Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Friday, September 16, 2016


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

I almost missed tea at St. Andrew’s that afternoon. I was studying there, in Scotland, that summer, as part of my doctoral work, listening to lectures by William Barclay, the acclaimed Bible scholar, and others.

I was not much of a golfer, but when you are at the home course of golf, The Ancient & Royal in St. Andrews, you need to play a round just so you can say you did it. I can also almost say that I played with Bing Crosby since he was coming off the course just as I was going onto it, but that would be a stretch. He, however, had the good fortune to miss the rain.

A fellow student and I rented clubs and headed out. About half-way through our round, the heavens opened in a serious attempt to wash St. Andrews into the Firth of Forth. The water got so deep that when we putted, the ball would just run across the top of the cup because it was full of water. We finally gave up and walked in. I was wearing a rain coat, but I was so soaked that even the money in my billfold had to be hung up to dry.

Helen got me into dry clothes and, convinced that tea and scones are a good remedy for any discomfort, sent me down to the tea room to grab a cup before they closed up, while she hung up my wet clothes and wet money. Almost everyone else was gone by that time, but they still had the plenty of tea and scones.

I sat down with Gretchen, one of the few people still sipping. I did not know her well, but I liked her husband, a handsome and well-spoken man, the priest at a large Episcopal church in Florida, and she was a pleasant looking woman. We did the usual talk, about the wet weather and the lectures we had heard. Then I noted that I had seen a lot of poor people trying to get home in the rain as I came off the golf course, and there were so many scones in our tea room that were going to go to waste, it was a shame we couldn’t provide them somehow to people who needed them.

She looked quite puzzled. “If God chooses to give me good things and to withhold them from others, that’s no concern of mine,” she said. That’s a direct quote.

I could not believe what I had heard, but I was in a period of life then when I listened carefully and could remember exactly what I heard, for I had been trained to write “verbatims” for Clinical Pastoral Education. She really said it.

I had no idea even where to begin with reply. We had both been listening to Willie Barclay exposit the scriptures, and we had heard him, and the scriptures, with entirely different ears. I wondered if she had gotten that from her husband’s preaching.

I have heard that same sentiment many times since. Most public religion today is devoted to justifying selfishness and greed. We should not be surprised that Jesus is co-opted by the selfers.

It is what selfer religion does, reversing truth and falsehood, reversing greed and Gospel. Modern selfer politics has taken up the ways of selfer religion, its very foundation, what selfer politics does best, reversing strength and weakness, claiming that your greatest weakness is your greatest strength and your opponent's greatest strength is her greatest weakness.

Modern technology makes lying a viable approach. If you tell a lie loud enough and long enough it becomes the truth.

When we are old, we should have learned by now that everything that is God’s is a concern of mine. And everything is God’s.


NOW THAT I HAVE CANCER I AM WHOLE: Reflections on Life and Healing for Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them, is published in two editions by AndrewsMcMeel, in audio by HarperAudio, and in Czech and Japanese translations. It’s incredibly inexpensive at many sites on the web. Naturally I’d rather you bought it, but apparently you can download it for free on, It says “Download 2048.”

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