the true me was so deeply buried, I couldn't recognize grace, must less accept it as the gift it is!

And yes, I have heard all this before. I have actually preached it. But this time it is different. Something profoundly new is happening deep within me. I may struggle with the words, but the WORD has touched me like never before... And I want to say that while the burden is easy, living out this new truth is hard. I have already allowed too much of this experience to slip away and I have returned to too many of my old ways - but they must die. And that is my new goal and new calling.

In the months ahead I will be sharing bits and pieces of my journey. Not as an exhibit, but as 'one beggar who has found some crumbs and willing to share...'. I invite your feedback and questions along the way.

Lord, thank You for this day. Continue to remove the false self I have been building for so long. May honesty be my goal – with myself and with You! Use me to be graceful toward all. May I forgive as I have been forgiven. AMEN

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Always living in anticipation...

Gratitude -
1. Peace and quiet
2. Fall Weddings
3. Unexpected 'gifts'...
4. Hugs
5. Farm Town!

Always living in anticipation may mean I miss this moment!

I believe life is gift! We did not do anything, nor can we do anything to deserve it... It just 'is'. However, I find myself living a lot of my life in the great not yet - living in anticipation of what will be. Looking forward to trips or projects or finishing tasks or a visit or maybe even Santa.

While there is nothing inherently wrong or sinful about the excitement of anticipation (or the dread) I wonder what I may overlook and miss out on in this moment by always looking ahead?

"Waiting for Godot" was a play written in the last century. A cast of characters appear on stage with minimal props, but all are waiting - waiting on someone named Godot. Of course, he never arrives. In some ways it is a tragic play because Godot represents GOD. And the story line indicates no matter what ones' hopes or dreams or desires or needs might be, GOD has the tendency to always disappoint because He/She never shows up.

Where is God for you? Is He/She always 'out there' somewhere in the great beyond? Do you live life always waiting? I know that I live way too much of my life in the great not yet... planning, preparing, anticipating, hoping, dreaming, longing, wondering and wandering - not that often arriving!

Lord, what would it take for me to be in this very moment with You? My prayer this day is for clarity in each moment, yet hope - and being alive to reality, yet faith. May I be found giving thanks for what is - not in anxiety regarding what is not yet... Grant that I may accept Your grace and be thankful. May I be thankful for each breath and rejoice.

Through Christ, O Lord

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Private logic...

Gratitude -
1. The human mind
2. The human body
3. The human spirit
4. Stretching in all three!
5. Growth - no matter the age...

When two people are in a similar situation, there are a zillion and one ways they will not see the world precisely the same. That unique perspective is called 'private logic' - a term coined by psychologist Alfred Adler.

Humans are an incredible mixture of gifts. Some hold gifts of intelligence while others have great physical abilities. The older I get the more I respect the 'fathers and mothers' of our world - the ancients, both dead and alive, that still share their wisdom and speak to our spirit.

But with the passing of time I have turned some kind of corner on accepting another person's private view or interpretation of anything as totally sacred. Yes, they might have great insight and understanding. Plaques and diplomas may fill their walls indicating their learnedness. They may have achieved much on the ladder of earthly success and be called 'leader - pastor - CEO - author - president'. Terms like 'charismatic' or 'great' may be used to describe them. Trophies may fill their bookcases and line their walls. Some may call them 'church fathers' or 'saint'. Yet, they only have their own 'private logic' to share... some truth and some fiction. Not one of us captures all truth!

For one reared in the Bible Belt and nurtured in the concept of 'deny yourself' and 'respect all authorities', this is new territory for me. I am growing to appreciate my own private logic and see it valid in discourse and dialogue with others. While I respect all authorities, I also have the right to respectfully disagree with authority. I have the right to my own interpretations. And as long as I remain in a faithful community of brothers and sisters commited to the journey, I will be fine. It is a balance I now seek!

Holy scripture says, "Come let us reason together"

Lord - thank You for my own mind, body and spirit! I give You thanks for those along my path who have nurtured and informed my way. Those who have challenged and encouraged. But forgive me for waiting so long to trust my own core and my own relationship with You. I give thanks that I am still a work in progress and process. Grant that I may continue to trust our journey.

Through Christ, I pray

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Gratitude Journal -
1. Generous people
2. Reunions with old friends
3. The gift of humor
4. SEC Football Saturdays
5. Chris and Jenny's farm!

Since there are no luggage racks on top of the hearse,
I guess we will all be generous in the end...

It is one thing to be generous with our own property and belongings,
it is another to be generous with our benevolence and positive attitude toward others!

A recent visit with friends of long ago reminded me of deep gaps between some of these brothers and sisters in our ancient past. Yet, in the few hours we spent together we chose to be not just civil, but actually caring toward one another. Some had lost their spouse, while others had serious physical struggles. Others shared wounds suffered in the recent economic pains being born by so many in our nation over this past year or two. Together we grieved the loss of mutual friends who used to walk the halls with us, share jokes and laughter, and pray along side us in chapel...

I wonder if we were just all on our best behavior or if something more was afoot. If we scratched just a little bit I am sure we could have started some lively and possibly troubling exchange. However, I believe we all desired, not just to be peaceful with one another, but to actually find ways to 'connect'. The deep hope was to be generous toward one another. To be gracious and kind and forgiving and supportive. To be merciful and truly care - in the name of Christ, the One who brought us together in the first place.

Sure, I could have given up a little money, if called upon. I might have provided food, clothes, shelter or contributed in several different ways to be of encouragement toward some of my old friends. However God granted a change in my attitude and in my heart. In that special moment in time, it was as if I saw with a new set of eyes.

Lord - I pray for my 'friends' and their current journey. Bless each one! However I also pray that I might not rest in my past. Open before me Your continuing grace and may I be generous toward all - friend and stranger alike. Jesus' example - with thousands or one on one - is my best guide. Grant that Your Holy Spirit will lead me to see opportunities to open my heart and may I have the will to do so...

In Christ I pray -

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Belonging to...

Gratitude Journal:
1. Writings of Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr
2. The Enneagram
3. Honesty that sets FREE - with ones-self and with others!
4. College football
5. Tyler Perry's latest movie -
I CAN BE BAD ALL BY MYSELF... (I identify!)

It is easier to belong to the group than belong to God!

Lord -

Forgive me when I hide in the shadows of 'my group' and do not stand,
much less speak up for justice.
When 'my group' takes presidence over Your love and grace and will

When the power I have could make a difference, but I am scared
I might loose something - it might cost me - I might have to sacrifice
When I like being a white male more than brother to a black or Korean man
When I see men as superior to women
When I listen to a hurtful joke about someones sexuality and do not challenge the offense
When I feel glee because some states move from red to blue or vise versa...
When I expect privilege because of my education,
rather than advocating for support for public schools
When I look for ways to beat 'the system' instead of changing the system to benefit more...
When I anticipate the best seat,
immediate access to my doctor,
bigger returns on my investments,
and never think of those who stand with bowed heads and humble hearts
at the back of the line
or those who walk for days carrying hopelessly ill children
to meet a doctor, who serves in a hut without supplies
or those who break their backs in hard labor in hot sun or on the coldest of days
to make sure that I have enough to eat or that I have all my ' comforts'
in order to live as a 'successful' Middle Class American...

Yes Lord - it is easier for me to 'belong to my group(s)'
than belong to YOU.

Who am I kidding Lord?

Forgive me Lord - forgive...


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Seeing with new eyes

Gratitude -
1. Annual Family Reunions
2. Times when time stands still -
(unfortunately these are too few!)
3. Trusting family and friends
4. Being embraced by rainy, cloudy days

When we can see the image of God where we don't want to see the image of God, then we see with eyes not our own. RR

Lord - for those times when I resist Your leading I pray for forgiveness.
There are times when I don't want to have new eyes. When I don't want to see the pain, suffering, heartache, and fears of those around me. I fear the cost...

I fear that I may be called to respond, and I don't want too. I have other agenda items on my to do list. Even if I have the money - or time - the cost to me appears too great. I might have to lay aside my desires and my plans and get involved. It might be ongoing and I don't want to be tied down, Lord.

Forgive me...

Grant this day I would have eyes to see. Your eyes of compassion and strength. That I would rely on You and willingly follow Your agenda this day. May I offer hope and be an instrument for Your peace.

Through Christ I pray -


Sunday, September 13, 2009


1. the capacity to begin again...
2. renewal - not retreading!
3. quiet
4. velvet covered bricks
5. candles

"Because you say 'I see' your guilt and blindness remain." (John 9:41)

Lord, I don't want to hear these words. I want to believe that I do see.
That I have a grasp of exactly who You are and Your will for everyone.
I want to know that I am in the right and that I am not following the wrong path.
I desire certainity and assurance and rock solid knowledge of You.
And all You offer is 'walk by faith' ...

I need Sabbath to be reminded - of the journey and Your invitation
That I am not alone - that You offer something more than the 'stuff'
with which I generally fill up my days.

As I enter this river once again, I know I am not the same (thank God)
While I have changed and entered new passages, the river still flows.
You are the same, Lord - the same grace and mercy and hope abide.

On this bright new morning may I be open to receive and grow some more.
May I never believe that 'I see...' - but may I trust and risk some more.
Thank You for the gift of life and relationships and may I open more -
and embrace what You have in store

Through Christ I pray

Thursday, September 10, 2009

21st Century Faith

1. Letting go of 'stuff'...
2. When unexpected doors open!
3. Persons who are present in relationships
4. Fresh vegetables
5. Innocence

Trying to make sense out of 21st Century faith issues seems to get more difficult every day!
Trying to understand people, so very different in language and culture - they use to be so far away...
Trying to speak about faith and hope, grace and mercy, in a world that seems to have gone insane.
Trying to embrace the new, without giving away the precious things, filled with meaning

May I stop trying so hard to 'do' fatih and learn to 'have' faith
May I begin to 'do' more faithing and stop trying to 'have' it all
May I remember it is not up to me
May I see You and commit to follow wherever You lead...


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Visiting Chicago

Over the past eight days I have been on a business/pleasure trip to Chicago. My first trip to the Windy City. And I must admit that I am hooked! It is a great place for architecture, food, and wonderful diversity.

Lake Michigan also makes it a beautiful city. This evening on my final walk by the lake there were deep blues and greens of the water and the reflection of distant clouds casting long shadows. And on the horizon were at least fifty boats with bright sails.

This week of study (Enneagram) and the rest and new friends from all over America (two from Spain) is a treat I will remember for the rest of my life! God is gracious and has blessed my journey. May I now be a good steward and see the beauty in the world I return too!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The journey...

In 1917, Emerald Jay and Mary Harris packed their few possessions and moved from Iowa to West Palm Beach, Florida. There were no paved roads, no air-conditioning in homes much less cars and real bandits were known to lurk in the bushes alongside of the dirt roads of Florida. The couple had one child, Ned and he was an infant.

About a year later, Ruth Elizabeth was born (July 1, 1918). Her 'baby brother' Dick was born five years later. Their father was a mailman and their mom eventually returned to teaching school. She had been a teacher in a one room schoolhouse in Iowa before the big move south.

Last week my wife and I had the opportunity to take her mom (Ruth Elizabeth - fondly known as 'Grandma') and Uncle Dick back home to West Palm Beach for a visit. It was the first time he had been in over 30 years and she had not been back in almost 15 years. The visit was bittersweet in the full expression of the term!

The two siblings sat on the edge of their seats in anticipation during our two day car trip 'home'. They were giddy and laughing and nervous. They joked and shared short vignettes about the early years. When we arrived to our small rented cottage they both hurried off to their rooms to sleep and give thanks that they had finally arrived for this special week which both had been planning and anticipating for months.

Monday morning my wife and I awoke to quiet laughter in the kitchen. Grandma and Dick were waiting patiently, but ready to get started on this grand adventure. Now 91 and 86 (respectively) they hopped in the car like two kids and both began to give names of streets or institutions they expected to see first.

At this point the trip turned to one of true astonishment. Like children visiting the Circus for the first time they began to chatter. 'Beth, can you believe all these condos? Where do all the people come from?' 'Dick, can you imagine what mom and dad would say if they could see this...? I bet Dad's mail route would be a lot shorter today.' 'Why do they need so many six-lane highways?' 'Did we live on O Street once or twice? You would think some of the houses would be saved...'

The first day was the longest. We drove up and down streets and avenues and with each turn we would hear the mixed sounds of amazement and dismay. 'They tore down the old home place, sis - we use to live right there and now it is a highrise.' 'Back in our day the tallest building was seven floors - I remember taking my first elevator ride in that place.' We tried to find schools and churches and parks and old corner markets. Over and over we could see the discouragement in their faces. Most of the places were long gone, replaced by something shiny and new, or empty lots being prepared for the next building.

One Wednesday morning we visited their 'home church'. It is now a mega church. Many old photos lined one hallway as reminder of a long forgotten past on which the current 'organization' is built. Uncle Dick was especially struck to hear that 'in these bad economic times we had to let our full time chef go...' He joked about that statement for the rest of our stay. His church in the north east might have 25 in attendance on a good Sunday and they are struggling to survive.

But a consistent theme running through our week long journey was the thread of faith in God that had been there for both these 'children' throughout their life long journey. They had faced many trials and both have suffered. While in reasonably good health, they were forced to acknowledge growing physical limitations. The heat - the bugs - the congestion of the big city - the loss of friends and relatives... Each of these issues and many more in their hearts weighed heavy by weeks end.

Yet faith in God for both Grandma and Uncle Dick has served as their foundation. It was a gift from their own parents long ago as they left Iowa for an unknown future. And it has been a constant for these two on their long and winding journey back 'home'. It was not what they expected. It was not what either one had imagined. It was disappointing in some ways. But as we visited graveyards and churches and sights on their spiritual as well as their physical pathways of long ago, there were moments of celebration that God had been there with them and for them all along the way.

I am blessed to be a witness to the faith of this older generation and I pray that as I grow into my last chapter of life journey I too will be found to be more trusting and faithful and filled with that same Spirit. (Happy Birthday, Grandma!)


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Destructive and Constructive Nesting

What is the difference between destructive and constructive nesting?

As I shared in my last post I recently found a rat under the hood of an old car on my property. To my chagrin a rat had almost destroyed every wire under the hood. I promptly disposed of the nest and the car. What a relief to have the nest of varmints out of my life!

Isn't it amazing how we look on God's creation. Obviously I am not a big fan of rats. However, in the greater scheme of things there must be a reason for these destructive, sneaky creators. I am just not aware of their purpose, nor all that interested in them. Like snakes, spiders and mosquitoes, I just don't like them. Therefore I felt no anxiety about destroying their nest...

However, this past weekend I borrowed a 'pressure washer' from my neighbor. My deck and porch were beginning to show signs of dirt and mildew. With all that power in my hand I was hooked. In no time at all I was removing all the built up grime and I felt great. The more I washed the more places I saw that needed to be cleaned.

I moved from the back screened-porch to the deck to the dog's pen, to the driveway and finally found my self all the way around the house to the front porch. I was so proud of all the dirt I was removing. I was feeling so much strength and productivity. I was truly king of the manor.

As I moved to the front porch I noticed a bird's nest on top of one of the beams. It had been there since last summer and was recently vacated by a bird and her little fledglings. They had finally flown away. So I tackled that corner of the porch with a vengeance.

I first tore as much of the nest away as possible by hand. Then I scraped away more dirt with a small tool. Then I turned the full force of the washer onto the soiled corner. All signs began to wash away. No more nest, no more dirt and no more birds around my front door.

But this week I have found myself missing that nest. You see the birds have used that nest at least four times to lay their eggs and hatch their chicks and feed them til they were strong enough to fly away on their own. I had actually become fond of them. Each morning as I left for work I would look up to see them and check their progress. Could I see any movement? Was the momma bird sitting on her eggs or was she off looking for food for her hatchlings? When the heads of the small chicks began to show, I would watch carefully to see if they were growing and/or about to fly away.

They had become a sign of God's larger plan and purpose. This nest had become a thing of beauty for me. And yet in my haste I had destroyed it.

What is the difference between destructive and constructive nesting? Several learnings from my recent encounter with nests comes to mind:
1. What I might consider destructive must be a part of God's plan. Every creature seems to have a place to settle and find physical comfort. A place to birth children and feed them and raise them to sufficient maturity for them to leave the nest.
2. Even varmints (my definition) are part of something larger than my understanding. Things I see as destructive and a menace were created and are some gift from God. I may never know what that plan is all about (in this life) but I might need to learn to trust more.
3. God can use part of my own life that seems to be hidden and dark and a menace, to teach me His ways. I have much to learn about His grace and mercy.
4. I too can be a creator of destruction. I can channel my power and cause pain to something that was causing no harm. I can exert my strength and 'clean' out the dwelling place of God's creators, even those that bring joy and are peaceful. I need to learn to be patient and careful as I use my strength and power.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

This Old Clunker

I live in the country. That means I have a place on my property for trash and at least one old junk car. The recent rains in our area have really been bringing out snakes and other varmints. Therefore I decided to try to clean up the old trash heap and get rid of an old car.

I invited a guy over and told him he could have the car if he would just get it off the property. He opened the hood and found some old rats nest and indications where the rats had been eating away at some of the hoses and belts. He also found a 4 foot long rat snake all curled up on top of the motor. But before he could get rid of it, the darn thing slithered away.

Way back in the late 60's my pastor preached a sermon entitled YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. In that moment I received a significant gift of grace. For the first time in my life I heard that I was o.k. - because of God's love. I didn't have to do anything to gain it and my laundry list of failures had been forgiven by His mercy. I felt incredibly free.

Richard Rohr talks about the first half of life being a time for building our containers. And the second half of life being a time to more naturally focus on the content of our lives.

About a year and a half ago I opened the hood on my life again. Low and behold I found some old rats nest and even a few snakes. I called a friend in Texas and shared my pain. I received another gift and reminder of God's continuing love and mercy for me. It was the content of my life that needed gracing this time around...

I was no longer focusing on building the container. In some ways I had arrived. I had title and statue and outwardly I was pretty successful. I had a wife and home and kids and grand kids. I was a pastor and I was even a Director at the Pastoral Institute in the Turner Ministry Resource Center.

When I received that gift from my friend that day, I wish I could say that all the rats and snakes in my life slithered away in that moment of mercy. But you know what? Every time I am willing to open the hood of this old clunker, and really focus on what is there... I continue to find new varmints lurking along with some of my old favorites. Some days this is hard to face, because I get scared and fearful and lonely and anxious. Titles and statue and age and successes don't matter on the inside, if I can't return to God's grace and accept it.

But I can't do that without prayer and meditation and reflection AND community.

Lord, I am thankful today for COMMUNITY - at home, at church, at work... and the other places of fellowship which You provide!


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Welcome to my world...

For several years I published a Gratitude Journal on Sunday morning. I would list five or six random items I was particularly thankful for from the previous week. I also added a brief prayer for the morning and the day ahead. While these personal ramblings were from my own reflections on my faith journey they were well received by many friends. Over time I have received encouragement to re-initiate these offering.

Recently I have been introduced to 'blogging' and have decided to give it another try. I hope to make some entry on a weekly basis, but at times there might be more or less...

My full time vocation allows me the opportunity to work with ministers and congregations. However, this blog will be focused on the common human journey we all follow through life: beginnings and endings, births and deaths, faith and doubt, hopes and fears and how God's grace, mercy and love impact our journey.

Thank you for dropping in from time to time. I invite your feedback and suggestions.


1. Family and friends
2. Physical health and emotional healing
3. Challenges and opportunities
4. Prayer and reflection
5. The gift of life!

Lord, I pray that I remember that You are the giver of life and as present as the very breath I breathe. Guide this new chapter. Use this time and energy for Your purpose in my own life and in the lives of persons who join me along the way. Through Christ I pray. AMEN