My Physician Retired

It’s been six months since my personal physical of 30+ years put away is stethoscope, took down his shingle, meandered off into a much deserved retirement and sent me off to find another practitioner of the healing arts.  He gave me four recommendations along with the reassurance the he was also going to select one of them.  I began this journey with some trepidation since my physician had known me – inside and out – better than I will ever know myself.  He’d seen parts of me I will never see.  He was a master diagnostician.  He read the body like those Caribbean fishermen read the sea.  For 30 years he was never more than a phone call away – day or night.  When my father was dying, he made house calls to check on him.  I have returned ill from extended international trips to find the very medicine I needed waiting for me at baggage claim.

So, I took the plunge.  I selected a younger physician whose training and other recommendations were top of the mark.  On my first visit he took a long time just speaking with me.  He poked, prodded and pronounced me “not about to die.”  As I left, he gave me his cell phone number and said “If you ever need me, just call this number.”  I haven’t need him yet, but I think this may work out after all.  He will easily last another 30 years.  I don’t expect to.


Posted in Social

Of Birthdays and Other Things

Today is my 70th birthday.  No one will let me forget it.  I know exactly how I got here – one day at a time. This day started at 5:30 AM with birthday wishes from my wife and a long, slow breakfast designed to say “I love you,” but also intended to get me to the office a little late.  When I arrived, I found my office door plastered with photos of my family dating back to 1967 when we arrived at Brentwood Oaks.  And what is that strange hue coming from my work station around the corner from the sitting area in my office?  70 helium-filled balloons with streamers.  As I began to wonder how I would get anything done at my desk, I was informed that I shouldn’t worry about that because I would be summoned to the office kitchen every hour on the hour through the day to open 10 small (gag) gifts – some mentionable and some, well, not –  until all 70 had been opened.  Hey, who said we don’t know how to have fun at Brentwood Oaks.

I am surrounded by people who love me.  This is a birthday to remember.  I also have another birthday – it marks the day of my new birth.  I don’t remember the exact date, but it is day when God changed me forever.  The love I have received today from family, friends and wel-wishers is a solid reminder of the love God has for me….and of the countless little ways he shows it every day.Image


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Mary in the Middle

It’s that time again.  You’re getting them.  I refer to those cards with the image of Mary, the wife of Joseph and the mother of Jesus.  It’s worth noting that religious people – and perhaps spiritual people as well – have created extremes that result in her being “Mary in the Middle.”  The Roman Catholic tradition has all but deified her; if not that, at the least there are circles in which she is more highly regarded than Jesus himself. That other wing of the Christian tradition – the Protestants (who, by the way, no longer protest very loudly about anything) have all but ignored her.  So there she remains, Mary in the middle – front and center on the one hand and invisible on the other.  Everyone reads the same biblical texts.  How did this happen?  I suspect we know. 

 I suggest that we do for her exactly what she has done for herself.  From that day when Gabriel interrupted whatever she was doing, her response is the one we should make our own.  She was perplexed at what the Angel said to her.  Let us be perplexed with her and remain in wonderful awe that the Creator would do such a thing.  The favor she found with God we see reflected in the rest of her life.   Let us agree with God and honor her.   Mary’s spoken response was “May it be done to me according to your word.”  It was, and we could hardly do better than to make her response our own.  She never claimed anything for herself, and certainly not what others have claimed for her.  But neither did she hide away in a corner.  When we see her again, we see her in public, right where she wanted to be.  Mary, who ever so briefly became the repository of the incarnate word, is surely a good example for us all of what it means humbly to serve our Father in whatever way He chooses.               RLM

Posted in Social, Theological

Inside Herod’s Head

James Kushiner is the Executive Editor for TOUCHSTONE, a christian journal that I read, almost cover to cover, each month as I receive it.  This journal is an odd (not really) gathering of Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical authors who, in my opinion, get it right almost all of the time.  If you can afford only one religious journal (and you do need at least one) let TOUCHSTONE be it.  What follows is Kushiner’s email newsletter I received August 29.  I commend to you both the journal, the newsletter and this particular discussion of marriage.   Here it is………..
Today is the Commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist, noted in the St. James Calendar of the Christian Year. (2014 will be available in a couple of weeks!)

I am struck by the example of John after taking a phone call yesterday from a reader commenting on the Sept/Oct Editorial in Touchstone by Allan Carlson (“American Idolatry: Meditations on Same-Sex Marriage.” The caller opposed government “coercion” in propping up the definition of marriage (he opposed DOMA), but apparently he didn’t oppose government coercion in redefining marriage. The church needs to be more focused on its spiritual mission, he said.

John’s mission was spiritual–a call to repentance and preparation for the ministry of the Messiah. But John also spoke against Herod’s illicit marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife. So the tradition here and subsequently suggests that Christians not keep silence over moral concerns, including marriage, even if public.

John is often caricatured as a stern, rebuking prophet, which he sometimes was in his responses to pharisees (“You brood of vipers!”). But I can’t help but wonder what was John like when Herod heard him speak in prison? Consider this verse from Mark:

…Herod feared John; knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe. When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.

Gladly? I don’t picture a fire-breathing John haranguing Herod in prison–but he also was not silent. Perhaps John, after his arrest, his public preaching days behind him, might be compared to a Russian staretz, an elder, or a desert father such as Anthony of Egypt. Herod’s hearing him “gladly” suggests to me that John spoke directly to Herod’s conscience with a compassion energized and informed by truth. Herod sensed something “righteous and holy” in his prisoner, in much the same way others sense a spiritual depth in certain spiritual “elders.”

Herod in the end couldn’t turn the corner on repentance and caved to the wiles and wrath of Herodias. Saints are often both respected and hated. Mother Teresa earned the respect of many non-Christians and yet was scorned by Christopher Hitchens (and surely others).

Herod also caved to the social expectations of his guests after he promised to give Herodias’ daughter whatever she asked for. A text from the Orthodox service for Aug. 29 asserts that Herod would have been better off to break his solemn word and be called a liar than to kill God’s righteous prophet. Using what others will think of us as a final measure in taking a position is one way to pave a road to perdition.

We should speak such that some might hear us gladly, but also with the knowledge that the ruler of this world wants to silence us. The hearer might repent … or hate, persecute, or even kill you. That’s his choice. 

The best soldiers do what they are given to do, knowing they may live or die. We should ponder the example of the righteous and holy John the Baptist gladly.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

JMK sig blue

James M. Kushiner

Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

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What now?

If you found troubling the decision of the US Supreme court yesterday on the subject of same-gender marriage, I commend to your reading time two items listed below, one by Robert George and the other by Russell Moore.  Both are, in my view, reasoned and reasonable approaches to the aforementioned majority decision.

In the meantime let those of us who are married practice fidelity in our marriage.


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BCS Mission Trip…Update #5 – Final.

Today was as long as yesterday, our final work day, but not nearly as hard. Yesterday the group completed the play scape and had time to catch some pigs and to help vaccinate them. pigs 01pigs 02The young people in this little congregation worked as hard as any of us did and seemed to take pride in their sweat equity. Little 5 year old David is an abandoned child who is way behind is his cognitive and social development, david the helperbut he knows how to help. When you pick up a saw to work he knows without being asked to sit on the board although his slight weight hardly keeps it from moving. We left Catacamas at 8 am following one final photo shoot at the playground we build. I think that photo is up on Facebook already. We arrived at the Valley of the Angels, high in the mountains above Tegucigalpa about 2 pm and immediately had our lunch. We shopped until 5 pm – or until the money ran out. Purchases included bracelets, paintings, hammocks, machetes, knives, ear rings, figurines, pieces of cloth and a scarf or two. And, of course, the necessary Honduran Soccer jerseys. They defeated Jamaica 2-0 night before last. Boarding the bus again we drove down into Tegucigalpa and checked into our final Hotel, the Apartment/Hotel Minister Suites. This is a very nice facility and we are all comfortable. Well, everyone else is asleep so I guess they are comfortable. We immediately left for supper at a steak house where dining took about 2 hours. The students were very patient. This bunch can easily entertain themselves. Its amazing what Cody can do with a hotel robe and his new machete. cody the roman Our final devotional was on the rooftop veranda of the hotel with Tegucigalpa stretching out before us.
This group has been exceptional in many ways. Mrs. Dean, their Spanish teacher has done a tremendous job of keep in them in line and having them enjoy it. Most of them were not “best friends” before this trip so they probably tegucigalpa at nightwon’t be best friends now, but they are good friends and they know they can trust each other. Their hard work has been a blessing here and the tearful and heartfelt goodbyes with their young friends in the Aldea of San Isidro late yesterday afternoon at the end of the long, final work day were evidence enough of that.
This is my final submission so here’s our schedule for tomorrow, Thursday, June 13. Pack up before breakfast at 8 am. Be in the lobby with bags ready to be loaded at 8:45. Then its onto the bus for the final 30 minute drive to the airport where is not very far away, but traffic here is heavily congested. We’ll check in at the United counter, pay our departure fees (money is on hand), pass through security, and be on board for what we anticipate to be an “on time” departure around 12:15. See you in Houston! RLM

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BCS Mission Trip Update # 4

Today was a great day. One could not wish for a more agreeable, hard working and affable group of students. Adults are doing their fair share as well. We began the day working on our two major projects: the playscape and the soccer field. Both have their own challenges. kids help build their playground 01 For one thing, Joel Worley ordered the wood in standard sizes – 2×4, 2×6, 2 x10, etc. However, the Honduran people are generous and the wood cuts here are generous as well so all the wood was “over sized.” Joel figured it all out and by the end of the day the fort and the swing set was nearly completed. Tomorrow will see the completion of what remains. He has had several willing helpers among the BCS students, and there was absolutely no way we could have kept the pre-teen and teen aged Honduran kids from helping. They handle a skill saw and hammer like pros. They were invaluable in helping to create their own playscape. They now have “skin in the game.”
Our work on the soccer field consisted in completing the concreting base around the field. This keeps the ball from scooting under the fence when going out of bounds. Think of the east side of the BCS soccer field and you’ll get a sense of the problem. The final 12 benches arrived about 7:45 and the first thing we had to do was haul them down to Giovani’s house, where there was power, hauling wood to cut.03so we could cut them to desired length. Yes, we could have used a hand saw and avoided carrying them, but the wood is pretty wet and the saw is pretty dull so electricity saved the day. Once cut, these boards, each weighing about 35 lbs, had to be carried back up to the soccer field. The next task was to remove the bark from the under side of the planks. trim bark from benches03To save money, they have used outer portion of the tree with the bark on it and this took another couple of hours. Snacks showed up about 11 am and in just a few minutes there was nothing left. snack01 The sweet bread, chips and fruit disappeared quickly. There are mango trees on the property and several of those have become “American” since we arrived.
The catered lunch of hamburgers and chips arrived about 1:15 pm. The kids fell on them with gusto and not a scrap was left. Our meals have been more than adequate and without exception the group has eaten what has been set before them with no grumbling. Perhaps that will continue once they are home again.
In the afternoon, since the soccer field was finished, a rousing game broke out and the ball was seldom still. The new goal posts, for which we had dug holes on Friday, arrived Saturday and were cemented into the ground on Sunday to keep them from growing legs and walking off.
In the afternoon, part of the team worked on the playscape and the others dug holes and planted fruit trees. making beadsSeveral spent time with the kids who always gather. They made bracelets and necklaces. Even the dog got a necklace. dog got necklace In all of these activities, we worked alongside members of the church here and some from the community who are not part of the congregation.
In the afternoon several of the boys began drawing water from the 60 foot deep hand-dug well. We had used some of the water in the pila and it seemed only right to them that we replace it. Since this the dry season, they were only able to get about 10 bucketfuls from the well, but it was a large bucket. water from well01The work day ended about 4:20 and we all returned to the Hotel Plaza Maria where we cleaned up and left for our walk to the restaurant where we’ve been having dinner. Following dinner it was off to the Ice Cream planting citrusstory and then back to the Hotel.
We concluded our day with a time of worship and reflection poolside at the hotel. The students shared their experiences of the day and reflected on how they had seen God at work in the lives of the people they have come to serve.
Some are playing Ping-Pong by the pool but most have crashed. Tomorrow it will be breakfast at 7 and then “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go.” pool devo
Grace to all who love His appearing. RLM

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