A Gingham Dress

Several years ago, at the beginning of the internet, the following story was shared with me —so I am not sure where it came from, and am not able to confirm its veracity. Regardless…ponder these words:It was the late 1880’s. A lady in a faded gingham dress and her husband, dressed in a homespun threadbare suit, stepped off the elevator into the outer office of the president of Harvard University. The secretary could tell in a moment that such backwoods, country hicks had…

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All Shall Be Well

During my college career I sang with a variety of choral groups. During my senior year I had the opportunity to sing with a small group of 16 men. I recall one short piece which included the words “…and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” These hopeful words came from the writings of the 14th century mystic, Julian of Norwich, who evidently was the first woman to write a book in English, a book she rewrote twenty…

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The Nativity of Our Lord

“My Soul Magnifies the Lord”“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!” Luke 1:46“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19It is Christmas Day. My family, as we have for years, gathered last night within our “pod” with…

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What Are You Waiting For?

“Wha-at a-are yo-ou WAITING for? Christmas?” It’s a question I used to harangue batters with as a baseball catcher in college--especially when a batter was excessively finicky at which pitch he wanted to swing. The question is probably asked a million times—thrown at the direction of the driver ahead of us who is more intent on the cell phone than on the green traffic light—in wonderment of how much greener the light needs to be before said motorist finally looks up from the…

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Thanks to God For My Redeemer

I can remember as a young pastor thumbing through my grandmother Emilie Bee’s old church hymnal while serving a small congregation in Grafton, Illinois. I remember the congregation well because we had to cross the Mississippi into Illinois by way of a barge/ferry. As I perused her hymnal, I came across a piece of music that has become one of my favorite Thanksgiving poems. I like it, first, because it is so simple, and second, because it is so specific. It doesn’t simply…

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Rain or Shine

It’s November—the warmth of mid-fall weather is gone—replaced by cooler, almost winter-like weather. Gray clouds cover up blue skies and the last of the yellow, golden, and red leaves fall as it rains, leaving the tree branches bare. It’s sort of a depressing time of the year, don’t you think? We can sort of look forward to later in the month when Thanksgiving Day will come. The seasonal changes remind me of the changing rhythms of life—often warm and bright and then at…

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Problems or Solutions?

As small children my two daughters were blessed with a toy—you’ve seen it, I’m sure. It was composed of two parts: A plastic box with a dozen or so holes of different shapes and a collection of plastic pieces sharped to fit the holes in the box. That toy presented my daughters with endless hours of discovery as they worked through the problem finding properly shaped piece to fit each hole. The very process of going from hole to hole was pure play…

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Hate to Wait?

They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength… Isaiah 40:31 It had been a hectic afternoon of running errands, complicated by the fact that we were doing the running in a new place that we hadn’t been familiar with for nearly 15 years. Meridian and Boise had grown and expanded and we’d just moved back to town. It was past dinnertime when we parked at our final stop—the Co-op. My stomach was growling, and my attitude was not in much better…

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Two Vials of Ashes

It’s been 19 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center (September 11, 2001) and 40 years since Mount St. Helens erupted (May 18, 1980).  Pictured are two vials of ash—one from each event, along with a missing person flyer given to me by the family of Tonyell McDay, who perished in the explosion of World Trade Tower 1.  My life and career came close to both disasters.  I was preaching at Our Savior’s Lutheran in Sunnyside, WA that day in May 1980…

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Talitha’s Story

A friend of mine, a Lutheran pastor, author, and story- teller, Walter Wangerin, tells the story of his youngest daughter, a child of a mixed-race marriage, whom Walt adopted. It’s actually the story of her “story.” It is scary and wonderful all at the same time, and as an adopted person myself, I thought it would be wonderful to share it. Oh, and btw, her name is Talitha. Walt writes: “Once when Talitha and I were walking to church early one Sunday morning,…

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The other day, I came out to my car while on a road trip to see family, and found that my battery was totally dead—not one light except the dim vanity light on passenger sun shield—not one “bing, bong” from any warning system—absolutely dead. I thought, “Well, that’s OK, I have a set of jumper cables in the trunk and I can use my cousin’s car to jump my battery.” Ah, the plans of mice and humanity. The access to the trunk was…

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Ceremonies for Common Days

How, but in custom and ceremony, are innocence and beauty born? WB. Yeats Yeats reflects on the workings of ceremony and custom that give birth to beauty and how they restore a sense of wonder to our daily rounds. Most of us are far too jaded for our own good…we have seen it all…there are not surprises for us anymore…which is precisely our problem. We only think we have seen it all! What we haven’t begun to see is the abundance that surrounds…

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Healing and Acceptance

There is an ancient Buddhist story that tells of a woman—a mother—whose child died. The mother carried her deceased daughter from place to place begging for help—as if she could still bring her back to life. The mother was turned away time after time, as each person she asked could see that there was no bringing the child back to life. Finally, someone told her that if she went to the Buddha, perhaps he could help.So the mother traveled to the Buddha and…

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The Red Six of Spades

When I was an undergraduate in psychology, all the Psych 101 students had the opportunity to participate in an experiment for extra credit. Being a budding social scientist, I was curious and frankly needed some extra credit, so I signed up for an experiment.  This is what I was asked to do. I sat down at a table and an experimenter took an ordinary deck of playing cards and flashed six of them at me. She flashed them quickly asking me to identify…

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Echo of the Divine

“Deep within the heart of everyone there is an eternal echo of the Divine.” (Out of the Ordinary: Awareness of God in the Everyday) Peter Verity Not long ago I had the chance to be alone in a deep basalt lined canyon in the southern Idaho desert. I remember being there as a child and wondering how resonant it was when I shouted my name. During this trip, I was alone and therefore somewhat uninhibited, so I shouted my name, and was struck…

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Knots…or Exaltations

A lot of experience in life can make us feel like a knot of toads—like that last eight weeks in this pandemic. Toads have a bad reputation for causing warts (even though they don’t). They do secrete an acrid fluid that is irritating to the skin and lips of would be aggressor, but generally they are harmless. When we feel unappreciated, put down, alone, quarantined or just depressed, we may feel ugly or “warty.”

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Do Some Things “Just Happen”?

During the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 disaster I was assigned by the Red Cross to the New Jersey Family Assistance Center at the Liberty State Park. As a chaplain, alongside many other professional care givers, I worked with many of the families who were just beginning to come to terms with the loss of loved ones during the collapse of the twin towers. I was confronted with many questions as to “Why?” this had happened to them and to their loved ones.

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Cathedrals are where you find them. There is probably non so beautiful as the Sawtooth Range above Stanley, Idaho. I took a group of chaplain students there several years ago. These visitors, who came from around the country and world, quieted themselves as we neared the vista point that presented itself along Highway 21. At on point we all got out. Footsteps slowed; voices were muted. I was struck with the silence—even when other visitors pulled over and stopped. No cell phones perched…

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Your Own Doo Dah Parade?
The Brief Case Drill Team

Your Own Doo Dah Parade?

Teach us delight in simple things, And mirth that has not bitter springs. Rudyard Kipling, The Children’s Song Every year on or around May 1, an unruly group of citizens in Pasadena, California march in a mini extravaganza they call the Doo Dah Parade. Perennial favorites of the occasion are the Marching Precision Brief Case Drill Team (bankers from the area who swing their brief cases in unison), the Newport Beach Dull Men’s Club (businessmen who march in time to the cacophony of…

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Living our Lives in Saturday’s Length

One of my favorite authors, Phillip Yancey jolted my thinking about Easter several years ago. He wrote: Two days, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, are perhaps the most significant days on the entire church calendar, and yet, in a real sense, we live our lives on Saturday, the day in between…Human history grinds on, between the time of promise and fulfillment. Its Saturday on plant Earth; will Sunday ever come? (“Unwrapping Jesus: My Top Ten Surprises,” Christianity Today, June, 1996 Its Holy Saturday…

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Casting Our Cares

It was a morning like no other morning I’d spend for a long time. I had the opportunity to indulge one of my passions—fly fishing—on a weekday not long ago. The sun was on its way over the ridge that sat above the Salmon River just below Stanley, Idaho, in view of the majestic Sawtooth range. The aspen were quaking with the slight breeze and the colors of the wilderness were in full array. The morning was crisp with an air that levitated…

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