My wife Judy died a year ago this month–December 13, to be exact. Ever the detail person, she planned her funeral service and designed her grave marker well in advance. When the marker was set in place, she asked to see it. Despite the icy winter wind that whipped around her wheelchair that day, she flashed her smile of approval.

Ancient Jews had a custom of setting up a large stone or a pile of stones to memorialize important sites in their history–not just burial sites, but battle sites, worship sites, and the point where they crossed River Jordan to enter the Promised Land. These stones served as witnesses to what happened there, not only for themselves but for their future descendants.

So Judy had hers. I walk past it several times a month and remember the chilly day Judy sat there, anticipating her own crossing into the Promised Land. Someday I’ll join her and my date will be etched in the stone. (See? I’ll get the last word after all!)

Eventually, our descendants will forget where the stone is. Wind and rain will erase what we’ve written on it. Granite will dissolve into the earth to join our ashes beneath. Then who will remember us?

The One who made the stone. The One who also made us and the earth from which He formed us. The One who needs no landmark to prompt remembrance of us, for we always will be with Him.


I lost my bi-focals this morning, which prompted a half-hour search of the house. (Good thing I could find my old glasses, or I would’ve been hard-put to find the new ones!)

Along the way, I reflected on the fact that I seem to lose things frequently. Does this mean I’m becoming more forgetful, or just that retirement gives me fewer distractions from my forgetfulness? Probably the latter, because I admit that I spent many frustrating hours looking for misplaced necessities when I was a younger fellow. That’s cold comfort: I may not be losing my mind, but everything else is at risk!

I wondered as I rummaged through the heap of receipts and old keys on top of my bureau whether I should list my bi-focals among the valuables on my homeowner’s insurance policy. I bought them just a few weeks ago, so I know how costly they would be to replace. Suppose the insurance company would let me do that? And if they did, what else should I put on my list of declared vulnerables…I mean, valuables?

Computer equipment and software, of course. DVD’s and CD’s of home movies and conversations with Mom and Dad. Heirlooms? No, my heirlooms are so bulky and obtrusive that I couldn’t lose track of them. (How could I possibly lose track of an upright piano?) But cooking utensils are another story. They’re not large or expensive, but incredibly valuable when I lose them at a critical point in preparing a meal. This part of my valuables list could be quite long.

I concluded that trying to insure against all losses would be a hopeless cause, since I am the loser. So I began wondering (on my third paw-over of the desk) whether searching for lost necessities has any unexpected benefits.

I sometimes find other things that have gone missing. While digging through a garage storage cupboard for something last spring, I found a cable TV box that Comcast insisted I still had—and that I had just as adamantly insisted I never had. There it was in its original box, unopened. I probably saved a couple of hundred dollars by turning it in. (No, I don’t remember what I was looking for that day. Probably something far less valuable.)

Also, searching for lost things can make me aware of long-neglected cleaning and straightening chores, like that mound of stuff on top of my dresser. I’ve learned to promptly consign such housekeeping tasks to a neatly prioritized to-do list. And just as promptly, I lose it.

I guess I’m just a loser. My siblings and closest friends already know this, of course. But confession is good for the soul, and I certainly don’t want to lose that!

2016-04-22 Pine Needles

Rain-Swept Pine Needles

THIS WEEK’S READING:  Reading the Bible Again for the First Time, by Marcus Borg; “Pigeon Feathers,” short story by John Updike; “The Death of a Traveling Salesman,” short story by Eudora Welty.

THIS WEEK’S WRITING:  Short story, “The Sensible Thing”

THIS WEEK’S QUOTE: “Tomorrow is not promised, so I’d better do what I can today.”–Lin-Manuel Miranda (age 38), lyricist, composer, and lead performer of Pulitzer-winning Broadway musical, “Hamilton”

Sunday – First anniversary of Judy’s cancer diagnosis. Randy Spleth’s sermon on Ps. 23 ended with this illustration: A minister taught a dying boy to remember the Psalm’s emphasis on God’s personal love by having him grasp his fourth (ring) finger and repeating, “The Lord is MY…” Randy had us do the same. I’ll never forget it because of the anniversary.

Monday – Our outdoor temperature reached 80 degrees for the first time this year, so I treated GCC friend Shirley Wells and her grandson Michael to ice cream at Good’s Candy Shop. Michael’s an energetic, talkative little boy who loves blue sprinkles because they turn his tongue blue. Fun to see a candy store through the eyes of a 3-year-old!

Tuesday—Heard the farewell chapel sermon of Dr. John H. Aukerman, one of my college roommates who retires from teaching at the AU School of Theology this month. His theme was “Come Before Winter,” based on 2 Tim. 4. Before service / Joe: “This had better be good.” John: “It’ll be good enough for YOU.” And it was–exceptional.

Wednesday—Spent a couple of hours at GCC Mud Creek campus with Myrna Mullins, planning the Bible 101 series we begin co-teaching next Tuesday night. Talked in depth about how our own understandings of Bible myth and history have changed over the years. As usual, Myrna got me pumped for teaching!

Thursday— Started watching Dr. Andrew Newberg’s “Great Courses” lectures on “The Spiritual Brain,” on loan from Myrna. Mid-afternoon coffee at Panera’s with Cal Bloom, Judy’s cousin and my seminary roommate. Discussed life, death, parenting adult offspring, neuro-theology, and “When can we go fishing again?”

Friday—Arrived at 10:30 for a cardiologist’s consult, half an hour late. I’d written the right time in my calendar but misread it, so had to reschedule 2 weeks out. I often pray, “Lord, bless my mistakes today,” so I’ll trust this one turns out well.

Saturday—Heard Willie Nelson’s rendition of, “It’s a Wonderful World.” It reminded me that the natural world, which evokes gratitude in some people and prompts them to speak to God, simply evokes awe in others and prompts them to speak to…themselves! “I see skies of blue and clouds of white/Bright blessed day and dark sacred night/And I think to myself, What a wonderful world!”