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

Friday
May012015

Wait

 

I spent some time on a plane recently.  There a few better examples of man’s inhumanity to man than whomever designed the airplane seat. 

 I do kind of like airports though.  I like watching the people, little kids especially. I saw a little girl who had hand drawn her ID. She put it in a little pouch around her neck with a copy of her boarding pass.  Thankfully, the man at the gate played along and checked her ID and made a show of it when she and her mom got to security.

 I was waiting at my own gate while a plane was emptying.  A woman came out of the door holding the hand of a kid who looked to be about five or six years old. He stepped out into the concourse, his eyes got real wide and he said, “MOM, Is this their house???”

 I don’t know where he was going or where he was coming from. I’m guessing “mom” had said, “We’re flying to grandma’s house.”  Apparently it didn’t occur the the kid that they’d land at the airport and THEN go to grandma’s house.  He thought THIS was grandma’s place.  Coooool.  I saw the Tom Hanks movie about the guy who lived in an airport.  I’ve slept in more than one airport in my life and don’t care to do it again.  I don’t mind a layover. There’s always cool things to see and people to talk to.

 I have a friend who travels A LOT.  Whenever he has to travel he will go to the airport news stand and buy a magazine that he has NO interest in whatsoever.  It might be Modern Knitting or Horse Enthusiast.  He’ll read it cover to cover on the plane ride.  He said it’s surprising what you can learn and even more surprising how often something he learned from one of those magazines will come up in conversation.

 I’ve been thinking about the “Is this their house” kid.  I wonder what the arrival into heaven is going to be like. What’s it like at the end of the chute? Let’s accept the whole flying-into-the-light-thing at the moment of death AND the eternity-with-God thing.  But what about that moment AFTER death and before the eternity?  What is it like to arrive in heaven?   I want to believe it’s like the Welcome to Florida Station in Jacksonville. Shooting down interstate 71 and cruising into FLA. You stop in Jacksonville. You get a glass of cold Florida orange juice. You scan the racks and racks of brochures for every possible tourist attraction. My brother and I would grab 20 or 30 of these when we were little kids. We’d save them and then trade them. Never WENT to any of them but they were fun to read in the car.

 Some people expect the big line outside the gate and then St Peter checks your name off the list.  I hope that’s not it.  I want the juice.  I want a display window that looks out onto the Milky Way.  I want a brochure to a speedboat ride around Saturn’s rings.

 

And I want to know what’s beyond there....

 Sometimes when someone in your life dies the best thing you can do is something completely normal. Bake bread. Get a haircut. Wash the car.  Life has become something utterly abnormal...doing something normal helps.  Heaven is going to be so far beyond our comprehension we can’t conceive of it now. It isn’t possible to understand all that heaven is with the minds we have. We can’t do it.

 That’s why the Welcome to Heaven Rest Stop is necessary.  I hope it’s there. I hope they have vending machines with vintage candy and it’s all free.

 What’s beyond? Won’t know till we get there.

Thursday
Jan082015

Of Jokes and Jesus and Justice and Journalism

 

 Just below this paragraph is a joke.  I’m throwing that out there at the beginning. You will have to scroll down for it.  It is a joke I learned about 20 years ago. I was reminded of it last night during a fascinating discussion at a meeting of brilliant young minds.

It is a Jesus joke.  I post it here because it is, in its essence, the same joke that was the cover of the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris.  Ready?  Okay, here’s the joke.

 

 

 

A man walks into a church, a visitor, his first time. It is a beautiful sunny day and he’s a good Sunday morning mood.  He greets people warmly, he sings the opening hymn at the top of his lungs, during the ‘greeting time’ he hugs people and laughs loudly.  Finally a few people come to him and say this is not how they worship at their church and let him know he might be more comfortable worshipping elsewhere. 

 

As the man is sitting on the front steps on the church wondering what it was he did wrong, Jesus came up and sat next to him.  “Don’t feel bad,” said Jesus.  “I’ve been trying to get in there for years.”

 

 

 There you go.  Essentially that’s the same joke as was on the cover of Charlie Hebdo. The overall point being that sometimes people are so busy being religious they don’t see they aren’t following the one who started the religion.  The magazine cover of Charlie Hebdo depiected a member of ISIS murdering the prophet Mohammad.  The prophet is saying "I'm the prophet you idiot."   The ISIS miltant is saying, "Die Infidel!"

 

So what I first thought was...it wasn’t about the joke. No reasonable person would take so offense to that joke they would murder the ones who created it.

 

My second thought was... we are not dealing with reasonable people.  Which brings us back to...it wasn’t about the joke.

 

So it was about the offense then?

 

No it wasn’t about the offense.  I read somewhere we have become the United States of the Offended.  ANYthing that is said...someone....somewhere will take offense.

 

So it wasn’t about the offense.  It wasn’t about the joke.

 

It was about fear and prejudice...about making you afraid and telling you who’s to blame. 

 

It was about control.

 

When it’s about control we can either give control to the ones who are trying to make us afraid or we can stop being afraid.  

 

Take away the fear and you take back the control.

 

There’s a reason it’s called terrorism. 

 

Aaron Sorkin wrote that terrorism has a 100 percent failure rate.  It never works. Those you are trying to control with fear always always always rise up again.

 

Fear is strong. Fear gives birth to prejudice and ignorance but love is stronger than all of it.  Love is the strongest thing there is.

 

Love always hopes, always protects, always trusts, always endures, always perseveres. Love does not lose.  Ever.

 

None of that answers the question what do we do about people who shoot cartoonists, or journalists or politicians or missionaries.   

 

Maybe love can be the side effect.

Tuesday
Apr082014

FREE CONE DAY

There are those who eat to survive and those who eat for pleasure. There are some people, who were it not a necessity for life, would simply forget to eat. I don’t understand these people. For those of us for whom eating is pretty much recreation there are certain “high holy” days in our year. Sacred days marked off on our calendars that can’t be found in the lectionary but SHOULD.

Such a day is FREE CONE DAY at Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. (Someday I will travel to the mecca that is B&J’s in the far off land called Vermont.)  We who truly celebrate FREE CONE DAY believe this is one of our biggest holidays. There should be presents. There should be special T-shirts. We should seen FREE CONE DAY carols!


It came upon an ice cream shop
That glorious scoop of cold
From Ben and Jerry hand-made cones
To touch that flavor so bold.

Okay, better than that but you get the idea. Here is my new theory:

What if every day was FREE CONE DAY? What if ever single day of the year, FOR-EV-VER, you could simply walk up to the counter and say, “May I have a free ice cream cone please?”

And they give it to you? No purchase necessary. No hole punches. No coupons. Just, “I’d like an ice cream cone please.” and all they will say is “What flavor?”

You can go back as much as you want in the same day. Every day you just ask for a FREE CONE and they give it to you. I’m thinking that it would only take so long before you started asking for more than one. It might be one of those days when you cannot decide between Chunky Monkey and Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz. So you get one of each. Too many and you might get sick and not want to come back but how can you NOT come back when every day is FREE CONE DAY?

So you get a free ice cream cone and then you ask for one more in a cup, with a lid, so you can take it home with you. You might have three or four stocked up in your freezer before you get the idea “Hey, I should get one for my friend Jim.” (Or Becca or Missy or whatever)

So now, you get a free cone for yourself and one for your friend. Eventually, you just start meeting your friends at Ben & Jerry’
‘s. So now, you and all your friends are eating free cones on FREE CONE DAY at Ben & Jerry’s.

Eventually, you may start thinking you should do more than just eat your ice cream. So, you start finding ways to give more cones away. You give a free cone to strangers. You might even work out a way to bring in a busload of kids from the homeless shelter. Why stop at kids? Give free cones to people who are sitting up all night long at the hospital. Give to the people standing in line at the DMV. Give free cones away at the nursing home.

In theory you could only go back to Ben & Jerry’s so many times before there was nothing else you could do except share. I’m going to say that again for those of you skimming. Eventually, you could only go back so many times before there was nothing else you could do except share.

Isn’t this the way the gospels are supposed to work? It’s sharing. It’s being so blessed with having free cones that you just have to share. That’s religion.

So what happens? We get hung up on coupons and who can and who can’t have a cone. We make rules about how many cones you can have. We decide that certain flavors arent for everyone and MY flavor is exclusive to ME. Or maybe THIS is OUR flavor, you go have your yucky flavor over there and don’t bother us over here with our GOOD flavors.

Who would want to go through that? Then someone says, “We can only have FREE CONE DAY once a week and only at a time when most people are simply too tired to even get out of bed. MOREOVER, because you have to act a certain way or say a certain prayer…you get a smaller cone.”

Then someone would probably go out and buy a franchise and only give FREE CONE DAY to people who thought like they did and sang their songs and spoke their language and followed the FREE CONE DAY rules.

FREE CONE DAY would become a pain in the butt.

Monday
Jan132014

Potter

The old man looked like a chubby old otter

As he quietly worked on the wheel of a potter

She stared at his hands and the clay and the water

She had come to there ask his advice.

 

She said, “Sometimes I feel like the color beige

Like a bowl of oatmeal or a dark, empty stage

It’s like my whole life is just a blank empty page

So I came here to ask your advice.

 

I mean, did you feel like this when you like me.

Right at the beginning of all that could be 

But you couldn’t get started and you couldn’t quite see

What your life was really about?”

 

But the potter was silent and stared at the wheel

And her anger boiled up and it was like he could feel

The pain in her heart that she tried to conceal

But her hands kept clenching into fists

 

The wheel kept on turning the way it will go

And the lump in his hand started to grow

He said,”Why are you asking for what you already know

Don’t you know how amazing you are?

 

There is just one creator and he knows what to do

Listen to my words, girl, and know that they’re true

He made the grass green and he made the sky blue.

There’s some things you must do for yourself.

 

This clay is soft but given the time

I can work with it slowly with these old hands of mine

And I can make it a vase or a jug for my wine

But you see girl it’s all up to me.

 

You’ve been given this life and it’s already amazing

You can study your books or spend it star gazing

You can go out on the road and spend it hell razing

But you see girl, it's all up to you

 

But I’ll tell you right now, girl there are people backstage

Who see your empty canvas. They see your blank page

And they come out here with paint...and mud..and buckets of rage

And they’ll tell what THEY think you are

 

They’ll push you and mold you like the clay on this wheel

 And they won’t care a jot about how you might feel

I promise you girl it’s your soul that they steal

But you won’t let them have it, will you?

 

You better define yourself before someone else does

They follow you around and start flappin’ their jaws

But you don’t have to listen to them girl, because

The creator left it all up to you.

 

Don’t go around blaming your mommy or dad

Your sister who’s prettier or your brother the grad

‘Cause they had all same choices you know that you had

It’s your life, girl, not anyone else’s.”

 

And she looked down inside, deeper than she could remember

Down where the fire had grown cold as December

And she saw the small spark, a dim glowing ember

And she quietly gave it a blow

 

And that one tiny coal it started to glow

And it made a small flame that started to grow

And then a bonfire and burning volcano

And she knew it was just getting started

 

It was a note, then a song, then full symphony

Backed up by storm on the crashing blue sea

She kept it all in her heart right where it should be

And she turned to the old man and said,

 

“I am a dancer and poet or great engineer

I can build you a building or quote you Shakespeare

And I have NO time for those who would fill me with fear

I know now it’s all up to me.

 

And I’m not mug or a bowl on your wheel

I’m am the wheel itself and I know what I feel

I’m creating myself and now here’s the deal

I’m ready to define myself

Tuesday
Jan072014

Duck Dynasty has been renewed!