Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dad: The Second Time of Saying Farewell

I'll try this again! I wrote this earlier and the computer somehow deleted it. Dad, are you channeling again?

We got home from work the day before our weekend began, and soon after my wife's sister called to say their father had died peacefully after a morning of good spirits and humorous interaction with the staff of his nursing home. We actually worked that night, and everyone was very supportive, with the store manager telling us we could have 3 days of bereavement leave if needed - and we took them up on it to follow our weekend.

We flew to Idaho on Thursday, offered our support and comfort to Mom, and I prepared to do the service - having learned from my beloved that my earlier offer to do the service, they refused because they thought it would be to difficult for me to do. I drew on my years of experience as a pastor, memories of my interactions with her Dad and how he helped me get through my seminary theology courses and gave insights while I was actively pastoring churches.

Our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson arrived very early Friday morning and we got some quality time with our grandson, Justin Lee. Our daughter and son-in-law arrived later Friday, and we got good time with them as well. Two of my wife's cousins came with their spouses and some good sharing happened with them as well.

The service was a mix of the serious and the humorous, using a couple of Dad's pet phrases - "Where have you been?" to start the service, "We're off like a dirty shirt." when the service was over. It caused some memories of my own father's funeral, and memories of my interactions with Mary's dad through the years.

One of the most amazing things about this man born in 1914 was his amazing openness to new insights and new science within his faith expression - open to the beginning of inclusive language shown in the beginning of table grace, "We thank thee, our Father, our Mother . . ." and his willingness to welcome persons traditionally shunned or persecuted by the church. If only more could learn to be more like Dad!

So, Dad, farewell, until we meet again! Because I have no doubt we will see one another again!


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Hard Work

I have been reminded recently about the old adage that hard work pays off - how? I'm at a lower weight now than I have been in over 2 decades thanks to the work I'm doing as an overnight stocker for Wal-Mart! I've been wearing a smaller belt my loving wife and daughter bought for me one day when I forgot a belt working for Walgreen's - and my pants kept sliding off my hips! Two days ago, I buckled it in the last notch it came with without even sucking in my stomach! And the smaller pairs of jeans I bought to work at Wal-Mart can be pushed down over my hips quiet easily while zipped and buttoned!! Cause for rejoicing, let me tell you!

I've tried diets, and lost to gain it back, but that was also when I was in a job that was very sedentary - as opposed to this one, where I'm most usually on the run from the time the nightly meeting is over until I'm ready to clock out.

See, regardless of your goal, hard work does pay off - though not always in the way we hoped! I don't want anyone to think they can work hard and gain a miracle just because of my success at losing weight. I'll give you an example from our family history - my wife had a cousin whose wife was diagnosed with cancer. She was a very strong and conservative Christian who believed her prayers would result in God healing her (she had four children and a husband who was a doctor), and refused treatment because of her beliefs. I think, knowing them, she worked hard at her approach - and died! Sometimes you just need to given in and see that doctor, and trust their expertise in the area of your health! Sometimes, as in my case, I'm simply accomplishing part of what they told me, and reaping the benefits! More exercise has a huge impact on health.

May success follow from your hard work! Peace!

Monday, April 13, 2009


Once again, I have been reminded of how difficult it can be to teach someone. The last two nights at work I've been given the responsibility of training people new to our position. The first night, it was an intense young man who now plans to work two jobs for a total of about 60 hours a week. He was quick to pick up the basics, but had some difficulty understanding a couple of points - like keeping the work area clean, and following spacing directions as printed on the labels for the items we stock. Last night, it was a fellow who is around my age, formerly a trucker, a widower with two teens, and pretty much determined to do it his way - or not. As the night began, he followed me around like a puppy, but as it progressed he became more determined to follow his own inclinations - not following spacing directions, not straightening the shelves, and not staying in the area to which he was assigned. I understand he doesn't want to work where he is and is talking with another employee who feels the same way, and they are seeking to switch positions. It might be for the best, because he says he has a bad back, and the bending and lifting we need to do is causing discomfort.

As the night ended last night, I asked the young man which he liked better - foods or paper goods and chemicals - and he replied with real feeling that he preferred paper and chemicals much better! Such is life. I think he can work well, depending on how well he learns to grasp those two points about a clean work area and following spacing directions on labels.

I'm trying to learn and do more as things move along. I had the overnight support manager show me how to prepare overstock cases for the back room and how to assign them to a bin for easier inventory management. I also set a feature near the cash registers. So things continue, and life's lessons continue to come, bringing new challenges and new joys.


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Life's Surprises

Well, after just about deciding that my final years of productive work would be as a manual laborer working graveyard shift, life pulled another surprise - two churches have recently contacted me about the possibility of becoming their pastor. And more surprising, both are from the theological spectrum end that I most identify with - the left, or liberal, or progressive. I'm providing requested information and seeking to be forthright and forthcoming in meeting their requests to see where this goes. That isn't to say I've tried to hide information from other churches in the past, just that I'm trying to be as up front as possible.

I've also simply shook my head as I listened to the corporate spiel about the Employee Free Choice Act - "it will take away your right to a private vote!" Fear the union! They aren't interested in you! Well, while they might not be quite what they started out as, the unions are there to protect the workers and to see that there is accountability on the part management. And if a company doesn't want to have a union gain power, perhaps they should consider accomplishing for their people what unions are there for - accountability, fair treatment for all, fair pay and hours. It's not that difficult, people! It's just sad that corporate America feels a need to resort to scare tactics and lies to try to stop legislation to help laborers have the option to ask for union representation.

Life is full of surprises, and those surprises can keep life interesting and chase away boredom! So enjoy life's little surprises - the enjoyable things that happen unexpectedly, the humorous things that bring a smile or even a belly laugh, the old friend who pops out of the "woodwork" to reconnect with us.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Be Yourself

I've been a pastor for 31 years, I've been through several searches - the process of finding a church to serve - and have tried several times to read profiles of churches and find a way to be what they are looking for because they were an appealing to me. My track record? Not all that good from the point of view of how long I've been places. But from the point of view of what I was able to accomplish, well that's another story until the last two. The churches grew by about 30%, attendance increased, and new programs were added or dead programs revived. In the last two churches, well, perhaps the best way to look at it is that we - the church and I - failed to clearly communicate with one another about what our expectations and our willingness to change.

I firmly believe the Christian Church actually needs to change dramatically to continue to exist in any meaningful manner. The pattern of existence from half a century ago will not help the church live into the future, nor will it help the world to find a better path to living peacefully and justly. Part of that change is the need for members to connect once more with the early church pattern of each member finding their particular gift(s) and then actively using that gift(s) to help the community, which will then help the particular congregation grow. I've even heard of churches that have done this that actually intentionally, amiably separated to create additional congregations more closely connected with the communities from which they drew members. Some church growth experts speak of satellite congregations connected under a founding church where closed circuit television allows a single pastor to preach to a variety of congregations using different worship styles and focused on a slightly different manner of carrying out their mission.

I've recently video taped a sermon trying to fit what one church might have wanted. I sent them the disk and never heard back from them until the disk returned. I'm preparing to do another and have decided that I will do this one as I have become comfortable delivering the message. As a colleague from Iowa (now in Wisconsin) said, "I'm [sixty] years old! I don't have to apologize for what I know, or what I believe." I will continue to try to learn, to adapt, but I really don't need to be like the religious leaders of Jesus' time trying to fit into the political realities to the point of losing who I am from my faith perspective; rather I need to remain true to my faith, and seek to find ways that will help others understand my beliefs, as well as trying to understand theirs.

If persons of faith can learn to respectfully live with one another without declaring only one stated set of beliefs are true, I believe we can start learning that the Divine has come repeatedly to help us try to understand what we CAN be. We need to learn to see the person behind the beliefs, to see the child of the divine rather than an enemy to be conquered, subjugated, converted.

Perhaps by sharing, we can begin to learn from one another.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Bugs

Well, with the crazy winter weather that Colorado has had, and the plethora of bugs that are enjoying the situation, one finally took residence within my body. I'm hacking away, to the point co-workers were asking my beloved to take me home, and coming over to ask if I was OK, would I make it, and similar such questions. Since finances are such that I cannot afford to be off work, thus short hours and money, my stock answer is, "Don't worry about me until you find me lying in the aisle, not moving at all." That usually gets a grin, perhaps a smart response, and we are back to work.

I've been approached by a church about the possibility of candidacy for their pastoral position. I've read the profile, talked with my beloved, and indicated a willingness to go forward. It's still way to early to have a clue where this bug will lead, but it is there and tickling interest. The church is closer to our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson. It is also closer to the Great Lakes, hence in the snow belt that has been getting hammered this winter with snow, cold and storms.

Another bug that has been inching into the picture is a return to an earlier avocation - fishing. They do a lot of fly fishing here, but there are also lakes and reservoirs that will yield bass, crappie, sunnies, and walleye. Dad, I'm thinking of you, and just might try to get out on Bonnie for those walleyes we never got a chance to tackle together! Son, I don't think I'll get the thrill you got with your first Northern pike, because they aren't around here.

Still another bug niggling at the back of things is the bug to start writing again, working on stories that have floated for years, and see if there might be a retirement enhancing possibility there. I've thought of a variety of genres to write in, and dabbled, but never sought publication. Some day!

For now the issue is getting rid of this nasty cold that seems to be double parked in my nose and chest - and the faster the better! Here's hoping you all avoid such nasties!!


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Challenges are everywhere

They're everywhere! They're everywhere!

Yes, challenges lie around EVERY corner of life - because life is change! One either learns to adapt, to learn and do new things, or one slowly but surely DIES! That is the basic law of nature. So why do so many people fight change? Why are we still arguing a theory that, to my way of thinking, fits the basic story of Judeo-Christian Creation "Stories," is accepted in the scientific community and continues to show itself in life all around us? Why do we argue evolution when we use it to improve foods, computer programs, medicines; and to be evolved by the changes that life brings?

You don't accept that we do? Well, are you seriously finding pure-bred farmers that will sell you meat that ABSOLUTELY hasn't had ANY genetic changes for millions of years? Impossible, and you are only fooling yourself if you don't think so. Life is about finding ways to improve everything - that's why God gave us brains - to think, investigate, improve -- because we are CO-CREATORS with God. We help the divine recreate the world and our lives by the moment.

I've worked in a furniture plant, laid ceramic tile, cleaned carpet, worked in a fruit-dry-yard, mowed lawns, done maintenance work, been a security guard, been a pastor, worked on farms, worked in restaurants, and now am in retail - constantly learning to change in order to live. I accept that challenges will come, and I need to learn to face them, learn from them, and overcome them. My wife has constantly done the same with health and work issues. She finds that knitting is her stress relief, for me it is computer gaming - pretty hard when my gaming partner works days, and I work nights, but we manage.

Life is change; life is NOT static, it doesn't stagnate unless we let it do so. So, my words to you? Simply learn to grow, to change, to adapt - and join God in the creative process. LIFE, CHANGE, GROWTH, CHANGE, REALITY, CHANGE, CHANGE, CHANGE.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History in the making

My lovely bride and I have been watching the news as we lead up to today's Inauguration of the 44th President of these United States of America. She has teared up several times at what is being shown and expressed the overwhelming emotion of this historic time. She commented that I don't seem to be feeling it - Oh, but I am. I sit watching people filling the National Mall, consider the upcoming events, and my throat closes with emotion. I take deep breaths and hold on until the next wave hits.

You might ask why I would feel this way, and I will tell you that I remember sitting in a junior high classroom when the public address system suddenly came on to announce, "We repeat President Kennedy has been shot!" I recall standing around the campus in groups, unable to believe what we were hearing. I remember hearing the news and sitting riveted to the television following the news of Bobby Kennedy's assassination. I recall listening to and being so uplifted, so challenged, so powerfully stirred by the "I have a dream" speech. And, I am so sorry to say, I remember how devastating it was to hear that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated.

I've listened to racists and those who understand that we all bleed red, and know those who live and breath Republican values as well as those who live and breath Democratic values. I simply find myself thinking over and over, we've reached a major milestone! I helped get here, not only voting for my new President, but serving as a precinct captain for Senator Obama during out time in Iowa. I feel a new sense of hope, I sense a real desire to change the business and usual attitudes, and join my new President in calling people to start rediscovering volunteerism, to help lift all of us to a better place and time.

So anyone who tells you men don't cry, don't get choked up, hasn't really been around people who are strongly committed to a cause, and I'm proof of that. I've had doctors comment about my high pain threshold, and many comment on my apparent lack of emotion - well, there is also something to say for staying calm and focused on achieving the goals.

The emotion is there, and I promise you I'll be praying everyday that no crazy deprives Michele and the girls. and our nation of this profound man who drew young people back to a civic right they felt just didn't matter. I hope you will join me in volunteering, praying for our country and our new President and learning to allow your emotions to be real for those around you. We all need to learn that!


Friday, January 2, 2009

Racial Profiling Is Alive and Well

I know the government continues to deny they are involved - at virtually every level - but a story this morning shows just how blatantly active it is!

It seems "some other passengers" became concerned about the conversation of a Muslim family on a flight. The airline, who doesn't deserve the courtesy of not mentioning their name but will get it for now, removed them from the flight AND REFUSED TO REBOOK THEM EVEN THOUGH THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIONS CLEARED THEM OF ANY WRONG DOING!!!!

Adjoining this story was a headline about several Muslims being removed from flights - what about Christian Right extremists willing to blow up medical clinics; kill doctors, nurses AND PATIENTS of said clinics and boast of it? What about power hungry politicians willing to put the whole nation in danger to fuel their maniacal dreams of grandeur?

And before to castigate me for my blatant prejudice, allow to to tell you that not all that long ago, waiting to board a flight from a small city in New York state, my wife and I witnessed a group of young men singled out for a "thorough search" based on the stated basis of their apparent national origin. Yes, I said we witnessed this, and what's more I heard the TSA agents say it!

The land of the free and the home of the brave is also the home of the phobics and the prejudiced, and we have a long, long way to go to be the nation we should be. My hope is that others will be as outraged as I over this family's plight, and that the collective outrage will get some airlines fined, some TSA agents booted and create an atmosphere in which people can begin to learn about and understand one another.

I've said before, and will again, that all the major world religions have the same basic values, stated according to their own cultural setting, and that the sooner we recognize we ALL have RADICALS and TERRORISTS within our ranks, the SOONER we can begin to build the kind of understanding and concern that will indeed make us the beacon of goodness in world, because we WILL NOT ASSUME GUILT BEFORE IT IS PROVEN.

Enough of the soap box, but please, I beg you, give this serious thought, and be willing to voice yourself when you see it happen. This isn't right, honorable, or American - it's racist, bigoted and wrong!