Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Not-So-Tall Tree House Tale

It all started when my good wife made an innocent remark in the presence of a couple of our grandchildren, something like, “Maybe some time we’ll have to build you a little tree house in the back yard.”

Well, they never forgot that, and I, though more than a little leery of the idea at first, found myself starting to obsess over just how and where (and whether) we might make their little dream come true.

It so happened that an aging apple tree on our back yard showed some promise as a possible site, and before long I was making big time plans, in spite of my having less than stellar skills in the construction department. The whole project turned out to be a lot of fun.

Here are some things I learned:

Having good neighbors always helps when you lack experience and are operating on a low budget. A great retired senior on one side of us offered some helpful advice and the use of some of his tools--along with some ribbing about my needing a building permit for such a major project. Another neighbor offered some invaluable hands-on help to get the floor beams in place. Couldn't have done it without him, and in gratitude we've granted his children lifetime rights to the use of the house.

A second thing I learned is that Murphy’s Law isn’t always the only one in effect in efforts like this. In fact I even came up with what I’ll call Mercy’s Law in this project, in that in spite of my inexperience, I escaped any major injuries in the building process, just happened to get an exceptional bargain in a ten foot slide I attached to one side of the tree house, and ended up with less than a wheelbarrow full of building supplies left over.

And finally, I learned it doesn’t take a Hotel Hilton to make some grandkids very happy.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Of Banks and Boundaries

Clinch River
How many rules, how much structure, should we have for our children?

Reasonable family rules and boundaries can be like the banks of a river that channel water in a clear and purposeful direction. You are free to go here, but not there. There are "don'ts" but even more "do's".

When the apostle Paul lists the nine good qualities referred to as the "fruit of the Spirit" (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control), he notes that "against such there is no law." Not every good behavior is based on just not doing certain things.

Some parents are very rule-focused, giving children strict mandates to follow and very little freedom to make any kinds of choices for themselves. This can feel a bit like being in a pond dammed up on all sides. Since the water can’t go anywhere, it can become stifling and unhealthy.

On the other hand, having few or no boundaries can be like living in a kind of wetland swamp, with water freely oozing wherever it pleases, but likewise creating a stagnant, unhealthy environment.

So let’s give our children good banks and good boundaries, but unlimited freedom and encouragement in becoming the truly creative and Christ-like human beings they were meant to be.

Adapted from a Centerpiece radio spot. These ninety-second reflections can be heard locally as follows: 
WEMC 91.7 FM 11:58 am Monday to Friday, Sunday 7:58 
WBTX 1470 AM 9:20 am  Monday to Friday
WNLR 1150 AM 11:28 am Monday, Wednesday and Friday
Photo courtesy of

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Each One Brought An Empty Cup

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God. 

My soul thirsts for God, 
    for the living God. 
When can I go and meet with God?
Psalm 42:1-2 (NIV)

Last Sunday each member of our house church brought an empty cup we use regularly at home to our 4 pm celebration of the Lord's Supper, around a circle of tables at the Family Life Resource Center meeting room.

This was our prayer:

Fill my cup, Lord,
I lift it up Lord!
Come and quench
this thirsting of my soul;

Bread of heaven,
feed me till I want no more --
Fill my cup, fill it up
and make me whole!

(Richard Blanchard)

We were given as much grape juice in our cup as we wished, along with an ample slice of nourishing bread, reminding us of Christ's broken body and poured-out life, and that in Christ we have become united as one loaf (I Corinthians 10:16-17).

As Christ breaks bread and bids us share, 
each proud division ends.
The Love that made us, makes us one,
and strangers now are friends.
(459, Hymnal, A Worship Book, Brian Wren)

We had no carry-in meal this Sunday of the kind we usually enjoy, but this one was profoundly satisfying in a different way.

Let the hungry come to me, let the poor be fed.
Let the thirsty come and drink, share my wine and bread.
(464, HWB, Delores Dufner, O.S.B.)

After drinking from the cup and savoring a portion of our bread, we took turns reading from some of the many hymn texts from the communion section of our hymnal, and after each reading again drank from our cup and ate another portion of the bread. Thus it felt more like a meal rather than being simply a symbolic sample of wine and bread.

And we accept bread at his table,
broken and shared, a living sign.
Here in this world, dying and living,
we are each other's bread and wine.
(1 HWB, Huub Oosterhuis, translated by David Smith)

We came with our cups empty, drank deeply, and left strangely satisfied, taking the same empty cup home with us as a reminder of God's daily provision for body and soul alike.

Sent forth by God's blessing, our true faith confessing,
the people of God from this dwelling take leave.
The supper is ended. Oh, now be extended
the fruits of this service in all who believe.
(478 HWB Omer Westerhof, People's Mass Book)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

We Should All Learn From People Like This

Orpha and Lloyd, 66 years together
A year ago I posted something on my wife's oldest sister and husband's 65th anniversary.

This past Saturday this same Orpha and Lloyd Gingrich celebrated their 66th by attending the wedding of Laura Gehman and Brian Ranck, a young couple from their church who greatly admired them and chose to get married on their special day, June 22. Orpha provided some of the beautiful ferns from her sun room for the occasion.

Lloyd and Orpha are just about the best friends and role models one could find anywhere. Our family has been warmed countless times by their hospitality, and our children still like to take their children to spend some time on the Richfield, Pennsylvania, farm of one of their favorite aunts and uncles.

The Gingrich children, seven in number, are a good reflection of the faith and values their parents demonstrated so well over so many years, as are the next generations of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

What's their secret to a loving and lasting marriage? Lloyd and Orpha would be the first to say they have no such secret, that it's all about just loving and lasting, no matter what, along with keeping their faith strong and applying a bit of dry Gingrich humor when you're having a not so good day.

I find it hard to come up with a better route to "happily ever after" than that.

Thanks to daughter-in-law Deb Gingrich for the photo.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Where's The Best Place To Raise Children?

Plano West Senior High School
You may have never heard of Plano, Texas, population 270,000.

A progressive, rapidly growing suburb of Dallas, Plano is a recent proud winner of the coveted All-America City Award. It has some of the finest homes oil money can buy, one of the best school systems in the state, and an overall crime rate said to be the lowest of any Texas city of over 100,000.

Compare that to Harlem, one of the densely crowded and crime ridden boroughs of New York City. Like many large urban areas, Harlem has more than its share of problems with illegal drugs, broken homes, bad schools, and teenage pregnancies.

Which is the better place to raise children?

Plano should be, of course. But in the mid-nineties it began to face a growing number of its teens, reporting feelings of worthlessness, boredom and depression, becoming addicted to heroin in a potent new capsule form. Seven of its young people, most of high school age and one only 13 years old, died of heroin overdoses in a year's time. Many more were rushed to local hospitals for emergency treatment because of the drug.

Not only heroin, but high potency, low cost meth and other drugs are also widely available through sources in nearby Mexico, and the use of pharmaceutical drugs also remains a huge problem among well to do school age children and young adults.
By contrast, one particular public school in the middle of Harlem has become widely known as a place where teens develop an amazing sense of pride and achievement. Children from all kinds of family backgrounds audition to become a part of the Choir Academy of Harlem, a school of 550 students from grades 4-12 best known as the home of the Harlem Girls Choir and Harlem Boys Choir. An impressive 98% of the school’s graduates, according to a recent report, go on to college, and most become highly successful adults.

This is not to suggest we all move to poverty-stricken Harlem, but what can we learn from this “tale of two cities”?

Maybe that our tendency to overprotect and over-provide for our children, in an effort to “save” them from stresses and problems, we may sometimes put them at greater risk. On the other hand, if we maintain high expectations for them, along with showing lots of love, support and encouragement, we can help motivate them to strive for true excellence.
Teens deprived of opportunities to take on high stakes, world-changing challenges or risks tend to explore unhealthy ones, like using alcohol and other drugs, having irresponsible sex, driving dangerously, and engaging in other irresponsible behaviors.
When it comes to teaching them good values and responsible behavior, it’s not so much where we live, but how we live and what we expect of our children that makes the winning difference.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How Retirement Investments Can Bring The Greatest Possible Returns

Everence image
For a long time I have advocated investing the bulk of one's retirement funds in microlending programs that benefit the poor and help the environment rather than in Wall Street traded corporations. Our local financial adviser Glen Kauffman, with Everence Association Inc., a fraternal benefit society, has helped us do that through Calvert, MEDA, Oikocredit and similar organizations.

Now Everence is offering a special Advantage Select High Impact Annuity, a fixed annuity designed for individuals wanting to save for retirement while their money is helping others. It offers an interest rate guarantee of 1.7% for two years or 2.05% for four years.

That may not seem like much, but up to 50 percent of the annuity premium dollars provide loans for causes that are priceless:
  • Emerging and socially engaged congregations growing their ministries and community services.
  • Green lending for nonprofit organizations making environmentally friendly improvements.
  • Community development needs in underserved areas in the U.S. and around the world.
“We are excited to offer our members a way to help others while also saving for their own future,” said Michael Horn, Everence Director of Charitable Products and Church Loans. “The Everence Advantage Select High Impact Annuity gives people an opportunity to live out their faith and values through their financial decisions. It’s another way we are doing better, together.”

As a disclaimer, I am not a part of any organized effort to promote Everence or any of its products. But as one of its customers, I definitely approve this message.

Check this link to more posts on microlending.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Is It "Debts" or "Trespasses"?

Praying the Lord's prayer together often brings up the question of whether to use the word "debts" or "trespasses". In Reformed, Lutheran and Presbyterian circles, "debts" is standard, whereas with Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Methodists, "trespasses" is the norm.

Some modern translations simply use the word "sins", assuming that debts and trespasses have identical meanings.

But do they?

In some research I did for our house church Bible study yesterday, I learned that John Wycliffe, in his 1395 English translation of the Bible, rendered the Gospel of Matthew's Greek word opheilema as "debts", simply because that word consistently refers to actual monetary or other debt elsewhere in the gospels.

In William Tyndale's 1526 English Bible, however, that same Greek word is translated "trespasses", and the first Book of Common Prayer published in 1549 followed that usage.

In the Gospel of Luke's version of the Lord's prayer, the Greek word for "sins" (hamartia) is used, as in "Forgive us our sins," but that is then followed by "as we forgive our debtors," using a form of the Greek word opheilema.

It's no wonder we're confused, but in any case, trespasses and debts don't have exactly the same meaning.

To illustrate the difference, when I walk to the Harmony Square Shopping Center from our house, I take the liberty to "trespass" across parts of two of my good neighbors' back yards. They have no  signs posted, and happen to be just fine with my taking this little short cut, but technically I have still trespassed. But the only "debt" I owe is one of gratitude for having such great neighbors.

But should I drive my loaded pickup over that same area of their back yards and right after a heavy rain,  then my trespass might well incur an obligation, or debt. At the very least, I could owe them a major apology, if not some actual compensation for damages, along with a commitment never to do the same thing again.

My neighbors would then forgive me based on my confession and repentance of my trespass. In the same way, every sin is a wrongdoing, a transgression that normally involves a debt we owe in the form of some kind of repentance, restitution, or both. In other words, one's debt has to do with how a trespass has harmed a relationship, in that there is now something "owed", either to God or to another person.

This suggests that sin is not just about violating a rule in a code of law, but is about violating the Bible's first and foremost commandments to love God with a passion and our every neighbor with compassion. "Owe no one anything," writes the apostle Paul, "but to love one another, for love is the fulfillment of the law."

(Note: To "owe no one" doesn't mean never doing any borrowing, of course, but making our payments on time so we are never in arrears.)

One could argue that all of this is no big deal, since we need to be forgiven of all debts, trespasses, sins, faults, flaws and wrongdoing, no matter what we call them. But my prayer remains that God and other people will forgive me not only my trespasses (or sins--both of commission and omission), but all of the unpaid debts I have incurred as a result.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Decision My Father Made That Radically Changed My Life

Father's Day is a good time  to remember all of my parents' good qualities I've appreciated and have tried to pass on, like kindness, generosity and a strong commitment to a life of faith and faithfulness.

But lately I've thought a lot about a major decision my dad and mom made nearly 70 years ago that has made a huge difference in my life.

In 1946 they moved our family from Anderson County, Kansas, to Stuarts Draft, Virginia, a major relocation. They did this not to get a better farm and or to have more income, but because they wanted a better church community for their eight children, which then included several teenagers.

I was six then, their youngest, and my parents were concerned about the kind of negative influence the young people in their Amish community near Garnett would have on all of us, especially when it came to some of the dating practices and use of alcohol and tobacco among our Kansas peers. Dad and mom knew about the Amish Community in Augusta County, Virginia, some 1300 miles away, through one of my mother's uncles, who graciously offered to help them finance the purchase of a 120 acre farm for our family just north of Stuarts Draft.
The view north of our former Amish church near Stuarts Draft. Our farm was on the left.

So in March of 1946 my father sent my mother and us children by passenger train to far off Virginia. Meanwhile he traveled in a freight car packed with our household furniture and other belongings in one end and some farm machinery and several horses in the other, for a slow trip that took several days half way across the continent.

I've often wondered how many fathers and mothers today would be willing to take that kind of risk and to make that kind of sacrifice primarily for their family's benefit, based on the conviction that it takes a whole congregation to raise a strong family.

That decision, made many years ago, has paid off well. The children they brought with them, their most valued assets, all married well and formed strong families of their own. I personally have felt blessed by the good friends I made who mostly represented solid values, and by good adult mentors who were the kind of role models that supported my parent's faith and way of life.

One of the many good adult influences I had growing up was my seventh grade elementary teacher, Paul Wenger. Besides also being a farmer and a school bus driver, he was also an ordained minister in one of the Mennonite churches in our area that my father occasionally took us to for some of their revival meetings and other special services, not a typically Amish thing to do. It was Mr. Wenger who encouraged me to consider going to college some day, which I did soon after turning 21, with the somewhat guarded blessing of my parents.

Had my parents chosen to remain in their eastern Kansas community, I would almost certainly not have had all the opportunities I've been blessed with. One can never know about such things, of course, but my life would have been quite different, without a doubt.

Just another reason I thank God for giving me great parents.

Here's a link to a post on leaving the Amish.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Reaching The 60,000 Mark

Thanks to occasional or regular readers like you, I noticed this morning that there have been 60,000 page visits to this site since my first post in November, 2010 (the dates on the left side of the above Blogger graph are inaccurate for some reason).

Compared to many blog sites, of course, those numbers are exceedingly small, but they are at least enough to encourage a small-time writer like myself.

I've gotten occasional complaints about not being able to post comments without having a Google account. If you ever want to have me post something for you, or want to respond to me personally, feel free to email me at Also, if you're looking for an older blog post, you can always check out the "Blog Archive" on the lower right of this home page. Or if you want to search for a topic, you can type in a key word or words in the blank bar on the uppermost left hand of this page and click on the search icon (not that I expect many of you to do that!).

Also, for some odd reason, the posting time at the bottom of each piece is off by three hours,suggesting that I must be writing a lot in the wee hours of the morning. Haven't been able to fix that.

Thanks for your good support. The blog has been a good outlet for expressing some of my concerns, and becomes a kind of journal collection of some of my writing.

As always, your prayers, suggestions and responses are most welcome.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Road Sign Worth Heeding

It was many years ago, but I still remember the sickening CRASH I experienced when I collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Sunset Drive and Chestnut Avenue.

This couldn’t be happening.  How could I have ignored a plain, four-lettered sign reading S-T-O-P?

In decades of driving, I had never been responsible for more than a fender bender in a parking lot. Never mind my excuse, absentmindedly thinking I was on a parallel street that didn’t have a stop sign at Chestnut. The simple fact was that I had failed to observe a very useful, common sense traffic rule.

Crossing a street isn't a crime, of course, but responsible drivers always double-check to make sure they have the right-of-way and that the intersection is clear.

My lesson? Never underestimate the importance of a good traffic sign.

Even more important than traffic laws, however, are the rules for living handed down from Mount Sinai over three thousand years ago. For example, the one,“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Like the others, this isn’t a mere suggestion, but a direct command handed down from the highest possible authority, our Creator.

 And for good reason. Those who ignore it typically experience the pain of wrecked lives, broken marriages and shattered dreams. The painful and unforeseen consequences of infidelity go on and on, affecting not only the two affairees, but their families, friends, congregations and communities.

By far the best cure is prevention. Common sense tells us to avoid those slippery paths that take us from fantasizing to obsessing, from flirting to outright sneaking around, from rationalizing and making excuses to having ones whole life becoming a deception.

Is healing possible after the trauma of adultery?
Thank God the answer is yes, much like I was able to get my aging and wrecked Audi on the road again after some drastically needed body work. And my State Farm insurance, like amazing grace, covered the cost of restoring the other vehicle to its nearly new condition.

I’ll still always wish I had observed that simple red sign on the corner of Sunset and Chestnut.

Monday, June 10, 2013

She Lived By Her No-Gossip Pledge

Ruth Zetty Lough 4/26/23--4/23/13
Not long ago we attended the memorial service of Ruth Zetty Lough, an unusually alert nearly-ninety-year-old who often greeted you somewhere on the first floor hallway when you came to the Oak Lea nursing facility at Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. Everyone knew her as the friendly lady in a wheel chair who wore one of her many different caps every day.

I first met Ruth at the wedding of her daughter Lynn to one of our nephews years ago, then connected with her again at VMRC when Alma Jean spent three weeks in rehab there after her knee surgery.

At the service in her memory, Crystal Cupp, one of the women who met with Ruth for Bible study on a regular basis told us about the pact they had made years ago to never speak ill of others in their times together. They decided that everything they said must pass the Philippians 4:8 test, as follows:

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—dwell on these things."

Such a simple concept, but what a rare thing to take one's words that seriously. In other words, to determine not to speak of others in ways you wouldn't want them talking about you. Just don't gossip, period.

At the end of the memorial service, the family gave one of Ruth's many caps to anyone who wanted one to remember her by.

Perhaps wearing one of these could serve as a reminder to follow the Philippians 4:8 rule, a truly excellent and praiseworthy way to live your life.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"We Saw You As Our Own Flesh And Blood"

Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution and a founder of the Simple Way Community in Philadelphia, describes the harrowing experience he and some of his friends had while on a peace mission in Iraq in 2003. As they were traveling on a desert road near Rutba they had a terrible car accident and would almost certainly have died if the people of that town had not cared for them, in spite of their being identified with foreign American occupiers.

What was so amazing about the kindness they were shown was that, just three days prior, U.S. planes had inflicted heavy casualties to the only hospital in Rutba, including to its children's ward.

In 2010, Shane was able to go back to Rutba with several others who had been in that accident to thank the Iraqis who had acted as Good Samaritans seven years earlier. According to an article he wrote in the May, 2013, issue of Sojourners, one of the Iraqi doctors said, "When we saw you bleeding, we did not see you as an American or a Christian or a Muslim; we saw you as our own flesh and blood, as our own brothers and sisters."

This inspired Shane to help establish a social network site called "Friends Without Borders" to encourage world neighbors to be in conversation with each other across ethnic, religious and national lines, based on the belief that it is through Christ-inspired friendships that the world can be saved from its terrible violence.

As Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends."

The following is from Claiborne's article:

"It's been said that one of the most radical things Jesus did was to eat with the wrong crowd. Undoubtedly, folks on the Left were frustrated with Jesus for making friends with Roman tax collectors. And folks on the Right were surely ticked at him for hanging out with Zealots. Dinner must have been awkward with both of them at the table; after all, Zealots killed tax collectors for fun on weekends. 

"But Jesus was a subversive friend, a scandalous bridge-builder, a holy trespasser. Just as we are known by the company we keep, so was Christ--accused of being a 'glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners' (Luke 7:34)."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Exterminating Relationship Bugs

I heard a story once about someone running a classified ad with the title, "100% Guaranteed Bug Eliminator.  Only $5."

Turns out that what was mailed to gullible customers was simply two wooden blocks with the following instructions:

1) Place bug 1 on block A.
2) Press block B firmly on block A.
3) Repeat with bug 2, etc.

While that may not work for household pests, it may serve as a model for dealing with relationship conflicts. In other words, start by clearly identifying what's "bugging" the partnership, and then attack the problem (the "it") rather than the other person.

In marriage counseling I often recommend partners holding regular couple's meetings for the sole purpose of addressing their problems. Here they make whatever progress possible in resolving them, and then file any unresolved ones until their next weekly or bi-weekly meeting. In that way they can spend more of the rest of their time in their "problem free area," keeping unsolved problems filed for future sessions.

Here's an outline of some steps a couple could follow:

1. Share compliments and appreciations.

2. Review any unfinished business from past meetings.

3. Review calendar and do necessary scheduling, including planning some good "problem-free" activities together.

4. Discuss any financial issues, take care of paying bills, etc.

5. Agree on priority problems, then address one item or problem at a time, as follows:

    a. First discuss the issue in terms of each of your underlying interests (why this is important?). Delay stating your position (what you feel should be done).

    b. Throughout, always take turns being the speaker and the listener. When you are the listener, make sure you fully understand the other before you take your turn to speak.

    c. Take time to brainstorm possible solutions, generating as many new options as possible (no evaluating or critiquing during this part of the process).

    d. After discussing some of the more agreeable options you've put on the table, decide by consensus. If you can't come up with a win-win solution, delay making a decision, or just agree on an interim solution (or decide to see a mediator or counselor for help). Remember, no agreement needs to be set in stone for all time, but will be honored until it is reviewed and changed.

    e. Decide how and by whom a decision is to be carried out, and what will happen if it isn’t. To avoid misunderstanding, you may want to put both the agreement and any friendly, agreed on a reasonable and friendly “consequence-for-not-following-through” you put in writing.

6. Decide on a time for your next couple’s meeting, and who will be responsible for making sure it happens (Of course, either can respectfully ask for a special meeting at any time).

7. Keep it under an hour, and end with some activity you both enjoy.

A step by step example of this kind of couple's meeting can be found in chapter 11 of my book, "Lasting Marriage: The Owners' Manual."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Keeping My Cup Turned Up

I remember many years ago meeting at a restaurant with some friends and having the waitress ask each of us, "Would you like coffee or tea?"

Except me. Although I actually didn't want either, I wondered why I wasn't asked like the rest.

"It's because you didn't have your cup turned up," someone pointed out.

Duh. I should have known.

The turned up cup has become a metaphor for me about experiencing the love or care from others or from God I need. Maybe it's not so much that enough care and encouragement isn't available, but that I'm not being receptive and vulnerable enough to receive it.

At some level we are all beggars with cups in hand, needing God's kind of warmth and love to fill us. That may feel like a risk, of course. What if our needs are ignored, or someone offers us something we don't care for, or that may not be the kind of love we want?

But the risk of not acknowledging our neediness is even greater. Life is too short to live it with an empty cup, or one we fail to keep turned up for refills.

400 Richest Own More Than The Poorest 150,000,000?

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality..."   - Paul,       II Corinthians 8:13-14

"Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy."  - Wendell Berry
According to a December, 2011, report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, income inequality is on the rise in the United States and in most other developed countries. The report found that the U.S. ranks the fourth-highest in the level of inequality, coming after Chile, Mexico and Turkey. Overall, the report stated, inequality among U.S. workers has risen by 25 percent since 1980.

According to OECD Secretary-General Angel GurrĂ­a, in a press release, “This study dispels the assumptions that the benefits of economic growth will automatically trickle down to the disadvantaged and that greater inequality fosters greater social mobility. Without a comprehensive strategy for inclusive growth, inequality will continue to rise.”

When it comes to accumulated wealth, the top richest people in the U.S. now control more of it than the combined 150,000,000 poorest, according to

Meanwhile, Tennesee congressman Stephen Fincher quotes 2 Thess. 3:10 to defend his desire to cut billions from the federal food stamps program: "For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat."

But is anyone who collected a total of $3.5 million in farm subsidies since 1999, as did Fincher, really "working" for all that federal windfall? And are all of the jobless really “unwilling?”

According to a Tom Airey blog, a couple of years ago McDonald’s reported that 1 million people applied for jobs at their U.S. restaurants. They were able to hire only 62,000.

So there's certainly a bigger problem here than just people's work ethic.

But lest we favored middle class folks in this country look at the super-rich around us with self-righteous disdain, we must remind ourselves that we are all filthy rich in comparison to the vast majority of our world neighbors.

Which calls for radical repentance on the part of all of us.

Here's a link to more of my posts on wealth.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

She Pretty Much Got It Right: Myrtle See 1932-2013

Myrtle See on her 80th birthday
Alma Jean and I attended a moving funeral service just over a week ago of an 80-year-old friend and former neighbor, Myrtle See. Also attending were well over 150 others of her many friends and family members and five (yes, five) pastors who spoke in the service, a tribute to how much Myrtle and her late husband Dow were appreciated by everyone who knew them.

What made Myrtle so unforgettable was not your usual attention-getting list of achievements, but simply the way she loved everybody. Person after person in the service (including pastor after pastor) expressed appreciation for the repeated "I-love-you's" and warm hugs that were Myrtle's signature gifts to everyone she met, along with her invitations to enjoy whatever good food and drink she frequently had prepared in her tiny kitchen.

Of all the homes along Daphna Road just south of Zion Mennonite Church (and the parsonage where we lived from 1969-1988), Dow and Myrtle's at the very end of the dead end road was one of the most modest and unpretentious of them all. A tall person might have to stoop to get through the doorway into the kitchen, and I'm guessing even the living room had no more than a seven-foot ceiling. But Myrtle never made any apologies for her small house. She kept the place looking comfortable and clean, and it was always warm in so many more ways than one. Her priorities were the people she loved, not the property she and Dow owned.

At the the nearby Pine Grove Church of the Brethren, the small country church she faithfully attended most of her life, she often served as song leader. Not that she was a trained musician, she just volunteered to do it because she loved to sing, always with a warm glow that reflected her love of anything that had to do with God. By just standing in front with her hymnal and a radiant face Myrtle could light up the church.
Drawing by artist grandson Luis See

The more I've thought about her simple and servant-like spirit, the more I think she may have gotten life just about right. After all, when all is said and done, isn't it all about loving God with your all your heart, then loving everyone you meet like they were the most special people ever?

"The world would be a far, far better place," one of the preachers said, "if everyone could be more like Myrtle."

We can all say a hearty Amen to that.