Friday, August 12, 2011


How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brethren live together in harmony; for harmony is precious … harmony is refreshing … and the Lord blesses! (Psalm 133).

A couple of weeks ago Barb and I were driving up to Port Townsend to take church services for a priest who is on sabbatical. As we began to cross the Hood Canal Bridge I heard a strange sound coming from the roadway, but I didn’t think much of it as we were on a bridge, and it’s not unusual for a change in road surfaces to create a change in road noises.

When we got off the bridge and continued our way up the highway, there was no change in the sound coming from the road. I began to wonder if we were “throwing a cap” (as it brought back memories of my college days when the only tires I could afford to keep on my car were recaps of dubious quality), but since our tires were virtually brand new with less than a thousand miles on them, I was sure that wasn’t the problem, so I pulled over to the side of the road.

I got out to take a look and discovered that the road shield beneath the engine had fallen down and was being pushed beneath the car much like a snow shovel! It was hanging from two straps at the back, and I had no way to get to them to see how to release or remove them. My visual acuity is so poor these days that I was unable to pull focus no matter how I bobbed my head or adjusted my glasses.

I climbed out from beneath the car and muttered (more to myself than to any divine presence), “Oh God, what are we going to do now.”

I know; as a priest I really should have pressed my hands together, devoutly lifted my eyes up unto the heavens, and uttered a prayer with plenty of these and thous and reminders of just how much the good Lord (ahem) owes me in all humility, but I didn’t.

I stood there feeling helpless, hopeless, and wondering what to do.

As I pondered our situation, an old beat-up ’72 International pickup truck pulled over to the side of the road directly in front of our car. Two young men jumped out and asked if we needed help. Shocked that ANYONE would stop to help fellow motorists in this day and age of cell-phones and Triple-A, I thanked them for stopping and pointed out the problem.

I confessed I had no tools, and it turns out neither did the Samaritans; but one of them crawled under the car for a quick look and said all we needed was a flat-head screwdriver. Neither of us had even that most basic tool, but that didn’t cause my new-found friends any concern. The driver pulled a set of cheap dime-store fingernail clippers out of his pocket, extended the nail file, climbed back under the car, and thirty seconds later came out: Mission Accomplished.

The shield was free, and we were free to continue on our journey.

I think I’ve gained an insight into what the psalmist means when he writes, “How wonderful it is, how pleasant, when brethren live together in harmony; for harmony is precious …”

The events that took place on the road that day were exactly the sort of thing one expects to find in the kingdom of heaven. They are the routine; they are the rule; and we find they take place far more often than we otherwise would expect. It is the basic goodness of humans and strangers that makes life, for the most part, pleasant and harmonious.

It is the acrimony of our politicians and the evil (at home and abroad) we hear reported on newscasts that are the exception; it is they that distort our view of the human capacity for kindness.

We thanked our saviors for their help and they declined the token of appreciation we offered them. We didn’t even get their names, these anonymous angels of mercy.

I believe God was truly present on that highway, and I’m convinced God drives around heaven in an old beat-up ’72 International pickup truck. At least that’s what I’ve got to say this week in this, our world.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done (Psalm 105 New Living Translation).

The other day I was on my way home and as I drove along with my brain parked in neutral (as it often is) I found myself missing my turn. I glanced at the houses passing by (well, actually it was I that was passing them by, but you catch my drift well enough, I trust) and they weren’t looking familiar to me at all.

It was then that I realized I had missed my turn and was driving down a road less traveled.

Not to worry; I was in my neighborhood, so a couple of blocks later I was able to make the turn that would get me home.

That’s the way of life. When we make a mistake, we may not know it right away, but eventually the error will make itself known and we’ll have an opportunity to fix it or make adjustments necessary to correct the error.

There are very few fatal errors in life. There are enough, of course, that one mostly wants to pay attention; but generally speaking, the worst consequence of not paying attention is simply an inconvenience or an accident that could have been avoided.

When that happens, most of us have a chance to start over, or to start fresh. God is good that way. In fact, if I were to reveal what I consider to be the secret to a happy life, it would be my faith in a God of new beginnings.

I believe that yesterday is over, done with, and finished. No matter what happened, it is gone. If it was good, we can embrace it as a fond memory. If it was bad, we can cherish it as an experience out of which we might make a wiser decision today.

We don’t have to be held captive by our past. We can hold tight to those experiences that helped build character, and we can consign to the deep those experiences and events that made life a living hell.

The Bible tells us clearly that God does not enslave creation, but releases it.

When God saw the children of Israel were slaves in Egypt, when God heard their cries for relief, God sent them a deliverer to secure their release. When the slaves arrived at the shores of the sea with Pharaoh’s army closing in on them, God cleared a path to freedom – making “possible” a way of escape through the “impassable”.

We cannot ignore the past, but we can embrace it and learn from it. In review, we can often see the hand of God at work in our lives, even when (surrounded by alligators) we may feel all alone at the time. It is hindsight that provides us the 20/20 insight we need to see where God has been in our times of trial and tribulation.

The psalmist invites us to give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done. That requires us to take a look back and to see.

Knowing the harm we’ve done to our friends and families (and perhaps to ourselves) by many of the things we’ve done or failed to do, we can choose to follow a new path each day.

We don’t need to remain captive to our mistakes, to our sins, or to our foul deeds. We may need to pay the consequences for the things we’ve done, but we don’t need to be held captive by them.

We’re called to face them honestly and courageously, to make amends as best we can, and then to move onward, striving not to repeat those things we ought not to have done.

And for the things we’ve endured at the hand of others – what of them?

We forgive them. We forgive them extravagantly. We forgive them completely, because it is our willingness to forgive that releases us from bondage and that keeps us from being their slaves. They may need to pay the consequences for their deeds, but that is not your worry; that is God’s worry.

So, it’s always a new day in this, our world. Tell the world what God has done; cross the impassable, and be thankful.