my favorite hiking companions

My hiking buddies
My two hiking buddies, Stoney (9 1/2 years old) and Toby (9 1/2 months old), on the way up Blue Hill.

in three weeks

Iona Abbey

Three weeks from now, I will be on my way here … returning to the Isle of Iona and the Iona Abbey for the third time. I will be taking nine companions, one of whom was with me when I brought a group from our church to Iona three years ago.

It is a powerful place: powerful to the senses, powerful to the imagination, powerful to the spirit. It is a place for awakening senses, for cleansing imagination, for refreshing spirit. It is a place to be exposed — spirit and body — to the healing graces of God. It is a place to be with God, and to be with each other with God.

Looking across the Sound of Mull from Iona

olbermann is right

I think he’s right.

Keith Olbermann has called for a boycott of both next week’s NFL draft and the Manny Pacquiao/Floyd Mayweather boxing match. He makes a good argument.

The NFL is the dominant American sports entertainment franchise, enjoying popularity as never before. On the sports talk shows, the NFL is never off-season. And the Pacquiao/Mayweather fight is being promoted as the “fight of the century.” Both events have dominated the sports headlines for weeks, even with NBA and NHL playoffs in progress.

Will we allow ourselves to be swept up by the hype along with “everybody else” and have our eyes glued to “must-see” TV? Or will we heed Olbermann’s call “to be the adults in the room” and not let serious instances of violence against women be glossed over for the sake of “fandom” … and for the sake of making money, lots of money.

What do you think? You can listen to Olbermann’s commentary by clicking the link below:

Keith Olbermann Calls For Boycott Of NFL Draft And Pacquiao-Mayweather Fight

change of heart

Change of heart book coverThis last Sunday, I shared some of Jeanne Bishop’s story in my sermon entitled, Be the church: forgive often. In April, 1990, Jeanne’s pregnant sister and her sister’s husband were murdered in their home by a sixteen-year-old neighbor. Ms. Bishop has just published a book entitled, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer, chronicling her journey toward forgiveness and toward the call to move beyond forgiveness into reconciliation. You may find more information about the book at

You may also read more about Jeanne Bishop’s story in this Chicago Tribune article: Woman touched by violence believes in murderer’s redemption.

a great man died tonight

Lynn Nielsen A great man died tonight …

Lynn Nielsen was great by the only measure that matters, that so many of us loved him.

We loved him for his courage, living and dying with multiple myeloma. Eventually it claimed his life, but it could never diminish his vitality or his humor or his eagerness for what tomorrow might bring.

We loved him for his faith, unconventional and genuine and exuberant, a faith that understood that God’s desire for us is life in all its fullness, here and now.

But, above all, we loved him for his joy. Teaching was joy to him, that unique setting where teachers and students come together to challenge each other and grow each other and put personal gifts and skills to use to nurture the skills and gifts in another person. A most unselfish profession! His students, from Iowa and from all points of the globe, brought joy to him, and he to them. And he found and made joy in his colleagues, my wife among them. He was the one who brought my wife into the College of Education and the University of Northern Iowa family, and for that she and I are most grateful.

And he found joy in making beauty, extraordinary beauty for all of us to relish! He made beauty with his music, playing organ for worship or jazz piano for the delight of the patrons of Elms Pub at New Aldaya Lifescapes and for concert-goers at other venues including our church. He made beauty at his home on Tremont Street — lovely backyard gardens, an interior decor warm and inviting and eclectic and elegant. He made beauty with his parties! Good food, good drink, extraordinary dishes and desserts, all carefully prepared and arranged by Lynn, the consummate host, the consummate friend. Parties for laughter and for music and for bringing people together, for making new friends and for treasuring every happy moment with friends old and dear.

He was a friend, old and dear, to so many. We loved him, for many good reasons, but we would have loved him regardless, just for how he loved us and for how he loved life. No one can replace him. No one could. No one should.

It is grief for us to lose him. But what joy it was to share some of our life with him!