Frank Graeff was a Methodist minister in the early part of the Twentieth Century. He was, one friend said, “a spiritual optimist.” Some even called him the Sunshine Minister. Graeff was a prolific lyricist, too, writing over 200 hymns. His most famous, though, was anything but cheerful. During a period of intense physical suffering when he felt God had abandoned him, he read a passage toward the end of the Bible – Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you, (1 Peter 5:7).
This week’s post was written after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille (and with them in mind), but before the deaths of DART Police Officer Brent Thompson and Dallas Police Officers Patrick Zamarripa, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol and Michael Smith. For a long time now, we have been clinging to a fragile calm while a simmering anger boiled beneath us.
Not all of it, but more of that anger than many of us want to admit, is justified. I have friends and relatives (because my extended family is not all the same color) who fear for themselves and their children, especially their sons. I also have friends who work in law enforcement. They, too, are afraid. Fear and anger are both black and blue.
Thursday night, anger erupted into rage and rage ran red in the streets of Dallas, Texas. Government, though ordained of God, cannot reconcile our differences. It can pass and enforce laws, but laws do not change hearts. There is one, however, who can. In the fourth gospel, two people more different from one another than we can imagine, met him. And he changed them.
In the afternoons when I head home from work, especially if I’m in the mood for a little political schizophrenia, I’ll spend the first half of my drive listening to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. If NPR was honest about it, they’d title it A Few Politically Left-leaning Things Considered because, c’mon, man – that program is about as objective as a group of Little League Baseball parents hissing from the bleachers at the umpire who just rung up their kid for a called strike three.
It has been awhile — too long, in fact — since my editor, best friend and faithful wife agreed to author a post. I think you’ll be blessed. She has an eye for the spiritual and a heart for people.
So yesterday, I was sitting with my mom in the hematology/oncology waiting room.
Back in the day, dads did not ride shotgun. That’s not necessarily because father drove best. Now, we’d say it was a feature of an oppressive gender hierarchy or hegemonic masculinity. In those days, we didn’t know what those words meant. That’s just the way it was. So, except for those couple of years we drove an Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser, the one with the awesome rear-facing third row seat, a substantial amount of my interaction with my dad was reflected in the rear-view mirror.
Early this week, my friend Edgar Walton died. He was 94. This is the eulogy I shared at his funeral, edited for length.
In the middle of Genesis, we read about the end of the patriarch Abraham. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.
Everybody loves Jesus. Even people who don’t believe in God or abhor institutional religion really like Jesus. He’s awesome. I’m pretty certain that if Jesus dropped in tomorrow afternoon for an unscheduled visit, there would be parties and celebrations and parades. Even Wednesday night church would be packed. Everyone would be thrilled to hear what he had to say.
Awkward moments. Everyone has them. Sometimes, they’re mild, like when you wave at someone you thought was waving at you. Except they weren’t. Or you and Celine Deon are just killin’ it. Until you notice the guy in the car next to you at the traffic light is staring. And of course there’s the left-hanging high five.
When I was a kid, all the stores in Buford closed at 3:00 on Wednesdays. All of them. That was because the owners and employees and even the customers needed to get home for an early dinner so that they could go to prayer meeting that night. In those days, everybody went to Wednesday night church.
Many people who are not favorably disposed to Christianity, or religion in general, are fond of quoting Matthew 7:1. Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Except they usually quote it from the King James Version (Judge not that ye be not judged), because (a) that was the vogue version the last time they cracked open a Bible, or (b) they think using the KJV makes them sound more righteous.
I remember my mother’s first gray hair. She was sitting one row in front of me and Barry Kingsley at the Duluth Church of Christ on a Sunday morning sometime around 1970. I don’t recall where Barry’s mother was sitting, but my guess is she was one row behind us because neither of our mothers ever got on board with that whole Your-Child-Just-Needs-A-Lot-Of-Positive-Reinforcement mumbo jumbo that was just beginning to catch on with the culture.
Looking back over some recent posts, I realized that the blog has been a bit on the darkish side of late. I’ve kind of been on a pain, death and suffering kick. Cheerful installments have been as rare as Southern accents on National Public Radio. Which is a bit baffling to me because I think Southern accents are really quite charming.
At a news conference on September 11, 2001, with a ragged hole in the New York City skyline, someone asked Mayor Rudy Giuliani how many casualties he expected. Mr. Giuliani could have answered like a politician, but instead, he answered like a pastor; “The number of casualties will be more than any of us can bear ultimately.
My parents were involved in a serious auto accident this past week. Both remain hospitalized, but have a good prognosis. Recovery will be slow, but we are grateful their injuries were not more serious. My three siblings and I have spent the week tag-teaming in the hospital. In fact, I’m writing this post from a quiet corner in a waiting area down the hall from Dad’s room.
If I tell you to look for Toyota Camrys as you drive to work or school tomorrow morning, you know what’s going to happen? Every other car is going to be a Toyota Camry. Psychologists call that the frequency illusion. The suggestion that Toyota Camrys are everywhere is all it takes for the road to suddenly seem jam packed with Toyota Camrys.
Some people never think about death. Some of us never stop thinking about it. A lot depends on your age, what you’ve been through or your disposition. I don’t mean to steal your Easter joy – but you do know you’re going to die one day. When life unfolds on the schedule we’ve come to expect, we get eased into accepting the inevitability of our last breath.
This week’s post invites reflection on the time Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead. I’d recommend you read Luke 7:11 – 17, to refresh your memory of the story. As we eagerly approach the Easter celebration of His resurrection, it is good to recall that before the tomb was found empty, the cross was occupied; that while we look back to the cross with gratitude, Jesus looked ahead with grim resolve.
At our first church, we always held a New Year’s Eve singing that started around 10-ish and finished up at 11:59:45, at which time we’d count down the seconds to midnight. Then we’d pray in the New Year and adjourn to the fellowship hall to eat pancakes. I don’t remember if we called it Praise ‘n Pancakes or Glory ‘n Gluttony. Either way, it was a grand tradition.