Reading the News Without Caffeine

When Heart Palpitations Make Sense

I come from a long line of coffee-drinkers. My parents drank coffee with every meal and frequently in between. At age 16 I started drinking it too, following my mother’s advice to forego any sweetener. Coffee-drinking is a lifetime activity so its best to fend off those spoons-full of sugar.

For decades the earthy aroma and flavor of coffee has provided my life a smell-track and taste-track. The activity of brewing and drinking coffee has provided a rhythm — as a waitress pouring at breakfast restaurants, as a pastor sipping at kitchen tables, as a writer with a cup perpetually cooling beside me. (more…)

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Blood is Thicker Than Water

A Reflection on John 19:26 "Woman, Behold Thy Son"

This is a guest post by my sister, the Rev. Susan Joy Huizenga. She preached this sermon on Good Friday (4/14/17) at the Aleda E. Lutz VA Medical Center; Saginaw, MI. Some of you know Susan from an earlier post about being a living kidney donor.

One day when I was about twelve years old, my sister Beth demanded to know all about a conversation I had with a friend in the neighborhood. She thought I knew some sort of secret, and she demanded to know.

“She made me promise not to tell” I objected.

My sister persisted “Come on, Susan! Blood is thicker than water!”

To the best of my recollection, I never did cave into Beth’s demand. But I got the point. Blood is thicker than water.

In New Jersey, when I was growing up in the 1970s, the mafia was much in control of certain aspects of life. Also, we lived in an Italian neighborhood. The ideal of family and clan loyalty was strong. Later, while I was working in Trenton NJ, the students were discussing the TV series “The Sopranos” and one of the students stated emphatically “I cannot watch that. My friend’s father was killed by the mob. It hits too close to home.”

{Law Enforcement realized they could not keep up with the number of murders and mayhem that this mob crime situation presented to them. Lawmakers and law enforcement got together and passed a law RICO to take out the financing of the operation. It worked. So the mob is still there but much diminished in power and scope.}

Hearing this ancient story about what Jesus went through, reminds us that thinking ‘might makes right,” or the rule by those with swords, or the fear of protesters, or the incompetence of those in authority, or inadequate human systems … none of this is new!


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Would Jesus Have Marched? Salt & Light

Lectionary Study on Matthew 5:13-20

I have a lectionary essay on the gospel text for February 5, over at Journey with Jesus.

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Pentecost: Crowd-sourcing a Question about the Crowd

Lectionary Study on Acts 2:1-21

The Pentecost story is so familiar that I picture it easily. But I’ve just come to realize that I’ve been wrong about a detail. I’m wondering if that detail matters.

Acts 2:1-21. The Pentecost story takes place on a feast day roughly ten days after Jesus ascended to heaven. As I’ve always pictured it, the disciples and other followers (maybe a hundred or so?) are assembled in a large room. They have just selected a new leader to replace the fallen Judas.

Suddenly a violent wind blows through the room, bringing with it flames of fire. The flames hover above the heads of all assembled. Each person is miraculously able to speak a language which was previously unknown. Overcome, they pour out onto the street, each speaking in this new language. A crowd gathers, amazed at the spectacle. Peter preaches eloquently, quoting the prophet Joel, and converts masses of people.

Boom! The church is born!


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#38 Lent Pilgrimage, The Upper Room

Maundy Thursday

Then Jesus took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you.” ~Luke 22:19

The Upper Room on the Via Dolorosa was built by the Crusaders in the 11th century, so it is not “authentic” to the Holy Week story. The building was built a thousand years too late for that! Yet, our guide tells us, this spot may have similar aspects to the place where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper. We look around the empty space, picturing the scene in this high-ceilinged room. Other pilgrims sing a hymn. The acoustics are lovely, and the singing devout.

How might you enter the Upper Room this Holy Thursday, even in your home church?

Prayer: O Lord, I want to receive your sacrament.

Click here for Day #39 (Good Friday).

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#35 Lent Pilgrimage, Ancient Roots

Monday of Holy Week

“Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.” ~Luke 22:46

The olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The roots of the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane are purportedly 2,000 years old. Olive trees are known to live a long time, and these particular trees have been lovingly tended since Jesus prayed under them. The knobby roots of the trees are a reminder that prayer itself is an ancient practice, worth tending. Asking God for help in the most desperate of moments is the very core of Christian hope.

How might you pray for help today?

Prayer: O Creator, keep me from the time of trial.

Click here for Day #36.

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Lent Pilgrimage, Palm Sunday

Sixth Sunday in Lent

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” ~John 12:13

The Palm Sunday Chapel marks the place where Jesus is believed to have begun his triumphal journey on a donkey. Inside, the walls of the chapel are painted all around with life-sized frescoes of people waving palms. I feel as if I have entered the story. We sing “All Glory, Laud, and Honor,” and I imagine I am one of the children, whose sweet lips sang praises.

How might you enter the spirit of adoration this Palm Sunday?

Prayer: O Lord, I adore you with a child’s heart.

Click here for Day #35.

The author in the Palm Sunday Chapel.

The author in the Palm Sunday Chapel.

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#31 Lent Pilgrimage, Shortcut to Glory

Wednesday after Fifth Sunday in Lent

Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them. ~Mark 9:2

Mount Tabor, which is believed to be the site of Jesus’ transfiguration, rises from a flat plain. The road to the top is a series of hairpin curves too intense for a bus. We climb into taxis. Previous generations of pilgrims would have spent days making this trek, which we accomplish in twenty minutes, slamming from side to side across the bench seat.

Have you ever made an arduous hike up a mountain to find God? Or do you sometimes seek a shortcut?

Prayer: O Creator, forgive my rush to moments of glory.

Click here for Day #32.

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Worlds vs. Words: Which Lasts Longer?

Lectionary Study on Mark 13

Is the world coming to an end, and how do we feel about that? This weekend I saw a dystopian/utopian movie, listened to end-times texts read in church, and worked out to Radioactive at Golds Gym. (be careful about clicking that link, it’s an ear worm) Welcome to the New Age! This is it, the Apocalypse!

With the impending demise of the world hanging over my head, I began to wonder which lasts longer: worlds or words? Words would seem to be the most ephemeral of all things! Yet I submit three items for your consideration:

1) Interstellar is a 3-hour spectacle that reaches deep into time and space. Interestingly enough, it avoids any mention of a belief system, or anything to believe in, other than human achievement. Instead, the movie tickles the edges of theoretical physics and pays homage to Love (Love is the one thing we can perceive that transcends space and time, says Anne Hathaway’s character).

2) The text this first Sunday of Advent was from Mark 13, which includes these words of Jesus: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. The text also suggests that at the end of all things our galaxy will disappear (the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light).

3) And from left field, because who knows when and how John Calvin will pop up. . . Have you seen the video of the crow sledding down a snowy roof? It is delightful, so I read about crows on Wikipedia, where I learned that crows are playful and intelligent. Which made me wonder about the origin of the expression “eating crow.” Which led me to this: Eating crow is of a family of idioms having to do with eating and being proven incorrect, such as to “eat dirt” and to “eat your hat” (or shoe), all probably originating from “to eat one’s words”, which first appears in print in 1571 in one of John Calvin’s tracts, on Psalm 62: “God eateth not his words when he hath once spoken.”

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Virtual Pilgrim: The Mount of Temptation

Lectionary Study on Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13

Need a break? I invite you to take a 5-minute pilgrimage to Jericho!

This video will take you to the Mount of Temptation, a hill high above Jericho which is the home of an ancient monastery. The site is associated with the story of Jesus being tempted by the devil, which is told in  Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

This video was made by Eran Frenkel. Check out his videos about other sites in and around Jerusalem at

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