Thursday, October 11, 2018

Amsterdam's an old city, so it's built for foot-traffic, and what a pleasure that is. Compact, for sure. And like Manhattan and other newer versions, built upward, not outward. Buildings are narrow and tall (5 or 6 stories), and lean (as the piles beneath shift) on one another, which is good idea, no matter what.
Now, with the addition of public transit (buses, subways and trams), getting around this remarkable city is a breeze, but for me, a guy who likes to walk, it's heaven.
Every street, a conglomeration of housing, markets, watering-holes and restaurants, stores, and you-name-it ... every neighborhood possessing its own charm ... with canals wrapping around all it, and plenty of green spaces for dogs to run free, children to play, and adults to picnic, and enjoy the sunshine (winter will soon be here).
MLR is taken to school by her father in a baksfiet (cargo bike), and D and I pick her up after school, for a leisurely, lets-explore, walk back home. Always a few stores that MLR likes to step into, to do some "shopping" ... mostly just looking, but she knows that Gramma and Grampa are an easy touch, and so we are!

Friday, September 21, 2018

And for Them, I Give Thanks ...

Doing a little digging on the internet for Maj. Robert H. Merriman, killed in the Spanish Civil War, fighting to defeat Franco and his fascist allies, Hitler and Mussolini.

Of course, it was a lost cause from the get-go. But as I write, and as I dig around, I cross paths with so many good and decent human beings who threw themselves into the fray to make this a better world.

Yes, they lost. They lost everything, but they were women and men of great character, vision, learning, compassion and courage. Mostly all young, lured on by high ideals and the thirst for adventure. Such are the young.

While digging around this morning, I came across some artists of more recent vintage, capturing the ever-changing Lake Michigan landscape. Beautiful work, and regionally noted, but not likely to end up in a national museum.

Fame is accorded to the few ... the rest go about their work and their lives for the goodness of it all ... whether going to Spain to defend the Republic or setting up an easel in a Michigan sand dune, this world is full of good people who can sing the songs of life.

And for them, I give thanks ... they're like flowers in the field; they bloom bright and colorful for a while, and leave behind a legacy of faith ... faith in life, faith in goodness and reason, faith, for some, even in God. And in the brief blooming of their lives, seeds of hope and courage are left behind, and others flowers will bloom in their place; only for awhile, but enough to brighten the world.

The world IS better because of them. Some are remembered like Maj. Robert Merriman, some even gain regional recognition, others, many others, known but to a few, remembered by family, and known, for sure, by God, who is enriched by such humanity, and in turn, gives birth to others who will give themselves to life.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

What "Evangelical" Could Mean

Been thinking a bit about the word "evangelical."
And what it could mean.

It could mean hope and welcome and peace.
It could mean "care for the earth."
It could mean "affirmation of science" and knowledge and reason and learning, the life of the mind, the world of our thoughts, the power of the god-given brain.

Yes, it should mean conversion, too.
From self, to selflessness.
From anger to kindness.
From fear to faith.

With the God of Psalm 23.
The God and Father of Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven in the Sermon on the Mount.
And the God of all peoples.
The God of so many guises and cultures.
The God always transcendent and mysterious.
The God so high above, and yet always close at hand.

Conversion, for sure.
Getting saved, you bet.
Not so much to go to heaven.
But to be of this earth.
And to be of one another.
As God intended.
If the Genesis account has any meaning.

Conversion, in so many ways:
From white privilege to the privileges of life for all.
From male dominance to equality.
From the fear of sexuality to it's celebration.

And what that could mean to the nation.
For the common good.
For the ties that bind.
For liberty and justice for all.
A citizenship defined by faith, hope and love.
Tearing down the walls that divide.
The rules that hurt women.
The borders that God despises.
The politics of wealth and poverty.

To build up and make new.
To elect women and men of good conscience.
To understand the importance of taxes.
To remind the rich of their responsibilities.
To provide living wages and ample benefits.
To do God's will on earth ...

It could mean so many positive things.
Gospel things.
Christ things.

It could mean things profound and good.
It could ... it really, really, could.
If only it would ...
If only it would.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

I Miss My Books

I miss my books.
Thousands of them I had.
Shelved and double shelved.
Many read entirely.
Some in bits and pieces.
Some again and again.
Some not at all.

But everyone of them a friend.
A comfort and a companion.
A reminder of great things.
Or small things, too.

But in the course of time.
Heading into interim ministry.
And then into retirement.
I had to say fare-thee-well.

Boxed up and given away.
Large sets sold on e-bay.
Some sent to a seminary in the Philippines.
Commentaries given to a young minister.

I miss them now and then.
But I'm glad to be free of them, too.
They served their purpose.
Even as I have.

Time hurries on.
And for the journey, less baggage.
Easier travel, for sure.
But I miss my companions.

Who, I hope, are serving others.
As they served me.
With insights and challenge.
Encouragement and comfort.

Thanks, good friends.
I miss you.
But you don't miss me.
You did your job, and now on to new employers.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


I have a million good friends.

Well, maybe not that many.
But folks who walk tall.
With open minds and gentle hearts.
A faith expansive and humble.
A sense of the common good.
And willing to pay the price for that.

Friends, who love.
Who have at the center of their life.
Something other than themselves.
Who read good books before the Wall Street Journal.
Who listen to good music before the news.

Who keep their souls balanced.
Who enjoy good food.
And lousy jokes.
The demands of the day.
And the poetry of love and trees.

Who smile with ease.
And care a lot.
Who laugh at the absurdity of it all.
Who cry for the suffering of the world.

Willing to take a stand for those who can't.
Who speak truth to power.
Who are not cowed by the rich and the mighty.
Who are tender-hearted.
And pay attention to the children.

You bet.
I've got lots of friends.
And they enrich my life.
Beyond words.

All I can is, "Thank you for being a part of my life."

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Gun Violence, Stand Your Ground, and Lamech's Pride

Been thinking a lot about this ... 
Sure, it was wrong to park in the handicapped spot ... 
It was wrong for the man with the gun to challenge the lady in the car, with her children ... what was hoping to accomplish?

Was it wrong for her boyfriend to come out and shove the man?
Perhaps he might have just confronted him. 
Or stood his own ground, without the shove.

But the man with the gun hits the ground, and what does he do? 
He pulls the gun, because the man shoved him. 
And then pulled the trigger and shot the man dead, in front of his children. 

I wonder if the gun gave him a bravado to confront the lady in the car? 
I wonder if the gun was his courage. 
I mean, packing heat, carrying iron, primed and ready to kill.

And now he'll live the rest of his days knowing that he's a killer, that he killed quickly, and without remorse, or so it would seem. Maybe he'll proud. His friends will slap him on the back and buy him a beer. The NRA will send him a t-shirt.

He didn't flee the scene; he knew what he would claim: self-defense. 
He knew he'd be on safe ground.
Had he given this kind of scenario a lot of thought?
Was he itching to use the gun?

The whole thing seems out of proportion. 
Biblically, this smacks of Lamech's pride and boasting.
Genesis 4.23 - violence out of proportion.

I can't help but feel that color played a roll. Maybe not, but I can't shake that part of the story, either. 

What I know for sure: a young man, a father of three, is dead ... because of a man with a gun. 

I suppose he'll be known as an NRA hero.

Long live Lamech.

Friday, July 20, 2018

"Let Love Be Genuine"

"Let love be genuine," and with that as the introduction (Romans 12.9-21), Paul adds a list of things that make love genuine; the first of which is "hate what is evil," which is a bit startling, when I think about it, that here is where "genuine love" begins - the absolute and complete rejection of what is evil.

Because if there's any collusion with evil, intentional or innocent, even a wee bit, the whole project, as Paul sees it, falls apart. If evil, and we'll get to that in a moment, is tolerated, genuine love dies and is likely to be replaced by "tribal love," the kind of love Jesus notes in suggesting that anyone can love those who are just like we are. But that's not love, not even close.

So, Paul cuts to the chase, no holds barred, no hesitation: Hate what is evil ... and, then, hold fast to what is good. In other words, we can get all fussy about what we don't like, but that's not enough; we have to have something positive to hold on to, something right and good to pursue, something to fill the heart, occupy the center, and keep us moving along the road of faith, hope and love ... something to offer to the world.

And, so Paul begins his list:

"Love one another with mutual affection" ... books could be written on this, and should be, yet the word that catches my attention is "mutual" ... a word filled with the power of equality ... we are all equal in the sight of God, and thus to love one another, to be mindful of one another, eliminates all distinctions, such as noted by Paul elsewhere: neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor master, neither male nor female - these powerful distinctions that drive and order our world (religion, economic status and gender) no longer count in Christ, and can no longer determine how love.


"Outdo one another in showing honor" ... more books, for sure, about how we honor one another, and while "competition" with one another on the usual suspects of religion, economic status and gender are deadly to the soul, the competitive effort to show honor to one another is heaven's game; here is where some of the rubber hits the road - because some parts of our world have no trouble getting honored, and some parts less so. Paul's imagery of the body in Corinthians coincides here - the more obvious parts that easily gain our honor is one thing, but paying attention to those parts that are easily overlooked is another. Immediately, I see how this dovetails with Paul's reminder of mutuality, with the big question: Who do we overlook? Who might we ignore? And who might we deem less than honorable, less deserving of our attention, our concern, our regard? Here is where faith and life collide, where faith and politics bump into another ... at the border, if you will ... or in places like Wall Street where economic status determines everything and in some churches where gender is lord rather Christ.

More later ...