Monday, May 25, 2015

Real People – Memorial Day 2015

Private Fulton Henry Meyers
443rd Coast Artillery Battalion
Died:  November 9, 1942
North Africa Campaign, World War II
          The other day I heard a radio commentator vilify the idea of Memorial Day.  He explained that he thought that setting aside a day to glorify war was wrong and that it was especially wrong in the context of church services, parades and family barbecues.  I was a little surprised on hearing these words, not that they came from the mouth of that particular commentator, but because I, perhaps naively, thought that Memorial Day was a universally accepted holiday.  Who could object to dedicating a day to the memory of those who died to protect our freedom?  But then it dawned on me that this commentator just didn’t get it.  Memorial Day isn’t about war.  It’s about people - real people who gave their lives for others.  And that’s who Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.

          Our familiar Gospel passage recalls the story of the rich man who’s looking for the secret to eternal life.  Jesus tells him in no uncertain terms that he must follow the commandments, sell all he has and give it to the poor.  He must live a life for others; he must live a life of selfless giving.  In short, it’s all about people.  Unfortunately, this rich man couldn’t do that.  He was too attached to his worldly goods, he was too comfortable with life as he knew it to accept the gift of eternal life.  And so he went away sad.

             The Gospel is clear – our lives are ordered to serve others.  “Service is the rent we pay for being.  It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time."[1]  Service isn’t a chore – it’s a gift that fills us with great joy.  Just think of how good you feel when you do a good deed; when you help a friend in need; when you serve others.  That good feeling gives us a glimpse of the eternal life that is ours when we turn away from ourselves and dedicate our lives to others.

          And so on Memorial Day, we don’t celebrate or glorify war.  We hate war and the death and destruction it brings.  On Memorial Day we celebrate people. 

+ On Memorial Day we gather together as a faith community in our churches to remember real people who understood that there is no greater love than this:  “to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:13); 

+ On Memorial Day we come together as a nation at parades and civic services to honor real people who “gave the last full measure of devotion”[2] to safeguard the freedoms we enjoy, including religious freedom and the freedom of speech; and

+On Memorial Day, we come together with family and friends to celebrate real people, our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, brothers and sisters, who died in the service of others, whom we respect and miss and love so much.

          You know, that radio commentator just didn’t get it.  He’s so wrapped up in himself and his self-righteousness that he’s forgotten real people.  Like the rich man in today’s Gospel, he goes away sad.  We, on the other hand, can go away happy because we have the opportunity today and every day to listen to Jesus, to follow the example of those we honor today – to live a life of selfless giving, to remember that it’s all about real people, and thereby receive the gift of eternal life.

Readings:  Sirach 17:20-24; Psalm 32; Mark 10 17-27

[1] Marian Wright Edelman
[2] Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address (November 19, 1863).

Saturday, May 16, 2015

I Believe

I had a great hike with some great men today.  The reflection I gave on the hike follows:

          When Eric, Evan, Ken and I agreed that today’s theme would be “Why We Believe in God,” I didn't expect that it would take me so long to prepare this talk.  I didn't doubt or a lack reasons for why I believe in God.  My problem was that I had too many reasons; I had trouble choosing which ones best expressed why I believe.

        As a lawyer, I’m trained to gather   facts, review testimony and balance evidence to find the truth.  I've done my homework.  I can recite for you the several cosmological arguments for the existence of God based on motion – if an object in motion must be set in motion by some other object or force, then there must be a first “Unmoved Mover” that set it all in motion; causation – if things exist that are caused or created by other things, then there must be a first “Uncaused Cause” that made it all happen; gradation – if there are greater degrees of perfection in qualities like beauty, goodness, or knowledge, then there must be a perfect standard by which all such qualities are measured; and intelligent design – if we understand that the universe operates in an orderly, intelligent manner, then it must have been designed by an “Intelligent Designer.” 

These arguments all make sense to me; they appeal to my sense of reason; and they've been put forth over the centuries by minds greater than mine whom I respect very much.  But intellectual arguments like these didn't convince me of the existence of God or lead me to some dramatic conversion.  They simply serve as rational support for what I've come to believe from my own experiences during the 49 years of my life. 

+ When I see a beautiful painting of a waterfall, I know that it was created by a talented artist with an eye for beauty.  So why wouldn't I believe that the waterfall itself was created by a talented artist with an eye for beauty?

+ When I marvel at the human feats performed by a robot, I know that it was created by an intelligent engineer with a mind for complex design.  So why wouldn't I believe that the human body was created by an intelligent engineer with a mind for complex design?

+ When I read the laws of civilized nations, I know that they were conceived by thoughtful legislators with a sense for justice.  So why wouldn't I believe that the laws of nature that speak to us in our hearts were conceived by a thoughtful legislator with a sense for justice?

+ When my parents taught me not to run with scissors and to eat my vegetables, I learned that they were right and that I could trust that they had my best interests at heart.  So why wouldn't I think that they were right and trust that they had my best interests at heart when they taught me to believe in God?

+ When I study new things, I learn that there’s always a teacher who knows more than I do.  So why wouldn't I believe that there’s teacher who knows more than we all do?

+ When I feel called to serve others, I’m filled with a sense of purpose.  So why wouldn't I believe that when I’m called to serve others, I’m called by one who gave me that purpose?

+ When I’m given a special gift, I know that I’m loved by the one who gave it to me.   So why wouldn't I believe that the gifts I cherish most – my life, my family and my friends – were given to me by one who loves me most?

         As you know, I could go on for hours.  Suffice it to say that I've gathered the facts, I've reviewed the testimony, I've balanced the evidence, and I've found the Truth.  That’s why I believe.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

There is Your Mother

I didn't preach today, so I'm posting a reflection I gave several years ago on Motherhood.  Happy Mothers Day Mom, Jessica, Momma and to all Mothers!

“Woman, there is your son.”  “There is your mother.”  (John 19:  25-27)

          My first reaction to these words arose from the lawyer within me – in these simple words, Jesus is getting his affairs in order. But what affairs did Jesus have to get in order? He didn't have wealth or property, a home or livestock. He had none of the trappings of wealth of his time. He gave all of that up when he entered his ministry. He didn’t even have the clothes on his back anymore. The soldiers who would crucify him had just divided those up among themselves. Yet, we can’t say that Jesus had nothing because we learn in these simple words that there, standing below Him, was His mother – the mother who loved Him. For in humbling Himself to share in our humanity, Jesus received a very special human gift – a mother.
Photo by Jessica Jenney

         This poignant moment reveals to us in Jesus and Mary something that we ourselves can understand – a very deep, yet human emotion – the love between a mother and a child. For Jesus and Mary, this love developed over some 33 years of the blessings, the happiness, the fears and the sadness that they shared together. We share these very same experiences with our mothers and with our children. We aren't perfect, and our relationships aren't always ideal. Sometimes we may feel that we aren't loved, and sometimes we may feel that we don't love enough. But we still understand this special relationship between a mother and a child that's expressed so simply and meaningfully in these words. Whether we feel that we live up to it or not, we still understand it.

          While Jesus, no doubt, brought great joy to Mary, He wasn't necessarily an easy child. Mary and Joseph fled their home to a foreign land to protect Him when they feared for His safety. He strayed from his parents at a very young age, causing them considerable heartache. Upon hearing that Mary had come to see Him after He had left home to begin His ministry, His response was to ask, “Who is my Mother?” At the Wedding at Cana, He initially rebuked His mother’s request to spare the bridegroom embarrassment when they ran out of wine. But even Jesus couldn't ignore His mother. He did as she asked, without her having to ask a second time. Despite these difficult moments, as He hang beaten, scourged, stripped naked, nailed to a cross, humiliated and scorned by the very people He came to save, there she stood, loving her son. How often have we upset our mothers only to find that our mothers were still there for us when we were at our worst?

          A mother’s love is profound and simple at the same time. It expresses itself in the extraordinary challenges we face in our lives, but most deeply in ordinary day-to-day life experiences. The Bible tells us of the great and extraordinary events that Jesus and Mary shared together. But even though the Bible doesn't tell us, we know that Mary performed the chores of childcare every day for Jesus just because she was His mother. Did you ever consider that the Blessed Virgin Mary changed the Son of God’s diapers? Now that’s a chore that proves that God has a sense of humor. We also know that Mary and Jesus must have shared ordinary day-to-day experiences that were special to them, as mother and son, experiences that although small, contributed to that special love they shared as mother and child.

          I am blessed to have witnessed and received this special love from several women in my life. I remember my Grandma Meyer letting my brother and me pick out any toy we wanted when we visited her during the summer, and the letter she wrote me two days before she died to thank me for a birthday card – I still have that letter. I remember hearing my Grandma Gallo shriek at the sight of worms just to make us laugh, and sitting with her on her gold couch under an itchy wool blanket drinking Tom Collins Mix (just the Mix for us, though I can’t vouch for what may have been in hers). I see the sacrifice that my wife Jessica continues to make having given up a career she worked hard to build in order to stay at home with our daughters, and I remember the time that she insisted on staying in the Emergency Room with our daughter Annie while she received stitches, even though Jessica grows faint at the sight of blood (she didn't faint). I’ve seen my mother-in-law’s tears over the son she lost almost 20 years ago, and the telephone conversations she has with Jessica almost every day, just because. I think of countless laughs with my Aunt Anne, my Aunt Carol, who treats me like her own son, and my Aunt Bette, who encouraged me to run for President and always told Jessica and me that we were among her favorite people. And, of course, I think of my mother - I remember my mother reading to me, and teaching me to make pork chops. I remember her volunteering in the Band Parents Association, even though that really wasn’t her thing. I remember her sitting in the audience with proud tears in her eyes at every graduation and awards ceremony. And I will never forget how she recently told me that I have never disappointed her. I know that’s not true. But it is testament to a mother’s love that she at least temporarily forgot my many shortcomings.

          In the third of the seven last words, Jesus commends His mother to the care of the unnamed disciple whom He loves. Though the disciple is believed to be John, Jesus is really entrusting His mother to our care. For Jesus knew that we would understand the depth of the love He had for His mother, developed through the ordinary and extraordinary events of human life. And Jesus knew that we would understand the need to cherish this very special gift from God. I firmly believe that a mother’s love for her child is the closest earthly example we have to God’s love for us. Mary is the patroness of that love. For God so loved the world that He gave His only son – and so did Mary.

          So in honor of Mary, in honor of our mothers, grandmothers, the mothers of our children, and all of the mothers who have touched our lives, let us pray together:

Hail Mary full of grace the Lord is with you.
Blessed art thou among women, and 
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
Now, and at the hour of our death. Amen

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Live Loved - Love Living - Live Loving

I had the privilege of giving the homily at my Uncle Bob's Memorial Mass this morning.     

        When I graduated from law school more than 20 years ago, Uncle Bob gave me this pen – a Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen. Many would agree that Montblanc makes some of the finest pens in the world and that the Meisterstück fountain pen is Montblanc’s finest pen. This pen speaks volumes to me of the kind of person Uncle Bob was: he appreciated the fine things of life, and he was very generous and loving. Uncle Bob bore the hallmarks of a man of faith: he lived loved, he loved living, and he lived loving. That’s what our Gospel passage and Uncle Bob’s example call us to do, too.

          We heard in our Gospel that whoever hears God’s word and believes in him “has passed from death to life.” (John 5: 24) “The passage from death to life is not a future promise; it happens now.”[1] God’s gift of eternal life isn't dangling somewhere out of arm’s reach to give us hope for a better life after this one. It’s available to us right now. “’Eternal life’ is life itself, real life, which can also be lived in the present age and is no longer challenged by physical death.”[2] God sent his only Son to conquer death so that we can live life to its fullest now. God wants us to enjoy his creation; he wants us to love living. But to do that, we have to free ourselves from the chains of death by believing in the Resurrection and the Life. We have to live knowing that we’re loved by God. We have to live loved.

          Believing isn't always easy. Sickness, death, broken relationships, financial troubles, you name it, this life is full of serious problems that challenge our belief in an all-loving God. I have no answer for why a faith-filled man like Uncle Bob would suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. But “[f]aith is like a bright ray of sunlight. It enables us to see God in all things as well as all things in God.”[3] As our first reading from Revelation tells us, “God’s dwelling is with the human race.” (Revelation 21:3) Faith in God and his promise of eternal life opens our eyes to God’s loving presence in every aspect of our lives. Faith gives strength to the weary, comfort to the ill, courage to the dying and solace to the mourning. Saint Paul said it perfectly in his letter to the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b) With God in our lives, we have nothing to fear. We have every reason to live and to enjoy all of the wonderful things in life. We have every reason to love living, because we’re living loved.

          How do we know when we’re living loved? We love living, and we live loving. (I’ll give you a moment to let you catch up with all of those “Ls”). Love is dynamic, not static. It has to move. So when we open ourselves to receive God’s love through faith, we can’t hold it in; we have to share it. Faith is “an acceptance of God’s grace and a willingness to let that grace flow through us to others.”[4] So people of faith, people who live loved, live loving. Uncle Bob was a man of faith. He lived loved, he loved living, and he lived loving.

          Uncle Bob lived loved as a faithful Catholic – attending Mass regularly, serving as an usher at several parishes and, later in life, helping out at BINGO. During my last visit with Uncle Bob, he spoke beautifully about his Catholic faith to a minister who dropped by for a visit. When she asked whether his illness and prognosis challenged his faith in God, he looked at her incredulously and said, “No, I know that I’m safe in God’s hands. That’s what I believe.” Then when the minister told him that she was Lutheran he said, “Get out!” So much for ecumenical dialogue. Nonetheless, Uncle Bob lived loved.

          Uncle Bob loved living. He loved the Giants and the Yankees, jazz and big band music. He loved the Jersey shore, where he taught his kids to body surf, and he loved sharing life’s little treasures with his family. After regaling me with stories about bullfights in Panama and chatting up music greats like Anita O’Day and Joni James at the bar at the Meadowbrook, Uncle Bob said, “Michael, there’s a lot of good stuff going on in life. You just have to open your eyes a little bit.” Uncle Bob loved living.

          Uncle Bob lived loving. He loved animals – volunteering as a dolphin soother and fish counter at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida and never passing up the opportunity to throw a ball for a dog. We Meyers were convinced that our dog Molly would die of a heart attack because Uncle Bob wouldn't quit throwing, and Molly wouldn't quit retrieving. He loved his country, singing the National Anthem with his hand over his heart no matter where it was played.

          But most of all, most of all, Uncle Bob loved his family. Every year on Memorial Day Uncle Bob paid his respects at Grandpa’s grave and then stopped by to visit Aunt Louise and Uncle Lou. He held his mother’s hand on the day she died. He loved golfing with his brothers and teasing his sisters. He made it a tradition on Christmas Eve to attend the Vigil Mass and then treat his family to a fine meal at a great restaurant. He endured the long commute from New York to make his son’s baseball game, and danced the hula at a Disney World luau to make his children laugh. He proudly bragged about his children, his grandchildren, his step-grandchildren and his Roly Poly. And he gave his Godson one of the finest pens in the world – a Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen. Uncle Bob lived loving.

          As Uncle Bob’s cancer progressed, Susan shared how striking it was to her that the sicker and weaker he became, the more often he said, “I am the luckiest man in the world; I have a loving family.” That’s the testimony of a man of faith, a man who lived loved, who loved living, and who lived loving. Those are the words of the man we love so much that we faithfully commend his spirit into God’s hands, where we believe that he will live loved forever.

Readings: Revelation 21: 1-5a, 6b-7; Psalm 23; Romans 8: 31b-35, 37-39; John 5: 24-29

[1] Francis J. Maloney, “The Gospel of John,” Sacra Pagina, vol. IV, Daniel J. Harrington, ed. (Collegeville, Liturgical Press 1998) at 179.
[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth – Holy Week:  From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 2011) at 83.
[3] Saint Francis de Sales.
[4] Robert Barron, “Into the Garden,” Lent Reflections with Father Robert Barron, Day 2 (February 19, 2015).

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Good Shepherd - A Baptism Homily

        I was in the Catskills earlier this week in an area known for its steep mountains and lush pastures – the perfect area to raise sheep. I love driving around up there at this time of year because it’s the height of lambing season, and everyone loves a cute little lamb. I saw hundreds of them, and they were as adorable as you can imagine. What I didn't see was a shepherd. It seems that the art of shepherding in the United States has gone to the dogs. So in case you’re not familiar with shepherding, allow me to share some of the responsibilities of a good shepherd.

          A good shepherd leads his flock to food and water, and makes sure that the sheep have all that they need to thrive. A good shepherd guides his flock down new paths, but follows them as they meander along familiar routes to make sure none go astray. A good shepherd knows his sheep by name, and is willing to lay down his life for them.

          Sound familiar? Well, I hope so because you just heard some of this in the Gospel I just read to you. But it may also sound familiar because being a parent is all about being a good shepherd. We have to provide for our children; we have to lead them down new paths, and we have to follow them with a watchful eye (I think we call it baby-proofing these days). Pope Francis adds that a good shepherd has to live so intimately with the flock that he “smells like the sheep.”[1] Well, that’s not too hard to accomplish as parents since small children tend to project everything that’s smelly about them all over us. But most importantly, we parents have to protect our children in a dangerous world, which may be the responsibility that scares us the most.

          Jess & Greg you’re shepherds now. You've taken on all of the responsibilities of a shepherd. I know you’ll be good shepherds. I know because I see the love you have for Audrey every time you look at her. Try to hang onto that look when she’s a teenager. But I also know that you’ll be good shepherds because you’re here today presenting Audrey for Baptism. You know that being a good shepherd is a tough job, and that you’ll need a lot help as you face the joys, and the responsibilities and the fears of parenting. So you've come with the support of your Church, your family and friends to ask God to help you in your awesome responsibilities as shepherds – to help you provide for Audrey, to lead her, to watch over her and to protect her – to help you be good shepherds.

          Through Baptism in Christ, the Good Shepherd, Audrey will receive more than we mere mortals can ever provide her, no matter how much we want to, or how hard we try. In Christ the Good Shepherd, Audrey will have eternal life. So in a moment, you’ll promise that you’ll do all that you can to make sure that Audrey knows the Good Shepherd. If you raise Audrey to know the Good Shepherd, she’ll be nourished with the bread from heaven (John 6:51) and with the waters of eternal life (John 4:14); she’ll find rest in green pastures (Psalm 23); and she’ll live her life knowing that she’s loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). What more could two good shepherds want for their adorable little lamb? 

Reading - John 10: 11-18.

[1] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Nov. 24, 2013) at 24.

Monday, April 20, 2015

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Laurence Olivier - Hamlet
                It’s 3:53 am and all is well, except that I can’t sleep.  I’m usually a sound sleeper, and tonight seemed no different – until 3:53 am when I woke up and was pretty much wide awake.  Up to that point, I slept well, perhaps too well, as my body seems to have no interest in going back to sleep anytime soon.  I have no idea why.  I worked hard this weekend, so I should be tired.  I do have a lot going on, but none of it is troublesome to the point of stress or worry.  Unlike Hamlet, I don’t think I’m suffering from anxiety or a guilty conscience that would deprive me of the kind of sleep that leads, perchance, to dream.

                As, you can see, after ten minutes or so of lying in bed with the sure (alas, futile) expectation that I would return to a deep slumber, my mind started racing.  My first thought was that I hadn't blogged for a while and that a post in the morning about sleep and dreaming might be interesting (you can be the judge).  I thought about whether what I ate last night might be keeping me up (I don’t think so) and how a lack of sleep would be particularly challenging on Monday morning as my employer frowns upon napping during work hours.  But once I started composing this post in my head, along with a grocery list and new passwords for my internet accounts, it was over.  My brain was off and running, and sleep was left in the dust at the starting gate.  Dreams seem out of the question.

                Dreams play a major role in the Judeo-Christian tradition.  You’ll recall that Jacob was dreaming of a stairway to heaven long before Led Zeppelin, when God promised that Jacob’s descendants would “be like the dust . . . , spread to the west and the east.” (Genesis 28: 14)  Jacob’s son Joseph (the one with the Technicolor Dream Coat) was a prolific dreamer who saw in a dream that his brothers one day would bow down before him.  He also interpreted Pharaoh’s dream that predicted the great, seven-year famine, allowing the Egyptians to store up inventories of grain and leading the aforementioned brothers to bow down before him.  (Genesis 37; 41)  It was also in a dream that King Solomon received the offer from God that he could not refuse:  “Whatever you ask, I shall give you.”  (1 Kings 3:5)  Solomon asked for wisdom.  At this point, I think I would ask for more sleep. 

                Saint Joseph, in the New Testament, never speaks a single word, but he sure seems to be a sound sleeper.  God told Joseph in a dream not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife for “it was through the Holy Spirit that the child was conceived.”  (Matthew 1: 20)  I’m not sure that I would have believed that one when I woke up in the morning, but thank God Saint Joseph did.  After Jesus was born, God sent two more dreams to Joseph, one telling him to take his family to Egypt to protect the child from King Herod, and the other telling him that Herod had died so it was safe to return home to Nazareth.  (Matthew 2: 13-15)  Not everyone was as attentive to God’s message-laden dreams as Joseph was, though.  You’ll recall that Pontius Pilate’s wife warned Pilate to “[h]ave nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”  (Matthew 27: 19)

                It seems that God does some of his best communicating through dreams.  Perhaps it’s the only time he can get us to pay attention.  Now I don’t believe that every dream has some deep, subconscious meaning or that dreams necessarily predict future calamity or riches.  But I do believe that our dreams reflect our hopes and fears and that God communicates with us all the time in whatever ways are best for each of us, including in our dreams.  I know of too many people who have received great comfort in dreams of lost loved ones living happily in heaven to dismiss those dreams as mere coincidence or a trick of the mind.  As for me, I've found on more than one occasion that when I’m stuck on a homily, the answer comes to me in a dream – so much so that I keep a pad next to my bed.  I jot a quick note in the middle of the night and (usually) return to a restful sleep.  Without fail, I’m pleasantly surprised in the morning to find a lucid note that resolves my writer’s block perfectly.  In my view, that’s the Holy Spirit at work.

                Speaking of work, it’s now 6:00 am, my normal waking hour.  The sun is rising, and so must I to kick off my day with a shower and some coffee.  I think I’ll wait to post this essay until after the aforementioned shower and coffee to make sure that it’s as divinely-inspired as it promised to be at 3:53 am.  I pray for a clear head on what will be a busy day and that I won’t be cranky with the poor souls who have to work with me today.  And as the day draws to its close, you can rest assured that I’ll be praying for sleep, perchance to dream. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Take a Hike!

View from Mount Tammany 
                It was a beautiful day for a hike, so I took one.  Actually it was a pre-planned hike that happened to fall on a beautiful day.  You see, three friends and I are planning a new ministry, one involving – you guessed it – hiking.  But it’s not just hiking, anyone can do that.  This ministry focuses on the fact that we humans are both physical and spiritual beings, so the hikes are intended to integrate our physical and spiritual natures by exercising both. 

                I confess that I was a little nervous going into today’s hike.  While I like to hike, and I do hike a fair amount, Eric, Ken and Evan are much more athletic than I am, and I have at least ten years on the next oldest guy.  I was a little afraid that I’d be the rickety old guy that they’d have to take turns carrying back to the car after some crucial joint or ligament failed me.  I’m happy to report, though, that I held my own among the young bucks; the nursing home deposit goes back into the sock drawer.

                Today was our test run for our first hike as a ministry next month.  Ken planned the route – a beautiful three-mile hike on Mount Tammany along the Delaware Water Gap in New Jersey; Eric clocked our time and the difficulty of the route with some fancy exercise gadget; I planned some simple spiritual exercises to do along the way; and Evan brought the toilet paper – I’m not kidding, though I really don’t know why.  Be prepared, I guess.  We left home at 5:30 am, and hit the trail by 6:30.  It was a crisp, sunny morning, and we were practically alone on the trails.  It really was a beautiful day for a hike.

                Mount Tammany is a challenging hike, so our pulse rates jumped pretty quickly.  Well, at least mine did; I don’t know about the others, but I suspect that Eric’s gadget captured all of our bio-metric data and sold it to the Russians.  From time-to-time we’d stop to check out the great views, share some scripture passages (Jesus’ appearance to his disciples along the road to Emmaus) and engage in some pretty heady discussions.  We talked about why we believe in the existence of God, whether the Messiah had to suffer, the meaning of redemption, the challenges we face at work, and why the hell Evan brought toilet paper on a hike – a whole roll, I’ll add, which mercifully he never used.  It was a great morning with three great guys whom I’m blessed to know.  It was physically and spiritually uplifting and exhausting – in a good way.

                So if you’re interested in some no-frills physical and spiritual exercise, stay tuned.  We’re planning our first hike for men in mid-May where we’ll talk about the existence of God.  After that, we hope to have hikes covering all sorts of spiritual topics for women, couples, families and anyone who’s interested.  So if you want to exercise your heart and soul, come take a hike!  You might even find out why Evan brought the toilet paper.