What Others Are Saying:

Steve Case, through his emersion into the story, reminds us that the presence of the divine surrounds us continually and he teaches us how to tap into that presence.

 - Mary Beth Howe, Author:A Baptist Among Jews



I got to re-watch one of my all time favorite scary movies the other night. Probably in my top five...and in my top ten favorite films of all time.  It’s an old black-and-white classic called Night Of The Hunter.  It was panned when it was first released, so much so the  director never directed another movie.  He died in the sixties never knowing it would become a classic.  He was way ahead of his time. The direction is almost a character within the film. Sort of the same way as Wes Anderson films like Moonrise Kingdom.

 Night of the Hunter will not jump out and go “boo”.  It will however give you a severe case of the shivers. Those shivers will come back to you every single time you think of the movie.

 The movie stars Robert Mitchum, Lillian Gish (I have a Lillian Gish story I will tell you someday that involves five days of 10 shifts in a cafeteria dish-room. Remember that one Vince?).  Shelly Winters is in the movie too...she’s young and trim and beautiful.

I’m trying to write this blog entry without spoilers.  If you haven’t seen the film, find it.  It’s a work or art.  

 Mitchum plays a traveling preachers who, we learn very early on, is a very very bad man.  He spend a great deal of the film singing the hymn Leaning on the Everlasting Arms but he can make you squirm when he sings it. Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeening. Leeeeeeeeeeeeeening. Leaning on the everlasting arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrms.  (I just shivered again there.)  That hymn becomes what the deep brass music is in Jaws. Watch Night of the Hunter and you will never hear that hymn without thinking of what the preacher did to his poor wife.

 My favorite scene is toward the end.  The kind older window who takes in orphans is sitting up all night long in her rocking chair.  She has her shotgun in her lap. We all know the preacher is on his way. He sits outside in her front lawn, singing. “Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeening.  Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeenng.”   The bad guy does not storm the house. He does not bring the cops or a lawyer or even make demands.  He just sings.

 The woman inside the house and listens. Eventually she starts to sing to. Soon she has taken on the melody and the preacher is outside in the yard singing the harmony. For one brief moment you think, “Oh God she’s going to give him the kids!!”

 That’s the best scene.  You think the bad guy has won with a song. 

 I remember that song from my childhood.  Sitting in the church choir listening as a man named Jim Shiely sang the solo part. “What have I do dread? What have I to fear?”  Mr Shiely has a wonderful tenor voice.  Mitchum sang the song in the movie with a deep baritone. When he sang “What have I to dread? What have I to fear?”  The viewer sits there and thinks, “YOU. We have YOU to fear.”

I don’t believe anything about faith or God or religion should be about fear. It should only be about love. Yet fear of hell is a motivator for so much of our behavior. We fear the moment of death and fear that if we haven’t lived just right God is going to send us someplace horrible.  For too many churches it’s all about fear.  If they can make you afraid of it...they can control you.


God is about love, not fear.  I’ve said before about the places in the scripture where it says, “Approach God with FEAR and wonder.”  I have no problem with wonder.  But the word fear comes from the same Greek (maybe it was Hebrew) word for Awe.  I think God and heaven are so far beyond our understanding we cannot help be in awe.

 Don’t listen to those who want to make you afraid.  Too often these voices are in our own heads.  That little voice that says, “You can’t...you don’t deserve...you will never....”

 Fear comes into our heads like a song.  A sweet voice that sings our doubts, lulls us in, creates a wall so we get comfortable in our fears.  

Be afraid of those people....

Be afraid of that music...

Be afraid for your children....

Be afraid of those books......

As long as we never let anyone or anything in...as long as we never change or even think about the absurdity of the root of our fears...we will be fine and nothing can harm us. 

 We learn to face our fears like an orphan-loving-widow with a shot gun in our laps. It doesn’t matter how beautiful evils song is...you don’t have to let fear in.  You don’t have to let doubt in.  You don’t have to let anger or hate or bigotry or lies into you soul.  

 Faith not fear.

 Fear not.



The Groom's Face

I recently attended my niece’s wedding. She’s my wife’s niece technically, mine by default but I claim her as my niece because she’s pretty awesome.  Somewhere in my cupboards there is a picture of me at my own wedding.  Her older brother was four or five and was sitting on my arm.  He was known as “Little Steve” and I was “Big Steve.”  Eventually I was just “Uncle Big.”  

 “Little” Steve is now in an awesome brass band in Pittsburgh. His band played my nieces wedding.  Her sister sang a Psalm in the service that moved me to tears.

 She’s married now to a nice guy named Dan.  He’s a good guy.  Honestly, I think he was my favorite part of the wedding.

 We were seated on the bride’s side of the church so we had a view of the groom. The look on his face was amazing. Through the entire ceremony he simply stared at her and the expression on his face seemed to say, “I’m the luckiest SOB in the entire world.”  He   had a look that said, “Any minute I’m going to wake up and all of this will have been a dream. Please, God don’t let this be a dream.”  This guy was in awe of the very idea that this beautiful girl had chosen him.  

 The bride was absolutely stunning but the groom’s face was the highlight for me.

 We need to lift our heads when we pray.  We’ve been taught to hold hands around the table and bow our heads.  Bowing one’s head is done in reverence to God. It is a supplication.  Respect is one thing. AWE is another. The word AWE is often translated as FEAR in the scriptures.  Hence the supplication pose.  If we approach God with AWE there is no way we can do that with our faces down.

 I think God wants to see our faces.  I believe we need to lift our heads when we pray and show God that we are so incredibly grateful that its almost a dream. Sand and stars and grass and snow and rain and mountains...these are gifts. This universe is so far beyond our understanding we can't comprehend it all.  

Life is stunning. Why bow before it? Why hide our faces from it? 

 Pray with your face up.




Yesterday my lovely wife and I were tooling around the city of Sanford in the rain. I have come to enjoy Arts-festivals. Winter Park Arts Festival is a good one.  I love seeing the creativity. I like museums too.  But the outdoor arts festivals are sometimes more fun because of the variety of artists.  You can see some truly amazing paintings and sculptures right next to booth run by a grandmother who discovered she had a hidden talent for tie-dye.  We try find something like this to do on the weekends.  There were none this weekend.  So we started looking up local galleries and we found one in Sanford...hence the topic of this particular blog. (You were wondering were you not?)

 While walking in the gallery you could by a bottle of soda.  No, not a coke in a plastic bottle but REAL soda in ice cold glass bottles. Small batch brewers making creative flavors...almost an art form to itself.  I didn’t discover this little corner of the two floor gallery until we were just about done.  I was going to try a bottle of Grape Nehi (just for the M*A*S*H reference) when I spotted something called MacFuddys.  A hand written index card pinned to the wall read: MacFUDDY’S...like Dr Pepper on steroids.  (My friend Paul and my son-in-law John are both very jealous right now.)

 I bought a bottle and brought it home. I opened it about two minutes ago.  As my son used to say, “HOLY MOTHER OF NEIL DIAMOND”

 Imagine taking a good long pull on an ice cold bottle of Dr Pepper and then having someone hit you in the face with a shovel...but in a good way.

 The label on the bottle reads: 


12 oz for 24 hours of favorable outcomes


Distinctively Stirring


Cures Timidness and Satisfies the Daring


Favorable Outcomes

Distinctively Stirring

Cures Timidness

Satisfies the Daring


Wouldn’t it be cool to have those words written on a billboard outside our church? or ANY church for that matter?  What if that was not just the words on a sign?  What if that was how we thought of ourselves as Christians?


Too often people hear the word Christian and think, “Anti.”


They think Christian equals ANTI-smoking, ANTI-drinking, ANTI-Rock&Roll, ANTI-dancing, ANTI-gay, ANTI-sex, ANTI-fun.


What if people heard the word “Christian” and thought...Distinctively Stirring, Favorable Outcomes, Cures Timidness, Satisfies the Daring?


What if THAT was our definition? 

Look at the list again...

Distinctively Stirring

Favorable Outcomes

Cures Timidness

Satisfies the Daring


Choosing only one, which would you use to describe your relationship with God?  Notice there is nothing about fear.  There is nothing about separation. There is nothing about hate. 

God is distinctively stirring. Even John Wesley (founder of Methodism) wrote about being on a ship at sea during a storm and hearing prayers in the next room. He wrote that his heart was strangely warmed by this experience.

 God want’s us to have favorable outcomes. God is not Santa for grown-ups.  We don’t go to God with a list and neither does God keep one for us.  God wants what is best for his children.  Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes you get what you need. And sometimes you get what you get.

 God cures timidness.  Speak up. Say what you want. Ask your questions.  If you don’t get answer you like ask someone else.  This relationship...this back and forth with God should never be put in corner. (Nobody puts baby in a corner.)   No belief system should be “Sit there and be quiet while I tell you about Jesus and whatever you do don’t ask questions because that means you don’t really love Jesus.”  Belief is more than raising your hand to ask the questions...it should be about dancing our doubts and singing our ideas.

 God satisfies the daring.  Do you know what kind of balls it takes to stand up and say, “Yes, I believe!”  You can never win an argument with an atheist.  You can’t. It won’t happen.  Why?  Because the atheist need only say “Prove it.  Offer me one single shred of evidence that God exists and then I will believe.”  New Flash: There isn’t any proof. It’s all about faith.  Why do I believe?  I decided to.


I decided to.


You and the atheist have all the same information available. There is no secret vault beneath your church with physical proof.  We all see the same world yet a select few can say, “I decided to believe.”  What daring that takes.  


My bottle of MacFuddys is nearly empty.  I’ve rambled enough.  





PS: I also bought a bottle of something called Black Lemonade. I tell you about that some other time. 


Geoff The Bunny

Once upon a time there was a bunny. He was a very large bunny, bigger than most.  His name was Geoff. Geoff D. Bunny to be precise but most of the animals in the forest just called him Geoff because the fuzzy forest friends are not so formal.  

 Geoff was very happy being a bunny. He spent a lot time writing songs about being a bunny and often made up new variations on what he called his Bunny Ballet. 

 One day as Geoff was dancing his bunny dance down the forest path,  a grey mouse whose name was Bill and happened to live in a log near the old Maple tree said, “Well, if it isn’t Geoff the Fish.”

 Geoff thought this statement was peculiar because he thought it was pretty obvious he was a bunny.  Most certainly he was not a fish.

 “I’m a bunny.” Geoff said. He said it very politely because he believed that the mouse had simply made an honest mistake.  The truth was that the mouse had not made an honest mistake and simply enjoyed teasing people into questioning who and what they were.  “No,” said the grey mouse, I believe you are a fish.”

 “I’m a bunny.” Geoff said, he was beginning to understand that the mouse was just being mean but he felt the need to argue the point.

 “No,” said the mouse. “I think you are a.....hmmmm...a goat. You are Geoff the goat.”

 “Then you are stupid.” Geoff said, “I’m a bunny.”

 “Better stupid than a goat.” The mouse said. “Who would want to be a goat?”

 “I’m not goat. I’m a bunny.”  Geoff was starting to feel a little upset.  He liked being a bunny and was thinking “What if the mouse is right?”  Would he has to stop dancing his bunny ballets?  Would he has to stop singing his bunny songs?

 “Okay, maybe you are not a goat,” said the mouse. “I think you are a camel.”  (Inside, the mouse was laughing hysterically.  He couldn’t wait to go the mouse’s tavern and tell his friends how he had made a bunny wonder if he really was a bunny.)

 “I’m not a camel.” Geoff said. Now he really was upset because he was not even entirely sure what a camel was.  It was at this moment that a wise old owl, whose name was Kevin, stepped out of his hole on a high branch of the old maple tree. He had heard the commotion and decided to check it out.  

 The little grey field mouse decided to include the owl on his prank and shouted up. “Hello Mr Owl. I’m Bill the field mouse and this is Geoff the camel.”   Bill winked at the owl. It was all he could do not to laugh out loud.  

 Kevin the owl looked down and immediately leapt from his perch.  He soared downward and veered up at the last moment grabbing the little mouse in his claw. When he reached his home branch again he tossed the field mouse in the air and caught him in his beak. The wise old owl chuckled lightly because the mouse’s tail tickled as it was the last thing to go down his throat.  The old owl looked down at Geoff the bunny and said, “Never cared much for camel myself.  Now field mice? There’s some good eats.”

 Geoff smiled and danced his bunny ballet down the path.

 The Moral: You have the right to ignore anyone who tells you that you are anything less than a wonderful and amazing creation of God.


This is a Blog Page

As I sit down to write this I hear the mail truck outside my house and I just want to run out and get the mail right now.  I may not make it to the end of this posting.  I may stop and go get the mail. 

When I was a kid, maybe four or five, my mother assigned me the “job” of getting the mail.  At the time the mail slot was on the door of our house.  The mail came in and dropped into a basket my mom attached to the door.  It was a big deal for me.  It was my “important job”.  So I learned to listen for the bang of the brass mail slot on the door.  If I didn’t hear it my mom would tell me the mail was here and I would run to the door.  It made “mail” special for me.  A unexpected package or even an expected one is till one of those simple joys of life that make my day.

 I think we assign meaning to things.  Mail might be no big deal for you but I still enjoy it. Postcards are a very cool thing for me.  My Aunt Elsie saved every postcard she ever got.  When she had to move into an assisted living apartment she got rid of most of her stuff and she gave me a big box of postcards some older than me. (There was one written by my mother from a hotel room on a family vacation.  Apparently my brother and I were “running off extra energy” after being stuck in a car all day.)

 If a man tells his friend “My father died.”   The friend can say, “Oh I’m sorry.” the first man can say, “Don’t be. He was an SOB and I hated him.”  or he can say, “Thank you. He was a great guy and I’ll miss him very much.”   The concept “father died” does not change but the meaning he assigns to the event changes.

 We cannot change our past.  Those things that happened to us...we cannot go back and undo them. We CAN change the meaning we assign to them.  When I was unemployed and we weren’t getting along very well...the sound of the mail-truck became ugly. More bills. I, mostly without realizing it, changed the meaning I assigned to “mail”.

 You are not your past. You are who you are because that is who you choose to be. Does this mean your past does not affect the person you are. No, your past affects you deeply but you can choose to let it rule you...repeat it over and over...or you can learn from it and let it change you for the better.

 You can bomb a test and think “Oh my God, I bombed that test.  Now I will fail the class and never get to college and be homeless for the rest of my life. I suck.”   (No, that’s not an exaggeration.  You all know someone like that.)  OR you can bomb that test and decide, “Never again.  I will rise. I will conquer.  They will never take away my FREEEDOOOM.”  Okay, that was a bit of exaggeration.

 Life is coming at you like an oncoming train.  Are you turned around looking at the journey behind you? Or are you looking ahead to know when to get out of the way?




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