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Oh Noooo, Not Again!!! 04/12/2013

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It has been just over a month since I last posted on my blog and in that time my world has certainly been turned upside down. When I last wrote, my sister had passed away and we were preparing for the visitation and funeral. I knew at the time that I was physically running on empty, but taking a few days off didn’t seem like an option. During the next couple of days, many people asked me how I was doing and after answering the question repeatedly, I settled on the simplistic answer that, “It is well with my soul,” which may have been true, but apparently it was not well with my body.

The visitation on Friday was incredibly hard on me, and the funeral on Saturday was arguably one of the most difficult days of my life. Then, Sunday arrived (an extra hour early because of the time change) and was filled with three worship services plus Confirmation class. When Monday morning arrived, I had already decided that it was going to be a Sabbath day. So, following a relaxing lunch and an expedition through my favorite store, Bass Pro Shop, I told Karen that I was feeling tired and that I was about ready to head for home. After one more stop, I told Karen that I wasn’t feeling well… by the time we were half way home, I decided that when I got home I should probably call the doctor, and the always prepared Karen took the bull by the horns, looked through her purse, found the number, called the doctor and had an immediate appointment for me.

By the time I got to the doctor’s office, I knew something was seriously wrong. I was chilling uncontrollably and even succeeded in throwing up in the doctor’s office (how embarrassing) 😦  Unfortunately, I knew these symptoms well and there was no doubt in my mind that the Cellulitis that sent me to the hospital two years ago had returned with a vengeance. So after a shot of antibiotics and a handful of prescriptions, I was sent home with orders to return over the next two days for more antibiotic injections. By Wednesday, my doctor looked at me and said, “This isn’t working!” and I knew what he was going to say next, “I’m calling the hospital, and I want you to go there immediately!” … Yep, that’s what I thought he was going to say. Here we go again!

To be continued…


In This Very Room 03/08/2013

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“In the midst of life we are in death; from whom can we seek help?”

“Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.”

“God who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through the Spirit that dwells in you.”

As we prepare for this afternoon’s visitation and the funeral tomorrow, I can’t help but feel the love and grace of God as shared with our family by so many acts of kindness. We are very blessed! Verna would have been very pleased to know that her family has been so supported and comforted through this difficult time! Thank-you!

Be At Peace… 03/07/2013

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My sister, Verna Higdon, passed away yesterday morning and this is the first time that I have had a moment to sit down and try to process and put into perspective what these past couple of years has meant. Those of you who know me, know about my sisters illness and the devastating affect that it had on her life. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain, suffering, loneliness, despair and indignities that she has quietly endured. Unlike me, she hasn’t complained at all and has endured this hardship with great perseverance. Yesterday morning, she lost the battle with her illness but won the final victory, Thanks be to God!

So this morning as I take a short break from the “busyness” of funeral arrangements, phone calls, insurance and personal matters, as well as the normal preparations for Sunday, (Sunday morning will arrive whether I am ready or not, and this Sunday comes an extra hour early so don’t forget to set your clocks ahead.) I thought I would take a moment just to remember what my sister meant to me and my family.

First of all, even though we always got along well, we were two totally different people. If she said something was black, I would be certain that it was white, if she thought we should turn to the left, I would be equally assured that we should turn right… and so goes the inner working of the relationship between an older sister and her little brother.

There is also no doubt that we had a totally different sense of humor. I remember one time that Mom and Dad took us fishing along the Wisconsin River. As we were getting ready to leave and were packing up all of our fishing paraphernalia, Verna slipped down the bank and landed in the river. Of course I started laughing immediately, which Verna thought was a terrible offense. She started crying and told me to stop laughing, which made me laugh even harder (I know I’m a sick puppy) That made her really mad and she yelled even louder, “STOP LAUGHING AT ME” all the while she kept trying to get out of the 10 inch deep mud along the river bank (without any success.)

When she slipped again and fell on her knees in the river, all the while continuing to yell at me to stop laughing, Mom could no longer contain herself and she also started laughing (it really was a funny sight.) Finally, (after she quite laughing) Mom told me to shut up and help Verna get out of the river. Verna finally just shook her head, realized that there was nothing she could do about her obnoxious brother and certainly not wanting any help from me, pulled herself out of the water and up the river bank.

I think, in a way, this past couple of years has been a similar experience for my sister and I. However, instead of laughing, this time I was constantly trying to coax, persuade and prod her along (which I think that she may have found equally obnoxious and irritating). Unfortunately, this time Mom wasn’t there to fix things and Verna wasn’t able to get up and pull herself out. The effects of the illness were too great to overcome and it just wasn’t meant to be.

I thank God for my sister, and for her generosity and warm spirit. I also thank God for the part of her that continues to live in each of us who knew her and loved her.

Be at peace Verna… say hi to Mom and Dad and Phillip for me and I will see you when I get there…

“This Is When You Know We’re Going To Hell!” 03/02/2013

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“This is when you know we’re going to hell!” I have loved Steve Harvey for a long time and in my opinion, he is by far the all time best “Family Feud” host. I really enjoyed this exchange and it certainly echos some of the issues I have been pondering lately.

I have shared with you before about my struggles with my perception of the ever changing values in our culture. I am saddened and challenged in many ways by what I perceive to be the perspectives and priorities of what is rapidly becoming our dominant culture. I see the changes in small things such as the ever present “War on Christmas” which some of my friends argue doesn’t exist at all while others say it is a sign of the end of times.

I see the changes in other ways as well. An example would be the disintegrating lack of respect for people in authority such as our teachers and police. Every teacher I have ever talked to says that the classroom is a very different place today than it was when my Mom taught school 25 years ago. The rule around our house was that if you got in trouble in school, whatever the punishment was, you received twice as much when you got home. You were presumed guilty unless you could prove your innocence. Now it seems that the parents immediately assume that their child is innocent first and that it must be someone else’s fault.

One night, a few years back, I had the opportunity to do a “ride along” with a local police officer. I was completely amazed at what happens on our streets after most of us have gone to bed. The officer pulled a car filled with young people over around 12:30 AM. The kids had just picked up a known drug dealer and then dropped him off a few blocks later, so the officer decided to stop them just to see what was going on. The driver had just turned 16 and was still driving with a learners permit. The officer gave them a warning, a few words of advice and told them that perhaps they should call it a night and go back home. We drove past a parking lot an hour later and guess who was still there…

I told the officer that if I had been pulled over, for any reason, at that age, I would have gone straight home and prayed that my parents didn’t find out. Come to think of it, if I had been out after midnight, I would never have been allowed to go out again!! (At least not until I turned 21) My dad’s philosophy was that NOTHING good ever happened after midnight! (He was right)

So when I saw this clip from “Family Feud” I thought that it showed in a very funny way, a little bit of how I perceive what is happening in our world.

You just can’t make these things up 🙂


Psalm 151… Testify To Love! 03/01/2013

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I was watching an interview the other day with Mark Burnett and Roma Downey (Monica on “Touched By An Angel”) who were discussing the upcoming mini-series on The History Channel, “The Bible.” Although something of this Biblical and theological nature may seem like a bit of a stretch for Mark Burnett who is better known for the reality TV series “Survivor,” “Shark Tank” “The Apprentice” and “The Voice,” Roma Downey has always been one of my favorite “angels.” 🙂

I don’t think I have ever seen an episode of “Touched By An Angel” that I didn’t like, but there was one episode in particular that has always been my favorite. The title was “Psalm 151” which was Monica’s 100th case as an angel, and as it turns out, is one of her most difficult. Her job is to help a dying young boy, Petey, fulfill a series of last wishes before he dies. One of his final wishes is for his mother (Wynonna Judd) to finish a song which she began when he was born as a thanks-giving to God which she calls Psalm 151.

With the help of the angels, his family and friends, Petey checks the items off his list  one by one until only one final wish remained… Go to heaven

Enjoy the final scene, perhaps one of my favorite television scenes ever, as Petey gets his final wish.

May we all join together and… “Testify to Love!“

“It is finished”
“Well done, my good and faithful servant”


Hey! Got Any Grapes? 02/28/2013

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I thought long and hard about discussing the theological, moral and ethical implications of this song. I also thought about sharing with you my thoughts on the statement that this song makes about society and our roll of caring for our brothers and sisters.

But instead, I thought I would just encourage you to watch and decide for yourselves 🙂

Oh come on! It did make you smile didn’t it???

The Crime of Pizza Delivery… 02/25/2013

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2 liter

I haven’t decided whether or not to write this post tongue-in-cheek or to approach it from a serious perspective, so I think that I will just write it and let you decide:)

I was amazed (astounded, flabbergasted, confused… you pick the adjective) when I read this morning that NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s soda ban has now been extended to 2 liter bottles delivered during pizza deliveries. I am not sure whether I should be rolling on the floor laughing, or lock myself in an underground bunker to prepare for the end of the world. Seriously, I don’t know whether I should be laughing about this or mourning a great loss.

I have to admit that I am really curious about New Yorkers. The New Yorkers that I have had the privilege to meet though the years have tended to be shoot from the hip, matter of fact, and don’t take… err ummm… “stuff” from anybody types of people. But yet, here it is… one after another of their rights are being taken away from them and I have yet to see my New York friends rise up and say enough is enough??? It really makes me wonder what is going on.

I try to imagine what would happen around here in Southern Indiana if suddenly our governor were to impose a similar ban or worse yet, tell us that something like… say… Twinkies were no longer going to be available, now those would be serious fight’n words around these parts… You say that Twinkies are no longer available… seriously??? Oh the humanity!!!!!! I’m on my way to the bunker right now!! (What you don’t know is that I actually have a lifetime supply of Twinkies already stashed away for moments such as these)

I remember my favorite radio personality Gary Burbank who used to broadcast from 700 WLW in Cincinnati until he retired. I would always enjoy listening to his radio program in the afternoons while I picked up the kids from school. One of his online personalities was a loveable redneck named Earl Pitts, American, (pronounced, Uhmerikun) who would editorialize about various aspects of political and family life in America such as which types of cheese a “real man” would eat. Earl felt that American cheese would be totally acceptable, any cheese that came sliced and individually wrapped in plastic was satisfactory,” Velveeter” cheese was definitely on the list and finally Cheeze Whiz, because any cheese that was willing to name itself after a bodily function was OK in his book. At the end of each editorial, Earl Pitts would end his segment with the words “WAKE UP AMERICA… Pitts off…”

This morning, as I ponder the crime of delivering 2 liter soft drinks with pizza, I think I will just echo the words of the illustrious Mr. Pitts and say… Wake Up America!!!!


I Shall Call The Pebble Dare… 02/22/2013

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One of the greatest privileges (and responsibilities) that I have as a pastor is to officiate at funerals and these past two months have been the most demanding months that I have ever experienced for funerals, averaging nearly one per week. Perhaps it is because I have had the opportunity to use it so often, but for some reason I haven’t been able to get my favorite funeral Scripture, John 14:1-4, out of my mind. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

I have been especially thinking about the last verse “You know the way to the place where I am going.” During the funeral service the scripture reading stops at that point (for good reason) because in the next verse the ever practical Thomas says, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” I think that I am drawn to that verse so much because I believe that we all feel lost sometimes. We struggle to follow, we want to know the way, but sometimes we fall behind, and sometimes we get lost completely.

Parker J. Palmer in his book “ A Hidden Wholeness,” describes a time when farmers on the Great Plains, at the first sign of a blizzard, would run a rope from their back door out to the barn. They all knew stories of people who had wandered off and been frozen to death, having lost sight of home in a whiteout while still in their own back yards.

My friends, we all get lost sometimes, whether on a journey into the wilderness our spiritual journey or even in our own back yards. As I continue my Lenten journey, these words from the musical Godspell have been weighing heavily on me. Listen to the words and ask yourself if you know the way to the place Christ is going?

Where are you going? Can you take me with you….

By My Side

Where are you going?
Where are you going?
Can you take me with you?
For my hand is cold
And needs warmth
Where are you going?

Far beyond where the horizon lies
Where the horizon lies
And the land sinks into mellow blueness
Oh please, take me with you

Let me skip the road with you
I can dare myself
I can dare myself
I’ll put a pebble in my shoe
And watch me walk (watch me walk)
I can walk and walk!
(I can walk!)

I shall call the pebble Dare
I shall call the pebble Dare
We will talk, we will talk together
We will talk (chorus) about walking
Dare shall be carried
And when we both have had enough
I will take him from my shoe, singing:
“Meet your new road!”
Then I’ll take your hand
Finally glad
Finally glad
That you are here
By my side

By my side
By my side
By my side

(Spoken- Judas)
Then the man they called Judas Iscariot
Went to the chief priests, and said
“What will you give me to betray Him to you?”
They paid him thirty pieces of silver.
And from that moment, he began to look out for an opportunity
To betray Him.

Someone Is WRONG on the Internet… 02/21/2013

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My son, Ben, posted a comment on Facebook yesterday. He was concerned that he had taken the time to create an entire Excel spreadsheet in order to win an argument on the internet and he wondered if that much effort would indicate that perhaps he had a problem. In response, one of his friends posted this awesome cartoon. My friends, I can’t tell you how many times in the past few years I found myself it that position. (Ben you are just out of luck, it runs in the family)

I was sharing with my people in Bible Study last night about my blog. (Have you ever tried to explain the word blog to folks who don’t even own a computer?) In our conversation,  I shared with them a little bit of the history of when I started writing and why I began. I actually started writing in a hand written journal shortly after receiving the call to enter ministry. I found it to be a wonderful way to keep my thoughts straight and to remember the ups and downs of the journey. It is humbling to look back now and remember the challenges that I faced along the way and to remember the times when God showed up when I didn’t know where to turn.

I then began writing a blog, Koinonnia in Connexion, during my last year of seminary. ( I know, try explaining to someone what that means, I think I was using big words in an effort to sound smarter than I was) Actually, I began writing as an outlet for stress, it ended up being very inexpensive therapy, which helped get me through one of the most difficult periods of my life.

When I began writing, I had just been slammed very hard by the District Board of Ordained Ministry and I was terrified that I wouldn’t stand a chance when it came time to meet with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry to seek approval for Commissioning. I was also looking ahead to the last year of seminary that I had no idea where the money was coming from for the books, tuition and fees, and, in addition, I was in the process of preparing for my “mandatory” Cross Cultural Immersion trip to El Salvador which I once again didn’t know how I was going to pay for. ( I wasn’t even sure where the money was coming from for the passport, let alone the trip.)

I was stressed, and worried, I feared that I had given up my practice and gone all the way though seminary just to hear the words “Thanks but no thanks.” I felt a little bit like Richard Gere’s character in “An Office and a Gentleman” I can’t quit because “I’ve got no place else to go!” And in many ways I felt alone. So, I began writing, I wrote about things that were happening in school, I wrote about things that were happening in my life and I wrote about the ordination process, what I was doing and what I was thinking and feeling.

The remarkable part was that people started reading it. I always assumed that it would be me and a half dozen people back home in Indiana reading my ramblings, but then I started getting comments and emails from others, some going through the same process, others who had been down the same road and wanted to let me know that there was a light eventually coming at the end of the tunnel. (And it wasn’t just another train.) I also met people who were incredibly supportive, kind and helpful along the way.

As I blogged I began to learn a great deal about myself and about the struggles that others faced. I learned that not everyone was going to agree with me (go figure that one) I also learned that what I thought might be read by only people I knew, might actually be read by people who I didn’t know and that can be humbling as well. (I also learned to choose my words carefully because I never knew when I would have to eat them)

So as I continue to share with you during our Journey through Lent, I encourage you to add the discipline of writing and journaling. It doesn’t have to be online, or even in a fancy journal. A spiral bound notebook and an ink pen work very well. If you do decide to start writing, send me a note and let me know how it’s going.


You’re Doing What For Lent? 02/19/2013

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kayak fishing

My daughter, Terri, asked me if I decided to blog for Lent. She observed that I haven’t touched my blog for over six months and then suddenly I started writing something almost every day. So, in case you were wondering what I have in mind, the answer to her question is… Yes, I decided that I would be more intentional about writing during Lent.

The idea began as a conversation during Bible Study a couple of weeks ago. We were discussing the Biblical significance of fasting and why some people choose to give things up for the season of Lent. During our conversation, I shared with the group that another option that I had heard about recently was that instead of giving something up for Lent, you could add something instead. A great way to honor God during Lent would be to add a spiritual discipline such as an extra Bible Study, additional prayer time, volunteer work, or even extra help around the church.

The more I thought about the idea of adding something this year, the more I was drawn to the idea of writing again. I have no doubt that writing in my blog during seminary helped keep me focused (and sane) and since that time, it has been a helpful outlet and an enjoyable way to stay connected with people.

So, that is my plan, I am pretty sure that writing daily isn’t going to happen. Yesterday, for instance, I left the house at 10:00 AM to go to the hospital and didn’t return home until after 8:00 PM which didn’t leave much time (or energy) for writing. But we will just take things a day at a time and see how the journey through Lent goes.

Oh,  by the way, I hesitate to mention this last spiritual discipline that I would like to add during the Lenten season and although an argument could be made that it is certainly Biblical, I am not sure that everyone would agree with me that it is indeed a “spiritual” discipline.

However, with that said, one of my greatest joys is time spent out on the water in my kayak fishing, and there is no doubt that I haven’t taken any time lately to pursue that discipline (the weather hasn’t exactly cooperated either.) I have always believed that time spent fishing from my kayak could perhaps be one of my greatest opportunities to be in God’s presence. (Jesus seemed pretty partial to a group of fishermen around the Sea of Galilee didn’t he?)

Henry David Thoreau once said, “Many men go fishing their entire lives without knowing it is not fish they are after.” I on the other hand know exactly what I am after when I go fishing. So maybe the best thing I could do during Lent is to go fishing and then write about it….. This is really is starting to sound good to me 🙂