Bats in the Belfry

Bats fascinate me. I love the way they move. A flying rodent is such a ridiculous concept in the first place, but they don’t really fly. They don’t glide; they don’t soar. They flit. I’m not even sure what that means, exactly, but it describes perfectly the motion of a bat in flight. They flit. I wish I could flit.

For the most part, my life has been relatively bat-free. Until a few years ago, that is.

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I purchased Ragman and other cries of faith a few years ago. At the time I was searching for good, Christian authors not named Lewis, and happened upon a review of a book written by Walt Wangerin, Jr. Wangerin is a Lutheran pastor presently teaching at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana. For many years, though, he pastored an inner city church in Evansville, Indiana.

Wangerin sounded like just what I was looking for, so I ordered Ragman and read the title story, which also happened to be the first piece in the collection.

I didn’t like it. It’s a short allegory about Christ’s substitutionary atonement, and I didn’t like it. As an allegory I thought it was too heavy handed and clumsy. It was obvious. Maybe even a bit corny. So I put the book away, sorely disappointed.

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The Kindness of Strangers

In early 2008, my youngest son, Nathan and his girlfriend, Sarah, decided to get married. It was going to be a tough situation because initially they would be living on opposite ends of the country. He was a young marine stationed at a naval base in Seattle and she was in the Navy at Pensacola Naval Air Station. But they were young and in love and so they set the date for March 21 in Pensacola. Very short notice, but it was to be a civil ceremony at the county courthouse in Pensacola with a few family in attendance, so there was not much planning to do.

Five of us arrived in Pensacola on March 20th. Beside my wife, Margie and me, our daughter Elise and son Simon and his wife, Becky had come. Sarah had already been given a base house, so we had a wonderful reunion at her place having not seen them in almost a year.

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He Knows Our Frame

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
    so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
14 For he knows our frame;
    he remembers that we are dust.

Psalm 103:8-14

As a father, I have not always shown grace to my children. Many times I expected more of them than I expected from myself. Too often I was impatient with their imperfections and their struggles. Not that things were all bad; we had plenty of good times, and I have a great relationship with my grown kids. But there were certainly times when I fell far short of the mark.

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Saving Snobol

When we lived in an urban neighborhood in Dayton, Ohio, we began, for reasons unknown to me, to feed the cats which populated our neighborhood. Every morning one of us would take food and water out for our ghetto kitties, the number of which ranged from three to ten, and sometimes higher.

Mind you, none of this is my fault. Somewhere along the way the woman I married became the crazy cat lady. It was a slow transformation, almost imperceptible. You go along with your life, married to the same woman for more than thirty years, and you think you know your spouse. Then BLAMMO–she’s the crazy cat lady. And then, to add insult to injury, I find myself feeding the furry little con artists. How do these things happen?

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A Wasted Day

In A Movable Feast, Ernest Hemingway’s brilliant memoir of his years in Paris as part of the “lost generation,” the author makes an astounding statement. Actually, the entire account is full of astounding statements because it is, after all, Hemingway.

At one point, he is held captive by F. Scott Fitzgerald, whom he refers to simply as “Scott.” I say captured because Mr. Fitzgerald (which is how I refer to him) was apparently a hypochondriac and subjected Hemingway to all manner of silly requests and feigned emergencies. At one point, the author says,

“I was getting tired of the literary life, if this was the literary life that I was leading, and already I missed not working and I felt the death loneliness that comes at the end of every day that is wasted in your life.”

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I recall seeing pictures of World War II concentration camp survivors when I was a small child. Horrified, my young brain could not process the images of men whose bodies were just skeletons covered with skin, men whose eyes bespoke unimaginable suffering and immeasurable sadness. The pictures frightened me, sickened me, evoked a deep visceral reaction that remains to this day. I am being quite literal when I say that I can’t imagine what it was like to live through it.

In Night, Nobel-laureate Elie Wiesel tells us. Late in 1944, when it appeared that the Allies would be victorious in World War II, Wiesel and his family were displaced from their home in Transylvania and moved to Auschwitz.

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Go And Tell My Brothers

As a follower of Jesus Christ, I never tire of hearing the story of the resurrection. It’s the story of my salvation. Without the resurrection I have no hope and my life has no meaning. Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

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Elise’s Story

It’s 7:25 a.m. and the temperature is fifty degrees. Clad only in our running shorts and singlets, we huddle together like Emporer penguins, desperate to stay warm. We are impatient for the race, the inaugural Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon, to begin, but officials have delayed the start to wait for late arriving busloads of runners. I’m surrounded by bucolic vistas and verdant vineyards, but I don’t even notice them. More than just being cold, I’m a nervous wreck. This is my first half marathon and for some reason I was confident I’d be able to finish–until I stepped off the bus. When my feet touched the gravel and I saw the hundreds of runners waiting to start a 13.1 mile trek through the Virginia countryside, I suddenly realized I was going to have to actually run this thing. My confidence plummeted.

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