Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Christmas Letter from a Dear Friend

I receive this letter from a dear friend ... you'll enjoy reading it, to ...

Christmas 2011

Dear friends and family,

Rather than expose you to my customary annual rant, I decided that giving thanks for the many blessings that have come our way might be more appropriate.  But then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I am giving thanks for blessings that millions of people do not enjoy.  

This afternoon I visited ... Hospital where I saw many people bent over walkers, others limping along or otherwise in obvious distress and I thought to myself, “Thank God I am not like them,” which of course reminded me of the gospel text where two men went up to the temple area to pray and the one said, “O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity---greedy, dishonest, adulterous…”  So I decided that giving thanks may just be an exercise in self-congratulations and selfishness.  So what can I write that might bring some realistic joy to all of our hearts?

I guess the easiest is to speak in abstract terms and say ‘Christmas is all about Jesus being born among us to bring hope into the world.’  Jesus came to make the world a better place and yet, after 2000 years, it is still a pretty rough place for billions of people (yes, we reached the 7 billionth population threshold just recently).  

People talk about putting the Christ back into Christmas.  I’m not sure what they mean by that, but it sounds good.  Yes, Christmas is all about Jesus together with all its implications.  So, my prayer for you this Christmas and coming New Year is that we all try to understand the relevance that Jesus holds for the world.  

‘Joy to the World’ can be nothing more than hollow sounding words for those who are not touched by the love that Jesus calls us to spread around us.  So together with  our family... I invite you to be heralds of Good News that Jesus came to proclaim.  

We wish you health, happiness and joy in the coming year and peace on earth to all men of good will.  And we pray for all those who are suffering because of the terrible straits of the world economy.  Let us have hope that 2012 will bring greater prosperity to the peoples of our world.

In the love of Christ,

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Religious Experience at AAA

Getting my International Driver's Licence at the local AAA Office - I noticed a banner hanging overhead:

Through all of life's travels, we're always with you.

I thought of Jesus and his promise to the disciples, "I am with you always to the end of the age."

Several brochures caught my eye.

All roads lead to great rewards.

Every road we travel, God at the end of it.

Rewards abundant: the love of fellow-travelers, lessoned learned, dreams achieved, goals reached, grace received and grace given.

The Psalmist asks, "Where could I go to escape your Spirit?" ... there is no escape from God ... every road we travel, be the road glorious or gritty, it leads to God ... God's blessing or God's judgment, and mostly a little of both ... but always God! God at the end of the road. God as the road. And God at the beginning, too.

The other brochure that caught my attention:

A Holiday Gift to last a lifetime.

The gift of Jesus to a sin-sick work - last's a lifetime, and then some.

Nothing temporary about the love of God - Paul writes, "love endures."

Through thick and thin, sick and sin, a lifetime's worth of mercy and blessings, counsel and guidance, hope and peace.

I said to the lady helping me, "I had no idea AAA was such a religious place - the banner overhead and the brochures."

She said, "You're right. I wonder who wrote all of that stuff."

And we both had a good chuckle.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A God-Moment

Out walking one morning, I greeted fellow-walkers as I usually do, with hands held together and a “Good Morning” and a nod of my head. Nearing home, I was thinking about this, and why I do it, and the story, many years earlier, that triggered my decision to greet people in this manner.

As I was thinking about the story, a mother and her small daughter, dressed in crisp white blouse and school-uniform blue plaid skirt, were stepping down their driveway toward the sidewalk, so I turned to them, with hands held together and greeted them. I continued on my way, and then heard the little girl say, “Mommy, why did he hold his hands that way when he saw us?”

Who could resist the moment?

I turned around and asked if I may tell my little story about why I greet folks that way, and Mom said “Sure!” with her little girl hiding behind her.

I began by saying, “I’m a Christian,” and she replied, “So am I,” and with that, I shared the story. 

And, here it is for you, the reader.

Some years ago, I read an article about a Buddhist retreat center. One of the students, while out on a stroll in the gardens, met the Buddhist leader who bowed with hands held together in greeting. The student asked why such a greeting. The leader replied, “Because I see God in you.”

Then and there, I vowed to greet people in a similar fashion, with hands held together prayerfully, in recognition of God in everyone.

I said to the mother, “I see God in you and in your daughter.”

So, should it be for all of us - to see God in everyone. Even in the wrecks of humanity, shreds of the divine yet exist. 

So, greetings to you, dear reader, my hands held together, because I see God in you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

"The Fresh Air Faded" by Bob Dahl

The Fresh Air Faded,  09/18/2011
The fresh air faded quickly as we entered the nursing home. I inhaled and reached for assurance -- my ever present inhaler in my left front pant’s pocket. 
A warm, dry Indian summer day and bright sunshine turned into sticky, stale air and fluorescent gray.
We walked the gauntlet of dozing, drooling, slumping people in wheelchairs. They lined both sides of the hall.  Nurses and aids dodged and scurried, bottles, needles and pans in rubbered hands.  
We ducked into the room.  She sat eagerly looking in our direction.  “Would you like to visit here or should we go somewhere else?” I asked.
“Oh, let’s go down the hall.”  On the way out she pointed back to her roommate and whispered, “We’ll have more privacy.”
“It is nice to see you two, but where is that beautiful Chocolate Lab?”
“He’s in the car. Shall I get him?”
“Get him? I’ve been waiting all day to see Boomer.”
My wife ushered Ruth the rest of the way and I went for the dog.
He jumped eagerly out of the car; I held his leash tightly.  He tugged this way and that. I let him take a pee.  We rode up on the elevator. He sat so quietly. He knew the routine.  The door opened and he pulled me into the hall.  
“Boomer,” she called.
He headed in her direction and I let the leash go. He wrapped it around the wheelchair.  Kisses, kisses, kisses.
Then he settled down and lay beside the wheels.  
Old men hobbled by and asked about the dog.  “Just keep on going,” Ruth instructed them.  They frowned; she looked at us and shook her head. “If they stop, they’ll talk forever.”
We sat in the quiet and then talked about her cancer.  
On the way back to her room with the dog along, the dozing, drooling people who lined the hall on both sides looked up and some of them smiled…at the dog.  
“This is my pastor and his wife and Boomer. They have come to visit me.”

"I Sit on the Porch" - by Bob Dahl

I Sit on the Porch, 0919/2011 - by Bob Dahl
I sit on the small, open air, cedar porch with glass slats for a roof, leaving the door into the great room open to hear the outcome of the golf tournament. 
My wife sits inside under a lamp sewing one of her fabric sculptures on a quiet Sunday 
I set down my wine glass on the wood floor away from where the dog will be and look up to see rain drops on the slats.
My Chocolate Lab wakes, slides off the couch, follows me out of the house and faces me, tail wagging fiercely.  
He barks his whiskey bark, a bone collapsing in his old throat. 
He gags and coughs, courteously turning his head down and away.  
He turns back, looks directly into my eyes as if challenging me, “Come on, buddy. Let’s rumble.”  
I wipe a sleeper from his eye left again by a busy sandman and pat him on his head. His tail swings rhythmically.  
He squints approval and lifts his bony, football player’s knees into the house looking
for his mistress. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Keep on Dancing

A good friend sent this to me ... one of those good pieces floating around the internet. I enjoyed it, and I think you will, too.


This was written by an 83-year-old woman to her friend.
*The last line says it all. *

Dear Bertha,

I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the  garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time working.

Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savor, not to endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $28.49 for one small bag of groceries. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now

I'm not sure what others would've done had they known they wouldn't be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food was.

I'm guessing; I'll never know.

It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them. I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, tell myself that it is special.

Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.

Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance

Monday, August 8, 2011

"The Green Thing"

In the line at the store, the cashier told an older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day."

The clerk responded, "That's our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment." He was right -- our generation didn't have the green thing in its day.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. ………. But we didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. ………. We didn't have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the baby's diapers because we didn't have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts -- wind and solar power really did dry the clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. ………. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We had one TV, or radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used a wadded up old newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. ………. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. ………. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. ………. We didn't have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

But isn't it sad that the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the green thing back then?

Friday, August 5, 2011


THE CANTOR AND THE CLANSMAN: "One sunny Sunday morning in June 1991, Cantor Michael Weisser and his wife, Julie, surrounded by half-unpacked boxes in the kitchen of thei..."

Love changes the heart of a hateful man ... because hate grows where love is denied, and he was a man reared in home with too little love, and so hatred entered in, until love came a-calling.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Faithfulness - Over the Long Haul

Just finished reading a newsletter from a church I served many years ago.

Along with new names I've never known, lots of old names still working, serving, loving and sustaining, and their children, too.

Commitment, faithfulness - can these words mean anything less than the Long Haul?

I don't think so ... anything less than the Long Haul is likely to be at our pleasure or discretion. The Long Haul requires something bigger than momentary interests or personal desires.

As I read the note, I felt a great sense of gratitude well up within me. After all, I know some of these stories, and I know that servering over the Long Haul isn't always easy, and not always rewarding. But these servants of the Lord have discovered one of the great secrets of life - giving is always in season, even when it isn't.

And in such serving, the soul is shaped into something grand.

The image of Christ.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Basic Advice for the day!

Be of good cheer; watch your tongue; be alert to one another; pay attention to your soul; don't worry about how you pray, just pray as you can; read your Bible a little bit every day, or most every day (just five minutes: no more or no less - and it'll add up); count your blessings; give at least three compliments a day; stop now and then and say, "I'm really glad to be here!" ... savor your food; stop, look and listen; don't be nosey; trust the people around you - they're doing their best, and let them know you appreciate their labor; don't be in a hurry all the time; look at yourself in the mirror and pull a few faces and have a good laugh at yourself; eat a good breakfast; and remind yourself to trust God a little bit more every day!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

"The Tao of Touch" by Marge Piercy

The tao of touch
What magic does touch create
that we crave it so. That babies
do not thrive without it. That
the nurse who cuts tough nails
and sands calluses on the elderly
tells me sometimes men weep
as she rubs lotion on their feet.

Yet the touch of a stranger
the bumping or predatory thrust
in the subway is like a slap.
We long for the familiar, the open
palm of love, its tender fingers.
It is our hands that tamed cats
into pets, not our food.

The widow looks in the mirror
thinking, no one will ever touch
me again, never. Not hold me.
Not caress the softness of my
breasts, my inner thighs, the swell
of my belly. Do I still live
if no one knows my body?

We touch each other so many
ways, in curiosity, in anger,
to command attention, to soothe,
to quiet, to rouse, to cure.
Touch is our first language
and often, our last as the breath
ebbs and a hand closes our eyes.

"The tao of touch" by Marge Piercy, from The Hunger Moon: New & Selected Poems, 1980-2010. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

From Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac, May 5, 2011.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Voting for Amendment 10-A Today

I've prepared the following floor statement - don't know if I'll have the opportunity to speak, but if I do, this is what I'll read:

Sisters and Brothers, I voted for The Way Forward, not because I was happy with it, but because I trusted the Task Force that crafted it, and because I believed that it could give us some much-needed breathing room.

I will vote for Amendment 10-A for the same reason – it will give to all of us breathing room, though we have our preferences for the kind of air we breath.

We have a unique opportunity to show the world that we’re slightly different than the usual squabbling that characterizes so much of our contemporary discourse.

The world is not much interested in what any of us believe, but very interested in how we live. 

Our witness to the world is very much a matter of how we love one another. And to love only those who are in agreement with us hardly qualifies as love at all. Love suffers, because it suffers one another.

I don’t have all the answers, and none of us do. Though we’d all like to think otherwise. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus often keeps our eyes closed, and then, when the time is right, opens them up, and we see Jesus, but only for a moment. Then it’s up to us to leave the Table and run back to Jerusalem, as fast as our feet can carry us, to join hands with all the other disciples.

Today, we have a chance to break the logjam … clear the air … and return to the ordaining bodies the rights and responsibilities of ordination.

Will this solve all of our problems? Nothing ever does. But it will help us start moving again, however the Spirit should move us, and however moved we are, may it only be toward one another, with a greater respect for one another’s integrity, sense of mission, and how we do church.

With a final recognition, that we’re all in this together. While we may not see eye-to-eye, it’s Christ who links us together arm-in-arm.

I invite you to join with me in an affirmative vote for Amendment 10-A.

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Friend's Faith

A journey of faith through the valleys and mountains of a husband's stroke. Every day, signs of hope, and then signs of setback, too.

What has touched me so deeply is her easy integration of faith and church into the ordeal. Faith soars and plummets, like a swift in flight. Church and prayers and friends and concerts hold her soul together, and often bring tears. There's a level of comfort here that speaks of a mature faith nurtured over the years, with good theology and Bible and steady patterns of worship.

She's what some would call a "mainline" Christian.

As I write and think about her faith, I reflect upon something that has bothered me for years - the need of so many "evangelicals" to prove the "power" of their god and the "miracle-working wonders" of their faith. Frankly, it's all talk, and mutual hype - a lot of fury to keep the illusions going.

No wonder evangelicals are up tight. It's tough to maintain a false front of hope and victory and courage and smiles and Jesus talk. Anyone who raises a question is shouted down. Those who express doubt are labeled "backsliders." Writers and preachers who question the standard lines of thought are treated as "heretics."

How much better when nothing needs proving, because of Christ Jesus.

The cross and the tomb, his wisdom and his love, and the mystery of the resurrection - what else is there to prove?

Why must Christians always be proving their faith? Is this some kind of competitive one-upsmanship? What's the point?

For my friend, the journey through these demanding days is as natural as breathing - in and out, up and down, good and bad, fear and faith, hope and sorrow, friends and family and church and sacred concerts and hymns and sermons.

I'm grateful to share a bit in my friend's journey, through her postings, and the musings of her children. They hope for the best; fear for the worst. They're flesh and blood, as we all are. And mortal, too. Dadgum it all!

Faith, if it's faith at all, is not some cosmetic heavily layered on to hide wrinkles and blemishes. Faith is something deep within, something that understands and welcomes the foibles and failings of mortal flesh, even as we rejoice in the wonder and glory of God's love for us.

We have nothing to prove to the world, because God has already done that, and continues to prove to the world through sunrise and sunset and pot luck dinners and preachers struggling to proclaim the word and little old ladies with blue hair and children and grandchildren singing hymns and organs and pianos and love divine and folks who strive for justice and folks who dream big dreams for a better world.

Nothing to prove, so that we can be at peace with who we are and the way life is.

Nothing to prove, so that we can live amidst the hopes and tears of real life.

Nothing to prove, so that we can love fiercely and deeply and powerfully, and cry, as well, when the darker moments come to us.

Nothing to prove.

And everything to live.

And to God be the glory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Resurrection Ahead ...

Dear Friends and Members of Calvary Presbyterian Church,

Because Christ is Risen from the dead, we are, too.

There are many dimensions to resurrection:

  1. A personal dimension. In Christ, we have courage to face the many trials that come our way; we have patience in dealing with difficult situations; we extend grace to others who are troubled and sad; we are quick to forgive, even when others can’t apologize; we are quick to offer apologies when we’re wrong; we’re humble about our achievements, because everything is a gift of God, and whatever we have is only for God’s glory and the blessing of others. Our life, here and now, is held in the arms of the everlasting God, and it’s God who tells us to keep our eyes upon Christ and keeps our feet moving in the right direction. Because of Christ, we do not give up!
  2. A missional dimension. We reach out with the gospel, and we invite others to look to Christ and join with us in God’s effort to redeem all of creation and lift people out of despair. We join with others of good will and peace all around the world. In God’s wisdom, a world of many languages is the best of all possible world. We send out missionaries to tell others of Christ, and in the telling, we dig water wells, we build hospitals, we help nations fight AIDS, we promote peace and we build bridges of understanding. We cannot and will not look upon others in a way other than seeing everyone as a child of God, whatever their persuasion or faith or color or creed might be. When we look for good will we find it; when we seek peace, we see it; when we offer forgiveness, we are forgiven, when we build up, we are built up, too.
  3. A citizenship dimension. In Christ, we are people of peace and reconciliation. We are not impressed with military might or corporate power. We are sensitive to God’s creation, and all God’s creatures, great and small, and we work for a healthier planet. In the Risen Christ, we see God’s love for all the world and for all the nations, and we are careful about over-exuberant flag-waving and sword rattling. In Christ, we are wise about the sins of our own nation, even as we’re humbled by our personal sins. Furthermore, we are citizens of this land and this place, and as Jeremiah counseled the people to seek the welfare of the land in which they were living, so we seek our nation’s welfare, too. Not at the expense of others, but in concert with all of God’s creation. We pay our taxes, serve on juries, pray for our elected and appointed officials, spread good cheer and practice hope.
  4. A fellowship dimension. In the triumphant love of Christ, the Holy Spirit builds bridges of love all over the place. We look upon one another through the eyes of Christ, and through our eyes, Christ looks out upon the world. As Paul says, We no longer regard one another from a human point of view … as just so much flesh and blood and bone, but we see one another as God’s precious people, each created in God’s image and endowed with fine gifts. We are pained by the ways religion and society can exclude people. In Christ, our arms are open to all, and all are welcomed at the Table of the LORD. On the local level, right here at Calvary on the Boulevard, we live out the fullness of God’s love by loving one another: we open our homes and hearts to one another, we give and receive our talents, we hold hands in prayer, we hold one another up in sorrow, we walk arm-in-arm in the great work of Jesus Christ.
  5. A worship dimension. Our worship is joyful and hopeful. Because God is at work in all things for good. We gather for worship to celebrate the love of God and the world that’s coming our way. It’s a good world, and every prayer we utter, every good deed we offer, every kind word and every positive thought makes a lasting difference. And we’re serious, as well, because sin and oppression are real, and we take these seriously. We do not ignore the dark materials that flow around us and inside of us. We weep with those who weep, and we rejoice with those who rejoice. We confess our sin and the sins of the world and embrace the power of forgiveness.
  6. An eternal dimension. Death doesn’t have the last word! Yes, we all must die, because we’re mortal, and “dust to dust” is still the truth about life. But God loves the dust; indeed, God loves all of creation, and God promises a new heaven and a new earth. The end of all things is Christ. A Cosmic Christ, the Creator Christ, the Word of God, in whom all things are being reconciled – when there are no more tears, no more sorrow, no more separation and no more hurt. Only light and peace and goodness and joy. This is where it’s all headed, and by the grace of God, no one is left behind!
 To God be the glory! Christ is risen.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tina Fey's Prayer.

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be Beautiful but not Damaged, for it’s the Damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the Bea...uty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, May she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her
When crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes And not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers.

Grant her a Rough Patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short - a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day - And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, That she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, For I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a Mental Note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with Your God eyes.


-An excerpt from Tina Fey's new book -Bossypants, 2011

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Holy Week Blessing

May you have,

Eyes to see the sun that shines upon your pathway, 
Ears to hear the voices of your friends and neighbors,  
A voice to say with hope and fortitude, "Jesus my Lord", 
Hands ready to help, and 
Feet eager to follow Jesus.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Deadly Power of Tradition

A poem by Sam Walter Foss (1858 - 1911)

The Calf Path

One day thru the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail, all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then 300 years have fled,
And I infer the calf is dead.
But still, he left behind his trail
And thereby hangs my mortal tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way.
And then, a wise bell weathered sheep
Pursued the trail, o'er~vale and steep,
And drew the flocks behind him too
As good bell weathers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade
Thru those old woods, a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about,
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because 'twas such a crooked path,
But still they followed, do not laugh,
The first migrations of that calf.
And thru the winding woods they stalked
Because he wobbled when he walked.

This forest path became a lane
That bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street.
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowed thoroughfare.
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis.
And men, two centuries and a half
Trod the footsteps of that calf.

Each day a 100 thousand route
Followed the zig-zag calf about,
And o'er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A 100 thousand men were led
By one calf, near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way
And lost 100 years per day.
For this such reverence is lent
To well establish precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained , and called to preach.
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out, and in, and forth, and back,
And still their devious course pursue
To keep the paths that others do.

They keep the paths a sacred groove
Along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood gods laugh
Who saw that first primeval calf.
Ah, many things this tale might teach,
But I am not ordained to preach.

Predestination: Some Thoughts

from an email sent to a friend inquiring on behalf of a friend:

Dear xxx,

All we can do is dance around the fire of God's love ... we cannot jump into it, or it'll burn us up.

Calvin jumped into it, and so did Augustine ... theologians jump in where angels fear to tread.

I think your friend has a good handle on it ... leaving plenty of room for all the dark stuff that happens, yet, years later, finding evidence of God's hand.

Calvin left us a legacy of "certainty" that doesn't stand up, either in Scripture or in experience ... but at the core of his work, we find an abiding faith in a very good God who is at work in ALL things for good.

I think pre-destination has to be taken in the largest sense possible - as Paul works with it and uses the terminology. But to examine it under the microscope of human suffering brings us to an impasse - which Calvin defended by saying, "Who of us can attack the character of God? Who of us knows anything?" But I think such a defense is unnecessary is we can see how much God suffers in the story, culminating in the cross. To live in this age, even for God, is to suffer.

The all-powerful "God of the Middle Ages," who looked and behaved more like an emperor than the God and Father of Jesus, the God of Genesis and the God of the Prophets, has left us a bad legacy, filtered through Calvinism. The God who is above everything, impassive and all-controlling, is NOT the God of the Bible.

Yet Calvin's point remains important - history, with all its dark materials, is undergirded by the hand of God.

Leslie Weatherhead (1893-1976), British theologian, wrote a fine little book entitled, "The Will of God" (1944) - wherein he details three dimensions to God's will: intentional, circumstantial and ultimate. 

I think your friend has been dancing around the fire quite well.

Your comments seem equally appropriate and accurate.

We can only whisper the things of God that elude us; but of the things of God that we know for sure, we can shout to the highest mountains.

Blessings ...


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Some Thoughts about Eternity & Good Friends

With friends like you, and the world in which we live, it'll never stop for sure. As for eternity, I've often taught that we all shall find and enjoy what has been our deepest and richest pleasures, and, for me, the life of the mind, ideas, books, and friends and coffee, will my eternity ... and God will even stop in now and then to have coffee with us all.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Today, All Kinds of Decisions

Today, all kinds of decisions, mostly small.
But everyone of them will involve someone else's wellbeing.

We live in a vast network, mostly unnoticed.
But maybe today, we can pay closer attention.

Who knows who or what we'll see?
Who knows how that will affect our decisions?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

God at Work in All Things ...

God is at work in ALL things for good.

All is a big word, isn't it?

Big enough to cover all of it.

It wouldn't do us much good if we said, "some" - God is at work in "some" things.

We'd be forever trying to figure "some" out, and never sure if "this moment" was one of those things in which God was at work.

All is a big word, because God is big, and so is God's love!

So, whatever life throws at us, whatever comes along, God is there ... we don't always know how, but we know for sure, that God is at work, in ALL things, for good!

So be of good cheer, and trust the outcome! God's hand is in it, and God's hand is good.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

An Erev Purim Story

A wonderful Erev Purim story.
Beautiful story..... Makes you understand that things happen for a reason.
The brand new Rabbi and his wife, newly assigned
to their first Congregation, to reopen a shul in suburban Brooklyn , arrived in early February
excited about their opportunities. When they saw
their Shul, it was very run down and needed
much work. They set a goal to have everything
done in time to have their first service on  Erev Puirm.

They worked hard, repairing aged pews, plastering walls,
painting, etc, and on 8th of the Adar (February 17th) they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On February 19 a terrible tempest - a snowstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the Rabbi went over to the Shul.
His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about
20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit,
beginning about head high.

The Rabbi cleaned up the mess on the floor,
and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Erev Purim  service, headed home.
On the way he noticed that a local business was
having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful,
handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth
with exquisite work, fine colors and a Mogen David embroidered right in the center. It was just
the right size to cover the hole in the front  wall. He bought it and headed back to the Shul.

By this time it had started to snow. An older
woman running from the opposite direction was
trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The Rabbi
invited her to wait in the warm Shul for the next bus 45 minutes later.

She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the Rabbi
while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The Rabbi
could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.
Then he noticed the woman walking down the center
aisle. Her face was like a sheet. "Rabbi, "she asked, "where did you get that tablecloth?"
The Rabbi explained. The woman asked him to check
the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into
it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Poland.
The woman could hardly believe it as the Rabbi
told how he had just gotten "The Tablecloth".
The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Poland.
When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave.
Her husband was going to follow her the next week.
He was captured, sent to a camp and never saw her
husband or her home again.

The Rabbi wanted to give her the tablecloth;
but she made the Rabbi keep it for the Shul.
The Rabbi insisted on driving her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other
side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn  for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Erev Purim .
The Shul was almost full.
The Service was great.
At the end of the service,
the Rabbi and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.

One older man,
whom the Rabbi recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare,
and the Rabbi wondered why he wasn't leaving.
The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall
because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Poland before the war and how
could there be two tablecloths so much alike?
He told the Rabbi how the Nazis came, how he
forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was
supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and
put in a camp.  He never saw his wife or his home
again all the 35 years between.
The Rabbi asked him if he would allow him to
take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the Rabbi
had taken the woman three days earlier.

He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman's apartment, knocked on
the door and he saw the greatest Erev Purim reunion he could ever imagine.

Based on a true Story

God does work in mysterious ways.
I asked the Lord to bless you as I prayed for you today, to guide you and protect you as you go
along your way. His love is always with you. His
promises are true, and when we give Him all our cares we know He will see us through.

So when the road you're traveling seems difficult at best, just remember I'm here
praying and God will do the rest. Pass this on to those you want God to bless and remember
to send it back to the one who asked God to bless
you first.

When there is nothing left but God, that is when you find out that God is all you need.
 Take 60 seconds and give this a shot!
All you do is simply
say the following small prayer for the person who sent this to you.

God, bless all my friends and family in what
ever it is that You know they may be needing this 
day! May their lives be full of Your peace, 
prosperity and power as they seek to have a closer relationship with You.