Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reflections on the Half Century Mark

Today is my 50th birthday.  Also, today I had the honor and privilege of speaking to the senior high school girls at a tea hosted by the local Lion's Club.  It is a fun thing they do every year.  The girls dress up, eat finger sandwiches, and drink tea from real china cups.  Many of the girls have never had that opportunity before. 

When I was first asked to speak, I noticed it was on my birthday, and that was part of what prompted my reflections for this post.  These girls are 18, give or take.  I was in their place 32 years ago.  There have been some major changes since 1983.  When I was a senior in high school, only a few took computer classes.  Now, it is part of the regular classes and elementary children know more than I did then.  The computing power they carry in their pocket is greater than the first computer which weighed 27 tons and took up a whole room. 

I reflected on what has happened in their lifetime, the events that to me were a brief period of time ago, and to them is history.  They were never really aware of a pre-9/11 U.S., and for them wars have always had ambiguous borders.  

Women have always been allowed at the Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel.  There has always been WNBA and female referees have always been in the NBA.   While there has been great advancement in the way of women's rights, there is still a long way to go. 

In the past fifty years the U.S. population has increased from 194 million to almost 319 million.  Life expectancy rose from 70 to 78.  The median family income has increased from $6,450 to around $52,000.  In 1965 a new house cost around $21,000, a loaf of bread was $.21, and a new car was around $2,650. 

I have learned a few things in a half-century.

1.  Everyone needs a role model and a best friend.  You need a role model that is an example of what you are working toward.  This does not mean you are trying to copy someone else, or not be yourself, it just means that someone who is further down the road is giving you an example of the possibilities and how to get there. 

It seems that the reason to have a best friend would be self-explanatory, but it isn't just for companionship, and it shouldn't just be anyone.  It should be someone that accepts you for who you are, where you are, but doesn't leave you there.  Someone that being around makes you a better person, and your presence in their lives encourages them to be better people as well.  Sometimes friends are lifetime friends, sometimes it is the season of life you are in that determines your friendship. 

2.  Everyone needs to know themselves very well, and to look at themselves honestly.  Looking at yourself honestly means you recognize your strengths and your weaknesses.  You do not make excuses for mistakes, but learn from them.  You examine your goals and work toward them without apology.  You also need to remember that it is okay to make mistakes as long as you learn from them and you continue to grow as a person.

3.  You need to know how to say, "I'm sorry." You will make mistakes (see #2), and sometimes those mistakes will hurt another.  It is important to say, "I'm sorry."  But you should never apologize for being who you truly are, as long as you are truly trying to grow as a person.

4.  Speaking kindly to everyone will serve you well.  Treat others - all others - with respect.  Regardless of their or your station in life, regardless of whether or not you think they deserve your respect, always speak to others with respect. 

5.  Don't be so focused on the present, that you forget that decisions you make now will affect the future.  Don't be so focused on the future, that you forget to live in the present.  Don't be so focused on the past that you never move forward.  Your life is not a series of disconnected moments, but part of a continuum.  Things that happen today will have an impact on the life you have in the future. Make the most of your whole life, not just concentrating on short term happiness, but learning to be patient that there are great things to come. 

These are just the top five musings for the half-century mark. 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Prayer For the Twentieth Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing

Today we gather to remember and reflect on an event that changed the way we see the skyline of downtown Oklahoma City; that changed for many a sense of security that since that day we can no longer have; that changed our understanding of the face of terrorism, and brought us horror when we realized the face looked like us.

Lord in your mercy…

We remember and pray for the people who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Those who wandered into the building to visit friends, change their name on their social security card, and other innocuous reasons to go to a building targeted by those who would seek to do evil.  There was nothing to tell them to stay away or indicate that the day would be any different. 

Lord in your mercy…

We pray for those who died, and those changed forever.  We remember the fragility of human life and give thanks for the breaths we take.

Lord in your mercy…

We remember and pray for those who had offices in the building, who were holding meetings, talking on the phone, typing, having inane conversation around the coffee pot in the break room.  Unsuspecting that that cup, that conversation, that thought would be their last.

Lord in your mercy…

We remember and pray for the people who were near the building on the street or across the street who, although not in the building targeted for destruction, lost their lives in the devastation anyway.

Lord in your mercy…

We remember those who responded, the one who died, and all who suffered great trauma at the sight of wreckage and desolation.  Those who still see visions in their dreams that they wish they could erase.  Those who medicated and self-medicated the pain away.  Those who took their lives because they could never find peace.  And those who love them.

Lord in your mercy…

We remember and pray for the children who died that day.  Children in the day care center where parents dropped off their children with a sense of security believing they would be picking them up that evening safe.  We remember the children who died while with parents or grandparents at the social security office.  We remember our children everywhere who have been victims of violence whether by a truck bomb or a school shooting or a political regime that cares little for human life. 

Lord in your mercy…

We remember grieving parents, grandparents, siblings.  We remember the children who, although they lived, their lives were never the same again.  We remember our duty and obligation to all our children to protect them from violence and the fear violence brings.

Lord in your mercy…

We remember the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, wives, husbands, children, beloved friends and even close acquaintances of those who were killed.  Whose grief was tangible, and even the sky cried that day.  

Lord in your mercy…

We remember and pray for those who lost their lives, and those who survived although forever changed.

Lord in your mercy…

As Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us, we pray and remember those who planned, plotted, schemed, and carried out this heinous act.  We pray that we may learn to trust again, in spite of our fear, because all of humanity is not responsible for the deeds of a few.  We pray for their families who were thrust into the spotlight, and were grieving as well.  We pray for them as best we can, Lord help us when we do not know how we should pray.

Lord in your mercy…

We pray for ourselves, that we might never forget to stand again injustice, oppression, violence and evil however it presents itself.  Lord give us strength and wisdom.  Lord grant us peace in the midst of a chaotic world.

Lord in your mercy…

Hear our prayers today and everyday, O God.  Amen.

Saturday, March 7, 2015


I have often remarked to members of my congregations that there should be a support group for parents of adult children. This writing from Henri Nouwen is helpful, I think, to understand our relationship with our children from another perspective. 

The Great Gift of Parenthood - Henri Nouwen

Children are their parents' guests. They come into the space that has been created for them, stay for a while - fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years - and leave again to create their own space. Although parents speak about "our son" and "our daughter," their children are not their property. In many ways children are strangers. Parents have to come to know them, discover their strengths and their weaknesses, and guide them to maturity, allowing them to make their own decisions.

The greatest gift parents can give their children is their love for each other. Through that love they create an anxiety-free place for their children to grow, encouraging them to develop confidence in themselves and find the freedom to choose their own ways in life.

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Today I woke early and went to the church where we hosted a district committee. We are pretty insistent on being as hospitable as possible, so we made sure there was coffee and ice water. Lunch was prepared for them and we stayed until they were finished. It makes for a long day, but although it took the same amount of time, it wasn't  as long as theirs. 

Today this committee met with ministry candidates, local pastors, and others who fall under the oversight of this committee. That kind of work is painstaking and tiring. It isn't physical labor, it isn't even necessarily unpleasant, but when taken seriously, you feel the weight of responsibility. It is tiring. 

Time is a funny thing. We say we "make" time, "take" time, time goes "quickly" or "slowly."  Sometimes I think "time" has a mind of its own. This weekend we are even "losing" an hour as we spring forward for the time change.  But in reality there is never any less or any more time, it is an illusion due to our perspective. 

As you set your clocks this Saturday night, think about what a precious gift time is. Enjoy the journey rather than rushing from big event to big event. Never "wish your life away" as my mother used to say. Savor each moment and make memories. 

I am glad you took some time to read these thoughts.  May your time be blessed tomorrow and throughout your life. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


This Sunday I am planning to have a blessing service as part of the morning worship service.  It reminded me of when I was last anointed and blessed.  After the service, I wrote this poem.

Faithful pilgrims with oily brows
  following as best we can the 
    footsteps of Christ.

Fearful people with songs of praise
   stuck in dry throats
      hoping God doesn't notice.

Weary travelers seeking a safe place for rest,
   come to the harbor of God's friendship.

God responds to the faithful, 
   the fearful, and the weary with open arms 
        and a heart full of divine grace and love.

I hope this poem blessings your journey of faith.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Has Reason Left Us?

It seems the current ideological climate is marked by unreasonableness.  I remember when you could have a conversation with another person and could disagree without resorting to hate-filled remarks and character assassinations.  You might even have a civil discourse in which new understandings could be found by both parties.  Now, the battle lines are clearly drawn and it seems all have chosen their sides. 

What happened?  It is as if we have dehumanized and demonized anyone whose views differ from ours.  We have become rigid in our opinions, and have closed our minds to any new ideas.  This makes learning problematic.  It also makes finding middle ground and discovering new perspectives virtually impossible.  Unreasonable disagreements are not new, but they do seem to have multiplied.

I'll admit it is difficult when the pendulum of reason swings so wide; when the middle has disappeared in the mire of extremism.  Good people are woefully uniformed, misinformed, and believe dubious facts because it supports their position.  Education has become suspect, and is even discouraged.  As someone who values as much education as you can get, I find this last part most interesting.  It seems that some would rather believe a lie, than to learn a truth that may challenge their views.  I cannot fathom this.

Today was a day of quite a few disagreements on social media.  People who otherwise might be nice, under the anonymity of the internet have said some very ugly things.  Intentionally twisting words and name calling seem to be the order of the day.  These are not teens who are caught up in online bullying, these are adults who are professionals in their field--and often in helping fields such as the clergy.

I am reminded of Jesus words as found in Mark 12:29-31:

Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.”

Do we show our love for God by our love for God's children?  Or do we want to narrow our understanding of who are children of God by our own standards, limiting our views even further?  Do we love our neighbors, meaning even those we disagree with most, as we love ourselves?  That would require us to respect their opinions as we would like ours to be respected.  

We live in a difficult time.  I would like to think that reason has not left us entirely, and with kind words and understanding spirits we can regain some of the reason that is needed in our country right now.  Join with me as we seek to bring a kind word, even in disagreement, and not hold grudges when others would say ugly things to us and about us.  Let us love one another as Christ has loved us and as we love ourselves.  

Monday, March 2, 2015


I have recently taken an interest in quilting.  That interest has not yet born the fruit of an actual quilt, but my intentions are good.  I am inspired by the quilting group at our church called "Piecemakers."  This title isn't just a cute name with a play on the words "piece" (meaning what you do when you put a quilt together) and "peace" (tranquility, no war, harmony, etc.), it is what we are called to do and be.  The ladies that are a part of this group make more than quilts, they make peace.  Their quilts offer comfort.  They provide quilts for those whose lives are chaos (lost everything in a fire or tornado).  They give quilts as gifts to youth leaving for college to reassure them that their church family loves them.  They do bring peace, and I am very thankful for them.

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus tells us "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."  To be children of God, we are to be about the business of peace. We are to bring comfort to others, bring harmony when there is discord, and advocate for non-violence whenever possible.

Too often, however, we are more busy sewing seeds of discord rather than harmony.  We cry for war rather than search for peace.  Our lives reflect anything but tranquility as we seek retribution and revenge.  We are too busy being just like everyone else rather than the body of Christ.  We fail miserably at being the children of God we are called to be.  This is the sad truth of our witness as Christians.

But this is the season of Lent.  The season of honest reflection and repentance.  We can only repent when we are first honest with ourselves and quit making excuses for our behavior.  It is time we turn from our ways back to God's ways.

Blessed are those who seek to and live in peace with one another and with God.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'll try to do better...

I'm not doing very well at my Lenten practice.  I forgot yesterday until very late, so I thought I would do two today.  I forgot again.  So, maybe I'll do one tomorrow since everything is snowed under here. 

I'll try to do better, of course I am reminded of the immortal words of Master Yoda, "Do or do not, there is no try..."  It's one of my favorite sayings that I tend to share with anyone who tells me they will "try."  Particularly, if I feel it seems to be an empty promise. 

My efforts to do better, come with all the best intentions though.  I just know my tendency to procrastinate.  What I can promise, however, is to keep making an effort.

For today though, I will leave you with this thought from St. Francis of Assissi

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.

O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.


Thursday, February 26, 2015


In many parts of the U.S., there is snow, ice, sleet, freezing rain, and all around yucky weather.  The sky is gray and the ground is hard.  I'm ready for warmer weather, buds sprouting, and sun.  Of course, we have to go through the winter to get to the spring.

As much as I want to hurry through the cold, I am reminded of words of wisdom my mother would say when I would wish something would come to pass, "Quit wishing your life away."  I did not fully appreciate this as I do now that I am older.  My children have been born, were children, teens, and are now young adults.  I have aged -- some days more gracefully than others.  I have learned, and soon I will be graduating--again.  But it isn't always just education from books and school, I have life experience as well.  I hope this all means that I have a certain amount of wisdom. 

Life is meant to be lived, one day at a time.  We should enjoy or at least experience life every day.  The ups and downs are what make us who we are, and learning from these things is what gives us life experience, wisdom.  At times we would like to avoid the pain, but it is the winter that makes me appreciate the warmth of the sun that much more.  We appreciate the ups in our life, because of the down times. 

Romans 5:3-5.  "And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My View is Limited

I do not know many people who enjoy walking in the dark.  Most of the time we stumble around, stubbing our toes and knocking our shins.  We prefer to clearly see where we are going and any obstacles in our path.  

While we can flip a switch to light the room, we cannot do the same with our future or understanding spiritual truths. There are folks who claim to see clearly in the dark--maybe they think they can--maybe they do not know what the world looks with the light on. 

1 Corinthians 13:12 tells us "We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!" (The Message)

We may be squinting trying to see through the dimness of this world, but God sees things clearly. We will too one day, but until then we can trust in the One who sees clearly until that day when we can see.