BE SWIFT TO LOVE

In the legendary “Cheers” sitcom of the 1980s, there is an episode where Norm (played by George Wendt) walks into the bar and is greeted by the always cheerful Woody Harrelson. From behind the bar Woody asks, “How’s it going Mr. Peterson?” Norm, trudging along to his usual barstool answers

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IN SCORN OF THE CONSEQUENCES

“If there was one last crust of bread in this town, it would be mine.” That’s a quote from a rather pretentious member of the clergy, stating how God would take care of him should the world come unhinged tomorrow. “Everyone else may starve,” he continued, “but God has promised me that

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SAFER AMONG THE CHRISTIAN SAVAGES

The Barna Group is a long-tenured research organization that tracks “spiritual indicators” and the role of faith within American culture. Barna maintains massive databases on everything from Americans’ TV-viewing habits to weekly church attendance, and its data is used extensively.

A recent Barna

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YOUR LAUNDRY IS ON THE LINE

My youngest son loves to go to the “Confession Stand.” He doesn’t want to make an appointment with the local priest, however. He wants a Slurpy and an order of onion rings. Since he first learned to put words together, the “Concession Stand” at any sporting event is referred to as the “Confession

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THE SHADY & TWISTY IRONY

More than a decade ago, former Chief Justice Roy Moore of the Alabama Supreme Court installed a massive granite monument inscribed with the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of the Alabama State Judicial Building. Two years later it was removed by court order as a violation of the separation of church

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PRACTICE LOVE

There are some people who, quite frankly, are impossible to love. You can’t dig deep enough, can’t try hard enough, can’t believe enough, and can’t go far enough to make it happen. And I’m not talking about the likes of Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson, either. If only

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A PREACHER

I grew up with a lot of religious rules. To violate these rules was to subject oneself to the judgment of God. If you had a fundamentalist upbringing, you may be familiar with some of these restrictions. No drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no playing cards or going to the movies, no mixed-bathing

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

Marking the birthday of a man who Bing Crosby called, “the beginning and the end of music in America.” Born in the sweltering heat of a New Orleans’ August, the grandson of former slaves, and suffering abject poverty, that man was Louis Armstrong.

It was starvation that drove young

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GOD’S SURPRISES

God loves surprises. Look at David who began his career as a silly, singing cowboy of sorts, a rock throwing, shepherding whippersnapper; shockingly, he became a kingly giant slayer. There is Moses, a foreign-born, stuttering, impatient murderer of a man; wonder of wonders, he was God’s chosen

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THE TRICK TO THE TREATS

That faint noise you hear is the sound of pint-sized spooks, banshees, and vampires gathering on your lawn. They will soon be knocking at the door plastic pumpkins outstretched. Spare yourself the tricks and go ahead and give up the treats – the unhealthy, sweet, nougat-filled goodies in your

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STAY IN SCHOOL

The Buddha said, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” Well, ready or not kids, your teachers are showing up in classrooms everywhere. It’s time to crack open the books, slip the surly bonds of summer, and head back to school.

In the coming days, and in some regions

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THE PREACHER

I grew up with a lot of religious rules. To violate these rules was to subject oneself to the judgment of God. If you had a fundamentalist upbringing, you may be familiar with some of these restrictions. No drinking, no smoking, no dancing, no playing cards or going to the movies, no mixed-bathing

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FOR THE LEAST OF THESE

When I was a child my family lived hand to mouth. We were loved and cared for, but the cupboards were often more bare than full. I often say that we ate a lot of Hamburger Helper in those days, but with only the Helper.

My dad’s job was at a textile mill, a job he maintains to this day, though

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YOUR LIFE WILL OUTLIVE YOU

Rifling through old family records I discovered the obituary of my great-grandmother. Her name was Ola Whitfield, a simple woman born in the 19th century, and so much like the other sharecroppers in the Deep South at the time.

She worked hard, was sparsely educated, remained anonymous to the greater

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KINGDOM CURRICULUM

Once upon a time, the animal kingdom decided it must do something to help humanity face the challenges of the world. So the animals organized a school. They adopted a systematic curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming, and flying. All animals were required to take all the subjects.

The

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PALM SUNDAY SUFFERINGS

Palm Sunday, celebrated this weekend by the world’s Christians, is customarily a day of joy. Directed toward the event known as “The Triumphal Entry,” Palm Sunday marks the day that Jesus came riding into Jerusalem, just days before his death, welcomed by the jubilant masses.

People

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THE SCARS OF FORGIVENESS

In 1939 General Francisco Franco, an ambitious Spanish military officer, became the absolute ruler of Spain. Franco took the title El Caudillo – the Leader – and he was ruthlessly so until his death more than 30 years later.

In the decades that he ruled, Franco had 30,000 dissidents executed, imprisoned

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ALL THAT ONCE WAS GOOD

“Pitchers and Catchers report!” It’s as sure a sign of the coming spring as erupting dandelions and fledgling fruit blooms. And as inhumane as this winter has been – as brutal as it remains in many locales – spring could not get here quickly enough, groundhog shadows and eminent

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LIKE A ROCK

This year Bob Seger will celebrate his tenth anniversary as an inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The honor is his because of his hardscrabble, up-by-the-bootstraps life story; the way he can forge lyrics that are a combination of personal autobiography and everyman’s experience;

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MORE THAN WORDS

With Valentine’s Day upon us, you might be looking for a story of true love, a love that lasts longer than a couple’s first argument; or at least lasts beyond the few weeks of a much-hyped reality show about bachelors and bachelorettes. Well, I’ve got a good one for you.

Frederick

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BIRTHING BABIES

Making my usual pastoral rounds at the local hospital some time ago, I witnessed the most unusual of circumstances. A dilapidated Buick had jumped the parking lot curb and had crash-landed in the flower garden just outside the main doors. The driver’s door was wide open, and a group of hurried

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ALL MEANS ALL (SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT)

“We three kings of Orient are.” So begins a favorite carol of the Advent season about the “Wise Men” who visit the newborn Jesus. And so begins a tale that takes inaccuracy and historical revisionism to a whole new level. Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., who wrote the carol

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SHALOM

“On earth peace, goodwill toward men,” sang the angels on the first Christmas morning. The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. In Judaism shalom is a living concept, not a word; a vision for how life could be, should be, and the life God is pulling his whole creation toward.

In this way of

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THE ONES JESUS LOVES

“Just who do you think you are?” Now there’s a question that has been posed and pointed more than a few times. Usually it is a weaponized question of sorts, laden with accusation; or it is a declaration aimed at someone’s preposterous behavior. Nevertheless, I think it is an

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HOPE OVER HYSTERIA

Seventy five years ago this week, millions of ordinary Americans were convinced that the world was coming to an end. They came to this conclusion, not because Hitler was rattling his sabers in Europe and the entire world teetered on the verge of war. Rather, these fears were fueled by a broadcast

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