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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Prayer for the Methodist Church

The recent Supreme Court decision finding gay marriage constitutional will bring division within the church. Some will find the decision to be a step towards paganism while others will find it an inevitable expression and extension of Christian love. It is my prayer that the church family exercise humility and goodwill faithfully following the leadings of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

A Falling Away

Tuesday my brother Bob and I spent all day clearing out my house that will soon be placed on the market.  We worked as a team, with our first day's focus on clearing all extraneous items out of the study.  This required many snap decisions on my part--placing items in one area reserved for personal keepsakes that will move with me; placing items in another area for family and friends to look over to determine if there is something they would like to keep; placing items in a third area for donations to the Goodwill Thrift Store; and, finally, placing items in area designated for trash.  My brother organized the first three areas and neatly boxed things away, while taking the bagged trash outside to the dumpster.  My emotional state fluctuated with each item at hand--from a quick dispatch of "no-brainer" trash to a careful weighing and--to be honest--crying over some final separations.  It is my opinion that none of this is unique to me, but is the rule rather than exception when people downsize and close a major chapter in their lives.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

The Handgun Epidemic

It is an encroaching problem--the exploding profusion of handguns in the United States.  The following blogs indicate my view of the matter:


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Pint Size State

The sword of the state simply means
The state has the power to regulate
And back it up with all it takes;
This is a role it cannot abdicate
And remain the state

The citizen’s role is large and great
To create, vote, and speak
But the role of the state it cannot take
The sword of the state it must not usurp
For then citizen it ceases to be,
And becomes instead a mini-state

Oh brave new world that attempts to make
Man and gun a mini-state
Forfeiture of roles etched in heaven
It seeks to level with gun metal.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Invisible Blindness

Some blindness’s are total and in these blindness’s nothing is seen.  A much more troubling blindness is when no darkness is present, vision is good, but the existing object is simply not perceived.  Light abounds but the object is nowhere to be found in the field of view.  In this case, one is unaware of their blindness so there is nothing to trouble them about their lack of perception.  Today I watched as Saint Petersburg city officials once again asked for thoughts and prayers for another murdered policeman—murdered by gunshot—as are most police killings.  A huge array of police forces combed the vicinity surrounding the murder scene without success.  One difficulty was that the murderer was believed to be a black youth in his late teens to early twenties—a description that fits many innocent people in the area cordoned off and searched.  (A 16-year-old ultimately confessed to the crime.) Where does the ghastly blindness lie to which I refer?  The blindness is the peculiar absence of seeing an obvious need—the need for handgun control.  Surely and hopefully at some point the answer will appear—less massive and heartfelt response to gratuitous tragedy and more effective action to prevent it.  Not only are public servants the target of handguns, but also are countless vulnerable servants in the private sector—low-paid convenience store clerks come readily to mind.  It is time to disarm the public of handguns and limit their use to law enforcement agencies.  To do otherwise is to invest in individuals the police power of a mini-state—a gross distortion of institutional physics.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Place for Desperation

The woman with the bleeding problem spent all her money and a great deal of effort to find a solution for her suffering. How likely are you to try every other option before you take your problem to God? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1401).

If I must die, I must die. (Esther 4:16).

Today I must speak of gun control. Saturday I attended the funeral for Arsenio Terrance Brinson. When shot on the streets of St. Petersburg January 20, 2014, he was 26 years old. I did not know him personally but am a friend of his mother, Brenda. I cannot help but think of the visuals that must be haunting Brenda at this point – those years when she carried him, when she held him as an infant and a child, when she nurtured him through elementary school, and cultivated all of her dreams for him during his high school years. And then, faced with today's unfathomable abyss, the unalterable fact of emptiness chiseled forever at the funeral with the closing of the casket.

I have seen cheerful persons cheerleading unrestricted handguns for our nation. It is my opinion that these enthusiasts for unlimited distribution of handguns have not attended a sufficient number of funerals for those they hold dear.

In my view we have come to a point of desperation—the same point as the woman with the bleeding problem who out of desperation touched Jesus for healing. It is time for caring Americans to stand up and say enough is enough with no regard whatever for personal consequences – if I must die, I must die.


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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Should We Wait for Human Perfection?

Today's question:  Should We Wait for Human Perfection?

Blog from
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Let’s Get Together

[TASCO is a key youth program within the City of St Petersburg whose mission is to hone the skills and ethical values of St Pete youth.]

Today while working at TASCO I was privileged to view a video before official release called Let’s Get Together.  This stunning achievement produced by TASCO Center for Teen Technology and edited by Robert Norton and Sean Keller features the people of Saint Petersburg and has as its central message that tragedy can and must be redeemed by hope and brotherhood.  This flawlessly edited composition is driven by the lyrics of a song that carries the central message—the vision of loving relationships is the only avenue providing hope and positive movement forward.  Throwing political correctness to the winds, the movie is strongly Christian in theme and content—and in a city with numerous churches knitting the fabric of almost every neighborhood, this frank acknowledgment underscores a sense of realism—as sadly also do the references to recent tragedies. Since it seems that guns are a given in our society, the only recourse to avoiding tragedy is overcoming anger and hatred in the human heart.  When that day comes—and faith affirms that it will—half the criminal laws in the city will be made nugatory.  Joy and celebration mark the end of the video with the firm conclusion that abiding hope and loving convictions are daily realized and are stronger in the end than evil is now or ever will be.  

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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Weekly Bible Study

A gunman shot to death nine church members who had gathered for Bible study and prayer Wednesday night at one of the nation’s oldest black churches [Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.]. (

Perhaps some of my readers do not attend weekly Bible study and wonder what typically characterizes it.  I attend a weekly Bible study at Clearview United Methodist Church, St. Petersburg, Fl.  There are usually a dozen people or less that attend.  We sit around a table.  Usually Nadine bakes and brings cookies to share.  Whoever arrives first brews a pot of coffee.

We each bring two texts--A Bible and the Navigators Design for Discipleship.  This is a series of relatively short publications (typically about 100 pages each) that includes many discussion and study questions with generous references to Scripture that we are to read and consider. (We are currently in book five: "Foundations of Faith."  A recent study question was: "Study Jeremiah 31:3, John 3:16, and 1 John 3:1.  Summarize what these verses teach about God's love" [ page 18]).

While the discussion is anchored in Scripture, we are all encouraged to contribute our own experiences and ideas.  It is a very forgiving group and it is made clear from the outset that human imperfection is expected of all group members.  No one need be afraid to contribute because of fear of embarrassment. Our pastor, Bo, is usually there, as well as the lay leader and the study group leader.  It is an open discussion and all group members are encouraged to participate--including one member that is intellectually disabled.

The study opens and closes with prayer.  The focus of the closing prayer centers on those in the congregation with life and/or health concerns.

The following recent blog was inspired by this week's Bible study session.  The main idea was elicited by comments contributed by Pastor Bo. (

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

On Judging My Father

Allow yourself to brag by completing this sentence comparing you with your father:  "My father did ______ a little; I will do that same thing much more" (often, bigger or better).  How do you account for the difference?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 538).

The only thing that I would offer as criticism regarding my father was that he shared in the polite censorship of the mid 20th century.  This is understandable for it was pervasive at the time. For example, even the phrase "I don't give a damn!" was a shocker in Gone with the Wind.  Of course some now would argue that we have gone too far in the other direction and that our profuse macho profanity covers up much more weakness, fear, and anxiety than did the censorship of the last century.  The polite censorship of mid-1900's tended to cover profound and troubling truths, such as racial Jim Crow laws and sexual paranoia.  Today if I were to judge my father harshly for a tendency to accept verbal rectitude as a substitute for justice and righteousness,  I would have to deal with the fact that we too avoid social justice and righteousness, now cloaking it in the insufferable self-righteousness of blanket obscenities.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Principle Freedom

John 8:36  (NIV)

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.


Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.


Let us say that a new visitor to planet Earth in welcome is given a cup of coffee. The visitor tips the coffee cup and hot coffee spills unexpectedly to the floor.  The visitor has learned something new, however narrow – if he tips a cup of coffee, the contents will spill to the floor. The visitor is astonished and filled with apprehension and fear. In the vast number of moves he could make, what disasters lurk?  The visitor can only explore the earth with confidence when he realizes that a principle is at work and applies to all situations – that is, understanding to an apt degree the principle of gravity on Earth, our visitor can experience freedom from fear and can enjoy latitude in exploring it. He knows in advance not to step off a cliff.  Understanding a principle – while it introduces an inexorable fact – nevertheless grants inexorable freedom.  Later he will come to learn of other principles and the further interrelationship of principles.   Thus with expanding knowledge, his confidence and freedom--his surefootedness--will be extended. Internalizing a principle (or, as Charles Wesley put it "a principle within") paradoxically brings limitations while concurrently vastly broadening our scope of freedom.

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Monday, June 15, 2015

To a Gay Teen

According to genetic and fossil evidence, archaic Homo sapiens evolved to anatomically modern humans solely in Africa, between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago, with members of one branch leaving Africa by 60,000 years ago and over time replacing earlier human populations such as Neanderthals and Homo erectus. (

Once I had a coworker tell me that she thought all human beings were bisexual. There is a sense in which I agree with her.  In my view it is unwise for a teenager to decide they are same-sex gay for all time because they have feelings towards their own sex. Our heritage as human beings began with life itself, but more specifically between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago.  In many respects, it seems reasonable that life or death situations were intimately connected with the human family and more common in years past.  Male bonding became essential for survival. The willingness to commit to the ultimate sacrifice for the good of one's fellows equates with unconditional love.  It is often said that sex is for procreation--only a fool would argue with that.  But clearly a central purpose does not preclude other important, even essential, periphery purposes.  I think, beginning with adolescence, sex has always been an element in bonding not only in relation to the opposite sex, but to the same sex as well for necessary life purposes excluding procreation.

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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Fun That Money Can Buy

If you were suddenly given $1,000,000, what is the first thing you would go out and buy? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 616).

I would buy a brand-new Volkswagen Beetle. The Volkswagen website says it all:

"Volkswagen Beetle: Breaking the mold. Every chance it gets.

"A sleek twist on an iconic shape, the Beetle has the looks and performance to turn heads and corners equally well."

I 'm confident it would be great fun to drive, eliciting the imp me. (If the insurance company only knew...,)

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Friday, June 12, 2015

The Convoluted Coil of Pain

What kind of storm do you think claims the most spiritual casualties?
  • intellectual doubts
  • moral failures
  • relational conflict
  • personal crises
  • pain and suffering
(Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1337).

I have no doubt that human affairs is convoluted most by personal psychological pain – often inflicted intentionally or unintentionally during the years of maturation by an assortment of significant others.  The most problematic pain arises from perceived withheld affirmation in "the rag and bone shop of the heart" causing speculation and anxiety regarding the integral value of one's very personhood. Throughout one's life compensation can be sought to ameliorate this pain– but tragically  the damage has already been done and complete self acceptance and assurance is seldom satisfactorily achieved.  The coping mechanisms employed can extend from philanthropy to pedophilia.

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Self-esteem, Chance, and Faith

The key question is what differentiates faith from wagering at the Belmont Stakes?  That is, what distinguishes faith (which involves risk) from gambling (which also involves risk). The essential difference between gambling and faith is the source of self-esteem. When we realize that we are a child of God and that he loves us individually and is forgiving and loving and thus bestows upon us unconditional self-esteem, the need for works (and ironically gambling is a bastard form of work) as an avenue to self-esteem is made nugatory. If I should win at gambling, this artificially reinforces my self-esteem which was my underlying objective. The great danger, of course, is that I will assume that such self-esteem when garnered is inherent within me due to my great skill at gambling. That is, I continue gambling exponentially until I lose it all–proving to me that I'm a loser, which was my greatest fear at the outset.  Faith in God is quite  another matter for it always sustains self-esteem--it requires no incessant "winning." In fact since we are loved, we seek to love in a mirroring fashion. Faith with the objective of expressing kindness is quite different from the essentially selfish hyper-certainty that drives a gambler.

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Tuesday, June 9, 2015

More Important than Machinery

What was one of accomplishment as a teenager of which you feel proud?  (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1606).

Like many teens I was interested in electronics even in the ancient days of the 1960s. Vacuum tube radios were still being built as well as tube amplifiers. Poring over an electronics catalog, I found an entry for a build-it-yourself amplifier--in all probability it was a Knight kit. I ordered the amplifier and  awaited its arrival with anticipation. Subsequently, over several days I assembled it at the kitchen breakfast table. It was an amplifier with tubes and the task was to connect the numerous wires beneath to the various components (there was no printed circuitry). I will never forget the satisfaction I enjoyed when it actually worked (and did not explode in a cloud of smoke). I went on from there and built a console to house the amplifier as well as a record player. Further, I purchased a large 12 inch speaker and enclosed it in a speaker box which I also built. I think my parents were proud too, as these items were kept in the living room even after their retirement. Eventually when mother downsized and moved into a retirement community, it was necessary to give up these items. But the memory is more important than the machinery, for it represented a concrete accomplishment when as a young man I needed self-confidence.

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Monday, June 8, 2015

From Major to Minor

Share a major unfinished duty you'd like to carry to completion this year. (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 295).

It may well be for me that the time for "major duties" has passed-- those grandiose, high profile acts for God and country. It is often remarked that one's later years in some ways reflect one's childhood years; and this may be one of those ways. While we are keenly interested in a child's behavior – for example, whether they reflect compassion or its reverse, say cruelty to animals--we nevertheless have very measured, even restricted, expectations. It is in this sense that I seek the completion of no major duties, just the ongoing fulfillment of many smaller ones. And beyond that, I would pray that the Lord open my eyes to all those myriad daily duties that I should do, but sometimes neglect to do or fail to even see.  I thus open the definition of "major duty" to include such things as writing weekly letters to my son.

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Solidity of a Present Reality

Take 30 seconds to reflect on how 4:17 is true of you. What situation comes to mind? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1686).

James 4:13-17 New International Version (NIV)

Boasting About Tomorrow
Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

We are entering what promises to be an intense political season. One thing is for certain. It will be characterized by much boasting of what will be done "when I am president."  How often do we stop to consider that such boasting is sin?  While sometimes the enunciation of ultimate goals (rather than seemingly "harder" promises and oaths) can sound like glittering generalities, an affirmation of values is paradoxically the most humble and realistic thing that we can do. Today I heard the eulogy by Barack Obama for Joe Biden, the son of the vice president. The key thing that Pres. Obama did was to identify the essence of the United States in terms of empathy and compassion--values inherent in the Bill of Rights and the Golden rule and which exemplify America at its best.  If I were to affirm these values here, it wouldn't amount to much for I have not been in the rough and tumble political arena. But coming from someone who wears those scars while reflecting on the life of a man dedicated to those values,  I was touched by the solidity of a present reality.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Brass Tacks vs Mental Tack

If God were to tell you something specific about the future, what one thing would you like him to tell you? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 355).

Thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. (from The Lord's Prayer).

In the end specifics don't tell us much. How the mind tacks is what interests me.  I would like Him to tell me that each day I will be grateful and faithful. I would like Him to tell me that humanity will increasingly tack ever closer with Him and that the peace that passes understanding will come to bless each and everyone.

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Friday, June 5, 2015

Small Parlor, Big Closet

What room or area of yours is cleanest? Dirtiest? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 1479).

My life is much like a big closet, not so much that it is intentionally secret, but that it is filled with a great diversity of baggage and a hodgepodge of items that don't fit neatly into a reception parlor or any other clearly defined room. If closet for you has some unfortunate covert connotations, you can understand instead that I have a garage overflowing with motley stuff from many experiences.  There are some once prized trophies there largely forgotten--somewhere behind the lawnmower and crammed within dust covered storage boxes. You can find bits and pieces of my life's paraphernalia that is undeniably part of my identity, yet is largely subliminal or forgotten. So when we meet in the parlor for polite conversation, realize that the real me is not so tidy or presentable and in all probability is of little or no interest to you.  And, of course, I understand that much of you is in storage too.

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Cost of Shelter

The Cost of Following Jesus
Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:19-20 NIV).

I soon will be selling my home.  All those who have lived a long time in a home can appreciate what I am going through.  It has represented a tower of strength in my life for over thirty years. It has been a safe refuge I could depend upon and fill with keepsakes that gave my life a sense of stability and continuity.  It is from this stance that I consider that during Jesus's ministry he was essentially homeless--his tower of strength and anchor being his Heavenly Father.  When we consider the temptations of Jesus, we can only speculate what insidious and subtle temptations would have arisen had he been born and raised upon an expansive and wealthy family estate.  Being the first born, it is my understanding that he could look forward to a sizable inheritance.  As a member of the prestigious family, he would have been exceedingly prominent in the community and in the temple.  On the other hand, how would my viewpoint change if I were 100% itinerant without solid assurance of getting food and shelter for extended periods.  For someone who likes all his "ducks in a row" before setting out even on a vacation, I think such a situation would drive me nearly crazy as anxiety and fretting would be constant.  Perhaps my relative material prosperity today is actually a spiritual loss....I hope I never have to find out.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Subset of the Blame Game

Does God seem to keep promises with you or have you felt misled or confused? What situation of life has called God's promises into question? When you experience setbacks what is your first reaction: (a) Become overwhelmed by feelings? (b) Focus on the problem? (c) Affirm God's control? (Serendipity Bible Fourth Edition, page 822).

It is important to understand that blaming God is simply a subset of the blame game. If I don't have anybody else to blame, I can always blame God--especially following impulsive decisions of my own that don't work out. Those so minded but without verbal allegiance to God can always blame other people while seldom if ever accepting personal responsibility.  A believer's reactions can be quite different as they objectively accept individual responsibility; focus on the immediate situation; and offer thanks for the abiding wisdom, love, and forgiveness of God.

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Prayers with Delimited Ambition

What injustice around you hurts enough to move you to pray against it? If nothing does, what does that say about your compassion and concern for justice for other people? (Serendipity Bible Edition, page 772).

Tonight at Bible study we opened and closed with prayer. There were four or five people ill within the congregation, and our small group prayed for them almost exclusively.  There was a time when I would have judged this harshly as exemplifying an insular attitude.  Surely we should have spent at least half our prayer time petitioning for international peace, universal social justice, worldwide missions, and various and sundry spanning noble causes.  Instead we prayed for Sally, and John, and Mary who recently fell and broke her hip. The great commission has a worldwide scope; yet tonight we were, so to speak, introspective.  In writing composition one is taught to write about what one knows. I think our prayer life often flirts with grandiose pomposities lifted heavenward as if by thundering hot air balloons.  Are we praying to God or playing to the bleachers?

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