Over the Hump 10/23/2019

Years ago during my hiatus from Seminary, I was working as a ticket agent for TWA at O’hare in Chicago. One of the jobs was to check passengers’ luggage. I had a counter in the middle and a scale on either side. On a busy day, I tried only to work one scale, for it was faster, so I would put up a (closed sign) on the other. 


A lot of people, either could not read or just ignored the sign, and would stand there waiting for me to check their bags. I was not a happy camper and I probably showed it. One busy Friday evening it happened. A man came up disregarded the sign and waited. I ignored him for a bit and then I took his ticket gruffly and I did not put his bag on the track, in a gentle way. It was going from Chicago to New York. I glanced at his ticket again and read The honorable Adlai E. Stevenson, who was once a presidential candidate. 


Everything slowed down. I pointed to his luggage stub and gave him information he needed. I called him by name and was careful to be overly polite to make up for my rudeness. While this was going on, the man at the other scale was watching, and when I got to him, he said, “do you know who that guy is?”. My response was glib, “Oh, that is Senator Stevenson and he travels with us all the time”. I was more careful of my behavior after that, but I still put up the closed sign when busy. 

Over the Hump 10/16/2019

TO GOOD TO BE TRUE


I don’t know if any of our readers have heard of Kairos. It is a ministry across the country to men and women in the penitentiary. I mention this, because I have been involved with that ministry since the early 80’s. I have seen the results of this transform men and women whom society has locked up and may have thrown away the key.


It brings to mind a story by the late Charles Colson of Watergate fame, who surrendered his life to Jesus Christ in the middle of the storm in Washington. He began what is called ‘Prison Fellowship’ In and around his time in prison and became a major voice for those in prison. He tells of a trip to Peru and to a prison completely run by the prisoners. When one enters that prison he his assigned a mentor, begins classes in any number of subjects that will impact his life in prison and those which will serve him well when he is released. There is only one overseer of the institution and the prisoners do all the rest. It is an honor system that works. Along with classes are bible studies, classes on Christian Spirituality (including 12-step for those who need it. 


Colsons’ guide was a convicted murderer who was in for life. He showed him all that was going on in the prison. You can imagine Colson’s amazement at what he was experiencing. Later in the tour, the guide asked him if he would like to visit the ‘hole’ --- Solitary Confinement. He agreed and down into the depths they traveled until they came to a large door. The guide asked again, “Are you sure you want to go in?” “Yes”. The door opened and there in the middle of the room was a large cross with Jesus on it. The inscription underneath read.


HE TOOK THE RAP FOR US ALL 



Over the Hump 10/09/2019

As I stood at the graves of my parents this weekend, many thoughts went through my head. As all families, we had our issues, which made us eligible for being dysfunctional. But as I stood there, I could only be grateful for my own life and the lives of my two brothers, who were in town with me. 


The weekend in my hometown began with a reception, letting everyone get a glimpse of the art exhibit of one brothers' collection of what is called "outside art.” The collection of art done by “outsiders," mental patients, homeless, and people who were judged to be just that. 


My brother's art collection is valued to be at least 1M and will be on display in our hometown, Pueblo, Colo., and then onto Chicago, early next year. This brother lives in Philadelphia and has his own museum, Bethany Museum, if you want to check it out. He is a twin, and our other brother, is a poet, having published at least one book of poems and one play. 


As I traveled with them over the weekend which was also their 60th class reunion and their birthdays, my gratitude continued to grow for our parents. I closed out the weekend by taking my wife to the Church were I was baptized some 79 years ago. So, as I stood at my parents gravesite, having experienced the results of those they brought into to world and that included me. As I closed my prayer to God for my parents, I realized they had raised a Prince, a Poet and last but not least a Pauper.



Over the Hump 10/02/2019

It all began June 5, 1976. I awoke with a headache and a dry mouth, for I had drank a bit the night before and smoked as many cigarettes as I could to prepare myself for my 'QUIT' smoking day, of June 6th.


I had made a pact with two of my friends that we would quit together. We would each put up $50.00 for the person who could quit the longest (hoping for forever).


We had been planning this for many months and it was the beginning of a great change in my life and would mark the beginning of my running career.


The next day I decided to jog around the neighborhood, but could only make it about a block, for you see, I was 38 years old and I had been smoking about 2 packs a day for 20 years. However, I was determined and I was also afraid that I would put on a lot of weight, as some do when they quit.


I encouraged a friend to run with me, once a week at the local track. We both started slow and it took about a year to get up to one mile. (By the way, I won the money). One of the men made it until 10:00am that first day and the other man told God that only hell or high water would make him go back. But when the other man watched his hotel float away in a flood he took his smokes and headed for higher ground. (Major flood in 1976).


I got hooked, on running! I quit one addiction and to on another. Running was much more healthy than smoking. I began to run every day and even entered a few short races. In 1983, a friend suggested that I do a marathon, and I took him up on it.


I struggled and wondered if it was ever going to end and then the Stockyard finish line came into view and I had plenty left to finish. I was in tears as I came to the finish for I realized that running was Gods' way of healing me for the addiction that had a strong hold on me.


To the end of the story.... It all climaxed on Heartbreak Hill in Boston when my oldest daughter, Elizabeth, joined me for the last 6 miles of the Boston Marathon and we crossed the finish line together.

Over the Hump 09/25/2019

This Saturday we will be the blessing animals, as a tribute to St. Francis of Assisi, who is the patron Saint of the animal kingdom. Were he living today, he would be an environmentalist, a good steward of creation.


Many a little child, and some adults have asked me the question, do animals go heaven? 


I have always hedged my answer. I have been with people at the Vets' office and we prayed as the pet left this world. I once answered a frantic call from a woman who asked me to pray for the healing of her dog. I once did a memorial service for a cat. We all sat around the 

urn and said nice things about the cat and its owner. I was hesitant to pray for the soul of the departed but no one seemed to mind. 


From the looks of the cartoon, we should be praying for the people trying to get into heaven instead of pets. Why?

THEY ARE MORE LOVING THAN WE ARE !!

Over the Hump 09/18/2019

I was recently struck by an ad, on the television, about two guys who have started a company that cleans up the ocean. In that ad, we are shown what huge amounts of trash are in our oceans. 

As I drive through cities and see the amounts of stuff on our streets, I am reminded that people don’t seem to care if their towns and cities are not clean. I discovered as a runner when I was younger, how trashy the roadsides were, here in America. 


I ran in several towns in Germany and found to my delight that the streets were clean, no cups, no cigarette butts and it ran through my mind at the time that I could breathe better. 


For a time, I was a janitor in Chicago at O’hare airport. I could never get it how many folks could miss the trash cans with their half full cups and cigarette butts.


It all started in the beginning of our world. After the Creation of the universe and our world, God created man and woman. Adam gave the animals their names, then he and Eve were given the charge, to be stewards of creation.


I wonder if they forgot that part after being thrown out of the garden. Perhaps, if they had not, those two guys would not have to be out there picking up trash out of our oceans and there would not be the clutter that we see all around us. We might not be hearing about green deals. 


Stewardship of the globe, belongs to all of us. Our homes, yards, the creation, which we enjoy, and the places that we visit, should be left clean as part of our job of helping God.

I am reminded of a lady friend, may she rest in peace, who, when she used a restroom at a gas station, always cleaned it up for the next person to use.


So today, I want to salute those whom we count on the pick up our trash. They are the unsung heroes for whom we take for granted. Come rain or shine they are there. Don’t forget them this holiday season and thank them when you can.

Over the Hump 09/11/2019

I am sad sometimes because we seem to be so accustomed to tragedy and death that, when things happen, we don’t give much attention to it any more.


I was in Oklahoma several years ago and visited the memorial of the bombing there. Across the street from the memorial was a giant statue of Jesus looking away from the bombing and a plaque that read “Jesus Wept”

I visited the 9/11 memorial, just recently, and as I traveled through that museum, through the devastation and made my way into the place of three walls with all 3000 pictures of those, who, when they got up that morning, did not think that they would be in heaven before the day was over. 


Those we saw jumping out of windows were sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, of all races. I wonder what they were praying about as they left this world. I did read a message left by a father which I shared a few weeks back . “I love you. from Dad”, that was found in the wreckage. As i continued through the memorial, I could feel the pain of both Jesus and God. Perhaps they were both weeping, as they watched modern people 21st century, people still dealing in violence, and war. 


I did see some people weeping, as they traveled with me, through the memorial. As I went, I felt a sense of resolve for our country, as we are healing from this tragedy. We are the ‘Comeback Kids’. 

Isaiah’s prophecy, written so long ago, has still yet to be fulfilled “they shall beat their swords into plowshare and spears into pruning hooks and man will learn war no more.“


God! I hope so, But until then lets roll them (93)


9/11

Over the Hump 09/04/2019

I am a great fan of Nikos Kazantzakis. One of the works that struck me when I read it was "The Last Temptation of Christ". In it, we can see the conflict of the human Jesus with his mission. The last temptation is in a dream where he comes down from the cross, marries Mary Magdeline and lives out a normal life life. 


As I have thought about that over the years, I have wondered, what if he had succumbed to that temptation, as so many people, that we have read about, who have been tempted and thus lost some of their integrity and high standing in their businesses, families and communities and the trust of other people. 


I also have looked back at the temptations that I, myself, have faced over the years and found that they were pretty paltry, compared to some and my regrets and sorrow of those ones that I let hinder my life of integrity. 


But as a believer, I can hope to be more graceful to withstand those which may come up as I near the end of the trek and I have the assurance of the grace of God to help me.

Over the Hump 08/28/2019

There were many kids that I started the first grade with, and we were together with, all through high school. There was one girl, I was close with, was Phyllis Jean. We were close, as we went to the same church and her family was one of four families, who were friends and spent every Christmas Eve. with them. 


It was a bit boring for us, but it was a long standing custom. Phyllis and I wondered each year which of our Dads would get drunk first and would either of them get to Christmas Eve worship with us. Most time they did not. 


After high school we were off to college, graduate school, marriage and work. Phyllis became prominent in her community, in Kansas, for her service, and she was a devout Christian and very active in her church community. 

We reconnected for our 35th and 40th class reunions where we reminisced with some of those same people we had gone to grade school with. Even in those conversations Phyllis stood out and many were eager to visit with her. 


We did not make it to the 50th reunion for Phyllis was diagnosed with cancer. Shortly before she died, I spent a couple of days with her and I watched and experienced a person dying with dignity and grace. We remembered the Christmas Eve's of the past and some of the long lasting relationships we had, with some whom we had taken naps with in Kindergarten. 


I was unable to attend her funeral, but her remains were returned to our home town. There we were able to have another service with those old friends. As we put her ashes in the ground, we said the Lord's Prayer together, and I whispered well done, good and faithful servant.

Over the Hump 08/21/2019

Back in the 70’s and as a young clergyman, my dress was a bit colorful. I had a beard, my hair was a bit long and clerical shirts of different color. I was visiting family, in Ohio, one year and while I was there I was asked to visit one of my Nieces, who was in jail. I put on a colorful clerical shirt and off to the prison I went. Upon entering, I met the jailer, and asked to see the prisoner. The jailor replied, "You are no minister, you are a hippy and I will not let you in my jail". I found another clergyman of my denomination with a book with all the names of clergy. We returned to the jail and presented the book to the jailor who reluctantly let me see my niece. It did not help me that the minister who we with me had a long beard. 

That incident was in Xenia, Ohio which was hit, by a tornado, a few years later which took a toll on the town. 


Fast forward to my state of Colorado in 1976, with a tragic flood that took 150 lives and was a major disaster. Some of my friends and I got together to start the recovery effort and were looking for some outside help who might have experience in disaster relief. I remember the tornado, in Xenia, Ohio and put in a call the their disaster relief number. When I introduced myself to the lady on the phone, she said, "I know you. You were the minister that my husband got into the jail. 

After that introduction she and her husband came, to Colorado, to help us with our program. He preached in my Church and we got to know the couple. They were a great help in our rebuilding families, homes, roads and relationships. So, now I am mindful of those I meet for I never know where a great relationship might begin and where it might lead to. Life is exciting that way.

Over the Hump 08/14/2019

As many today, as when I was in college, I was usually broke or needed what little I had to get by. 


One summer, I got a speeding ticket and did not know how I was going to get the money. I, for sure, did not want to let my Dad know. My Dads’ law partner was also the police magistrate who I would have to face in court. Then I read that he would suspend the fine if one went to driving school. The fine was $25.00, so I would be off the hook and the magistrate gave me the assurance that he would not tell my Dad. So, it went well in court. 


What I did not know at the time was the editor of the local newspaper had no use for my Dad. I don’t know what the issue was, but it went deep. Standard procedure in the court system was that material was always sent to the local paper and printed somewhere in the back pages. The next day on the front page an article entitled, “Son of Asst. District Attorney to take safe driving course to offset a speeding ticket”

Later that day I got a call from my Dad, who said, “I have to read the local paper to see what you may be up to?” 


I guess it was both justice and gotcha!



Over the Hump 08/07/2019

When I was a small boy, we lived near the Fair Grounds of the Colorado State Fair. I attended, the fair, as far back as I can remember. 


When I was 12, as a Boy Scout, I became an usher in the arena. My favorite event was the bull riding. As an usher I was very close to the action and it was very exciting. A year later, I came down with Polio. It was during the State Fair and I was devastated that I could not attend (so close and yet so far away).


Part of my treatment was not to get out of bed. This was tough for a 13 year old boy. One evening about 9:30 our house began to shake and there was a lot of noise in our small back yard. Too much for this little kid, so I got up and we looked out the back window. Much to our suprise, there was a Brahma Bull tearing up our yard. There were men with ropes trying to catch the bull with little success. As I remember, I was rooting for the bull.

The bull finally escaped the yard and headed toward the river, a short distance where he was finally captured. I continued to go the the Fair, but nothing was quite as exciting as that night, when the State Fair came to a small boy.

Over the Hump 07/31/2019

A number of years ago a new couple joined the Church in Colorado, where I served. They had come out of the Hippy culture and became deeply involved in the Church and the Community. They moved to Henderson, Nevada, there they divorced, and Barbara still lives. 


She, not too long ago, related a story which touched me very much. She told me the story of Roy, the most highly decorated special forces man in the state of Nevada. The down side of Roy was that his marriage ended, and later his ex-wife and daughter moved into the community of Jonestown, with James Jones. Roy was picked to ride the horse leading, the riderless horse in the Kennedy funeral march. 

Later, when some from Washington were murdered on the airstrip at Jonestown, Roy was sent with some others to check it out. By the time he got there everyone had drank the koolaid, and were dead. The first two people Roy saw were his ex-wife and daughter in the kitchen. 

When it was all over, he left, went home to Nevada and crawled into a bottle of scotch and remained there for a long time. Cross, depressed, angry, and in despair, until he met and got to know my friend Barbara and some of her friends. They took the time to get to know Roy, and reached out to him.


As time went by he began to trust them. As their relationship grew they encouraged him to attend a retreat at their Church. At that retreat, with the grace of God, Roy was able to connect with the God of his understanding and his life changed. From then on he used his skill to reach out and help any and all that he came into contact with.

Near the end of his days one might find him on the street handing out water in 100 degree heat in Henderson. His changed life was a great example of, “Its never too late".



Over the Hump 07/24/2019

We have not gone out of business, I have just been on vacation in the east, visiting. 


I do not know where you were on 9/11. I was watching the news while getting ready for work when the second plane hit. 


On this trip I finally got to visit the Trade Center Memorial. I was awed both by the massive destruction, and by the patriotism and hope, as I came to the end. 


I discovered some items that touched me. One that touched me most, was a note on a slate board "Dear Tana, I love you, Daddy." Even near the end of his life, he thought of his child. 


While standing in front of that artifact, I realized how powerful love can be. This helped me as I traveled through a room full of almost 3000 pictures of those who, having awakened that morning and ended the day in heaven.

"So we have faith, hope and love, the but the greatest of these is love."

Over the Hump 06/26/2019

The word forgiveness conjures up many thoughts and ideas in our heads, but each one of us, hopefully, have struggled with having to ask for forgiveness or give it when someone asks us to forgive them. That is the way it should work but it doesn't. Most of it, goes on in our head, "of course I have forgiven that person" (and the energy is still there and the other person has no idea you have forgiven him or her). 


I know God has forgiven me. How? "Of course we have patched things up, but no one has apologized." We all carry some of that un-forgiveness inside of us and either it is transformed or transmitted. We either deal with it and change or we transmit it to those around us. We take it out on our partners, children and others. Forgiveness is in the concrete, not in magic thinking, 


I observed the power of forgiveness at a Christian Conference in Kansas City many years ago. There were about 75,000 in attendance and there were workshops in the various hotels in the city. One afternoon in the Muehlbock Hotel in the basement a big crowd of Jewish Christians were gathered to hear teaching from a Rabbi. In the course of the teaching, an old man walked up the aisle and asked to say a word to the gathering. I quote, "my name is _____ and I was a Nazi officer, served at Aushwitz and killed many of your family members and I humbly ask you to forgive me. Many rose from their seats embraced the man and assured him of forgiveness. The Rabbi got a bowl of water, bent over and washed the mans' feet.

Many of us left the room that afternoon with a new understanding of the power of forgiveness, for we had felt that power of forgiveness.

Over the Hump 06/19/2019

HOW FIRST IMPRESSIONS CAN GO WRONG


Last week, I mentioned a boy who almost got me thrown off of my High School baseball team. He was from our rival school. He was right, in his complaint and I got lucky and was not dropped from the team. 


Needless to say I had no use for this guy. A couple of years later, in college and in a fraternity, I was told about this guy from my hometown who was a good prospect for my fraternity and they wanted me to rush him. It was that same guy and I did not want to have much to do with him, but I did a bit of getting to know him and he joined the fraternity. Over the years we became friends, roomates, and spent a good bit of time together. I graduated to seminary and he to law school. 


He worked for the State Dept. during the Watergate scandal and was called to testify. He returned to our home state in a bad state of mind. We spent time talking, he joined my denomination and over the next 45 years or so we ministered together and by now were best friends. I officiated at his marriage. He saw me through a time of a meltdown. He was a critic of the Church for he had very high expectations and at first did not understand "feet of clay". He was a gentle critic and became one of the best leaders in his church.

His life was coming to an end when he discovered he had cancer. We spent as much time as possible together since we lived apart, and I was with him the last week and day of his life. I alone, was with him when he drew his last breath. 

His name was Dick Wise, and a bit of me died that day as well. I have his picture on my desk to remind me daily of his presence in my life. I am so glad that I did not let the first impression rob me one of the greatest relationships in my life.

Over the ump 06/12/2019

Is it Luck? or Gods' Grace? 

Back in High School several of my fast pitch softball friends got together and formed a team. We called ourselves This Pueblo Businessmen Assoc. We raised money in a section of town that had many small busnesses. We raised enough to pay the entry into a mens' league and to buy tee shirts. We had a great pitcher. We did not win many, but we had fun. 


At that same time I was playing on the varsity baseball team in high school. There was a regulation, then, that one could not play but one sport in the spring and playing elsewhere was a no,no with stiff

punishment, and I think, I knew it. One night as we played a member of the other high school was there and we were scheduled to play his school the following weekend. The day of the game between the two schools, the boy started yelling there is that softball player. He yelled it several times. The coach of the other team heard him and asked about it. The boy said "Yes, I saw him playing softball the other night, The other coach told my coach, and my coach came to me. I fessed up and he immediately benched me. 

A letter had to be written to some High school people to see if I was still eligible. If I was, I could continue to play, if found guilty, no playing and we would have to forfeit every game I had played in. The letter came back and they said I was eligible but not to bright.

The only thing that saved me, the game I had been seen playing, was a practice game, a forfeit. Luck? Gods' Grace? 

We went on to win the Colorado State Baseball State Championship. I can't imagine where I might be if my team had to suffer the loss of the games I had played in. 

Next week I will tell you about the boy and why he ratted on me.

Over the Hump 06/05/2019

There have been a lot of tornados this past week and from the footage, that we have all seen, they are devastating. 


We may remember some in Oklahoma a few years back. At the time several of us were working with some of the Homeless in Dallas, in a fellowship called "The Gathering". We took about 8 or more of our members to assist in the recovery process. 


We showed up "the homeless, helping the homeless". What an experience it was for us. We walked the neighborhoods and helped where we could. I remember one of our brothers who knocked on a door and a woman answered and just asked if he could cut her lawn. Others of us picked up trash and did other little things as we could. 


We were put up in a shelter and we showered at the local L.A. Fitness Center. The looks on the faces and the tears that came into the eyes of those we helped, especially when they learned who we were, touched us all. 

It reminded me that "LITTLE THINGS MEAN A LOT" and " WE ARE ALL IN THIS THING CALLED LIFE TOGETHER"

Over the Hump 05/29/2019

I just received the latest email message from a man I met years ago, in Dallas, at a large Church where I worked for several years. 


In his email, he shared with his readers his visit with his wife to Disneyland, and how they enjoyed many of the activities offered. He described his trip on a rough ride "Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey". "You were all over the place, on your back, on your belly", where he thought he would fall off but the chairs held him in. His name is Duncan Holmes, and he is a professional Piano player. When we met he was playing piano for worship at the Church where I worked. It was a joy to watch his fingers fly over the keys with speed and dexterity. What made him so special to all of us was the fact that he is blind and has been since birth and he has never seen a keyboard. He is a devout Christian and not afraid to share his views. When he plays concerts, he gives credit to God for his talent and I have never heard him complain about not seeing.


What an example for me, and I am privileged to call Duncan a friend. We had one thing in common on his trip to Disneyland; The "Small World Ride"

He almost fell off getting on and I cried for it was a great experience for me.

Over the Hump 05/22/2019

This weekend I will put on the old running shorts, on an old man and run the Polkafest 5K. As an ex-marathon runner, a 5k should be easy. But age does take a toll on the body. The upside of age, is that I usually win, for no one else in my age group shows up. 


Running for me is almost a spiritual experience. The race takes on a life of its own so for a time I can just enjoy the moments, and the other runners, some of whom have been a great real inspiration to me. 


I was running in Dallas and at about mile 9, I noticed three guys passing me. One was holding hands with the man in the middle and the other on the other side talking to the man in the middle. As they passed I noticed that the guy in the middle was blind, and he was running faster than I was. I picked up the pace but could not catch him. I later learned that the blind man was named Harry. He had written a book about his life and how he dealt with his blindness. 

In later races when I felt like quitting, I thought about Harry. He gave me the incentive not to quit. I never met the other man who inspired me, but I did get the story. The guy has lost his legs in Vietnam, but decided to scoot the New York marathon with his arms, and what were left of his legs.


Someone discovered him during the race, knowing is would take days to finish the race. He was put up during the night and then back on the course during the day. A week later as he entered Central Park, the finish line was set up again and he got quite an ovation when crossing the finish. I wish I had been there. 

Perhaps we should all look back and remember those who gave us the examples of courage and the incentive not to quit when the times get tough. Come to think of it, we could thank them, if they are still alive.