Don’t Fence Me In

Pondering walls in the age of Trump is a fool’s quest. Foolish I am.

Since reading a letter-to-the-editor in my local paper, I can’t not respond. This was in the Fresno Bee’s March 11, 2019 edition:

“I’m wondering: Would all those who are so against a wall/fence of some kind on our southern border be willing to take down any wall/fence they may have around their own personal residence so that anyone could wander in ‘at will’ and do ‘whatever’ on their property — and ask to be fed, clothed, housed, and medicated by that home owner?

“Why should we do that with our country?”

This represents one of many letters (and blogs, tweets, videos, etc.) comparing a nation’s border to a fence around a personal residence. Does that analogy work for you?

It doesn’t for me.

*      *      *

As with most homes in my suburban neighborhood, I have a fence. In the twenty plus years I’ve lived on this property, I’ve repaired or replaced nearly every stretch of the fences shared with four different neighbors. While sturdy, and about six feet high, they do fall apart. Fences are relatively easy to build, but require periodic (and maybe pricey) maintenance.

And they don’t keep my neighbors out! Continue reading →

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The Not Reverend Ray Hart

Chaplain in WW2I am not certain of when I first met Ray. But I remember the last time with him.

Wrapped in a blanket, Ray lay on his couch, home from another stint in the hospital. In his mid-eighties, his flesh was failing. Several cancers hammered his exhausted body, along with numerous other debilitating ailments.

“You get my age, you get everything,” he said with a smile. (How could he smile?)

There had been many trips to the hospital, some overnight, some lasting a week. It took more time to recover, and often any recovery was less about reclaiming “normal” and more a hope to gain enough strength to have a meal with his beloved wife Dorothy. Or maybe to putter in the yard. And yet now, on his couch, a venture outside seemed as likely as him walking on the moon. His mind, however, remained sharp.

I sat by his couch as we chatted. I was a young minister about to leave for my next church. Ray Hart was an old man, a disgraced minister about to die.

Scene 1 – The Senior Pastor’s office

If I don’t recall when Ray and I met, I’m sure one of the earliest times was in our boss’ office. Ray was the unpaid (or poorly paid), easy-going minister of visitation at a church in San Leandro, California. I was the new kid on the clergy block, recently ordained, just starting in my first “real” appointment as—surprise—the guy responsible for youth groups and Christian education. Continue reading →

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Jesus Never Took a Vote

1972 ConferenceFor Lent, this year, I had a plan.

It wasn’t intended to be scriptural—as in lectionary-based—though the Bible always lights my way or lurks in the shadows whenever I muse about faith.

My plan involved the pivotal, essential, and outward actions of my decades-long ministry. I wanted to wonder about weddings and funerals, serving communion or heading into hospitals to visit the sick and dying. Maybe next week I’ll renew my efforts.

And yet, not now. The plan seemed swell a few weeks ago. Safe. Nice. Tidy.

Hey, I like plans. Through most of my ordained life, I placed long-range sermon planning on my calendar. I once took a cheap, personal retreat and lived for nearly a week with my seminary pal Mark (and his loverly wife Bonnie) at their parsonage in Reno. They went about their daily chores, while I fussed over future sermons. I recall going with Mark to a Carmelite mission tucked in the rocky ridges above the city. There we spent contemplative hours with the nuns. Later, on the night of that same day, we bought tickets to a popular show somewhere in Reno. Maybe a famous magician was the featured “big deal,” but here’s my roll-your-eyes confession about what I really remember: the parade of scantily-dressed women performing to distract us while the headliner did his tricks or treats. Nuns and nudity in the same day . . . all for the sake of sermon planning! Continue reading →

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