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!

he swam!

Today we took two of our grandsons and our two dogs for a hike in the woods. On the way back home, Toby (our six-month-old Australian Shepherd) jumped in the pond that borders our house and swam after two geese.

Toby at thirteen weeks

I was thrilled! Because Stoney (our nine-year-old Aussie) does NOT like to swim. When I take Toby hiking in Maine this summer, maybe I’ll take him up Sargent Mountain in Acadia National Park and he can swim with me in Sargent Mountain Pond!

Sargent Mountain Pond

the “b” word

In our house, it was the “B” word and it was banned! So I very much appreciate Frederick Buechner’s comments on “boredom” …

Boredom ought to be one of the Seven Deadly Sins. It deserves the honor.

You can be bored by virtually anything if you put your mind to it, or choose not to. You can yawn your way through Don Giovanni or a trip to the Grand Canyon or an afternoon with your dearest friend or a sunset. There are doubtless those who nodded off at the coronation of Napoleon or the trial of Joan of Arc or when Shakespeare appeared at the Globe in Hamlet or Lincoln delivered himself of a few remarks at Gettysburg. The odds are that the Sermon on the Mount had more than a few of the congregation twitchy and glassy-eyed.

To be bored is to turn down cold whatever life happens to be offering you at the moment. It is to cast a jaundiced eye at life in general including most of all your own life. You feel nothing is worth getting excited about because you are yourself not worth getting excited about.

To be bored is a way of making the least of things you often have a sneaking suspicion you need the most.

To be bored to death is a form of suicide.

blaming the victim?

I am reprinting in its entirety a response to a Facebook message posted a week ago by Franklin Graham. The open letter has thirty-two original signatories, including members of the Sojourners community, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Christian educators, and community activists.

Here is Franklin Graham’s post:

Listen up–Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and everybody else. Most police shootings can be avoided. It comes down to respect for authority and obedience. If a police officer tells you to stop, you stop. If a police officer tells you to put your hands in the air, you put your hands in the air. If a police officer tells you to lay down face first with your hands behind your back, you lay down face first with your hands behind your back. It’s as simple as that. Even if you think the police officer is wrong—YOU OBEY. Parents, teach your children to respect and obey those in authority. Mr. President, this is a message our nation needs to hear, and they need to hear it from you. Some of the unnecessary shootings we have seen recently might have been avoided. The Bible says to submit to your leaders and those in authority “because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account.”

And here is the response: Read more…

speaking truth to terror

“Violence is always the product of a falsification of religion.”

– Pope Francis