Tuesday, December 29, 2015


 Everyone should make some. New Year Resolutions. It is a great opportunity to do some life planning, to set some goals that you can work towards in the coming year. It is a time for renewal. What better way to make yourself depressed than to realize that you have very little control over your life. Still, I think it is worthwhile to get some things down on paper:

I'm going to work on my patience. I have way too much. I've been waiting for Congress to do the right thing for years. It obviously ain't going to happen. The time has come.

I'm going to learn more about computers. After all, computers are the future. You can do everything and anything from a computer. I heard the other day a guy had sex with a woman in a chat room. And here I am blogging.

I recently made a commitment to change everything I possibly can in a 24 hour period. I started with my underwear. Today I'm going to work on changing people's opinions about war. Most people seem to like war. Once I explain to them how getting shot can really hurt, I'm sure they will change their mind. Later, I'm going to change my socks. Then I'm going to work on changing our health-care system. The fiscal cliff. I already fixed that. Who cares? Most of the country is already over the cliff.

I'm going to try to be more patriotic. I love this country, although there are a few things I would like to see changed, like starting universal health-care, ending corporate control of Washington, protecting individual rights, sending the Supreme Court to Afghanistan, ending corporate welfare, cutting the defense budget in half, and eliminating corporate donations to candidates, and only allowing individuals and corporations to contribute $20. Other than those things, and maybe a half-dozen others, this place ain't all that bad.

I'm going to try to stop cussing, although I don't see the point of it. Cussing has become quite common. Books, TV, radio, newspapers, school yards, nursery schools. Everybody cusses. The first word me son said was damn. I tried to kid myself into believing he meant dam, like a structure that holds back water, but who was I kidding. The whole "damn" thing still upsets me.

I have to get over being disappointed with ministers. I was almost one myself. I think my disappointment with most reverends has to do with expectations. I expect them to help us with our spirituality, not our ideology, although I do think Christ would have been a liberal Democrat.

Forgiveness is hard. I need to work on forgiveness. Forgiveness is closely linked to forgetting. I'm good at forgetting, but bad at forgiving. A lot of times I forget who I forgave. This can end up being embarrassing. So if I forgave you, but I'm not acting like it, forgive me.

I have to start trusting people more. After 9/11, I have become terrible. I no longer open the mail, which has vicariously helped my financial position, and when my kids call, I make them give me their social security number. The only person I really trust is my wife, which I have no explanation for. I'm beginning to trust people of color a little more, but I can't find any here in the Village. I have flown since 9/11. It wasn't that bad. I was only detained for 24 hours. I think it was the wig and fake beard.

So there, another year of resolutions.I think it will work out fine.

Have a Happy New Year. And remember, if you drink, don't talk.

Monday, December 28, 2015


Another Presidential election. I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. This year's highlight seems to be debates. Debates every other week. Some claim not enough debates. Not fair. Kept out of the debates. A debate requires a point-counterpoint. A discussion. A bantering back and forth. A parleying. Particulars. Tension. A winner. A loser. It is an intellectual endeavor. A reasoned undertaking. A movement toward "the truth." Watching the recent presidential debates, the feeling comes to mind that does not indicate a debate so much as a comedy. A discussion of dreams from long ago that have atrophied. A bantering back and forth like guinea hens. One step forward, two back. One step forward, two back. Questions are posed to them that are never answered. They utter only what will satisfy their campaign contributors. The big ones. The dinosaurs. The whales. The questions never get expounded on. Only evaded. Dodged. Run away from. Dismissed. They don't seem to have any answers. It is all make-believe. Fabrications. A fictitious sham.A feigning of the truth. They spread words with no meaning. Ambiguous. Cryptic. Double-edged nonsense. Nothing about hunger, war, drones, phone taps, child abuse, environmental destruction, corporate prisons, corporate politicians, the unreasonably rich, the failure of capitalism, gun control, education for all. Some of these require stringing words together. They don't like that. A sentence can mean more than just the words. And words can be cheated. Misconstrued. Mistaken. All the wrong words, for all the wrong reasons. It's not a debate. It's a deception. A mendacity. A prevarication. A whopper.


Killing people with drones is not justified under any circumstances. It does matter how you conduct yourself in times of war.

Arming everyone with handguns is insane. You say it’s for safety. I say it’s for fear. It does matter.

You preach on and on about the hungry and how terrible it is that children go to bed at night hungry. Yet, have you every handed a hungry child a sandwich? It does matter.

So you are against abortion. After all, your minister thinks it’s sinful. Have you ever talked to a woman about to have an abortion? Have you asked her why? It does matter.

You believe that politician when he says climate change is a bunch of liberal garbage. Did you ask him where he got his information? Or did you ask to see his relevant Ph.D. It does matter.

You think white people are superior to all others.  Can you hear your fathers or mothers voice when you think that? It does matter.

You believe the rich should get all of the governments resources and that the poor are living high-off-the-hog on food stamps and welfare. How about I help you trade places with someone who is down and out. You too can lead the good life. It will matter.

You think the government interfering in our private lives and private talks is a matter of security and safety. Have you given any thought at all in terms of what it means to democracy? It does matter.

We seem to believe it is alright to torture the enemy in the name of freedom and democracy. If so, they can do the same when they catch us. You don’t think it matters, but it does. Endorsing evil always matters.

Saturday, December 26, 2015



Monday, December 21, 2015


I have a good view of the bird feeder from our breakfast nook.  A professional, rather costly, anti-squirrel bird feeder. I put a lot of faith in that feeder. Bird seed is expensive. There he sits, eating that expensive bird seed. Bird seed. The company guarantees my feeder against such intrusions. Obviously they did not take into account flying squirrels. He climbs up the trunk of a pine tree about 15 feet away, to the height of about 30 ft. and leaps. I wish I had that kind of faith. He doesn’t hesitate. He doesn’t overthink it. He jumps. He hits the feeder at about ten miles per hour. Seed goes airborne in every direction, falling to the ground for later consumption by him and his friends. He hangs on. It is a feat worthy of the circus. I could put something sharp there, but I can’t bring myself to such barbaric methods. Although I think about it.  My dog hates squirrels. Maybe he can read my mind. He barks behind the window. The squirrel panics. A ten feet jump to the ground, and he’s gone. As for as the dog can tell, he just vanishes.  Some people say a squirrel is akin to a rat. I don’t know, but I’ve never seen a rat on my feeder. The dog also doesn’t like armadillos. We see them less often. An armadillo is a weird creature. One of God’s creations that you have to wonder about. At least he can’t climb the bird feeder. He uproots the flowers, looking for grubs. He needs to eat, but I wish he would go elsewhere for his culinary pursuits. Like to the neighbors. The dog does his usual thing. He barks. The armadillo scurries off into the woods, determined to return later. I’m sure. The dog likes deer. He’ll stand in the window and silently watch them approach. They are also looking for a free handout. He tilts his head, as though he’s trying to read their minds. I think it is their freedom that he is enamored with. He is always on a leash. When he breaks free, he won’t immediately come back. He tastes that freedom. He wants to bask in it. He rolls on the grass. Runs around crazily. No restraints. No tug at the neck. He runs like those deer run. Fast. Free. Unrestrained. When he tastes that freedom, he prefers it. I don’t blame him. So do I. Another squirrel on the feeder. I’m going to call the company. This is out of hand.

Dogs are good for the soul. Dogs know a whole lot more about what’s going on than we give them credit for. Dogs know when you’re happy. When you’re sad. When you are lonely. When you are so low you can look the dog straight in his eyes. There he’ll be, staring at you. Wondering what’s wrong. How best he can cheer you up. Can he lick you? Sit up like a poodle. Scoot his butt on the couch and sit there, next to you, watching television. He prefers the dog channel, which costs extra.  Look with you out the window, trying to help you forget about yourself. Your pains. Your shortcomings. You can talk to a dog. He never talks back, although he might look at you funny. I like my dog. He never complains, even if I feed him late. If I make him hold it a little too long before a relieving walk. I might forget to change his water for several days. He smells everything outside, especially after a rain. I don’t know why. Squirrels, armadillos, deer, possum, raccoon, coyotes, fox, other dogs. He sometimes forgets why we are outside. He gets a little slow to do his business. He’s particular about a spot. A certain spot. Who knows what he’s thinking. He is a good watchdog. He barks whenever anyone comes to the house. Some people see that as undesirable. I see it as cheaper than an alarm system. I think. Anyway, he’s a good dog. Of all creation, you can hardly beat a dog. I think this one is divine, mainly because we think alike. We both hate those pesky squirrels. Although probably for different reasons.


Sunday, December 20, 2015

BORN AGAIN: Tom Waits - Walk Away



Robin Wall Kimmerer

MUSIC FROM HEAVEN: Jimmy Fallon, Adele & The Roots Sing "Hello" (w/Classroom Instruments)


Mayflies. Toddlers. Tree swallows. Apologies--isn't it interesting that the best and most genuine ones are short and to the point? The longer they go, the less honest they are, and the more they turn into insincere performances; see any politician's press conference ostensibly apologizing for his misbehavior, with his poor grim simmering spouse alongside for the photo op. But the brief admission of idiocy---that's delicious. My bad spoken clearly on the basketball court. The Mass that cuts to the chase and doesn't sprawl into performance art and endless self-absorbed homily. The quick wit, the bushtit, the postcard. The shorter saints like Teresa of Avila. The brief ride in the car and the short plane flight. The chapbook, the brief line at the bank, the hilarious thirty-second film clip. Young people only as tall as your knee, who generally see the world with fresher eyes and an admirable lack of agenda. Small cups of strong coffee. Small boys with short hair whose heads in the right light look exactly like peaches. Brief phone calls and electronic-mail missives that get to the point without undue blather and verbal fencing. Small sharp astonishing poems. Novellas. Pencil stubs. Tree frogs. Sandals. Brief heartfelt prayers. Like this one. And so: amen.

Brian Doyle

Saturday, December 19, 2015


We elect the POA. That makes them amateur politicians. They're poor ones. Our last two presidents have been military. That's never good. Military trained colonels are not fond of democracy. They aren't used to it. The military is as far away from  democratic rule as you can get. Do as I say, no need to discuss it. They never can get over that. So we have a POA that is not very democratic. In some ways, this comes with the territory. Private clubs do not need to be democratic. And that is basically what we are. A private club with gates. The POA has seven reasons why they can go into private, closed session. The seventh basically states we can go into closed session whenever we think it is necessary. Despite continuous protests over this, they have never changed it. The state of Arkansas has three reasons why they can go into closed session. You can see the disparity. I have prayed that they correct this, but I'm afraid colonel's don't heed prayers. Otherwise, there would be no need for colonel's. Most people pray for peace. Anyway, the POA needs a lot of changes. And they never come. I voted for a director in the last election who immediately did what she said she wouldn't do. That was vote of support closed sessions. She has since quit. No reason given. She has an obligation to me and whoever else voted for her to serve. If not, she owes us an explanation. This isn't a backyard tree house club. Although it is a club, and there is probably a tree house somewhere in the Village. The only good director we have is going to quit. He did give us a reason. Because he is disgusted with how the directors direct. God, I am sorry my prayer has turned into something of a rant. I don't know what you can do. We're the fools. Maybe grant us dispensation for our foolishness, and let's call it even.
In spite of it all,

Friday, December 18, 2015


Isaiah 58:10
 if you offer your food to the
    and satisfy the needs of the 
then your light shall rise in the
     and your gloom be like the 



Some Christians are worried that Christ is being taken out of Christmas. That seems absurd. How could you take Christ out of Christmas? Christmas is Christ.

Some say all the commercialism is too much. Christmas starts before Thanksgiving. Trees, ornaments, mistletoe. Gifts. Rolex watches. Lexus convertibles. All this emphasis on things upsets some Christians. But that is the way things are set up. Buying and selling. Mainly things you don't need. I would suggest not paying any attention to it. And not participating in it.

No nativity scenes on public property really upsets these Christians. This is a big deal that many Christians don't get. Even though we were founded on the principle of separation of church and state, folks get all upset when a court rules that there will be no nativity scenes on the courthouse lawn. My advice: Ask the county if you can borrow their nativity scene and put it in your yard. Or better yet, gather up some friends and have a live nativity scene party. This will make you and your friends happy and will not violate any laws.

Merry Xmas really makes people mad. Now I don't know if this abbreviation is an attempt to take Christ out of Christmas, or if they are just being lazy. Maybe they don't know how to spell it. Whatever the case, if it offends you, don't read it.

I don't understand how anyone could take Christ out of Christmas. I just don't think it is possible. Christmas is as much in your heart as it is real. A poor child born in a filthy barn, whose parents immediately had to go on the run to save him from the government. That same child would grow up to be the worlds greatest revolutionary, ushering in not a new government, but the Kingdom of God. If that doesn't put Christ in Christmas, you're not on the right planet. So buck it up folks. No one can take Christ out of Christmas but yourself. It's not possible, not if you got faith. But that's another story.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015


Clarence Thomas. I don't understand a black man who becomes a racist. Maybe his experiences have turned his heart into stone. You see those heart-shaped stones laying around every now and then. Maybe they are what remains of many a hardened heart. He undoubtedly has dealt with a lot of racism during his life. In his pursuit to get ahead, gain some notoriety, he seems to have left behind, or forgotten, what he is. Who he is. He has taken on a rich, arrogant, white man's way. He has forgotten the breaks he was given; the criticism and hatred he has seen, not for his intellect or ideas, but for his color. His life is now calling into question that character in a different way. Everything that has chipped away at his original self has left him wondering in the wilderness. Fighting against himself and everything you would think he holds dear. He is not the only black man currently lost. Ben Carson is doing the same thing. It is strange the two are on the national scene at the same time. Both intelligent, well accomplished in their fields. Both could potentially move the cause for justice and equality for minorities forward in immeasurable ways. Instead, they take positions that would not have allowed them to prosper. Maybe extreme selfishness. Maybe they are bought and paid for by right-wing, white, Republicans. Maybe slavery still exists. I don't know. They both seem like shadows floating across the landscape, not recognizing who or what they are, or the difference they could make. It is hard for me to understand and is sad to see.

Undercutting Climate Progress, Congress Agrees to Lift Oil Export Ban

Undercutting Climate Progress, Congress Agrees to Lift Oil Export Ban

It is hard to tell what the right-wing Congress will do. They don't have any agenda, other than to oppose everything civil. They are a disgusting bunch of morons, bent on taking us back to the Dark Ages. 

Monday, December 14, 2015


Hot Springs Village. It’s an ok place. It’s not Montpellier, Vt. Or Santa Fe, NM. Or Naples, Fl. Or Kula, HI. Or even San Diego. Or Navarre Beach, Fl. Or Nashville, TN.  It sure beats Chicago and New York and Kansas City and LA and Denver. And Little Rock and Pine Bluff and Possum. It’s not the best place for old people. The roads are hard to drive. It gets real dark. The summer is too hot. There are too many snakes. There are too few good restaurants. Finding people willing to stay up past 8pm is difficult. You have to have something medically wrong with you to fit in. And it doesn’t hurt to be Republican. On the other hand, the scenery is great. It’s a golfers dream come true. We have plenty of water to swim in, bath in, boat on, or drink. We do have a few good restaurants. Lots of paths to walk.  Clubs of every sort. Card clubs, radio clubs, acting clubs, social clubs, military clubs, investing clubs, garden clubs, craft clubs, walking clubs, boating clubs, fishing clubs, dancing clubs. We even have clubs for people who don’t like clubs. There are lots of interesting people. Some more interesting than others. Plenty of churches. Mainly Protestant. Probably has to do with the closed gates. We could use better leadership. Most POA presidents lately have been military. Not the best place to find democratic leadership. They don’t like anyone questioning them. We could use fewer rules. Again, probably the military influence. Autonomy is frowned on. It wouldn’t hurt to have warmer winters. And more bakeries would be good. Cranford’s would not be my choice of grocery stores. How about a Whole Foods? Less crying, more doing would help. And more words allowed for editorials in


By the way, anyone in public service who violates the public trust, by stealing, or sexual misconduct, or lying, or taking tens of thousands of dollars from corporations and lobbyists, or faking a five day work week, or wearing stupid ties and white, long sleeved shirts in 90 degree weather, or voting to hurt children, or voting to hurt woman, or just plain voting on anything stupid, should have to retire and forfeit their retirement income. This would be called the rich man's "capital" punishment.


Love is a four letter word. Love comes in a variety of flavors, none of them violent. Love should be gentle and kind, not abusive and painful. It means having to say you are sorry, but not too often. Love is at the heart of life, but you never quite know what someone means when they say, "I love you," or "I sure love life." Love does not like to get pinned down. Love is a lot of things. Parental love is a lot different than romantic love. Romantic love is usually what we think about when we think about love. Here is a love that can taste like the finest chocolate, and in the next instant, can burn like the glowing redness of a branding iron, about to touch skin. It can be heavenly, the next second make you swear you are in hell. That's love. It bobs and weaves its way through our lives. It speaks to our happiest times and often to our saddest. Its hold on our heart opens up the possibility to see, touch, and feel The Great Mystery.

Friday, December 11, 2015


The older you get, the more you settle in to how the world works. You begin to realize people have weaknesses. You begin to realize you have weaknesses. You begin to understand better how it all works. You never get this down pat. You only get a little better at it. You begin to realize the government is not going to solve our problems. You can only hope they don't make them worse. You begin to realize it is not things that will make you happy, or improve your life. It is the friends you make, and the sons and daughters you would die for.  You get the slightest bit of understanding of God. Maybe this is because you are getting closer to the end and you try harder. God is hard to grasp. Invisible. Like water. You can't grab it. You have to drink it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015



Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015



SUNDAY MORNING HYMN: Amos Lee & Jerry Douglas, A Change is Gonna Come


Last night as I lay sleeping,
   I had a dream so fair...
   I dreamed of the Holy City, well ordered and just.
   I dreamed of a garden of paradise,
       well-being all around and a good water supply.
   I dreamed of disarmament and forgiveness,
       and caring embrace for all those in need.
   I dreamed of a coming time when death is no more.

Last night as I lay sleeping...
   I had a nightmare of sins unforgiven.
   I had a nightmare of land mines still exploding
            and maimed children.
   I had a nightmare of the poor left unloved,
                                of the homeless left unnoticed,
                                of the dead left ungrieved.
   I had a nightmare of quarrels and rages
             and wars great and small.

When I awoke, I found you still to be God,
   presiding over the day and the night
      with serene sovereignty,
   for dark and light are both alike to you.

At the break of day we submit to you
   our best dreams
   and our worst nightmares,
 asking that your healing mercy should override threats,
    that your goodness will make our
          nightmares less toxic
          and our dreams more real.

Thank you for visiting us with newness
     that overrides what is old and deathly among us.
Come among us this day; dream us toward
     health and peace,
we pray in the real name of Jesus
     who exposes our fantasies.

Walter Brueggemann

SUNDAY MORNING SERMON: Rev. Billy: Blessed Are You Who Rise From Your Chairs and Face the World

Rev. Billy: Blessed Are You Who Rise From Your Chairs and Face the World

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Big & Rich - That's Why I Pray (Official Music Video)


Creator, open our hearts to peace and healing between all people.

        Creator, open our hearts
to provide and protect for all children of the earth.

         Creator, open our hearts
to respect for the earth, and all the gifts of the earth.

         Creator, open our hearts
to end exclusion, violence, and fear among all.

Thank you for the gifts of this day and every day.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015


What’s it like to almost die?  I was 52. Heart attack. The heart surgery wasn’t bad, but the sternal staph infection that followed was. They told me later that one in two people die. I was the lucky, unlucky one. Another surgery. Having to open my chest a second time in 10 weeks. A medically induced coma they called it, leaving my chest open so they could continue to clean out the staph. They released me out of this alternative world on the eighth day. After a 105 degree fever, they were hoping I still had some functioning brain cells. Everyone was relieved when I spoke. The first thing I asked after they removed a tube from my throat was how the operation went? My wife had to tell me it was eight days later. It is an odd feeling, missing eight days. A new meaning for the words, “time flies.” The second thing I asked for was a drink of water. As it worked out, Holy Water, because I thought I had seen Christ. Just my luck, no beautiful angel, like Roma Downey, from the TV series, “Touched by an Angel”. My Christ was a carnie, operating a ride at a carnival. It seemed almost like a VCR that he injected me into. I got in willingly. It took me on a ride up and down, something like a roller coaster, or bobsled run, bright lights flashing as I sped faster and faster, going so fast, everything seemed to blend together like a smudged rainbow, perhaps from the tears of my wife, daughter, and son, dripping tears onto my life that was dimming. It is always harder for the family. They are dealing with things exterior, while you are struggling with things interior. I arrived back at the start. The carnie, whom I recognized as Christ, asked me if I was ready. I understood him to mean ready to move on. I heard my wife yell “don’t go”. She was standing behind my left shoulder. I must have said no. Anyway, I’m still here. But I came back haunted.

'Clear Flouting of Roe v. Wade': Court Strikes Down Anti-Choice Bill in Wisconsin

'Clear Flouting of Roe v. Wade': Court Strikes Down Anti-Choice Bill in Wisconsin


Tuesday, November 24, 2015



What’s Really at Stake at the Paris Climate Conference Now Marches Are Banned

What’s Really at Stake at the Paris Climate Conference Now Marches Are Banned


Monday, November 23, 2015


No matter what your status in life, keep your head up and don't be afraid to tell them to kiss your ass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


  • Attend church on an irregular basis.
  • Spend more time practicing good, and less time discussing politics.
  • Rather than collecting possessions, collect friends.
  • Try to understand that you cannot kill yourself to peace, or soothe a grieving heart by revenge.
  • Don't believe everything you hear. And likewise, don't believe everything you think.
  • It is better to come to faith inwardly rather than outwardly. This is why there is no need for missionaries.
  • If you think your God is bigger than the rest, wait until you see the condom I bought you.
  • Religion is not meant to prove anything. It is meant to fill in the void. The mystery will always remain.
  • We are each fashioned after the Divine, which I translate to mean we each have a touch of God in us. We should treat one another accordingly.

Saturday, November 14, 2015


I am interested, more disgusted, by the recent outcry of evangelical Christians worried about the holiday  coffee cup Starbucks created. You would think Christians have more important things to think about. I wrote the following this a.m. thinking about the whole issue, while having my morning cup of coffee out of a Starbucks red cup.


I had a cup of coffee this morning. My usual schedule.  More like a habit. Actually, an addiction. Today I have a new cup. Red. No “Merry Christmas” written on it. No “Joy to the World.” No snowflakes or Christmas trees. I worry: Is this something I should be doing? Drinking from such a heathen cup? I am, after all, a seminary student. There is a lot of fussing going around, particularly in the social media, that Starbucks is involved in some kind of evil plot to take Christ out of Christmas. It all started with a post on Facebook from Joshua Feuerstein, a self-described evangelist. Now I have to worry, am I a part of this evil?

My daughter recently sent me the new Starbucks cup for an early Christmas present. She couldn’t resist. She works at Starbucks. It’s all red, rather than the usual white, with the Starbucks logo on it. Doesn’t seem to be a big deal. This is their usual cup that you get with any coffee order, only it’s red for the Xmas season.  Actually, I probably should not have abbreviated Christmas, since that might suggest I’m trying to take Christ out of Christmas, which doesn’t seem possible. That seems to be the whole point of Christmas, however you spell it, or don’t spell it. A lot of people think their faith is under assault because of such a negligent act by Starbucks.  I don’t think these people have enough to do. They should go downtown and hand out sandwiches to the homeless. Maybe put all their money in the Salvation Army bucket. Or sit down and write a message to President Obama to quit killing people with drones. Or please close the prison in Guantanamo, holding people, some for over fifteen years, who deserve a day in court. How about an editorial condemning everyone carrying guns? I see an article in the paper every night describing  shootings. Today it’s Paris. Christ was interested in a lot of things, none of them having to do with a red cup. Or at least, not in my bible.

I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning. Some people say it’s good for you, others say it’s not. Now I have to worry about the cup I drink it from. There is no escape from the stress righteous living demands.  Frankly, I don’t care if it says, “Worst person alive,” or “You’re full of bull----,” so long as it’s full of coffee. Coffee, by the way, probably picked by workers who are being exploited for their cheap labor. But hey, I’m more worried at the moment about this cup than the contents.

Sitting here, looking out the window, the day is beautiful. The grass is still green; the birds are eating out of the feeder; leaves completely cover the ground, waiting to be racked.  And one in four children will go to bed hungry tonight here in Arkansas. Most of them won’t get anything for Christmas. Not even a  simple plain old red cup.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


 Fall is about used up. It happens every year. It’s like life. It goes along following a prescribed course, never wavering, but with a different story line for each of us, through the good and the bad, right up to that last sweet breathe. It always ends the same. The seasons and life, intertwined together in an intimate dance. I had some tarragon planted in a pot that needed to go into the garage. After all, winter is coming. That’s when I saw it. A menacing looking little devil.  A yellow- lime color, like pistachio pudding, but without the pistachios. Lime Jell-O wouldn’t work to describe it. You can’t see through it, and I doubt it would giggle. While not a very imposing little thing, it shines in that faded yellow-lime color, like it could glow in the dark. Like it belongs in the dark. It burrows down into the soil, some of its flesh falling off to the side, reminding me of a Halloween scene with the faces of Zombies peeling off. Not to say that I’ve ever seen one in real life. Only movies.  Make-believe. The body of this hideous thing gleams clear and bright enough to see yourself in, about 3 inches high, getting thicker towards the bottom, with a ring about a quarter of an inch down from the top. The head reminds me of a Chinese hat, sitting on top of a pudgy body.  I have no idea why, maybe an old cartoon. They didn’t worry about being “politically correct” back then. The base seems to go deep into the pot, almost to the bottom, but not quite. The pot is terracotta, clay red with a bright red band around the top. That bright band was put there for a purpose.  That thing is not going to get out of that pot, thank God. I don’t think it likes the brightness. My thoughts catch me off guard: What if you were to ingest this thing? The mind can play funny tricks on you. Right when you think you got everything together, you drift off into some primordial muck that is stuck in your past. A mushroom I once ingested made me see music and I could smell color. It would have been a frightening experience, if it were not for the shaman I was with. He helped smooth over the edges. This thing makes it look like you would regret the stupidity involved in trying to find nirvana in a mushroom. This thing looks like bad news.

Flying in a six-seat Cessna at 5,000 feet on a clear night can be an exhilarating experience. What a
sense of freedom and escape. Looking at all the lit-up towns is truly fascinating. Small patches of 50, 100, 5,000 lights. Single lights off in an isolated nowhere. Imagine, under all those lights, the stories: fathers struggling to teach their sons how to be a good man; a wife wondering why she married an abusive husband; daughters yet to be married; careers yet to be realized, others cut short by untimely circumstances. Births, deaths, town heroes, town whores, lovers of life, killers of hope. Things beautiful and thoughts ugly flood into my mind.  The plane turns dark, except for the lights below and the millions of stars above.  Stars all over the place. The constellations look like they are alive. The Milky Way, pouring out its miracle elixir. Orion, ready to do battle with evil. The North Star, about to get a job. It will need to guide us home.  The regulator on the plane is out. The instrument panel is black. There is no way to know if the landing gear went down or not.  It was a pity such a beautiful night ends with such bad news.

Stormtroopers For the Empire

Stormtroopers For the Empire

Wednesday, November 11, 2015


This is not meant to be a slight on any man or woman who chooses to serve in the military. It is only meant to show the other side of the story, as told by me.


God’s grace shows up in the most unlikely of places. We should always be prepared, especially when
God is involved. Still, it can be a bit disorienting when it happens.  On a fall day, in 1972, in downtown Chicago, at the Everett Dirksen Courthouse, on Dearborn Avenue, God’s grace made an unusual appearance.  But I get ahead of myself.

My wife and I were married on March 6, 1971. We immediately moved to Bethany Theological
Seminary, in Oak Brook, Illinois. I went to seminary for two reasons. I wanted to be a minister, primarily to save the world, and I wanted a 4D classification from my local draft board. A seminary student was exempt from the draft. Somewhere, deep inside, hidden in a corner of my heart that I was unfamiliar with, a conviction, or fear, was taking up residence.  I was beginning to realize I could not kill another human being. I do not know where that feeling came from. Not from my parents. My father was a WWII veteran and a member of the local American Legion. The church we attended had deemed the war as just. The community my wife and I grew up in demanded that one put in your time. Still, it was there, hidden away, dormant, nagging, keeping me awake at night, keeping me busy during the day protesting the war. Then, I read an article about Dr. Dale Brown, professor at Bethany. He was a leading authority on pacifism and nonviolence. The direction was clear: I would attend Bethany and learn what I could about becoming a pacifist and conscientious objector, under the guidance of Dr. Brown, who became generous with his time and helped me prepare for a hearing with my local draft board. I was denied at my first hearing. I appealed and was given another hearing. At my second hearings with the draft board, I was tested to see how my pacifism would hold up. Someone in Washington must have sent out questions that the local boards should ask would-be pacifists. It actually became something of a classic. One of the members asked what I would do if I found someone raping my wife.  I had to think about that for a few minutes. The silence unnerved them. I finally answered that I would not push my conviction quite that far. I’m not sure if my answer was good or bad, but they granted me conscientious objector status. It was some years later that one of the board members, whom I did not know was an acquaintance of my deceased father, told me that I was the only person granted CO status that he could recall. He did not elaborate.  And I didn’t mention that silly question.

At the same time I was attempting to become a CO, another student was giving up his status. Doug had moved from just objecting to being involved with war, to not wanting to participate in the conscription system at all. A letter describing his new position, and his torn draft card, were mailed to his local board. This resulted in him being arrested for non-compliance with the draft, a federal offense, and he was scheduled for trial.

Fifteen of us loaded into the seminary van and went to the trial in downtown Chicago. It was a cold fall day, dreary, a little damp, one of those lonely fall days that sticks to your bones. The courthouse is quite spectacular. It was designed by architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in 1964. It stands there, thirty glass stories tall, staring at you, each window reflecting you like an eye, a primitive insect warning against coming too close. Soon, inside this stately, orderly  building, a judge wearing a black robe will be convicting a good man for refusing to kill anyone, or be involved in a system that sanctions that killing. It seemed about as cruel as the weather, which was getting worse.
It would be a bench trail. There would be no need for a jury. It was all cut and dried. Doug’s position was clear and simple as any case could be. He was defying the federal government. He was breaking the selective service system laws that had been put into place in 1940. From 1964-1973, about three and one-half million young men between the ages of 18-25 were sent to Southeast Asia. Another 16 million were either deferred, exempt, or disqualified from the draft. According to the Selective Service System, a conscientious objector was “one who is opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles.” The objector could agree to enter the military, but refuse to carry arms, in which case they would be placed into noncombatant service. Or the objector could do “alternate service” in a job “deemed to make a meaningful contribution to the maintenance of the national health, safety, and interest.” Doug was going to do none of these.  He was guilty of noncompliance, by his own admission and action. We would probably be taking a dreary ride back to Bethany.  Doug may or may not be with us.

We filed into the courtroom. The room reflected the powers that designed it. The judge up front, in
charge.  The bailiff by his side, the muscle. The prosecutor sits below, to the right.  He represents the
people. The defendant is to the left. There was no need for an attorney. This would likely not
take long. The prosecutor and the defendant are separated by as much space as the room allowed,
driving home the fact that this is an adversarial proceeding. To the rear, the gallery, those interested in
what will happen.  I suppose a lot of life is played out like this. Things designed to let you know where you stand. The room was not very big, adding to the uncomfortable feeling.  The fifteen of us filled it up. There were a couple of other people, maybe relatives, I’m not sure. I do not remember meeting anyone else, but it was all about to become pretty confusing.

The prosecutor had no witnesses. He laid out the case in detail, reading from various documents that
told of the selective service laws and penalties for violating them. The maximum sentence was five years and a $10,000 fine. It was all right there, in black and white. It was plain and simple. He wasn’t going to have to do much to find that guilty verdict he was looking for. There was only one witness for the defendant,  Dr. Dale Brown. It had been determined that Doug would not testify on his own behalf. This was in keeping with his conviction to not participate in a system that would try a person for their unwillingness to kill and be a part of the military system, including the courts demand on him to comply.  

Dr. Brown would have to paint some gray between the black and white. He talked for probably thirty
minutes. He spoke eloquently about the history of the Brethren being pacifists and conscientious
objectors. He evoked the names of Bonhoeffer, Gandhi, Penn, St. Francis, and Christ.  By the time he got to Christ, the courtroom  was dead silent. You could hear everyone breath in, breath out, like a silent meditation.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God,” was the mantra. He held everyone spellbound.  He told of all religions emphasizing the good, peace, and a nonviolent resolution to our differences.  His words were soothing, comforting, giving hope that this would somehow work out. Power became a very gentle thing that day.

The judge appeared attentive, but I was worried that he was not very interested. Having heard both
sides, the judge said he would retire to his chamber to consider the verdict. Generally, you would
consider that a good sign. We figured it was probably unnecessary, more likely a chance for him to go to the bathroom or grab a bite to eat. We talked among ourselves, trying to be positive, supportive,
realizing we were waiting for the inevitable.  Doug was okay with how it had gone. He appeared
resigned to his fate. Outside, the wind continued to blow and the sky grew darker.

The judge returned in about an hour. He asked the defendant to stand. Dr. Brown stood with him. The
fifteen of us also stood up, slowly and hesitantly, not wanting to, but knowing we were probably
breaking protocol. We were all going to be guilty of the same crime: refusing to take another life.
In an instant, I discovered why the judge looked more human.  “I find the defendant innocent.”
Innocent.  I played over in my mind all the words that mean innocent: guiltless, cleared, blameless,
acquitted.  None of them seemed to fit. Surely, that is not what he meant.  I must have misheard him.
Innocent/guilty, it’s hard to confuse the two. Doug had admitted his guilt. It was purposeful. He had
done it intentionally. He wasn’t trying to weasel out of this. He was prepared to suffer the punishment. We all were.

You could hear a pin drop. No one said a word for what seemed like hours. No one could form words;
they seemed inappropriate. Everyone was crying, sobbing, hugging the person next to them, fighting for some way to make sense of what had just happened. Out of this joyous, thankful, once dreaded but now glorious moment, someone started singing the doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” We all tried to sing as best we could, still crying and sobbing like newborn babies. “Praise him all creatures here below.” Praise us. Praise Doug for standing up for what he knew was right. Praise everything about this day, which is a miracle. “Praise him about, ye heavenly host.” I translated to “Praise God for all that love has done.” Where did “innocent” come from? How, in a place so filled with law and order, could something so gracious and unpredictable happen? “Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

The judge came down from the bench, took off his robe, and shook all our hands. You could tell he was rattled. He was caught between being happy and doing what he was required to do, which was follow the letter of the law. He was shaking slightly, and his eyes were misty, making a dignified attempt not to cry. I still don’t know what happened that day. I do not know if he was ever reprimanded for his verdict. He was probably given a hard time by his colleagues, at the very least. I cannot explain what happened in any logical way. I’ve tried for forty-three years. Sometimes, just at the right moment, when everything comes together in the universe, just then, I believe the synchronicity allows God to intervene. On that day, God’s grace prevailed over man’s laws.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Saturday, November 7, 2015


I think about my father a lot. I suppose one of the reasons is that he died suddenly when I was 18. He was 46. (I played softball against him the night before. Young guys against the old-timers. We young guys won, much to their dismay). Our relationship was close, but at my age, not near complete. I think it is the unfinished business that keeps its presence with me after 49 years. The wondering what our relationship might have developed into? What he would have thought about me? I am much different than he, yet in many subtle ways, the same. Had he lived, he would be 95 now. I have a hard time imagining him at 65, much less 95. Even at 46, I remember him as being "kind of old". He could have lived another lifetime. That would be a lot of time for things to really go good, or really go bad. It's funny to think that death ends a relationship. It doesn't. It only changes it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015



1.       Ten guidelines for living a better life are not near enough. There should be 2,345, most having to do with the rich taking advantage of the poor. And maybe a few about sex. At least one about not being a jerk. 
      2.    In the beginning, there were no humans. And it was good. Then God got this brilliant idea:              Why not ruin everything?
              3.  I have met an angel. She was a waitress at The Waffle House. Those bright eyes and that infectious smile. She must have been about 23. I heard her tell someone she had two children. I didn’t hear her say anything about a husband. She wants to go to college. Pre-med. I think she can do it. An angel can do anything.

            4. You got to have faith. The question would be: In what? There are plenty of people selling faith nowadays. Faith requires a leap into the unknown, the unprovable. Taking that leap is scary. I take it hesitantly, like when I bunge jumped: I'm worried about the cord, the distance, the bounce, the wind, will insurance pay. Generally speaking, I could use a shove.Faith is a hard thing to keep a grip on.  I find it and lose it, find it and lose it, find it…..

                           5.   Don't believe everything you think. There are 6 billion people in the world, many of whom also think. The path's are many.

6.     Love comes in a variety of flavors, none of them violent.
           7. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not an armchair slogan meant for the faint of heart. If someone is hungry, she doesn’t need a lecture, she needs food. The homeless don’t need a copy of your ideology, or what religion you subscribe to. They need a place to live.

          8.  Being saved is a whole other number. I could have used saving about 10 times over the years, which may be a conservative estimate. rather than being saved in a hands on kind of way, I thought it wold be enough to just change my behavior. No need for a public display.

9.      I would not recommend getting religion unless you mean to do something good with it.

         10. No one should fear God. I don't think God would want us to fear him or her. There are plenty of things to fear: spiders, snakes, tornadoes, heights, ingrown toe-nails, the IRS, senators who wear sheets, lightening, The dark, maniacs, religious or otherwise. God should not be one of them.

                     11.  No, ten are not near enough. This life is way too complex for such a small number. Too many wrong turns to be had. Have you ever walked down a road where you can’t stand the pain? I should be a better husband or wife. What holds me back? Am I as devoted to being a good father or mother as I am to my career? A better daughter or son. Or is the distance safer. My community needs me. How about next month? When the road gets painful, am I willing to keep stepping forward? Or will it burn holes in my shoes?