Monday, January 18, 2021

It Is Well

 

It Is Well

 

Not long ago I had the privilege of praying for a man who was seriously injured in a car accident. He and his whole family were on vacation when this tragedy happened. Not only were many of his extended family injured, but his wife also died at the accident scene. Unable to attend his wife’s funeral, he was facing several difficult surgeries.

 

When I asked if I could pray, he said yes. Then he looked me in the eye and said: “I am thankful for all that God has done for me even in this loss. It is well with my soul.” Here was a broken man who had every right to be angry at God for allowing this to happen. Instead, with tear filled eyes, he could say it is well with his soul.

 

After our time of prayer, we talked about the tragedy of the man who penned the hymn It Is Well With My Soul. A businessman who in the mid 1800’s lost his son in the Great Chicago fire, his business nearly ruined by economic downturn, and not long after lost four daughters when the ship his wife was on collided with another ship at sea. Instead of anger and cursing God after such a loss, he wrote the lyrics that later became solace and hope for all who walk through the valley of death.

 

Here are the words of a grieving man praising God:

 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to know it is well,

 It is well with my soul.

 

“Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and staff protect and comfort me.” Psalms 23

 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Kool Aid

 

Kool Aid

 

Remember those hot summer days as a child when there was need for shade and a cold drink to refresh? As a child I relished those times when my mother ripped open a package of Kool Aid, and poured it into a pitcher filled with ice. Just the bright color of flavored sugar set my taste buds astir. A cooling refreshment at its best.

 

Kool Aid was invented by a man named Edwin Perkins in his mother’s kitchen in Hastings, Nebraska in 1927. First called Fruit Smack it became an instant hit as the perfect summer drink for kids. To this day that city has an annual Kool-Aid  Days celebration in August.

 

This  popular summer drink took a turn for the worse back in late 1978 when cult leader Jim Jones laced grape Kool Aid with cyanide poison. The whole commune of  918 people, 304 of them children, were tricked into drinking it. All died a horrible death. Since then, Kool Aid fell out of popularity.

 

In our day “drinking the Kool Aid” has taken on the connotation of being suckered into an idea, a cause, or a particular point of view that distorts the truth. Unwittingly persuaded to join the crowd, enticed by the persuasion of a personality, a cause, promise of a better life or just the sweet taste on something new.

 

I believe there are many Kool Aid stands run by politicians, government officials and social media who are selling sugar laced lies and distortions to entice our nation into anarchy. This past week is a good example. What actually happened and what we were told happened was laced with poisonous distortions.

 

Caveat Emptor (let the drinker beware). We are being encouraged to sip the Kool-Aid that is destroying our nation!

 

 

 

Monday, January 4, 2021

RRXing

 

RRXing

 

The tracks cut a swath right through the north end of town. If I want to go anywhere, I have to cross over them. It makes no difference if I’m in a hurry or have time to burn, I have to factor in the possibility of waiting for a train to go by. There are over twenty trains a day carrying coal to the West coast or bringing import cars from Asia to the Midwest. Whatever the cargo, I still have to put my foot on the brake and wait.

 

The other day, sitting at the tracks daydreaming, a remembrance came to mind. As a kid I always took the bus to school. Whether it was nice or storming, the yellow bus was my mode of transportation. On the way to school, the bus had to cross several railroad tracks. It would stop, put out the sidearm with its red stop sign, open the door and out would jump a boy or girl whose job it was to flag the bus safely across the tracks. The bus crossed over, picked up the flagger and be off to school.

 

I wanted to be a flagger. That person had to be an older student. One trained to look both ways on the tracks making sure it was safe for the bus full of kids to cross. The flagger wore a white sash with an attached chrome badge. I wanted to be one. It was something about the white sash, the badge and the responsibility of looking both ways and waving the bus through that made my heart go wild. Finally I got to be one.

 

I was startled out of my memory by the guy behind me honking his horn. The arm barrier was up, the lights stopped flashing and the bell stopped ringing. Time to move on over the tracks and say good by to the memory of times past.

 

These days you don’t see kids jumping off the bus and waving it across the tracks. No more sashes, badges or respect. Today, what parent would allow his child to do such a dangerous and foolish thing? Bravery and honor out the window as our kids are protected from harm’s way. The daring days of youth gone forever.

 

I only wish I had kept my white sash and badge. I could wear them in the privacy of my truck, looking both ways as I bounce across the tracks.

 

 

 

 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Too Ra Loo Ra

 

Too Ra Loo Ra

 

I don’t remember much about her. She was quite old, and I was young. She lived alone. Her husband died before I was born. She was my father’s mother, my grandmother. Irish to the core. If my memory serves me right, she had a hint of a brogue and liked to sip a few.

 

Why am I sharing this? Well, to be truthful I have been watching way too many Hallmark Christmas movies. Somehow Judy talked me into changing my TV viewing from non-romantic to romantic thinking I needed some cheering up. That included some oldie but goodie black and white movies from the 30’s and 40’s.

 

In the middle of Going My Way with Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald, Bing croons out a tune I haven’t heard in many a year. Sitting at the piano in the rectory where he served as an assistant priest, he sang an old Irish lullaby, Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra. The tears started flowing and I couldn’t stop. This was the tune my grandmother Tooie (that was what he called her), would sing to me as I sat on her lap. Memories started flowing back: her perfume and her old fashioned hearing aid cord that I kept getting caught in as she hugged me to her bosom.

 

Now that the holiday season is almost over, I am emotionally drained from the romantic tension of Christmas TV. I can get back to real life action movies with a little cable news added in. My advice is be careful about what you watch. It may take you down memory lane with lots of Kleenex.

 

Thanks, Bing, for the memories!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, December 21, 2020

Closed

 

Closed

 

I don’t like it! The fact that our church building stands empty on Sunday morning is almost to much to bear. This year we have been out of it more than in it. Our beautiful log cabin church, the spiritual home for many people remains quiet. I stop by every Saturday to make sure the heat is on and the water pipes haven’t frozen. I’m about to cry as I remember all the celebrations of life held within those four walls.

 

COVID has kept us away. This past summer we were able to gather because the case numbers were down.  Excited to be back we hugged, shook hands and worshipped together. Then realizing that with our aging congregation it was no longer safe to meet, we shut down again. The saints were not happy!

 

Zoom is a wonderful tool but certainly no substitute for in person gathering. Seeing each other on the screen, catching up on each other’s lives helps. Sadly, some of our church family are not tech savvy so even this tool isn’t available to them. So pastoral care is conducted through texts or phone calls.

 

I have pastored for a long time. I never did like cancelling Sunday morning service for any reason. Even when there was a blizzard, I was hesitant to cancel. It must be my seminary training that every obstacle was to be overcome and no excuse to not have church. I realize that we live in unprecedented times. I sense that we cannot go back to the way things were. The new normal may look quite different from the old.

 

I encourage myself with these words from the Bible: “Let’s keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. Jesus always keeps his word. Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching.”

Monday, December 14, 2020

First Flight

 

First Flight

 

I miss flying. Since COVID I haven’t flown. In fact, I haven’t gone anywhere. Two vacation trips cancelled.They were the drive to kind so no cancelled flights. The days of hopping on a jet and off to some exotic place are a thing of the past. Who wants to get on a large cigar tube filled with coughing people exchanging carbon dioxide for a couple of hours?

 

Not long ago, I read that an Australian airline was offering a four hour flight to nowhere. You could buy a ticket at full price, grab a seat, enjoy all the amenities of first class and be back home that afternoon. No really, this is true and there were immediate sold out flights. The advertisement was for those who longed to fly again even if you weren’t going anywhere.

 

That brought to mind my first plane ride. I was a Boy Scout, and our scoutmaster organized a plane ride from Minneapolis Wold-Chamberlin Field to Rochester, Minnesota, a distance of 89 mile. It was a one way trip on a noisy prop Northwest Airlines plane. What a treat that was. I still remember the roaring of the engines, the shaking of the whole plane and the thrust of takeoff. I had never seen earth from ten thousand feet. It was an adventure of a lifetime. Not so much on the Greyhound bus ride back home.

 

Since then, I’ve been on many aircraft but none as memorable as that first one. I have flown to the UK, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico, Costa Rica, Australia, Holland, Israel, Jamaica and all over the USA. Big jets and small ones. I even sat in the co-pilot’s seat on a short flight from Seattle to Victoria, B.C. It was a sea plane piloted by a young lady wearing a flight jacket, wrap around aviator sunglasses and a white silk scarf. I think she took a shinning to me.

 

Not sure when I will get back up in the wild blue yonder. No matter, I still have that memory as a young boy, scared to death, on his first airplane. By the way, I sat in coach. That’s where I usually end up!

 

 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Inconvenience

 

Inconvenience

 

I have come to a startling revelation. This COVID is a great big inconvenience in my life. It’s taken eleven months for the lightbulb to come on. My life has changed and so has my attitude. The old normal doesn’t look so bad in comparison to the new normal whatever that is. Every time I want to go out and do something, the inconvenience of COVID says no you can’t!

 

How about putting on that face mask every time I walk out of the house. I’m not saying that it isn’t important for my safety and that of others. It’s just the inconvenience of remembering to do it. If I forgot, people look at me with a stare of shame. Then when I take the darn thing off it always gets tangled with my hearing aids. Is this what life has come to?

 

Wearing a mask for hours on end is beginning to affect my facial expressions and  breathing. It’s getting harder to recognize people. I can’t tell by their eyes whether they are as miserable as me or not. And the six feet distancing is a bridge too far. How can you communicate to people at that distance without shouting. Besides I can hardly hear someone three feet away.

 

Inconvenience is my new mantra. This new way of doing life is becoming more annoying. I try to keep a happy heart but there are days when I long for freedom from COVID. Now that winter is settling in and the holidays are here, there is little chance of celebrating with extended family. That is a major inconvenience.

 

I‘m afraid my selfishness is getting the better of me. In the midst of a pandemic there is need to look beyond myself. All those who are directly affected: family members dying, health care workers way over worked, people afraid and stressed with daily living need my prayers and support not my pity party. What a wake up call for the American way of life.

 

I think I have some more growing up to do.