Tuesday, February 09, 2016

This is the Day!

Whenever I have the opportunity to lead worship, I greet the people who are gathered with these words; "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24) I begin with these words because (a) I do believe that each day is a gift and (b) that the appropriate response to a gift is joy and (c) I am eager to set a tone of gratitude and joy for the service as it begins. But there is more to it then that. Many days are joyless. Frederick Buechner has written the following which begins to get at the depth of the meaning of these words better then I can.

It is a moment of light surrounded on all sides by darkness and oblivion. In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another just like it and there will never be another just like it again. It is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious it is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.
"This is the day which the Lord has made," says Psalm 118. "Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (v. 24). Or weep and be sad in it for that matter. The point is to see it for what it is, because it will be gone before you know it. If you waste it, it is your life that you're wasting. If you look the other way, it may be the moment you've been waiting for always that you're missing.
All other days have either disappeared into darkness and oblivion or not yet emerged from it. Today is the only day there is.

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Super Bowl Sunday!

Saturday began cloudy and cool and gave in to pouring rain in the afternoon. We drove through the grayness to the Pioneer Museum in Dade City. http://pioneerfloridamuseum.org/

Mary wanted to attend the annual quilt festival that was taking place this weekend. Despite the rain we had a nice visit. Mary saw many beautiful quilts while John and I watched a horse pulling competition. It was amazing to see the strength of these animals even in muddy conditions. Later we went into the town and had lunch at The Blackeyed Pea.
Following lunch, Mary visited her favorite quilt store while John listened to music and I napped in the car. In the evening we played cards and listened to Prairie Home Companion as the rain continued.

Super Bowl Sunday dawned with blue skies, cool temps, and a brisk wind. The days activities included church, lunch at Moe's, grocery shopping, Super Bowl, wings, pizza, salsa, chips, cheese, and restoring John's I-Pad that crashed. I also squeezed in a short and cold bike ride. 

Friday, February 05, 2016

Betty Boop, Biking, and Stumpy the Gator

We experienced a fine Florida afternoon. Bright sunshine and 60 degrees. We met Dewey and Elizabeth at the Rexall Drugstore in Inverness, Florida. In the back of the store there is a classic 50’s style diner with good food at reasonable prices. Here are some pics from in the store and restaurant. 
 John as Uncle Sam
 Elizabeth and Mary
 John, I, and Dewey
 John with new girlfriend

Me with old girlfriend

Following lunch we went bike riding and walking on the Withlacoochee State Trail.http://www.travlinmad.com/blog/cycle-withlacoochee#.VoLTFhBv6xA.facebook= 

Before leaving Inverness; Mary, John, and I walked the boardwalk at Cooter’s Park and sighted turtles and a very active alligator. 

Ahinga drying his wings
 A Cooter turtle
 Stumpy the alligator is missing right foot
We had to visit the local physician!

On the way home we stopped at our favorite fruit stand to buy some citrus and the very best orange juice. http://ferrisgroves.com/

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Changeable Weather

The weather has changed dramatically as it often does in February in Florida. We had been experiencing the Sunshine State (80 degrees) to the ominous clouds, pouring rain, thunder and lightning state (40 degrees tonight).
Mary, John, and Elizabeth joined me yesterday for a late morning walk in the park. There were no manatees in the water but we did see a lot of fish including a school of mullet swimming by. The sun was shining and it was a nice day to be outside. Following the walk we returned to our house for BLT sandwiches.
In the afternoon, John accompanied me on some errands with the understanding that I would treat him to a Happy Hour milk shake at Steak and Shake. Of course, I couldn’t let him drink alone. I had chocolate and John had cookie dough.
Still feeling guilty about the milk shake, I cooked a healthy supper of salmon and steamed carrots. Later in the evening Mary and I watched a few episodes of “Sirens” on Netflix. We find it to be very funny even though it can be a little raunchy at times. It was created by Denis Leary and one of the guys behind “The Wedding Crashers”. It follows three Chicago EMT’s as they go about their jobs and relationships. 
This morning I was able to get in my walk before the rain started. There were two manatees in the swimming area. Both had prop scars on them. One had a scar in the form of the letter F. You rarely see a manatee without damage from boats.
I took a nice long nap this afternoon as the rain poured down. A late afternoon trip to the library proved successful as I brought home four books. One is on my “Reading Across America” list.  It is “Once Upon A River” by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

For supper I made Tortilla Soup and chicken and cheese quesadillas. Tomorrow morning we plan to go bicycle riding with Dewey and Elizabeth in Inverness. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Day One in the Sunshine State

Our first full day here certainly lived up to its reputation as the sunshine state with blue skies and a high of 84 degrees. It was in the 50's when I went for a walk early this morning in a nearby park. I was the only one there and was treated to the sight of manatees, wood storks, and an American Eagle.
 I love these gentle creatures.

One of three congregations of wood storks I saw this morning. 
The eagle was sitting atop the lookout tower that I climb every morning.

This is the view looking west toward the Gulf.

In the afternoon we traveld 20 minutes south to eat lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. http://www.sweettomatoes.com/ The best selection of salad, soup, baked potato, pasta, and baked goods. With a coupon, which they scanned off my kindle, the cost was nine dollars each including unlimited beverage and food. After lunch we shopped for groceries at an Aldi's across the street from the restaurant. Our pantry and refrigerator is now full. After all the supplies were put away, John and I washed the car. 1400 miles of salt and dirt and grime were washed away. We finished unpacking this evening and have John's Wiii and Netflix working on all tv's. All in all a fine day.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Safely Arrived in Weeki Wachee

We arrived at our rental in Weeki Wachee, Florida at five o'clock this evening with the 1400 mile road trip completed. On Sunday morning we attended worship at Our Redeemer Lutheran in Columbia, SC. Many of the folks there remembered us and it was great to share memories. Martha Allison took us out for lunch with a few others including Alma and Wally Shultz. Wally will be retiring this year and we invited them to visit us up north. I think they might.

I saw two signs along the roadside in Florida this afternoon. One was a billboard advertising a morning radio show. The sign read, "Get up with Chuck and Miss Mary". I wish I had gotten a photo of that. The second sign was small and simply stated, "The loneliest thing in the world is barbed wire". I'm not certain what that means but I don't think I will ever forget it.

We stopped for a brief visit with Dew and Elizabeth in Homossasa Springs. They are about 30 minutes north of Weeki Wachee. Elizabeth had graciously invited us for lunch but we were not able to arrive until three o'clock. It was so great to see them and anticipate sharing some more time together.

The car is unpacked but we didn't have the energy to do much else. Went out for pizza and some groceries. We will slowly unpack and settle in over the next few days. It was 80 degrees when we arrived and will be in the 50's tonight. We love arriving here and being able to sleep with window open.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Like Coming Home

Long travel day for us today. Arrived in Columbia, SC after six this evening. Driving pretty easy except for some delays north of Charlotte. There was snow covered ground all through the state of Virginia and in the mountains in North Carolina.

It was 64 degrees when we arrived here in South Carolina's capitol. We lived here from 1979 to 1983 while I attended seminary at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary on Main Street and whenever we return it feels like coming home. Our two oldest girls, Carla and Susan, remember our time here with fondness. This evening we ate supper at "Rush's" which was one of our family favorites. http://www.rushs.net/history/

Tomorrow we will attend worship at the church, http://www.redeemerlutheransc.org/, where I served as an intern for one year and as a pastoral assistant for the second year. The people there were so supportive of our family and the experiences in that congregation shaped me as a pastor.

Much has changed about the area and the traffic is very congested now. We did not stop at the Seminary campus this time but just being in the neighborhood brings back many memories.

Friday, January 29, 2016


We are on our annual pilgrimage to Weeki Wachee, Fl. I feel so blessed that we have this opportunity at this season of our lives. It is amazing that this is our 9th year to make this trek and our 6th year in Weeki Wachee.

The trip has been without incident so far. The further south we go, the more snow there is on the ground. Here in Virginia, Winchester received 31 inches last week, the ground is still covered in white. We drove through a few snow squalls over the mountains on I81 in PA.

This evening finds us in Strasberg, VA. We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant next door. The food was delicious. I had spaghetti and meatballs, Mary had a Buffalo chicken stromboli (huge), and John had cheese pizza. http://www.castigliasva.com/

Tomorrow we drive to Columbia, SC.

Monday, January 11, 2016


Richard Rohr describes the aging process as "ripening". I find this to be both a challenging and comforting way to think about this stage of life.

Richard Rohr's Daily Meditation
You Are Being Led
Monday, November 3, 2014
“The life and death of a human being is so exquisitely calibrated as to automatically produce union with Spirit.”Kathleen Dowling Singh
Ripening reveals much bigger or very different horizons than we realize. The refusal to ripen leads to what T.S. Eliot spoke of in “The Hollow Men,” lives that “end not with a bang but with a whimper.” I hope that you are one of those people who will move toward your own endless horizons and not waste time in whimpering. Why else would you even read this? Perhaps these meditations may help you trust that you are, in fact, being led. Life, your life, all life, is going somewhere and somewhere good.
Ripening, at its best, is a slow, patient learning, and sometimes even a happy letting-go—a seeming emptying out to create readiness for a new kind of fullness—which we are never totally sure about. If we do not allow our own ripening, and I do believe it is somewhat a natural process, an ever-increasing resistance and denial sets in, an ever-increasing circling of the wagons around an over-defended self. At our very best, we learn how to hope as we ripen, to move outside and beyond self-created circles, which is something quite different from the hope of the young. Youthful hopes have concrete goals, whereas the hope of older years is usually aimless hope, hope without goals, even naked hope—perhaps real hope. Such stretching is the agony and the joy of our later years.
Old age, as such, is almost a complete changing of gears and engines from the first half of our lives and does not happen without slow realization, inner calming, inner resistance, denial, and eventual surrender, by God’s grace, working with our ever-deepening sense of what we really desire and who we really are. This process seems to largely operate unconsciously, although we jolt into consciousness now and then, and the awareness that you have been led, usually despite yourself, is experienced as a deep gratitude that most would call happiness. Religious people might even call it mercy.
Adapted from 'Ripening,' Oneing, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 11-12

Friday, January 08, 2016


In these cold and gray days of January I am focused on preparing to preach and teach at an event for new pastors in their first call. This annual retreat is called “The Leadership Guild for First Call” and I have had the opportunity to participate as chaplain, workshop leader, and preacher for a number of years. In 2016 the event will take place during the final week of January at a retreat center in Hartford, CT.

One of the things that I stress in the “preaching workshops” is the importance of recognizing and naming how often God feels absent for both our listeners and ourselves. No one speaks to this experience of the absence of God more profoundly then the author, Frederick Buechner. Today I came across this challenging quote that I think reflects the reality of living a faithful life.

“If you tell me Christian commitment is a kind of thing that has happened to you once and for all like some kind of spiritual plastic surgery, I say go, go, you’re either pulling the wool over your own eyes or trying to pull it over mine. Every morning you should wake up in your bed and ask yourself: “Can I believe it all again today?” No, better still, don’t ask it till after you’ve read The New York Times, till after you’ve studied that daily record of the world’s brokenness and corruption, which should always stand side by side with your Bible. Then ask yourself if you can believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ again for that particular day. If your answer’s always Yes, then you probably don’t know what believing means. At least five times out of ten the answer should be No because the No is as important as the Yes, maybe more so. The No is what proves you’re human in case you should ever doubt it. And then if some morning the answer happens to be really Yes, it should be a Yes that’s choked with confession and tears and …great laughter.” [Frederick Buechner, The Return of Ansel Gibbs, 303]

Sunday, January 03, 2016


"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer.  Minute by minute they lengthen out.  It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change.  It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour."
-  Vita Sackville-West

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.John 1:5

January, the first month of a brand new year; clean, new, open;
            pregnant with hopes……dreams………anxieties……possibilities.

Cold, getting colder……………………………………………..dark, getting lighter!
            Light pushing back darkness,
                        sunshine reflecting off snow covered lawns,
                                                             slippery ice beneath my feet.

Nights under quilts created and crafted by loving hands
                                                            keep me warm in body and heart.

Each January the light slowly, intentionally, forcefully wrestles each day
from the darkness; bringing with it, the promise of warmer days. (cs 1/3/16)

Friday, January 01, 2016

New Year's Day Prayer

A Prayer for New Year’s Day (from “Guerrillas of Grace” by Ted Loder)
Patient God, this day teeters on the edge of waiting and things seem to slip away from me,
as though everything was only memory and memory is capricious.

Help me not to let my life slip away from me.

O God, I hold up my life to you now,
As much as I can, as high as I can, in this mysterious reach called prayer.
Come close, lest I wobble and fall short.

It is not days or years I seek from you, not infinity and enormity,
But small things and moments and awareness,
Awareness that you are in what I am and in what I have been indifferent to.

It is not new time, but new eyes, new heart I seek, and you.