Archive for December, 2016

75 Years Old

December 30, 2016

75! How can this be possible?

Family lore has it that I was due to be born on or about December 7, 1941. That was, of course, Pearl Harbor Day. A Day of Infamy, to quote the then POTUS, Franklin Roosevelt.

I didn’t show up for three weeks later. I have commented on the information that my due date was when it was, saying that I took a brief look at the shape the world was to be, and so crawled back in where it was nice and safe and warm for a while longer. By the time December 29 arrived, my mother was well ready to be rid of me.

As history would reveal, the world was already in pretty terrible shape by the time that the USA was dragged into war. Already by this day, thousands and thousands of people in Western and Eastern Europe were surviving, or not, in the most terrible condition imaginable.

Three quarters of a century. I have been truly blessed. I have visited more countries that I can count, and have made at least interstate highway rest stops in 49 of our 50 states. Only Iowa awaits.

The Facebook posting of my birthday lists over a hundred greetings. A hundred! I can hardly believe that I have 100 friends. I’m not a very public person, and highly introverted, too. Life of the party I am not nor have I ever been. A hundred! Yes, I am truly blessed.

I asked my wife, Sandy, if today I should start to wonder aloud whether I would see another birthday. She said no. OK, I’ll wait another year or six for that question.

Still playing the clarinet, still singing, still active as a (retired) Episcopal priest, still walking city streets and mountain paths. Still traveling, still voting, still writing, still a number of things. Yes, very blessed and very grateful.

Thank you so much for all your greetings. I love you.


St. Stephen’s Gate – A Rocky Place

December 26, 2016

On this Feast of Stephen, December 26, my mind travels back to a pilgrimage to Israel-Palestine, and an afternoon in Jerusalem.

Our group had some free time to wander through the old city. I was amazed at the open air markets, but I’m not a shopper, so I went in search of another place that might take me away from the crowds and to someplace with an outside view.

I found myself on the eastern edge of the walled city, and to one of the gates leading to the outside. My memory may be somewhat challenged, as this trip is twenty years in the past. I do clearly remember the gate: St. Stephen’s.

Many children learn of St. Stephen by singing the Christmas carol, Good King Wencelaus. The first verse directs us to know that the good king “looked out, on the feast of Stephen,” now celebrated in the Western Christian Church on December 26 every year.

As I recall, as soon as I went through the gate, I stopped and admired the view. The gate was, as I recall, along the eastern wall of the old part of Jerusalem. That wall sits on a steep slope that descends to the Kidron Valley, and in clear view across to the Mount of Olives and, near the bottom of the mountain, what Christians know and revere as the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus spent his last night with his apostles on the day before his execution, or crucifixion.

After crossing over the threshold of this gate, the path suddenly becomes rocky and steep. I was not stepping carefully, and so I slid on a stone and ended up on my behind. Not an injurious accident, merely a scrape on one of my hands.

If indeed the first martyr and first deacon of the Christian church was tortured to death by stoning at this very place as a punishment for his faith, then my slight injury was a reminder of what blessed Stephen went through at the hands of a furious mob who saw belief in Christ to be treasonous.

Bless you Stephen. I’m proud to carry your name, and a tiny bit of blood that I left at your gate mingled with your much more copious offering. Thank you for your witness and courage.


Dog hurt

December 1, 2016

I hurt my dog yesterday.

Skylar is a 6 year old whippet. For those unfamiliar with this breed, it is a small version of a greyhound, but not as small as an Italian Greyhound. Whippets are truly the middle child in the sight hound family.

They are called “sight hounds” because if they see something moving, they go after it. Fast. The other side of that energy concludes, “If it isn’t moving, who cares?” In any given “waking” hour while indoors, the whippet will dash about for one minute, and then collapse into untroubled sleep for the other 59.

This breed has great big brown eyes. The better to see with, we can conclude. When Skylar wants something (as happens often), he will put his head in my lap or nearby, stare at me with those great big eyes, and keep staring until I give in and give him either what he wants, or some consolation. Anything to get him off my case. Who can resist those big brown eyes? I can’t.

Yesterday he did this, as is his custom. The problem was, I wasn’t in the mood to be provident. I fell down the outside stairs of my town house just a few days before, and have been recovering slowly since. Most of me hurt, and just wanted to be left alone, wrapped up in a blanket and a heating pad, feeling sorry for myself.

A whippet who thinks he needs to go out or to be fed or to be played with or generally to be paid attention to does not know how to leave his human alone. He’s just not the kind of dog to quietly lie down until the owner has a more convenient moment. Maybe this sounds like your dog, too.

So I yelled, “LEAVE ME ALONE!”

He paid no attention. He continued staring. I had finally had enough. I bonked him on the nose and told him to get lost.

You cannot imagine the look on Skylar’s face. You would think that his best friend (me) had rejected him harshly (I did). He tucked his tail between his legs, and made his way upstairs (his favorite retreat – it’s warmer up there) and sulked all the rest of the day.

Eventually I repented, and went upstairs to make amends. No change. He paid me no attention. He had forgotten that he is a dog and began acting like a cat. You know the act. Go away for a weekend and the cat will pay you no mind for a day or two after you return. My wife, Sandy, said that he will get over it.

He did. This morning, he was himself again. I expect that he will be in my face as soon as he wants something.

I think that I won’t hit him on the nose again. Almost nothing could be as bad as seeing the look of my dog scorned.