Personal Notes from Mike
  • Grandson Sean spent Friday night in the hospital, all allergic reaction to nuts.  He is fine now, home, and scheduled to go in for some test to determine how serious his allergies are.
  • Daughter Mindy is Gwendolen in the Champaign/Urbana Community theater production of:  "The Importance of Being Earnest," on state March 17-19 at the Parkland Theater.  CLICK here for more information.
  • Ash Wednesday is this week.  On Monday night I'll start the Fasnachts, then serve them to whoever is around the church Tuesday morning (Fat Tuesday.)  CLICK here for the recipe.  
  • There are still spaces for my annual civil rights pilgrimage (March 21-24) to Memphis and Little Rock.  Click here to learn more.  Let me know soon if you want to go.

February 26, 2017
Fighting a Faux Foe
Our one year old grandson spent Friday night in the hospital, allegedly due to an encounter with a cashew nut.  The nut got the worst of the encounter...but Sean still ended up with red splotches and unsightly bumps from the neck down.  He recovered nicely, however, and before falling asleep that night he was goofing around and grinning for the camera.  Hooray for anti-histamines. 
I've sympathy for the kid.  When I was little I had serious nasal allergies.  In the second grade the fluid backed up into my ear and made me lose my balance.  I fell down the stairway at school and broke my lunch thermos.  No cream of chicken soup that day. 
By Jr. High I learned I should carry a handkerchief with me all the time, especially during allergy season.  Of course, being a Jr. High boy, I forgot most of the time.  

My worst day EVER was the first day of school in Dakota, Illinois.  We had just moved to town a few weeks earlier, and I didn't know anyone.  And it was allergy season.  And I had forgotten my handkerchief that day.  But I had NOT forgotten to take the lunch my mom had packed in a paper sack:  containing a large juicy tomato wrapped in wax paper.  (We didn't have plastic wrap in those days.)  

This being my first day of 7th grade in a new town, my primary task was to impress my peers...or at least not draw unflattering attention to myself.  The sack lunch was a disadvantage.  In those days, the poorer kids bought their lunches from home.  School lunches were a little pricey for my parents.  (My dad, feeding a family of six, was only making about $3500 a year.)  I wanted to stash the lunch bag in my locker first thing in the morning.  But I'd never had a locker before...and didn't know how the combination worked...and it wouldn't look cool if I had to ask someone.  So my lunch and I headed off for first hour:  social science.  I kept the lunch in my lap to hide it.
Mr. Raetz seemed like a nice teacher, and he handed each of us a copy of our big text-book.  Meanwhile, the tomato started to leak through the wax paper AND paper sack...and onto my britches.  Big problem.  I wish I could have dropped the lunch and the book off in my locker, but Mr. Raetz didn't include anything about locker combinations in his lecture that day.  

So, I carried everything with me to Mr. Bates's room.  He too gave us each a gigantic textbook: on science.  I must be allergic to science, because that is when my nose started running and I started sneezing.  With no handkerchief, I was forced to use my sleeve. Furthermore, the lunch was really soaked by the end of class.

Instead of desparately attempting to open my locker at the end of second hour, I dashed to the bathroom to wad up a long strand of toilet paper...a nifty substitute for a handkerchief.  

Third and fourth hour were scheduled for Language Arts.  I got three more books there.  I also got tomato juice all down my right leg...and social studies book.  The nervousness made my nose run even more.  Soon the sack lunch was in pieces.  

I wasn't looking too cool. Being a kid who never liked to ask for help was working against me that day.  But by the end of fourth hour I'd had enough and found an adult who showed me how to work my locker. 

 After that day I still frequently forgot my handkerchief, but I would never again take a tomato on an outing.
Allergies!  Later on I became allergic to cats and hay.  About 20 years ago I got stuck in the hospital for a night...and the admitting nurse asked what I was allergic to.  Flippantly, I told her cats and hay.  At three in the morning another nurse woke me up to put a new wristband on me:  it noted that I had allergies to cats and hay.  I didn't have much confidence in that hospital to begin with, and it went down from there.
I've since learned that allergies are basically misbehaviors occurring in our immune systems.  Some experts say that we live so hygienically in this modern world that our immune systems don't have enough to do.  So they attack faux enemies:  like cats and cashews. 

This seems a metaphor for what is going on in the news.  We're hearing a lot these days about enemies of the American people:  protesters, the press, liberals, immigrants, weirdos, refugees, non-Christians. Consequently the powers of the federal government are poised to attack these enemies, like a bureaucratic immune system.

I understand our discomfort.  But didn't Jesus say, love your enemies?  Perhaps he knew that sometimes we get silly in the emotion of some anxieties.  He also surely knew that sometimes we are plagued by miscreant behavior from our social and political immune systems. 

What we fear may not be an enemy at all; it may just be a nut.  And nothing is actually wrong with the nut: real problem is a nutty immune system:  that can't tell a real enemy from a fake.  

I've never could quite stop my nose from misbehaving.  But with God's help, maybe I can behave myself kindly and graciously with my nutty neighbors.  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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