Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Pride In All The Wrong Places

CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

I think one of the most discouraging things about self-professed American Christians today, from presidential candidates on up, is the number who are actually proud of being selfish and unkind to those who are not exactly like themselves, the number who are proud of rejecting The Golden Rule of Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

I’m always surprised at people who do not pray. You need not believe in a God, or be an adherent of an organized, or unorganized religion, to pray.

Even insensitive people recognize that there is reality beyond what we experience with our bodily and earthly senses. Prayer is entering into that reality.

It has nothing to do with whether we “feel” something or not. I enter into many worlds each day, through sight and sound and touch, without “feeling,” without any special awareness.

I often do not get the results I want from those worlds of sight and sound and taste and touch, either. I don’t stop using those senses, though, just because they don’t provide me the views and tastes I want.

I continue to be part of the sense world through senses, and the un-sense world through prayer, because that is what it means to be human.

Monday, November 23, 2015


Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter

As I worried about growing irrelevant in old age, my YGLF [Young Gal Lutheran Friend], Rebecca, comforted me by saying [only slightly paraphrased], “You’ve always been irrelevant. You just haven’t realized it until now.”

Yes, that is comforting. I’m the same person I’ve always been. Old age has not diminished my essential being.

John Robert McFarland

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


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

“I want to be sitting in Lynn’s chair,” I said, “telling her story.”

It was the summer of 1990. Helen and I were enrolled in a class at Iliff Theological Seminary, in Denver, on “Empowering the Cancer Patient.” It was five months after my surgery and four months into my twelve months of chemotherapy. I was still under the sentence of my first oncologist, “…a year or two.”

Most of the class members were Iliff students who were learning how to pastor cancer patients. A few class members were survivors, but I was the only one who was still a patient. The class coordinator was John Anduri, a cancer survivor himself, and the main teachers, both in knowledge and inspiration, were Lynn Hamilton and Paul K. Hamilton, Jr.

Twenty years before, Paul had been Lynn’s oncologist. She was barely into her twenties when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, at a time when the survival rate for that cancer was 1 [one] %. Before they had any idea that she would be in that 1%, Paul was so impressed with the poise and determination of his tall and beautiful and composed young patient that he began what was then a brand new idea, using patients to help other patients. When Lynn would walk into a hospital room, her first line was, “I’m a patient, too.” It became the title of a book. [1] Together Paul and Lynn founded CanSurmount, which became the official patient to patient support program of American Cancer Society. [2]

John Anduri asked each of us, “Where do you want to be in 25 years?” I said, “I want to be sitting in Lynn’s chair, telling her story.”

Thanks for keeping the chair warm for me, Lynn.

John Robert McFarland

1] The book is by Albert Fay Hill. about Lynn and Paul and their program.

2] [CanSurmount is active in Canada but has now been absorbed into other programs of the ACS in the US.] 

I tweet as yooper1721.

Monday, November 2, 2015


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

Larry Berry always starts the announcements period at church with a story about Bob. No one knows who Bob is, but the first word of the story is always, “Bob…” with a little pause. Helen says she starts to laugh right then, just from the way Larry says, “Bob…”

Yesterday, it was “Bob… was a farmer. One day he lost his Bible. He looked all over the farm for his Bible, in the fields in the barn, everywhere, but he could not find it. He was bereft. Then a deer showed up at his door with the Bible in its mouth. Bob grabbed the Bible and shouted, “It’s a miracle.” The deer shrugged and said, “It was easy. Your name’s on the front cover.”

I have written before about my first Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Darringer. I don’t think she had a first name. Even her husband called her “Mrs. Darringer.” When I was about eight years old, she gave me a New Testament for Christmas, King James Version, red letter edition, one of those fat little books about two inches wide and three inches high and four inches thick. In it she wrote, “Johney McFarland, from Mrs. Darringer.”

My name was in the book, in the Bible story! Witnessed and testified by the name of the one person I knew who had the authority to put it there and keep it there.

Whenever I’m lost, I don’t have to worry, because I know whoever finds me can return me to where I belong, in God’s story, because my name is in the book, along with Mrs. Darringer’s.

Don’t worry if you’re lost. You’ll be found. Your name is in the story.

John Robert McFarland

I started this blog several years ago, when we followed the grandchildren to the “place of winter,” Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP]. I put that in the sub-title, Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter, where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.] The grandchildren, though, are grown up, so in May, 2015 we moved “home,” to Bloomington, IN, where we met and married. It’s not a “place of winter,” but we are still in winter years of the life cycle, so I am still trying to understand what it means to be a follower of Christ in winter…

I tweet as yooper1721.

My new novel is VETS, about four homeless Iraqistan veterans accused of murdering a VA doctor, is available from your local independent book store, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Books-A-Million, Black Opal Books, and almost any place else that sells books. $8.49 or $12.99 for paperback, according to which site you look at, and $3.99 for Kindle. Free if you can get your library to buy one.

Sunday, November 1, 2015


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

Two thoughts for All Saints Day…

My YGLF, Young Gal Lutheran Friend, Rebecca Ninke, who pastors at Brooklyn, WI, has taught her children to tithe their Halloween candy. What a great idea. Surely others do it, too, but I’ve never heard of it or thought of it.

I once preached the memorial service at our annual conference, remembering the clergy and their spouses who had died during the previous year. I told stories about them, and extolled them as those who had told the story. That is always how I think of the saints who are now in that great cloud of witnesses. They were the ones who helped me know I am in the story, by telling me the story, in stories.

A lot of people live by bumper slogans. Guns, Guts, and God-What Made American Great. Guns Save Lives. God said it, I believe it, that settles it. This is the first day of the rest of your life. Remember the Alamo.

Not all the slogans are bad, or wrong, but they are all inadequate. Sometimes a slogan is useful, but anything that tries to reduce the story to a sentence, or a word, leads us astray. Yes, telling the story takes longer, and it is harder work, and it requires us to listen as well as talk, but on this All Saints Day, I give thanks for those saints who took the trouble to tell me the story, and listen as I tried to tell it.

I am filling the pulpit for three months at a tiny church twenty miles away. There is a maximum of 17 people, counting Helen and me. We have no one who plays piano, so we use CDs to accompany our singing. Last night I learned by email that our CD does not have “For all the saints,” even though it is in our hymnal, so I’ll have to lead it acapella. In former days, that would have terrified me. I love to sing, but I have a very limited range. Now, though, I am close enough to being part of that great cloud of witnesses myself that not much scares me, and I’m delighted to have the chance to remind us all that those saints “who from their labors rest” are the ones who told us the story.

John Robert McFarland

I tweet as yooper1721.