I remember Russell…

He was younger than I was, late 20’s, early 30’s. At least it seemed that way. A vivacious personality, quick with a joke, sarcastic in a funny way. Too young, though, it would seem, to be in a nursing home.

Decades ago, as a young Chaplain, I was part of the team that spearheaded a program to accept HIV positive Residents into our inner city nursing home. There was, sadly, a need in the 90’s for such services as the advanced meds that hold HIV at bay today didn’t exist. You don’t have to be old to be in a nursing home, just over 18 with a need for continual care, and our facility just south of downtown Minneapolis cared for everyone from young men paralyzed by gunfire to seniors living with mental illnesses, and Russell, our first known HIV positive.

And he brought a certain kind of life to the place. He was ambulatory, verbal, bright, witty, and more peer than Resident in many ways. Perhaps because he was living with death he wanted to make the most of the days. Perhaps it was just his personality. But I remember Russell as at least having a fairly bright public face even as he came to us for all the usual reasons people eventually live in nursing homes, being ill and being broke.

I also remember a certain sadness about him. He had the purple blotches of sarcoma, a symptom of AIDS, he tried to hide. The face is the hardest and even makeup fails to undo what has been done. I was told there were times when he would, in unguarded moments, weep as he recalled how the man who claimed he loved him, wanted him, needed him, also betrayed him, given him the illness that was taking his life. Whatever promise was to be had for the future erased and, in the quiet moments, that hurt could not be concealed.

My hope is Russell is with God now and at rest. He was a candle in the wind, but most candles in the wind are not like the lyrics of a glamorous pop song as the winds that extinguish can be very cruel and HIV was, and still can be, very bitter. There’s no judgement either, each of us has a path made up of things we do and things done to us and that synergy is our life. Every sin destroys each of us in its own particular way even as every little bit of goodness gives us life and, looking back, I’m reminded that Jesus is the only antidote for us all.

Still, I remember Russell and the others who came to us in those days. I hope we did well by them and gave them some comfort. I hope in our own way we became a kind of Jesus to them providing oil and wine for the many wounds. I hope they all, eventually, found the love they were craving, not in the passing sensual, moment but rather in the arms of God where all who seek the truest love, no matter who we may think we are, find it.

If I could…

go back I think I’d only wish to change the times I did hurtful things to others or said unkind words. Everything else could stay the same.

The difficulty with that, of course, is the impossibility of it happening. Hard things done and hurtful words said are released into lives and can never truly be retrieved. Three things, though, provide some hope.

The first is that from time to time a person actually does get the opportunity to apologize and at least try to make things right. Seize those moments whenever you can.

The second is that time, the medium into which hard deeds and hurtful words is cast, is also a potential healer. Time gives people, even the hurting, a place to reflect, to understand, to grow, and to overcome. Time does heal, not always, but it can.

The third is heaven. For those wounds inflicted for which there is no possible apology or those which time cannot heal there is a place where, as we often say, “All sickness, sorrow, and sighing have fled away…” If life takes those I have hurt beyond my reach and time cannot heal I, at least, can pray fervently that those who I, in my own brokenness, have inflicted myself upon could at know and find heaven after the brevity of this life and perhaps there we both can find what eluded us along the journey here.

Adios Facebook!

I’m weary of the noise, weary of the half baked conspiracies, weary of the anger, and thinking about how much of my life was wasted has wearied me even further. It’s time for some detox, time for pure water from the Scriptures and the Saints to wash over and through me. Time for rest. Time to do good things. Time to exchange meaninglessness for grace.

Adios Facebook!


It is good to be here, dear friends, despite the world, the politics, and the general hysteria and anger.

Everything around has been reduced in the knowledge that almost everything can be taken away and all we have now is our faith, our prayers, and our belief to carry us on and through.

Therefore we have all we need.


Walking down the street tonight on a cool, late spring, evening, a Facebook post from an acquaintance sending me down memory lane.

The post was a church somewhere in northern MInnesota, a building plain inside and faux log cabin without. There were musicians with guitars and people singing and it called to mind a simpler time, a time of college and gatherings like this in a world that seemed somehow less byzantine than today.

I know, we weren’t sophisticates and a certain kind of naivety oozed from us and yet the world seemed full of potential, of faith, of a certain kind of possibility. We weren’t sure where we would go and how things would play out and yet there was a kind of joy because we understood that God was with us.

Frankly, that seems absent now. Too many agendas. Too many things on the task list. Too many competing influences and not enough time sitting around campfires singing songs of praise and thinking only of the moment and the stars above.

My heart is too often filled with noise. My soul is too often shaken the jackhammer of busyness for its own sake. Where are the evening stars? Where are the loon sounds? Where is the simple faith I remember having and the joy that followed it?

I want my memories back and I hear their call like the call of Jesus telling us to come with our labors and burdens and find, in Him, our rest.


It’s a long time time since I’ve been here, a world away from those days just back from Kenya and the missions.

A little thing called Covid 19 was between there are here. I got it. I survived, and then I went back to work with others who had caught it. Most survived.

The price was high. Not just the illness but the hours breathing through a hot mask, the sweaty PPE, the showers at the end of the day, watching the funeral home come. Crying when they did and crying when the survivors left the unit. Communing a sweet lady while wearing a haz mat helmet for vestments. Praying hard. Worrying for my wife and family. Sleeping alone to keep others safe.

People ask me what I want.

I want a month somewhere quiet. I want people to stop calling us “heroes” because we do this every day. I want people to understand I’m not myself yet because that jolly, caring person, has been pushed real hard and is very tired. I want people to know that I’m glad I experienced what I did and returned to do the service I could, but there was a cost.

Everything seems different now. I cry very easily. I roll down the windows in my car every time I can because fresh air has become like gold to me. I sleep when I can, sometimes too much and sometimes too little. The day determines the night. They say one needn’t fear in the valley of the shadow of death but that doesn’t mean it won’t take a piece out of you as you walk through.

Still, my faith is still there and so is my hope. I’ll catch up with the rest of the world in a little bit.

See you there.

Against the Darkness…

I wish things were different. I wish the world I live in was different, less noisy, less angry, less obsessed. For now, though, this doesn’t seem to be its path.

Anger won’t help either. What would my anger do to help things become less angry?

There are times, as well, when I simply want to be left alone. And as much as a safe hiding place would be nice eventually I would be forced to come out of my bunker if, for no other reason, to get coffee. People aren’t my problem anyway.

I think the only thing to survive these days is to fill yourself with light. Go to church. Read the Scriptures. Bathe, frequently, in any holy waters you can find. Pray and absorb every small bit of God and goodness to fill the empty places and then live as much like heaven as possible.

Do that and the worst that can happen is joy and the best is that you join the Saints.

A Cold Week…

It has been a cold week here in Minnesota. Air temperatures dropping to the 30’s below farenheit and the wind chills falling even further.

We’re actually kind of used to it here. Not that it happens often but rather because enduring rough weather is part of the “soul” of Minnesota. No one moves here for the weather, too cold in winter, too hot and humid in summer, but we all figure out a way to make do. This last week was no different. Cars started, at least most did. People who needed to be at work found a way and those that could stay put at home, did. And everyone put on layers and continued on with life as people in more southern climes stared in wonder, or horror, or both.

Living here, though, has made me a lover of spring. If winter must be endured I find that, as I grow older, spring is to be embraced. The sensitive can feel it coming as nature fills the air with subtle hints of its arrival. Daylight increases. The warm breezes from the southwest begin to win their battle with the Alberta clippers. The sky seems different, and long sleeping animals begin to awake.

If a person can make it through January, then the worst is over. January will claim some, that time of the year always does. Still, if you make it through, the end, if not the snow, is in sight and spring’s inevitability begins to make itself known. Years of experience makes a person wise in this regard and those who are aware of the surety of spring, even in the howling winds of winter, can endure.

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