He Only Wore A T-Shirt

A person’s gotta do something. T-shirt and all.

It’s Saturday morning, need to marinate on what to say about Mary, the mother of Jesus. A few ideas are perking…she was humble, maybe she wasn’t the first one to be asked to birth God’s Son, the common always has a future…something like that.

Then I read this link. How powerful. The devotion of a 13-year-old, for his momma and three siblings. The ways in which the police joined in.

THAT. Very focused upon THAT. Offers the essence of living. To do something that improves the self, but reaching more to improve others.

A message that bespeaks benefit. But even more. A message that shouts necessity for doing for others. For certain, there ARE times when it’s more blessed to give than receive.

Happy New Year, Happy Epiphany, Happy Grow well in 2018.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/good-news/worried-mom-calls-police-on-missing-son-and-finds-out-he-was-planning-christmas-surprise/ar-BBHo8Lq?ocid=spartandhp

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The Alphabet Ends In Y [In Memory of Sue Grafton]

I understand, “An alphabet that ends in Y.”

It’s December 29, 2017, almost 5 p.m. on Friday [yep, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere]. So, before I write another letter or paragraph or whatever, I’m pouring the single malt, two fingers, not more or less.

First, let me take you back to a sabbatical leave I took as Conference Minister, probably 2003. Stayed in a family’s condo in Frisco, Colorado. Had a regular schedule, write in the morning, nap in the afternoon and learn how to fly fish with Matthew Krane, who became my Rabbi Guide. Worked pretty well focused on my first novel, ‘Murder On Tillamook Bay,” even wrote a synopsis.

Returned to Austin—Diane and I had been married two years. Saw in the Austin paper that Sue Grafton the novelist would be speaking in Austin at a bookstore, the night I returned. Quickly typed out the synopsis, fueled more by energy and enthusiasm and anticipation than any skill, put it in the envelope, and wrote Sue Grafton on the envelope. Showed up at the bookstore. I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t see any other men…all women, many of whom were Kinsey Millhone wannabees. Sue explained how she got into writing novels, how many books publishers refused. She then said she’d sit at a table and sign her new book. For info she was the alphabet mystery writer…forget the letter of that book.

Instead of standing in line [I hadn’t purchased the book] I put on my dash and run hat, went in front of the first person [hey, this wasn’t Southwest Airlines with a number in hand], smiled, “Thank you, Ms. Grafton,” and laid the envelope on the table in front of her. Never looked back.

The next morning my phone rang, didn’t recognize the number. I answered. A question, “Hello, is this Dr. Miller?” I agreed to the question. She then said, “Dr. Miller, this is Sue Grafton calling from the Austin Airport, about to get on my plane for Santa Barbara. I read your synopsis. It is remarkable and very grasping. Would you do me a favor and send me the first fifty pages? I’d like for my staff and I to read it.”

WHAT? I’m not sure I answered, my hand shook so damned much I wasn’t sure I wrote down her address correctly! Again, WHAT?

Then my imagination kicked into gear. Who could play Tricia Gleason—maybe Gail Foster? Who could play Creighton Yale? Morgan Freeman was a cinch. I had a friend who helped Robert Redford in “River Runs Through It” and was told my “Murder on TB” was the Oregon Coast version of “River Runs Through It.” Do they give Pulitzer’s for novels? Didn’t consider it out of control fantasy…nope, just a fertile imagination. Tricia? We gonna make it woman!
Three months passed. Then. A personal hand-written letter from Sue Grafton. I probably offered 1,000 prayers and turned East or maybe West, opened it. A short note, “Dr. Miller, good luck in your writing.”

OUCH!

Folks, that was my first memory, but not overruling. What overruled was for years Sue Grafton didn’t stop writing me, ALWAYS showed interest in my writing. How good is that?

I would write her about how much I appreciated her wordsmithing.

Then yesterday. I shared with friends personally it was a banner day, the current Tricia Gleason novel, “Truth Uncovered” was sent by my publisher to the printer. I then learned the NW fishing magazine, SALMONTROUTSTEELHEADER, its January issue, included two articles about the salmon trip with Brian and catching my first 20# steelhead. Wow, what a day.

Then. Now. Sue Grafton died at 77. My age! I believe we were born in June of 1940. My eyes flooded with tears. She finished the Y novel in August, but hadn’t started the Z novel. Her husband and a daughter said, “Our alphabet will now end with Y.” Poignant. Touching. Powerful.

Sue Grafton? In a way I now realize, she was always part of Tricia’s next steps. No, Tricia wasn’t Kinsey, but for me Tricia Gleason is so very special and dear.

On this day, I tip and sip the single malt. And offer prayers of thanksgiving for the caring spirit of Sue Grafton and her interest in my writing. I know. I know so well. Because of her call and initial reaction to the synopsis of my first novel, there is something there. Maybe I’m still trying to find it…but I know that Tricia will help me, no less than Kinsey helped Sue. God Bless you Sue Grafton and give rest to your soul. My life is so much better because you called me from the Austin Airport. Amen!

https://www.msn.com/en-us/entertainment/news/mystery-writer-sue-grafton-dies-in-california/ar-BBHuHOd?ocid=spartandhp

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When Life Has No Chance

Moments happen, often unplanned. That’s called spontaneous when we at least do some crafting. It’s called serendipitous when we are the receiver…the total receiver.

One of the challenges—and it’s a challenge more than a gift or skill—is to discern how God functions in the moment. For us? Within us? With us? Through us? One of my dearest professors, Doug Meeks at Eden Theological Seminary, who taught me how stewardship can be considered—that is, what we do with our resources, each of which no matter our contrary opinion, are gifts of God, said in all religious living we have one word factored in: discernment.

Okay. Tuesday after Christmas Day. Some theological pondering. What this leads to is I’ve been touched by God. I’ve heard God’s voice. And I know. Even though I will conclude my Lexington ministry on Epiphany Sunday, my life and ministry and next steps will happen. What are they? Only some ingredients I know. It will be to and with those for whom life’s a great struggle. It won’t be to those who believe in Fake News, to be political. It won’t be…well, let me sift and sort.

Where this is prompted is in this link. I wept. Tears of “Oh No! How can people live in such deplorable conditions?” Tears of joy and triumph, “This is incredible…how very incredible, how someone who had no chance, made chances because of a dream and a resolve and a wish to do nothing less.”

Please. Take some time. For YOU. And listen to this link. It’s powerful and poignant and tells us to not lose a perspective…that biblically and in life, Mary [not the name of the girl/woman/ballerina in the link] was so very common…and it is in the common where God comes to life. Just ask Jesus.

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Christmas’ Greatest Value

Bill Monroe, a valued friend, is the Outdoor Editor of the Oregonian. In this article, so very poignant and inspirational, he shared stories of how people live and never whine or have pity-parties. I loved the reflection; Bill gave permission to print. This is being written late Christmas Eve. Tomorrow, or days after this new week, please read it and then reflect upon your own self-world and see how it might morph into an “others’ world.” Bill, thanks. You live as you write–with wisdom and faith and caring. We are the better because of this reflection. Peace, Mark.

By Bill Monroe
For The Oregonian/OregonLive
Brian Henderson of Milwaukie [picture above] is in his sixth year of ringing a bell for The Salvation Army at the main entrance of the Oregon City Fred Meyer store. The blind 47-year-old props his red and white cane on the stand and sings carols in a clear baritone voice, accompanied by music from a small wireless speaker married to his smart phone.

“I like to fish,” he says, adding with a twinkle, “But for some reason, I can’t get anyone in my church to take me hunting.”

A stout man with a bright red apron, Henderson smiles when he’s addressed and is quick with a “thank you” when he knows his bucket has been stuffed.
(Henderson had the start of a Santa beard he was going to “keep until Sunday night,” but shaved when it began itching.)

Think about Brian for a moment as you (and I) come and go in our holiday haze, rushing for that last un-chosen (and probably unnecessary) gift; fretting about catching the plane (or a steelhead); fighting traffic, or whether world peace will last until New Year’s Day…

Better yet, think about my memory of another bell-ringer for the needy, a Kenyan in 2008 who’s very likely passed on by now.
He actually didn’t have a bell – barely had clothes, in fact – and sat outside a decrepit theater in Meru, an inner-Kenya, metropolitan hub within a stone’s throw of the equator.

The man’s right arm appeared to have been broken (but healed; perhaps a genetic defect?) in two places and his hand dangled helplessly over his head in a pair of 90-degree angles as he held out his left palm.

A few of us on my brother’s mission team gave him some shillings as we passed inside to hear a local evangelist pitch for more – then left in his Mercedes.
That afternoon we returned to our headquarters in dirt-poor Maua and took a Kenya boys spread their net for small fish in Maua, Kenya, where they roast them whole and sell along the shoreline of a community pond.

Sunday break with a walk to a nearby rainwater pond. Hadada ibis and African crows shared the grassy shoreline with people – some simply sitting, others washing rusted vans with pails and rags at the edge of the water.

Out in the middle, three boys lay prone, just heads showing, and tugging a large net between them.

They mined the pond for half an hour, finally rising with a stringer of small perch they then took to a makeshift fire on the opposite shoreline to scorch and sell for 25 shillings each (about a quarter). Odds are 50-50 any of the boys are still alive.

Worried about next year’s salmon run? Whether wolves will get your buck? Or even if the ducks will fly on your annual Christmas morning hunt?
Most Kenyans worry about something to eat.

Christmas is almost exclusively a religious holiday in East Africa. The few gift exchanges are modest and consist primarily of handiwork personally made for friends and family, based on need.

Think about the third world Monday and then toss a shekel or two in Henderson’s pot as you thank the Star of Bethlehem you live in a nation where a blind man can find grace helping others instead of trying to survive and beg again tomorrow.

And have a Merry Christmas…Or, as they say in Kenyan Swahili: Krismasi Njema (nnn-jay-mah).

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The Best Value When Fishing

Fishing.

So much to experience. Especially when it includes catching. The bite. The hook-set. The exploding river. The netting. The discovery whether kept [hatchery] or released [native] and oftentimes that doesn’t matter; it’s released.

The skills of the guides. Such a blessing with this part of it. The guides. In Washington, in Oregon and in Colorado. They know. They really do. What to use, where to fish. And especially the boulders in the middle of rapids, huge and not too large rocks that always cast menacing glances and are almost always missed. Such a good thing.

Sharing the time when fishing with family and friends. Seems to me there are ALWAYS stories told/shared/fibbed [yes, that, too!] of the big ones that didn’t get away. About the 50 pounder, not a fib. About catching a limit in less than an hour, not a fib. About catching crawfish for me and my father at the age of 7. A memory in the cherish-file.

Ah, the memories.

Yet.

There’s one part of fishing I hardly ever write about…and now it arrives: the quiet. The peace. The soft reflections. The beauty of the earth which is more than a good idea. It is such a gift of God. The times to take deep breaths, maybe even sneak a snooze. To know “be still and know that I am God,” as offered by both holy scripture and the experience. At times a consolation, but also admonishment.

Thought of the marinating of life, the non-screaming, the non-lying [called false facts these days], the time when life and its essence are both real and indelible. This picture brings that. With Bob Ball, my wonderful Forks, Washington guide. You can see the bow of his drift boat on the left. But, far more. Such beauty of the Bogachiel River, the sun splashing its light on the river and the trees. The quiet. The subtle rippling river flow. The moment when Shalom, God’s peace, the inner peace and well-being in the soul, are so real. So very real. And life itself dances in the heart.

What I wish? I wish for each of you to have such moments…where and when it can happen. When the quiet has a voice that assures us we matter, especially to God. Especially to God…

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Marry Christmas

I won the lottery. Millions. What do I do with it?

No, not true, but the question, what do I do with it, is relevant.

More specifically, and headed your way with your own personal question, what am I doing with my life?

Hits me that’s the deeper verity of Christmas or Hanukah or any other religious belief.

I’m talking about values. Not wealth. Not circumstance. Not authority. Not anything else.

Values.

Seems to me, of course only my “take,” is the reality of values is being buried in today’s swirling world.

All I can share is I find this important: do I tell the truth? Do I care about how life, and more pointedly myself, in what I say or don’t say, what I do or don’t do, impacts others? Do I know there’s no luggage rack on a hearse, that my resources are to register and reduce human needs? Sure, mine. But also your very own resources.

A dearest colleague, Joanne Carlson Brown, and maybe it was mis-written, wrote, MARRY CHRISTMAS.

Wow. That’ll preach tomorrow, Marry Christmas. Which means that Christmas and I are to commit to a covenant. A covenant is an agreement between at least two people they will each give their FULLEST for the good of the RELATIONSHIP. Not for the self, but for the relationship. In Christmas we say the word, Immanuel, which means God with us. I love the preposition “with.”

Its expansion goes like this: God with us, for us, within us and through us.

Here’s my hope…not academic but real. I try my best to tell the truth, to be genuine, to give a full effort and to help others…priorities. And. Believe me. That’s got more to do than with simply fishing.

May it be when I move on in life the shortest book about me won’t be when I’ve told the truth. When I have helped others. When my being in covenant doesn’t get to 0%.

How about you?

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Tough Never Takes A Holiday

A dear friend, but it could be anyone. This friend is so valued I more than listen when he responds to my messages. It struck me, his comment, as being one that goes in more than one direction.

He wrote this: “Tough doesn’t take a holiday.”

Another comment, which will partner the first: Another friend [such blessings to have friend who spell t r u s t and never waver from that]. He said about someone whose ability to offend [that’s the G version], “Mark, don’t rent him space in your heart or mind. He’s not worth it.”

Well.

In order.

Tough. I can list to the end of this page those for whom I have such concern for their suffering. One of the joys—and yes, it’s a joy not a burden—is to develop friendship with the dearest people in the world, the members of First Christian Church in Lexington. Not for public announcement but they have taken me into their confidence how their Good Friday experiences, short of death but emotionally just as devastating, impact them. You dear readers know in a specific manner our concerns/worries/fears about Jason’s medical challenges. No less, about other family members. For instance, I wish that cancer and family conflicts could take a holiday. It is tough.

HOWEVER, tough has a foe. Same word. Tough can mean your determination to not let bad win. Your willingness to stand tall and face the woes head-on, to hammer them to the ground. That’s the good tough, it spells r e s i l i a n c e. I like that tough. I do whatever I can to embrace that tough. I hope you do, too.

On the other comment, it’s hard to deal with people whose words never match their actions. I get so tired, and have for over 50 years, to hear church members and more particularly minister “friends” who never turn their mirror into a window. Never. That used to cause anger. But, my friend commenting upon who fills space in my heart and mind has removed the situation. Honestly? It doesn’t exist. Because my friends never mute when I need them…and I do everything to never mute when they need me.

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