If the Answer is “Yes.”

Words to help guide and inspire us in electing the next President of the United States.

Hold to the Good

I have resisted the temptation to weigh in more than I already have on the Donald Trump phenomenon because we are saturated. Television news and the newspapers can’t keep their eyes off of him and I confess that I watch the 7:00 a.m. news because I don’t want to miss the latest outlandish thing he has said or done. I am changing my mind about writing because I heard a superb sermon yesterday by the Rev. Shannon J. Kershner, at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago. Shannon skillfully inverted the traditional interpretation of Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow and unresponsive judge who finally gives the widow the justice she is pleading for simply to make her stop asking and go away. Shannon said that maybe God is not the judge here. We are the judge. God is speaking through the widow, persistently urging and pleading to us for justice…

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What part of me and my identity as a Christian is evangelical?   And Progressive? The Greek verb Jesus uses is evangel from which the word evangelism is derived.    I am called to preach the good news as an evangelical.  I am also called to be an advocate for that which I preach.  More than words, I am called to live the gospel.  As a Presbyterian (reformed) Church pastor, I believe the gospel motivates our living what we believe.  This makes me a progressive.  Can a progressive also be an evangelical?

While I see myself as a progressive evangelical, I can in no way align myself with all evangelicals….especially the conservative right.

DIGGING DEEPER:  I have invested over forty years preaching the “good news” of the Gospel.   I continue to believe God’s ancient, unique and authoritative witness to Jesus Christ—words of scripture that speak to and live in the lives of people with hearts open to hear what ancient scriptures say.  I search for what Christ says to me within the context I now live!  As an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church, I continue to open my mind and heart to what inspired words of scripture can teach me.

As a preacher and pastor, I have always believed myself to be a quiet progressive—if that is possible.  Maybe it’s more accurate to call myself an introvert progressive.  I like the image used by a colleague—couch progressive.  Perhaps I am a covert, couch progressive who tries not to wear ‘progressive’ as a badge?   As a couch, covert progressive I try not letting my personal views interfere with my being an effective minister.

Scripture has long informed who I am and what I preach grounded in this text:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

because he has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free.  Luke 4:18  (also Isaiah 61)

Doesn’t this sound progressive?  And Evangelical?  While I rarely (if ever) use this term “evangelical” to identify myself as a Christian, I have found myself aligned with much of what I believe true evangelicals represent.  Back to the question:  Can a progressive also be an evangelical?  

Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners (www.sojo.net) has this to say:

What it means to be ‘evangelical’ is changing — it’s reverting back to its original meaning.

The new evangelical statement attempts to clarify who evangelicals are and how they should be defined: not as a people beholden to any political party, but as a people who proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ that always seeks to lift up those on the margins of society — not deport them, or scam them, or attack their professionalism because of their ethnicity or gender. These evangelicals are Americans of African and European descent, Latino/a, Asian American, and Native American. They are women and men, as well as younger and older evangelical Christians from a wide range of denominational and political backgrounds.  (www.Sojo.net, March 6, 2016, ‘Evangelicals:’  You Keep using that Word.)


Now for these thoughts in an attempt to answer the question:  Can a progressive also be an evangelical?    Yes, if one lives his or her life grounded / centered in the love of God.   God is more than words or ideas found in the pages of ancient scripture.  Love binds us together and builds us up. Love lives in and between us relationally and in our experiences.  We learn about this love of God through many people, past and present, including a famous man believed by Christians to be Lord and Savior—Jesus  Christ.  I  believe Christ lives in and between us sharing with us the love of God that binds us together and builds us up.  More at another time on this subject of the ‘living Christ’.

This is why I created this blog.   God lives in and between us.  Love exists in and between us.  Love connects us.  Love builds us up.  WE ARE BOUND AND NURTURED IN GOD’S LOVE!

The scripture that teaches us this concept informs who I am as an evangelical and progressive:

Hear O Israel…. ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  …. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.  Mark 12:29ff

We cannot separate what we know of God from how we live with God!

It is from my perspective,  perhaps as both an evangelical progressive, that I can preach the good news to the poor;  proclaiming release to captives living in a broken world and recovery of sight/vision to those who are blinded by brokenness and sin.

Yes, I believe I can be both an evangelical and progressive — if I work at both!  If I let God’s love speak and live through me.

Does this make sense?


The Emotions of Letting Go…..

Our 35 year old daughter, wife and mother writes a monthly article for the Mount Diablo Mother’s Club blog (www.mdmcmom.org).  She brought tears to the eyes of her mother and me in writing about her son, our grandson Thomas.        


The emotions of letting go

Thomas has been in daycare and pre-school since he was one and a half. While it has gotten easier there are still days that it tears my heart out to walk away and leave him for a few hours at a time. I know the separation is good for him – and for me – but what is he doing while I am not there? Is he eating what he is supposed to? Is he making friends? Is anyone picking on him? Is he learning enough? Does he miss me? The questions are endless. Some days there are tears, but most days there are not. It is the days where he cries and says, “Mommy don’t go” that are the hardest. However the grief for him lasts maybe five minutes, for me it lasts a bit longer. On the hard days, I usually text his daycare provider a few minutes after I leave and ask if he has calmed down. He always does. She says the tears usually stop within minutes of me leaving. On these days that drop-off was so hard it is always exactly the opposite when I go to pick him up “no mommy I want to stay, I am having fun!”

I know this will never end. He will start elementary school and I will worry about him adjusting to the academic world and making friends. Middle school where I will worry about bullying and if he is listening to his teachers or just talking with his friends instead. High School where I will worry about his preparation for college or whatever life after high school will bring. College where I will have empty-nest sorrows and miss him terribly. When he gets his first job, I will worry if he is paying his bills on time? Is he impressing his boss?  Is he happy? I think it is in our nature as parents to worry and to have trouble letting our babies move on to each stage of their life with the fear that we might be left behind.

When the emotions start to get the best of me I just try and remind myself that I am raising a caring, independent and smart boy. He will always be my baby – through every up and down, even after he is long over the phase of telling me how much he loves me and hugging and kissing me with wild abandon. Part of being a parent is learning the balance between letting go and ensuring that our children know that we will love and support them no matter what.

So if you are facing the first days of daycare or school just know that it is normal to feel emotional. It is normal to go and sit in your car in cry. Heck, it is even okay to cry as you turn to walk away. They will be fine. They will still love us. They will thrive. 


Pastoral Rant in thinking about Trump, God, and the future….

This upcoming election has taken me into a dark place.  This upcoming Presidential election has taken me into a dark wilderness.  Where is the Promised Land?    Donald Trump has taken me, spiritually, into this dark space.   I fear for our nation.  I fear for our children and grandchildren!  I fear that the ways of the world we have enjoyed may come to an end!   Or can faith in an almighty power – GOD – help us recapture a path through this wilderness?  Can faith in the living Christ help us walk a path that leads us through trying times?


Donald Trump in his campaign to become President is projecting hatred and fear into the lives of people from coast to coast.  With all the struggles of the world surrounding us, Trump is giving uimple answers without serious solutions.   He is saying he is the “parent” who will make America great again!    How?  We don’ know.   I don’t hear the slightest hint that Trump knows what he’s doing.  In my opinions, he doesn’t have any credible leaders surrounding him.  We hear more deceitful lies than anything else.  And there are his taxes!  Trump won’t let anybody see his tax returns.  What is he hiding?

Tony Schwartz, the ghost writer of “The Art of the Deal” says:

 “Trump has the ability to convince himself that whatever he is saying at any given moment is true, or sort of true.” 

I need to hear Trump answer questions without dancing around avoiding serious answers.   I want to hear the truth.   I want to hear serious answers to questions about how our next President will lead us for the next four years!

I wonder what America will look like if Trump becomes President.  I sense our nation will become divided, once again, by race and religion and class.  People around the globe will no longer trust us.  Who knows what will happen with Donald Trump’s index finger just a few inches away from that button that can destroy the globe?   How are our global partners to relate with a nation that reaches a point of no longer caring for the globe?  Is this great experiment called “America” failing?  Are we losing our constitutional anchor?  If Trump is elected, what will happen to the ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”?

Some have suggested that Donald Trump is on the road to becoming another Hitler.  I share this fear that Trump will become a Hitler-like global leader—and he may not even recognize this is the road he is leading us down.  Another topic for debate!

Donald Trump is fueling fires of hatred and fear.   People of many different walks of life are listening to this negative rhetoric.  Trump has created a ‘Cult’ with millions drinking from the cup of hatred, violence and division.  From the wilderness, I wonder if Donald Trump is leading us toward another civil war?


From a spiritual dark place, I now search for ways to think about this election knowing God is always with us.  What hope emerges from faith?  Scripture?  God?  Christ?  With my training as a Minister of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian tradition with over forty years of experience, what do I/we as women and men  who believe in God need to teach?  Preach?  Where is God’s love and hope?  What are some of the biblical themes that can help us work with all this broken world throws our way?  With the help of some colleagues, several themes come to mind.   I acknowledge this is a rather short list of just a few of the positive things that emerge from scripture that can help women and men of faith live through these troubling times.

Preaching / Teaching Ideas:

1.  Let’s teach and preach advocacy for non-violence in managing conflicts.  Perhaps we also need to become non-violent “activists”, like Christ,  if we are to find our way through  darkness and wilderness periods In life? 

2. Let’s teach and preach “truth to power”.  I for one will re-read some of what Walter Wink has to say on this subject.  Where is the divine presence of Yahweh or Allah or God in our world?

 3.  Let’s recapture what it means to preach, without fear, the gospel of God’s love for all people of all walks of life—even those we may feel are our enemies.

I also lift up one of my favorite texts:  Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hears and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Each and every day, I commit myself to affirm God’s presence as a source of light in times when darkness consumes me.   On those days I fear this American Experiment is going to fail, I need to look to God for hope for God’s Will to prevail.  God (or whoever we believe is our divine foundation) is always going to travel with us leading us toward those things we believe God promises all people…..love and peace and hope and life and liberty and joy and freedom  —  and happiness!

Ending this rant I come back to an ancient, confessional question and my personal answer:  What is the Chief End of Humankind?   My chief end is to give glory to God and to find ways to enjoy God (and life God has given me) forever!



This past few weeks I have learned or heard about some minor conflicts between neighbors in the community where I live.  It has become way too easy to voice grievances using Social Media Networks.  Others have been more formal in writing their complaints.  While not a desired result, personal feelings have been hurt.

While this has only happened with a small number of people in the community where I live, I have decided to take a few minutes to write on the topic of “Addressing Conflict”.   Some basic, common sense guidelines:

1.  Direct Communication!  Two-way dialogue with those whom we disagree is the first and most desired first step in resolving conflicts.  This is preferably done face-to-face.       

 2.  Be sensitive to the reality that there will differing opinions when it comes to issues and conflicts.  The more diverse the community, more likely opinions will exist.

 3.  As neighbors, we need to listen and hear what others are saying—especially those with whom we may disagree.   Use of hateful or demeaning rhetoric will never be helpful in resolving conflicts.  

 4.  As leaders in the community, we need to be open to the possibility of adapting or changing ones viewpoint or opinion.  We must also be open to apologizing when it is discovered we have been wrong.     

 5.  We need to be open to the idea of ‘agreeing to disagree’ in avoiding the escalation of a conflict.  

There is a wonderful document published by the Presbyterian Church Mission Agency titled, “Seeking to be Faithful Together”.  Persons who wish to explore the subject of managing disagreements may wish to look at this link.  This PDF document is free.


When it comes to living in harmony in a community—whether it be a neighborhood or church or some other type of business or organization, a typical goal is the uplifting of people and their relationships with others.  To this end, I hope this blog will help in underscoring the need to resolve conflicts in applying the “Golden Rule”:   “Do unto others as you would have them to unto you!” Luke 6: 31  NIV (New International Version)   “Face-to-face” conversation is the best tool we have in resolving conflict.

A Day with Grandson Tommy–August 28, 2016

A day with Grandson Tommy—August 28, 2016IMG_2599

A few days ago my wife Nancy said she was missing our grandson.  We miss him a lot!  Living only 30 minutes away from him, she called our daughter Emily and asked when Tommy could spend a day with us.  Yesterday, we drove to Concord to pick him up for a ‘play day’.   After a McDonalds breakfast we made the drive to Rio Vista looking at the cows and sheep and the beautiful mountains – Mt. Diablo standing in majesty.   Grandma was in heaven sitting in the back seat with Tommy—and he was all talk and laugher and smiles.   We had a lot of fun thinking of words that start with the letter “P” our favorite word being “POOP”!

Arriving in Rio Vista we drove through the downtown toward city park.  Tommy had to have his morning “fix” on the swings.  Then after a stop at the Farmer’s Market, we were on our way home.

After a few minutes of getting settled along with a small snack, Tommy found his way to my study and desk where he pulled up a stool along with a huge case of Lego’s—Lego’s I have now had for over 40 years.  We spent I don’t know how much time building Lego towers and bridges.  I wonder if Tommy remembers the three bridges over the river we crossed to get to Rio Vista?   The tower was my idea.  The bridges were his idea!

We also managed to get a dozen of his toy cars and action figures out to play on those Lego bridges—with a few trips to the living room to play with Nancy.  Tommy also made a quick trip to the kitchen to locate and bring me a small container of cookies.  With a quiet whisper he asked me:  “grandpa, can I have just one more cookie?”  I was sure, because of his whispering, that grandma didn’t know he had the entire container J.  He managed to talk me into spitting one more cookie.

In all of this Tommy had a full day of playing with grandma and me – complete with blueberry pancakes for lunch.  It’s amazing how much this little guy can play!  I’ve lost track of all the things a three year old can do in a span of just a few hours.

During the afternoon, I had the need for a nap—while grandma took Tommy on a long walk to see the pond, fish, birds – and a special toy train that some of the men where we live had built near the clubhouse.  Then, after watching a movie in trying to get him settled for a nap (that he didn’t take), it was time for dinner and his trip home—still wide awake!

Rather than go on with the litany of events that occupied our day, I’m now spending some reflecting on this blessing of a day I had to spend with Tommy and Nancy.  It was a good, happy, fulfilling day!   I was tired and my hips were sore—worth a couple Ibuprofen.

My reflections take me back to the 30-40 years of ministry and all the opportunities I missed in playing with our daughter Emily.  Don’t get me wrong.  We had our quality times together—just not enough time for play.  Now we have plenty of time to spend together now that we have made the move to live in California.

The message of this blog-post is simple:  Retirement is a special time to play and spend some quality time reflecting on all the blessings God has bestowed upon all of us.  I return to the words that are the anchor of this blog — We are all “BOUND AND NURTURED IN LOVE!”  May God bring to those who read this blog the same love I experienced in playing, yesterday, with my grandson Tommy.   God truly binds ujs together and builds us up—nurtures us—in LOVE!


Random Thoughts about South Korea

Insights from sister-in-law teaching at the Dankook University, S. Korea. I wonderful experience. Sharing her blog with some of my friends….



The illustration here is of Dankook University, cut out from the hillsides of green just outside of Seoul in Yongin.

After about five days in South Korea, here are a few of my observations and thoughts:

* It’s great to be paid in millions of won (makes me feel rich!) but not so great to pay 1,000 won for a bottle of water.

* South Korean people are extremely nice. They never look crabby. They are also extremely helpful to foreigners with dumb questions.

* Eating South Korean food is quite a ritual. WmTJ and I had dinner at a nice restaurant last night and we kept looking for cues as to whether we were doing things right. Is this a soup, or a finger bowl? Do we eat these garnishes as a side dish, or dump them onto our entree? We seem to have figured it out because our…

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