In Between Times

John 18:33-37 – Christ the King/Reign of Christ Sunday – for Sunday, November 22, 2015

“Pilate went back into the palace. He summoned Jesus and asked, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” (John 18:33)

IMG_3028Cold mornings now.

Fall has decided to stay. Though I write these opening words before dawn, when summer and winter are colored the same, I know a few feet beyond my window are exhausted leaves. Autumn’s arrival represents their departure. The deciduous leaves dazzle with reds, oranges, yellows, as if the trees were spark and flame. But in a few days or weeks I’ll be raking them into piles, less impressed with their last-gasp gaudiness.

Cold mornings now.

Not Wisconsin cold, where I once lived and shivered for winters that stretched to six months. In California, in its Central Valley, the cold is rarely arctic. But there were Novembers (and Aprils!) in America’s Dairyland when the winds chilling my street had started near the frozen top of our spinning planet. Cold in the Midwest meant watching breath crystallize. Here I shiver and shrug. But still I tightly bundle for my morning exercise. I complain. Whether walking or pedaling, I’ll stay reasonably warm. Continue reading →

Mr. Doubt

John 6:56-69 – The 13th Sunday after Pentecost – for Sunday, August 23, 2015

“Many of his disciples who heard this said, “This message is harsh. Who can hear it?” (John 6:60)

Self-Doubt+in+relationships+autismA hand waved from the back of the room.

Then came the question: “Do you have ‘anyone’ in the room with you when you write?”

The quotation marks hugging “anyone” are important. The questioner was referring to an imagined real person.

Ron Carlson answered with, “Oh, yes I—”

In a moment I’ll finish Carlson’s response.

A few years ago, for an August week, I lived in Squaw Valley USA, the site of the 1960 Winter Olympics. Perched at 6,200 feet near Lake Tahoe, this Sierra slice of heaven is also many slices of commercialism. In winter, skiers flock here. Fancy restaurants, a golf course, luxury hotels, and mansion-like cabins dot the landscape. Continue reading →


Matthew 20:1-16 – The 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, September 21, 2014

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard…” (Matthew 20:1)

What’s your favorite Bible passage?

My childhood response was Proverbs 14:34. Look it up, if you want. I’d found it on the inside page of a Bible at my grandparents’ house and memorized the words. Whenever I quoted that verse as “my favorite” in Sunday school classes, teachers looked befuddled. Why hadn’t I chosen the popular John 3:16 (like other kids did), instead of an obscure Old Testament verse? As a kid, I didn’t know what the Proverbs passage meant, but I enjoyed the odd reactions.

vinography_desktop_brief_respite-thumb-600x398-3389I’d bet few claim Matthew 20:1-16’s story about a landowner hiring workers as a “favorite.” In the parable, a landowner was desperate to harvest his Zinfandel and kept driving his dented Ford F-150 to the nearby town. He needed workers, lots of workers, because a good Zin waits for no one. Any card-carrying union workers? Bring ‘em. Any undocumented workers? Bring ‘em. Any slow, fast, inexperienced, and veteran vine dressers? Bring ‘em. Back and forth on the dusty roads, with newly hired hands crowding the truck’s bed, the landowner tried to meet his grape need.

The workers were hired early and often. The workers were promised payment. For some, “the usual daily wage.” For others, “whatever is right.” For a few, there were no promises other than work. Continue reading →