Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Monday, March 23, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

I look enough like Paul Baker that we could be twins. Well, maybe not twins, but certainly brothers who wear the same hair and beard style.

Paul is smart and thoughtful and well-read and insightful and perceptive, so much so that Illinois State University named him a Distinguished Professor. Since we look so much alike, I have always assumed that I was distinguished, too.

I look a lot like my real brother, Jim, but not as much as I look like Paul. I look so much like Paul that when he and Sharon attended our daughter’s wedding, which I officiated with the rabbi at the Jewish temple in suburban Cleveland, many people on the groom’s side told Paul what a good job he had done. He understood; he just thanked them and let it go.

I suppose that is what I should have done when members of our church thanked me for various events of pastoral care when Paul Mallory was our pastor. I’ll call him The Vicar, since that is his name in his email address, and to distinguish him from the Distinguished Professor. I look almost as much like The Vicar as I look like Paul Baker, so much so that throughout his pastorate at Trinity Church various people would thank me for calling on them in the hospital. I told them it was fine, but they should stop getting sick so I would have more time to practice my ski-jumping. The Vicar did not last long at our church. He claims it was because he was old enough to retire and that the VA declared him disabled because he was exposed to Agent Orange when he was a foot soldier in Vietnam, but…

Since I look so much like Paul Baker, and he is smart and thoughtful and well-read and insightful and perceptive, I have always assumed that I was smart and thoughtful and well-read and insightful and perceptive, too. Not as much as Paul, since no one ever named me a Distinguished Something, but close enough to be brothers in sagacity. [Saga City would be a good place name for the setting of one of those long family saga novels. You’re welcome.]

Yesterday, though, Helen insisted that we have our photo taken before church with Bill Verrette, a distinguished friend and church member. Helen and Bill look great in the photo, but I look like a goofy dip, not like Paul Baker.

Then, however, I began to look at photos of Paul Baker. He looks wacky in pictures, too! Not like a smart and distinguished and perceptive professor, but a goof ball, with a wild glint in his eye. No one would ever guess what sort of brain is at work behind that ragged moustache. [Well, the brain is not that low, but you get the point.] The Vicar looks bemused, slightly distant, in photos, and my brother, Jim, looks like he is puzzling out an eternal conundrum, but Paul Baker and I look just daffy.

We used to say that “the camera doesn’t lie.” In these days of Photoshop, the camera lies all the time. When our daughters were little, they explained anything that could not be explained otherwise as “trick photography.” I think that is what has happened to Paul and me; someone is using trick photography. Maybe Paul and I don’t really look goofy in person.

But if I have to look like dippy, I’m glad I get to share that look with an old friend. When I get to the Pearly Gates, St. Peter will exclaim, “Paul, how wonderful to see you.” I’ll just say “Thank you” and walk right in.

John Robert McFarland

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

 I tweet as yooper1721.

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