Reality in a Covid Era

Necessity is the mother of invention

My wife and I have a bird feeder outside a dining room window. Various birds from the common house sparrow to more exotic song birds visit so often that I need to refill it several times a day. Our house cats, Eleanor and Lucy, enjoy watching with rapt attention the birds’ comings and goings . Occasionally they’ll call to the birds with a wobbly throaty cat imitation.

We also have squirrels visit the feeder at the end of they day. They are largely scavengers, cleaningup “the left-overs.”. I don’t mind. All of God’s creatures have gotta eat.

Over the past few months I have been impressed by the squirrels’ tenacity and dexterity. They continually find new ways to get that last seed. In their creativity I find a glimpse of grace.

We are living in a Covid era. I am hesitant to call it “post-Covid” because Covid is the latest virus to emerge from Pandora’s Box. I believe that it will be with us for the foreseeable future. We will learn to live with it. This is a new reality. We will never be able to return to a pre-Covid time. I also believe that Covid pushed existing trends ahead 10 to 20 years. The Church as well as local congregations will need to adjust to this new reality. Like “my” squirrels we will need all of the dexterity, creativity, strength, and skill to continue to fulfill our mission of going and making disciples of all people, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded, and most importantly remembering thatthe Risen Lord is with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28).


Wasp Trap

Wasp trap at our cabin.

What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul. Jesus

We put a couple of wasp traps up at our summer cabin. They are very simple affairs; simply an amber plastic bottle with a several large exterior holes that lead to narrow interior openings. The bait is a sweet liquid. In our case, a few ounces of Coke. Attracted by the Coke the wasps enter through the inviting entrance, but once inside they cannot escape.

Jesus once asked , What does it profit a person if they gain the whole world but lose their soul. It is easy to be attracted by the sweet Siren call of the culture around us. Advertisers offer us success, popularity, and even fulfilled by driving the right car, wearing the right clothes or fragrance, but these things are only illusions. They don’t feed the soul or fulfill our deepest need.

Columnist and political commentator David Brooks wrote that there are two virtues in life; resume and eulogy. Resume virtues are essentially the values, positions, and honors of this world bestows upon us; educational degrees, job title, and so forth. They are largely fleeting. Eulogy virtues, on the other hand, are those things that we are not only remembered for but treasured. Were you kind, loving, comfortable to be around. Did you make a lasting impression on others or made this world a better place?

When the wasps enter the amber tube driven by the sweet smell of Coke, they do not realize that they are entering an inescapable trap. When we chase the accolades of this and judge our success or worth by their acquisition , we enter a trap not unlike the wasps. As the letter to the Romans reminds us, “do not to be confirmed to the values and ways of the world but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.” (Romans 12:2)


That In-Between Time

Hang in there

It’s that in between time of the year. I awake to 6 degrees Fahrenheit and by the afternoon it’s 60 some degrees. Such is life in the Midwest but it’s also life in general. Highs and lows can happen within the blink of an eye! One minute you’re on top of the world and the next minute you fall to the depths of hell.

When I was a weekend hospital chaplain I thought about the tipsy turvy nature of life. A guy—it’s usually a guy—has his Saturday all planned out. In the morning he’d do a few chores around the house, run a few errands in the afternoon before taking his spouse for dinner. But then, as he cleans the last gutter he misses a step on the ladder and ends up in the emergency room with a broken ankle or worse! Life’s falls are hard.

My cat and I have been watching a squirrel perform acrobatics on a bird feeder (a squirrel has to eat, too) when it struck me; the key to living through life’s ups and downs is to simply hang in there. Hang on tight even if you have to do a few acrobatics. You’ll not only get stronger but more creative in your resilience.



There is a sidewalk outside of the church that runs through a city parking lot. Along the sidewalk there is a Via Crusis, a Way of Sorrows. The fifteen Stations of the Cross mark Jesus’ journey to the Cross and beyond.

On a sunny Sunday afternoon a young couple was on a walk when they came upon the Via Crusis. Curious, they followed the path reading a Scripture and a prayer. The last “station” was at the foot of the Memorial Garden’s Cross. There the modern day “pilgrim” read of God’s great love revealed in Jesus Christ.

In the gospel of John Jesus told a nighttime visitor: For so love the world that he gave his only son so that whosoever believes in him shall perish but have eternal life. For God did it send the So. Into the world to condemn the world, but that the world shall find life in him.

In Christ we are shown not only of a great love, but a new way of life…real life, a life that never ends.


Consider the Daisies

Sue’s daisies

Jesus once said, “Consider the lilies of the field, they neither sow nor reap but even Solomon in all of his glory cannot compare.”

When I was young a coach once told me that I tried too hard. I didn’t understand what he meant. Isn’t one suppose to try hard? How can you try too hard? Isn’t that an oxymoron? It wasn’t until many years later that I understood what he meant. I was pushing. We can try so hard that we miss the natural flow of things, including life.

“For everything there is a season”, Wisdom literature tells us, “a time for every matter under heaven.” We may not be able “to have it all” in life, but we can have a lot, just not all at once.

As I look at my wife’s daisies I am reminded of that truth. For the last few years we didn’t have many daisies. They seemed to be the neighborhood rabbits’ food of choice!

But this year is different. There are fewer rabbits, for reasons that we do not fully understand but can make a guess. With their absence, the daisies thrive. It’s a different time, a different season.

The daisies have a glimpse of grace for me to learn. Don’t give up, don’t quit, don’t push. Relax. Go with the flow. There will be setbacks and disappointments but at the right time, at a time of God’s choosing, you will bloom. You will bloom in ways that you can neither anticipate or control. And when that time, that season comes, not even Solomon in all his glory will be able to compare.


Glimpse of Grace: The Lesson of a Redbud Tree

There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1)

The redbud tree in my backyard has been given up for dead many times. Gnarled and scarred, it has had a rough life. Just when we think that it should be cut down, an unexpected flowering shoot springs from the trunk, and it’s weary limbs fill with the buds of life, new life. It’s not done yet! The game’s not over until the last out.

In 1941 as London withstood nightly bombings Winston Churchill  visited his alma mater Harrow School and made a few memorable remarks: “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Anything can happen in life and does. When the disciples asked Jesus “Who, then, can be saved?” He replied, “With people it’s impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 

Never bet against God or God’s Church. It is the best hope of the world. That’s the glimpse of grace I picked up from a redbud tree.


Mothers Day Thoughts

My mother circa. 1965

I never met my grandmothers. My paternal grandmother died in the 1940s. My maternal grandmother died a few months before I was born.

When I was a child my family had a blanket that my maternal grandmother gave to my mother because she knew that one day my mother, he youngest child would have a child of her own. As an infant my mother would cover me with the blanket when I napped or went to sleep at night. It was a sign not only of my mother’s love, but my grandmother’s love as well. While my grandmother never met me, she loved me.

My mother’s last days were spent in a hospital. On the night that she died she removed her DNR ( do not resuscitate order) which surprised me. Puzzled, I asked her “Why?” After all, she had had a long hard fight filled with medical complications, was tired, and her mind was muddled with diabetes brought on by high doses of prednisone. With her eyes half closed and a soft matter of fact voice she said that she wanted to meet her grandson who would be born six months later. She died, though, in the early morning hours of that night. I never cried for her then. She never met her great-grandson, at least not in this earthly life. But the morning my grandson was born I cried for her. Unwittingly she walked down the same life path as her mother. And like her mother, she loved him, though they never met.

The epistle or letter of First John tells us that we love God because God first loved us. The 139th Psalm reminds us that God knew us before we were born, saw us being put together in our mother’s womb, and saw us being made in the depths of the earth. Such love is too wonderful for us to imagine. It is like a mother’s love.

On this Mother’s Day May each and everyone of you who are reading this blog post be blessed with many happy memories and thankful of your own mother.


The Earth Is the Lord’s

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. Psalm 24:1

I remember the first Earth Day in 1970. I was seventeen years old with a new driver’s license and a free afternoon. A high school buddy and I made our way to the local university campus to be a part of the experience.

It was a time of Vietnam War protests, draft cards, bell bottoms jeans, flowers in long hair, and frisbees. We thought that anything was possible, and that my generation would fix all that was wrong with the world. We didn’t, of course. I realize now two things that I didn’t know then. Things aren’t as simple as they seem, and, if anything, we made things worse.

I think that it was Henry James who said that the early industrial and technological age was analogous to a child threatened of drowning because he learned to turn on bathtub faucet but not how to turn it off. There is no guarantee that technology and imagination can save us from ourselves.

The Story of Genesis says that we’ve been created in the Divine image and made stewards of God’s creation. Only time will tell if we’ve been good stewards. The earth, though, will still be here, with or without us.


A Squirrel Named Moses

Moses at the feeder

There is a simple bird feeder attached to a large Chinese Elm tree outside a set of sliding glass doors at my house. They overlook a beautiful garden maintained by my wife. Nearly every evening, this winter, as the sun set in the west, I removed an empty ear of corn and replaced it with a new full ear. In the morning Moses would show up and set to work. Before long his “crew” of fellow squirrels join him, along with a few house sparrows. The crew seem to each have a job to do as they race up, down, and around the tree picking up the kernels that fall to the ground. No one seems to bother Moses, nor threaten his place on the perch. Squirrels must have their own pecking order.

I often wonder what Moses thinks each morning as he approaches the perch that held an empty ear of corn the night before. Does a new ear appear by magic? A miracle? An answer to a squirrel prayer? Or does it “just happen”?

There are a few times when I miss going out the night before. On those days I go out early in the morning. He’s waiting for me, often chattering, always watching from afar. He does not get too close not do I want him to. I think that he somehow knows that I have a hand in his provisions.

I named him Moses because his ear of corn is something like the manna from heaven that was provided by a generous God. At times the Israelites took God’s care for granted. At other times they didn’t really think much about it as it became an expectation.

I think that is how we humans are. At times we are grateful, at times expectant, and too often oblivious to the Presence of the Divine that provides for us “ our daily bread”.

Each time, though, is a glimpse of grace for those who are open to a holy wonder.


The Big Lie

The Son of Man by Rene Magritte used in the movie The Thomas Crown Affair

The first Big Lie may have taken place in a Garden. Theologians have long debated the nature of that lie; was it only a “half truth”? When “Eve” took that bite of the “forbidden fruit” she did not die–at least not at first. Maybe the knowledge that she gained from that bite was the knowledge of her own mortality as well as the mortality of everyone she loved.

If the first Big Lie was a “half truth” it was an example of what the rabbis called “geneivat da’at” or “stealing knowledge”. “Stealing knowledge” is when you intentionally mislead someone by not being transparent or sharing all pertinent information at your disposal. The lie is not spoken; it is silent. “Push polling” or asking intentionally misleading questions are examples of “geneivat da’at”. (“If you knew that So and So embezzled money at their last job, would you still hire them?” Note, I did not say that they actually embezzled, I just planted a seed of doubt.)

The Big Lie is powerful because it shapes reality. If you are going to tell a lie, tell a big one, one that is wholly preposterous. Passionately repeat it over and over and over. In his 1925 book Mein Kompf Hitler wrote that the people would not believe that anyone would have the audacity to distort the truth “so infamously”. Joseph Goebbels perfected the Big Lie.

Jesus was aware of this kind of propaganda. He knew that we live in a fallen world. He warned his disciples–and those who take him seriously–to be as wise as serpents and innocent as doves. In other words, know how the world works but do not be corrupted by it. He showed us a different way, his way; the Way to Truth and to Life, real Life that begins Today and extends into Eternity and Beyond.