Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Chapter 1: The Gift No One's Looking Forward To

A manuscript in progress.
Chapter 1: The Gift No One's Looking Forward To
Anxiously I surveyed the gifts under the tree, examining them closer I read the little cards to see who they were to. Then I would carefully measure those that would be mine against my wish list ....... what were the gifts big enough to contain? did the shape of this gift indicate? and on and on it would go, my expectations measured against what I saw, was I naive. For some of the most valuable gifts came in the most unexpected shapes, and of course there was that perennial gift wrapped inside a number of diminishing box sizes. Despite my parents best attempts, I often forgot about the giver, or sensed that the giver didn't really know me very well when my gift was something not on my wish list, you know something practical.
One of God's best gifts to us in the struggles and sufferings of life is grief. Going through the process of grief teaches us about one of the ways that his love walks with us through, what C.S. Lewis called the 'shadowlands,' or what the Psalmist called the 'valley of the shadow of death.'
Yet so often we fail to appreciate this gift, and failing to appreciate it we never unwrap its usefulness, its value to us. God not only gives us this gift but he shows us how to unwrap it through personal examples; his grieving as his son is scorned and rejected by mankind, his grieving as his son is beaten, tortured and crucified, his grieving as his son dies on a cross, alone.
Yet even before the shadows invade the heavenly domain, in John 11:21 Jesus accepts the gift of grieving. Theologians will try to explain away the verse by saying that Jesus was crying over sin leading to death, and they certainly have a point, but let us not forget Jesus was also human. It was a deep wound in his heart that his best friend had died, even though he himself had been a begrudging spectator. His crying began to unwrap that gift, and in the process gives us permission to accept the gift of grieving with a sad heart. His unwrapping the gift reveals to us that grieving allows us to give expression to our sorrow, grieving points us to the only source of compassion, strength and eventually peace. On the other hand it is interesting to note that scripture says virtually nothing about the grieving process that Job goes through. The man has just lost ten children, children he made sacrifices for daily, and there is no picture of his grieving. Its absence reminds me that we can choose to accept the gift and the often long difficult journey involved, or we can refuse it and never bring closure and a new beginning from our loss.
[so much for this rough sketch, I look forward to your input on this first chapter]

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

have a little faith...

A book review: 'have a little faith: a true story'
Mitch Albom. New York, New York. Hyperion Books. June 2009
ISBN: 9780786868728
Early this afternoon I took a quick trip to Barnes & Noble to take advantage of a 40%off coupon on the most recent book by my favorite Michigan author Mitch Albom. Not long after moving to Michigan approx. nine years ago, while reading the Sports section in the Detroit Free Press I came across an amazing article by Mitch. And from that time on I rather regularly have been reading his articles, then one day while in a B/N store I came across his book, 'Tuesdays with Morrie' which I must say has a lot of similarities with this most current one. After reading it I now have copies of most his books. This one however, is extremely timely. Salvaging every spare moment this afternoon between tasks, and with a couple hours this evening I was able to read this book. The two stories, one of a rabbi and the other a pentecostal preacher, remind us that God is not a respecter of one theology over another, God is too big for that; but it also reminds us that none of us fully know the mind or character of God. Personally though I believe the author, after having the rabbi pull a quick on him by asking him to do his eulogy then living eight more years, is pulling one on us. Just as I am convinced the rabbi had an ulterior motive in attempting to bring Mitch back to his spiritual roots, I believe the ultimate purpose of the author in writing this book was tell the story of an inner journey that he only hints at, yet finds a great deal of satisfaction in completing.. and that I think is probably the ultimate aim of the rabbi. Mitch reminds us that far too often, in our search for success, we miss out on those things that truly bring fulfillment - faith, family, friends and even casual acquaintances. You will enjoy this book.

Two other sites for better reviews: ..... customer reviews ... author's website.

Manuscript in Progess

'God's Gift of Grieving' [a manuscript in progress]
Ever since I've been a junior in high school there has been this dream to write a book .... and only the God could recall how many idea's I've had on what the subject would be; but now I think I've figured it out. In the 'Grieving' series we've been doing I have been challenged to 'intentionally journal,' so maybe this is the seed to a book on death and the dying process. For the better part of my pastoral ministry death has intrigued me; and yet officiating at funerals is my most 'unliked' task. Three deaths that really made an impact in my life dealt with the glories of coming glory, the oxymoron of comfort and cursing and my father's coma. Let me explain a bit.
One day I got a call from a parishioner who told me her mother was coming to her home to die. They had decided that rather than her daughter making long trips back home, it would be simpler for mom to just move in with her and her family. For the sake of my faulty memory we'll call her rose, because her character was every bit equal to the beauty of one. After a couple of visits I began to really look forward to being with Rose, and on one occasion we talked about the message she would deliver to my father when she got to heaven. I have never met anyone as comfortable with coming death as Rose. She had her resting clothes picked out and cleaned and pressed, and really loved to talk about the coming glory that God was allowing her. What she didn't know was that every time I spoke with her, goose bumps literally covered my back, it was something akin to being with someone who is already sharing a part of the future with God that only certain death can bring. Rose's funeral was anti climatic because of the walk I had already experienced with her; Dad must have gotten a kick out of her delivering the message and remarking about all the sermon mistakes I so easily make.
My second story is much different. While I was a youth associate there was a little old lady who was a member of our church and lived in a nursing home. We'll call her Greta. Greta had lived a rough life, even before she was a teenager the beer halls and houses of ill-repute were more of a home to her than the family house. She didn't live this life by choice, it was the one pressed on her by her parents. While in her later teen years she began playing the piano in bars to earn money for the family. Sometime later, in her mid thirties she found Jesus Christ as her savior, and he completely turned her life around. Greta became quite a servant of the Lord, always going back into the old neighborhood to try and win those she'd once played for. She never married or had a family of her own, so when she began to physically deteriorate only her church family was there for her. Greta had become quite renown in church circles for her intercessory prayer life, and often I would stop by with a list for her, knowing that each request would be delivered into His presence. One day I got the call from the hospital that Greta was in her last days on this earth so I went to see her. Evidently I arrived at a very trying time for her, because as I mentioned prayer she began to curse at me with words sailors are more familiar with. After a rather long tirade of obscenities I had a brief prayer and left; later that night Tom, our senior pastor, visited her and she seemed quite calm and prayed with him. I never was able to figure out that visit but I firmly believe that even in our dying moments, for Greta would pass into the Lord's presence the next morning, Satan makes his last ditch-attempts to grab us, and that all the cursing was the result of going back to those days when she hadn't known the Lord. If Satan's efforts were to weaken my faith he failed that day.
My third story has to do with my father's four month long coma that led to his death. Since I lived an a far off state it was difficult for me to make it home very often. On a last trip home before I would return for his funeral I remember sitting on bed beside him and singing. I began singing the old time hymns, and as I did a very faint, soft voice joined me. It couldn't be my mom, she had taken some time to go downtown, and it couldn't be my sister, she was working. Almost unbelievably the accompanying voice came from my father, I leaned in closer to his face while continuing to sing and sure enough he was singing every word .......... and the better part of an hour I went on singing a duet with my father until my eyes became so clouded with tears I had to stop. Oh, how I hated to stop singing, for I knew the moment I stopped communication would end also. All other death experiences I've had paled compared to this .... why? why had God allowed such a miraculous experience, I've never gotten a good answer, and don't really want one. I just know that it was unique.
Numerous times I have stood with family members beside a dying loved one and watched as there has come that moment when it seemed that full recovery was coming as the one in bed would give a big smile, or ask for something, or speak a few words of cheer and family members would look at each other and comment on how wonderful this moment was, then the 'rattle', the rattle that said, 'what you've just experienced is a fraud' ... and then their loved one would breathe that final breath.
Why do I mention all these experiences? Because I'm convinced the grieving process starts even before death's final grasp. In fact, we are not only notorious about avoiding the grieving process we fail to understand the trauma[process] that many who die go through beforehand, and it is my hope in this manuscript to address not only how we can become whole again through the grieving process but how we prepare ourselves so that before our death our loved ones can will journey through it also.

[If you have any thoughts as I progress through this manuscript I would appreciate hearing them, and please include a footnote so that I might give you proper credit. A large part of any writing is giving credit, this maintains integrity; but having said that let me also say if there is any part of this manuscript, at any time, that you can use, please feel free to do and know that I will honored and humbled.]

The Clash of the Gods - Beowulf

Last night I watched another segment of 'The clash of the Gods!' Getting the whole series on DVD is going to be at the top of my Christmas-wish-list! I had never heard the story behind the myth of Beowulf .... its great. The more that I listen to these stories of myth, the more convinced I become that God has used this medium, these stories to lead people to consciousness of him. If for no other reason that people must find a source 'OUTSIDE' themselves, for this in itself is a confession that we are not the makers and controllers of our universe; and it forces us to comes to grips the concept of the 'OTHER' force. Its connection with Cain is interesting, to say the least, and the concept that the monsters' mother is even more diabolic. Can't wait for the rest of the series! [I would even like to take a trip to Greece now ... any donors out there?!]
For a current update on Beowulf by a professor who is an actual part of the tv series go to

'Through the Shadowlands'

A book review: 'Through the Shadowlands: The story of C.S.Lewis's life with
Joy Davidman.' C.S. Lewis. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Fleming Revell Publishers
ISBN: 0800755340
This is a tremendous story of how a later middle aged confirmed bachelor has his life completely changed by his love for a divorced American woman. By the time he meets her, C.S. Lewis is unquestionably our century's greatest Christian apologist. He has written numerous books not only defending the Christian faith, but how to live out that faith in even the most troubling and darkest of times. Yet as C.S. and Joy struggle with her constant, reappearing illnesses its brought home to him in the boldest terms how writing about something is often far different than experiencing it. Then after Joy's death as C.S. struggles with his emotions [something he's tried all of his life to control] he has an encounter with his thoughts about the God he loves and serves so much. He even comes to the place in his faith where he must work through [I won't be specific here so you'll read the book] some questions he never would have anticipated he'd ask.
We are going through a grieving course in our church on Monday nights and this story is an invaluable spiritual aid to us as we work our way through grief. Some friends, and many scholars say that some of Lewis's greatest works are the result of Joy's critiquing and those following her death. There is also a movie, 'Through the Shadowlands'. I would suggest first reading the book then as you view the movie, allow it to bring the emotions you've read about in the book to fruitation in you - its a life changing experience.


As I become more involved in other projects my blogging gets left behind. Its not because I don't have time, because I am a firm believer in 'we make time for what we want to do, regardless...' So these 'ramblings' will seem to become even more and more disjointed but that's okay. Some day I'll go back over all these thoughts and maybe bring a sense of order to them, before then I invite you to just ride along with me, hopefully feeling comfort about what you read, just don't waste time trying to figure me out.

Last weekend we sent to the Big-City East and visited with our son, [the world's greatest daughter-in-law!] and our three little munchkins! My granddaughter again went me to Einstein Brothers bagels to surprise the rest of the family when they woke up. When I first announced I was going she said she wanted to go to, and I tried to get her to stay with gram - thinking I could pick up something for myself before I got back home - little did I know her mind was on the same track.
Although she usually always stays with gram, getting bagels with the old man was her thing and she wasn't going to be denied. All my trying to convince her was going absolutely nowhere and her actions were prove of that .... then I got to thinking, what was I thinking, this was my granddaughter and I was trying to persuade her not to come along with me??? This was becoming far worse than just a senior moment - so to a pouting little precious face I said, 'hey, don't just sit there next to gram, let's get going ........... its was great pink duck shoes and long nightie hopped out of that bed at lightning speed - and off to Einsteins we went. Well, she won again, and came out of that store with a grand-daddy sized hot chocolate topped with whipping cream!

ONe of my grandsons can be viewed on Youtube playing the drums, but since its my policy to never mention family names, this will be some detective work for you. I am really proud of my grandson because of his dedication to practice.....though I'm sure its probably driving the rest of the family a little battie with that constant beat! ha.

This past Sunday AM the message dealt with how we as a church family need to be acting more like a family than just a group of believers. I began with an example of how American used to love to watch 'Father Knows Best,' 'Leave it to Beaver" and 'Happy Days' .... more current family comedy became 'Friends', 'Cheers' and Seinfeld.' There is an indictment of the state of family in America that become evident when you realize that the earlier comedies focused on the nuclear family unit - dad, mom, sister, brother, etc.- and the later comedies focus more on friends as the family. I'm convinced it shows the breakdown of the family and our vain attempts to replace it through friends. I'm not saying friends aren't important, and they often do become closer than family members, but basically we are losing a sense of the value of the nuclear family; and I am convinced there is a searching in today's culture for those lost treasures of family.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nothing Was The Same

A book review
'Nothing Was The Same', Kay Jamison. New York, New York. Random House, Inc.
2009. pgs.203
The author is a Professor of Psychiatry at John Hopkins Univ.School of Medicine, and has other medical credentials. She is plagued with Manic-depressive illness, and has been very honest and open about it, despite the advice of her colleagues she has written openly about it. Her husband Richard was a reknown scientist and battled debilitating dyslexia, yet was an expert on schizophrenia.
In her book she talks about how Richard was such an inspiration to her in their marriage; and how one day, Richard received the news his illness was terminal. Richard, being a scientist and not believing in an after-life, insisted they began to make plans for his funeral, burial and her eventually getting on with life. After his death she begins to experience spiritual thoughts that in some ways begins to draw her back to her faith, though she never comes right out and says it.
If you would like some reviews about the book you can find them on
I read this book last week on vacation; its one of those books I purchased at Barnes & Noble, and hoped that it would help with our 'Grieving' class ................... and it did when we spoke about
Anticipated Grief. This book was written from a secular perspective, which enhanced our discussion. I enjoyed the book.

Grieving is a Gift

This past Monday night we began our 'Traveling through Grief' classes. I was surprised at the number of people that showed up. [15] Blanca did an excellent job in leading us through the mental health perspective of what grieving is! Then we talked about the spiritual perspective, focusing on John 11 where Jesus is grieving over the death of his best friend Lazarus, and the many insights and permission this gives us to grief. But more importantly we talked about the fact that 'Grieving is a GIFT from God!.' When asked why grieving is to be perceived as a gift I explained that 'grieving is the process that God has given us to begin healing ... I know that this sounds like an oxymoron, but when you begin to really examine it you'll see the link. We also talked about the fact that to those who are forewarned of certain approaching death the grieving process begins before death; with my father the grieving process began when he slipped into a four-month coma, but with my sister her death was unplanned, it came as a surprise, so I've experienced the process from both points. However I must admit that handled that grieving process both times without considering the process a gift - my loss.
As with all things in life, grief included, the attitude we have pretty much determines the direction we take in handling it. So I believe we got a good start.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Tuesday, Sep.15th [Mom, Grandma, Uncle W & Auntie
I want a Llama said my uncle W, as we walked through the goat/llama barn. What in the world would we do with a llama asked Auntie; well for starters I wouldn't have to mow our yard anymore and I read that they are like good watch dogs, said Uncle W. Well, it's get a llama or keep me, she replies .................. I told Uncle W the hesitancy of his reply may not have been so wise, but Auntie kept him all these years so she didn't even take note.
Later, after leaving the county fair we all went down to Grandma's, taking her a sack of carmel corn that mom gets her every year at the fair. Grandma's 96 now so she can pretty much have whatever she wants! Grandma entertained us with her own remembrances of the county fair.
*First Grandma told us how much she loved to watch the sulky races [races where rider sits on this little two wheeled cart behind the horse!] She would take the kids and turn them loose then she would go and stand on the fence on the edge of the race track; if the kids needed her they knew where to go. Matter of fact Grandpa told her it would cheaper for her to buy a ticket and sit in the bleachers than to replace the shoes she wore out standing on the wire mess fence! But Grandma didn't want to sit, she preferred to stand and cheer ......... so Grandpa kept buying her shoes! Even today, with her sight failing her so much, she still watches the horse races on cable.
*Then Grandma told about how she loved to ride the Merry-Go-Round, this was her favorite ride. Outside the merry-go-round was a pole with an arm that stuck out towards the ride, and if you sat on the outer ring of horses as you went by you would reach for the brass ring, and if you
got one you got a free ride [hence: reaching for the brass ring!]. Grandma said she and her friends would ride, literally, for hours because they got so good at grabbing a ring.

Tonight I went to visit one of my dear cousins, who had just gotten a nasty divorce finalized. As we talked I was amazed [to say the least] at how her strong faith and support groups at her church were helping her through this tragic experience. We also talked about family, and the fun times our dads would have together playing softball and arguing over which sports team was best. They're both gone now, and yet we were amazed at how much they had impacted our lives. It was a good visit, at least for me.

Wednesday, Sept.16th [Jack, his family and Wisconsin]
I got on the road around 6:15AM because I was going to have to go by Chicago, and I wanted as early a jump as I could get. I must say that going past Chicago was easier than I had ever done.
And after entering my third state I was on the route to my friend Jacks house. Jack used to attend our church before his health made his family move him into their home. They are a lovely family and we had a great hour/or so together. Jack told me about his father who got medals in the WWI, and then about his grandpa who died in the Civil War. He even had the last letter than his grandpa had written home to his wife telling her not to worry, if anything happened to him he was ready to go, but hated the thought of leaving her. Pictures of both of these men were hanging on the wall; and Jack's grandpa's photo in his civil war uniform was published in a book. Then it's back on the road to the Big-Cheese-University in Madison, WI.

I arrived there only a few minutes after SWCOBL finished her last seminar. It had really been a good, uneventful drive. We went for a walk on the University and downtown near the capital, finally settling on supper in an Italian restaurant. We walked off the calories we had just consumed by walking along the water-front - it was beautiful! Coming back to the place where there were outdoor concerts going on we stopped by the ice cream shop and each had a cone, then went out and found a place to sit, eat ice cream and watch the concerts. By this time there was a breeze across the water picking up and night was starting to fall; but what fun it was watching all the weird kids doing their thing. There was a group doing African music and we both delighted in listening to them.

Thursday, Sept. 17th [Wisconsin cousins]
It was a beautiful drive from the University to a small town where a couple of my cousins lived.
We took our time and enjoyed the ride, finally arriving shortly after 1PM at their home. A little later my cousin drove us to her brother's house a short distance away. He owns 30+acres of prime WI woods, and the home he and his wife live in is tucked away on the side of a hill - absolutely beautiful. We were able to spend a couple of hours with them, and what a treasure that was. He had two beautiful Labs that minded him about as well as I do SWCOBL.
Then we returned to my cousin's house where we were staying and had a crappie supper that was really, really good. My cousin and her husband were perfect hosts; and I often felt bad for our spouses as my cousin and I talked about old times - her mother and father have passed away and when they go back to their hometown they stay with my mom. All of their three kids have followed their father into the medical field and are making the most of life. Here are a few things my cousin informed me about our family that I didn't know:
*My grandpa, switched names with his brother and took his job, and stayed in that job, on the railroad until he retired 50yrs. later.
*My grandpa never met his father, because his father was convicted [most contend he was set up] for murder and died only 6mos. short being released.
*My grandpa and his brother were running moonshine and got caught; but while in prison some
friends cut the bars and they escaped, going to Detroit. Neither were ever made to stand trial.
*My grandpa's nickname was 'toadie' [my cousin said maybe that was because they hopped all over escaping the law!]
Guess I won't talk about these things to Grandma or mom [although my cousin's mom believed them] since they deny them, no sense in stirring things up........but we sure shed tears of laughter!

Friday, Sept.18th [back to WI and then south to the Big-City East on the pond]
Shortly after leaving my cousins house we can to one of those 'huge' roadside markets, where they have all the vegetables, pumpkins, jams, etc. ..... plus this on had a playground, and a petting farm. While we were inside looking for possible gifts, I went to a round table with homemade jams. Now rising up from the middle of this table is the statue of a cobra. I found a couple jams I wanted and SWCOBL came over and suggested we find another kind [it was a sale 3 for $4] .. so I started rummaging through the jams, and got to close to the snake, it actually leaped out and touched my hand ..... you should have seen me jump, and I yelled that crazy snake tried to bite me! ... we got a few laughs out of that one.
Finally we got back to the University and had plenty of time to do whatever, and so we decided to revisit the mall we had visited before going on to my cousins the day before. After parking and getting out of the car, there standing and smiling at me was a man about to get into his convert able - he was the same man I had talked to the day before in one of the stores there - what a coincidence .... I was so amazed, after saying goodbye I immediately went into the Barnes & Noble store and purchased four books! The manager told me it was the largest, single floor B &N in the whole chain. I'd name the books but it would only put you to sleep, maybe I'll review some day on here...
-oh, well I can't resist
*'The Lost Quilter' by Jennifer Chiaerini [later I found out she and her family live right there
in Madison]
*'The LIttle Giant of Aberdeen County' by Tiffany Baker
*Strong at the Broken Places: Voices of illness, chorus of hope by Richard Cohen
and *'Nothing Was The Same' by Kay Jamison.
After shopping, and lunch at 'Fat Jack's', who supposedly was famous for their barbecue [I could fix better barbecue in my sleep] we hit the road again for the Big-City south.

We arrived outside the area where our friends lived with some time to spare, and Sherry needed some necessities so we stopped at an outdoor mall .......... and I went on to Cabela's new store - got a hat for this year! [It was originally $12.99, but the sale price said $4.99, when checking out at the counter the final price was $3.17 ... what a deal]

We arrived at our friends house to a delicious meal of mashed potatoes, vege's and pork!! The gravy was so good I was tempted to just pour some in a cup and drink it! Later I'll put the recipe on. Later than evening we played Wii in their basement, and Sherry got hooked on it ... in the boxing game she KO's me - and I stopped playing. They had this cow race game and watching Sherry we all lost it, it was hilarious.

Saturday, Sept. 19th [Us and our Big-City friends C & D]
After a breakfast of eggs, fruit and bacon, we went down to get on the train and ride into the city ............ we sat on the Upper Deck! It was about an hour's ride and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, especially since only the day before at my cousin's house we had talked about our gramp's who was a train conductor! Then in the city we walked, and walked, and walked and then for good measure walked some more ............ finally we ended up at the Navy Pier! Little has changed, the food there is still raunchy and pricey; but that was all overcome when SWCOBL
and C rode on the Ferris Wheel ... and I got some salt water taffy! C, who is a marathoner took pity on the whiner [me] and said we would ride back through the city to the train station on the
water taxi .................. this was a highlight for me! I have never rode through the middle of one of the biggest cities in America on the river that flows right down the middle of it ... it was incredible riding on this little water taxi boat and starring up at the skyscrapers lining the banks on both sides!
Eventually we got back on the train to return to the suburb. While sitting on the train I noticed a woman and her daughter get on, and they sat on the seats below us. She had a violin and when she opened the case she took out this fairly large wad of bills and passed them to her daughter who proceeded to count them, and she counted out the change from a jar. It was really interesting because neither of them looked poor or destitute .... and so D and I figured it was probably just something that mom and daughter did on some weekends to earn a little fun money.... maybe her daughter sang along or something .... strange.
That evening we went to church at Willow Creek and heard Bill Hybels preach. That indeed is a huge place, but every place is purposeful in ministering to people. We were greeted by at least 3 or 4 volunteer greeters before we finally got seated. Its been a long time since I got into a traffic jam, made up of people leaving church, on the way out of the church lot!
All little after noon on Sunday we began our trip back home ............ a great vacation, and God's protection all the way.
I am so blessed with family, cousins and friends, and this vacation trip reaffirmed that.
Well there's certainly more I could tell - maybe another day.

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Vacation

For the rest of this week through Sunday I will be on vacation. And since my IT skills are minimal at best I don't have any blogs to set to pop up on different days, so I'll see you when I get back. My traveling agenda includes going back to my hometown to attend the county fair. One can't miss one's birthplace county fair; all the foods that are absolutely horrendous for your health, the silly people squealing pretending they are on life-threatening rides, and I love the animal barns with all the smells and sounds. Then there is that vendor that takes this big chain saw to a short block of wood and carves a bear out of it, and about that time some big announcement comes over the speakers that the most recent local country music star is about to start singing in the middle of the race track[or a group of old timers yoddling]......just can't beat it; then I have to get some salt water taffy for She WHo Can Only Be Loved! Can't forget to go through the 4-h cooking contest building to see if anyone I used to know had any entree's. This week SWCOBL is at the Big-Cheese-University in cheese country for the company she works for. Before I join up with her I am going to be making a pit stop along the way to see a very dear friend and his family! Later in the week I'll be driving up the highway north to pick her up, then its onward deeper into cheese country to see some of my cousins I haven't seen for years, nor ever visited their homes. Then we'll close out our vacation coming back through the Huge City West, sitting on one of the big ponds to see some close friends. I'll journal along the way and be sharing when we get back.

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today is the 8th anniversary of the blowing up of the Twin Towers! I have a small box on the top shelf in my office that is packed full of small books, an original Time magazine, newspaper picture cutouts and printouts, and dvd's of actual recordings. One day perhaps one of my grand kids will be doing a school project about 9/11 and ask gramps if he has anything about that event he can share. This morning in my regular news sweep I came across another article,, that I am going to print out and add to the collection in the box. I hope one day one of my grand kids will ask.

As I rifle through the box, sorting through the printouts I want to keep and those I'm not I remember where I was, and my total unbelief that something like that could happen ... finally being convinced by my office manager that it truly was happening, I turned on the small tv in my office and like millions of other Americans watched the tragedy unfold. Have we forgotten, has that event so deeply seared into our minds that day began to evaporate? Why are we eight years later still having the same discussion/debate/argument about homeland security? In our rush to never forget have we created the very instrument which encumbers our remembrance?
I ask myself these questions because I'm all too aware of my own tendency to forget, to move on to others things ...... in a way that's why I take communion every Sunday, I never ever want to forget the price Christ paid for me. To those who contend taking communion every Sunday dilutes the event, I seriously contemplate how deeply the price has been seared into their soul, how can that act of remembrance become a less meaningful ritual to a true follower? 9/11 is not about my political views or philosophy of life, its about those who would deprive me of the very things I cherish ........... and they shall not win, if only in my memory!

In memory of 9/11 I challenge you to take a few minutes and review the photo's from this website, its also were I got the photo for this article:
also you might want to read what this teenager is doing to remember:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A History Buff...............

I have loved to read about history ever since high school; due in large part no doubt to a history teacher who taught it as though yesterday was still alive. Right before this summer I read 'The Book Thief' which inspired me to try to find more stories about Germany in WWII, particularly those that dealt with children if possible. Then this summer I went on to read 'The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Pie Society, Sara's Key and The Savior: a Novel.' Though I've read a number of others these remained the ones that stuck with me the most, then as I've already stated, while shopping in Barnes & Noble's I came across 'Elijah Visible'. Its the first in a trilogy about the effects the Holocaust is having on succeeding generations. Then to my great surprise, today I came across a website in which the author, Thane Rosenbaum, was being interviewed .... this was like adding frosting to the cake. If you would like to read the interview, its rather lengthy, it will give you an excellent idea behind his books and his philosophy of life, you may find it at this address:

This chapter brought back memories of the death of my sister, and her relationship with her son, my nephew. A number of years ago my sister died, and her son was incarcerated at the time. By a miracle the prison authorities allowed him to be transported to our home town, and he was allowed to visit the funeral home with guards and no one else there. There he was able to grieve at her casket; however a huge burden of guilt overtook him, because in those hours when he should have been by her side, because of prior bad decisions he was absent. I don't think he was ever able to find closure because two years later, driving too fast he couldn't make the curve on a country road and was thrown from his car. The tragedy continues, for he was the only strong male figure in the daily life of his sister's son, his nephew. Sometimes its better to forgo a pleasure of the present to honor the memory of those who reside in the past.
In searching for a picture of a Jewish Yohrzeit light for this article I came across this Yohrzeit poem by Moshe Waldman, Paris 1965 ............ I thought it might give you another flavor for the event and even the book I'm reading
Kaddish you're supposed to recite in public, under light burning for a minyan of Jews-
That's what the zeydes with beards used to do.
But I pray only dumbly. And alone. I lift up my arms like menorahs
And recite all my prayers in silence within grey, empty./still walls.
What should someone do who can pray only in himself?
Where should such a person go, not to be a fool?
A person who delves deep into his own pain
And friends naked/ruined cemeteries in a magnificent, disgusting world?
Ashamed, he calls to his almighty: 'Lord- The One in whom everyone wants to believe?
For transforming all life into dust, for that pain You deserve dumb praise.'
Where should I recite kaddish? I am left so alone.

Next Chapter: #3 "The Pants in the Family"

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

'Elijah Visible' reading series...

Well, its time to try something different, so as I read Thane Rosebaum's book 'Elijah Visible'; which is a series of nine postmodern tales about a young corporate lawyer climbing the ladder of
success who is constantly being haunted by the experiences his parents went through in the holocaust.

After I read each one, I'm going to post a brief review of that story, plus attempt to find a personal story that has some kind of link to it ...... it will definitely not be in the context of the holocaust since I know of no family member even remotely involved in that, though my Mennonite heritage does include German extraction. Maybe you can think of a personal illustration too?

Story #1: 'Cattle Car Complex' [pg.3-11] Young Adam has worked overtime, something he tries not to do, because of his fear of being alone in the dark. He always tries to leave work pretty much when everyone else does. But this night, due to circumstances he's the last one to leave his work area, and then he gets on the elevator and it has a mechanical failure. 'Condemned to living a sleepless nightmare, he began to pace like an animal. His breath grew stronger and more jagged. He tore his glasses from his face and threw them down on the elevator floor. An unbalanced goose step shattered the frames, scattering the pieces around him. Dangling in the air and trapped to all his arresting fears.'[p.6] Adam's fears overtake his sanity, and even though he is being talked to by the night security guard while he is in the elevator he still can not think rationally, and remembers some of the camp horrors expressed by his parents. Let alone his fears, being trapped in an elevator is not a happy experience.

A month before my newest grandson was born [7 wks old] my daughter-in-law, and two grandkids from the big-city-east were trapped in an elevator in a department store for between 2-3 hours. My granddaughter [6yrs old] understandably grew very worried, it was my 2 1/2 yr. old grandson that tried make it a not so negative experience. Maybe it was because he didn't understand the gravity of the situation like his pregnant mother or yet knew to be scared because they couldn't get out, like his sister was ..... who knows, but it has definitely left my granddaughter frightened of elevators. One wonders if one day in the future, should she get married, would she stay away from elevators while she was pregnant?
Just as Mr. Rosenbaum's stories remind us of the lingering effects of the Holocaust upon succeeding generations, I believe experiences in our lives, can lie dormant for years and then in unexpected times come back to influence us.

Next segment: Chapter #2: Romancing the Yohrzeit Light

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dog Man

Tonight I finished the book, Dog Man, and must say I truly enjoyed it. If you are a dog lover, this book will definitely hold your attention; I must admit it took a while for me to get into the book because of its major emphasis on Morie [pronounced Mor-e-a] and his love for Akita's, the old national dog of Japan.

What particularly interested me was Mori's story of how he survived WWII, and how many of the people in northern Japan were hardly even conscious the war was going on. except for the government restrictions on what they could buy and own. I had never heard about the primitive hard life of those who lived in the 'snow' country; they seemed centuries apart from the lives of those who lived in southern Japan, in Tokyo and Kyoto. Yet Mori, who loved the northern life, was one of Mitsubishi's most effective engineers in dam building during WWII, and himself had a history of fighting on the mainland of China.

Then there was Mori personal life, and as much as he loved his dogs and spent every spare moment with them he could never transfer that love to his own family. The story of his marriage is one that would rarely survive in today's world, yet because of old world customs, he and his wife remained together, and in a weird sort of way grew stronger, [most often unawares]in their bond together. Eventually all their kids started their own lives and often for many periods of time [five to six years] they would not hear from their children. Yet, in the years of their retirement, their kids began to come back home more often, grand kids began to help grandma and grandpa get around, then kids and grand kids began to move in with them .... and one begins to see how those often strange, and rejected ways of being brought up began to mature into bringing family back together.

I am so glad that I've read this book, not because I'm a dog lover, although I do like dogs. But because of the new perspective I've been given on Japanese culture, especially during WWII, and how family ties the world over are so much the same. I don't know that the author intended it, but this book is, in my opinion as much about family as it is dogs. Its a book well worth reading .... but you have to have patience, and also dare yourself to catch the connection between what is happening between Morie and his dogs and the subtleties of what is happening in his family members lives toward him, and the evolution of his toward them.
Sherrill, Martha. 'Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain. New York, New York. Riverhead Book, Penguin Group. 2008 ISBN: 9781594483905

Another View Inside the Fray

I'm going to take a contrary view, even contrary to my firm conviction that the less government the better off we all are. I've finished reading the text of the President's address to our nation's school children a couple of times; I've read the article about when President Bush addressed the kids and the Democrats' got all bent out of shape .... so though my reading involves the different spectrums of thought, I guess my writing is much narrower.
I'm trying to figure out if the outcry we are hearing is simply 'political payback,' 'parental avoidance of responsibility' or genuine disgust for what seems to be the intrusion of government. In some ways it appears to me a bit contradictory to say our President [regardless of who is filling the office] has no right to speak to our nations children when the very school system he is speaking to is run by the government [and in a measure financially run by govern.]with our tax money, however having said that I do believe his address should be without political persuasion ... and having read his address, I believe that it is. Someone needs to call our kids attention to their educational responsibilities ... we are becoming more and more a technical culture, and education is no longer a choice but a necessity. Yes, it is good for parents to do this, and they should, but what is the harm in hearing the man who has been democratically elected to the highest office in our democracy, echoing the same message. Ah! hah! I think I've discovered something ... 'echoing the same message' ... maybe that message isn't being sounded so clearly, maybe we need to also be holding parents, guardians, etc. accountable for how their kids seem to be accepting personal responsibility for their education....[okay, fellow libertarians back off, I'm only speculating here, and being a grandparent that's a liberty I've earned after raising my own kids.]

I'm not meandering here, the examples that the President gives are good illustrations of what kids can overcome and can achieve ..... and I think its good that they are accountable not only for themselves but for our country. It seems like its been far too long since, not only our kids, but we have been challenged to remembering the lives we live not only affect ourselves and our families but also our country. The greatest thing that I really love about the current 'teaparties' is the willingness of adults to stand up for what they believe ... let's give our kids that same opportunity one day by today challenging them to get an education.

Well, I guess the load is off my chest, please to feel free to agree or disagree, or turn in another direction .... or get upset and simply go away; though I hope you don't, and I'd really love to hear from you. I love to hear differing opinions, you'd be surprised how much growth and change I've experienced through other's views. Have a great day.
p.s. ..... for your reading consideration; "Laura Bush backs Obama on school speech." Tuesday, Sept.8 09 ... Associated Press. 'REpublicans get rolled ... and deservedly So' by Neal Boortz, .... Sen.Lamar Alexander [R-TENN; and former Secretary of Education] spoke on the Senate floor today in a speech that supported the need for the President to address our school children.

Back again with the Soloist

I had a wonderful 'Labor Day' celebration with the kids [and grandkids] from the Big City East. I even played a little golf with my son .. key word here is 'little.' Late yesterday afternoon it got really strange - there was a silence, no scampering little feet, no 'may I please' or 'look at me gramps', no baby snoring or crying or laughing ......... just silence!

So me and my beloved decided to watch a movie we've both been wanting to see, 'The Soloist' so I went and rented a copy. Let me give the brief description from the dvd holder first, Academy Award nominee Robert Downy Jr. and Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx star in an extraordinary and inspiring true story of how a chance meeting can change a life. The Soloist tells the poignant and ultimately soaring tale of a Los Angeles newspaper reporter who discovers a brilliant street musician, with unsinkable passion, and the unique friendship and bond that transforms both their lives. The remarkable performances make for an unforgettable experience n what is hailed as 'a courageous and uncompromising film.'
It is rated PG-13 because there is some drug use and language issues. There are only a couple of times where language could definitely be cleaned up, the sad thing is this word is becoming a part of our every day usage.

The theme of the movie is tremendous. It wasn't until nearly the end that it suddenly dawned on me the tremendous impact the street musician was having on the reporter. The movie reminds us that 'true friendship' is that friendship that comes without strings attached, a friendship that is devoid of one friend trying to change another. I was reminded of Jesus admonition 'when you do it to the least of these my brothers, you've done it unto me'
[Matthew 25:40]. Jesus told us that when we free give, not give with the intent to change another, but give from our hearts, that is the friendship he is looking for. I will never again look at a street person, a homeless individual through the same lens. We're told that there are 90,000 homeless people in L.A. alone [this is representative of the bigger problem in our country] - this is a crime against our nation, when so much money is spent on things of so much less value. Well, I'll stop, but there is so much to said about this problem.

It was a good movie, and certainly it will not be a waste of your time to watch it ........... but also
be prepared to be challenged yourself. It was a good date night!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Just Couldn't Resist...........

This afternoon I was fortunate to spend some major time in my favorite store - Barnes & Noble. Since they are moving to a new site in a mall, they are having a great store-wide sale, so I picked up a few books. Just thought I'd give you a glimpse at what they are:

'The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism' by James Geary, New York, New York. Bloomsbury Publishing. 2005
I seriously doubt that I will read the book from cover to cover, just read it when in my other readings I come across one of the aphorisms. Here is the list of chapters
*We Are What We Think: Ancient Sages, Preachers and Prophets
Lao-Tzu, Buddha, Confucius, Jesus, Muhammad, The Zen Masters
*A Man Is Wealthy in Proportion to the Things He Can Do Without: Greek & Roman Stoics
Diogenes, Epicurus, Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius
*Upon the Highest Throne in the World, We Are Seated, Still, Upon Our Arses: French and Spanish Moralists.
Michel de Montaigne, BAltasar Gracian, Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Luc de Clapiers, Marquis de Vauvenargues, Sebastien-Roch Nicolas Chamfort, Joseph Joubert
*Good and Evil Are the Prejudices of God: Heretics, Dissenters and Skeptics
Geroge Christoph Lichtenberg, Arthur Schopenhauer, Fridrich Nietzsche, Ludwig Wittgenstein, E.M Cioran
*The Lack of Money is the Root of All Evil: The Rise of the American One-Liner
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain and Ambrose Bierce
*Know Then Thyself, Presume not God to Scan: The Proper Study of Mankind is Man: in Praise of Light Verse
Alexander Pope, William Blake, Emily Dickinson, Samuel HOffenstein, Dorothy Parker and Dr. Seuss.
*In the Beginning Was the Word - At the End Just the Cliche: The Aphorism Today
Karl Kraus, Antonio Porchia, Malcom de Chazal, Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, Barbara Kruger and Jenny Holzer

Elijah Visible....
Thane Rosenbaum weaves together nine postmodern tales about Adam Posner, a young man determined to climb the American corporate ladder who finds himself paralyzed by the legacy of the Holocaust. Encumbered by the psychic screams of his deceased parents ..... [from back cover]. I bought this book for only a dollar; but also since I have read a number of novels about Germany in WWII over the summer this seemed appropriate to read also.
Rosenbaum, Thane. 'Elijah Visible ' New York, New York. St. Martin's GRiffin 1995

Dog Man......
Dog Man is an elegantly written account of a stubborn man who found meaning in old-fashioned values while his nation threw itself headlong into building an affluent, materialist, consumer-orientated society. In her wonderful journey to Japan's snow country, Martha Sherrill introduces us to a world - and a gruffy independent personality - that transcends national boundaries.
-John W. Dower
A story of a hard life and dedication to preserving a traditional dog breed in the mountains of Japan. Fascinating descriptions of life in rural Japan during WWII. - Temple Grandin
Sherrill, Martha. 'Dog Man' New York, New York. Riverhead Books, Penguin Publishing. 2008

When I Say...................

While perusing through some of my favorite blogs this morning I came across this little poem and thought you might enjoy it. Its from yesugarden blogspot.
When I Say I Am A Christian....
*'I'm not shouting I'm clean living, I'm whispering I was lost, now I'm found and forgiven'
*I don't speak of this with pride, I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ as my guide.'
*'I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.'
*'I'm not bragging of success, I'm admitting that I have failed and need God to clean my mess'
*'I'm not claiming to be perfect, my flaws are far to visible. But God believes I'm worth it.
*'I still feel the sting of pain, I have my share of heartaches so I call upon His name.
[a thanks to the author Carol Wimmer.

Two Wonderful Blessings Yesterday

Yesterday, at our bi-monthly local pastor's association [you know, those meetings where we sit around and drink coffee, George will bring in hot chocolate and try to fool the rest of us into thinking he is are drinking coffee also - but we know!] we met the new priest in town - our Episcopalian sister. She has only been in town two weeks and was already willing to join our merry little circle. Our United Methodist sister was only too glad to have another sister on board; I imagine it was getting a little frustrating to hear nothing but male opinions, although we all love her and try to be as gender-inclusive as possible, ha. Secretly I'm rejoicing, because this adds another Wesleyan to group ... John Wesley was an Anglican priest, and the Episcopalians have Anglican roots. Also Henry is celebrating his 30th year in town as pastor of the area's largest congregation. I find great joy, comfort and encouragement in these gatherings; there's no pressure to perform, no expectancies to be met and everyone just loves the Lord, though some of us from time to time wish the Lord would offer career options, and those of us within sight of retirement just pray for tons of more grace.

Last night at our midweek Bible Study [which right now is focused on the discipline of witnessing] a lady from one of our city's most stable enterprises [and gainful employer] came and shared with us how God led her [in the midst of her own personal crises] to start a Bible Study at work. At the first meeting two individuals asked if they could accept Jesus into their hearts. She was a great encouragement to all of us.

Well, I've got to sign off, She Who Can Only Be Loved [SWCOBL] has instructed me to be home when the plumber comes to unclog our washing machine line. That's okay, I'm working at the kitchen table with the patio doors open hoping I'll catch a glimpse of a deer and/or turkey before the plumber arrives.

Have a good day in the company of our Creator!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Peanut Butter Yum!

This afternoon I made a peanut butter fudge from a recipe of Paula Dean's. It is deliciously and so easy to fix, in less than 30 minutes. I changed the recipe just a little, and have shared it in the recipe section of this blog ................. ENJOY!


Today is the first day of a brand-new month - September! The thought of September always places pictures in my mind of the blossoming of new fall colors, I never grow tired of autumn shades of yellow, red and orange. Strange isn't it that science tells us the leaves are turning these beautiful shades of hue because their life is being taken from them. For years I have never tired of making the connection that as we grow older and life seems to more easily escape our grasp we too are meant to grow more beautiful, for we realize that life is much more than daily existence here, but we are living for eternity. I remember a dear, sweet old lady in my first pastorate in Pennsylvania, just to be in her presence the last weeks, and days of her life, was a rare treasure. It seemed that the closer she got to heaven the more often the rest of us wanted to be with her!

Last night I finished Markos's book 'From Achilles to Christ: Why Christians Should Read the Classics.' To say I really enjoyed the book would be an understating it. It took me longer to read than most books [even much larger ones] because I had my Bible right there; in those sentences where the author pointed out linkage to scripture I would make a notation in the edges of my Bible. I was again affirmed in my conviction that long before God chose Abraham he was disclosing to the whole world his coming plan of salvation for all humankind ... he was preparing the way that Elijah and John the Baptist would later call our attention to; he was preparing the hearts of his people everywhere for the true Messiah. I strongly concur with those who believe that this book [if not the classics themselves] should be studied by those who are going into ministry. Mythology was man's attempt to explain the mystery of life and why events happened, it was man's attempt to establish some kind of relationship with the gods that just might establish a hope for eternity ........... and in the midst of all those hopeless efforts God planted little seeds, with just enough truth, so that when Christ did come to redeem us, when the story of good news did spread throughout the world, our hearts and minds would not totally be surprised but there would a crack in the door to our receiving it. I was not aware that C.S.Lewis was a professor of mythology, and he considered Christianity just a modern myth. One day his good friend J.R.R.Tolkien [author of Lord of the Rings] challenged him with this: 'what if the reason that the story of Christ sounded so similar to the pagan tales of dying and rising gods was because Jesus was the myth that came true?'[p.248] Answering this question in the affirmative C.S.Lewis became the great apologist for our faith. Lewis remarked, 'The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact!'
Markos, Louis. 'From Achilles to Christ' Downers Grove, Ill. IVP Academic Press 2007 ISBN: 9780830825936

Last night I watched an segment of the History channels 'Clash of the Gods.' This weeks featured the myth of Medusa. An innocent devotee of the goddess Athena, Medusa was a committed virgin for all her life, no mortal man could ever possess her; her beauty could not be rivaled in all Greece. However the sea god, Poseidon rapes her and now she is unfit to keep serving Athena, and the goddess takes her revenge. Not on the god who is guilty, for gods in that day were thought to often do terrible things for which they would always go unpunished for, so Medusa becomes the innocent object of Athena's rage. For all eternity every man who looks upon Medusa [picture here in the article] is turned to stone. Its quite a story, with innumerable links to scripture. One thought I had was how many times when tragedy strikes their lives people will shake their fist at God, as though he is acting like Athena and taking out his revenge even on those who are innocent. I'm glad that our God transcends the gods of mythology, he doesn't punish the innocent, rather he is their protector.

Closing note: Yesterday I was reading an article about Ted Kennedy and the the letter he had President Obama deliver to the Pope. In it the author comments that as we grow older, those who have been raised in the 'church' have a tendency to return to the church-of-upbringing as we see death approaching. Then I thought 'how sad that so many of us, as we grow older [everyone does] refuse to acknowledge the approaching signs of death. Particularly in our western culture we tend to think we'll live on this earth forever; though in the deepest recesses of our minds we know that's not true. I firmly believe that those who refuse to acknowledge the times are those who suffer most when the tentacles of death began to grasp them; and they are those least prepared, and helpful, when death snatches a loved one of theirs. But ours is a hope that opens the door of eternity. Sometimes explaining that is like trying to encourage parents that once our kids graduate from high school and began to start a new life, the parent-child relationship has a chance to flourish far beyond the former union......our kids go from simply being our kids to our 'friends!' [having Grandkids sure helps!!!!!!].... and that's when family bonds get tighter and richer.

Well, I pray for you a fulfilled day with our Creator in His presence.