Reflections on the Life of my Mother

Today, we laid my mother to rest.  These were the remarks – which I did my best to get through – at her funeral today:

Where do I begin to reflect on 82 years of my mother’s life in a few minutes?  Or even the 54 years that I knew her as my mother. She was not one to promote herself or be the center of attention.  You would never find her on the front page of the paper.

She invested herself in her family, close and extended.  She loved her family.  She loved the history of her family – both hers and those of her husband.  She spent countless hours researching genealogy and compiling family history, photographs, letters and stories.  I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be her partner in research and we often enjoyed talking about the latest find or the frustrations of dead ends in the family tree.  I remember fondly going to Frankfort, KY to the library looking for hidden secrets from the past about their lives of those who came before us.

I was especially overjoyed as we discovered the location of the graves of Dad’s early Kentucky ancestors hidden away on private property.  Mom was excited to find it, but was no Indiana Jones.  When we discovered from the land owner it was covered in dense weeds and overgrowth, Mom decided that was not for her and waited in the car.

Over the years, Mom compiled over a thousand family records with hundreds of pages of records with a family tree going back to the Mayflower and beyond.  I am blessed with this treasury of records and history that I will seek to flesh out and extend in years to come so that her gift to her children and grandchildren will last far into the future and inspire many generations of her descendants.  Beyond records, there are stories which I have shared with my children and will be shared for generations to come.

Mom had many passions.  Those passions touched the life of each person here.  One of Mom’s greatest passions was family.  She wanted the best for us. She wanted us to excel and exceed in school and in non-school activities like 4-H.  She taught us her passion for music, which has been a life-long love of mine.  She introduced me to a variety of music and gave me love for classical symphonic music.

She wanted us to be able to do things that she had been unable to do as a child, including travel.  However, that did not include flying. Mom had an impending sense of doom about airplanes.  I would end up not flying until age 37.  Even then, I would not tell her ahead of time that I was flying.  I would call her once I had landed to let her know I had safely arrived.  This became a regular habit for every flight I have taken since.

This was not Mom’s only phobia. I cannot count the number of times we had to return home on the way to church, a school event or a trip because someone MIGHT have left the iron or the toaster plugged in.  Mom was not terribly concerned about navigation before a trip began.  In fact, she would often say “all roads lead to the same place,” but once on the road, she was convinced we had missed – or would miss – an exit on the interstate and, as a result, we were doomed.

Mom was excitable, sometimes at minor things, but sometimes major ones.  This could be most challenging at times. However, she was focused on the important things.  Mom believed that her first duty as a mother was to lead us to Christ.  She was devoted to her churches and family. Her love for the Lord was evident.  She encouraged us to read Bible and was quite insistent on church attendance and being active in youth activities – such as Sunday School, youth groups and church camp.  She was heavily involved in Bible Bowl, which was obviously a clever trick to get kids to read their Bibles.  It succeeded.

As a young child, I was not fond of being read to, although I was interested in books. She encouraged me and taught me to read them myself – well before I went to school.

Although uncommon in some families, talking politics at the dinner table was common practice in ours.  This engendered for me a lifelong love of history and politics.  She helped me learn the names of all the Presidents and Vice-Presidents by number of their Presidency by age 5.  I was probably one of the only 5 year olds intently watching the 1968 presidential election returns with my own electoral map.  She made a family tradition of watching the returns and having hot dogs in the crock pot for the long evening.  We often had peanuts as well, but this became difficult in 1976 since Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.

Mom had a strong sense of fairness.  When we got in trouble and deserved it, she let us know we deserved it. However, if we had been treated unfairly, God help you. She fiercely defended her own. However, she would often look to Dad and say “what are you going to do about that?”

She taught me important lessons about people – who they are as children of God and their value as human beings.  I remember her being upset at the assassination of Robert Kennedy. Now Mom was no fan of Mr. Kennedy, but she knew that violence and injustice were never a solution and that we are all children of God.

I will never forget as a young child the first time I encountered someone of a different skin color from that of mine. I was at a Christmas program at East Side Elementary School and seated next to an older African American woman.  For some reason, I was afraid and moved as far away in my seat from her and as close to Mom as I possibly could.  I’m sure it was quite embarrassingly obvious. She did not shame me, but quietly explained to me that this woman was a very nice woman and that some people have different skin color.  It didn’t make them any less of a person make them someone to be feared. She later shared about her friend in college who was African American.  She told me about the unfairness of how they couldn’t take her to some restaurants and how that made her friend feel.  I have never forgotten how she quietly dispelled my ignorance and fear and taught me love and the equality of our human condition.  As irony would have it, I decided to follow Christ after a presentation by African American singers who did a presentation on the history of the old spirituals and the faith of their ancestors.

In light of this, I remember being horrified as an adult when Mom was going through old family pictures and showed me a picture of her father in Klansman robes.  She calmly explained that in the 20s, nearly all the men in the community were members as that was the Klan’s heyday in Indiana.  As the Klan was exposed with the fall of D.C. Stephenson, he greatly regretted his involvement.  In this, Mom taught me that people are not only not defined by their skin color; they are also not defined by their mistakes.  She exhibited that to me time and time again. She was often an instrument of God’s mercy and grace when I needed it the most.

Mom’s fairness was not always peaceful.  As a child, I was, with the exception of a brief growth spurt in 4th and 5th grade, always height challenged.  As a result, I was often picked on and sometimes bullied.  One particular day in the neighborhood, there was a boy in the neighborhood who was a giant (at least in my eyes).  The other kids feared him and he used them to pick on the smallest – me.  The teasing was pretty vicious and I ran home crying.  Mom was hanging clothes on the clothesline, as was routine in the days before dryers were common.  I told her what had happened and she told me go back.  Now this was not what I was expecting. I tried to explain to her about the giant boy, but she insisted that I go back.  I walked back, apparently very slowly.  To my surprise, she was already there – with other parents.  They separated the other children from the bully.  Mom brought the two of us together and said now you to go at it. I was horrified.  I kept thinking, “Mom, do you not see how big he is!”  We stood there facing each other for seemed an eternity. I finally took a swing and landed a punch – which surely could not have hurt as I was small and terrified.  To my shock, he turned and ran away.  Mom, of course, knew that would happen. She knew that I had to learn to face my greatest fear and confront it.  Following that day, I never had another problem with that boy. Though others still feared him – as he always was big and strong – he always respected me and we never had any problems.  To this day, I have no patience for bullies and those who prey upon the weaker and believe it is our duty as children of God to stand up for them and fight oppression.  I owe that to my Mother.

While the last few months have been very hard and Mom was not the same person she was in earlier years, there were flashes of who she was that would come back from time to time.  At the end, she was unable to talk in any meaningful way. Dad and I had been with her for some time.  She tried to talk, but all that she could muster was “baby talk.”  As we laid her in bed, I kissed her and told her I loved her.  As clear as a bell, she said, “I love you too.”

The next day, I stopped by before coming home to Indianapolis. She had been asleep all day.  While I was there she woke up.  They brought into the main room and gave her dinner, but even with me trying to help, she would not eat.  However, in a moment of complete clarity, she looked at me and said, “I know it sounds crazy, but I’m afraid to swallow.”  I told her I understood.  She had a couple of amusing moments that night.  Since she could not eat, I took her for a ride up and down the hallway in her wheelchair. We were followed by one of the residents who was convinced I was making an escape with Mom and that I needed to take her with me.  I explained that we weren’t going anywhere, but she remained adamant.  When we returned to the table, Mom told me, “I don’t know what that woman’s problem was. You tried to tell her.”  She was quite concerned about who was going to do the laundry.  I assured her it was being taken care of.  She also was quite adamant that she was not going to follow “that man’s rules” whatever those were!  I guess I come by it honestly.  As it was time to go, I kissed her and told her “I love you.”  She replied “I love you too.”  Those were the last words I heard her speak.

I will always treasure those two nights.  I can’t stress enough.  You can’t tell your loved ones enough that you love them. Hug them, hold them and kiss them as long as you can.  I love you Mom.

Hope for the Hopeless

It is well known that the holidays, while a time of great joy for many are a time of deep despair for those suffering from depression and loss.  It is sadly a time marked with a large number of suicides.  In fact, someone within my circle of friends tragically took their life recently.

The real meaning of Christmas is not gifts and family gatherings, trees or decorations. It is a celebration of hope.  As the prophet Isaiah writes:

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.

This Christmas, remember those still “living in the land of deep darkness.”  25 million Americans suffer from depression.  Suicide was the tenth leading cause of death and the second leading cause of death for adults between the ages of 10 and 34 years in the United States last year. More than half of those taking their life suffered from depression.

Chances are you know someone battling depression or contemplating taking their life.  Reach out to them. Let them know you care. Let them know that where there is life, there is hope.  Christmas symbolizes that hope. Selfless giving is the real meaning of Christmas. This year, reflect that great light that dawned long ago in the village of Bethlehem.

Pope Denounces Trump as “Not a Christian”; Trump Calls Pope Disgraceful

The Pope remarked today that Donald Trump was not a Christian.  The remarks came in response to questioning by a reporter asking him about proposals to deport undocumented aliens. He answered. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not in the gospel.”  The Pope declined to call on Catholics to not vote for Trump.  He said, “I say only that this man is not Christian if he has said things like that. We must see if he said things in that way and I will give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Trump of course, fired back in response, “”For a religious leader to question a person’s faith is disgraceful. I am proud to be a Christian,” Mr Trump said. “No leader, especially a religious leader, should have the right to question another man’s religion or faith.”

In typical Trump conspiratorial fashion, he blamed the Mexican government for the Pope’s statement.  “[The pope] said negative things about me. Because the Mexican government convinced him that Trump is not a good guy,” he said.

My readers will recall that earlier I had posted an article that Donald Trump is not a Christian and explained the theological reasons for my conclusion.  I now feel validated after being berated by some that I had “unfairly judged” Trump.

For more information:

BBC Story

CNN story

Donald Trump is Not a Christian – He Does Not Believe in Heaven

Photo released today on Facbook

Photo released today on Facebook


Trump Heaven







Apostle’s Creed

Earliest doctrine of the Christian Church dating to the 4th Century

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic and apostolic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

This post is primarily directed to Evangelical Christians, of which I consider myself one.  I do not write this post lightly.  As a rule, I do not judge a person’s beliefs.  I recognize in this nation, one’s faith, or even the lack of it, is not a qualification to hold public office under the Constitution.  No one spoke louder than I did in 2012 objecting to the criticisms of the faith of Mitt Romney.  However, when one drapes himself in the mantle of a faith and panders to its faithful as one its own and uses it as a basis of your credentials for the office of President, you have made yourself and your beliefs the subject of valid criticisms.

Today, he posted a video wrapping himself around his childhood Bible and holding himself to Evangelicals as one of their own and promising that he would be there for them.  That was it for me.  It’s time to review the record of Donald J. Trump.

Throughout the campaign, Trump has tried to wrap himself around his mother’s famous pastor Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.  He has repeatedly talked about the importance of his faith and family despite a history of broken marriages and extra-marital affairs, but well, at he least he doesn’t drink ….. And surely this is the voice of a godly, Christian man “You know, it doesn’t really matter what [the media] write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.” — from an interview with Esquire, 1991.

He can’t recall a favorite verse from the Bible because it’s “too personal” when being interviewed by Bloomberg magazine.  However, when interviewed by the Christian Broadcasting Network, he recalls his favorite as “Never bend to envy” – a non-existent verse.  When asked if he has ever asked God for forgiveness, he didn’t see the need.  “I like to be good. I don’t like to have to ask for forgiveness. And I am good. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad.”  Now, when I read my Bible, it’s pretty clear:

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”   Romans 3: 11-12 (quoting Psalm 51)

His claim is a denial of a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith.  He further mocks the notion of the need for forgiveness by the trivialization of Holy Communion.  “When we go into church — and when I drink my little wine, which is about the only wine I drink, and have my little cracker — I guess that is a form of asking for forgiveness. I do that as often as possible because I feel cleansed, OK?”

Narcissism was never a value preached by Christ in the sermon on the mount.  Jesus never taught against the evils of political correctness.  He did, however, condemn selfishness, vanity and extravagance.

If that wasn’t enough, he has denied the essence of the faith with his own words.  In an interview with the Chicago Tribune published March 12, 1989, Donald Trump made clear he does not believe in Heaven or Hell.  That is a denial of the Apostolic Creed, which is the historic statement of faith for Christianity.  In short, he is not a Christian.  He is committing a fraud upon the faithful.

Yes, I know.   You’re afraid.  The world changing.  The family is under attack.  Our faith is under attack.  Radical Islamic terrorists want to kill us.  We have a President who have been feckless in foreign policy.  We have a government that is out of control and economy that is going nowhere and you feel like no one is doing anything about it.  You feel like we have to have someone strong – even if we don’t agree on everything.

Times like these call for faith.  In whom do we place our trust?  In the days of the judges in Israel, the people were convinced they needed a strong man.  They needed a king!  Samuel tried to warn them:

He said, “This is what the king who will reign over you will claim as his rights: He will take your sons and make them serve with his chariots and horses, and they will run in front of his chariots. Some he will assign to be commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and others to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and still others to make weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his attendants. He will take a tenth of your grain and of your vintage and give it to his officials and attendants. Your male and female servants and the best of your cattle[c] and donkeys he will take for his own use. He will take a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will become his slaves. When that day comes, you will cry out for relief from the king you have chosen, but the Lord will not answer you in that day.”  I Samuel 8:11-18

When we compromise our values, we pay a dear price.  The strong man only wants power for himself.  He says that when he is President “Christians will have power” (something he has no ability to deliver).  Satan offered that to Jesus.  Jesus knew to reject it.  He is not one of ours.  He is a fraud. Worse, he panders to hate.  How is this behavior consistent with the teaching of Christ?  The message of Christ is always love and hope, not anger and hate.

For more information:

Trump Promises Power to Christians

Trump interview with Chicago Tribune

Anglican Communion Suspends the Epispocal Church


In a move seen coming for some time, the International Anglican Communion voted to suspend the American Episcopalian Church for three (3) years.  The move has been threatened for a number of years as the Episcopal Church has made itself more open to the gay community.  While the Church of England, Church of Scotland and the Episcopal Church all had ordained gay priests, the issue was still divisive within most of the communion and came to a head in 1999, when the Church of England ordained an openly gay bishop.  After investigation, the Archbishop of Canterbury ruled that consecration of people in same sex relationships should cease.

In July 2009, the Episcopal Church voted to reject the moratorium on consecration of gay bishops.  In response, just short of a complete fissure, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that the Episcopal Church no longer spoke on behalf of Anglicans.

In response to the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which immediately legalized same sex marriages nationwide, the Episcopal Church voted in July 2015 (effective November 1, 2015), after contentious debate, to permit same sex marriage and created new rites which were gender neutral – although as a compromise priests would not be compelled to perform same sex unions.

The churches formed from association with the Church of England, which was formed by King Henry VIII when he broke with Rome when Pope Clement VII refused to grant Henry an annulment in his marriage from Catherine of Aragon.

More on the Suspension from CNN

Christmas Displays the Wisdom of God and the Foolishness of Man


No eye was upon Bethlehem.  Few upon Judea.  The world was Rome.  Well, so, it thought in 5 BC.  Of course, the world was a lot bigger than that.  In Japan, the legendary Suinin – one of Japan’s most famous Emperors was at the peak of his power.   The Han Dynasty held sway in China, but began its decline as the Confucian scholars declared they had lost their mandate from Heaven.  The Mayans were at the peak of their civilization cutting out hearts and making lots of predictions.

The Parthians held sway in the East, from which the famous Magi would come.  The year prior Phraates V had taken the throne of Parthia marrying his own mother – a slave girl who been a “gift” to his father from Roman Emperor Augustus.

In Rome, Augustus plotted to place his adopted children in positions of power, while his own wife plotted with her son Tiberius to advance his own interests against theirs.  Some speculate that Augustus’ death was not due to natural causes.

In  Damascus, Publius Quinctilius Varus, the Roman governor of the province of Syria stood in readiness to pounce upon prey.  Herod the Great, the ruler of the Roman client state of Judea was dying and raving mad.  He was preparing to execute his heir Antipater and his other sons were plotting against each other.  The radicals were ready to revolt upon Herod’s death and Varus was ready.

In Jerusalem, all wondered how long the king would linger – how many he would kill before dying.  While many marveled at the new Temple, which was even grander than Solomon’s Temple had been, they were horrified that a Roman Eagle had been placed upon its gate and some were determined to take it down even at the cost of their life.

Taxes.  Everyone must pay them.  In order to collect them, a census was ordered.  Again, no one looked to Bethlehem – except those who were from there and must go there.  Everyone else looked elsewhere for deliverance, but none was to be found.  Except those few, including the Magi, who bothered to read a passage from the obscure prophet Micah:

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

Therefore Israel will be abandoned
until the time when she who is in labor bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
to join the Israelites.”

While the world swirled in conspiracy, intrigue, murder and hatred, a newly married couple expecting a child rode to Bethlehem just doing what the state asked them to do – register and pay their taxes.  There was no room for them.  While many would like to make analogies to events today, they are not right.  It was no one’s fault at the time.  However, it would display the wisdom of God.  In a place where no one was looking because they were looking everywhere else, God gave us the greatest gift of all.

In poverty, in homelessness, without power or grandeur was born the greatest who has ever been born or ever shall be.  And so, the Wisdom of God has confounded the wise and brought low every prince.  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

May the Blessings of Christmas be upon you and your families now and in the coming year.  May we know the reality of the Prince of Peace.

The First (Official) Thanksgiving – November 26, 1789


Thanksgiving was a tradition in New England from the very beginning celebrating the feast often popularly described with the new arrived Pilgrims and Native Americans.  However, its national adoption has been much more recent.  It was first made national by our first President, George Washington by Presidential Proclamation in 1789.  The Proclamation reads as follows:


Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.


Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”


Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.


And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.


Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


Go. Washington


May you and yours enjoy a wonderful day together and remember the purpose of this day, which is to give thanks for the many blessings we have been afforded as Americans.