Two fingers with Dad

FullSizeRender (1)At the breakfast table this morning, Dad held out the pinky and middle finger of his right hand, holding the ring finger in with his thumb, looked at me and said, “When you order two finger of something, do it like this.”

Good advice, Dad. But where did that come from? I’ve never seen you drink more than a glass of wine. Now you’re sharing some drinking hacks with me. I’m going to remember that one.

It’s been than kind of a morning. The night nurse told us he didn’t sleep at all last night. Sitting at the kitchen table, he suddenly began talking about his graduation from high school (1942) and then his job at the mill (loading up carpet for shipping) until Uncle Sam summoned him for service in the Army Air Corps (1943-44). He then marveled at the good education he got at Villanova after his return, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

“Yeah, I’ve come a long way since Smedley Park.” Smedley Park, now a very nice recreation are in Delaware County, PA, was the boyhood home of my dad and his family. Back then, it was where he and his brother Tommy hunted rabbit. Dad then mentioned how they got water to the house. They pumped water all the way up the hill from the spring on the other side of the railroad tracks. From there, gravity took over and carried water down to the house.

I always learn something new from and about Dad whenever I come up to visit and help take care of him. Definitely worth the airfare.

Top ten ministry moments – #1: “Pastor Dad”

Finally, here’s the one you’ve been waiting for. My number one ministry moment, though, is actually a series of moments when being a dad intersected with being a pastor and I had the unique privilege of baptizing, confirming, marrying and ordaining my children. Continue reading

Top ministry moments – #9: No heat

heaterIt was a cold winter day at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Coventry, CT, when I opened up the church on a Sunday morning and discovered that the heating system was dead. It was just about as cold inside the little sanctuary as it was outside in the snow.

It was one of my first years in my first parish, so I wondered, “Now what do I do?” As it turned out, we had a little kerosene heater that had saved us from freezing to death in our little Ft. Wayne house when I was in my last year at the seminary. I brought it over and fired it up in the center of the homemade pews that furnished our church. It didn’t really heat up the room all that much, but we worshiped together that day, even though most of us kept our coats and gloves on the entire time.

One of the church leaders got a repairman out there on a Sunday morning. We could hear him at work throughout the sermon. By the time it was ready for Bible class, the heat was back on.

I haven’t had to worry about being too cold the past twenty years here in Florida. The one Sunday the AC wasn’t working too well, I think I was in Haiti, where it was a whole lot hotter. We all survived and God was glorified.

Top ministry moments – #10: 1989 LCMS National Youth Gathering, Denver, CO

1989In a few weeks I will observe the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination. Thirty years! Where did that time go? Anyway, I thought I would write about my top ten ministry moments and memories from the past thirty years, beginning with the first LCMS national youth gathering I attended in 1989.

I had only one youth from my church (Prince of Peace, Coventry, CT) ready to attend that year, Jason Garay. Since you couldn’t attend with just one leader and one youth, I “adopted” a group from a church in Danbury, CT, and we flew to Denver with the rest of the New England District.

The mass events were held at McNichol Arena in Denver, the old home arena of the Denver Nuggets. The gatherings weren’t as big as they are today, so we could fit everyone in an 17,000 seat arena. Even so, it was unbelievable to walk into that venue for the first time and see so many other LCMS youth groups in one place! Even so, I remember actually finding my brother Jim, who was chaperoning another youth group, on the floor in the middle of that crowd.

Not long before, the leader of the gathering band, Jim Woodruff, had been at a New England District youth event, so we got to go up on stage with him. When a person playing the part of Christ rode into the arena on a donkey, to reenact Palm Sunday, the five-minute roar was deafening. At an outdoor concert event at Red rocks, we were among those who got caught in a sudden violent and torrential thunderstorm. Our group became separated and we had to wait for hours before the busses came back to get us. We all were famous for about fifteen minutes because we survived Red Rocks!

I’ve taken youth to five other national gatherings, but none are as memorable for me as that first one in 1989.


25894050020_ed7a6de247_zIt’s been an Elijah weekend. We’ve had our one-year-old grandson staying with us since yesterday afternoon.

When you are one, everything goes in your mouth. Food (of course). Toys. Sticks and dirt (I had him out in the backyard with me; please don’t tell his mom!) Suds (Yes, we gave him a bath.) Food. (Did I mention he likes loves to eat?) Grass. (The lawn is greening up nicely.)

As I watched him today, I thought of the Bible verse, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Wait a minute. Someone mixed up their senses. How much can you see with your tastebuds? I don’t know. But Elijah does. He sees, he tastes, and he learns about the world around him. Ingenious.

In the Bible, you can “taste” a lot of things. Manna (Exodus 16:31; yum!). God’s Word (Psalm 119:103). Your lover (Song of Solomon 2:3; <blush>). Death (Matthew 16:28). God’s goodness (1 Peter 2:3).

As grownups, we discount the sense of taste. “I heard…” “Do you know what I saw…” “Something smells fishy.” “I feel (fill in the blank).” But how often do we sum up our day with words that relate to taste?

Thanks, Elijah, for reminding me to reflect upon how today tasted. Sweet? Sour? Bitter? Delicious? Bland? Spicy? Complicated? Bold but not pretentious?

I hope my future posts appeal to your taste buds.



Compassion 101


After four weeks of helping take care of my Dad, I spent a week at home catching up on visits, meetings and planning for some summer programs. Dad’s has actually stabilized, we’re getting good care from some overnight companions, and we are retooling our hearts, minds and schedules for some long term care.

Those visits I made last week? They humbled me and got me thinking about our capacity for compassion. I thought I was dealing with a lot. I thought I had a servant’s heart. I’m playing “A” ball compared to these major league caregivers. Continue reading

Pretty sneaky, Dad

If you’ve been reading my posts lately, you know I’ve been spending a lot of time with my Dad, who, as far as we can tell, isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. One of the perks of this experience has been the chance to spend time with my brother and sister. But when the call came that Dad might be cashing in his chips, we converged.

We hadn’t been doing much of that lately. Continue reading

It’s a small world after all

you-are-here_2These past few weeks I have noticed how small my Dad’s world has become. This came to my attention last week when at supper, we made sure to keep the bread out of my Dad’s sight. It’s a food he often chokes on, so we don’t let him have any. If he can’t see it, he doesn’t ask for it, and life is good. His reality is quite small, limited to what is in his field of vision.

His daily commute is quite small, too. It’s only a few steps from his bed to his bathroom and about as far to the kitchen table. This is his world now, about a 10′ x 20′ space. He has little interest in the weather, the upcoming presidential election, the news or even baseball. He doesn’t realize all who involved in his care. It’s a small, small world.

I like to think that my world is much bigger. After all, I’ve been doing a lot of traveling these last few years. I know what is going on and keep in touch with people around the globe. I am interested in the weather, elections, the news and sports. But is my world really that big?

The expanse of my experience is really just a small slice of a universe that we see more and more of each day, whether with telescopes or microscopes. I’m not always aware of how much care God provides for me through his angels and other people. My attention is quite often focused on that which is in my field of vision or in the realm of my self-interest. Hmmm. Maybe my world is pretty small, too.

Once in a great while, a window opens and my Dad remembers some of his experiences and travels to places I’ve never been or even heard of. All of a sudden, he’ll begin talking about places he was stationed in the South Pacific during World War II. Or a world where you built furniture by hand, as opposed to putting it together from pieces packed into a box. How about a world where you tuned up your car in the driveway?

For now, though, Dad’s world is pretty small. But just for a while. Before long he’ll get to experience a world without end, that much larger eternity that we were created for.


More time to hang out with Dad (part 3)


Dad doing what he does best: enjoying a snack

For those who have been following the story, it’s been a month now, and we’re still hanging out with Dad. Perhaps it would be better to say that Dad is still hanging out with us. And he isn’t planning on going anywhere soon. Recent tests show that his kidney appears to have regained some function, which we suspected as he resumed much of his daily routine.

Yes, this is good news. And yes, this is hard news. Continue reading