Browse Category: Religion



(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

I WENT to visit my father today. The cancer is taking its toll. Six months is what the doctor has given him, as if doctors are the givers of life. That was almost a month ago. Don’t do the math.

I brought a funny movie with us so that we could all watch it together. The movie was one that I saw at my friend Pete’s house recently, “Along Came Polly” with Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston. I thought that maybe it would lighten the mood and create a happy memory. Deep inside I was hoping that enough laughter would shield me from the reality of my father’s disease. With enough merriment maybe time would stand still. Maybe the shared hilarity would be enough to drive time backwards and my father would be all better again. They always say that laughter is the best medicine, right? Part way through the film my dad was holding his belly. That would have been a normal motion during a funny flick. However, my stepmother’s question, “Do you need some percocet, Pappy?” became the non-funniest line during the movie. Somehow, Ben Stiller’s farting noises in Aniston’s bathroom were no longer funny either.

My father appeared evidently weaker than the last time I saw him a few weeks ago. He was noticeably thinner. He has reached that point of looking unhealthily thin. I know that next will come feebly thin, and then… He has become too weak to take the dog, Murphy the black labrador, out to the back yard. True, a black lab is a large, strong dog. But my dad was always a big strong guy. No dog ever intimidated him. Murphy is so used to my dad taking her out that they now have to trick her by having my dad walk part way down the steps and then my stepsister takes her the rest of the way. Then Dad walks back up the steps and is exhausted.

At dinner, my father’s suffering was further displayed. The poor guy can hardly eat. It’s mainly a side effect of the chemo. He went through heavy chemo treatments since he was diagnosed in February. When that proved to be ineffective, the doctor recommended a milder chemo treatment in order to improve his quality of life. To watch a man, who once loved to eat, sit at the table and poke at the tiny portion of macaroni on his plate was depressing. He left the table at one point. As my stepmother watched him go down the hallway she said, half to herself, “It just gets a little worse each day.”

Two years ago, my dad’s brother died from cancer. His remains are interred at Arlington Military Cemetery in Washington, D.C. I was not able to attend my uncle’s funeral service at Arlington. My dad went though. Last year he went again to visit his brother’s grave. This year he has cancelled his trip to Arlington. The bumpiness of the car ride makes the pain from his tumor intolerable now. For the same reason, he doesn’t drive into town to have coffee with his buddies as much these days.

There is no reversing this for my dad. I knew that as we said good-bye this evening. With much effort, he walked us to the car on our way out. He patted my shoulder a few times and told me he loved me. I saw the tears in his eyes as he turned away. He stood on the lawn and watched us. I couldn’t drive off right away, just started the car and waved. He waved. I thought that maybe if we just stay right there and wave back and forth to each other, it would never happen. We would never lose sight of each other. He would never leave.

But I know that one day there will be a last wave, one last good-bye, one last, “I love you,” and a pat on the shoulder. No matter when exactly it happens, it will always, always, always be too soon. Even if there was some bizarre quirk in the space-time continuum and we somehow found ourselves sitting on the couch doubled over in laughter at Ben Stiller’s antics for a few more millennia, sooner or later the movie will end. Movies always do. Sadly, so do lives.

I feel that I should wrap up this entry with something positive, something upbeat or happy. You see, that right there is one of my faults. Maybe I’ve watched too many movies, been too conditioned by Hollywood. Life is not like the movies. There is real pain in life, real sadness. People do die. True, there are plenty of good and pleasant things in life: love, peace, joy. There is faith to connect us with things that transcend this life. But tonight, what I sense is the frustration of humanity’s mortality. That sense is just as valuable as faith, in its own way.



(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)


“Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down…”

Isn’t that what Simon and Garfunkel sang? It’s a very kind gesture for someone to be willing to lie down as a bridge. But may I make one request?

Please! Please! Please, don’t be a bridge that has grating that I can see through! Please don’t be a railroad bridge with gaps between the ties!

Yesterday was an absolutely gorgeous, blue sky spring day here in New Jersey. In the morning, I made plans with my son, Tim, to go with him to a local quarry to do some photography. He was told that there were eagles nesting there. We planned on going around 5 PM when I was finished working. But the day was prime for exploration and photography. I worked until noon and took the rest of the day off in order to have more time for the adventure. I picked Tim up after school, went home and changed out of my repressive suit and tie, and we headed off for the quarry. Tim’s friends said they would meet us there, in Brainards. It was only a few miles away from our house.


Many people, even in our area, don’t know that the little town of Brainards exists. Even fewer know that the town was named after a Christian missionary, David Brainaird, who did work among the Indians in the area back in the 1740s. (Or was it named after his brother?) Brainard was sent from Connecticut to New Jersey. At times he spent weeks on horseback travelling to Indian settlements in the Pennsylvania wilderness. He established schools to teach English to the Indians. He preached in various churches. Though at first his efforts to bridge the cultural and religious gaps between the English Colonialists and the Native Americans yielded little results, eventually he had a positive influence in several areas of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. To this day, his diaries have been an inspiration to many. He was definitely a man whose name deserves to be memorialized, especially since he accomplished all these things before he died of tuberculosis at the ripe old age of 27.


We drove over to Brainards around 3:30. We met up with Tim’s friends, prepared our cameras, and started walking. Down a few blocks through the quiet neighborhood we entered the woods and came upon railroad tracks. One of the kids said we had to follow the tracks for a little bit and then go across the bridge to the other side of the river. I didn’t think too much about it when he said it. But then I realized the direction we were headed.

“Wait a minute guys, what bridge? What river? Do you mean the Delaware? The quarry is actually in Pennsylvania? WHAT bridge?”

“Oh yeah, Dad, I forgot to mention, we have to walk across the railroad trestle to get to the quarry. I forgot you were afraid of heights.”


That’s okay. I’m cool, right? I could walk across that bridge and not look like a sissy in front of Tim’s friends, right?

There were several people on the bridge when we got to it. I think a few were fishing. A few were jumping off. I didn’t notice much detail about that group of people. My full attention was on the fact that the bridge consisted of railroad ties and metal grating, both of which you could see through… all the way down, way down, down, down, down. It was high. No, really high. It was so high that I had to duck for orbiting satellites. Well, maybe not quite that high, but definitely more than high for a dude with a fear of heights.


We were almost half way across the bridge when Tim turned in front of me and asked, “Are you okay??” Until he said something, I wasn’t even aware of the fact that my body was in panic mode. I was focused on the part of the tracks that I couldn’t see down through. I was walking exactly on the section where the grating overlapped the wooden ties, stepping on the large bolts that secured the walkway. Adrenaline was oozing out of my body and I was breathing in short little breathes as if I was a childbearing woman using Lamaze breathing techniques at the height of a contraction! I was at a height of contraction! My whole consciousness had contracted to the single thought of getting over that bridge!


Tim said, “Listen to you! Remember what you said in the car about being willing to take risks for the sake of ‘art’ and photography? Well, now’s your chance!” Of course, his friends had to hear this and they started in on me. I had become the sissy and the object of their ridicule right there in the middle of the sky above the river. “Yes, guys, I know how far down it is. Yes, I can see between the ties. Yes, I understand that I will die if the train comes right now.” Ha, ha. It was all very funny… until someone actually stopped dead in front of me. “Look guys, don’t F*** with me!” Never corner a sissy in the middle of a wide-open bridge. He’ll get ugly on you real fast.

By now you have probably assumed, due to the fact that I lived to write this, that I made it across the bridge. I did. The way back wasn’t as bad either. Nobody F***ed with me. I even managed to stop and take a few photos. True to my word, I took the risk for the sake of art. And it didn’t kill me!


As soon as we crossed the bridge, we were at the quarry area. The place was huge! There were several quarries filled with water. The place is haunted with the relics of old iron machinery and dilapidated buildings. Huge mounds of gravel still stood throughout the grounds, criss-crossed by motorcycle tracks. The place was inhabited by all kinds of birds, toads, turtles and other types of wildlife – including teenagers. There were groups of kids hanging out in several spots. There were girls in tiny bikinis sunning themselves among boys at rivalry to impress them. Kids were jumping and diving off of the cliffs into the green quarry water. Their laughter and casual cursing echoed across the quarries.

We were told that the eagles were at one of the farther quarries, about a 20-minute walk from the bridge. We made our way there, stopping a few times to take photos of old buildings and to explore this strange place. It was like a forgotten ghost down. The old machinery left behind gave the impression that the workers went on break one afternoon and never returned.


As it turned out, the “eagles” were actually osprey. We were slightly disappointed at first. Then we saw how beautiful osprey can be when they soar overhead. We were able to get within 50 yards of their nest, which was on the top of an electrical pole that stood in the water. The birds were a little upset when we got that close and flew in large graceful circles around us. We were delighted and worked our cameras like paparazzi in Hollywood. It was exciting to see these birds in the wild. One of the kids commented how cool it was to see such a thing when we live in New Jersey. People think of New Jersey as nothing but highways and chemical plants. New Jersey actually has many, many beautiful and scenic areas. (Okay… technically the quarry is in Pennsylvania. But, after risking my life crossing that bridge, I hereby officially annex the quarry as New Jersey land.)


The quarry is a place worthy of exploration. It is a dangerous place, no doubt about it. There are plenty of places to fall from, high places, more than just the bridge. There are several bodies of water whose mysteries are hidden beneath the murky water. The danger is part of its appeal. We will definitely be going back soon.


As soon as I get the courage to take on that bridge again.



(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

“HEY! You’re stealing all my birds!”

So said the neighbor (who was kind enough to push my car out of the snow) when he saw me filling the bird feeders this morning.

Upon moving into our new place, we found an old bird feeder laying in the yard, half buried in the snow. I brought it into the house, “thawed it out,” and cleaned it up. I bought a bag of birdseed, filled it up, and set it on the railing of our small back porch. It is just outside of the door where we can watch the birds easily.

It is amazing how quickly the birdseed disappears! That feeder has been empty each day when we come home. We are wondering how early in the day it is actually all gone. The birds must be spreading the word, bringing all of their friends around for lunch at our place. Looks like we are feeding the whole neighborhood now! There is a increasing number of bird tracks daily in the snow. In order to keep up with the demand, we bought another feeder and a suet block. Both of these are now hanging in a tree in the back yard.


While unpacking, I found my book on birds of the eastern United States published by the Audubon Society. It’s a nice book with tons of photos. It’s very helpful when attempting to identify birds. Now we are keeping this book handy. It is becoming common to see us peaking out the back door, whispering, while passing the Audubon book back and forth.

I inherited my bird watching tendency from my mom and my grandmother. When I was young, they both often pointed out different birds. They both seemed to appreciate the abundant variety of birds, with all of their different sizes, colors, characteristics. As a kid, I learned to appreciate these things too. My grandmother lived in the country. There were birds everywhere. I had a bird book back then too, a small one with photos of birds for the northeast area of the States. I was eager and determined to spot every bird in that book.

Several years ago, an interesting thing happened to me in relation to a bird. It was shortly after my wife and I split up. I was driving the “Blue Bomb” home from work one day. I was very depressed. There was a scene playing over and over in my head in which I imagined my wife with a different man, happier than ever. At that time it was a tormenting thought. It was a hot day in the summer of 1997. I was driving down the highway, deep within my imaginations, when I saw something coming straight for my open driver’s side window. It was coming down out of the clear blue sky – not flying across the road or down from a tree. Suddenly I realized it was a bird and it smashed with a sickening sound into the frame of the car window just behind my head. It was a sparrow. It left blood and feathers stuck to the car. Immediately, I remembered something that Jesus said:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29 – 31)


It was almost as if God threw that sparrow right out of the sky and nearly hit me in the head to wake me up! It sure changed my perspective on the situation. I am not one to advocate mysterious signs from God. But this incident was a little out of the ordinary. Any other bird would not have had the same effect. A sparrow simply standing along the side of the road waving at me would not have done it. This one came hurling out of the sky and reminded me that there was something, Someone, bigger than the issue tormenting my mind. I saved a few of the feathers from that sparrow.

Well… So far we have spotted several different birds at our feeders. There have been many sparrows, mourning doves, starlings, blue jays, finches. This morning I was able to get a picture of a downy woodpecker on the suet block. I learned from our book that it was a female because it was lacking a red spot on its head. Another frequent visitor is a bird that I at first mistakenly thought was an oversized chickadee. After consulting the Audubon book, I found out that it is actually a dark-eyed junko. These seem to be the most abundant of the birds right now. I got a nice picture of one just outside our door this morning.


Actually, I think the neighbor is happy that all the birds are coming to us. He mumbled something about how filling the feeders every day is a pain. We don’t mind (yet). There is something about bird watching that echoes with a primal desire for discovery within us. I am happy to see that my kids share this now. T said we should get more feeders. It is refreshing to see him interested in something like this and excited to learn. This is a good thing. When I see the sparrows at the feeder, I remember good things like these. I smile and I think, “God has brought me a long way since the days of the Blue Bomb! I shall fear not!”

A Room of Smiling Friends


(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

I have been finding so many things that have been “out of sight, out of mind” while they were sitting in storage for over a year (mostly books read a long time ago). This is a find that brought back a good feeling as when one remembers an old trusted friend. It is a book called “Streams in the Desert” by Mrs. Charles Cowman, a book of daily readings. This is the third time that I “discovered” this book. The first two times were while in the midst of divorces. I found an old copy of “Streams” on a bookshelf in a little church while going through my first divorce. I fell in love with its encouraging words. Years later, while struggling through my second divorce, I remembered the book and purchased the copy that you see in the photo. This time I have found it under better, happier circumstances. Opening its cover and reading the words for January 21 was like entering a room of smiling friends and being welcomed into their conversation. I am eager to bring my day to a close tonight, sit in the silence of my new bedroom, and “listen” to this book again.

Cynic or Realist?

(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)

1 son plus 4 impacted wisdom teeth multiplied by insurance carrier hassles squared = $400 out of my pocket up front.

Dang! That’s the deal. My son needs his wisdom teeth removed. He has some pain in his lower jaw. The oral surgeon has had problems dealing with my insurance carrier in the past. So, he wants 20% of the fee paid before he will operate. That is the amount I will probably be obligated to pay anyway. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to pay it all at once.

I was going to rag about my financial annoyances at this point. But I will spare you. We all have them. Don’t we?

* * * * *
Hey! Speaking of financial annoyances… Look who’s coming to town soon! Santa Spud!


I don’t know… I’m a little suspicious that the beard isn’t real.

Doesn’t he look like he’s being robbed?

“No! Please! Don’t shoot! Take the bag of gifts! Take the reindeer!”

* * * * *
I think Christmas should be a totally spontaneous thing. When I feel like doing and when I have the money, then it will be Christmas. It may happen in December. It may happen in April or August. When I’m in the mood to be generous and festive, we will have Christmas.

It’s not that I’m a humbug either. I like to be generous. I like to give gifts to people and make them happy. I just can’t stand the commercialism and hype at this time of the year. “The Holiday Season.” No. It’s a corporate greed driven stressful time of the year. It’s shitty. And I wish that there would be a law to take away any mention of Jesus at this time of the year because this is not the type of social environment that He would promote. Let it all be about Santa and elves and toys and trees and lights and all the rest. Let it all be as thin and worthless as tinsel. We already know it is.

Am I being a cynic or a realist? Is there a difference all the time?

Posted at 9:30 PM (EST)