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What You Need To Know

We arrive in this world knowing surprisingly little.  Many creatures are born with a basic set of knowledge that helps them survive, but that’s not true for people.  Humans lack instincts for even the most basic needs and are profoundly helpless for a prolonged period of time after birth.  We have to learn what to […]

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Blessed Are Those Who Do Not Mourn

A story is told about Chuang Tzu, the Taoist philosopher.  His wife had died, after forty years of marriage, and a friend named Huizi came to offer condolences.  Walking into the house, he found Chuang Tzu playing drums on a wooden bowl and singing.  “What are you doing?” Huizi exclaimed.  “People will think you don’t […]

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The Death Problem

Death has a PR problem in our culture.  Americans tend to view death in a negative light, as something to escape.  We picture a dark, hooded figure, pointing its crooked finger toward another victim, gathering souls for judgment.  We isolate the dead behind fences, in holding pens for the dearly departed, and turn their disposal […]

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Truth Is Always Painful

When I counseled drug addicts, I frequently dealt with people who had lost all sense of direction.  They couldn’t tell up from down, or good from bad, and lied so often that the truth was no longer clear even to them.  Did Bill really see that movie or was it simply an excuse he gave […]

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An Easy Step To A Better Day

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.   – Mark Twain While I was in seminary, I spent time training to be a pastoral counselor, along with ten other chaplaincy interns at a large, urban hospital.  Two days a week, we visited patients, attended autopsies, observed surgeries, and critiqued […]

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The Rampage of Sgt. Bales

“My rage, my fury would drive me now to hack your flesh away and eat you raw – such agonies you have caused me.”  -Achilles At the beginning of the Iliad, we find Achilles sulking in his tent.  Refusing to fight, because Agamemnon took his sexy, blonde war prize, Achilles doesn’t lift a finger even […]

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The Saint I Knew

Fourteen years ago I worked for an outpatient counseling agency in Schenectady, New York.  Schenectady is a run-down industrial city, the one-time headquarters of General Electric, with the remains of eroding municipal splendor sprinkled among urban blight.  Our agency was located in the blight, in the midst of neighborhoods swamped by poverty and crime.  We […]

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My Myocardial Infarction

I had a heart attack two weeks ago.  I woke around six and couldn’t get comfortable.  I turned this way and that, but the little cramp in my chest wouldn’t go away, so I sat up.  Soon I was pacing around the house, massaging my sternum, feeling a tingle descend my right arm, before traveling […]

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What Is Heaven?

I used to have this recurrent daydream, where I was sitting in an Adirondack chair on the back porch of a red ranch house, looking over a sunny, uninhabited valley of fields, river, and woods, clouds floating above, leaves fluttering in the breeze.  There were no worries, no house payments, no place I had to […]

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Sixty Isn’t Old If. . . .

Twenty years ago I received a t-shirt that read, “Forty isn’t old, if you’re a tree.”  Now that I’m about to increase my age by half, I find myself remembering the shirt.  Do they print ones that say, “Sixty isn’t old, if you’re a tree”?  I don’t think so, because sixty is old if you’re […]

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