Hi, my name is Doug.
I write little essays about faith and life.
I also laugh at my own jokes and correct other people's grammar.
I'm far from perfect.
This is my blog.

Marriage, covenant, and crazy loyalty

At my younger daughter’s wedding this summer, the preacher (who happens to be my niece) reflected in her homily on the meaning of covenant, which is at the center of a Christian understanding of marriage.

It was easily, by the way, the best wedding homily I’ve ever heard, and I’m not just saying that because we’re related and because I’m very, very proud to be her uncle, though of course those are also factors.

She described covenant, the relationship God has with his people – and I don’t know if this was scripted or if it just slipped out – as “crazy loyalty.”

God is committed to us, she said, in a way that doesn’t make sense, that defies explanation, and that runs counter to all human expectations.  And that, she said, is a model for our own relationships – in particular, for our marriages.

I like that.  Crazy loyalty.

But the truth is, we don’t see much of it around us.

I read in a recent Christian Century article that we live in “a world marked by infidelity, each of us debilitated in our capacity to do what we say we will do.”

That’s a strong statement, of course, but the author backs it up with a compelling argument, and he ends by writing that “broken promises add up.”  They are so much a part of our lives that we just expect them.  We no longer expect to be told the truth. We no longer expect others to believe us when we ourselves make promises.

Which is where the idea of covenant just might be startlingly good news to a world “marked by infidelity.”

Many of us are familiar with contracts.  We enter into lots of them in the course of our lives.  But contracts are different from covenants.  Contracts are made to be broken. They contain escape clauses and expiration dates.  Human relationships – the kind of relationships we long for, the kind of relationships that are nurturing and life-giving – cannot be defined by contracts.

Marriages in particular cannot be defined by a contract, not if we expect them to be more than they often are.

If more of us thought of our relationships as covenant relationships, modeled after God’s own covenant relationship with his people … why, who knows how our lives might change?

When I think of the promises I’ve made in my life – to my wife, to my family, to my church, to my community, to my country – I realize that all of them have been inspired by crazy loyalty.  I’m in these relationships not because they feel just right – often they do, but not always.  I’m in them because I’ve been inspired to live differently, to promise differently, to act in a way that for many would be just plain crazy.

I’m in these relationships because of the way God has been in a relationship with me.

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The Crybaby

I cry easily.  Just ask my family.

I cried in the delivery room when my daughters were born.  The first time, in fact, I had so many tears and was so overcome that I unfortunately forgot to use the camera strapped around my neck.  I distinctly remember the other people in the delivery room saying, “Oh, he must be a first-time father,” as though the wonder of childbirth wears off quickly.  By the third or fourth child, it’s all business.

Not for me.

I clearly remember crying in 1998 when Mark McGwire broke Roger Maris’ single-season home-run record, though I now regret having done so, given McGwire’s probable steroid use.  Still, it was quite a moving event, and sporting achievements are as likely to move me to tears as anything else.

If Michigan beats Alabama in their season opener in a couple of weeks, I know the tears will flow.  (Don’t call me during the game.)

I also cried at the sun setting over Lake Michigan last weekend, another moving event for me.

Some people cry at hurt, pain, or sadness.  I tend to cry at joy or beauty.  I think Lake Michigan sunsets are the best glimpses of God’s glory we’re going to get until God calls us home.

I remember team teaching a class at my last church about Marilyn Robinson’s Gilead, one of the most beautiful novels I’ve read in the last 10 years.  My co-teacher was an English professor at a nearby state university and, as it turned out, an astonishingly gifted teacher.  He began by reading a few paragraphs for us and then weeping over the beauty of Robinson’s prose.

And naturally I wept too.  Eventually everyone in the class was crying, and I remember sitting down and allowing this gifted teacher to explain to us why the words were so beautiful.  After the first class I dropped the pretense of being a team teacher. I sat in the front row and cried whenever I felt like it.

Tears have been on my mind lately because my younger daughter was married over the weekend.  Nearly every person who found out that there was going to be a wedding in my family asked me if I was going to officiate.  I told each person (truthfully) that I really only wanted to be the father of the bride.

Another reason – maybe a more important reason – for not acting in the pastor role is this thing with crying.  I am pretty sure I would not have been able to get through the wedding without blubbering.

When I walked my older daughter down the aisle a few summers ago, she and I couldn’t look at each other without making each other cry.  Pictures taken at the back of the church confirm that we were both red-eyed and biting our lower lips.

So, if walking the bride down the aisle is difficult for me to do, imagine what handling the rest of the ceremony might involve.  No one wanted that.

I did agree, however, to give the toast at the reception, and – you guessed it – I cried.  And like yawning, crying often has the effect of causing other people to do the same thing.

When I told everyone how much life and joy and delight my daughter had brought into my life, I found that I couldn’t go on, and I found that many other people there that night – those I could see through my tears – were also crying.

The thing is, I wasn’t sad.  I was happy. As happy as I’ve ever been.

And as I type this, and as I remember the wedding and everything that happened that day, I can feel a few more tears coming on.  I just may have to stop typing and find a tissue.

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Hey, look at me!

Ever noticed how happy and successful our friends seem to be in their Facebook posts?  Me too.

They post pictures of themselves smiling at the camera, as though they’re having the time of their lives.  Often they’ve just climbed a mountain or completed a marathon or bought a cool, new car.

Good for them.  No, really.  I’m generally happy for all of them.

A friend of mine from seminary days recently retired and built a house on an island off the coast of Florida.  Facebook posts over several months tracked the building of the house and culminated in the delirious joy of moving in.

Today’s photo shows a smiling group of people in a cute, little breakfast nook overlooking gorgeous scenery.

Now, come on.  I’ve moved once or twice in my life.  I’ve built a house in a new state.  I’ve moved from one stage of life to another.  (True, I haven’t retired.)  And I know that not every transition in life is happy and joyful.  Even the best transitions are often filled with doubt, anxiety, and hesitation.

Am I supposed to believe that none of that happened in connection with this move?

And yet I find myself wanting to post good news too.  Hey, look at me, my posts seem to say.  Here I am eating out tonight at a cool, new restaurant!  Look at my plate!  (Post photo from smart phone here.)  Isn’t that an appetizing entre?  Bet you’re jealous, aren’t you?

I have a friend who teaches communications at Calvin College and promotes something he calls “servant communications,” to which I find myself strongly attracted.  His name is Quentin Schultze.

Mostly he sounds upbeat and positive when he writes about social media sites like Facebook.

In a recent blogpost he described Facebook pages as something similar to the front porches on older houses.  It’s as though we’re out there in our rocking chairs, waving as people go by.  We shout hello and share our latest news.

To be honest, I’ve never lived in a house with a front porch like that.  My grandma Brouwer did, but most people today do not.  I don’t know if the neighborhood where my grandmother lived ever really had that happy kind of familiarity.  I’d like to believe it.  But I doubt it.

I’m thinking that a more apt comparison of Facebook posts is the annual Christmas letter.  You know the kind.  Every year you get a letter from someone you once knew, and it’s filled with cheery, sometimes fantastic, news about everything that happened in the last year.

Hey, we sailed around the world!  And my wife won the Nobel Prize in Literature!  Plus, all six of our grandkids were admitted to Harvard!  And that was January!  Wait ‘til you hear about the rest of the year!

Letters like these can be a cause of seasonal depression.

Full disclosure:  I am one of those people who writes an annual Christmas letter.  We’ve lived in six states over 35 years and have tried our best to “keep up” with lots of dear friends we’ve made along the way.

Because of the bad reputation that Christmas letters have, however, I’m self-conscious about it.  I don’t want my letters  to sound like those other letters.  And so I use humor and tell stories.

But, darn it, when my wife wins the Nobel Prize, you can bet I’m going to report that.  And you can bet that I’m less likely to share the news that we struggled in our marriage during the last year, or faced lingering medical problems, or worried incessantly over having enough money for retirement.  (Don’t start rumors.  These were examples of what I might not share, if these things ever happened to us, which they never have.  Absolutely not.)

So, where am I going with this?

As Facebook (and other social media sites) evolve, I’m learning to take them with … a grain of salt.  What I read may be true, but I remind myself that it’s only part of the truth.

We tend to post the best about ourselves for public view.  We want to create the impression that – hey! – we’re doing okay.  We may even be telling ourselves – hoping against hope? – that things are great, despite some evidence to the contrary.

I won’t be giving up my Facebook account any time soon, but when you read one of my posts, you’re welcome to ask, “What is he not saying?”

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David and Bathsheba

I’m preaching about David and Bathsheba on Sunday.  So are a lot of other preachers around the world.  That’s because 2 Samuel 11 is the Old Testament reading this week in something called the Revised Common Lectionary (explaining what that is would require at least another blogpost), and many preachers around the world use the lectionary to guide them in selecting scripture on which to base their sermons each week.

By this point in the week I’ve done a fair amount of reading about the David and Bathsheba story, and I’m pretty sure I understand what’s going on.  It’s a sad and tawdry tale.

Much of what I read this week I already knew, which is often the case when I preach about familiar portions of scripture.  But I did come across a couple of new insights.

One is that the sexual encounter with Bathsheba is often portrayed as a romantic interlude – in other words, consensual – when in reality the story suggests something very different.  David sent for her, slept with her, and then sent her back home.

This is not the language of romance.  It’s the language of power.

It’s true that David marries Bathsheba after having her husband murdered, but the circumstances surrounding their first meeting do not sound like a fairytale romance. Instead, the David we meet in this story is bored and full of himself. I’m thinking that maybe God should have allowed him to build the Temple, as he wanted, because without a project like that David has way too much time on his hands.

Maybe my original understanding of this story was shaped by influences other than the actual words of scripture.  For example, the 1951 film David and Bathsheba, staring Gregory Peck and Susan Hayward, certainly made the relationship seem beautiful and sensual, as sensual as films in that era were allowed to be.

The story, as the Bible tells it, however, suggests something very different.  I’ll need a day or two to process this new information.

The other new insight into this story comes from Eugene Peterson, the Presbyterian pastor and writer.  In his wonderful book about the David story, Leap Over A Wall, Peterson argues that David will forever be linked with two names – Goliath and Bathsheba.

Though these two are different in so many ways, they are nevertheless similar, says Peterson, in that each one was something of a test for David.  They reveal David’s heart.

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon about David and Goliath, and I lifted up David’s courage as a model for us.  I suggested that we too aim higher, work harder, and trust God more.  In this other story David is calculating and cruel. So, what’s the message?

That we should copy the behavior we see earlier in David’s life and avoid the sad mess that his life becomes later on?  Sure, but I’m guessing there’s more here.  I’m starting to see that David was powerful in both stories, but in the story of Bathsheba that use of power was distorted.  It was used for David’s own gratification.  It was abused, used casually, thoughtlessly.

This is the exciting part of the week for me, as I squeeze as much of the spiritual wisdom as I can out of the words of scripture.  I know I’ll get there.  I (almost) always do.

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A pastor’s response

Our country has once again had one of those weeks. It was bloody and terrible and senseless, and it’s all of those things every time it happens.

We wake up and turn on the news, and there it is.  We see people running away in fear.  We see people being loaded into ambulances.  We see family members, huddled together and waiting for news, hoping against hope that their son or daughter, mother or father, sister or brother, is not among the victims.

It happens at Army bases, in schools and universities, in post offices, in shopping malls, and now in theaters.  No place, it seems, is safe.

Over the last few months, several church members have been engaged in a conversation about security measures we should probably take here … in this church, in a place of worship. That’s a conversation I never wanted to have.

Look, I have no political axe to grind here.  I don’t think these are occasions to score points on one side or another.

But I’m sad.  And I’m terrified.  And I happen to believe that there’s a spiritual side to all of this.  I hope you won’t be surprised to know that.

When politicians rush out to microphones to make their statements in the aftermath of one of these tragedies, they typically use the language of faith.  They mention prayer.  They call us to reflect on the things that really matter.

And even though those words sometimes seem a little too calculated, I have to agree. This is a time to use the language of faith. This is a time to pray.  This is a time to reflect on the things that really matter.

When we reach within and try to find those spiritual resources – and this is a pastor’s worry for his congregation – my worry is that we won’t find much, or that we won’t find enough.

So, my promise to you is to work harder – harder than ever – to focus on those things…to cultivate the spiritual resources we will need to face times like these.

There will be more, sorry to say.  This latest one is just that – only the most recent. There will be others.

And so, all of us – this is my challenge to you – need to find ways to think about what happened.  We need to make sure our spiritual resources are up to the job.  I’m talking about not giving in to anger or cynicism or despair.

I’m talking about finding ways to have hope, to live with hope, to live with confidence about the future.

That’s a tall order!  I know that. But I think that’s what it means to be people of faith. If we don’t believe that we are in the hands of a loving God, then we will eventually give in to the cynicism of our culture.

I don’t want to do that.  And I suspect you don’t either.  So, let’s find another way. The way of hope, the way of life, the way of Jesus, who once said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

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A church starts to rebuild

In a recent blogpost I mentioned a church in northern New York State that had burned to the ground following a lightning strike.

I had the privilege of meeting the pastor, the Rev. Bonnie Orth, at a worship grants colloquium at Calvin College last month where she told me that her church would soon be rebuilt and that the ministry would continue.

Here’s a link to a TV news report on the ground-breaking ceremony held on Sunday, July 8…


To me, Bonnie Orth is one of the saints in the church today.  Lots of attention is focused on superstar preachers like Joel Osteen and Rick Warren – and they certainly deserve credit for the work they do and the many lives they reach – but I am convinced that women and men like Bonnie Orth, laboring in small towns across North America, are the ones who most deserve our thanks and admiration.

Their churches will never grow to the 20,000 attendees per weekend level, but then the towns in which they serve typically don’t have that many people anyway.  And yet, they work hard and put in long hours and sit at bedside in many hospitals across this country.  They preach on Sundays, but they also lead the youth group and take out the trash and do a hundred other chores not currently in my own job description.

And, in the case of Bonnie Orth, they reach deep into the resources of their personal faith to find ways to rebuild their churches and to move their people from sorrow to joy.

When I go to meetings like the one I attended last month, I can’t wait to meet them and shake their hands and say thank you for what they do.  God bless you, Bonnie.  I’m proud to call you my colleague in ministry!

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Search for authentic faith

The adult education class I’m teaching this summer with church member Mark Schumacher has been especially enjoyable.  I love teaching classes at church, but
something about this particular class has me especially revved up and ready to go each week.

One reason of course is Mark.  He’s someone I met early on because he was a member of the search committee that brought me to Fort Lauderdale, but we had never taught a class together before.  So far as I know, he has no teaching background and no degree in education, but he’s a natural.  He knows how to draw out the quieter members of the class – and how to respond firmly to the more talkative members (you know who you are).  He’s presenting what is sometimes very difficult material in a way that just about everyone can grasp and respond to.

But the most important reason I’m enjoying myself so much is the subject matter of our class.  We’re teaching from Diane Butler Bass’ newest book, Christianity after Religion.

The first few chapters of the book, to be honest about it, are sad.  In painful detail Butler Bass describes the decline of the American church over the last 20 years.  I was surprised that our class members kept coming back, because the news is not good. People are leaving the American church in droves.  At first it was the liberal Protestant churches that were seeing declines, but now the declines are noticeable across the board, Catholic and evangelical Protestant churches too.

Midway through the book, however, Butler Bass makes the case that something good and encouraging might actually be happening. While many people are saying no to church as it has been, they seem to be searching as never before for authentic faith.  In other words, they are rejecting religion in favor of something less institutional, less rules-based, less dogmatic, less building-centered, less hierarchical.

In the chapter Mark and I taught last week about Christian practice – how to live out the Christian faith – both of us were struck by a story Butler Bass tells about her own church experience.  A few years ago, a church member invited her to join the “altar guild,” a group of people who prepare the communion elements each week for the Lord’s Supper.

According to Butler Bass’ description, the church member said to her, “I’ve been doing it for thirty-five years, and I’m really tired. It is time for someone else to do it instead.”

Not surprisingly, Butler Bass turned down this invitation.  Then, later, she wondered “what might have happened” if the woman had asked the question in a different way.

What if, Butler Bass wondered, she had described her habit of waking each Sunday before dawn, arriving to a darkened sanctuary, unlocking the drawers where the linens and silver are kept, and carefully getting them out for use.  What if the woman had said, “I’ve often wondered what it would have been like to set the table for Jesus and his friends.”

Butler Bass says that her answer would have been, “Sign me up.”

I actually wept when I read those words.

The difference between the two approaches could not be more stark. The first invitation was an appeal to duty or obligation, nothing all that appealing.  But the second invitation would have asked Butler Bass to consider the deeply spiritual aspect of the work, an invitation to participate in the mystery of God.

When I read this story, I thought of all the times I’ve said to church members who had been nominated to be an elder, “Well, it’s only one meeting a month,” when I could have said something like, “As an elder we get to practice life in the kingdom of God.”

Church members who serve on committees and boards and who attend to the institutional life of the church sometimes forget the deeper meaning of what they do. And pastors sometimes forget to name that deeper meaning.

And so it’s time we talked more about that, all of us, because people are surprisingly hungry to hear it – and feel it.

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Worship Renewal

For a couple of days last week I did something I truly enjoy – namely, giving away money.  But not just giving it away.  Rather, giving it away for the cause of worship renewal.

For nearly 10 years I’ve had the privilege of serving on the grants review board of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship – yes, that’s a mouthful, I know.  The board is composed mostly of church musicians and worship scholars who make grants ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 – to churches, campus ministries, hospital chaplaincies, prison fellowships, and more (but mostly to churches).  We give away hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.  And each year we invite the grant recipients – those who are just starting their projects and those who are just completing theirs – to a grants gathering in Michigan.

I tried to explain all of this to my brother in law over dinner the night before our grants gathering began, and he said, “Oh, worship renewal.  That’s where you get rid of all the hymnbooks and sing off a screen at the front of the church.”  Something about the way he said it made me think he wasn’t  in favor.

“No,” I said.  “That’s not quite it, though I realize a lot of people think that’s what worship renewal is.”

So, what is worship renewal?  Hard to explain.  Often worship renewal begins with a pastor’s heart.  My favorite grant story – from a few years ago – involved a hospital chaplain at a children’s hospital.  Families would come from miles around with very sick children, and often they would stay for weeks, even months, at a time.

The hospital chaplain asked herself how worship in that setting could allow parents and family members to express what they needed to express, and not surprisingly her grant proposal made ample use of the psalms, most of which are laments (meaning that most psalms begin with pain, loss, fear, sadness, and disappointment, exactly what the parents and family members in that situation were feeling).  When the grants gathering took place that year, I had only known this person through a seven or eight-page type-written grant proposal.  In fact, I remember tearing up the first time I read this particular proposal.  Her pastoral instincts, I thought, were just right.  I wanted to meet her.

And so, at the gathering, held each year in late June, I made a point of finding her and shaking her hand and telling her how much I loved her proposal and the passion she had for the faith of the children and families who were in her care.

My favorite grant proposal this year came from a pastor in northern New York State whose church’s steeple was struck by lightning a year or so ago and burned to the ground.  Nothing survived in the smoldering ruins except for a couple of wood beams from the support structure.  The grant proposal asked if the church could identify a local artist who would fashion something from the beams – a cross, as it turned out – that could be used in the newly re-built church as a way of remembering what was lost and also as a way of being reminded of God’s great goodness and providence.

I shook this pastor’s hand too and told her what an important ministry she had, leading her people from sorrow to joy.

Sometimes grant proposals grow out of more than good pastoral instincts. Some of the best proposals over the years have grown out of an important question – such as, what is the connection between baptism and spiritual formation?  Or, how about the role of the Lord’s Supper in congregational reconciliation?

The truth is, our little board has read so much over the years that has been so inspiring and uplifting.   So many gatherings of Christian people across North America are working so hard, with such passion and creativity in their worship lives, that we as a board are often left speechless and humbled and grateful.

I always come home to my own congregation with a renewed determination to be as creative and dedicated in my own worship planning as the people who received grants. Their work inspires my own.  Their work gives me hope for the church.

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Psalms for All Seasons

Psalms for All Seasons: A Complete Psalter for Worship; Joyce Borger, Martin Tel, and John D. Witvliet, Editors; Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, Faith Alive Christian Resources,and Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, 2012

I heard one of the editors of this impressive volume say at a recent worship conference that Psalms for All Seasons was “not born out of market research.”  No one, he said, has been asking the editors, “When is there going to be a new psalter?”

Yet, here it is, in its third printing in about as many months.

Psalms for All Seasons may not have been “much anticipated” (in the breathless language of some pre-publication blurbs), but it is nevertheless welcome, clearly filling a need, and telling us a great deal about where the American church is today.

I grew up singing the psalms in a denomination that has historically valued psalm singing and that sang out of a “psalter-hymnal,” but I don’t think I discovered the power and importance of the psalms until I was well along in my ministry.  Today it would be impossible, for example, to plan for a memorial service without making ample use of the Book of Psalms.  No other book of the Bible expresses what needs to be expressed during such a service quite like the Book of Psalms.

I started out in ministry as an associate pastor in a large church, and I quickly discovered that the senior pastor loved the psalms.  Trained early on to sing opera, he continued to sing following ordination by using the psalms in personal devotions.  I would arrive at the church early in the morning and hear him behind the closed door of his office singing the psalms, many of which he metered for singing with familiar hymn tunes.  (Several of his psalms, in fact, can be found in this volume.)

Writing this review, I thought, called for a different kind of preparation from other book reviews I’ve written. To give an example, I worked with the lead musician on my church’s staff, and together we have now selected several of the psalms in Psalms for All Seasons for use in worship.

On one recent Sunday, when Psalm 23 was the psalm of the day in the Revised Common Lectionary, the congregation sang three different settings of this psalm – from the stately and traditional to the lively and contemporary.  The adult choir sang yet another setting for a total of four very different experiences of this psalm.

What was the effect of all this attention to Psalm 23?  I would like to think that this particular psalm’s message, meaning, and beauty were fully on display – and perhaps that my congregation caught a little of the rich diversity of music now being sung in American churches.

Psalms for All Seasons contains settings for all 150 psalms, including 11different settings for Psalm 23 (only one setting for Psalm 101, but generally several settings for each psalm).  The settings follow a reproduction of the psalm in its entirety (from the New Revised Standard Version), a brief prayer (or collect), and a paragraph of commentary about the psalm.  Outlines of morning prayer, noon prayer, evening prayer, and prayer for meetings and classes are given toward the end of the volume, making it valuable for personal use and meetings as well as corporate worship.

The settings (where there is more than one) range from old to new and are thoughtfully selected to include all or most of the arrangers and writers at work today in the American church.

Here’s a prediction for pastors and worship leaders who select music each week for use in worship: in this volume you will find at least 200 psalm settings that you would never, under any circumstances, think to use, but that means you will find hundreds more that would fit nicely with your worship preferences. The range is sometimes startling, though that would also be a good description of worship life in the American church today.

What the editors of this volume have revealed is perhaps what we’ve known all along – namely, that the psalms have long had, and continue to have, an important place in the worship life of the church.

Companion CDs are available which offer a sampling of the psalms found in Psalms for All Seasons and which give the listener and worship planner an idea of how the setting might sound in worship.

Having sung a great many of the settings in this volume both with my congregation and in other settings, I can testify to not only its usefulness, but to its wonder. What an unexpected and timely gift to the church.

(a book review for Perspectives: A Journal of Reformed Thought, a publication to which I’ve contributed for than 20 years)

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A little bug

I felt it Saturday morning.

Something was happening in my upper respiratory system, and it wasn’t something good.  My voice sounded a little more resonant than usual.  I had a scratchy throat. And so, clearly a cold was on the way.

But getting sick on Saturday is not an option, not for me.  I had a sermon to preach, one that I was looking forward to preaching, one that I was genuinely excited about, as a matter of fact.

So, I did what I usually do.  I powered through.  A little Tylenol, a little decongestant (the non-drowsy kind), and I figured I was good to go.  So, Sunday came and went, and I thought I had dodged a bullet (I don’t like that expression much, but it sort of fits).

Then, I woke up Wednesday morning, and I realized I hadn’t dodged anything.  The bug suddenly had the upper hand, and I was busy cancelling appointments for the day.  I reluctantly called my family practice doctor, who prescribed an anti-biotic, and I had no choice but to give in and – I can’t believe this – take a nap.

My grandparents took naps, for heaven’s sake!  And they were really old.

Spiritually speaking, this little encounter with a flu bug has significance for me, beyond the need to take care of myself.  Getting sick is often a reminder to me that I am, after all, a mere mortal, which is a simple truth I am tempted to forget.

It’s like the smear of ashes on my forehead at the Ash Wednesday service – and then the words “dust you are, Doug, and to dust you shall return.”

I don’t like that reminder because I like to think of myself as big and strong and, yes, very nearly invincible.  Illness is what happens to other people.

Then a little bug comes along – one that’s not even visible to the naked eye – and it lays me out.   And in that moment I realize (once again) that “I belong – body and soul, in life and in death – not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…” (one of my favorite lines from the Heidelberg Catechism).

And this is where I’m supposed to comment on how thankful I am for this much-needed reminder…but I’m not quite there yet.

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