Author Archives: Bill

01.29.2021 – a $14.99 Bet on the Future

For the past few years Becky and I have used the Mobile Passport app on our phones to help us get through immigration and customs when returning from an international flight.  About this time last year, I upgraded to the Plus version in anticipation of returning from a mission trip to Guatemala.  I thought I might use the upgrade more than once in 2020, but even so, it was worth the $14.99 subscription.

A few days ago, I received a notice asking if I wish to renew the subscription for another year.  Another $14.99.  I went for it.  We have no current plans for international travel, and we know that our best-case scenario for a trip somewhere far away any time soon is full of lots of pandemic era ifs. Still, I went for it. A $14.99 bet on the future.

There’s no reason I could not let my Plus subscription lapse and then renew it prior to the if and when of a next foreign trip.  At the very least, my $14.99 would cover a twelve-month period when I might actually use it.

But I wanted to make that $14.99 bet on the future, even if the odds of winning are not particularly good.  I like the symbolism. Continue reading

01.22.2021 – I’ll be rooting for God’s team on Sunday

We come by our enthusiasm for the Green Bay Packers honestly. From 1993 to 1998 Becky and the kids and I lived on the shore of Green Bay in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula just an hour north of Lambeau field.  As pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Menominee, I learned early to adjust church schedules and programs around Packer games, especially home games.  My cooperation was rewarded with more than a few tickets to games at Lambeau. Yes, sacred ground. Yes, the frozen tundra.

Our time in the Frozen North saw the Packers in two Super Bowls and champions in one. Brett Favre. Reggie White.  Those were the days.  In many ways, though, it wasn’t the Super Bowl win against the Patriots or the disappointing loss to the Broncos that caused the most joy or sorrow in Titletown. We saved our intensity for the Dallas Cowboys who had the audacity to call themselves “America’s Team.”  Counting the regular season and the playoffs, the Packers and the Cowboys would play eight games in our five years in the U.P. Continue reading

01.15.2021 – On Egregious Behavior

“Now that you are retired, what do you miss most about going to work every day?” “And what do you not miss?”  They are good questions.  And there are lots of good answers.  Near the top of the list of things I miss is the interaction with church staff members.  Over the years, it was my privilege to work with some remarkably wonderful people. You know who you are, and thank you! Going to work was a joy.

It is not on the “don’t miss” list, because it was not normally a part of my working experience, but some of the hardest times in church work also involved being part of a staff. Not the normal experience, but the occasional experience. There were occasions during more than forty years of full-time ministry when staff life was hard, very hard. Only occasions, but several of them in several locations at several different stops along the way. Continue reading

01.08.2021 – Of Vice and Virtue, But Mostly Vice

If false humility is a vice, and I think it is, then to deny any personal virtue is a vice.  There are ways, therefore, that I might describe myself as a virtuous person, but mostly I want to talk about a nasty vice that’s been haunting me recently. Avarice, greed, self-concern; call it what you will, like ice in the slightest seam that cracks a marble slab, this mammon-loving vice of mine does its damage.

Earlier in the week Becky and I received our most recent stimulus check from the government.  We didn’t need the money and have already gotten rid of it.  More on that in a moment, but first a word about the checks themselves.

The pandemic lockdowns have been economically disastrous for the likes of restaurant workers and airport porters. Many of those in the gig economy have been financially devastated.  I’d go fully Bernie Sanders if there were a way to get money to such as those.  As wasteful and inefficient as this one size fits all or most stimulus system is, however, it is probably the best we can do. But it does mean that some of us who don’t need a check get a check.  Continue reading

End of the Year, 2020 – And a Happy New Year*

Becky and I recently watched a BBC mini-series produced in 2014 during the centennial of the beginning of the First World War.  The Passing Bells does not necessarily live up to its IMDB description of being “an epic historical drama spanning the five years of the First World War, as seen through the eyes of two ordinary young soldiers.” Less than epic and too-intentionally-meaningful, each episode takes place in one of the five years of the Great War as the two ordinary soldiers, one German and one English, go from being innocent August 1914 volunteers to hardened and discouraged veterans.

In Episode 4 – 1917 – Thomas, the English soldier befriends too-young-to-enlist, but now in the trenches, 16-year-old Derek. In one scene Thomas, who has been encouraging and protecting Derek, dumps all his despair.  Of the war to end all wars he asks, “What if it never ends?” Derek becomes the encourager, and says, “Wars end. It will. It has to.”

For some of us, it seems as if the most encouraging thing we can say about 2020 is “Years end. 2020 will end. It has to.”

Mustering all our courage, we might even say, “Pandemics end. The Covid-19 pandemic will end. It has to.” Continue reading