Is this political or theological?

It is hard not to be discouraged.  It is hard to fall asleep with all the disaster and hatred in the air.

I have decided that my opposition to the current administration is on two levels.  The first is policy. I have been unhappy with other presidents for the policies they implement.  Once again, this President and the Republican Congress are trying to sell trickle down economics to us.  It has been tried and it does not work. The rich get richer and the middle class gets nothing. Huge tax breaks for the richest and more burdens for the poor and middle classes. That in and of itself is UNCHRISTIAN.  So are other policies concerning immigrants and the environment. But these are policy issues. I am OK with an administration that enacts policies that I don’t like. I have the right to vote and that is my voice on those matters.

In policy, Trump has demonstrated that he is inept and harmful to things I care about.  My faith informs me that I should oppose these policies.

But there is another level of anguish that I have not felt before; even with administrations that I have disagreed with in policy. This opposition is about the man himself. He comports himself like a 5th grader. He resorts to name calling and blaming everyone else for the trouble he causes. He mocks the free press. He lies regularly. He issues racial slurs and sexist remarks and mocks people with disabilities. He tacitly supports a  man who sexually abused a 14 year old.He incites hatred with videos that may or may not be true. He has demonstrated so much arrogance and ignorance that I suspect that he is mentally unstable and ethically unfit to be president.

I have watched and waited for the investigations to determine that he should be impeached. But it is taking so long. I wake up every morning to see if he has instigated nuclear war with North Korea. It is hard not to be discouraged.

So I asked God to help me understand how I should respond.  And in a still small voice, God asked me the source of my trust.  Of course I trust God and not politicians.  Then God placed a thought in my mind that the right will prevail and that God is in charge, not me or Trump or any other human being.  The source of my help; the reason for my hope is that God is in charge. I will not lose courage or faith.

So I am going to stop fretting about this mess in Washington and rest in the knowledge that God will fix it in God’s time. That is the source of my peace. So I will not be discouraged. I will put my trust in God .I will watch and wait.I  I will vote. I will believe that God has a better story for this nation and then I will sleep in heavenly peace.

A Thanksgiving Sermon

I based this sermon on an article I read many years ago. I do not have the name to credit the idea. I re-wrote it with my own thoughts.

 

COMMUNITY THANKSGIVING SERVICE

I THESSALONIANS 5: 14-24

 

The preacher mounted his pulpit standing high above the congregation. And gathered there before him were 100. That 100 that represented all the people of the world. He placed a lozenge in his mouth so that his voice became sweet and oily. And he said, “Let us give thanks to the Lord.” And the 100 said, ”Amen.” But there was no joy in that Amen.

“Let us give thanks for our fine possessions: For our homes and our furnishings; for our fine clothes and all those things which give us comfort and security,” said the preacher. And five who lived in poverty and three who were homeless and two who two who owned nothing stood up. And ten in all walked out.

“Let us give thanks for our jobs: For meaningful work that makes us feel worthwhile and provides us with what we need for a good life.” And five who were unemployed and three who were under-employed without benefits and two with no skills or education made their way out of that place.

“Let us give thanks for our food: For the nutrition and the joy of the taste of our bounty of food.” Then the poor who had not eaten in days and the mother who had watched her child die of malnutrition and all who never knew that joy of regular meals disappeared.

But the preacher continued. “Let us give thanks for our families and our friends: For the ones who provide us with companionship and love.” And a widow who lived alone and a man who had no friends and a boy that was an outcast as school and seven others who knew loneliness slipped out of that congregation.

Now beads of sweat were starting to form on the preacher’s forehead. But he pressed on. “Let us give thanks for our intellects: For minds that comprehend great ideas and enjoy great literature and explore the deepest truths of the universe.”  And those who were mentally challenged and those with severe learning disabilities and the imbecile all stood up and made their way out of that church.

The preacher without seeming to even notice went on. “Let us give thanks for our bodies: For healthy lets that carry us where we want to go: For strong arms that are able to do the tasks that are required of us.” And there were several in wheel-chairs and two who had lost limbs in war and others whose bodies had been ravaged by disease: Ten in all left that church.

But the preacher, drawing unction from his lozenge proceeded.  “Let us give thanks for our senses: For eyes that see the beauty of God’s creation: For ears that hear the wonderful sounds of music and discourse.” There were the blind, who tapped the deaf and ten more were gone.

“We can certainly give thanks for our mental health: For the control of our emotions and our moods,”  he said.  Only to see those who were bi-polar and those who were addicted and the depressed and the ones with uncontrollable violent tempers. In all, ten more were no longer a part of that congregation.

With his lozenge beginning to melt he cried out, “Let us give thanks for our freedom.” And the ones who were oppressed by their governments and the ones who were without a voice and the ones who were imprisoned all slipped out.

In desperation the preacher said, “Let us give thanks for justice: For the rights we enjoy and for the equality of treatment under the law.”  And the refugee from Syria and the dissident form North Korea and the Muslim form New York and the gay man form Wyoming and the black woman from Alabama left.

And the preacher looked down from his pulpit and there was no one there. All 100 had left. And his lozenge was gone. And he went out into the darkness and he cried out to God in a cracked voice, “Why have they all left?” And God answered, “Because you have given thanks for that which I never promised. When did I promise you possessions or health or any of these things?”  And the preacher said, “Then O Lord, for what CAN we give thanks?” And the Lord said, “You can give thanks that I am with you no matter what.”

So the preacher went out into the courtyard outside the church where the 100 had gathered. And he said, “My friends, I have deceived you. We can no gloat over what some of us have and other do not. But we can give thanks that God is with us no matter what.”

And the 100 came back into the church. And the preacher stood on the floor beside his congregation of 100. And he said, “Let us give thanks that the Lord God is with us.” And 100 voices said, “Amen.” And there was great joy in that Amen.

Grace points

I had back surgery two weeks ago.  I greatly underestimated the amont of pain that would go with recovery. I am healing; two steps forward and one step back.  I have also felt a kind of a blue funk setting in. I have felt down and teary for no particular reason. I don’t know if that is a normal post-op thing or not.

But in the midst of pain and impatience to feel better, I have become keenly aware of what I call grace points.  Grace points are those undeserved moments of love that come to you in the worst of times.

The first is my wife. She is indeed an amazing woman.  She has taken care of me like no other person could. She has made herself exhausted and rejected calls to rest and take care of herself. Her love is totally unconditional and selfless. I don’t deserve her.

The second is my daughter Hope. She has called ever day with words of encouragement. Often her calls are video and I get to see my grand-daughter Eve busy at play. That has been good medicine in itself.  I don’t deserve anything from Hope. All the love that she shows me is pure grace The other kids and family members have helped too. I have no claim on any of them in terms of loving me. I surely have not earned it but they love me still.

Friends have called and sent cards and Facebook images. They have put me on prayer chains and offered to do anything they could to help. This is Christian fellowship where it counts the most. I will not forget them.

And finally, I received grace from a local pastor near our new home.  We are not members of her church. We have worshiped there a few times.  But she came and prayed with me the morning of surgery. She visited twice more. Her prayer in the ER. the day of my terribly painful set back was the perfect reminder to me that God was the source of all grace. A member of her church showed up the next Sunday with bread and soup. Another member called to let me know that I was still in their prayers. I own the saints at Westminster a huge expression of gratitude for their ministry to my wife as well as myself.

I think sometimes in the depths of pain grace points are what sustain us until the healing comes.  Now I want to try harder to provide grace points to others who are suffering.

surgery

I will have surgery on my lower back tomorrow. It’s not a life-threatening operation and I am really not afraid. If anything, I am looking forward to having this pain stop. For ten months, I have been in pain and restricted from any physical activities.

I began to think about all of the times I have been at the hospital early in the morning to pray with a church member who was about to go into surgery. Many people have a certain level of anxiety about that. I think it is probably normal. A person  you hardly know is going to put you into a deep sleep and then cut you open.  I understand how that could make a patient nervous.  Maybe I should be more afraid than I am.

When I did those pre-op visits, I tried to do several things. I tried to make them laugh bringing a sense of calm. I  reminded them that the whole church would be praying for them. I prayed with them for success and full recovery. I prayed for the surgeon. Then I talked to them about when I would visit them after the surgery. I don’t know how effective it was. But many folks later told me that my visit made a difference.

Tomorrow when I go under, I will not be afraid. That’s not because I am brave or heroic. It’s simply that I have trust. I trust this man who will do the surgery. He has tremendous training and a lot of experience. But more than that, I trust God to see me through. I will go to sleep in the knowledge that God will be with me and the doctor. I gladly hand my life over to the control of someone else because in a greater sense my life is in the hands of God. God has been there from my birth until the present time. God will be with me tomorrow and in the recovery process that follows.

John says that perfect love casts our fear. Maybe we could add that perfect trust in that love does the same thing.

 

JOKE OF THE DAY

I have always struggles with my weight. I was lost once in New Jersey. I stopped at a bar and asked, “Can you tell me how to get to 204?” He answered, “Well, you might start with a salad.”

A few thoughts on criticism

How do you take criticism? Maybe it depends on how it is given.  Most people will say that they are fine with constructive criticism. But when it is nasty and hurtful, they don’t react well. Sometimes it is hard to tell the difference.

In my life, I have struggled with criticism. It is not always easy for me to tell when the person who is  saying negative things is doing it to help me or to hurt me. When the criticism has been about my work, I am usually able to put that in perspective. Although there have been  things said about my work that I have taken too personally.

Recently a reader had some unkind words about my eulogy for a good friend. I had to reflect on his opinion that I  was selfish and always seeking attention for myself.  I asked myself if that was a valid critique. The answer was no.

I am far from perfect. I have flaws and weaknesses like everyone else; including the critic mentioned above. When criticism is given in the spirit of helping me improve I am willing to consider it and try to correct behavior. That still doesn’t mean that I don’t take it personally when it is given. It hurts.
That would be one of my many weaknesses. I could give a sermon and 199 people would love it and one person would pan it and guess what would rob me of sleep that night?

Sometimes people whom I have learned to trust offer an evaluation. That’ s easier to take because I know they are doing it to try to help, rather than trying to hurt. I am pretty introspective and self-critical. Often when I get past the hurt feelings, I realize that the criticism is correct.

But when random people who really don’t know me give some harsh criticism, I tend to ask what is going in that person’s life that they feel the need to be nasty?

I try very hard to be constructive with others. I think about being kind before I say anything negative. And if I do offer criticism, it is about particular actions instead of the person. I also try very hard not to fight back.  If someone says something negative about me or my work, I try very hard not to say something negative about that person.

Once I had a man say that I had not provided good pastoral care when his wife died. This troubled me a great deal. I took some time to ask myself if it was valid. I spend many long hours with her and her family both before and after her death. I could not understand how I had failed him. I never stopped caring about him, even in the pain that his comments caused me.

Then some months later he came to see me and apologized. He said, “I was so caught up in my grief that I could not see how deeply you cared for us. I am so sorry.”

So here is my three point sermon to myself about criticism.

  1. Learn to listen and discern what kind of criticism is being offered. If it is given by someone who knows you or your work, and it feels like it was offered to help you be better, then accept it without hard feelings and make the changes suggested. If it is just someone being nasty, let it be and pray for the healing of the unhappiness in that person’s life.
  2. Either way, don’t take it to heart. And don’t retaliate. You don’t know what that person is dealing with in his or her life. Dr. King said,”Darkness cannot cast out darkness. Only light can do that.”
  3. Don’t criticize others unless it is truthful and kind and necessary. If it is not requested or intended to help that person grow then keep it to yourself.

JOKE OF THE DAY

A man joined a religious society that demanded complete silence.  The brothers were given one day a year when they could speak. The first talking day the  man said to the abbot, “The bed is too hard.” The second day of speaking a year later the brother said, “The food stinks.” The next year he said to the abbot, “I hate it here. I am leaving.” To which the abbot replied, “It’s just as well. All you have done is complain for three years.”

Sermon on inspiration and mission

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LET’S STAY HERE

MARK 9: 2-9     

I.  TRANSITORY TRANSCENDENCE

A. A new church was nearing completion. They wanted to put a scripture verse over the doorway of each of the rooms. They asked parents with young children to suggest a verse for over the nursery room. The winner was I Corinthians 16: 51. It says in the King James “We shall not all sleep  but we shall all be changed.”

B. Change is hard for some. The old joke asks how many Presbyterians it takes to change a light bulb. And the answer is Change?  Or how many Presbyterians does it take to change a light bulb?  One to change the bulb and 3 to talk about how the old bulb was better. Sometimes it just seems like it would be so much easier if we were to keep things the way they are.

C. This story is about change. Jesus is transfigured. That means his appearance is radically changed. The best way we can understand this is to say that the glory of God shone so brightly that it overwhelmed his humanity. The three disciples are witnesses to this. Things are not always what they appear is what they learn. The appearance of Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets provides continuity with the past present and future of God’s relationship with humanity.

D. For Peter, James and John, this is a moment of transcendence. What they experience on the mountaintop is beyond explanation. It is one of those all too rare moments when God pulls back the veil and we are blown away by what the Hebrews called the Shekinah; the glory of God.  It’s usually described as bright light. The clothing that Jesus wore, the face of Moses, the resurrected Jesus, the robes of the martyrs in Revelation; all bright with the light of God’s amazing presence. It changes people.

E, We might have to look a little harder to find our moments of transitory Fredrick Buechner gives some examples. (From,Whistling in the Dark p.108)

“Even with us something like that happens once in a while. The face of a man walking his child in the park, of a woman picking peas in her garden, of sometimes even  the unlikeliest  person listening to a concert, say, or standing barefoot in the sand watching the waves roll in or say just having a beer at a Saturday baseball game in July. Every once and so often. something so touching, so incandescent, so alive transfigures the human face that it’s almost beyond bearing.”

The challenge for us might be to be alert for those moments of holy transcendence.

 

II. REACTION

A. But the challenge facing the three disciples on the mountaintop was different. They had to come to terms with the fact that transcendence is not lasting.  They were taken in by the wonder of this moment of transfiguration. It’s funny. Mark tells us that Peter didn’t know what to say. That would have been a first, but it didn’t last. Finally he speaks up and says, “Wow, Jesus, this is great. It will never get any better than this. Let’s stay up here forever. We can build three booths. There will be one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah. Oh and by the way, there are three of us disciples here, so that works out perfectly.”

B. I can understand Peter wanting to stay. Maybe there was a little fear at the awesome sight of Jesus transformed at first. But that was nothing when compared to the fear of having to go back into the valley. Things got ugly in the valley. There were sick people and hurting people. There were religious people who hated them. And even if they didn’t like to admit it, even to themselves, they knew that there was a cross somewhere in the valley.

C. So which would you choose? I can go back down off of this mountaintop and face the hardship of the real world. Or I can stay up here in and glory in the presence of God, past present and future.  You can get taken in by those holy transcendent moments.  We had a few of those moments on vacation. Vistas of green hills and ocean water as blue as in your dreams, a slight warm breeze as you listen to steel drums in the distance sipping a cool drink with the woman you love. It’s tempting to think, “I wish this moment would last forever.  I wish we didn’t have to go back.”

 

III. BACK INTO THE VALLEY

A.But it doesn’t. And you can’t. There will come a time when we will live on the mountaintop of heaven. There will come a time when we will bask in the glory of God’s presence eternally. But not yet. The key verse in this whole transfiguration story is verse 9. “As they were coming down…” Jesus knew there was still work to do in the valley.

B. The artist Raphael understood that too. His painting of the transfiguration depicts two scenes on one canvas. At the top is the story of the transfiguration of Jesus with Moses and Elijah and Peter and James and John.  And at the foot of the mountain is the epileptic boy who needed the healing touch of Jesus. The glory of the mountain and the work in the valley could not be separated. There is no glory without the work. There is no work without the glory. There is no praise without mission. There is no mission without worship.

C. The mountaintop moments of transcendence are not meant to last. They are meant to propel us back into the valley of real life with all of its pain and mess and challenge. In a virtually unknown song, John Henry Bosworth, Noel Paul Stookey wrote, “I was wondering if you had been to the mountain to look at the valley below. Did you see all the roads tangled down in the valley? Did you know which way to go? Oh the mountain air breathes pure and clear and I pray to my soul that I could please stay here. But there’s a reason for living way down in the valley that only the mountain knows.”

 

IV. PERSONAL SHEKINAH

A.I take away two big lessons from this story. The first is that I do not need to be afraid of the Shekinah.  My handicap is my education which has been based on rational skepticism. But life has taught me that there are things that go beyond what can be explained. Gordon has helped me to open up to possibilities of transcendence. Are we still open to a new view of reality that transforms our understanding of life and creates moments of awe? When was the last time you were in awe of something? That is, something that you could not put words to, but moved you in a deeper place than rational thought could take you?

B. I think there are more moments of awe than we are ready to admit. There are more transfigurations than we can’t talk about. Some of them, maybe most of them are not religious on the surface. Maybe we are afraid people will think we are crazy. Maybe people will explain it away as psychological or hysterical or emotional or irrational. Maybe we just can’t tell anyone else what it was and why it was glorious. I have learned that you have to be open to it. If you say you will never see God lift the veil, you are probably right. If you say God may grant me a few moments that transcend the senses then you are probably right.  I am more ready now for a light that surprises.

C. The second lesson for me is that all the work in the world in the valley is useless unless you have been to the mountaintop. Notice how none of the people in the valley are looking up except the boy. It is the power that comes from the Shekinah that makes the work we do in the valley effective. There is another kind of reality that is ready to shine on our human experience. If we are open to it, we will transcend the limits of sense and rationality. Then we will be empowered to make a difference in the valley.

D. And I was wondering if you had been to the mountain to look at the valley below. Did you see all the roads tangled down in the valley? Did you know which way to go?  Oh the mountain air breathes pure and clear and I pray to my soul I could please stay here. But there’s a reason for living way down in the valley that only the mountain knows.

 

Pro Life Pro Choice

I am pro life. Now that needs further explanation. We love to categorize people by simple terms like conservative and liberal, pro life and pro choice. But it’s more complicated than that.

Some people call themselves pro life. But what they really mean is that they are anti-abortion. That is not the same thing. Pro life to me, means that we are concerned with the sanctity AND quality of life for all people. I am concerned about the unborn. But I am also concerned with the ones who have been born into poverty and injustice and abuse and neglect.

In a way, I am also pro choice. I believe a woman should always have a choice as to whether or not she wants to engage in behavior that leads to pregnancy. She has a choice to abstain or use dependable birth control. That is when she makes her choice.

If the woman has NOT had that choice. If she has been raped, (pregnancy from rape is rare) or if she had no real choice in the conception, then she should have the choice to terminate that pregnancy. That is pro choice. If her life is in danger, than she should have the right to terminate the pregnancy as well. That is pro-life; the life of the mother.

So abortion should be legal, safe and rare. I have heard pro choice people say that I have no right to an opinion because I am a man and it is totally up to the woman what to do with her body. I reject that. I don’t have a choice to kill someone. It is called law and it is essential to an orderly society.  Many of the babies who are killed are male and they have no choice at all. So the society as a whole must stand up for them and protect them from death that is just a convenience for a mother who made the wrong choice some months ago.

Some say to make abortion illegal except in cases of rape or the mother’s life will send women to dangerous places to have abortions.  That is tragic. We have made heroin illegal and people go to dangerous places to get it. But that does not change the reasoning behind the law. When a woman is pregnant  there are two lives here. A mother must make an ethical decision.  There are lots of people who would love to adopt a child. The price the mother pays for her choice to have sex without regard for conception is that she should carry the child to term and have it be born alive and well. Then, her responsibility ends and the child is raised by loving and sometimes desperate parents.

Extreme pro life people seem to care about the child only while it is in the womb.  It  strikes me as odd that these people seem to care little about what happens to the child once it is born. (Many pro life people advocate for the death penalty??)

Extreme pro choice people have conveniently decided that the child within them, with a beating heart and a developing brain is not really a person.  Hitler justified the Holocaust by convincing people that Jews were not really people. I reject both of these extremes.

So in a strange sort of way, I am both pro life and pro choice.

Read Jeremiah 1: 5

A theological editorial

“The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  John 1: 5

I have said that every year on Christmas Eve during Candlelight Service. But it is beginning to get harder to sustain my belief that it is true.

I’m beginning to wonder if someone didn’t open the windows of hell.

I am beginning to struggle with keeping hope for a brighter future alive.

I know we have had hard time before. My parents generation witnessed the holocaust and Jim Crow and lynchings.  But now we have gotten so used to mass murder that it hardly catches our attention anymore. Has there been a time when evil seemed so omnipresent?

There have been 181 shootings in this country in the last year with four or more fatalities. That is a staggering number. While we were all shocked and saddened by the tragedy in Las Vegas, there was another mass shooting in Kansas that didn’t even make the front page. It is as if we lost our  moral road map.  When we “got over” the killings in New Town, we accepted mass murder as a part of the American landscape. Still, we do nothing about it.

I’m not talking about foreign terrorists now. These are all Americans killing Americans because of religion or racism or crime or for no apparent reason at all.

We are a divided people.  Hatred and fear are the most powerful forces sweeping across our nation. That’s how Donald Trump got elected. America first sounds so much like Germany in the 1930’s. We are them and us.  Our President resorts to name calling and blaming the media for reporting what is happening. He calls anything critical of him “fake news.” But his own words show him to be the most divisive force to hit America since the Civil War.

And it is not only the President. Members of Congress are so deeply in the debt of the NRA that they cannot bring themselves to to pass legislation that will make it harder to get high powered, military, rapid fire, automatic weapons.  Many of them sent their thoughts and prayers. But nothing will change and the mass killings will continue. ISIS doesn’t need to terrorize us. We are doing a pretty good job of that ourselves.

No citizen needs a bump stock automatic weapon.  Congress protects their own financial interest and hides behind the second amendment. And still claim to be Christians.  The Apostle Paul said, All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial.”  You have the right as an American to bear arms. But the need to own assault rifles like the kind that killed 58 people in Las Vegas beneficial? Or are they born our of hatred and fear.

And so many in our nation now see Christianity or any faith as old fashioned or as a low priority. When Israel got to the point that evil was seen as acceptable and lies were called truth and people ignored their need for God and made ME FIRST the norm,  God was displeased and brought judgment upon that nation.  Isaiah said they had made a covenant with death. (Isaiah 28) Have we as a people made our own covenant with evil and self interest?

Still there are little glimmers of hope. There are still good people who want not only pray for victims, but to take courageous action to try and stop the madness. There are those who rush in to help in spite of danger. There are it seems to me more and more citizens who are tired of the same old excuses and party loyalty and are demanding change.

John Lennon said, “If the ending is not OK, then it probably isn’t really the ending.”  God, I hope so John. Of course John isn’t here to hear me, because it was too easy for a mentally disturbed person to buy a gun.

There are those who will not like what I have written here. They will say that I am “One of Them.  Is there any chance that we could ever be united behind real truth and Mica’s summary of how we are to live? “Do justice. Love Kindness. Walk humbly with God.”  Can we ever love ALL of our neighbors as ourselves in spite of our differences? Honest to God, I don’t know. But I still have hope.

In the midst of the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln said  two things that are very relevant to these days. He said that he did not pray that God would be on our side. Instead, he prayed that WE would be on God’s side. Maybe that matters more than the second amendment. He also said, “There have been many times when I have been driven to my knees in prayer because I had nowhere else to turn.” I am right there with you Abe.  The best we can do is to do everything we can and then trust God for the rest. Let your light, no matter how little, shine in the darkness.

God of grace and judgment, change the hearts of our people. Remove the hatred and fear and selfishness that divides us.  Open our spirits to love and kindness and justice and humility. Amen.

For I know the plans that I have for you are plans for your welfare and not for calamity; to give you a future and a hope. When you call on me, I will answer you. You shall seek me and find me, when  you search for me with all of your heart and I will be found by you, declares the Lord. 

 Jeremiah 29: 11-14

I hope so.

A Eulogy for Karl

My friend died.  We had been the closest of friends since we were 12 years old. His name was Karl. He was one of the brightest people I have ever known. He was a musical genius.  I was the best man at his wedding. I feel a sadness that he is gone too soon.

We came of age together. We drank before we were old enough. He used to drink in the backyard. We would cough when we opened our cans of beer so that his mother wouldn’t hear us. I suspect she knew what we are up to anyway.  We lied about what we thought we knew about girls.  We slept over many nights. In the summer we would camp out in his backyard or mine. That’s when we did most of our serious talking about life and dreams and love.

Sometimes we would “late date”our girl friends, then meet at a tavern for a few beers before turning in. Karl only ever loved one woman. He was totally devoted to her no matter what. We got into more trouble than we should have.

We laughed; a lot. We laughed at Chiller Theater and Monty Python and Woody Allen books.

Karl loved his family. He worked at a job that was not really fulfilling for 30 years to support them.

He enjoyed fishing and camping and the Pirates and the Steelers. He loved jazz and good books. He was an interesting guy. And I loved him. I am pretty sure I never told him that. I would have had to surrender my man card to say the words out loud. Maybe we didn’t have to say it. Maybe we just knew.

When he told me he had liver cancer I did not know what to say. No clever pastoral lines came to me. I think I just said, “shit.” It was Karl who talked about a solid faith from which he had never strayed. He served his church faithfully and put his musical ability to work there. He shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s in God’s hands now.” He was ministering to me. Now he is in God’s hands and for him all is well.

When the call came, I sat and had a good cry. Then i opened a can of Iron City Beer as I coughed. I said, “Here’s to you and the good life you lived. Thanks for being the best friend I ever had. I love you buddy.” I hope he could hear me.

Two quotes and a funny story

The quote  is from President Jimmy  Carter. He said, “If you don’t want your tax dollars spent to help the poor, then you don’t want  America to be a Christian nation.”

The second one is from James Forbes.  “No one gets into heaven without a reference letter from the poor.”

JOKE OF THE DAY

An atheist lived next to a woman who was faithful, but poor.  With windows open, he would hear her pray, “O Lord, please bring me some food.” Night after night it was the same thing. So one day he decided to trick her. He went to the store and bought several bags of groceries. He put them on her door step and hid in the bushes. When she came to the door and saw the groceries she cried out, “O thank you Lord. I KNEW you would not forsake me.” Just then the confirmed atheist jumped out and said, “Ah ha!, God didn’t give you these groceries, I DID!”  There is no God and your prayers didn’t do anything.” The woman paused and then cried out in a loud voice, “O God you are so good. Not only did you bring me some groceries, but you made the devil pay for them!”