Category Archives: Observations

06.02.2023 – The Roses Left Unsmelled

Who can disagree with the wisdom proffered in the now ubiquitous admonition that we should always stop to smell the roses. Younger people in the midst of the busiest seasons of life are reminded to stop to smell the roses and those of us past those busy seasons are told to regret the times we passed on the opportunity to smell the roses.

Metaphorically speaking, stopping to smell the roses is one of the ways we best sabotage the tyranny of the urgent. When the to-do list insists that we do one more thing, we stop to smell the roses in defiance of the list’s despotism in our lives.

According to the, the phrase comes from the 1960s autobiography of pro golfer Walter Hagen who wrote, “Don’t hurry. Don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.”

Who can disagree with not hurrying and not worrying and being sure to smell the flowers along the way?

In a way, I do. Sometimes there are things to do that are more important than stopping to smell the roses.

The end of this month will mark three years of retirement for Becky and me. I recommend retirement to anyone considering it.

One of the unexpected turns of the past three years is my return to regular preaching. I wasn’t looking for a pulpit to fill, but what began with a request for some one-time help with a church whose pastor had left unexpectedly has turned into a year of preaching most weeks.  I would not have had it any other way.  What a joy the people of Ossian First Presbyterian Church have been for both Becky and me.  What a privilege to bring the word to them week by week.

I will leave it to the Presbyterians in Ossian, Indiana, to judge the quality of my sermons, but I can say for sure that sermon preparation has never been so satisfying. I think it has to do with stopping to smell the roses, less hurry and less worry.

As I did for many years, I try to do sermon preparation early in the week. Done by the end of the day on Monday is a nice goal. But before retirement, that was mostly to clear the calendar for a hundred other things that had to be done before Sunday: preparing for the men’s study on Wednesday morning or an adult class on Thursday night; there were committee meetings to attend and visits to make; times with staff and counseling with church members. It was a very busy life with little time to smell the roses or to ponder Sunday’s message until early Sunday morning. Now with a less cluttered schedule, I find myself pondering Sunday’s sermon on a Tuesday afternoon walk, during a Wednesday or Thursday morning devotional, or on Friday when Becky and I are relaxing on the screened porch.  Less hurry and less worry. We have no literal roses to smell, but the sweet aroma of the word to be preached on Sunday often fills the week.

Any regrets about the roses left unsmelled for all those years? No, not really. I had a job to do that included committee meetings and Bible studies, staff gatherings, and hospital visits. It is what I was called to do and wanted to do.

No regrets about the unsmelled roses, but I like the less hurry, less worry, pace of retired life. Yes, this is a time to stop and smell the (metaphorical) roses.

05.26.2023 – Sardis the Mugo

Not long after moving into our house, we had some Mugo pines planted in a landscape area near the front door.  A Mugo is a shrub conifer, and the experts say they grow well almost anywhere.  Three of the four Mugos are thriving, but the fourth has had a hard time of it. Poor Mugo #4 is half dead, that is, half of its branches are dry and brittle with a bed of brown needles at their feet.  The other branches are filled with lush green needles and lots of new growth.  I have named our fourth Mugo Sardis.  Sardis the Mugo.

Sardis the Mugo’s namesake, of course, is the church in Sardis addressed by Jesus in Revelation 3:1-6.

Jesus tells Sardis the church, “You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead.” He advises the people of Sardis to “wake up and strengthen what remains and is about to die.”  Despite the dire warning, the Lord offers hope to those in Sardis whose faith is still alive: they are to remember and live the Gospel. “They will walk with me in white,” he says, “for they are worthy. The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life.” Continue reading

05.19.23 – T-Ball Christianity

Becky and I were off visiting family this past weekend, specifically our daughter, son-in-law, and five-year-old grandson in Memphis. In addition to the celebration of Mother’s Day (the five-year-old gave Becky a really nice LEGO set), the highlight of the trip was Saturday’s t-ball game. Yes, it was shortened by a passing Memphis thunderstorm, but an altogether wonderful event, nevertheless.

In this particular t-ball league, all the players on the defensive team are on the field and all the players on the opposing team take their turn at bat. The ball is placed atop and hit from a tee (from the old Scottish teaz, a verb having to do with placing a golf ball on a small mound of sand prior to a drive). The inning is over when all batters have been to the plate once.  No score is kept.  In practice, all the fielders and infielders run after any hit ball and most batters seem to forget that they are to run to first base after getting a hit.  Also forgotten is the practice of dropping their bat at some point along the way to first base.

T-ball players do not have long attention spans. Continue reading

05.05.2023 – The (not) scandal of the $15 cup of coffee

I have mentioned before our volunteer work with an Afghan family who arrived in the U.S. shortly after the fall of Kabul. We have known them since late 2021 and our relationship has evolved to include not only what help we might provide as they rebuild their lives in our strange land, but a wonderful friendship we value deeply. We share our lives and family times, laughing together and occasionally crying together. Sometimes we just share a moment of humor, irony, or success.

Earlier this week our friend Aziz texted about a moment of humor and irony – maybe with a little twist to it.

Aziz drives for Uber Eats to support his family. He much prefers the independence and the out-and-about-ness of delivering meals and snacks to the monotony of the manufacturing work he had done earlier in their time in the U.S. Continue reading