Archive for January, 2011

The Beatitudes — Matthew 5:1-12

Untitled poem by Mike Mercer (“Chaplain Mike” at internetmonk.com)

so many people here to hear him
from everywhere, of every kind
no religious crowd this one!

check out that bloke over there
“loser” if i’ve ever seen one
not an ounce of righteousness in him
wouldn’t know a tithe from a toothbrush
couldn’t find genesis if you handed him a bible
a rough time of it, he’s had
surely the teacher won’t waste any time on him

and look over there, what a pitiful wretch
if it weren’t for bad luck, she’d have no luck
grim reaper took her husband
then came after her child
it got so nobody knew what to say to her
couldn’t take hearin’ another bit o’ bad news
you rarely see her out and about any more

and have you seen all the yokels?
brought ‘em out of their shacks, he did
i’ll wager they’re lookin’ for a free show—
funny talk, a miracle or two—
keep ‘em happy for a year!
sure thing they don’t have much more
i’m surprised their masters gave ‘em an afternoon

hey, there’s the widow lady from town
she sure got a bad shake didn’t she?
thought her husband had set things up for her
then some shyster tricked her out of it
got her to sign some paper
thinkin’ she was makin’ her money secure
secure in his pocket, all right!

and there’s a bunch of people here
been tryin’ to help these folks
takin’ pity on ‘em
tryin’ to make ‘em religious
tryin’ to get ‘em to quit their fightin’
carin’ even when the door gets slammed in their faces
spinning’ their wheels, gettin’ nowhere

seems like what we have here
is a big ol’ loser’s convention
not your ideal crowd, i’d say

then jesus stood up
looked around, and said to the lot of them
“you, above all, are blessed”

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Always the right answer

This IS a true story.  Whatever the question, when asked like this in Sunday School, the answer will always be “Jesus”. 

Q:  “Now, children, what is it that has gray fur, a bushy tail, climbs trees, and stores up nuts for the winter?”


Q:  “Doesn’t anybody know what that is?”

A:  [Brave little soul raising hand]  “Well, it sounds like a squirrel, but I know you want me to say ‘Jesus’.”

Sunday school teachers, you’ve done this to yourselves…

Credit:  Sacred Sandwich 

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Most of the really great female singers have names beginning with the letter “J”.  I can think of five of them right off:

Judy, Joan, Joni, and Janis.  It was Janis’s birthday last week, and with all else going on somehow I missed it.  She would have been 68. 

No, that’s impossible.  She’ll always be a screaming twenty-something.  But, back in 1970, even twenty-something was an older woman to most of us. 

Here is Janis singing (or screaming?  You decide, but she screamed exquisitely…) “Piece of My Heart”. 

Oh, the fifth female singer that begins with “J”?  My wife Jeri, of course.  And she didn’t even expect me to say that.

Here’s the link to YouTube in case what’s below doesn’t get you there.


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A long time ago, in a chapel far, far away…


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An Italian Party

We didn’t really throw a going-away party for Heather before she left, but we did manage to pop a bottle of champagne (and yes, put the date on the ceiling next to the dent) and watch Big Night, one of our new favorite movies (1996, rated R—but not for nudity, as there is none.  They nailed it for profanity, but even that becomes comedy because those Italian immigrants don’t really know how to swear).

I really recommend Big Night.  A modern classic.  Lots of fun, great music, and the best food you’ll ever see—and not be able to eat.  What a pity.   

And Heather—if we had thrown you a party it would have been JUST LIKE THIS:



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It’s official.  After a paperwork mixup, Daughter Number Three finally made it to Italy, the first of our family since her great-grandparents emigrated from there a hundred years ago. 

We hadn’t heard from her since Tuesday after she cleared airport security  in Boston.  But, unless she had been wandering around the airport like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, we assumed that she made it OK. 

We just received an email from her this morning, Friday:

Hi mom/dad,
I’m here, it is fabulous!!  I have limited internet access; this was the first time I was able to send out an email.  To keep it short though, all is well and Siena is beautiful!
love you,

Heather will be studying in Siena this semester, her second year in college.  Siena is located somewhere between Florence and Rome, so she will have no excuse to be bored. 

What will she study?  Italy, of course.  It’s a semester abroad, after all.  Italian language; art history; and literature ( I think).  Dante, in any case, because he lives there: 

La gloria di colui che tutto move per l’universo penetra, e risplende

"Dante and Beatrice" by Ary Scheffer 1851


Nel ciel che più de la sua luce prende

fu’ io, e vidi cose che ridire

né sa né può chi di là sù discende;


perché appressando sé al suo disire,

nostro intelletto si profonda tanto,

che dietro la memoria non può ire.


Veramente quant’io del regno santo

ne la mia mente potei far tesoro,

sarà ora materia del mio canto. 

(The opening lines of Paradiso, Canto I)


Longfellow translation: 

The glory of Him who moveth everything

Doth penetrate the universe, and shine

In one part more and in another less.


Within that heaven which most his light receives

Was I, and things beheld which to repeat

Nor knows, nor can, who from above descends;


Because in drawing near to its desire

Our intellect ingulphs itself so far,

That after it the memory cannot go.


Truly whatever of the holy realm

I had the power to treasure in my mind

Shall now become the subject of my song.


That’s about it.  Study well, Heather.  Maybe we’ll see you over there? 

Love, Daddy


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Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”    [Isaiah 40:4-5—and referred to in “I Have a Dream”]

Martin Luther King, Jr. used Bible verses often in his speeches.  As with the Isaiah passage in “I Have a Dream”, he alluded to Moses in his “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech—leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land. 

Remember that Moses never got there with the people; God allowed him only to see the Promised Land from a distance, from a mountain top across the Jordan River.  He died before they crossed over.

I have included a 3-minute video of the conclusion of that speech, below.  Knowing the allusion to Moses, remember that King was murdered the following day.  I always choke up hearing this.


Excerpts from speeches:


Man was born into barbarism when killing his fellow man was a normal condition of existence. He became endowed with a conscience. And he has now reached the day when violence toward another human being must become as abhorrent as eating another’s flesh.  (Why We Can’t Wait, 1963)

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.  (Strength to Love, 1963)

“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”  ( Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, 1967)

From the  “I Have a Dream” speech of 28 August 1963:

“I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with a new meaning, “My country, ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!

Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!'”

To watch video, click “Watch on YouTube” after clicking below: 




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