Showing posts from December, 2017

A New Year Prayer in the Age of Disorientation

O God who is Love Ever with us, it has been a difficult year. We have seen such ugliness and bitterness and divisiveness. We have experienced such loss, both personally and collectively. We have experienced the loss of loved-ones and of for some the loss of love. Along with these natural, individual losses, we have endured the turmoil of a culture losing its way, seemingly embracing the path of inhumanity. We have seen the dehumanization of the refugee, of the religious faithful not our own, of the reporter, of those of another race. We have experienced an utter rejection of truth, of true words, of true effort, of true compassion in a world grasping for the truth of love. We have watched leaders climb to power embracing the means of victory at all costs, including the cost of respect, dignity, and love for humanity. We have seen these leaders climb to power with love of power their only lasting love, their only governing principal, their only real purpose.  And we have watched as the

A Christmas in Korea

In August 2000, Holly and I traveled to South Korea and for a year taught conversational English at a university. There are many Christians in South Korea. However, Korea remains Buddhist-Confucian in culture. This is especially so in more rural places like Iksan, the city where we taught. There, the Buddhist-Confucian culture is still mostly unadulterated. Christmas was certainly celebrated in Iksan but more like St. Valentines Day in the U.S, which is to say not so significantly spiritually. It was for us the first and only Christmas spent in a culture not Christian (and Christmas) centric. However, the Christmas in Korea was one of the most   spiritually significant for me .   On Christmas night 2000, I took a walk down Daehagno. From one of the many shops “Silent Night” lilted. That it was Frank Sinatra singing the beautiful carol only propounded the homesickness it moved. “All is calm, all is bright…holy infant so tender, so mild. Sleep in heavenly peace.” The f

Winter Solstice Songs: My Top Ten

In December of 1993, I received in my PO box at Cedarville College in southern Ohio an audio book on tape. It wasn’t the store bought kind. Wasn’t digital of any kind in 1993. It was a homemade, self-recorded tape of my favorite voice – then and now – reading a book that included her name. The book was The Story of Holly and the Ivy by Rumer Godden, which tells the story of a young child named Ivy and a doll that Ivy longs to have as her friend, Holly, the name that still stops me in my tracks when I hear it. When you are in love, it is interesting how you see in every story of friendship and love your own story. When one of the characters has your love’s name, this is especially true.  Winter and its holy days for me mean Holly.  The music she used as the soundtrack for her homemade recording some 24 years ago was the music of George Winston and his December album which includes his rendition of the classic holiday song “The Holly and the Ivy.” I begin my top-twelve winter-theme

Chaplaincy & Parish Ministry

I am both a parish minister of five years and a hospice chaplain of seven, these days doing both. The juxtaposition of doing these two forms of ministry in tandem has been very interesting and elucidating. Lay people to a great extent don’t know this, but chaplaincy has always been seen as the illegitimate daughter of clergy, as a lower-form of religious ministry. I’ve always thought this notion silly but I cannot say I’ve never experienced the sentiment. Here is the truth though: As religion in America is experiencing a sea change, chaplaincy, specifically hospice chaplaincy, models for us the scaled-down yet just as professional skill-set needed for religious ministry in the new age. Let me take the next few paragraphs to explain what I mean. Chaplains are basically ministers in public settings and not the church. Thus, we encounter all the diversity that goes with public settings. While most churches partake in “the most segregated hour in America” and struggle with a lack of d