Workshop: “Energizing Your Joy: Creating a Caring Community”

Saturday, August 3, 2019 11:00 to 12:30 University B

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

“when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?” —Job 38:7

The Morning Ritual

Two years of writing a daily “Today’s Joy” have developed into a ritual. 

First, I asked the question: What is a joy today?  Some days, the answer is obvious. Yesterday, the weather was hot and humid—thus ice cream came to mind. I wrote about old fashioned home made ice cream.  The news offers joy—when wheelchair bound Ali Stoker, won the 2019 Tony Award for featured actress in a musical. A memory will surface from my love of baseball, radio, food, etc.

Next, I use Bible gateway’s biblical search engine. I found 267 times that the word joy is used in the Bible. Using the New Revised Standard Version, I choose a passage from Job that seemed to fit this morning. I copy and paste this into my manuscript.

I start writing basic thoughts on joy for that day. The more I write the easier the words come. I admit that some days the words do not flow easy. I keep working until the document is complete. I write about six paragraphs.

Next, I use a button to move the words from Apple’s notes app into FaceBook. I check it over after it it published on FB. Some days we find a word that didn’t appear as it was written which calls for an edit. We read over the FB edition and do a final edit. A few mis-takes get past me. My wife finds those.

Then, we wait to see if our joy connects with your joy.  I ask you for your joys on Saturdays and many of you have responded. 

I believe this has become “my pulpit” that I trust you will find your joys as I have found mine. 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

“and from the age of fifty yeas they shall retire from the duty of the service and serve no more.” —Numbers 8:25

Sunday Sleeping In

After being retired for five, I finally was able to sleep in on a Sunday morning to 7 a.m.

I woke up feeling rested and was immediately aware that the feeling of being free from Sunday morning chores was no more.

It is true that I will preach one Sunday in August and I have to plan my 50th anniversary service in November. The main truth is that I am not in charge of a Sunday service.

I can enjoy getting ready for worship as a pew sitter. The hymns, the prayers, and the sermon are someone else’s responsibility.

It has taken five years and some months before the full awareness has set in. I remember preparing the service in relationship to the Church Liturgical Year. 

I can go ahead with the normal morning chores of dressing, breakfast and getting to church. The service is Pastor Joe’s service and not mine. 

I will sing the hymns, offer my prayers and hear the sermon as a retired minister with no responsibilities. 

Today, the full impact of retirement set on this Sunday morning. I can sleep in without worrying about what happens during Sunday worship.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

Wrigley Beagle Hempel joined the Hounds of Heaven in Eternity at 10:22 p.m., August 8, 2017.

His family woke up this morning with deep grief and surrounded by a multitude of loving friends locally and in our FaceBook Community. Grief is eased by your posts of love and support.

JOY TO JASON—He found Wrigley roaming the streets of Westchester on a bitter cold January night near the Middle School. Frightened and wild, it took a while to corral him. He took him home and gave him a warm bath. Only then did Wrigley settle down as the ice melted from his paws. Jason call the authorities and could not find an owner. So, he brought Wrigley to Aaron for we had lost Abby, our miniature Dachshund, a year before. Bless Jason’s heart, he and his fiancé who stopped by Monday night to say their goodbyes.

JOY TO CAROL— Carol has been Wrigley’s number one girlfriend. She cared for him when the family was out of town. She stopped by to care for him when we were away for a few hours. He loved to ride in her red Explorer. He did cry some times when she left without him. As soon as she drove in the drive way, he raced to the back door to greet her. My favorite joy is on Sunday mornings when Elaine left early for choir practice. Later, Carol picked me up for worship. As soon as I put on my coat, he was on the back on the couch looking for her. He started barking his “hello” as soon as the red Explored pulled into the driveway. He watched as we drove away.

JOY TO THE CARE-TAKERS—Joy to the McCarthy family and the Bender family who cared for Wrigley when Carol wasn’t available. These folk are a part of our church family.

JOY TO HIS ADMIRES — A friend remarked on meeting him that he had the most beautiful eyes of any animal she had met. Wrigley was kind and gentle to most persons who came into our home. His intuition seemed to sense who the friendly folks were. 

JOY TO FB FRIENDS — who met him through his pictures and stories posted here. Thank you for the wonderful love you have given me and my family during this tough hours.

J

JOY TO HIS MEMORY— He taught us how to love equally, To learn to get what you want. His doggy behavior that had loved to grab food left too close to the table. The list goes one.  Finally, Joy to you and your loving support. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

“The man named his wife, Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” —Genesis 3:20

Celebrating all Mothers with joy on Mother’s Day.

Marie, my mom who be 115 years old if she were still living. 

Several years ago, my mom came to visit me from Texas. Elaine and I were at worship early with choir and preacher duties. Mom made her way to her to the third pew, her usual spot in her home church.

An older lady came to pew and sat down. She began a conversation in which she told her that the current minister was not very good. Shortly after she began her rant,mom interrupted her. Mom said, “Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Marie Tinsley Hempel and you had better get on your knees and ask God for forgiveness.”

The lady changed her tune after she offer her critique of me. She invited mom to a women’s church event. She offered to drive her to the event. She came to our home and drove her to the event.

When mother came to live with us, she continued the practice of driving her to women’s meetings. She did this until mom’s death. She brought food to the house and attended her funeral.

Mom refused to tell me the name of the person. A church member told me the story. I hunched it was her because I knew the lady didn’t like me when I came. Mom’s confrontation changed her perspective. 

That’s my favorite story about my mom. She supported me as a minister who was her son.

Celebrating all Mothers with joy on Mother’s Day.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

“Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.” —Romans 16:16

AN ECUMENICAL FUNERAL

An ecumenical funeral becomes a joyful event.

A colleague of mine is a bishop in a non-Roman Catholic group. Several years a go he called me to ask if his mother’s funeral could be held in my UCC church. I gave a tentative yes and got a green light from my Church Council. 

He wanted to take part in her service and rules of her church forbid a priest from outside the Roman Catholics from officiating at her service. We opened the UCC sanctuary.

I met him and his priests at her wake the night prior to the funeral. A brother of their order came with me to the kitchen of my church to prepare the incense for the funeral. 

The day of her funeral I donned my meager black robe for her prayer service at the funeral home. After the service, the group walked behind the hearse to the UCC building. The scene was quite unique for the East Side of Chicago. Behind the hearse walked the clergy in their full colorful vestments with special hats as well as me in my plain Protestant robe. And, behind the clergy were the motorcycle group in which the Bishop belonged. 

At the church, the service went extremely well with incense incorporated into the Mass. I read scripture and a prayer. After, I rode to the graveside with the priests followed by lunch with these colleagues. 

This was an amazing ecumenical funeral with joy and celebration of life.

Monday, June 10, 2019

“Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled in his feet..”–Second Samuel 4:4a

Tonys “Can’t Say No”

The character, Ado Annie, in the musical, “Oklahoma,” sings the catching tune, “I’m a girl who just can’t say no..” which was one perky numbers from the show.

Actress, Ali Stoker, won the 2019 Tony Award for featured actress in a musical. The perky blonde is wheelchair bound and performs from her chair. A powerful singer, she sings, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no”, while moving here and there in her chair. I was blown away at her performance.  Apparently, so were the Tonys.

Ali has been paralyzed since the age of two, “Thank you, thank you so much. This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who had a disability, a limitation, a challenge, who has waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are.” 

I was moved by her acceptance speech. Once, I was married to a woman who was handicapped by polio. I am handicapped by aging limbs. 

Alis’ win gives power to all persons who are challenged  by physical limitations. She said she grew up “always looking for role models who were in chairs.” The UCC Disabilities Ministries quickly supported the Tony victory for Ali.

She beamed as she accepted the award and I beam too in her joy

“Listen and hear my voice, pay attention, and hear my speech.” —Isaiah 28:23

The Creator created us with a individual capacity.

God created each of us with a capacity to recognize each other in a special way.

Dr. Fritz Perls taught that each human wanted attention, appreciation and affection. As a pastoral therapist, I refer to this capacity as “Triple A.” 

In my work with individuals, I attempt to find out what is special in their lives. In my ministry with them, I acknowledge their what is important to them as a form of attention. I remember telling a widow on the death of her spouse that “you two were madly in love.” She said yes and welled up into tears. I knew she had lost her best friend. 

I have known friends who have treated you as you were the most important person when you are in their presence. You feel special in their presence. They give Triple A abundantly. I have a friend who gives hugs in that manor. 

Let us remember that each person that we meet wants attention, affection and appreciation in the same way we crave attention, affection, and appreciation  I feel joy when I get Triple A

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NRSV

I woke up on this Tuesday, August 1 wondering what I have to be joyful for today? My mind searched for something specific. Then, I was handed a hot cup of coffee and my joy moment came. Today, I am thankful for my morning coffee.

There are some simple rules that I stand by as I drink my morning cup: 1. Drink slowly; 2. Savor the aroma and take a deep breath; 3. Keep away from my computer and don’t spill on the keyboard; and, 4. Enjoy!

As I drink my first cup, I am reminded of the Manhattan Transfer’s “Java Jive”. I  can hear it now. 

I love coffee, I love tea

I love the java jive and it loves me

Coffee and tea and the java and me

A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (boy!)

Joy to the morning cup of coffee. Grab a cup of your morning brew and join me.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.” John 12:21 (NRSV)

Today’s joy is breakfast. I enjoy breakfast because it is the first meal of the day. You break the fast from sleep and eat.

My menu is consists of several things—eggs, cereal; toast and coffee. Some mornings I cook scrambled eggs and and an English muffin with my coffee. I like Multigrain Cherrios with a banana. Other times, it is oatmeal and toast.

My family ritual has to watch the morning news on the Today Show.

A couple of days a week I join a group of friends from cardiac rehab that have been gathering for 15 years over coffee at a local McDonalds. I have an egg biscuit. Sundays, I sometimes I gather with my church buddies for brunch following worship. I like to eat a bacon omelette. I enjoy my friends and visiting over a good meal.

Joy to breakfast—it’s foods and fellowship as a new day begins. I trust you enjoyed your breakfast today.

Today’s Joy

Thursday, August 3, 2017

20 You shall eat it, you together with your household, in the presence of the Lord your God year by year at the place that the Lord will choose.” —Deuteronomy 15:20 (NRSV)

The BLT is my joy today. I love bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. I had one for lunch yesterday.

My wife fixes the best tasting BLTs. She cooks the bacon to a nice crispy consistency with the grease drained. Tomatoes are nice and ripe during the summer time with fresh lettuce. Toasted whole wheat bread keeps the bacon and tomato flavor together.

We have one problem in our household. If you leave the plate too close to table’s edge, our beagle will grab the top slice of bread as he did yesterday. It is our fault to leave the plate so he can grab it. Oh, we are supposed to share.

Simply, joy to the BLT. What is your favorite sandwich during summer? Joy to our favorite food and those we partake with, even our pets.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Psalm 150:3 (NRSV)

Joy today to summer music concerts. I have enjoyed summer concerts in the park and other venues most of my adult life.

When my sons were young, we went to the concert in the park. Every Sunday afternoon, the Karl King Band performed in the park in nearby Fort Dodge, Iowa.   Karl King ran a local music store and wrote over 300 compositions. He was best known for his marches, especially “The Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite” And, he gathered musicians in the local park to  play band music on Sunday afternoons. After he died, Fort Dodge musicians continued the tradition. One of my parishioners played in the band.

As sons became oder and mobile, they found their own concerts. They liked The Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, Matelica and so forth. They still go to concerts.

Our little village of La Grange Park has concerts in the park every Wednesday night. One of our annual treks is to the free concert at Elmhurst College with their jazz band with big name artists.

Chicago has a summer park, Ravinia, at Deerfield which is the oldest outdoor park in the country. We have heard several concerts there with top stars during the years. People sit on the lawn— bringing picnic baskets with wine, etc.  We heard Dolly Paton the last time we went. It is a joyful summer event.

I hope you are taking advantage of the summer music concerts in your neighborhood. They are  joyful times

Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1


Saturdays are my day off. I invite you to post a joy in your world. Joy to your joy.

Today’s Joy is written by an old friend whom I have known for years. I first knew her when she was in kindergarten in Hayward, California. Today, she lives in the Bay Area and works at a veterinary eye doctor in the Oakland area. Thanks, Nancy Williams for your joyful memory.

Bob, your “joy to your morning cup of coffee” caused me to think of the “little things in life.” Yes, even enjoying a cup of coffee. That I’m enjoying it within the shelter of my home, as well as looking back on my long time friendship with you. 

Oh, and I always loved the Manhattan Transfers’ recording of that song [“Java Jive”]. One memory I have, was having worked at a veterinary emergency hospital in Berkeley in the late 80’s. I worked graveyard shifts, and had that very Manhattan Transfer recording on cassette, and used to play it during my shift caring for animals throughout the evening while the doctor on duty caught some Z’s.

Joy to that memory.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Ephesians 5:19

Hymns of joy are today’s joy.  The joy theme abounds in our church music. Bach’s “Joy of Man’s Desiring” is a cornerstone of joyful Church music.

I find the joy in a pipe organ’s trumpet stops blasting awayb the joy of God in a Bach number or some other joyful music.

We sing hymns of joy during Christmas such as “Joy to the World” which I have used in worship for the past 48 years of ministry. At Easter we sing “Christ the Lord Has Risen, Hallelujah.” There are many hymns of joy during Christmas and Easter.

During the ordinary time of the Church, we sing “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” from the Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9” which he wrote as a deaf man. This music has been the source of other hymns and choral anthems.

This Sunday in August I hear the melody of a summer camp song that I recall from days in Montana at Camp Mimanagish (The Place of the Singing Waters on the Bolder River)

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Where?

Down in my heart!

Where?

Down in my heart!

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

On this Sunday, may we have “the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.

Monday, August 7, 2017

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”  Ecclesiastes 9:7

Home made pie is today’s joy. The best pie doesn’t come from the supermarket nor the restaurant. It is made at home.

My mom’s speciality was lemon meringue pie. As a child, I couldn’t with to finish my meal on the table and get to mom’s meringue pie.

In my 48 years of ministry, I have been introduced to a variety of wonderful pie and pie bakers. My joy from Montana was rhubarb pie. The parishioner introduced me to rhubarb when I arrived in town. Her rhubarb pie, I believe, was a masterpiece. Years later when I went back to visit, she remembered and baked me one. 

I have enjoy various kinds of pies in my years as a pastor. There are some excellent pie makers in the churches in Iowa that I served. I love apple pie a la mode as a rule.

I am impressed by the women who can make a good crust and mix the fruits and ingredients to a great filling. Then, bake these delicacies with perfection. These people are artists. I remember one man in the a church who was the champion pie baker in the church. He would be asked to bake several for a church bake sale. His pies were the first to go.

I will make an exception. I have found restaurants where pies have been a very good. Many times these are local places in small towns. There are exceptions in the city, too. No matter where it is baked, a good pie is a good pie.

Joy to the artists who bake wonderful pies. Joy to our eating them.

Today’s Joy

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

I have a mixture of sadness and joy this morning. I am sad for my buddy, Wrigley, lays on the couch beside me near death.

My joy is that this Beagle has given us ten years of companionship and love. He is truly a lover. Even in his weakness, he wants to spend time with each member of the family. He has been known be in his parent’s room for an hour or two. Then, go downstairs to be with our son Ed and then come up stairs after an hour or two to be with our son Aaron. 

When we picked him up yesterday at the vet, he saw another dog and started barking. I reminded him that he’s still got it. He has a large mass on his liver that has sent him down him down hill in the few weeks. 

He liked to sit on top of the couch and look out the picture window and bark at all passers by this has been his throne for the past ten years. Until this year, he won “the loudest” pet at the pet blessing at our church every year.

He has a powerful nose. He got off the couch Sunday night when I got some cookies Sunday night. And, I shared a small piece with him. Wrigley and I shared dessert together. I had ice cream with a banana daily and Wrigley licked the bowl. I said that he could get dishes ready for the final wash in the dishwasher.

Yes, I am have teary eyes this morning as I write “Today’s Joy”. And, I still feel enough JOY to  write. JOY TO WRIGLEY, you are and will always be a JOY!

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

Wrigley Beagle Hempel joined the Hounds of Heaven in Eternity at 10:22 p.m., August 8, 2017.

His family woke up this morning with deep grief and surrounded by a multitude of loving friends locally and in our FaceBook Community. Grief is eased by your posts of love and support.

JOY TO JASON—He found Wrigley roaming the streets of Westchester on a bitter cold January night near the Middle School. Frightened and wild, it took a while to corral him. He took him home and gave him a warm bath. Only then did Wrigley settle down as the ice melted from his paws. Jason call the authorities and could not find an owner. So, he brought Wrigley to Aaron for we had lost Abby, our miniature Dachshund, a year before. Bless Jason’s heart, he and his fiancé who stopped by Monday night to say their goodbyes.

JOY TO CAROL— Carol has been Wrigley’s number one girlfriend. She cared for him when the family was out of town. She stopped by to care for him when we were away for a few hours. He loved to ride in her red Explorer. He did cry some times when she left without him. As soon as she drove in the drive way, he raced to the back door to greet her. My favorite joy is on Sunday mornings when Elaine left early for choir practice. Later, Carol picked me up for worship. As soon as I put on my coat, he was on the back on the couch looking for her. He started barking his “hello” as soon as the red Explored pulled into the driveway. He watched as we drove away.

JOY TO THE CARE-TAKERS—Joy to the McCarthy family and the Bender family who cared for Wrigley when Carol wasn’t available. These folk are a part of our church family.

JOY TO HIS ADMIRES — A friend remarked on meeting him that he had the most beautiful eyes of any animal she had met. Wrigley was kind and gentle to most persons who came into our home. His intuition seemed to sense who the friendly folks were. 

JOY TO FB FRIENDS — who met him through his pictures and stories posted here. Thank you for the wonderful love you have given me and my family during this tough hours.

JOY TO HIS MEMORY— He taught us how to love equally, To learn to get what you want. His doggy behavior that had loved to grab food left too close to the table. The list goes one.  Finally, Joy to you and your loving support. 

Today’s Joy

Thursday, August 10, 2017

“He [Jesus] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” — Luke 10:27 (NRSV)

Today, I give joy to the mind. Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell remembered her teacher, Dr. James Melvin Washington, told her “thinking is a form of prayer”.

Dr. Terrell, a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, shared this quote on FaceBook recently. Joy welled up in my soul as I read. This is TRUE!

In my 80 years, many folks don’t love with their minds very well. Society gets by with the least amount of brain power. I think many of life’s problems may be solved by thinking.

Someone asked me in my 48 years of ministry what helped chart a new course of my ministry. Immediately, I flashed by to a conversation when I was on the staff of The Garden Chapel at the California State Prison at San Quentin.

Laced with many profane words, an inmate said to me, “stop talking in those store bought words.” His comment caused me to pause. I was recently graduated with a Master of Theology from the great Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University. I was smug about all this great knowledge.

The inmate, in reality, asked me to think about my choice of words. “Don’t talk down to me.” He reminded me that I want to use appropriate words for each situation.

I saw a young friend put down in a public school for being the brightest person in her class. She was “too smart”. Her wise parents moved her to different school. That fall I visited her new school and immediately knew she was in a place of acceptance. She adjusted well in her new classroom.

Dr. Washington and Dr. Terrell are right. Thinking is a form of prayer.

Joy to the mind. May each of us use our brain power wisely in our lives today and every day.

Today’s Joy

Friday, August 11, 2017

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalms 119:50

First, Good bless all of you for the many posts to my “Today’s Joy” on Wednesday about the loss of Wrigley. Your kindness brought me joy.

Second, I write about the joy of facing grief immediately rather than later. 

Two instances in my life taught me how to face grief. Wrigley’s death reminded me of that truth. My parent’s death offers a good example.

My dad died at the age of 56 when I was 11. The people around me didn’t have the training in grief work. I silently suffered for 20 years. I was in a month long workshop at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy. In a role-playing exercise, I experienced the pain of my father’s death. My exercise partner was a retired family physician who skillfully led me through the process. Almost immediately, I felt relief and began to let my tears surface. My grief work was delayed for twenty years.

On the other hand, my mother died while living with our family in Iowa. I decided to peach her funeral sermon. I knew my mother better than anyone else. I asked the local United Methodist pastor to officiate, (Mom was a die hard Methodist.) It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We took her body back to our home church for her old friends and  relatives in  Texas. There I preached her funeral sermon again.

As the congregation sang the hymn, “For All the Saints, who from their labors rest..”, I felt a sense of relief and joy. The Iowa service was  a Good Friday  experience for me while the Texas service was like Easter morning.

The contrast between the grief for my dad and for my mom was as different as night and day. I faced his grief silently for 20 years before facing my grief for my dad. I faced my grief for my mom immediately. The grief was less consuming. I am not saying it was easy. 

The joy is the insight that our bodies must face grief sooner or later. It is best to face it sooner, than later.

Today’s Joy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1

Today’s Joy is written by an old friend whom I have known for years. I first knew her when she was in kindergarten at Hayward, California. Today, she lives in the Bay Area (San Francisco/Oakland). She works for a veterinary eye doctor in the Oakland area. Thanks, Nancy Williams for your joyful memory.

“Bob, your ‘joy to your morning cup of coffee’ caused me to think of the ‘little things in life’. Yes, even enjoying a cup of coffee. That I’m enjoying it within the shelter of my home, as well as looking back on my long time friendship with you. 

“Oh, and I always loved the Manhattan Transfers’ recording of that song [“Java Jive”]. One memory I have, was having worked at a veterinary emergency hospital in Berkeley in the late 80’s. I worked graveyard shifts, and had that very Manhattan Transfer recording on cassette. And, I used to play it during my shift caring for animals throughout the evening while the doctor on duty caught some Z’s.”

Joy to that memory.

Today’s Joy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” —Romans 15:7

Acceptance is the theme for today’s joy. As I have studied during 48 years of ministry, I believe acceptance is the basic key to all God’s Word.

Dr. Paul Tillich (1886-1968), was a brilliant theologian of the last century. He stated that the heart of the Gospel was “accept the fact that you are accepted.”

Tillich fled Nazi German and came to the USA to teach theology. I had the good fortune to hear Tillich at the church I attended during seminary. A question was asked him if there was a nuclear holocaust and all of us were killed, “Would our lives be worth it?” Tillich answered, “Yes, because all are accepted.”

I listen to “Story Core” Fridays on “Morning Edition” on public radio. An African American son of a pastor stole a car at age 15. He spent 7 years in prison. His mom, the pastor, was devastated. He told her before prison all he remembered was her telling him to get his shoes on because “we have to get to church”. After he went to prison, she started pouring her heart out to him in letters. He looked back as an adult and said in those letters he felt he heard her love for the first time. She was so busy being a pastor she forgot to be a mom. Reconciliation came when they both accepted each other. 

In our world today, people don’t accept one another. Acceptance means accepting every person in the world equally as a child of God. Each persons is valuable. The world’s people haven’t learned to accept each other. Globally we focus only on the differences of race, economics, ethnicity and residency. 

Peace will only come when each of us learn to accept each person as a valuable being. Let us embrace the joy of acceptance individually and as a society. 

Today’s Joy

Monday, August 14, 2017

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” —Romans 15:13

Joy itself is today’s joy. “Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. Albert Einstein.

I find joy in living. I remember being on mountain once with several friends. My group made ready for a workshop and we were sitting around tired after the day’s work. The group ended up discussing gravity with puns, “gravity is TOO HEAVY!” For the longest time, one by one each would add another pun on gravity followed by roaring laughter. Then, a period of silence before another person thought to pun gravity. I feel joy remembering this evening of laughter.

Yesterday, I was a part of a church group who had lunch with new staff member after a long, difficult search process. There was joy and relief in the group. Our waitress was told the reason for large group. She  brought a pancake with a candle decorated with frosting saying, “Congratulations,” to the new staff person which added joy.

One of the ordinary events in most households is the loss of keys, a cell phone or something vital. Most people breathe a sigh of relief and move on. If we will play close attention, there is a moment of joy when the object is found. I decided to take a moment to experience the joy.

I feel joy when I have completed a sermon even if it is early Sunday morning or late Saturday night. As we finish projects, let us take a moment to experience our joy.

Einstein’s words about joy caused me to remember a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Nature has so many joyful scenes. Let us experience the joy in daily living, too. Pay attention. You may surprise yourself. 

.

Today’s Joy

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”— Romans 8:15 (NRSV)

Joy is the a learning a new thought today. In the Bible, there is a difference between being fearful  and being afraid. Scholars taught me “fear of the Lord” means “standing in awe of God” I had a grandparent tell me her grandson was describing his dad as “AWESOME!” I joyfully describe God as awesome.

Afraid is a different animal. God created each with fear so we can know when danger is near. My mentor, Dr. Robert Goulding, M.D., taught me if a semi came into my lane on the way to his house that I would get mighty scared. Fear is a signal to protect us from harm. Dr. Bob taught us if we were still scared hours later it is destructive—not healthy.
In my life, I have too often been fearful. My mom grew up with many things to be fearful about. Her mom died when she was six. She lived with her grandmother afterwards and it wasn’t easy. It took me a long time to figure out that the fear I learned as a child was mom’s fear and not mine. Yet there was force within my mom that kept encouraging me, love.

I read the other day that fear kills dreams, This is true. One the other hand, joy promotes hope and opportunity. I understand this principle. I decided that I would move beyond fear and be joyful. It feels better and is more alive. 

There is places in the Bible where the fear of God is not always used as an awesome God. I will leave that for later. There is plenty to be afraid for our safety in today’s world. 

And, God is awesome today. Be not afraid and decide to be the joyful which gives hope and promise. 

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” —Romans 12: 15 (NRSV)

Empathy brings today’s joy. I define empathy as listening to the heart of a person and responding appropriately.

I learned Empathy from my mentor, Dr. Natalie Reader Haimowitz. She was a psychologist who was trained by Dr. Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago. She always reminded me that Rogers was a Presbyterian minster before he was a psychologist/professor. She learned empathy from him.

She always carried balloons in her purse. When she found a child in destress, she grabbed a balloon, blew it up and gave it to the child no matter where she was in the airport, the beach or the store.

In my several years of study with her and her husband Morris, I experienced empathy. The following story illustrates empathy. 

I had open heart surgery and was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit when the nurse told me I had a call from my dad. Being factual, I said my died a long time ago and refused the call. Later, a light bulb went off in my head. Minutes later my hunch was true that Morris and Natalie had called. They said that wanted to know how I was doing and the nurse blocked their calls so Morris told them he was my dad.

Natalie taught me how to precisely tune my empathy. In a stressful situation, she knew how to say the exact words which needed to be said. I used this teaching to comfort a widow whose husband died unexpectedly of a heart incident. At the wake, I gave her a hug and said, “you two were madly in love.” She nodded her head as tears flowed down from her cheeks.

The last time I saw her at a farewell party. She had difficulty speaking and said to me, “remember Carl Rogers and empathy”. Go and listen to the hearts of the people whom you love and speak gentle words of compassion to them. Joy to empathy. 

Today’s Joy

Thursday, August 17, 2017

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands! —Psalm 90:17 (NRSV)

The theme is the joy of doing work. I believe work may be a joyful and fun task. Too often work is defined as drudgery or is demonized. Work is also seen as boring. 

I decided to make work joyful. The internet made sermon writing a joyful process. In the old days, I lifted heavy books searching for the right commentary or quote for a particular text. Now, I have favorite websites where I go to find scholarly Biblical material. If I mis-spell a word, I copy the word and open the dictionary on my desktop. I paste the mis-spelled word in the search box and seconds later the correct spelling appears with details about the word. What fun!

I love to make presentations with slides for teaching and sermons. I love to build slide shows using my computer, iPad and iPhone. I can add video clips, sound or add a cameo appearance. For FaceBook, I made slides on ideas and photos to post on my timeline on my gadgets.

I have friend whom I work with on a committee. I write a draft and she literally loves to “word-smith” my words. She “tinkers” with my drafts and arranges my words in a way that makes my point crystal clear. Joy to her gift of “tinkering”.

And, I must not forget my wife frequently invites me to leave my work-space of writing, slideshows and the like to clean-out the dishwasher. Those tasks must also be done. It gives me a break. 

Also, I enjoy having a work-space where good music is in the background. It provides a calming and safe atmosphere. 

I delight in my finished project which most of the time gives me joy. I invite you to make work a joyful experience.  On that one, you’re it. 

Today’s Joy

Friday, August 18, 2017

“But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. —Genesis 21:9

One of my greatest joys is baseball. During baseball season, I am listening to baseball on the radio or watching it on television.

When I was 13, a knee energy confined me to inside and the only thing on the radio was baseball. In the Houston area was only a St. Louis Cardinal farm team, the Houston Buffaloes. I listen to every Buff game on the radio. As I got older, I listened to Red Barber call The Game of the Week every Saturday.

I gradually found the Los Angeles Dodgers and Vince Scully. “Vinny” described game with such clarity that you felt like you were in the stadium. He said he was a reporter giving you the game story. I would drive the back roads of Eastern Montana listening to a LA station with Scully calling the games. The station came in very well after dark. My uncle lived in Long Beach and I listened to one of Koufax’s no-hitters with him one evening.

When I moved to the Midwest, the local cable television had the Chicago Cubs games on WGN-TV. Since coming to Chicagoland, we listen to Cubs on radio in the car or at home on television. 

Last season when the Cubs won the world series, I listened daily during that season and celebrated with joy when they won against the Cleveland Indians. 

Is baseball of your joys of summer?

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

Wrigley Beagle Hempel joined the Hounds of Heaven in Eternity at 10:22 p.m., August 8, 2017.

His family woke up this morning with deep grief and surrounded by a multitude of loving friends locally and in our FaceBook Community. Grief is eased by your posts of love and support.

JOY TO JASON—He found Wrigley roaming the streets of Westchester on a bitter cold January night near the Middle School. Frightened and wild, it took a while to corral him. He took him home and gave him a warm bath. Only then did Wrigley settle down as the ice melted from his paws. Jason call the authorities and could not find an owner. So, he brought Wrigley to Aaron for we had lost Abby, our miniature Dachshund, a year before. Bless Jason’s heart, he and his fiancé who stopped by Monday night to say their goodbyes.

JOY TO CAROL— Carol has been Wrigley’s number one girlfriend. She cared for him when the family was out of town. She stopped by to care for him when we were away for a few hours. He loved to ride in her red Explorer. He did cry some times when she left without him. As soon as she drove in the drive way, he raced to the back door to greet her. My favorite joy is on Sunday mornings when Elaine left early for choir practice. Later, Carol picked me up for worship. As soon as I put on my coat, he was on the back on the couch looking for her. He started barking his “hello” as soon as the red Explored pulled into the driveway. He watched as we drove away.

JOY TO THE CARE-TAKERS—Joy to the McCarthy family and the Bender family who cared for Wrigley when Carol wasn’t available. These folk are a part of our church family.

JOY TO HIS ADMIRES — A friend remarked on meeting him that he had the most beautiful eyes of any animal she had met. Wrigley was kind and gentle to most persons who came into our home. His intuition seemed to sense who the friendly folks were. 

JOY TO FB FRIENDS — who met him through his pictures and stories posted here. Thank you for the wonderful love you have given me and my family during this tough hours.

JOY TO HIS MEMORY— He taught us how to love equally, To learn to get what you want. His doggy behavior that had loved to grab food left too close to the table. The list goes one.  Finally, Joy to you and your loving support. 

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

“Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.” —Romans 16:16

AN ECUMENICAL FUNERAL

An ecumenical funeral becomes a joyful event.

A colleague of mine is a bishop in a non-Roman Catholic group. Several years a go he called me to ask if his mother’s funeral could be held in my UCC church. I gave a tentative yes and got a green light from my Church Council. 

He wanted to take part in her service and rules of her church forbid a priest from outside the Roman Catholics from officiating at her service. We opened the UCC sanctuary.

I met him and his priests at her wake the night prior to the funeral. A brother of their order came with me to the kitchen of my church to prepare the incense for the funeral. 

The day of her funeral I donned my meager black robe for her prayer service at the funeral home. After the service, the group walked behind the hearse to the UCC building. The scene was quite unique for the East Side of Chicago. Behind the hearse walked the clergy in their full colorful vestments with special hats as well as me in my plain Protestant robe. And, behind the clergy were the motorcycle group in which the Bishop belonged. 

At the church, the service went extremely well with incense incorporated into the Mass. I read scripture and a prayer. After, I rode to the graveside with the priests followed by lunch with these colleagues. 

This was an amazing ecumenical funeral with joy and celebration of life.

Monday, June 10, 2019

“Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled in his feet..”–Second Samuel 4:4a

Tonys “Can’t Say No”

The character, Ado Annie, in the musical, “Oklahoma,” sings the catching tune, “I’m a girl who just can’t say no..” which was one perky numbers from the show.

Actress, Ali Stoker, won the 2019 Tony Award for featured actress in a musical. The perky blonde is wheelchair bound and performs from her chair. A powerful singer, she sings, “I’m just a girl who can’t say no”, while moving here and there in her chair. I was blown away at her performance.  Apparently, so were the Tonys.

Ali has been paralyzed since the age of two, “Thank you, thank you so much. This award is for every kid who is watching tonight who had a disability, a limitation, a challenge, who has waiting to see themselves represented in this arena. You are.” 

I was moved by her acceptance speech. Once, I was married to a woman who was handicapped by polio. I am handicapped by aging limbs. 

Alis’ win gives power to all persons who are challenged  by physical limitations. She said she grew up “always looking for role models who were in chairs.” The UCC Disabilities Ministries quickly supported the Tony victory for Ali.

She beamed as she accepted the award and I beam too in her joy.

Friday, August 3, 23018

“Listen and hear my voice, pay attention, and hear my speech.” —Isaiah 28:23

The Creator created us with a individual capacity.

God created each of us with a capacity to recognize each other in a special way.

Dr. Fritz Perls taught that each human wanted attention, appreciation and affection. As a pastoral therapist, I refer to this capacity as “Triple A.” 

In my work with individuals, I attempt to find out what is special in their lives. In my ministry with them, I acknowledge their what is important to them as a form of attention. I remember telling a widow on the death of her spouse that “you two were madly in love.” She said yes and welled up into tears. I knew she had lost her best friend. 

I have known friends who have treated you as you were the most important person when you are in their presence. You feel special in their presence. They give Triple A abundantly. I have a friend who gives hugs in that manor. 

Let us remember that each person that we meet wants attention, affection and appreciation in the same way we crave attention, affection, and appreciation  I feel joy when I get Triple A. 

August 1, 2017

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NRSV

I woke up on this Tuesday, August 1 wondering what I have to be joyful for today? My mind searched for something specific. Then, I was handed a hot cup of coffee and my joy moment came. Today, I am thankful for my morning coffee.

There are some simple rules that I stand by as I drink my morning cup: 1. Drink slowly; 2. Savor the aroma and take a deep breath; 3. Keep away from my computer and don’t spill on the keyboard; and, 4. Enjoy!

As I drink my first cup, I am reminded of the Manhattan Transfer’s “Java Jive”. I  can hear it now. 

I love coffee, I love tea

I love the java jive and it loves me

Coffee and tea and the java and me

A cup, a cup, a cup, a cup, a cup (boy!)

Joy to the morning cup of coffee. Grab a cup of your morning brew and join me.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord.” John 12:21 (NRSV)

Today’s joy is breakfast. I enjoy breakfast because it is the first meal of the day. You break the fast from sleep and eat.

My menu is consists of several things—eggs, cereal; toast and coffee. Some mornings I cook scrambled eggs and and an English muffin with my coffee. I like Multigrain Cherrios with a banana. Other times, it is oatmeal and toast.

My family ritual has to watch the morning news on the Today Show.

A couple of days a week I join a group of friends from cardiac rehab that have been gathering for 15 years over coffee at a local McDonalds. I have an egg biscuit. Sundays, I sometimes I gather with my church buddies for brunch following worship. I like to eat a bacon omelette. I enjoy my friends and visiting over a good meal.

Joy to breakfast—it’s foods and fellowship as a new day begins. I trust you enjoyed your breakfast today.

Today’s Joy

Thursday, August 3, 2017

20 You shall eat it, you together with your household, in the presence of the Lord your God year by year at the place that the Lord will choose.” —Deuteronomy 15:20 (NRSV)

The BLT is my joy today. I love bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches. I had one for lunch yesterday.

My wife fixes the best tasting BLTs. She cooks the bacon to a nice crispy consistency with the grease drained. Tomatoes are nice and ripe during the summer time with fresh lettuce. Toasted whole wheat bread keeps the bacon and tomato flavor together.

We have one problem in our household. If you leave the plate too close to table’s edge, our beagle will grab the top slice of bread as he did yesterday. It is our fault to leave the plate so he can grab it. Oh, we are supposed to share.

Simply, joy to the BLT. What is your favorite sandwich during summer? Joy to our favorite food and those we partake with, even our pets.

Today’s Joy

Friday, August 4, 2017

Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Psalm 150:3 (NRSV)

Joy today to summer music concerts. I have enjoyed summer concerts in the park and other venues most of my adult life.

When my sons were young, we went to the concert in the park. Every Sunday afternoon, the Karl King Band performed in the park in nearby Fort Dodge, Iowa.   Karl King ran a local music store and wrote over 300 compositions. He was best known for his marches, especially “The Barnum and Bailey’s Favorite” And, he gathered musicians in the local park to  play band music on Sunday afternoons. After he died, Fort Dodge musicians continued the tradition. One of my parishioners played in the band.

As sons became oder and mobile, they found their own concerts. They liked The Dave Matthews Band, Green Day, Matelica and so forth. They still go to concerts.

Our little village of La Grange Park has concerts in the park every Wednesday night. One of our annual treks is to the free concert at Elmhurst College with their jazz band with big name artists.

Chicago has a summer park, Ravinia, at Deerfield which is the oldest outdoor park in the country. We have heard several concerts there with top stars during the years. People sit on the lawn— bringing picnic baskets with wine, etc.  We heard Dolly Paton the last time we went. It is a joyful summer event.

I hope you are taking advantage of the summer music concerts in your neighborhood. They are  joyful times.

Today’s Joy

Saturday, August 5, 2017

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1


Saturdays are my day off. I invite you to post a joy in your world. Joy to your joy.

Today’s Joy is written by an old friend whom I have known for years. I first knew her when she was in kindergarten in Hayward, California. Today, she lives in the Bay Area and works at a veterinary eye doctor in the Oakland area. Thanks, Nancy Williams for your joyful memory.

Bob, your “joy to your morning cup of coffee” caused me to think of the “little things in life.” Yes, even enjoying a cup of coffee. That I’m enjoying it within the shelter of my home, as well as looking back on my long time friendship with you. 

Oh, and I always loved the Manhattan Transfers’ recording of that song [“Java Jive”]. One memory I have, was having worked at a veterinary emergency hospital in Berkeley in the late 80’s. I worked graveyard shifts, and had that very Manhattan Transfer recording on cassette, and used to play it during my shift caring for animals throughout the evening while the doctor on duty caught some Z’s.

Joy to that memory.

Today’s Joy

Sunday, August 6, 2017

“Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Ephesians 5:19

Hymns of joy are today’s joy.  The joy theme abounds in our church music. Bach’s “Joy of Man’s Desiring” is a cornerstone of joyful Church music.

I find the joy in a pipe organ’s trumpet stops blasting awayb the joy of God in a Bach number or some other joyful music.

We sing hymns of joy during Christmas such as “Joy to the World” which I have used in worship for the past 48 years of ministry. At Easter we sing “Christ the Lord Has Risen, Hallelujah.” There are many hymns of joy during Christmas and Easter.

During the ordinary time of the Church, we sing “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” from the Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9” which he wrote as a deaf man. This music has been the source of other hymns and choral anthems.

This Sunday in August I hear the melody of a summer camp song that I recall from days in Montana at Camp Mimanagish (The Place of the Singing Waters on the Bolder River)

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Where?

Down in my heart!

Where?

Down in my heart!

I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart

Down in my heart to stay

On this Sunday, may we have “the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, Down in my heart to stay.”

Today’s Joy

Monday, August 7, 2017

“Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do.”  Ecclesiastes 9:7

Home made pie is today’s joy. The best pie doesn’t come from the supermarket nor the restaurant. It is made at home.

My mom’s speciality was lemon meringue pie. As a child, I couldn’t with to finish my meal on the table and get to mom’s meringue pie.

In my 48 years of ministry, I have been introduced to a variety of wonderful pie and pie bakers. My joy from Montana was rhubarb pie. The parishioner introduced me to rhubarb when I arrived in town. Her rhubarb pie, I believe, was a masterpiece. Years later when I went back to visit, she remembered and baked me one. 

I have enjoy various kinds of pies in my years as a pastor. There are some excellent pie makers in the churches in Iowa that I served. I love apple pie a la mode as a rule.

I am impressed by the women who can make a good crust and mix the fruits and ingredients to a great filling. Then, bake these delicacies with perfection. These people are artists. I remember one man in the a church who was the champion pie baker in the church. He would be asked to bake several for a church bake sale. His pies were the first to go.

I will make an exception. I have found restaurants where pies have been a very good. Many times these are local places in small towns. There are exceptions in the city, too. No matter where it is baked, a good pie is a good pie.

Joy to the artists who bake wonderful pies. Joy to our eating them.

Today’s Joy

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

I have a mixture of sadness and joy this morning. I am sad for my buddy, Wrigley, lays on the couch beside me near death.

My joy is that this Beagle has given us ten years of companionship and love. He is truly a lover. Even in his weakness, he wants to spend time with each member of the family. He has been known be in his parent’s room for an hour or two. Then, go downstairs to be with our son Ed and then come up stairs after an hour or two to be with our son Aaron. 

When we picked him up yesterday at the vet, he saw another dog and started barking. I reminded him that he’s still got it. He has a large mass on his liver that has sent him down him down hill in the few weeks. 

He liked to sit on top of the couch and look out the picture window and bark at all passers by this has been his throne for the past ten years. Until this year, he won “the loudest” pet at the pet blessing at our church every year.

He has a powerful nose. He got off the couch Sunday night when I got some cookies Sunday night. And, I shared a small piece with him. Wrigley and I shared dessert together. I had ice cream with a banana daily and Wrigley licked the bowl. I said that he could get dishes ready for the final wash in the dishwasher.

Yes, I am have teary eyes this morning as I write “Today’s Joy”. And, I still feel enough JOY to  write. JOY TO WRIGLEY, you are and will always be a JOY!

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

Wrigley Beagle Hempel joined the Hounds of Heaven in Eternity at 10:22 p.m., August 8, 2017.

His family woke up this morning with deep grief and surrounded by a multitude of loving friends locally and in our FaceBook Community. Grief is eased by your posts of love and support.

JOY TO JASON—He found Wrigley roaming the streets of Westchester on a bitter cold January night near the Middle School. Frightened and wild, it took a while to corral him. He took him home and gave him a warm bath. Only then did Wrigley settle down as the ice melted from his paws. Jason call the authorities and could not find an owner. So, he brought Wrigley to Aaron for we had lost Abby, our miniature Dachshund, a year before. Bless Jason’s heart, he and his fiancé who stopped by Monday night to say their goodbyes.

JOY TO CAROL— Carol has been Wrigley’s number one girlfriend. She cared for him when the family was out of town. She stopped by to care for him when we were away for a few hours. He loved to ride in her red Explorer. He did cry some times when she left without him. As soon as she drove in the drive way, he raced to the back door to greet her. My favorite joy is on Sunday mornings when Elaine left early for choir practice. Later, Carol picked me up for worship. As soon as I put on my coat, he was on the back on the couch looking for her. He started barking his “hello” as soon as the red Explored pulled into the driveway. He watched as we drove away.

JOY TO THE CARE-TAKERS—Joy to the McCarthy family and the Bender family who cared for Wrigley when Carol wasn’t available. These folk are a part of our church family.

JOY TO HIS ADMIRES — A friend remarked on meeting him that he had the most beautiful eyes of any animal she had met. Wrigley was kind and gentle to most persons who came into our home. His intuition seemed to sense who the friendly folks were. 

JOY TO FB FRIENDS — who met him through his pictures and stories posted here. Thank you for the wonderful love you have given me and my family during this tough hours.

JOY TO HIS MEMORY— He taught us how to love equally, To learn to get what you want. His doggy behavior that had loved to grab food left too close to the table. The list goes one.  Finally, Joy to you and your loving support. 

Today’s Joy

Thursday, August 10, 2017

“He [Jesus] answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” — Luke 10:27 (NRSV)

Today, I give joy to the mind. Dr. JoAnne Marie Terrell remembered her teacher, Dr. James Melvin Washington, told her “thinking is a form of prayer”.

Dr. Terrell, a professor at Chicago Theological Seminary, shared this quote on FaceBook recently. Joy welled up in my soul as I read. This is TRUE!

In my 80 years, many folks don’t love with their minds very well. Society gets by with the least amount of brain power. I think many of life’s problems may be solved by thinking.

Someone asked me in my 48 years of ministry what helped chart a new course of my ministry. Immediately, I flashed by to a conversation when I was on the staff of The Garden Chapel at the California State Prison at San Quentin.

Laced with many profane words, an inmate said to me, “stop talking in those store bought words.” His comment caused me to pause. I was recently graduated with a Master of Theology from the great Perkins School of Theology of Southern Methodist University. I was smug about all this great knowledge.

The inmate, in reality, asked me to think about my choice of words. “Don’t talk down to me.” He reminded me that I want to use appropriate words for each situation.

I saw a young friend put down in a public school for being the brightest person in her class. She was “too smart”. Her wise parents moved her to different school. That fall I visited her new school and immediately knew she was in a place of acceptance. She adjusted well in her new classroom.

Dr. Washington and Dr. Terrell are right. Thinking is a form of prayer.

Joy to the mind. May each of us use our brain power wisely in our lives today and every day.

Today’s Joy

Friday, August 11, 2017

“This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” Psalms 119:50

First, Good bless all of you for the many posts to my “Today’s Joy” on Wednesday about the loss of Wrigley. Your kindness brought me joy.

Second, I write about the joy of facing grief immediately rather than later. 

Two instances in my life taught me how to face grief. Wrigley’s death reminded me of that truth. My parent’s death offers a good example.

My dad died at the age of 56 when I was 11. The people around me didn’t have the training in grief work. I silently suffered for 20 years. I was in a month long workshop at the Western Institute for Group and Family Therapy. In a role-playing exercise, I experienced the pain of my father’s death. My exercise partner was a retired family physician who skillfully led me through the process. Almost immediately, I felt relief and began to let my tears surface. My grief work was delayed for twenty years.

On the other hand, my mother died while living with our family in Iowa. I decided to peach her funeral sermon. I knew my mother better than anyone else. I asked the local United Methodist pastor to officiate, (Mom was a die hard Methodist.) It was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We took her body back to our home church for her old friends and  relatives in  Texas. There I preached her funeral sermon again.

As the congregation sang the hymn, “For All the Saints, who from their labors rest..”, I felt a sense of relief and joy. The Iowa service was  a Good Friday  experience for me while the Texas service was like Easter morning.

The contrast between the grief for my dad and for my mom was as different as night and day. I faced his grief silently for 20 years before facing my grief for my dad. I faced my grief for my mom immediately. The grief was less consuming. I am not saying it was easy. 

The joy is the insight that our bodies must face grief sooner or later. It is best to face it sooner, than later.

Today’s Joy

Saturday, August 12, 2017

“Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!” Psalm 95:1

Today’s Joy is written by an old friend whom I have known for years. I first knew her when she was in kindergarten at Hayward, California. Today, she lives in the Bay Area (San Francisco/Oakland). She works for a veterinary eye doctor in the Oakland area. Thanks, Nancy Williams for your joyful memory.

“Bob, your ‘joy to your morning cup of coffee’ caused me to think of the ‘little things in life’. Yes, even enjoying a cup of coffee. That I’m enjoying it within the shelter of my home, as well as looking back on my long time friendship with you. 

“Oh, and I always loved the Manhattan Transfers’ recording of that song [“Java Jive”]. One memory I have, was having worked at a veterinary emergency hospital in Berkeley in the late 80’s. I worked graveyard shifts, and had that very Manhattan Transfer recording on cassette. And, I used to play it during my shift caring for animals throughout the evening while the doctor on duty caught some Z’s.”

Joy to that memory.

Today’s Joy

Sunday, August 13, 2017

“Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” —Romans 15:7

Acceptance is the theme for today’s joy. As I have studied during 48 years of ministry, I believe acceptance is the basic key to all God’s Word.

Dr. Paul Tillich (1886-1968), was a brilliant theologian of the last century. He stated that the heart of the Gospel was “accept the fact that you are accepted.”

Tillich fled Nazi German and came to the USA to teach theology. I had the good fortune to hear Tillich at the church I attended during seminary. A question was asked him if there was a nuclear holocaust and all of us were killed, “Would our lives be worth it?” Tillich answered, “Yes, because all are accepted.”

I listen to “Story Core” Fridays on “Morning Edition” on public radio. An African American son of a pastor stole a car at age 15. He spent 7 years in prison. His mom, the pastor, was devastated. He told her before prison all he remembered was her telling him to get his shoes on because “we have to get to church”. After he went to prison, she started pouring her heart out to him in letters. He looked back as an adult and said in those letters he felt he heard her love for the first time. She was so busy being a pastor she forgot to be a mom. Reconciliation came when they both accepted each other. 

In our world today, people don’t accept one another. Acceptance means accepting every person in the world equally as a child of God. Each persons is valuable. The world’s people haven’t learned to accept each other. Globally we focus only on the differences of race, economics, ethnicity and residency. 

Peace will only come when each of us learn to accept each person as a valuable being. Let us embrace the joy of acceptance individually and as a society. 

Today’s Joy

Monday, August 14, 2017

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” —Romans 15:13

Joy itself is today’s joy. “Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift. Albert Einstein.

I find joy in living. I remember being on mountain once with several friends. My group made ready for a workshop and we were sitting around tired after the day’s work. The group ended up discussing gravity with puns, “gravity is TOO HEAVY!” For the longest time, one by one each would add another pun on gravity followed by roaring laughter. Then, a period of silence before another person thought to pun gravity. I feel joy remembering this evening of laughter.

Yesterday, I was a part of a church group who had lunch with new staff member after a long, difficult search process. There was joy and relief in the group. Our waitress was told the reason for large group. She  brought a pancake with a candle decorated with frosting saying, “Congratulations,” to the new staff person which added joy.

One of the ordinary events in most households is the loss of keys, a cell phone or something vital. Most people breathe a sigh of relief and move on. If we will play close attention, there is a moment of joy when the object is found. I decided to take a moment to experience the joy.

I feel joy when I have completed a sermon even if it is early Sunday morning or late Saturday night. As we finish projects, let us take a moment to experience our joy.

Einstein’s words about joy caused me to remember a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Nature has so many joyful scenes. Let us experience the joy in daily living, too. Pay attention. You may surprise yourself. 

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Today’s Joy

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”— Romans 8:15 (NRSV)

Joy is the a learning a new thought today. In the Bible, there is a difference between being fearful  and being afraid. Scholars taught me “fear of the Lord” means “standing in awe of God” I had a grandparent tell me her grandson was describing his dad as “AWESOME!” I joyfully describe God as awesome.

Afraid is a different animal. God created each with fear so we can know when danger is near. My mentor, Dr. Robert Goulding, M.D., taught me if a semi came into my lane on the way to his house that I would get mighty scared. Fear is a signal to protect us from harm. Dr. Bob taught us if we were still scared hours later it is destructive—not healthy.
In my life, I have too often been fearful. My mom grew up with many things to be fearful about. Her mom died when she was six. She lived with her grandmother afterwards and it wasn’t easy. It took me a long time to figure out that the fear I learned as a child was mom’s fear and not mine. Yet there was force within my mom that kept encouraging me, love.

I read the other day that fear kills dreams, This is true. One the other hand, joy promotes hope and opportunity. I understand this principle. I decided that I would move beyond fear and be joyful. It feels better and is more alive. 

There is places in the Bible where the fear of God is not always used as an awesome God. I will leave that for later. There is plenty to be afraid for our safety in today’s world. 

And, God is awesome today. Be not afraid and decide to be the joyful which gives hope and promise. 

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” —Romans 12: 15 (NRSV)

Empathy brings today’s joy. I define empathy as listening to the heart of a person and responding appropriately.

I learned Empathy from my mentor, Dr. Natalie Reader Haimowitz. She was a psychologist who was trained by Dr. Carl Rogers at the University of Chicago. She always reminded me that Rogers was a Presbyterian minster before he was a psychologist/professor. She learned empathy from him.

She always carried balloons in her purse. When she found a child in destress, she grabbed a balloon, blew it up and gave it to the child no matter where she was in the airport, the beach or the store.

In my several years of study with her and her husband Morris, I experienced empathy. The following story illustrates empathy. 

I had open heart surgery and was recovering in the Intensive Care Unit when the nurse told me I had a call from my dad. Being factual, I said my died a long time ago and refused the call. Later, a light bulb went off in my head. Minutes later my hunch was true that Morris and Natalie had called. They said that wanted to know how I was doing and the nurse blocked their calls so Morris told them he was my dad.

Natalie taught me how to precisely tune my empathy. In a stressful situation, she knew how to say the exact words which needed to be said. I used this teaching to comfort a widow whose husband died unexpectedly of a heart incident. At the wake, I gave her a hug and said, “you two were madly in love.” She nodded her head as tears flowed down from her cheeks.

The last time I saw her at a farewell party. She had difficulty speaking and said to me, “remember Carl Rogers and empathy”. Go and listen to the hearts of the people whom you love and speak gentle words of compassion to them. Joy to empathy. 

Today’s Joy

Thursday, August 17, 2017

“Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and prosper for us the work of our hands—O prosper the work of our hands! —Psalm 90:17 (NRSV)

The theme is the joy of doing work. I believe work may be a joyful and fun task. Too often work is defined as drudgery or is demonized. Work is also seen as boring. 

I decided to make work joyful. The internet made sermon writing a joyful process. In the old days, I lifted heavy books searching for the right commentary or quote for a particular text. Now, I have favorite websites where I go to find scholarly Biblical material. If I mis-spell a word, I copy the word and open the dictionary on my desktop. I paste the mis-spelled word in the search box and seconds later the correct spelling appears with details about the word. What fun!

I love to make presentations with slides for teaching and sermons. I love to build slide shows using my computer, iPad and iPhone. I can add video clips, sound or add a cameo appearance. For FaceBook, I made slides on ideas and photos to post on my timeline on my gadgets.

I have friend whom I work with on a committee. I write a draft and she literally loves to “word-smith” my words. She “tinkers” with my drafts and arranges my words in a way that makes my point crystal clear. Joy to her gift of “tinkering”.

And, I must not forget my wife frequently invites me to leave my work-space of writing, slideshows and the like to clean-out the dishwasher. Those tasks must also be done. It gives me a break. 

Also, I enjoy having a work-space where good music is in the background. It provides a calming and safe atmosphere. 

I delight in my finished project which most of the time gives me joy. I invite you to make work a joyful experience.  On that one, you’re it. 

Today’s Joy

Friday, August 18, 2017

“But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, playing with her son Isaac. —Genesis 21:9

One of my greatest joys is baseball. During baseball season, I am listening to baseball on the radio or watching it on television.

When I was 13, a knee energy confined me to inside and the only thing on the radio was baseball. In the Houston area was only a St. Louis Cardinal farm team, the Houston Buffaloes. I listen to every Buff game on the radio. As I got older, I listened to Red Barber call The Game of the Week every Saturday.

I gradually found the Los Angeles Dodgers and Vince Scully. “Vinny” described game with such clarity that you felt like you were in the stadium. He said he was a reporter giving you the game story. I would drive the back roads of Eastern Montana listening to a LA station with Scully calling the games. The station came in very well after dark. My uncle lived in Long Beach and I listened to one of Koufax’s no-hitters with him one evening.

When I moved to the Midwest, the local cable television had the Chicago Cubs games on WGN-TV. Since coming to Chicagoland, we listen to Cubs on radio in the car or at home on television. 

Last season when the Cubs won the world series, I listened daily during that season and celebrated with joy when they won against the Cleveland Indians. 

Is baseball of your joys of summer?

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5b (NRSV)

Wrigley Beagle Hempel joined the Hounds of Heaven in Eternity at 10:22 p.m., August 8, 2017.

His family woke up this morning with deep grief and surrounded by a multitude of loving friends locally and in our FaceBook Community. Grief is eased by your posts of love and support.

JOY TO JASON—He found Wrigley roaming the streets of Westchester on a bitter cold January night near the Middle School. Frightened and wild, it took a while to corral him. He took him home and gave him a warm bath. Only then did Wrigley settle down as the ice melted from his paws. Jason call the authorities and could not find an owner. So, he brought Wrigley to Aaron for we had lost Abby, our miniature Dachshund, a year before. Bless Jason’s heart, he and his fiancé who stopped by Monday night to say their goodbyes.

JOY TO CAROL— Carol has been Wrigley’s number one girlfriend. She cared for him when the family was out of town. She stopped by to care for him when we were away for a few hours. He loved to ride in her red Explorer. He did cry some times when she left without him. As soon as she drove in the drive way, he raced to the back door to greet her. My favorite joy is on Sunday mornings when Elaine left early for choir practice. Later, Carol picked me up for worship. As soon as I put on my coat, he was on the back on the couch looking for her. He started barking his “hello” as soon as the red Explored pulled into the driveway. He watched as we drove away.

JOY TO THE CARE-TAKERS—Joy to the McCarthy family and the Bender family who cared for Wrigley when Carol wasn’t available. These folk are a part of our church family.

JOY TO HIS ADMIRES — A friend remarked on meeting him that he had the most beautiful eyes of any animal she had met. Wrigley was kind and gentle to most persons who came into our home. His intuition seemed to sense who the friendly folks were. 

JOY TO FB FRIENDS — who met him through his pictures and stories posted here. Thank you for the wonderful love you have given me and my family during this tough hours.

JOY TO HIS MEMORY— He taught us how to love equally, To learn to get what you want. His doggy behavior that had loved to grab food left too close to the table. The list goes one.  Finally, Joy to you and your loving support. 

Today’s Joy

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

“Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.” —Romans 16:16

AN ECUMENICAL FUNERAL

An ecumenical funeral becomes a joyful event.

A colleague of mine is a bishop in a non-Roman Catholic group. Several years a go he called me to ask if his mother’s funeral could be held in my UCC church. I gave a tentative yes and got a green light from my Church Council. 

He wanted to take part in her service and rules of her church forbid a priest from outside the Roman Catholics from officiating at her service. We opened the UCC sanctuary.

I met him and his priests at her wake the night prior to the funeral. A brother of their order came with me to the kitchen of my church to prepare the incense for the funeral. 

The day of her funeral I donned my meager black robe for her prayer service at the funeral home. After the service, the group walked behind the hearse to the UCC building. The scene was quite unique for the East Side of Chicago. Behind the hearse walked the clergy in their full colorful vestments with special hats as well as me in my plain Protestant robe. And, behind the clergy were the motorcycle group in which the Bishop belonged. 

At the church, the service went extremely well with incense incorporated into the Mass. I read scripture and a prayer. After, I rode to the graveside with the priests followed by lunch with these colleagues. 

This was an amazing ecumenical funeral with joy and celebration of life.