Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas and Bethlehem

I've been to Bethlehem several times, even on Christmas day. I've entered the Church of the Nativity and waited in the line to go down into the grotto where it is believed that Jesus was born. In the grotto it is usually quiet except for the clicking of cameras. Many of the visitors reach back into the cave to touch or kiss the silver star which is supposed to be the place where Mary and Joseph laid the Christ child. When I'd leave the grotto there were often several groups singing Christmas carols. It was beautiful as they sang in various languages. When I'd leave the Church of the Nativity into Market Square, I was always surrounded by small boys tugging on my sleeve and blocking the entrance into our tour bus hoping that I would purchase their souvenir postcards.

I'm usually turned off by the large crowds and the commercialization, especially around religious settings. However, I've also wondered if this might not have been what it was really like when Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem. They were there because they had to be "enrolled" along with others who were from that lineage. So, I suspect there were crowds in Bethlehem that first century. So crowded that there was no room in the inn. Wherever there are crowds, there are usually folks who are trying to make a living by selling their various goods. There must have been noisy commercialization in Bethlehem that first century. Maybe it is my romantic images of Christmas and Bethlehem that are unrealistic. The significant issue is not what was happening in Bethlehem back in that first century but, rather, what is happening in my life today.

Christmas and the Schwinn bicycle

I don't recall how old I was but it was a wonderful Christmas. My father worked at Kib Warren's in Shawnee, Oklahoma. Kib Warrens was a furniture/hardware store where they sold bicycles and toys during the Christmas season. The store carried Schwinn bicycles. They had a great one on the floor. It had red fenders with leather strips coming out of the handle bar grips. It even had a shock absorber connected to the front wheel. I admired it for a long time and wanted it for Christmas. Dad said that he didn't think Santa Claus could get it in his bag and down our chimney. I now know that our chimney was just a flue for the old Heatorola that sat between the living and dining room and warmed our entire five room house. Christmas that year was messed up anyway because I developed a terrible cold or something. I remember having to stay in bed while covered with a sheet-tent into which was being pumped warm, moist air from the nearby humidifier. I remember being sick enough that Dr. Combs came by the house to visit me and he gave me a shot of something. It was a lousy Christmas. However, on Christmas morning, after Santa Claus had visited, I left my sick bed to discover that Santa had left me that Schwinn bicycle with the red fenders and leather strips coming from the handle bar grips. Talk about a miracle--Santa got that bicycle down our chimney. However, the biggest miracle was that my Dad and Mom let me ride my new bicycle around the block. They made me put on a heavy coat and a sock cap over my pajamas, Momma put something all over my chest and neck that smelled awful and, then, away I went around the block. After a Christmas like that then of course I believe in Santa and parents who know that there are some things in life that are just more important than being sick. Have a Merry Christmas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Record Was Stuck

Many years ago, i.e., late 60's, a Physician thought I might have Tuberculosis. I've been reminded of this experience with the local news of a patient in Richmond, KY who has diagnosised with TB. So, the Physician sent me to a state TB hospital in Paris, Kentucky where I was going to be tested. He told me that if they thought I had the disease they would keep me. I was terrified when we drove up to a group of older buildings which were the TB Sanatorium. There were patients around the grounds who looked gaunt and slowly walked with masks covering their face. In the waiting room, I remember there was a Christmas carol playing somewhere and the record was stuck. The same few bars of music played over and over for the long wait we had in the reception room which was covered with slick tiles--walls and floor. The only chairs were cold metal chairs and the magazine rack had a few old and used magazines. I thought I might have to stay and I didn't like the prospects. After a bunch of X-rays, the TB Physician had me to cough and spit in a small bottle. I couldn't cough up anything to spit into the bottle. Much later that day, I was dismissed to go home. I thought I'd been redeemed--you know saved from the eternal judgement. Whatever life lessons may be in that experience, I hope God has a better reception room.

There have been many other times when I wasn't sure what the future might hold. There were decisions to be made, some of those decisions were mine and frequently others were going to make decisions which would effect me significantly. I like having control over decisions that effect my future. Nevertheless, that's what happens in life--someone else's decisions have significant influence on my life. When I have to make those decisions that effect others, I pray that I'm very respectful of them and their thoughts. I want to listen carefully before I make those decisions. When others are making those decisions, I do have some control about how I respond to those decisions, especially about the attitude with which I respond. This isn't easy but it seems very important for my emotional health and for the good of the group.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

That Glorious Quest

I've been listening to the Musical, "Man of La Mancha." The Impossible Dream song has grabbed my attention. I think it is a wonderful summary of what many of us hope for with our lives. May we discern and be true to our quest whether it be in our home, office, church, neighborhood, overseas, or wherever.

To dream ... the impossible dream ...
To fight ... the unbeatable foe ...
To bear ... with unbearable sorrow ...
To run ... where the brave dare not go ...
To right ... the unrightable wrong ...
To love ... pure and chaste from afar ...
To try ... when your arms are too weary ...
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...

And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man (and woman), scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his (and her) last ounce of courage,
To reach ... the unreachable star ...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Been Traveling

I've just returned from traveling about 30 hours by plane and train during a two week period. Those 30 travel hours have taken me to Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Netherlands and Belgium. I made this trip as a part of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's Global Missions Office, Member Care ministry. The Fellowship is, among other endeavors, a mission-sending organization of moderate Baptists--moderate, as in no creed to sign and the freedom to follow God as a person senses God's leading. My travels, therefore, were to visit five families who are accomplishing amazing ministry among some of the most neglected people of the world, the gypsies and international refugees. My task is to support, encourage, pray for, assist with resources, etc. I am quick to acknowledge that these families bless me far more than I assist them. This Member Care ministry has been a life-long calling, although I didn't know it for most of my life. As a teenager, I made the public commitment to become a missionary, if that was what God desired. Evidently, that wasn't what God and I worked out together over these many years. However, now that sense of missions is being fulfilled in a way that didn't even exist when I was a youth. Deo gratis.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Packing as discernment

It is time to do the laundry in anticipation of packing. I'm leaving Tuesday for a two week visit with five missionary family friends who live in five European countries. Packing is a test of discernment for me. I get stuck with thinking I need to pack everything that I imagine I might need and, then remembering that, if necessary, I can purchase things in other countries. Therefore, my initial tendency is to pack too much. Perhaps, it is because I get confused trying to determine what is really necessary and what is not necessary. My imagination gets in the way. I imagine more possibilities than have ever happened and, therefore, I tend to pack too much. I've traveled a great deal and you would think I have this packing down to a fine art. An ole proverb says to lay out what you think you need and then put half of it back in the closet or chest-of-drawers. I think I'll try that--if it doesn't make me too anxious.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Music

I've been listening to a CD which I really like. It is a collection of songs by Peter, Paul and Mary. I like both their music and message. I can understand the words and the music isn't so fast or loud that I can't follow the story-line. The music seems to support and, not get in the way of the message. I also like their harmony. I think it is a real gift to sing with others and it sounds like it really belongs together. I wish more of us in the world could make harmony not just in music but, also, in theology, politics, etc. Evidently harmony doesn't mean that everyone sings the same note. It is our differences which are blended together in the same song and for a purpose more important than just my voice that makes beautiful harmony and music. I think their songs, many of which are about the events of the times, are prophetic. Their subtle and, sometimes not so subtle, challenge to the status-quo is refreshing. Of course, you will want to remember that I 'came of age' during the 60s and 70s when music spoke to the events of civil rights, war, poverty, etc. It is good to listen again to their music.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Choosing "All The Above"

There are a few times in life when we have the option of choosing all of our favorite things. Most of the time we have to choose one from several options but, occasionally we can have it all. Today is Labor Day. Everyone is sleeping late so I'm cooking breakfast. I have three favorite "dressings" for biscuits: Sorghum, lemon honey and black cherry jam. It is difficult to know which one is my favorite. So, on this holiday while everyone is sleeping, I've baked biscuits. I'm planning on eating three of them. One with each of my favorite dressings. Since someone has decreed that breakfast also involves some fruit, I'm eating some homemade apple sauce made by a colleague at the Center. This is a good beginning to a holiday. I like having the option of choosing "all the above." I'm also thinking about fixing some pancakes for supper. I've a friend who refers to pancakes as "wet bread." I think she doesn't know what good pancakes, real butter and honest Vermont maple syrup tastes like. Yes, I know about carbs, starches, etc. However, today is a holiday and I'll return to giving attention to a healthy diet tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Why so angry?

Our present political culture is confusing and frustrating me. I don't like it. I don't understand all of the anger. I know that anger may arise from wanting something and not being able to get it. In our culture most of us have more than we need and that may be the issue. We have become a greedy people--wanting more than we need. I don't understand people who have plenty but don't want to share in order that others may have what they need. For example, I have wonderful health insurance. Therefore, why wouldn't I, especially as a Christian, be willing to share through taxes so that others could have health insurance. Good health care for everyone is a moral issue for me. It seems like some are saying that they want God to care for the poor and needy among us. Only they just don't want them to be cared for with their tax dollars or in their neighborhood. I also know that anger causes us to loose our perspective. Angry people idolize their supporters and demonize those who disagree with them. None of our leaders or potential leaders are perfect and none of them are evil. All of them have some wonderful ideas as well as some terrible ideas. They are human beings trying to do their best as they understand their task. Our best decisions come from honest and respectful dialogue. We've more than enough arrogance and arguing. We need some humility. I wish we could disagree without being so angry and disagreeable. I pray that God would help us stop thinking of those whose ideas are not just like mine as an enemy.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Wobbling along

I've been reading a wonderful book on prayer. Bro. Frederick, a monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani, put me on to Michael Casey. His book, Toward God, is full of wisdom about prayer. From reading Father Casey's book (he is a monk in the Tarrawarra monastery in Australia), I get the sense that he has been praying for many years and not just talking about it. He writes about the struggles that I have. We usually desire some kind of benchmark or standard so we can tell we are progressing in the spiritual life. Monk Casey writes, "We wobble along the journey, stumble off the path, find ourselves attracted in other directions, stand still, even regress. This is almost a universal experience. What is significant is the strength of the reflex that keeps us bouncing back. There is something we keep returning to: a vision, a dream, a hope. Something gives us the courage to get up after each fall and resume the journey. This is concrete evidence of the Spirit's work, far more potent than any spiritual euphoria." (page 122-123) This guy is one who really prays and not one who just talks about praying. He describes my spiritual and prayer journey. He's been where I've been repeatedly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


During the summer, I'm a baseball fan. Granted I'm not as intense a fan as I am with college football or basketball, especially the OU football "Sooners." Nevertheless, baseball is a great summer pastime. I enjoy sitting on the front porch swing with a radio and listening to the Cincinnati Reds. Yes, I like the Cincinnati Reds, especially the coach, Dusty Baker. The Reds just finished playing a three game series with the St. Louis, Cardinals. The games were even played in Cincinnati. It was a series for the lead in the National League central division. The Reds entered the series in first place. Then, oops! They lost all three games. The series was even punctuated by a bench-clearing shoving episode. Whatever happened, the Reds lost all three games and are now chasing the Cardinals for the lead position. Sometimes things, friends, team members, family, etc. just don't work as expected. Hal Mumme coached the UK football team several years ago and he was reported to say after a messed up play, "Just play the next play." That's pretty good advise. Just go on and do what's next. When I spend a lot of time and energy wishing things had not happened or wishing they were different, I end up wasting a lot of time and energy. So, Cincinnati Reds, let's go on and play the next game. Could it be that Jesus meant something like this when he said to dust off the dirt of a city that wouldn't listen?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mindfulness and Gratefulness

I like what the words "mindfulness" and "gratefulness" bring to my thoughts. Some of you may recognize that the word "mindfulness" is attributed primarily to the Buddhists. It probably didn't originate with them although I really don't know either the concept or word's origin. Nevertheless, I like the word and the concept it brings to my mind. It seems to me that mindfulness means that I cause my focus and attention to be full of whatever I'm doing at that moment. It is practicing the discipline of attentiveness. I googled "mindfulness" to see what I might learn. I discovered several web-sites where they wrote about how mindfulness helps you relax, do better work, etc. I suspect that is all true but, I like mindfulness just for itself. The mind is full of whatever is present at the moment.
I'm not very good at multi-tasking and I really don't want to attempt the development of it either. I've been in conversations where the other person seemed to be looking over my shoulder for the next person and conversation. I like conversations with people who look at me when we are talking.
Gratefulness, at least to me, means a similar thing as mindfulness. It means that I give attention so that my mind is full of thankfulness. I not only want to be fully focused on the present but, also, grateful for the moment. I've liked the web-site for several years, especially the video.
Several years ago I remember being on an island bus from the airport to the hotel and overhearing a conversation between several tourists who were talking about the next time they come to the island. I recall thinking that it was a real loss that these excited folks weren't able to "be" at the island and grateful for it's beauty when they were already on the island and driving past beautiful scenery in delightful weather. I think they were not seeing or experiencing what they were looking and hoping for. I think mindfulness and gratefulness would be a helpful prescription for this malaise.

My, how things have changed!

This morning Judy and I will take a friend to the airport here in Lexington. She is traveling to Charlotte then Munich and finally to Moldova. She will be joining a group of other women on a "mission trip" to work among women who have been victims of human trafficking. Flying to Moldova doesn't seem unusual to me. I've flown to Europe or the middle East several times. However, I've begun to think about my parents and grandparents. If they were still living, flying to Moldova would sound like an impossibility. My how things have changed! I'm not even certain that my folks would understand what "human trafficking" really means. Not only this concept of flying across the ocean but I'm also developing an on-line class for the Lexington Theological Seminary which I will teach in January. I'm having fun learning this new technology and it isn't as difficult as I had imagined. However, my folks would not have never dreamed that someday a Professor could teach a class and the students not be physically present in the classroom. Yes, I know, neither could they have believed that the Professor could have been me but, that's another story or blog. My how things have changed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Counselor

On the side of my office file cabinet is a finger puppet of Carl Jung. I suppose I tend to follow his concepts in my counseling practice more than any other psychological theory. This means that I ask individuals to give attention to the source of meaning or purpose which they are seeking in their life as well as that meaning or purpose that seems to be seeking them. I also suggest that they may want to give some attention to their dreams. Psalm 16 was my reading this morning and verse 7 grabbed my attention. "I will bless the Lord who has counseled me: indeed my mind instructs me in the night." (ASV) How about that--was it just a coincidence? I think God frequently counseles with "divine hunches." I also think God uses some of my dreams. There are many significant dreams in the Bible. I'm pleased that God is a Counselor.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sitting on the front porch swing and wondering about church

There was early church, i.e., contemporary worship music, this morning since we were saying "Goodbye" to one of our music ministers. After church, there was a visit to the Farmer's Market for a dozen ears of sweet corn. I was at the Abbey yesterday and missed the Saturday Farmer's Market. For me, the Farmer's Market is about supporting local farmers and merchants. It is also about a sustainable economic system that doesn't depend upon fossil fuels transporting goods across the country. As I sat in the front porch swing shucking those ears of corn, I got to wondering how much difference there might be in our community if folks were members of and participated in their local neighborhood churches. Sort of a 'Farmer's market' type of church membership. That's the way it was when I was growing up but that's another blogging story. This neighborhood church would probably be small enough that we would get to know each other. The minister would live in the neighborhood. Children's and youth programs would be neighborhood programs resulting from churches working together rather than competing with each. We wouldn't have to use so much fossil fuel to drive across town for church. All of this came to mind just after noon as I sat on the front porch swing shucking sweet corn. I watched a neighbor and her daughter walking down the sidewalk. They were coming home from the neighborhood Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church. When they got in front of our house, they stopped and talked for a little while. The daughter is four months away from getting her driver's license and so excited. I don't know of a Baptist Church within walking distance in our neighborhood, but there is a Pentecostal and that Disciples church within a couple of blocks. I'm thinking about walking around the corner to that Disciples Church some Sunday.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

I Like Saturday evenings

Saturday evenings are pretty consistent at our house. I got into this pattern when I was Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church. I wanted Saturday evenings to be very quiet and restful in preparation for Sunday's responsibilities. That pattern has held its place even after I'm no longer the Pastor. I still like easy Saturday evenings. After supper, the radio is turned on and tuned to the National Public Radio station for Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." I really like that title because it says the truth so well. His music followed by stories about Lake Wobegon are really home companions. He is a wonderful story teller. After his show leaves the National Public Radio station, the Cincinnati Reds are on the television or the Lexington Legends are on local radio. I like listening and/or watching baseball. It isn't my favorite sport, that would be football, but baseball is made for a slow summer evening. I do baseball until the British Comedys come on Public Television. "The Last of Summer Wine," "Keeping Up Appearances," "Waiting For God" and "As Time Goes By" are on the schedule with our Kentucky Educational Television station. These British comedys are my favorite television shows. Unless I'm out of town, I don't miss them. I watch while snacking on a variety of cheeses, grapes, different types of crackers and a flavored sparkling water, usually Black Cherry. Sometimes I even stay up late and watch Masterpiece Theatre and the detective work of Miss Marple. She's so subtle and wise. I like watching a quiet, wise, older woman solving mysteries that confuse all others. Saturday evenings at our house are easy, enjoyable and restful. I like Saturday evenings.

The Farmer's Market

This morning we went to Lexington's Farmer's Market. The farmers and vendors set up their booths and tents around the old courthouse while their trucks are backed up to the sidewalks. There are a variety of individuals and small groups playing instruments and singing, with their musical cases open for donations. We saw and visited with several friends. This is a regular Saturday morning journey, and it is one that is greatly enjoyed. It is a delightful effort to support the local economy. We came to the house with homemade pasta and bread, which were made by a young couple both of whom have Spanish fathers, Italian mothers and who grew up in South America. We also brought home a baker's dozen ears of corn, some squash and a Casey County cantalope. Tonight we enjoyed the homemade pasta with just a touch of olive oil, fresh bread, along with a couple of ears of sweet corn. Doesn't get much better than times such as these.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


On my desk there are several special items that remind me of significant events and people. There is a fossilized portion of a sea animal about the size of a plum. That animal evidently lived in an ocean that is now Kentucky. I was given this memento by a young couple at whose wedding I officiated. I had known the wife's family a long time. I now use it as a paper weight but, when I pick it up my mind returns to their personalities, the wedding and the bride's family. On my desk there is also a pen and pencil whose cylinders are made of wood. I keep it in a special place. I was given this pen and pencil set perhaps 30 years ago by a young father and mother after I officiated at the funeral of their daughter. The daughter had a long period of illness and I tried to be at her hospital or home regularly. After the funeral, her parents came by the office and gifted me with the pen and pencil set. Any time I see it or pick it up, I'm reminded of her young life and her wonderful parents. There is also a pen set in a wooden base which is engraved with the word "gratitude." It was a gift of a long time friend who named me the god-father of her son who is now a young man. I cherish these mementos because they are far more valuable than anyone would know by looking at my desk. They are reminders of special people who have been very important in my life.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Tell Us You Didn't Mean That!

"Unless the global mission offering increases in the next year, we will call missionaries home.” That's how the Associated Baptist Press reported a statement by Dr. Daniel Vestal, Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship at a June 23rd meeting of the Coordinating Council. Surely he didn't really mean that. CBF began with the primary purpose of sending and supporting missionaries who would live and serve among the most neglected anywhere in the world, including the most neglected in the USA. Judy and I have been involved with CBF since the beginning about 20 years ago. We have served as Member Care ministers for European and North Africa missionaries for 13 years. We love and support CBF because of its mission focus. CBF, like other organizations, has grown in its mission and supporting system. CBF now does many wonderful ministries. However, the core or the heart of CBF is sending and supporting missionaries. Surely, the supporting staff in the Atlanta Resource office would be diminished to the bare minimum before there was any decision about diminishing the missionary force. Even after returning from a wonderful CBF General Assembly in Charlotte, we are shocked, saddened, angry, confused, anxious, etc. We were all reminded by the speaker during the final CBF worship in Charlotte that any bureaucracy can lose its focus and become primarily concerned about supporting itself. Has our CBF done likewise? Please, Daniel, tell us you didn't mean that.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Take Me Out To The Ballgame

My Father's Day gift was a trip to the Lexington Legends baseball game. Our seats were on the second row behind the catcher. I could hear fast balls smack the catcher's mitt and see the bottom drop out of a sinker ball. I was given the gift of jumbo hot dogs with way too much spicy mustard--just the way a ballpark hot dog is supposed to be prepared. The Legends won 10 to 6. Since the Legends are a very minor league club (South Atlantic League), between every inning there is some type of home grown enterainment, such as: kids in a taco sailing contest, mascots spinning with their heads on bats then trying to run the base-line, a couple in a pillow fight on a tall and very small inflated mattress; etc. At the end of the ballgame, there was a fireworks display. Well, you get the picture, a minor league baseball game is a lot of fun and they play baseball. Maybe someone will figure out how to make church more like minor league baseball games--a whole lot of homegrown fun in the midst of some "meetings." I think Jesus and the children would like this. Who knows, maybe even some of us older ones would have to become more like children--oops, I think someone has already said that.

I've been to a meeting

I've been to Charlotte, NC for the 2010 meeting of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The small extrovert part of me was thrilled and excited. The larger introverted portion of me is exhausted. It was a good time. I especially enjoy these meetings as I meet new acquaintances, see friends and renew former friendships. The highlight for me, as always, is to see so many of our friends who live and serve as missionaries. Their hugs and conversations are worth the expense of the meeting. I'm always drawn to and energized by the music in these meetings. Most of the sermons, speeches, lectures, etc. are okay and a few are inspiring. It took me many years as a pastor before I honestly realized that I wasn't the star on Sunday mornings. God/Jesus/Holy Spirit was the star and he/she/they were more likely to show up in the 'water fountain' conversations than my well-planned and delivered sermon. It wasn't that my preaching and teaching were unimportant; they never were the main thing. I'm glad that I went for the meeting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

One thing leads to another


We've been doing and having done some work at the house. Our home was built in 1927 and the single pane windows weren't doing a good job of holding in the cool and keeping out the heat. In the winter, it is just the opposite. So, the windows needed to be replaced. Two workmen arrived, and in a couple of days our twenty-two windows that were 83 year old were replaced. The old windows with their storm window additions are history, and new windows have been installed. They finished the installation with an aluminum surround molding so no one, that's me, will again need to paint those windows. The new windows are wonderful. Out first impression was the quietness, as we weren't hearing the outside noise as before. Our second impression was the air conditioner didn't seem to be running as frequently. We are pleased! However, workmen do leave hand and thumb prints so, the windows needed cleaning. Judy washed the windows, and this time she didn't need to go outside with a ladder to get to the outside of the windows. They tilt so the the outside is inside. A few days later we began noticing that our front and back doors looked old and, in addition, we could feel the summer's heat around the door. So, back to the store to look at new doors. The salesman and installers came to the house to talk about the doors, especially back door. They asked if we wanted to replace the back door sill, which has significant age and water damage--after all for 83 years folks have walked on it and it has collected rain and snow. The installer said that if he tore out the door frame to get to the sill, it might be a good time to think about some work on our deck. I built the deck about 20 years ago so, it is also old, worn. Yes the deck needs to be replaced. Well, one thing leads to another. This truth or reality is happening not only in regards with our house project but, also, with my life in general. Perhaps the message, if there is any message in this experience, is to make certain that choices are pointed in a good and healthy direction when I begin something, because one thing leads to another.



Saturday, June 12, 2010

A botched block

I've been watching the World Cup today. I'm thrilled that the USA did well against England. However, I feel sorry for the English goalie whose botched block enabled the USA to score and, thus, the match ended in a tie. I think all of us are capable of a botched occurrence. I know that I've had many. I hope the goalie can move on and not let this get in his way. He has to be an excellent player even to have made the team. Perhaps only those who are as excellent a player as he, have earned the right to make their comments and criticisms. That won't happen but, I wish it could--not only for his sake but mine and everyones as well.



Thursday, June 10, 2010

The mornings in my Office

I like the place where I work. The building is 100 years old this year. It is an old house that has been fixed up with heat/air conditioning, paint, wall paper, carpet, etc. Each room has a fireplace and even though they are no longer functional, the 'feel' is comfortable. I especially like getting to the office in the early mornings. The morning sun enters through my office windows and brightens up the whole area. During these early mornings the only sounds in the building are from a small water fountain on the bookcase in my office and a smooth jazz CD playing in the reception area. I like these times so I can sit silently being in wonder about the day and the people I'll meet. Sometimes, I read the Bible anticipating that the scriptures will work on me. Other times when I read the Bible I work on the scriptures with my mind seeking understanding and use of it's truths. I like my office, especially in the early mornings. Later in the day the building and offices will get busy with lots of people coming and going. I like that also but, it is different. I like my office, especially in the mornings. I hope everyone has a nurturing space.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back,
The only path to serenity."
(from the Tao te Ching #9, translated by Stephen Mitchell)

I like this quote because of it's ageless wisdom. I'm not certain that this is the only path to peace or serenity. Nevertheless, it is important to do my work and that my work is purposeful. Do it well then step back. It is crucial to know that who I am and my worth are not solely defined by what I do.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Gluttony and the oil spill

When I first read about the explosion on the Gulf of Mexico's oil rig, I grieved for the 11 men and their families who died. After a few days I had difficulty understanding why BP and/or the government couldn't stop the 'leak.' I've not found another word to replace 'leak' as that word doesn't seem to do justice to the large amount of oil rushing in the waters. As I watched images of the oil covered pelicans, the oil sheen and the oil washing into the marshes, I've grown frustrated and angry. I have listened to the interviews of the gulf coast residents whose work as well as life-styles have been significantly altered by this accident. Standing over against their ever growing loss is the BP's CEO whose compensation package was worth about $4.6 million in 2009 (see Lexington Herald-Leader, Eugene Robinson, June 6, 2010page D-1.)

I also began to think about the life-style to which I've grown accustomed with its dependency on oil based products such as gasoline, plastics, etc. My 'oil based' life style helped create the gluttony, dependency and demand that created a need for nearly 4,000 oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, only one of which has created such this accidental oil spill. I'm pretty sad and angry today.

Lord of Creation, I ask your forgiveness as I also ask for the wisdom and courage to live more simply so that others may also live.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Greetings from a warm and humid front porch,
We've returned from our journey to Oklahoma. We took my brother, Bobby, who is mentally challenged, back to Shawnee and Norman Oklahoma where we grew up for his 65th birthday. He did exceedingly well with flying. He repeatedly told me that "I'm not anxious." When the plane would bank for a turn he would grab my arm and say, "I can see the ground but I'm not anxious." He couldn't understand why the men and women, i.e., "policemen" at the airports wanted to see his shoes. He thought it was funny to want to look at peoples shoes. We visited cousins, 2nd cousins, the two former homes that were still standing (the other 2 have been removed so as to make church parking lots), our parents and grandparents graves, etc. We also visited the OU football stadium in Norman and ate at Hamburger King in Shawnee. We remembered, told stories, saw relatives we haven't seen in years and it was very good.

This afternoon we are going to celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary of some friends. We've known them thirty plus years. Been with them through deaths, weddings, divorces, illnesses, etc. We've been their pastor most of those 30 plus years. Their celebration will bring together family and many friends some of which we've not seen in several years.

As one who practices and teaches mindfulness, I (Rick) try to stay focused on the present. God is alive with me in this present moment as God is also present in my memories and future story. The trip and wedding celebration, however, have me focused on my memories of the past. Those memories remind me again of who I am because of loving family and friends who help to mold me and upon whose shoulders I stand with whatever gifts, abilities, interests, etc. with which I may have been granted by God. Deo gratis!

As we looked out over a Methodist parking lot that used to be our home, I wondered what they did with all of the OU football programs I collected through the mid-50s to mid-60s. Yes, I had collected every one of them and nailed them to the walls of my bedroom during that great run of victories for the Sooners. I have many other great memories of life around that house such as my first car--a Henry J. My friends and I pushed more than drove it. Nevertheless, I was proud of that automobile because I bought it for $50 which I had made from mowing lawns. I bet many of you have never heard of a Henry J. When the missionary Paul writes, "forgetting what lies behind," my theological reply during these past few days has been "Sorry," Paul "but those were pleasant memories of what's behind and I don't want to forget them completely." However, neither do I want to live in the past because the present is so exciting and the future is promising.

Remember that You are God's Gift and you possess many gifts. Just keep in mind that without the Gift, that is you, the gifts are not longer available. So take care of yourselves.