Personal Notes from Mike
  • Jie is in China, leaving this past Wednesday morning on a 14 hour flight to Shanghai, then several more hours on a train to get to her hometown, Nanjing.  Her mother was hospitalized right before her trip with some serious stomach ailments but is doing better now.  
  • Reading Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes's chronicle, Shattered:  Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign.  The authors, sympathetic to Ms. Clinton in an earlier book, pull no punches in examining why she lost the 2016 election.

April 30, 2017
All the Rain
We're having quite a bit of rain in these parts, leaving my garden under several inches of water.  Probably all the seeds have been washed away and I'll have to replant when the earth dries out.  The only plants to make an appearance before the washout were the radishes.
Normally I like rain; it is blissful to lie in bed on a lazy morning and listen to the patter of raindrops against the house.  From childhood, I remember sitting on my grandparents' porch, safe under its roof, watching the world get soaked, thrilled that I was just inches away from the torrent. My own daughters recall that some of their favorite moments with me occurred while sitting in lawn chairs inside the garage, door open, awed by thunder and lightning and rain running through its repertoire of drizzles and showers and mists and pummeling.  On trips out west our family would watch the horizon as rain clouds moseyed through the skies and we could see the gray areas where drops tumbled from the heavens to the earth.
But for all my love of rain, it has also occasionally proven discomfiting.  When I was 10, our family was camping in South Dakota at Custer State Park.  We pitched our tent along a charming creek.  But when the rains came, the creek overflowed and we had to call up my mom's cousin (who lived nearby) and see if we could stay with her.  She was building a house that was almost finished and generously let our family throw our sleeping bags down on its floors and stay dry under it's finished roof.  It was lots more fun than her stuffy house.
When I was 12 our family was camping in Kentucky at a state park.  When we looked out our tent in the morning, we could see picnic tables floating around in an area just below us.  The tent was on high enough ground, but the rest of the campsite was under water. We packed up and found another park.
The summer I turned 15, I was big into Boy Scouts.  I went camping with three friends (including my oldest friend, Jeff Koch) and it was a campout for working on my 'cooking merit badge.'  As I recall, I needed to fix my friends several meals cooked over an open campfire.  So, I raided the refrigerator and freezer and cupboards at home and stuffed the fixings into a backpack, along with the necessary pots and pans and utensils.  The four of us gathered at my house and hiked four miles to Hoffman's Woods, a combination of pasture and woodland and creek owned by old man Hoffman. (We didn't know anything else about him.) The first couple days were splendid and the food turned out fine. The weather was warm and we swam in the water hole, hiked, and generally goofed off.  A good time was had by all and we needed one more night and for me to cook a hot breakfast over coals in order for me to complete my merit badge. But that night the rain pounded our tents, soaked our sleeping bags, and made sleep miserable.  We got up about six in the morning and saw that all our wood was soaked.  It seemed that there would be no way to get a fire started.  My friends weren't about to eat raw bacon and eggs.
We got the bright idea of all four of us heading up to old man Hoffman's house and asking him if he had any dry wood around his place.  It was a little after six in the morning and he wasn't much inclined to help us.  He did tell us, however, that we could gather a bucket of whatever dry corn cobs we could find in his barn, suggesting we start our fire with those.  So, we loaded up a bucket of them and headed back down to our campsite. 
By the time we got back, about 30 head of the old man's cattle had wandered across the creek and into where we had set up camp.  They had flattened the tents, squished our clothes into the mud, broken or bent several of our dishes and pans, stepped on our bacon, and cracked most of our eggs.  There was nothing to do with the corn cobs except throw them at the cattle.  It made for a miserable morning...but a great story.
Some places in the world can be terrifying when the rains come too fast or last too long.  I saw the Mississippi flood in 1993, one of the greatest floods in U.S. history.  Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a town I served as pastor for several years, was destroyed several times in its history by floods.  And so, as the rains come down around here these days, I am grateful for the gift, but mindful of human vulnerabilities when we have too much of a good thing.  So, it is a prayer with both parts we offer these days:  Thanks be to God AND Lord have mercy.   --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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