Wednesday, May 30, 2012


The heat being what it was, Beth waited in the car while I circled the cemetery hillside looking for the scattered gravesites of my family. Each one, once re-discovered, always affects me in the same manner. I speak to the deceased, some deep inner connection bringing tears to my eyes, words of just how much they meant to me. Sadly, such bond between us was never so openly expressed, life simply occurring until one day dialogue was reduced to this… I watched “The Vow” with my wife Monday afternoon, a true story about a young married couple, he barely injured in an automobile accident, she suffering serious head trauma, surviving, but with no memory of anything other than those years prior to encountering him. At one point, his thoughts reveal a theology of how each of us are the sum total of every moment that we’ve ever experienced with all the people that we’ve ever known, such history shaping us along the way; “but,” he asks, “what happens if, somewhere in the journey, we no longer remember anything? Having just turned seventy last October and continually finding myself, more and more, going mentally blank on one thing or another, it is a question I can well appreciate. While our brain most certainly plays a vital role in our existence, though, is it my entire identity to the extent that, once it perishes or simply loses its potential, I’m no longer “there”? Or is it merely a computer given me while I’m “here”, the real “me” an eternal spark lit by a Creator unto whom it must return? And, if so, shouldn’t that somehow tie all of us together in a common bond stronger than the ways we manage to separate ourselves from each other?.........

Monday, May 28, 2012


It is inevitable that, if you stick me into a crowd of people, I’m either going to search out some isolated corner of the room and avoid conversation, or look for someone who also enjoys that which always occupies my thoughts. Realizing, however, that most believers are more inclined to discuss sports, motorcycles, indeed a wide range of topics that leave me looking ignorant, I try not to push my own preference on everyone and hopefully do not over assert myself with those few who find themselves on my list of “like-minded lovers of chewing on the Word”. So it was Saturday afternoon at the grandson’s graduation festivities. My assistant pastor, the same fellow who teaches the Wednesday evening class, was seated by himself. It seemed to me that his ear gets bent by this old man too much as it is. When Tony, my ministry buddy, took a seat nearby and I positioned myself in a chair beside him, though, Steve just drifted into our talk as it came forth. Nobody was splitting hairs over chapter and verse, simply speaking of life within the Body, church in general. Nevertheless, somewhere along the way, the preacher, with a grin on his face, told me that I was a stubborn man. “Bull-headed”, I replied, “might well be a better word for it.” We let it drop. There had been no ill will intended and none was taken, rooted and grounded in my faith plus walking by His inner anchor-line rather than simply “following the herd” being, to me, something that all members of the Body ought to embrace. Is there possible danger with such thinking? Of course! As long as one’s humanity is involved in the process, that divine tug on our reins will yet need an occasional reinforcement, bet it a boot in the butt or we, ourselves, falling flat on our face due to our own lack of judgment. One day, one step at a time, yet convinced as I go, not just swallowing everybody else’s theology……

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"Reaping the Harvest................."

Mid-nineties yesterday for my grandson’s graduation party, but a cool breeze took a bit of the heaviness off the heat. The son-in-law had mowed the huge field between their log cabin and the road, moved the family cars down to the far end to make room for guests to park in the driveway, and then discovered everybody simply following his example until people passing by probably thought they were auctioning off the estate. Along with a couple of small awnings set up just in front of the entrance to the house, trees, here and there, provided enough shade for company to sit and enjoy conversation. A small basketball court, a volley-ball net, corn-hole units, and a new game resembling “bolos tossed to entangle themselves on miniature football goals” kept all the younger, competitive folk entertained. Enough food to feed an army was inside the house, plenty of water and cold drinks, but no alcohol. Guests gathered and mingled, the consistency of each little group continually changing. Good fellowship.
If the day was pleasant, however, friends and family tied together in marking a milestone reached, the crowning moment in the whole affair, for me, was caught by my camera the night before, with diplomas already presented and each individual in cap and gown now, one at a time, taking a rose with them to honor mom and dad. Lives do not always work out as we plan. Dreams get lost as we go, the journey shaping us, repositioning us, each story a mystery unfolding and a matter of humanity making and meeting its own destiny. I watched as some went to only one parent, others having to go to opposite sides of the sanctuary in order to complete their gratitude, circumstances unknown to me and none of my business; but there was, nonetheless, thankfulness in my heart as I snapped these pictures….

Saturday, May 26, 2012


“We have been trained to feed men, not with Christ, the Bread of Life, but rather with apologetic arguments…All philosophy, all theology that is vitally aware of its place in the true order of things, aspires to enter the cloud around the mountaintop where man may hope to meet the Living God. All true learning should therefore be alive with the sense of its own limitations and with the instinct for a vital experience of reality which speculation alone cannot provide… Any knowledge that pretends to offer us a clear and precise concept of God is inferior to the obscure experience of Him in the union produced by infused love. If we attribute too much power to our clear ideas of God, we will end up by making ourselves a god in our own image out of those clear ideas. If we do not grant concepts any power to tell us the truth about God, we will cut off all possible contact between our minds and Him”…Thomas Merton, “The Ascent to Truth”

Way back in 1951, Thomas Merton wrote in one of his many books, “The Ascent to Truth”, that the only thing that could save the world from complete moral collapse was spiritual revolution and that Christianity, by its very nature, demanded such revolution. The only hindrance to the latter, according to him, was the need for its members to live what they profess to believe. Was he talking about life style, what we do or do not do, an “old-time holiness” legality wherein we are made “sanctified and separated” from the “world”? When he states that, in order to accomplish any semblance of success in such task, we must be “vitalized by the supernatural power of His grace”, it is obvious to me that the Trappist monk speaks of Christ “in” me. While we need definitions, words to help us attempt any sort of understanding in the matter, yet we must learn that He, alone, breathes life into them, indeed is the very fullness of what they mean to us. Jesus conquered death and the grave, taking up residence with us via the Holy Ghost; and what we, as well as the world, need to see is not our faith in terms of some denominational, doctrinal credo, but the reality of that fact. Is it a stumble down the path? Yes! Yet who doesn’t know that our humanity remains involved in the process? What works, in spite of that, is humility and honesty coupled with the affirmation of His presence as we go…..

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain”…..anonymous

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge, that myth is more potent than history, and that dreams are more powerful than facts. I believe that hope always triumphs over experience, laughter is the only cure for grief, and love is stronger than death…. I do not believe life is a puzzle to be solved. Life is. Anything might happen; and I believe I may invest my life with meaning. The uncertainty is a blessing in disguise. If I were absolutely certain about all things, I would spend my life in anxious misery, fearful of losing my way; but since everything and anything are always possible, the miraculous is always nearby and wonders shall never ever cease”…..Robert Fulghum

I encountered the first quote above while waiting to pay for the purchase of a novel I recently discovered to have been written by the author of those words cited below the first. He has known many occupations in his lifetime, a Unitarian minister for awhile and the list too long for me to continue it here. There is little doubt that his theological views would probably clash with mine if we ever sat down to discuss “Thus sayeth the Bible”. Indeed, if one takes a second look at his credo, there is no mention of deity, just a declaration concerning a belief in his own merits, God perhaps there in the shadows, but unnamed in so far as possessing any specific identity. Still, I enjoy the wit he exhibits in his writing as he shares moments and events that have come his way; and I agree with much of what he says here about a man’s existence. Conversation between us wouldn’t have to involve warfare. In the Old Testament, Amos brought forth the question: “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” That depends, it seems to me, on whether the journey is purposed on that very issue that separates them. Friendship, common courtesy, and a simple wish to enjoy each other’s company, though, might just be enough for two old men to exchange thoughts without battling over mindsets…..

Monday, May 21, 2012


After morning worship and dinner at O’Charley’s, Beth and the oldest daughter left me at home while they drove to get themselves a pedicure; and, with an hour or so to kill, I opted to take my first walk outside in about six months. The temperature was in the upper eighties, but a slight breeze made it a pleasant experience, especially while hiking along the shaded trail through the wooded section separating the railroad tracks from the creek.
If my view was obstructed by all the shrubbery and branches on either side of me, the sounds of people picnicking nonetheless let me know the park was full of life. Indeed, everywhere I looked, once across the bridge, families were tossing horseshoes, grilling hotdogs, and watching the kids chase each other to get the best swing on the playground. It was the sight of children, however, ankle-deep in the water and, with their father, trying to catch minnows with a net that took me back about sixty years. We lived in the inner city and at least part of what summer meant was the fun of camping out on a river bank somewhere. The Ohio was close if all we had was a weekend. I suppose it was the Licking that we so often visited down in Cynthiana, my only memory of it being that spot where we pitched the tents and the overflow from some nearby dam creating shallow where us youngins searched for crawdads. It was different times. We cooked over an open fire, sacked out in sleeping bags, and explored the area looking for vines strong enough to support Tarzan as he swung through the jungle. Nowadays “roughing it” is no more than loading your RV with all the modern technology you own and parking it wherever you decide to stop, knowing that if you get hungry, McDonalds is right down the road a mile or so. Where’s the adventure in that?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

"Check Point..........................."

Tony, in speaking to the men at the rescues mission Wednesday evening, confessed that when he was first invited to come with our group nearly ten years ago his immediate thoughts were about being able to share the Gospel with some homeless people who knew nothing about Christ. What he discovered along the way, however, was that circumstances don’t eliminate people from the human race. The only difference about “church” there and “church” where we worship every week is these fellows constitute a multi-denominational gathering. There may well be an atheist or two in the bunch, a Muslim perhaps, but they’re well out-numbered by Catholics, Baptists, you-name-it. The mixture varies; and I like it that way. One can just speak his heart without having to worry about crossing some individual doctrinal standard set in concrete. The minds here, in this venue, may be just as well predisposed as those occupying some fancy sanctuary elsewhere, their history marked by a religious tutoring at one point or another. At the same time, though, they’ve heard it all here and they listen to a voice coming to them out of life, not just chapter and verse. Not that my words aren’t measured. They are; but that, in itself, is all I seek. Don’t accept me as having it all figured out. Take it with you and chew it over as you go, following His tug on your anchor-line……

Friday, May 18, 2012

"Tuning In....................................."

After Beth left this morning to drive the granddaughter out to school, I turned the channel on the TV to some soft instrumental music and then settled back in my recliner for a few minutes just to relax. It had nothing to do with being tired. It had nothing to do with being old; although, it is true that in my younger years my thinking process was usually accomplished with my body in motion. There’s also something to be said, I suppose, for the idea that mileage, hopefully, equips us with a bit more wisdom in the event, the distance covered having taught us a thing or two along the way. It seems to me that the majority of us, for the most part, go through life on a circular treadmill, our existence a routine we wear like a second skin, comfortable in some places, itchy elsewhere, but its own reality all we can see to define as reality. It’s just part of the human condition. We speak of God, but we take little opportunity to stop and attempt to connect. We pray, but our petitions are merely words directed heavenward much like those astronomers who probe the universe searching for sign of intelligence out there somewhere. We call it “faith”, as if believing in an image that we, ourselves, have mentally put together is a merit badge of some sort. Christ, however, is an inner well, a tangible point a bit deeper than that noisy clutter occupying the attic. The Bible speaks of it as “rest”. Assurance, strength, peace, much can be found there if we would only “shut down” but a moment and listen……

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This is my tenth year working in Elementary Education with Special-Ed kids. There is a cork board frame positioned in front of me to the rear of my computer desk, filled with snapshots I’ve taken along the way. I like to look at their faces and remember. In truth, they gave to me as much or more than I did them; and, in looking back, it’s unlikely that my tutorial encounter with them accomplished anything of any real significance. No “Helen Keller breakthroughs”. Just trying to help them take another step, to move forward in some way. This year one young fellow has been able to learn how to count coins, pennies, nickels, and dimes; and, if he can retain that over these summer months, we’ll move on to quarters when we return. It is the “little” things that make it worthwhile. You look back, see all you mistakes, and wonder; but would take nothing for having been there for the journey. It’s the same with the rescue mission and the Detention Center, too. I often ask myself if the past decade has been merely about my ego, opportunity for me to impose my Biblical views on a captive audience. Has there really been anything worthwhile come of our taking the Gospel to such venues? Then the face of one girl reappears in my mind, how there, in the beginning, it was marked with hurt and anger at life as she had found it to be; and slowly, but surely, the pain therein expressed melted over the months that marked our visits. Did we ever hear her confess Christ? No; yet her smile and her manner with us gave witness of change. I do believe. I do not regret. I am thankful for doors that He has opened, for His grace alive in me…

Sunday, May 13, 2012


“A thing is not high if one can reach it; it is not great if one can reason about it; it is not deep if one can see its bottom.” ….Peter Keating in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”

Having just finished the above novel, my second perusal of the author’s personal opinions put forth in a fictional outreach, I find myself once again mentally chewing on the bits and pieces of her recipe for what she calls “Objectivism”. She breaks it down into four mandates, the first three of which are as follows: (a) reality, in so far as facts are facts, independent of man’s feelings, hopes or fears; (b) reason, as being a man’s only means of perceiving reality; and (c) self-interest, since every man is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. Some, I suppose, might wonder why a fellow with a forty year experience in Christianity would be reading anything an atheist has to say; but, in truth, some of her viewpoints give me more food for thought than did a lot of the sermons preached to me in this journey. That, in no way, is meant to suggest a lack of faith in Biblical authority, only that it was long ago proven to me humanity remains humanity on either side of the pulpit, God teaching us as we go, speaking to us out of more than just the Book. At one place in the above story, for example, the author writes of a young man trying to decide if life was worth living, looking to find meaning to life, a joy not yet gained, and feeling a sense of discovering it in a secluded wilderness, but realizing, at the same time, it would be lost to him upon his return to society. Her answer for his longing does not match what I would say to him. The predicament, itself, though, is one my group addresses each time we visit the Detention Center. The character quote above was probably intended, by the writer, to frame success. To me, however, it’s a pretty good description of God being beyond our ability to access other than through that connection He gives us in Christ. Such genre is not my normal pursuit and I wouldn’t recommend it as anywhere to consistently swim without the “anchor-line”; but every now and then, as He permits, a venture into other waters hasn’t hurt me yet……

Thursday, May 10, 2012


Beth and I drove over to a car dealership yesterday evening to conduct the final transaction on our purchasing the first new automobile we’ve bought in nearly thirty years. The experience has changed somewhat in the interim. Human nature has not. When it came down to the nitty-gritty of putting our signatures on the dotted line, the fellow in front of us “was prepared”, as he put it, to offer us an extended warranty for only fifteen hundred dollars. When I replied in the negative, he immediately reduced his price to twelve. “No,” I countered again; and he asked me to make him an offer. Another decline on my part brought him to under a thousand. Finally the fellow was convinced of my reluctance to accept his generosity. In getting there, however, all he gained was my opinion of his character, having just tried to smooth-talk me out of that much money… A few years back, Jodie Foster starred in “Contact”, a story about man’s search for other life in the universe and finally being successful in the attempt (if one considers finding “heaven” to be no more than another planet out there as having fulfilled the mission at hand). For me, as a fan of science fiction, it was entertaining until the woman steps out of the spaceship and is greeted by her deceased father. It was a bit of a stretch for me at that point. What has stayed with me about the movie, mostly, is its choice for a title. I like the word, believing it does indeed express what at least a part of what faith is all about, a piece of what Christianity embraces and yet what many who profess membership therein have left out of the contract. The Creator of all that there is has taken up residence in me. That connection holds my life and without it I am dead. While it does not ensure my walk, decisions yet mine to make, yet that “knot in my belly” tying me to Him, is the most important part of who I am no matter where I am or what I am doing. “Business” may be “business” and “church” may be “church”, but “born-again” is also “born-again” and ought to trump the other two……

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


I read an interview yesterday that Ken Meyers, the founder and host of Mars Hill Audio journal, gave to “The Christian Post” wherein he talked of the biggest challenge facing the Church today being “the culture within the church”. He spoke of our having reduced the Gospel to an abstract message of salvation that requires no necessary consequences for how we live. “Redemption”, he said, “is not just a restoration of our status before God”, nor only “of one invisible aspect of our being (our soul)”, but is “our life as lived out in relationship with our Creator”. When asked as to how believers have been influenced society around us, he gave four examples: (a) the dominant role of technology promoting a deep assumption that we can fix anything; (b) the proliferating mechanisms of convenience eroding our virtues of patience and longsuffering; (c) an elimination of public propriety standards and manners undermining our assumptions about the legitimacy of authority and our deference to the needs of others; and (d) the high prestige we give to celebrities creating the conviction that every experience should be entertaining. It’s a blanket coverage he throws over us, of course, yet one wherein it seems to me that it would benefit us all to at least consider concerning ourselves. It is not so much “the evils” outside our door that we must guard against, but those familiarities which we allow to enter our homes, those which slowly “swallow us up from the inside out”. When Christ becomes no more than a product we have formed out of chapter and verse, instead of a Reality who indwells us, all we possess is religion. He, alone, is our best defense against our own humanity……

Monday, May 7, 2012

"All Things........................."

A few last minute cancellations reduced the Youth Detention Center ministry group to five people Sunday morning. For the most part, we were “one”, however, sharing a theme of how salvation isn’t about how successful we are in changing ourselves, but about Him being willing to walk with us as we go. Change is a process wherein He helps us to grow as we commit exactly who and what we are unto Him. The Spirit was, I believe, in the room and working in our midst, yet without any “heavy” manifestation serving notice of the fact. The kids were “with” us; but, when we dismissed in prayer, though the rear row along the wall was somewhat cramped with nearly a dozen girls, on this occasion there was no request for our two women to accompany them into the adjoining unit for further word and worship. The boys thanked us for coming even as they were quickly gathered up returned to their cells. It could be that the guards were experiencing discipline problems of some sort beforehand. We had arrived early; but, while we are usually admitted no more than we enter the outer foyer, this time we had to wait twenty minutes before someone came to get us. In truth, though, this isn’t “church”. It’s not to be expected. If God’s presence ever fully filled such a place, it would scare the powers that be. Whatever bunch visiting that day would no doubt be counted as fanatics and dismissed from the program. The Holy Ghost, therefore, is going to move with wisdom, here and there in the hearts and minds of those who will receive Him, and the work accomplished will be no less, whether individually or corporately. If we leave disappointed, it is always with ourselves, not with any feeling that He could have done more. Each and every visit is its own event. Seed is sown. He remains long after we are gone……

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Our substitute teacher Friday is a professor at one of our smaller nearby colleges, teaching in the evenings and accepting daytime vacancies through the week at various levels. He is, obviously, a single, young (compared to this old man), and great with the kids in our Special-Ed unit. We were in the middle of our afternoon craft session when we got into a discussion concerning the moral state of society, not so much from a religious viewpoint, but most certainly from the perspective of our thinking being a learned process that the “system”, itself, imprints upon us and an existence that seems to deteriorate as it goes. We are a people who not only can no longer make change at a cash register, see nothing wrong with cheating if it benefits our cause at the time, and don’t know how to entertain ourselves with a book or a walk, but who can also accurately declare that we are no more than a product of what life has brought unto us. As I suggested to the scholar, my personal choice of whom or what to blame for the condition is the Church in general, admittedly my membership therein making me as guilty as anybody else. It does seem to me, though, that the Body has failed, for the most part, to be that agent of leavening, that light upon a hill, that vessel through which the world might see Christ alive and in our midst. Faith has become but a doctrinal tenet rather than a Reality who lives within us and, while it will always be a stagger down the path, for the individual, for the institution, for humanity as a whole, to work, who we are and what we believe has to flow from the Creator, Himself, not just a cut and paste image we have formed to appease our own sense of security………

Friday, May 4, 2012


This weekend another opportunity to minister to the kids at the Detention Center is there for me, only because of an invitation from a friend, the fellow who holds a place on the schedule with his own group. Whether there will be an opening for me to share anything depends on his discretion and the leading of the Holy Ghost. That means a few minutes toward the end of the service and no need for me to concern myself with possibly having to fill a half hour or so. One of the girls last Sunday wanted to hear “Just As I Am” again. That will probably come to pass. Picking up my Bible the other night, though, a verse in Jeremiah came to me and, in looking at that one, it lead me to another a couple of chapters back. “Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man to direct his steps” the prophet declares in 10:23. Then, as if extending the fact of our inability to walk a straight path, in 13:23, he adds: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then may ye also do good that are accustomed to do evil.” We’ll see. If the Spirit should so appoint space, it seems to me that such thought can tie into the lyrics of my song, pointing well to our need of Christ and His grace, especially with an illustration. It was not a great moment for me yesterday at school. A co-worker and I took two of our children, by bus, over to acquaint them with the surroundings where they’ll be going to school next year. The old man managed to miss packing extra clothing for the fellow I took, and then, upon our return, discovered he had left his ball-cap and some important papers at the other facility. No big deal. We go back again this coming Tuesday. Some might point to my age; but I’m inclined to think it’s just who humanity is as a whole, missing the mark from beginning to end, some days worse than others……

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Sticking My Neck Out........."

Ever since the new teacher assumed the helm in our unit for the rest of this year, two or three times a day we find ourselves involved in some sort of craft, creating flowers, animals, whatever might just be appropriate for the theme at hand, material merely a matter of using one’s imagination. Glue is a necessity most of the time in one form or another. Construction paper, crayons, paint, bingo daubers, and markers are standards. From there, however, it all depends on how deeply into fantasy your brain is still willing to go. For some of us, childhood and Never-Never Land is yet not all that far to reach. In fact, I’ve found it a nice place to visit on a regular basis as long as you don’t decide to stay there any longer than the job requires. It’s fun to create caterpillars out of egg cartons and frogs from picnic plates. It’s amazing what the mind can see if it looks beyond the normal use of any number of things: the inner cardboard cylinder of a roll of toilet paper, for example; a bag of miniature marshmallows; or even an ordinary drinking straw. Knowing she would not be with us yesterday, our leader handed me a large container of the latter before she left school Friday and told me to do whatever came to me in so far as to positioning them above some shredded green “grass” she had already attached to the bottom of a few purple sheets. Searching on the internet over the weekend provided me with nothing in the way of inspiration. Sunday evening, just before drifting into dreamland, it hit me. Why not cut the tube right down the middle, measure off proper lengths for each physical position, and, with a bit of yellow circles, make our current animal of observation: the giraffe! It’s certainly no Picasso nor Van Gogh, but it came together pretty well, I think. Tomorrow maybe we’ll try a rhinoceros shaped out of dried mushrooms and rubberbands……