Concerning Life as It Is Supposed to Be

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For God Took Him

Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him. (Genesis 5:24)

In the genealogies of Genesis 5, this line regarding Enoch stands out because it does not say that Enoch died, as it does of all the others listed, but that he simply ‘was not’. For reasons we cannot know, his transition was different. The writer of Hebrews says that he did not ‘see death’. He simply was no more because God took him. Enoch’s uniqueness lies in his not tasting death. All who walk in faith and then leave this life do so because ‘God took him’.

God took my friend Dave yesterday. Dave did, in fact, see death, but it was, as far as we know at this point, quick and without terror. He was recovering at home following successful by-pass surgery when God, through a means not yet known, took him.

Dave pastored a church in my denomination. His church was located five miles from the one I pastored and as for a time, while his church was in its early days, we shared a building, we had much more contact than many pastors might. As different as we were, we became friends. It was a friendship that for me was essential for my persevering as a pastor.

A few months ago I was asked to serve on a panel discussing how pastors stay mentally and spiritually healthy. My primary contribution to that panel was first to say that I’m not sure that I am healthy. But I went on to say that if perseverance is any indication of health, I owe that to a small group of friends who have both believed in me and have loved me with all my faults. Foremost, a pastor needs other pastors before whom all facades are removed and complete honesty can prevail. Few pastors have this. Dave became that for me.

Fred B. Craddock was a man who for many years trained pastors. He made sure that he got to students early in their seminary education to tell them this:

You very likely…will experience lapses in your own personal faith. Do not panic. In the interim between the lapse of faith and the return of faith…let the church believe for you until your own faith returns. (Craddock on the Craft of Preaching, page 8)

Dave believed for me and I for him during those lapses over 20 years of ministry. One cannot measure the gift that was. It is rare. And one cannot imagine that being gone.

To share the depth of the loss is not possible now. Memories clamor for attention. Shock and sorrow mingle, and if in me, how much more in his lovely and now bereaved family.

I cannot understand why God would choose now to take him. And yet to know that it is God who took him provides a measure of comfort. His passing is not a random loss. Dave walked with God and then, inexplicably but certainly, God took him. God, who gave his own son. God, who raised Jesus from the dead. God, who loves with an everlasting love. God took him. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Of course, God knew full well what he was getting in taking Dave. If you knew and loved Dave, simply replace the name ‘Mitch’ with ‘Dave’ below and smile with me. We’ll miss him.


Randy and the Professor

The church I pastor is located just two miles from a seminary that trains pastors for many denominations, including my own. One of the professors there is a friend who was a classmate of mine when we ourselves were in seminary several centuries ago. Not too long ago he posted something on Twitter that I thought would be worth discussing and which I saw as a good excuse to meet him for breakfast. The Professor suggested we meet on Thursday, January 22.What follows is what happens when the pastor tries to make a date to meet the professor.

The Professor suggested we meet on Thursday, January 22, to which I replied:

That Thursday is just about the only morning I CAN’T do breakfast. Normally, any morning T-F works great. How about another suggestion? My only conflicts would be 2/4 and 2/5.

So, the Professor shot back this counter-offer:

Monday, 1/26?

Which puzzled me and launched me into some exegetical fantasy at his expense:

Your exegesis of my email is lacking at ONE crucial point, Professor. Before I give you a low grade, I’ll give you a chance for a do-over.

Here was the crucial sentence:

“Normally, any morning T-F works great.”

Some commentators suggest that this was the work of a later redactor, but I think a case could be made that it was indeed a part of Randy’s original epistle. Some have suggested that the technical term T-F is a reference to a time period beginning ‘Today’ and extending to ‘Forever’ but most lexicons agree that a more probable understanding is a time period occurring repetitively beginning with ‘Tuesday’ and terminating on ‘Friday’. Given the former interpretation, Monday, 1/26 would in fact be acceptable. But if the standard lexical data is correct, then a suggestion of Monday, 1/26 falls outside the given parameters.

So, please redo the assignment and submit it by noon today for no loss of grade.

The Professor, getting into the spirit of the thing, parried my challenge with this:

So you think you divine my intentions? There is a conditional construct well-known to students of George W. Knight termed “contrary to fact.” An example would be an offer for an engagement on a day when the offeree is not available, such as “I know you can’t do it then (implied), but how about Monday?”

But granting the perspicuity of the original author, How about 2/27? Is 7:30 okay? 7:00 is fine, too. We could meet near or in the direction of campus.

In reality, I judged this to be an oddly distant date, but I put it in my calendar nonetheless:

The Tuskawilla Panera is fine. I think we met there before. And either time is okay. On a Friday, the 730 is slightly better for me.

There we were set. I thought. The Professor confirmed thus:

Let’s do 7:30 at Tuskawilla Panera on Tuesday, 1/27.

Puzzled, I responded:

You ARE making exegesis tough. Now we need to bring textual criticism into play, and I’m not very good at that. The earlier text, which should have the preference, says 2/27.

“But granting the perspicuity of the original author, How about 2/27?”

However, the later manuscript adds detail, Tuesday, and is more likely since the original proposed a date that was so far out.

“Let’s do 7:30 at Tuskawilla Panera on Tuesday, 1/27.”

Now, I judge the later manuscript in this case to be the more accurate, harking back more closely to the original intent of the author. That being the case, the Mitchell Hammock Panera would, in fact, be more convenient for me. And this being a Tuesday and not a Friday, the time does not matter. We’ll stick with 730 unless you prefer the earlier time.

Replied the Professor, on Tuesday, January 20, mind you:

Oh the glories of multitasking. Yes, I intended March 27…just kidding. I intended Jan 27. If that works, please absolve me and I”ll see you a week from tomorrow.

Which required this from me:

So, though a week from tomorrow will be Wednesday the 28th, nevertheless, I’ll stick with the weight of the given manuscripts and be at Panera on Mitchell Hammock at 730 on Tuesday, January 27th. Here I stand; I can do no other.

Which left us one exasperated Professor:

God help us all. Can’t believe it’s Tuesday already.

For all I know, I’ll be having breakfast alone tomorrow!

Life Goes On; Blogging Struggles to Keep Up

The dates on the page don’t lie.

The last post here was posted over two months ago. Were Somber and Dull a pet, I should be arrested for neglect if not abuse. What followers I might once have had have no doubt determined that I am sick, dying, or dead, and have drifted off to more verdant fields. I would not blame them.

What has happened?

The life of a pastor is an erratic and unpredictable thing. Rare is the day that plays out as scheduled. And the life of a father of six can be disorderly, even though only one still requires any direct oversight. Life has pressed hard against my order-loving soul, and this blog has been a victim.

It has not helped that we have had to move. Quickly.

Shortly after leasing our house in 2010, the landlord was foreclosed upon. The house, which had been in limbo since, was sold to Fannie Mae on September 3 of this year. That we had to move out by October 6 we discovered September 23rd.

We have done what we have had to do, and there has been little margin time for other things. Now that I few margins are returning, I hope at least to restore this blog to some regularity.

I hope to restore it for the sake of the discipline of writing. A point frequently made, which I first heard from a crusty old college professor, is that those who want to write need to write. Daily. All the time. With discipline. I have lost, or at least misplaced, that discipline. I want it back.

Oddly, and humbly, I confess that there are those who have told me that they have found this blog (occasionally, at least) helpful. I do apologize to you for my silence. To some degree I see this as an extension of my ministry which I’ve neglected so that in a sense I see that I have neglected you.

I may not have much to say, but I have much to write (there is a difference). If you are among those who find what I write helpful, entertaining, or even diversionary, then pray with me that my discipline might stick.

I’ve learned long ago to make few promises. But my intentions are good. We’ll see where this leads.

Are You Faster Than a 72 Year-Old?

Hannah was a sweet 16 year-old member of my Sunday school class nearly a decade ago when I last ran with any serious intent. I frequently asked about her career as a high school cross country runner, and one day she flipped that on me and challenged me to run in an upcoming 5K, a delightful holiday affair called the “Jingle Bell Run”. I accepted her challenge.

Though I had not run in some time, I soon learned that twice around the figure 8 of our subdivision approximated the 5K I needed to master. I had no clue what kind of time I needed to beat her, but I was thinking that I’d be happy to finish and to give her the joy of beating me.

I did finish. And I finished well ahead of Hannah. And I was immediately filled with guilt. What would a more godly forty-something pastor have done? He would have circled back to cross the finish line in tandem with his young friend. But in the heat of the race, what does he determine to do? To squash her.
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I don’t know if I’ve grown more godly over the years. But I know the competitive impulse has not diminished. At all.

As many know, I took up running a year ago for reasons of health. My initial goal was to be able to finish a 5K by or near my 55th birthday. I did, with a great sense of satisfaction. My next goal is a 10K the end of March. But in between I was encouraged to run in a charity race this past Saturday for a local mercy ministry called Hope Helps.

I discovered that this event would be timed with chips embedded in the number bib, and that race results would be broken down by age brackets. Suddenly, running was not about exercise and it was not about finishing. It was about winning. My age bracket, anyway.

In the course of the race, of course, I had no idea where I was in relation to anyone else. I had chosen the race wisely. It being a new venue, there were not that many participants, so my chances of winning were substantially boosted by the lack of competition.

At 4K, however, I was passed by a man sporting a gray beard. I wanted so much to ask him, “Excuse me, sir. Do you happen to be between the ages of 55 and 59?” in order to determine whether I should try to beat him. But I thought that would be tacky. So, I just presumed he was.

Had he kept his pace, I never would have been able to catch him. But when the finish line came in sight, I realized that I had a real chance of overtaking him. I dug for whatever reserve I had and crossed the finish line wasted, but 2 full seconds ahead of my competitor.

So, yes, I won my age bracket. I beat the other 55-59 year old guy who ran it. I chose my race well.

After I’d recovered, Parry, the man I passed on those last seconds, came up to me, shook my hand, and congratulated me on a good race. I reciprocated.

Later I went to the results board and discovered that my new friend Parry was not in my age bracket at all. No, he left the 55-59 bracket a long time ago. I out-raced a 72 year old to the finish line.

So my racing resume is quite stellar. I can beat 16 year-old girls and 72 year-old men and, when the competition is light, other 55-59 year olds. Be impressed.

Garbage Stories

Monday is garbage pick-up day in our neighborhood. Thus, my early morning run allowed me to engage in a crude form of curbside archeology. You can learn a great deal from what people throw away. At least you can imagine you can.

There are whole stories of lives being lived behind the walls of our homes contained in the garbage by the curb. Sometimes this may be the only insight we have.

Your interpretations may differ from mine. If so, I’d love to hear!

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“Hey, kids, I’ve ordered some pizza. We’re going to decorate the new tree tonight.”

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“Oh my God! It’s Monday already?”

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“Where are we going to put the tree?? Some of this stuff has to go!”

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“No, really, Dear. If you let me open it NOW I can use it to make some gifts for the kids.”

“Okay, then. But I get to open the coffee maker, too. Deal?”


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“I recycle. A lot.”

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“I thought you said the gate was unlocked!”

“I thought it was! But you weren’t supposed to hit it at full speed!”

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(Sorry for the blur in this one. It was near the end of my run; hands were not stable.”

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It’s a wonderful life. Somber, and at times dull, but orderly. It must be orderly.

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My Office

Card Coffee Aroma Card FY11 115Speaking of my Monday ‘office‘, my trips there have been funded recently by the kindness of a special and anonymous gift (pictured at right). A month or two ago, I found in my mailbox an envelope marked ‘Randy’ enclosing a Starbucks’ gift card. It is difficult to know how to say ‘thank you’ for an anonymous gift, but I’ll take the chance that the giver is a reader of this blog and here express my gratitude. It has been a well appreciated gesture. So, thanks!

Astrobiological Impressions and Gratitude

One of the things that our 11-year old son likes to do when we have guests over is to survey them to see who does and who does not believe that life exists on other planets. This has been a fascination of his for many months, if not years, and to his credit I think he has persuaded a few to change their answers.

A week and a half ago he and I were talking about the possibility of alien life and I wished that he could ask his questions of someone who really knew what he was talking about.

At the NASA Grail Tweetup I attended a few weeks ago (which I have yet to report on) I met Dr. Jim Adams, NASA’s Deputy Director of Planetary Science. Though he is a busy man with many responsibilities, I sensed that he would be sympathetic to my desire. He was, and passed my request immediately on to Dr. Mary Voytek, NASA’s Senior Scientist for Astrobiology, from whom I heard within the hour.

I should pause and admit that until my son developed his interest, I had no idea that there were such things as astrobiologists. This is a discipline that studies all facets of the possibility of life in extraterrestrial environments. (For more information, you can go here.)

Dr. Voytek contacted one of NASA’s contracted astrobiologists, a researcher associated with the University of Florida and the Kennedy Space Center, Dr. Andrew Schuerger. By Friday I had an invitation from Dr. Schuerger to meet with my son at a local Beef-O-Brady’s. Dr. Schuerger, it turns out, lives but 9 miles from us.

I know some of you who read this don’t believe in God and I know that you will therefore write this off as coincidence. I can’t do that. God was giving a gift to my son, and through this, to me.

So, last night, had you chanced upon the Oviedo Beef-O-Brady’s, you would have seen at some tables families eating and talking about the events of the day, at other tables groups of manly men recovering from their frustrations at work, and all around every sports channel on the planet displaying the games people play. In the middle of it all was an experienced scientist whose research involves testing microbes for survivability in the harsh Marian environment handling and guiding the questions of a fascinated and captivated 11-year old boy. It was as priceless as it was surreal. (And humbling, I might add. They were discussing things clear to my son but opaque to me.)

There is no way to adequately express my appreciation to these men and women, to those who have loved my son, even at a distance. And I have no way to thank Dr. Schuerger for his gentle and enthusiastic way with him.

I have no way of knowing how this will in the future impact my son. But of the present it has thrilled him, and me, beyond measure. Thank you, all.

Out of This World Cool

I had intended to post a much longer piece in anticipation of my next two days, but time has escaped me. So, bullet points will suffice:

> I was selected from a pool of Twitter users (I’m @rg7878, if interested) to participate in a NASA “Tweetup”.

> Thus, tomorrow I will join 150 others in a tour of the Cape Canaveral launch facility and a series of lectures on space exploration and the particular mission set to launch on Thursday.

> On Thursday, then, I return for an up close (I hope!) view of the launch of the Delta II rocket carrying the GRAIL moon orbiters to the moon.

> I’m supposed to tweet about it – I’ll see how that goes. But if I get the chance I’ll return here to report on the experience.

Details can be found at these links:


I have found another Florida Afternoon Run Motivator. Perhaps not pushing for speed, but certainly invites one outside.


However, today was a bit unusual. 85º and 51% humidity is not the norm for Central Florida late afternoons, but it was wonderful today. Of course, it does come with a de-motivator, pictured below.



I’d really like to return to blogging. I really would. I’ve gotten as far as including on my weekly action list: “Schedule time slot for blogging.” But, alas, I’ve not gotten to that one yet. It will come.

So, here just a quick note on one dull area of my life. My running.

After the 5K run in April, I developed some knee soreness. I laid off the knee for a couple of months and have slowly returned to a regular routine. This was the first full week back at it.

(I’m feeling good enough that I’m fantasizing a 10K run. Someone please talk me out of it.)

The accompanying picture (blurry because snapped while running) is what I have chosen to call a F.A.R.M. That is, a Florida Afternoon Run Motivator.


It very nearly became a Florida Afternoon Run Terminator (the acronym is yours to imagine). I finished just before the lightning and rain.

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