Today’s Joy

Monday, November 11, 2019

My Personal Vets Remembrance
“This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the Lord; throughout your generations, you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.”—Exodus 12:14

This morning on Veterans Day I share my family and pastoral involvement on this day.

WORLD WAR ONE: My dad, Willie Hempel, was stationed at Camp Stanley in Brownwood, Texas. He drove a wagon carrying supplies with four mules. He loved this activity. I received a flag at his burial service in West Columbia, TX, in April of 1949. It was given by the local American Legion.

WORLD WAR TWO: My first wife’s father, Virgil Treberg, was killed in the Battle of the Bulge. He only saw Karen when she was a baby. She was six months old when he was killed.

PASTORAL SERVICE: My first baptism was held at the Naval Base in Vallejo, California. I took part in many vets programs on this day during my ministry.

I witnessed many burial services which concluded with a memorial service by local veteran’s groups— followed by a 16 gun salute.

I performed two committal services at the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery in Elmwood, Illinois. The first was for James Rietz, Senior. His son, Jim, was/is the Apple guru in my local DuPage Apple Users Group. The second was for Earl Burger who was a long-time member of my last church, St. Petri UCC on Chicago’s East Side. Earl lived most of his life on the East Side.

I remember my dad and my first wife’s dad on this Veterans’ Day. I remember those veterans whom I have served as a pastor. I give thanks to those veterans served by The Church on this day.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Easy Entrance for All
“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.” — Luke 14:13

The scriptures teach us to invite everyone to our gatherings. Yet, the structure of many buildings makes entering an obstacle course for those who have difficulty walking, seeing and hearing.

I went to a church recently where I planned to use my walker to navigate through the place to get to the dining hall. I had to leave the walker and use my cane to climb down two separate stairs to reach the dining hall. The building was built long before there were accessible codes. There seemed to be no person interested in helping or giving directions for an easier navigation. I was disappointed.

My UCC recognizes one Sunday per year as handicapped Sunday. It offers prayers and gives thanks for accessible churches. Besides prayers, they have specific plans and guidelines for making places of worship easier for people like me who walk with aids.

I was recently impressed with a department store which gives the wheelchair symbol with buttons that automatically open the doors. I can hear many trustees saying that it won’t be used that much and it is not economically feasible. One the other hand, the absence of these accessible tools may be why more people don’t come.

One of my late family members told me I was better off divorced from my first wife because she was a “poor helpless crippled thing.” My moral anger bristled at that remark. Her polio limited her navigation and I didn’t have any problem there. The relative’s remarks were well-intentioned. Yet, those old thoughts keep my ex and others in a box. Her appearance raises a barrier to keep from getting to know the person. I suspect some of those thoughts are still around.

Awareness needs to be constantly brought out into the open to give accessible churches and buildings where all people can worship, learn, dine, and fellowship together.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Mixed Feelings
“for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”— First Timothy 4:8

A significant chapter in my life will end today. My last physical therapy session is scheduled for 8 a.m. this morning.

I normally go at 9 a.m. and this was the time the facility had available. With January temperatures outside on this November morning, I don’t relish going out.

What I will miss the most is the great relationship that I have formed with these younger physical therapists. They have shared their lives with me and me them. We have laughed and supported each other.

I knew the exercise routines well. I ride the stationary bike for 10 minutes. I go to the table where the therapist uses massage techniques on my legs, knees, hip, or back. Next, I have four table exercises—one with weights on my ankles. I move to several things along a wall. I use my arms to pull with bands in four positions. Last I do a series of three step up and step downs of raised step.

I visit with the receptionist and grab several peppermint pieces from her desk. Then, I check and see if my ride has arrived. I go down the elevator to the waiting car outside in a crowded parking lot. My wife puts in my walker in the trunk. Sometimes we have other tasks. When I do go home, I frequently take a nap which can lasts from a half-hour or longer many times.

What I will miss the most is the positive environment where positive technicians guide you through the process to gain strength. Everyone tells me that I am walking better and standing straighter. The hip replacement regained my ability to walk better. The PT time has helped me actualize walking, standing, and improving body strength. I can open heavy bathroom doors much better.

I write to support physical therapy when doctors prescribe the process for you after an injury or hospitalization as in my case. The hip surgery and later hospital stays sent me to PT.

I will miss my trainers and the good situation. How will I continue to excise? I do better in a tightly supervised environment. Stay turned.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

27º Arrives
“The cold north wind blows, and ice freezes on the water; it settles on every pool of water, and the water puts it on like a breastplate.” — Sirach 43:20

The cold air arrived in our part of the world at 27º. The average low temperature is 38º and the high temperature is 55º. The high is expected to be 33º —5 degrees below our average low in La Grange Park, IL.

I remember when I first moved to Montana and my first winter living in cold weather. I had lived in Texas and California until the move. I adapted with a warm winter coat, gloves, and boots.

My mom came up for my ordination at Baker, Montana on October 18. It snowed the day before she was to fly back to South Texas. She panicked and told me she didn’t want to be stuck “up here.” I drove her to the Rapid City, S.D., airport with a light cover of snow. Her flight got her back to Houston before more snow and cold arrived.

Several years later, she moved to Iowa where she would spend the last five years of her life. We got her a good warm coat, gloves, and warm boots. She got along quite well with the Iowa weather. Her first winter went much better than she expected. She got to know the people and we helped her walk to the car and to warm buildings. She got used to Iowa weather.

Everyone back in West Columbia, her home, commented about how cold it was “up North.” She assured them that she “got along mighty fine.”

Well, I am getting along mighty fine with the latest Canadian chill. I got a new warm coat yesterday and I will do fine in the record cold this week.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Early in the Morning.
“Abraham went early in the morning to the place where he had stood before the Lord;” Genesis 9:27

Early in the morning is a good time for me. I awake and lye in bed thinking about the many things the day will bring.

Today is my next to the last day of physical therapy. I think about those who provide the program to help me regain strength after my summer hospital time. I have become friends with the therapist who guides me through repetitive exercises. I have gotten to know the routine. I hear their praises and attempt to comply. They tell me I am getting stronger. The only gripe is the survey that Medicare asks. They use pain as the criteria for accomplishing tasks. I wonder who wrote this dumb questions. It is not the pain that stops me from doing tasks. It is a lack of energy and stamina the slows me down. After all, I am an 82-year-old male. I appreciate the good environment.

I have adapted to the move from daylight savings to standard time well. I have been looking for a new winter coat in the store and online. I have tried on several at the store. I downloaded a large department store app. I think I spotted an excellent one for 40% off and it is available in the Oak Brook store.

I think about all of these things. And, then I get up and grab my favorite robe, turn the heat up, and turn the coffee pot on. I pick up my iPad and look over the morning Sun-Times with the stuff that is happening in Chicago. Then, I start the process of writing my joy.

I am a morning person and enjoy thinking over my day and its blessings. The coffee is done and I am ready for a cup. What is it like for you in the early morning?

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Wise Words @ 103
“Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still;” — Proverbs 9:9

Last night I watched in awe a video interview with Dr. Fanita English who at 103 years old spoke wise words with clarity as she has always done. (a video on FaceBook)

She talked fluently about the modality of Transactional Analysis and it’s principles. She said therapists should get their contracts completed and therapy is done. (TA is a positive psychotherapy movement developed by the late Dr. Eric Berne, M.D.)

She talked about the principle of being in the here and now. She was in the here and now as she answered Alexis Brink’s questions. She said that it was not important in therapy to go on an archeological dig (talking about past experiences). The important task is to see how the past affects the present.

Fanita said she is sad about the loss of most of her friends. The last time I saw Fanita was about 20 years ago. I had breakfast with her, Morris and Natalie Haimowitz in Kenosha, Wisconsin at the Haimowitz retreat center. Both Morris and Natalie have passed away.

My friend Denton Roberts would ask me to sit in Fanita’s Amnesty International’s booth that Fanita hosted at many ITAA Conferences. Denton has left us too. Denton introduced me to Fanita and I respect her wisdom and guidance. At 103, she was happy to learn that many youths were at the recent Raleigh TA Conference.

I am a Christian minister who has used TA as a tool in my 50 years of ministry. You don’t have to know TA to recognize that anyone who is 103 and still speaks words of wisdom with clarity is a person who deserves to be seriously listened to.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Contemporary Zacchaeus
“When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today.” Luke 16:5

Recently, I remembered a sermon I submitted at a workshop on preaching in Switzerland. I used a story form to bring Zacchaeus into the present day.

“Jesus was going from town to town. He was been driven by a pastor to the Jericho county seat. The pastor told him about the young Zacchaeus, the tax collector, who foreclosed on a poor widow who had to move to her daughter’s home because she couldn’t pay taxes. He sold a farm from a disabled man for taxes. The young man was nothing like his grandfather who was kind and worked out payments. I’d like to see you do something with that young rascal.

Zacchaeus heard about the healer Jesus come to town. He got on the fire escape outside his office to get a view of Jesus when he drove by. The pastor driving Jesus looked up and told Jesus he was the one on the fire escape. Jesus got out of the car and said, “Tax collector Zacchaeus! Come down, I am going to your house for lunch today.”

He called his wife Mary and she was upset. “This is my bridge day and we are having peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” He said he had to hang up for he was meeting Jesus at the moment. As they drove to his new home on the edges town, he apologized for having PB and J sandwiches. Jesus said he ate many PB and J sandwiches when he was a boy.

They had a good modest lunch. After a while, Jesus told him that he had heard about the farmer who was forced off his farm and the poor widow who had to move in with her daughter and family. Jesus told Zacchaeus that people say you are not as kind as your grandfather. “They say you are mean and you think more about collecting their money than about their struggles in living.” He felt guilty and said that he would have to do better. “I guess I want to more like grandpa.”

The driver came to take Jesus to the next town. Mary went to her bridge game. Zacchaeus. went back to work. The driver told Jesus that the ministers were angry that he didn’t come and talk to them. They were upset that he spent time with a crook rather than them. Jesus said, “The tax collector had more need of him than the pastors.”

A few weeks later Zacchaeus’ reputation had changed for the better. The poor widow returned to her home with his working with senior services to help with her tax. He stopped the foreclosure of the handicapped farmer. Other farmers and Zacchaeus helped him find a way for him to stay on his farm.

The years that followed showed that Zacchaeus was dramatically changed when he had PB and J sandwiches with Jesus. People said he became more like his kind, merciful grandpa. Amen.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Good Bye and Welcome
“I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason.” — Ephesians 1:15

This time of the year we remember those who have joined the Kingdom Eternal with All Saints Day or Totenfest, or Remembrance Sunday. Each church and denomination handle the observance differently.

The last church where I was pastor developed a Totenfest service where we lit candles for those in that community who had died during the past year. We added a ritual of “Welcome” as we lit candles for the babies that were baptized during the past year. The service opened a way to give thanks to those lost and a welcome to new children.

The service added a feeling of celebrating life’s cycle that honored death and birth. The service including the families of those lost and those gained. The gain was that the church practiced inclusion that lifted these families lives in worship as well as the baptism and funeral services.

I have used the word Totenfest twice. Wikipedia says, “Totenfest, is a Northern German and Dutch Protestant religious holiday commemorating the dead. It falls on the last Sunday before the First of the Sundays of Advent.”. This congregation used the last Sunday of the Church Year for this celebration.

The service is a part of the fabric and an important Sunday in the life of the Protestant Church. Your congregation may celebrate it early in November or late in November. Whenever thanks be to God for those who have joined the Eternal Kingdom and hello to those who have joined the Cradle Roll. Amen.

Friday, November 1, 2019

My Friend Bruce
“A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.” — Proverbs 17:17

I met Bruce at the family church. His dad, Ray, was still alive and Ray was a colorful man who knew everyone around. My sons verbally spared with him about his Packers and their Bears.

Bruce was quietly in the background as I got to know him at the fish fry, worship, and other church activities. We served on a church committee together. We talked more and more when we saw each other.

Elaine and I spent Labor Day weekend in Door County a year ago. She said that Barb, Bruce’s wife, invited us to their home on Washington Island — an island in the northern section of Door County. Sunday morning, we took the ferry to the island. They met us at the dock for a wonderful day.

Bruce and I sat on his deck and looked at the beautiful view of Lake Michigan. We caught up with each other. We were frequently visited by their two dogs. He gave a detailed history of how he got his home. The place was a great “getaway” for him and his family. I took a picture of the view and sent it to our Pastor Joe. The caption said, “making a pastoral call on Bruce & Barb on Washington Island, WI.” Bruce delighted in my note to our pastor.

We ate a late afternoon lunch and openly talked about his struggle with Myotonic Dystrophy. (A genetic and long-term that affects muscle function. Source: Google Search). Bruce has slowed down with this disease that claimed his sister’s life.

They returned us to the ferry. We saw them at church activities. We saw Bruce less frequently. He seemed to grow weaker each time I saw him. Last week, he died as First Responders sought to save him. I am truly sad for I lost a good friend. Barb and our church family grieves.

I offer thanks to God for the life of Bruce. I appreciated my visits with him at the Men’s Group, fish fries, and other church events. My day on Washington Island with him is etched in my memory forever. Rest In Peace, Bruce, my good buddy. Amen.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

A Holy Ghost
“…and a time to laugh;” — Ecclesiastes 3:4b

I once went to a Halloween party dressed in a white sheet and cross hung around my neck. I had an eye, nose and mouth holes in the sheet to navigate. Most people laughed and named my identity, “The Holy Ghost!” That was correct.

A friend told me that she was going to a costume party where you were to be dressed as a circus or carnival people. Her husband was going as a carnival knife thrower. Her costume had knives sticking out. She reported that their costumes worked well and the party was fun.

I remember at one church that I hosted a haunted house for youth. Several parents helped plan a scary event. I got the Lutheran minister’s daughter to be the corpse that woke up. I had a tape of sounds from a haunted house. We took each blind-folded youth one by one through the basement maze. The final stop was in the morgue. The youth’s hand was placed on the Lutheran’s foot. She screamed and we took the blind-fold off. The youth stayed and took part in making noise for the next youth. We had refreshments of witch’s brew and fun things. I admit it was a fun evening for the youth.

Today I will hand out candy to children who come to the door. We will have a small group. I am hoping I get a few M &Ms and Reese’s pieces. That’s about all the excitement I will have today. Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

“Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18

Several years ago, I served as interim pastor of the First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Vallejo, California. Vallejo is on I-80, 32 miles north of San Francisco.

Sunday, the fire came near Vallejo. My friend, Nancy, writes, “Some very close on Sunday. One huge fire literally jumped over the Carquinez Bridge. That means the fire jumped from Vallejo to Crockett, which is over a mile…. got word that our power to our house was shut off for two hours. Fortunately, the power was on when we got home.”

I fondly remember the people in the Vallejo church. Several people in that church wrote Christmas notes for several years. A youth wrote to me once in a while. The last I heard she was a senior at a college in Northern California. She was in elementary school education. I hope she and her family are safe.

This morning the news from both Southern and Northern California is scary. The Santa Ana winds are slowing down in the north, but still raging in the south.

I ask that you join me in prayers for those in the wake of the fires in California. I am especially praying for my friends in Vallejo. May all be safe.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Pumpkin or Apple?
“with the choice fruits of the sun, and the rich yield of the months;” — Deuteronomy 33:14

The fall fruits of apple and pumpkin are in abundance at this time of the year.

“Illinois currently holds the No. 1 spot for pumpkin production in the nation, producing three times more pumpkins than any other state.
Mohammad Babadoost, professor for ACES, said that Illinois grows and yields more pumpkins than any other state. The state has around 25,000 acres of pumpkins while other states have around 6,000 to 8,000 acres.” (Source: The Daily Illini)

Pumpkin pancakes that my wife fixes is the best pumpkin rendering I have had this season. You pour pure maple syrup over them. They are very tasty. We have a pumpkin pie that we had for dessert last night was good.

My favorite apple rendering has been some apple cider doughnuts that we found at an apple orchard we visited near DeKalb, IL. We had hot apple cider with our fresh doughnuts. Yummy!

Elaine makes an apple crisp which is a family favorite. The best apple strudel I have eaten was in Germany. We were driving on the Autobahn toward Munich. We stopped for a bathroom break and saw several young adults eating strudel. We found the nearby bakery and purchased the last on their shelves. It was still warm and I say I haven’t tasted any better since.

Which do you like? Apple or pumpkin? My answer is both. Remember your pumpkin probably comes from Illinois and the apples may be from Michigan.

Please had me some hot apple cider as I eat my pumpkin pancakes. Later!

Monday, October 28. 2019

Monday’s Notebook
“then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,”— Proverbs 8:30

Today is Monday and several things are brewing in my mind.

The memory of yesterday with worship, lunch with friends, watching the Bears implode and watching “God Friended Me” filled my day. I drove a car for the first time yesterday. I still know how to drive though I felt a little uneasy at first. I took a friend home from church and returned to get Elaine who was at a meeting. It had been a long time since I drove. I eased into the drive and I felt good.

We depend on cars for getting around our world. I must say that as I write this I am moved to give thanks to my wife for driving me everywhere. She will drive me at 9 a.m. to a physical therapy appointment. A friend will pick me up for lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Elaine has been driving me everywhere for the past several years. Recently, we got away to view the fall leaves. The two days we saw fall leaves in northern Indiana and southwest Michigan. We drove down the winding roads of the Red Arrow Highway from Michigan into Indiana.

We drove through and viewed our church camp, Tower Hill near Sawyer, MI. We looked at the new cottage that was about completed. I noticed that a meeting was in session with several cars at one building. Elaine showed me the recent work to improve the buildings.

We drove in heavy driving rain on the freeway en route home. It had rained as we drove along the shore of Lake Michigan, leisurely looking at the beaches and inland waters. The rain became more pronounced as we entered the busy interstate traffic.

Monday, I give thanks that I can drive a little bit again. I also give thanks for Elaine’s safe driving that has taken us everywhere we have gone and go now.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Great Gifts
“Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.” — Ephesians 4:8

Last Sunday while some of the UCC were celebrating my 50th ordination anniversary, an announcement of great gifts was happening at Trinity United Church of Christ on Chicago’s South Side.

This good news was for 5,888 families who will receive a letter around Thanksgiving that all of their medical debt has been paid with the wishes for a Happy Thanksgiving.

More than $5,000,000 in medical debt was wiped off announced in a press conference at Trinity UCC. New York-based non-profit RIP Medical Debt worked with several churches on this project.

With joy, I am proud of my colleagues who truly have “cared for the least” of God’s people. The announcement truly furthers the Kingdom of God here upon this earth. Amen.

Friday, October 25, 2019 

Life Is Valuable
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.”
—Psalm 119:50

I believe my life is sacred and a gift from God. I have had my ups and downs in life. I have mountain top experiences like last weekend when I celebrated my 50th anniversary of ministry. I reached a point when I went through a low place during a divorce. I certainly have had medical issues most of my life.

I am sure that suicide crossed my mind once or twice. I soon realized that my life is sacred and valuable. The lives of others are valuable, too. I believe and teach that I am okay, and you are okay.

I have heard recently that many police officers have committed suicide. Many veterans have found life unbearable and took their own lives. Teens and others have added to the many statistics of those who have killed themselves.

I had a close friend who committed suicide. He was an implement dealer in a small town. The implement manufacturer’s representatives forced him out of business. He talked about it once with me for an hour. I moved from that town and after he took his life.
I felt awful about losing him. He was a moral and kind man. He went to church regularly. The pressure and power of others had on finances got to him. I wish someone had intervened.

I was taught by Ms. Mary Goulding, M.S.W. and her husband. Dr. Robet L. Goulding, M.D., at the Western Institute for Group and Family how to get a “no suicide” contract with a suicidal client. First, make sure you have a psychiatrist or doctor who will hospitalize the client if won’t comply. That person is your backup. Second, you ask for an agreement that will not take their own life; or harm themselves or others. Third, get them to agree. If they refuse to agree, call your back up to hospitalize them. Some therapists ask clients to sign the contract that they will not kill; harm themselves or others. Period.

I have had people say that won’t work. I say yes if it is done with trained professionals. If you observe someone who is talking about taking their own lives, get them to a mental health professional ASAP.

I believe all of life is valuable for I am valuable and you are valuable. God has created each and every person in God’s image.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

“Back in the Saddle”
“I am going to bring it recovery and healing; I will heal them and reveal to them an abundance of prosperity and security.” —Jeremiah 33:6

Our cousin, Judy, posted a story about a barrel racer that got “back in the saddle” after a tragic accident. I am familiar with barrel racing as a sport in rodeos. I attended many rodeos when I lived with a family that produced rodeos.

Barrel racing is limited to women who ride a horse that circles three barrels in the far area of the arena. The person who rides the fastest around the barrels to the back to the starting lines wins.

Amberly Snyder was a world champion barrel racer at 18. She had been riding horses since she was young. She had a car accident six years ago that left her paralyzed from her waist down. She told the physical therapist she planned not only to ride horses again and barrel race again.

Quickly she mastered the wheelchair. The PT brought her saddle to the therapy room and she began the difficult task to get back in the saddle. The balance was the hardest part of recovery. She gradually solved her physical issues and began to ride horses again. Her horses had to adapt, also. She had to use her hands and voice to give her horse commands. Snyder said that her horses are super sensitive to her cues. She has recovered and has begun to barrel race again.

The media has picked up on her recovery. Television has interviewed her and there is a movie about her incredible story. A movie about her, “Walk. Ride. Rodeo” may be seen on Netflix.

I am impressed with her determination to ride and race again in the rodeo. Stories like this remind us all that we have gifts of thought and a passion to accomplish great things.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

From the Mountain Top
So Moses went down from the mountain to the people Exodus 19:4; “As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them, “Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” Matthew 17:9

The celebration (50th ordination service) is over and it was a mountain top experience for me and my home church. Now, it is time to come down from the mountain.

Moses came down from the mountain after he received the Ten Commandments. He didn’t have a camera person. Hollywood and Charleston Heston would take care of that later. After the Transfiguration, Jesus didn’t have cameras to record the event. Media would attempt to portray the event in film and on television.

Cameras were present and posted elsewhere on FaceBook for my event. The electronic signs pics have drawn likes from around the world. My journalist friend, Brett, posted pictures on Sunday.

I have come down from the mountain. There is a letdown. My body system turned off the adrenaline and has started to relax. Monday morning brought an intensive physical therapy brought me down. Meetings, nurse appointment and the regular chores of daily living are on the schedule.

I have experienced this before. I go to the mountain top and feel high. I attempt to relate to people as though they have had the same experience. Today’s Joy came from such a mountain top experience, the 2017 UCC General Synod in Baltimore. The closing sermon challenged us to go back down the mountain and make a difference.

I renewed my commitment to proclaim joy to my FaceBook readers. Like Moses’ and Jesus’ ministry, not everyone has the same experience. Some will like my joy message. Others will silently read. The millions of other FB-ers will not read my piece. My task is to reach as many people as I can with fresh, honest and truthful posts that will speak to people.

I can only write what is in my awareness. What FaceBook readers do is not in my control. I can only pray that I speak to the ones who read my joy words.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Queen of Gymnast
“and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed …” —Romans 2:18

Simone Biles’ amazing physical fetes in past weeks signal pure joy as she competes on the world stage —breaking record after record in her sport.

I am impressed with her moves and details that she brings to perfection in her sport. I am in awe of the ways she twists her body to accomplish her goals. Her parents tell her to focus on what she does in practice as she performs

She has been a sensation in media after she has broken records. I watched her an interview on The Today Show. The hosts, in awe of her accomplishments, ask their questions and she shows a genuine poised and sweet as she answered their questions.

I clicked Google and found several sites about her. Wikipedia has extensive facts and information. Then, I discovered that she has her own website. The pages on the site are home, bio, book, sponsors, contact. Here book, “Courage to Soar,” can be purchased on the site. She has several sponsors which are listed on the site. The contact page has a person listed with complete details. She is very organized.

Simply, I am in awe like most of the world is with her physical abilities to accomplish record after record with a pleasant personality. Simone Biles, WOW!

Monday, October 21, 2019

The BIG Day
“ Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters?” — First Corinthians 6:3

Yesterday, we, my wife and I, arrived at church for a
big day of celebration for the 50th anniversary of my ordination. We were greeted by the electronic sign which read, “1. Congratulations Rev. Bob Hempel, 2. 50 Anniversary Ordination, 3. Worship, 10 a.m.” That is the very first time my name has been up in lights. WOW!

I enter the church and find my dear friend, Loy Asbury Williams, and his wife Pam. He will read the gospel lesson. He and I robe (red stoles) and select front pews for the crew, Pam and he plus our family.

Joyce Kelstrom plays an organ prelude. Carol Hoppe, liturgist, starts the service with announcements. Pastor Joe Mills lists many prayer concerns with many offered from the congregation. We sing the gathering hymn. (I select 3 hymns by contemporary hymn writer, Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. She writes excellent words, set to familiar hymn tunes.)

Pastor Joe discovers that four children (children’s sermon) combined ages are fifty. Then he teaches them about serving God. Then, he introduces Loy, Pam, and my family. He asks Pam and Loy how long they have been married—37 days. They were married in worship service and served ice cream afterward.

: Joyce plays a beautiful arrangement to “God of Grace and God of Glory” for the offertory. After the Gospel reading, The Rev. Kim Wood says is filling in for Dr. Sharon Ellis Davis who is ill. The Acting Associate Conference Minister for Eastern and Fox Valley Associations preaches a touching sermon, “It Matters.” First, she sings a song of joy from her childhood. Then, she shares portions of my Today’s Joys. She goes on knit a word tapestry with threads of my joy writings, the scripture and a story from a seminary.

After I pronounce the benediction. We head downstairs where Elaine has organized a zillion finger food with a fantastic cake. There is plenty of visiting and well-wishers. We quickly drive to Elmhurst College for a band concert. Son, Ed (trombone), and wife, Kim (clarinet), and a hundred musicians give an excellent concert. Then, we head home for the scared Sunday nap.

Today, I awake very excitingly that yesterday was a true celebration of good worship with The Word proclaimed and a great fellowship. My cup is full.

It was strange to hear Kim read the words that I wrote here. I became aware that there are many “silent” members of Today’s Joy congregation who don’t check “like.” My doubts about folks not reading my words were quilled yesterday. The greatest learning from yesterday was, TODAY’S JOY MATTERS!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

(I think today of my friend and colleague, Dr. Sharon Ellis Davis, when I read the story told by Rev. Rufus Jones in a sermon, “Live and Let Die” -Sunday, September 29 on Day1)

One Powerful Story
“He called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.’ ²⁵ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.”. Luke 15:24-25

I heard a story a couple of years ago about a pastor in Chicago. He’s a friend of a friend, it’s an actual story. He had a nice family including his oldest son who had just graduated high school, who he loved very much. After his son graduated high school he started to distance himself from his family and plunged headlong into the drug culture in Chicago. Over a year goes by. They don’t hear from him. They don’t hear from him in over 18 months. And then one Saturday night at 2:00 a.m., actually more like Sunday morning, they get a call and it’s the police. “We have your son. He’s had a DUI. You have to come pick him up.”
The pastor gets out of bed, goes down to the precinct, and explains who he is and that he’s here for his son. They look at him perplexed. They have no idea what’s he’s talking about. OK, it’s Chicago, I’m sure there’s a lot of precincts. So, he goes to the next precinct. Same thing. They have no idea what he’s talking about. He goes to two more precincts. All of a sudden, it’s 4:00 a.m. Church is in a few hours. He’s not going to go back to sleep. So, he decides to go the last place he remembers his son living, which was in a derelict part of town, it was a crack house.
He goes in and people are sleeping all over the place. He looks around and he locates his son sleeping on a mattress in a back room. At 5:00 a.m. in this hell hole his heartbreaks. He falls to his knees, then he kisses his son. And then he gets up and leaves.
About four months later the son shows up at the house. Then he shows up again three weeks later. Then again two weeks later. Soon, he’s there all the time. Slowly, he’s integrated back into the life of the family. His father asked him one day what the heck happened. What transpired that took you out of the life you were in?
The son said, “Dad, don’t you know? It was that night. You know the night you got the call. It was one of my friends playing a prank on you. We all laughed thinking about how you, getting ready for church, would have to spend your night in precincts looking for me – imagining the look on your face when you go to the officer’s desk.
“But the one thing we never imagined is that you’d come to the house where I lived. Dad, we saw you coming down the street and we all dove for the beds. I wasn’t asleep that night. When you walked into my room and found me, I knew you’d be so furious at me. I was readying myself for you to kick me as hard as you could. Do you want to know what changed me? You didn’t kick me. You kissed me. You kissed me and that changed everything.”
The Kiss of God. That’s what saves us. And to receive it, we need do nothing but acknowledge our deadness and receive it. When we attempt to make a name rather than receive it, God’s presence feels like it’s kicking us. But when we take the name Lazarus and God is our help, the Kiss of God raises the dead.
The Rev. Scott Jones is a popular podcaster and minister ordained in the Reformed Church in America who serves in the Philadelphia, PA area.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Joyful Twosome
“these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer, …”—Isaiah 56:7a

Last summer over a plate succulent BBQ, our best man, Loy, introduced us to his new love, Pam. Both of their spouses had died about two years ago. Both had known each other for years at the Fox Valley Presbyterian Church in Geneva, IL.

Yesterday, we gathered with Pam and Loy, their families and friends, and the worshipers at the FVPC for their wedding which was embedded in the regular Sunday morning worship.

Toward the end of the service, a ten minute ceremony united them in a touching and loving service that involved both familily and church. After they were united, we sang the closing hymn and heard the benediction.

The couple treated the congregation with Graham’s Ice Cream, a local creamery, with a dish for everyone. A Sunday of joy for Pam and Loy, their families, and the FVPC congregation.

This is a model for the rest of us—performing services for members in the midst of worship. I once conducted a funeral during a regular worship. The grieving family shared their grief in the context of worship.

Pam and Loy will be spending their winter in Mason, Texas, building homes for Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is a passion of Pam’s which Loy easily embraced.

I give blessings to Pam and Loy, and the Fox Valley Presbyterian Church for a joyous Sunday worship.

  1. Sunday, August 18, 2019

Life’s Internal Operating System

“So God created humankind in his image—Genesis 1:27a; “The fruits of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”—Galatians 5:22

I fantasized that our lives may be compared to the smart phone and its operating system. We have the basic operating system that we are born with and download our parent’s apps to use as we navigate on our journey through the world. The basic operating system feels, thinks, and judges—critically or nurturing. I think we are born with the joy app.

As we grow older, we download the apps that our parents use. We depend on our parents to keep us sheltered, fed, cleaned and safe. Mothers offer food, warmth and gentleness as babies. Fathers care for us by cuddling, carrying and providing for our basic needs.

Some moms work and the baby learns that she is busy with other activities. The child downloads the app that those around them use the most. Some use the family of apps that are kindness, gentleness, joy, patience which are loving. Babies enjoy other babies and adults around them.

Other families use apps from a family that do not work well: anger, hate, meanness, and other babies seem strange and not good. The adults around do not like other adults nor themselves. 

Like the smart phone we get notifications when our systems are not working well. When we get sick and throw up, we call the doctor We call tech support when the smart phone acts up. 

Children grow into adults and are likely to use the same apps that their parents used. The Divine apps of love, thought, empathy, hard work, gentleness are used in their lives. They like themselves and others.

Those using the world family apps of power, greed, hate, and mischief will become corrupt and stop working well. Hackers are out to hack just about everyone. Hackers peddle their apps on every corner. The correction is a software life reboot to purge the operating system of malware.

The human needs to update frequently so life will function well.  Apple updates my devices every week or so. Life systems need to get the Divine Update regularly.

Let those who have eyes to see the message be blessed with an new way of looking at life as though we were smart phones.

Friday, March 22, 2019

“May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.” -Psalm 25:21

Joyfully, I maintain integrity when in a disability state.

The other day I waited outside of a restaurant for my friend to pull his car to the curb. I stood still with my walker in tow. All of a sudden a man grabbed the walker and started pulling the walker over the curb.

He assumed that I was stuck didn’t ask if I needed help. His assumption angered me. Instead, I said,” Wait!” I informed him that I was waiting for my ride to pull closer to the curb.

My memory returns to my learning about assumptions. Gestalt guru, Fritz Perls, taught assumptions were destructive. He said to “assume makes an ass out of you and me.” This is true. Uncomfortable feelings are left when someone doesn’t ask before jumping in to help when I didn’t ask for help.

This is my request to everyone. Ask before you offer help to people. Please don’t start helping before you know what’s going on with the person you are helping. The person who grabbed my walker could have knocked me down.

I will maintain my integrity by quickly telling you what’s going on with me.

Today’s Joy
Monday, January 14, 2019
I have baptized you with water; …“ —Mark 1:8a

Many churches talked about baptism yesterday as the baptism of Jesus comes in the day’s scriptures.
My mom told me that I was baptized in September following my June birth. I was baptized by a minister in the United Methodist Church.

As a United Church of Christ minister, I baptized both of my sons when I was pastor of the Congregational -UCC Church in Manson, Iowa.

Baptism in most families is a rite of passage for children. I taught as a pastor that baptism was an acknowledgement that a child is a gift from God and the parents covenant to raise the child in ways of God. I tell the adult or youth that I baptise
that they covenant to follow the ways of God in Jesus Christ.

It means to love self and love neighbor by treating all people equally. I believe in worshipping in a community of faith and doing the work of that community to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, release to the captive and proclaim the year of our Lord.

Too often, parents baptize their children and a party follows. Then, forget the vows they made for the children.

One church I served had worshipers repeat the vows of baptism once a year during a service in January. If you are a Christian, I invite you to renew your baptism vows today.

Today’s Joy
Sunday, January 13, 2019
“a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”—Proverbs 31:30b

A Special Day 

I write about church things usually on Sundays. Today, I am taking a moment to celebrate January 13 for it is a joy in my family.

Marie Edith Tinsley Hempel, my mother, was born on this day at Rosenberg, Texas, to Olga Mae Campbell Tinsley and Henderson L. Tinsley. She had a difficult life in those days. Her mom died of scarlet fever, I believe, at an early age. Her grandmother raised her, her sister (Florence) and her brother (Ira) with her own children.

She attended school until the eighth grade. She told me about riding in a wagon to the Presbyterian Church in East Columbia. She met and married my dad when she worked at The Fair, Inc., a clothing store in West Columbia.

Every Sunday morning she sat in the same pew at the Columbia Methodist Church in West Columbia. After I left home, she lived with her cousin, Margaret, on her ranch with another relative, Bee. She came to Iowa for the remainder of her life after a hospitalization in Wharton, Texas.

She lived with Elaine & I for a time and then in senior housing before going into a nursing home.

I called her this day 35 years ago from Trinity Regional Hospital in Fort Dodge,Iowa, to tell her she had her first grandson, Edward Garold Hempel. Her response was, “That’s mighty fine.” He was named for his grandfathers.
She watched him as he grew. Ed pushed her around in her wheelchair on evening visits. She died a couple years after Ed was born.

I remember my mom this morning who lived a good life and who knew both of her grandsons before her death. Happy Birthday, Marie and Eddie.