Archive for April, 2011

and he received living words to pass on to us.”

Stephen the first Christian martyr, speaking of Moses in Acts 7:38

That line from Stephen jumped out at me in my Lenten reflections this morning. Maybe it’s because I hate dead, bureaucratic language so much, and have to live with a lot of dead, bureaucratic language in the administrative world that is a hospital. I’m a chaplain in a hospital, of course, and hospital chaplains are subjected like everybody else to memos and articles and reports and things writ in language that would confuse a witch doctor with a Ph.D. and a law degree to boot, if it didn’t kill him with boredom first.

So that’s partly why the line from Stephen jumped out at me. But moreso because we forget sometimes that God is a living God, always on the side of life, of building up and not tearing down. The living word of God is dynamic and organic, always speaking to us in new ways for new times. Everything about the message of the gospels and the words of the Apostles is about life and new life, life renewed and regenerated in a living and loving Christ who never wrote a word but spoke words that live on, a Christ who embodied the “living word” that was handed down to Moses all those years ago.

There’s nothing dead or bureaucratic about the living God who, in living with us, lives for us, and remains as near to us as our next breath of life or our last breath, and beyond.

Because he lives, I can face tomorrow.

(for Tonya and the Rooskies in Moscow, grace & peace)

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Those of a certain age will remember the popular bumper sticker that seemed, many years ago, to be on every other vehicle:


Talk about that old existential dread. . . .

I can’t imagine a less hopeful, more dreadful way of approaching life.

For sure, life can be, and will be, a bitch and a bastard to-boot. I don’t care how charmed your life is . . . if you live long enough, you’re gonna take your knocks. In fact, the disappointments and heartaches and grief might come in overwhelming waves sometimes. Sometimes it seems like problems come in threes and multiples of threes.

I ministered in the aftermath of three deaths at the hospital last night. One was a fetal demise. The mom had carried this first child to-be for 22 weeks.

It’s always a shock to my sensibilities to walk into a Labor and Delivery Room and see a nurse cleaning a raw and grotesque looking fetus so that the fetus can be wrapped up and handed to the mom to hold. I get over the revulsion of it when I see the mom cradling in her arms what would have been and could have been a long life. I see God’s grace in that mom. I see baptism by teardrops and think to myself, “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

Last night I also watched an 83 year old man pronounced dead in the ER while his wife and daughter slung themselves over his body in their grief and hysteria. They couldn’t understand how this man, who was so vigorous and feeling good only an hour before, could now be dead.
Another death was that of a 77 year old man in ICU who had loved ones by the dozens coming in and out of the room to pay respects. He too had been a vigorous man, full of life, less than a week ago.

Some of the loved ones in both cases regretted all the things they didn’t get to say to these patients, and they felt the sort of guilt that is so common in these situations. I tell people all that time that it would be nice if we had a crystal ball and could see death roaring toward us, but it just doesn’t work that way. We just never know.

I’m telling you, dear reader. You just never know.

(Remember that when you speak to your spouse, child or other loved one next time. What if your words were the last that your loved one ever heard spoken from you? Would you regret those words? Feel guilty if the other were suddenly gone?)

I hear it all the time–“I wouldn’t want your job.”
It’s not a job, I tell them. It’s what I’m called by God to do. That doesn’t make what I do easy but it does make what I do normal. (Interesting looks people give me.)

Or sometimes they say to me . . . “Your job must really be hard.”
(It can be, I say, but life is hard and nobody gets out without hardships. It’s just hard sometimes, isn’t it? You wouldn’t believe some of the expressions on people’s faces when I say that, as if it’s a revelation to them that life is, well, a bitch.)

Or people say . . . “I don’t see how you do this.” (I don’t do much of anything, I respond. I just let God be God. Wow, I’ve had people look stunned when I say that.)

The good news is that Christ is always close by to help us carry the cross through the valley, no matter how dark and scary the valley may be.

There will be dark valleys.

There will be God’s grace.

My “job” in pastoral care ministry is to keep hope alive. It’s not at all a hard job if you believe in the hope of Holiness.

To be continued . . . .

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“If I look at most Christian nations, I see budgets focused on helping the rich and building up deadly weapon reserves. They may be protecting the unborn, but definitely not helping the living poor.”

— from the feminist Christian blog–and a most excellent feminist Christian blog– “A Seat at the Table.” More below and click here for the whole enchilada.

(art by El Greco: Christ Carrying the Cross)

Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
— Phil 2:6-11

“We cannot find Him unless we know we need him. We forget this need when we take a self-sufficient pleasure in our own good works. The poor and helpless are the first to find Him, who came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island

“This week, every Christian receives the same invitation:

Jesus Christ, Godde’s beloved child,
invites you to join Him
in his emptying, humbling, death, and resurrection.
Bring your cross
along with your love for and need of him.

“The ultimate parable of Jesus now plays out: the Son of Godde dies like a slave. He who is the Way shows us the way to join him now and forever — the path of emptiness, humility and death, all these ensuring our resurrection with him —, a path the Desert Mothers and Fathers understood well. Do we?

“If I look at most Christian nations, I see budgets focused on helping the rich and building up deadly weapon reserves. They may be protecting the unborn, but definitely not helping the living poor.

“As to our societies, they seem to be built on prurient advertising and consumption galore. Every time I buy something I will soon forget in a closet, I show Jesus where my loyalty lies, — not with him. Every time I ignore a beggar in the street, Jesus is the recipient of my indifference and scorn.

“This week, then, wrapped in my love for Him, my heart aching with longing for Him, and my shoulders burdened by a cross that cannot claim to be anything near to his, I call on his Spirit and pray: Please help me stay awake as Jesus bleeds tears of pain in the garden. Help me pray with him, walk along him, witness his suffering, his being abused and whipped, denied and hung on a cross. Please, show me how I can change my life so that I can awaken with him on Easter morning.

“In His name.”

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I always liked Peter Gabriel’s “world” music — especially this one witih him and Paula Cole on a Gabriel song that is about three days long because it’s like two songs in one. — and always liked Paula Cole’s music too, she who raised the question, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?”

Gotta love a girl so old-fashioned she’d do the dishes while here cowboy went out to have a beer. Where have all those cowgirls gone?

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With respects to Monty Python:

(From “The Daily What” via Andrew Sullivan)

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Has goodwill been, and appeared to be, the spring of all my actions toward others?

— John Wesley

Good question that, for Christians taking stock of themselves as Holy Week approaches. . . . .

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Yes, the crazed genius of Rock and Roll who lived fast, died young and left a not-so-beautiful corpse had a touch of the Beave, way back in the prehistoric, pre-Doors days. I mean, he looked more like the Beave than Wally did, didn’t he?

And here’s the only book you’ll ever need about Jim and the Doors–John Densmore is a terrific writer as well as one of the greatest rock drummers.

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A reader sent this video from the Dallas Morning News online edition, which I had not seen when I posted the prior posting today on the cost of war in lives and lives ruined.

The vid really drives home what the families of the wounded–God help them–have to deal with, for the rest of their lives.

Click on the link below or here to view it.

And do support our troops and vets with prayer and find a way to give and show support more about support here.


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Truth is the first casualty of war.”

— Old Truism

And the truth shall set you free.”

— Christ

Somehow some way the Big Political Lie is still circulating out there that President Obama has proposed or somehow hidden a pay freeze on all those serving in the United States Armed Forces.

I have friends (a couple hundred of those on Facebook who I don’t even know) who hate Obama’s guts who’ve bought into this Big Lie. It makes one feel pretty good about his or her politics, I suppose, if one stays awake nights hating on Obama, who is as hated by the Right as much as W. was hated by the Left.

But the fact is that Obama has not proposed a pay freeze on the military or any such thing. He may be as cynical, at bottom, as W. and all the other politicians when it comes to playing political war games, but he’s not so stupid that he would propose a pay freeze on the military, nor could he hide a freeze if he wanted to. (I wonder if Donald Trump, who has totally, uh, wigged out, is spreading this nonsense.)

How much more cynical can politics get.

Using the military for political points — breathlessly spreading lies about military pay so that one can bash the President and Commander in Chief– is a measure of just how sick this nation has become. If only that energy spent on political gamesmanship and political assassination were spent on actually supporting our troops with projects to send Care Packages to our troops, or to raise money for scholarships for their kids and all that good stuff.

Whatever happened to those millions of Support Our Troops stickers anyway? (Floating around in that big trash bin in the ocean perhaps?)

Longtimers who follow this blog know that one of the of the missions of this blog is to never let anyone forget the high costs of misguided American military adventures in this 21rst Century.

We’ve not had any real wars in this century, in my most humble opinion, but rather have had only what can be described as military “adventures” that were, for the most part needless–and certainly costly, not only in terms of Americans killed but Americans maimed for life.

The media and politicians always cite the number of Americans killed, never giving much attention to the number wounded. Those who glorify war and drum up support for it with patriotic posturing tend to ignore the astronomically high numbers of wounded who suffer brain damage and will require 24-7 care for the rest of their long lives. We don’t like to think about those who get maimed for life physically, but also mentally, emotionally, psychologically. We don’t like to anticipate the costs of military adventures by considering the costs to taxpayers for decades and more decades to come to care for veterans who will end up homeless or drug and alcohol dependent and all the rest of the social costs that will be paid.

In “Operation Iraqi Freedom” alone–the war that Dick Cheney assured us would be quick and easy with our troops being greeted as liberators and us being made safe from almost assured nuclear destruction at the hands of a dictator who bluffed him–4,408 Americans were killed–and 31,931 wounded.

That’s 31,931 physically wounded. We can only imagine how many of our troops — and their families — have been impacted in other ways for the rest of their long lives.

Here’s more war by the numbers.



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Carl Heinrich Bloch

“When the Greeks got the Gospel, they turned it into a philosophy; when the Romans got it, they turned it into a government; when the Europeans got it, they turned it into a culture; and when the Americans got it, they turned it into a business.”

Richard Halverson

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