Wednesday, March 13, 2019

How old are you?

Whenever I think of God, I like to remind myself that to Him a thousand years are like a day (2 Peter 3:8). Said in another way, God sees all time at the same time. That has the makings for a great sci-fi movie, doesn’t it?

It is not just that God can time travel, that He can go back to 1776 or jump ahead to 2076 on a whim. God is always at all points in time. He is always at the time and place of your birth, when and where you met your spouse, at the scene of all your sins, of all your hurts, and of all your good deeds.

I like to think of it as Him being in a parallel universe. He is right here, right now, just a little bit out of sight. Jeremiah (1:5) says He knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb and, at least for Jeremiah, he had plans for Him. But He was not only there then, He is there now.

Yet God says over and over that He will remember our sins no more. The Hebrew writer quotes Jerimiah 31:34 twice. In Chapters 8 and 10 he quotes the Lord as saying, ‘I will remember their sins no more.” He is still there, but He doesn’t “remember” our sins. That is delightful!

And God has been with us throughout our entire lives – including however much of our life still lies ahead. We have heard touching stories of how close twins can be, but we have a friend who is “closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24)”

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Argument Made by Redefining Terms

Recently I have run into three books all with the same malady. I hope it is not contagious. What these authors are doing is beginning their works by redefining one of the words that is central to their subject matter, then proceeding to build the entire argument of their book on the redefined word. It is not a fair way to approach a topic. 

I first ran into it in a religious book that began by redefining “created’ as used in Genesis. Now it would have been okay with me if the author had simply explained that the ancient Hebrew word translated as “created” had a broader or deeper meaning, but it seemed to me that he had explained away the creation by redefining the word. To him “created” meant that God had moved into the world He had made earlier.

But then I ran into the book I am finishing now. It is about race, one of my favorite subjects lately. In fact, I wrote a book on the topic titled “Growing Up White in the Heart of Memphis” ( I’ve done a lot of thinking about it and I truly believe that I am not a racist. This author, writing about what makes it hard for White people to talk about race, began with a redefinition of “racism.” She defined it very broadly, then painted all White people with a broad (White) brush, concluding that all White people are racist. She says we cannot avoid it. It is a result of the White privilege we have grown up with and the White dominated culture in which we live. Then she went on lay out an argument that strongly implied that if you disagreed with anything she said, that proves you are a racist. 

The woman writing about race had some good points and pointed out some things I need to pay more attention to, but her stereotyping of all White people as racists and her redefinition of terms colored the rest of the book. Likewise, the man writing about creation made some interesting points and the group that was discussing the book had some good conversations about it. Nevertheless, redefining commonly accepted terms is not a fair way to begin a conversation, especially a one-way discussion like a book.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Petit Four

Petit Four is French for "small oven," but it is also the name of a "bite sized" confectionery. Actually it is more like three bites. This afternoon I drove Charlene to her hair appointment in Hastings and on the way home we stopped at Emily's Bakery. She picked up six Petit Four's she had ordered for me. Every time we go to Hastings she calls to see if Emily's has any Petit Fours. Usually they don't, but today they did. They don't stock them, but they occasionally get an order for them and always make a few extra.

My history with Petit Fours goes back to the 1950's. I was in high school and working down town in the same office where my mother worked. I passed the Federal Bake Shop twice each afternoon going to and from the bus stop to work and they always had Petit Fours. I dearly loved them and still do. I got one nearly every afternoon. They are super sweet. Charlene and I split one as soon as we got home and it immediately took me back to Madison Avenue in Downtown Memphis of a warm spring day. It's funny how a flavor or smell can bring back old memories. My life is full of good memories - fun times and pleasant experiences.

I like to say "God has been good to me" because He really has. It is amazing to me how many good things happen every day. But I know he hasn't really promised that we will have it easy here. In fact He promised trouble (John 16:33). But he did promise us peace. We know more then one person who is not only chronically ill, but is taking care of someone even sicker. And I think about those thirteen children who were just discovered so severely abused and were kept in cages in California. And about the people in the middle of all the countries with civil wars raging around them. And all I can say is "thank you, Lord" and pray for the  people who need His help, and try to help the few I can as I move through the world each day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Just finished a long, grueling project. Since June 2018, (eight months ago) Charlene and I have been putting together a video of our trip to Egypt, Israel and Jordon. Our brother, Charlie produces a video of all his trips and it takes him a day or two. Ours took longer in part because we had no idea how to go about it.

First Charlie told us what program to use and we bought it. And it took awhile to figure out how it works. Charlie was a great help with that. But what took the longest was making all our pictures tell a story. We used pictures from several cameras and at least one of them had the date set wrong, so we couldn't use the dates on the pictures to put things in order. And we were trying to balance the length (33 minutes) against telling the whole story.

We put captions on most of the pictures so viewers would know what they were looking at. and we set it to music. Choosing, buying, downloading and inserting the music where we wanted it was hard work. And we wanted to avoid abrupt breaks when the music changed from one tune to another. I know it still doesn't sound like it should have taken eight months. I guess you would have had to be there. But it is a great flick - educational and entertaining. I'll try to figure out how to put it where you can see it.                  

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Prize Winning Photo
by Charlene May

This photo was the first runner up in an annual Christmas photo contest run by our local newspaper, the Pioneer Press. It appeared in the Christmas day paper with a write up. The story is that for several years Charlene has baked Christmas cookies and we have solicited help decorating them. They take the form of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, candy canes and other seasonal paraphernalia. Then, on Christmas eve we take them to people who have to work that night, concentrating on Police Departments, Fire Stations and the like, though we include a few fast food places and the local convenience store. This year we picked up the 911 call center where our daughter-in-law is a manager.

Last year, 2017, as we were finishing up, we had one more plate of cookies left and we were passing Mickey's Diner, an iconic little place in downtown St. Paul. So we decided to drop off our plate there. That's me in the photo. As I was coming back to the car, Charlene captured this photo through the windshield. It started snowing just as I left the diner and stopped when I got to the car. The Pioneer Press loved the photo, as do we.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

White Reactions to Race Discussions

I have had several discussions lately with groups of White people, mostly men, who have read at least parts of my newest book, “Growing Up White in the Heart of Memphis.” One local church has two weekly breakfast gatherings of men to discuss either a book of the Bible or a religious book of some kind. They had just finished Ephesians, and before going on to James, chose to discuss my book. Also, a local mostly Black church has started a small book club working on racial issues, starting with my book. And I tend to mention it whenever I think it is appropriate to do so. Thank you to those who thought it worthy of discussion.

Until these more recent experiences, the most usual reaction I have heard has been from people my age expressing that they had similar experiences to mine as they grew up. I have been a little surprised, though, by what I would call naivety of some of the more recent reactions from younger men. Some wanted to know why history is important. “Shouldn’t we just look to the future?” Some expressed dismay that the issues of Black/White relations were still being pushed. “Hasn’t this all been settled?” When the discussion turned to handouts to panhandlers, one man said, “You know what they will do with it.” And there was one fellow who when I brought up the book in a private conversation started speaking of all Black people as “them’ and “they.” “They do this; they won’t do that.” Maybe it is okay for me to call these reactions "naive" because I just published a book about how naive I have been over many years.

I tried to answer these reactions as best I could, as did others in the group discussions. And it occurred to me that, at least to a small extent, the book had accomplished one of its purposes: to encourage people to think about and discuss race issues in the church. People may not think like I do, but they are thinking.

I am reading a book now about why it is hard for White people to talk about race. I expect to have more to say about that as I read on. In the meantime, what do you think about the reaction I got from the group discussions?