Thursday, May 30, 2019

Wedding Homily for Erin and Tony

 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 1but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.  For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. 
(1 Corinthians 13)

I wish I could give you some words of wisdom from the homily given at my own wedding 41 years ago.  But I can’t. I can’t remember a word of it. But you will, because this homily is different. Because I am your Father, Erin, and soon to be your father-in-law, Tony and every time I see you from now on I am going to ask you about it.


This is a moment of great beauty and great meaning which transcends the flowers, the dress, the music (sorry Sandy).  What makes this time so special? This moment embraces two qualities that are central to our humanity- love, and hope.


Human beings feel these things as no other creatures on earth.  We are the only ones who have the capacity to truly love one another, to cherish one another and to hope with one another.  Because of this, these two feelings carry the spark of the Divine; they are God’s signature within us.


God has also given us the ability to choose with whom we share our love and our hope.  And this is why this day, this moment, means so much. Because by marrying one another you are saying more than just “I do.”  You are saying I choose you. A wedding is about making a choice to love someone for a lifetime and committing your life to that person; It is about giving and opening your heart without reservation to that one special person. Today, you are saying far more than “I do”.  You are saying “I do” believe in love. I do believe in hope. You are saying “I choose you for a lifetime of both love and hope.” Today you are affirming the mystery of God’s love and hope, and saying that you care for one another and will care for one another no matter what.  You are saying that you believe that your future together will be brighter because you are together.


You are expressing with your presence and your promises here today something that poets have been trying to put into words for centuries.  So, let me try to express it with a story. Erin, when you were three or four years old you used to stand on the living room couch and look out the window of the front of the house, waiting for me to come home. One night I had worked late and I just knew I had missed you and that you were probably in bed. Bus as I drove up the driveway I could see your face in the window, waiting for me. No matter what kind of day I had had, no matter what I had done, your love grounded me, put my priorities in order and gave me hope.  

As a couple, your love is the shelter from the storm; it is a light in the darkness of your day. Today, you are promising to nurture your marriage and protect it from the wind, the rain and the cold. Today, by saying I do, you are promising to be the light for each other, with your love, with your hope and with your choices.


I would like to say something to the friends and relatives who are here today.  Most of us are familiar with the beautiful words of St. Paul we heard a moment ago- his clear and eloquent verses about love.  We hear this scripture often at weddings. But Paul was not talking about marriage. He was writing to the Corinthians about how to live together as a community.  And so, I would like to ask all of you here, this community, to take those words to heart, to make those words a prayer- and then give them back as a gift to this couple.  I ask all of you to strive, very simply, to be the definition of love for this couple; to be patient with them and kind to them. Rejoice with them. Believe with them. Hope with them.  Endure with them.


This is what Paul asks of the Corinthians- and really, it is what Christ asks of us.   If we truly live this way- with this couple and with each other- we will give this bride and groom gifts more valuable than any gift on their registry; gifts that will not tarnish and will not wear out.  The gifts of love and hope.


Erin and Tony, it is my prayer that you will always give hope and love a place in your home and that you will always choose to love one another, and that this love gives you reason to hope that the future is always bright.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Not So Very Long Ago

Recently, I have been going through a lifetime of old photographs belonging to my mom and dad.  Mom and dad have passed away and the photographs are now my responsibility.  I am sorting them out to distribute among my brothers and other family members.

The photographs are in boxes and are in no particular order.  Each box contains dozens of envelopes from various pharmacies that developed the film.  Each envelope contains at least 50 or so pictures.  Each picture contains a memory and I have been living in the memories of my childhood and early adulthood for the past 30 days. 

One envelope, in my mother’s handwriting, was labeled “One Easter, not so very long ago.”

The pictures inside the envelope are of my children and my brother and sister’s children having an Easter egg hunt in my mom dad’s backyard.  And, even though that photograph was taken over 30 years ago, like my mom wrote, it seems like only yesterday.

Both of my children are grown now and living on their own.  But wasn’t it not so very long ago that I held them in my arms and told them stories?  

Wasn’t it not so very long ago that we played games on the floor of the den?  

 Wasn’t it not so very long ago that we laughed as we made up silly songs that they sang in the tub?  

Wasn’t it not so very long ago that I carried them up to bed and tucked them in and kissed them good night?

So much time has passed.  But it seems like no time at all.

How is it that I am old and my children are approaching middle age?

My advise to the young is to cherish every moment.  

My advise to the old is the same.  


Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Big Three

I never leave the house unless I check to make sure if I have the big three- my wallet, my keys, and my cell phone.  These are the three essential things that I cannot go anywhere without.  I keep my wallet in my back, left pocket.  Doctors are now saying that men should not do this because it affects the way they sit and causes back problems.  A wallet, they say, should be carried in one of the front pockets.  Now, that’s a problem because I carry my keys and my cell phone in both front pockets.  To switch my keys to my back pocket would result in tragedy, and I have enough trouble with my cell phone without the added problem of butt dialing someone every time I sit down.

I once tried to switch my keys from my right front pocket to my left front pocket.  When my phone rang I was forever pulling out my keys.  And once I switched my wallet from the left back pocket to the right and I could never quite find the right way to sit.  No, my wallet has to stay in my back left pocket.

As soon as I enter the house I take my keys and wallet out of my pockets and put them in a place reserved for them on the bedroom dresser.  If I don’t put them there I run around the house searching for them, turning things over, saying words I should not say under my breath.  When I finally find them, it is like life is worth living again.  I have imagined life without them and it was not a life that I want to lead.

I used to have a big four.  My glasses were once right up there with my cell phone, wallet and keys.  But now that I broke down and admitted that I needed bifocals, I never forget or misplace my glasses.  I am always wearing them.  So, no more big four.  Just the big three.  When it was the big four, leaving the house looked a lot like I was doing the Macarena.  Now it just looks like I am patting myself on the legs and butt saying, “phone, keys, wallet!  Let’s roll.”


Friday, April 5, 2019

Rules to Live By from Bessie Delphia Helen Griffin Whitley Balkum

I was going through some old Bibles of my mother’s this morning and I found a Bible that was given to her by her mother, Bessie Whitley Balkum.   I thumbed through it, looking for notations in the margin and small things that may have been inserted between the pages.

I found a folded, typed page titled “A Message to My Children”.    It was signed “Written by and lovingly dedicated to my children by Bessie Delphia Helen Griffin Whitley Balkum”.  The text of the “Message” contained some rules for living that she applied to her life and that she wanted her children to incorporate into theirs.

I share the thoughts of my wonderful grandmother now:

“ Be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.”

“Make your friends see that there is something in them.”

“Look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.”

“Think only the best.”

“Be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.”

“Forget the mistakes of the past and press on to a greater achievement of the future.”

“Wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.”

“Give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.”

“Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”

“Think well of yourself and proclaim this fact to the world not in loud words but in great deeds.”

“Live in faith that the world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”

My grandmother raised 13 children.  Her husband died before the last one was born.  She did not have an easy life.  She never had much money or material things.  But she never let her circumstances dictate how she treated others or how she thought of herself.  Visiting her, I was always sure of two things: that she loved me and that she was happy.  And now I know why.  I hope that I can pass these things on to my children.





Friday, March 29, 2019

Watching Ice Melt

Let’s get something straight.  Nenana is the town and Tenana is the river.  Each year the people of Nenana, Alaska watch the ice melt on the Tenana.  And its a big time thing.  This year the person who can guess the date and time that the ice melts wins $225,000.00.  That’s right.  The date and time that the ice melts on the Tenana River.  Previous ice melting dates and times all the way back to 1917 are published for people to look at to assist them in making their guess.  In order to guess a person has to purchase a ticket.

The official way of measuring when the ice melts (down to the last second) is done with a large tripod that sits on the ice on a specific spot on the ice. The tripod, which actually has four supports, is usually positioned about 300 feet offshore in the same general spot each year. The people of Nenana celebrate the placing of the tripod with a festival.  A line is somehow attached from the tripod to a clock and once the tripod moves 100 feet from its position the line is broken and the clock stops marking the exact moment that the ice melted.  In 2018, the ice officially melted on May 1 at 1:18 pm.

I was curious as to how this all began and did a little digging.  It seems that it began in 1906 with a group of fellas with names like Gunnysack Jack, Jonesy, and Duke in a bar looking for something to do and they all decided to bet on when the river ice would melt.  The winner that year was none of those guys but was a man named Oliver  (what?) who won a few free rounds of drinks at the bar.  The real, serious contest did not actually begin until 1917 but had its beginnings with Gunnysack, Jonesy, Duke, and of course, Oliver.

So, if you are looking for something to do this coming winter, entrer the Nenana Ice Classic and watch the ice melt on their webcam.  It is better than watching paint dry.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lost Socks

Today I gave up hope; hope that I would ever see the mates of the socks that I keep tucked away at the corner of the sock drawer.  Why had I kept them these many years?

I was like the father of the prodigal son who scanned the horizon of his fields each morning and night hoping to catch sight of his son returning home.

As each new basket of clean clothes returned from the laundry room I looked through them hoping against hope that I would find the wayward socks that had lept out of the washer and journeyed the world in search of a better sock life.  And finding none, they returned home, flinging themselves into the clothes basket asking for forgiveness.

Where do these socks go?  Some have suggested that the dryer is a portal to a parallel universe where socks rule and humans are worn and thrown away.  And once a sock enters it never returns.

More practical people suggest that socks, full of static, cling to bed sheets or clothes and find their way into dark closets or shelves and lay there for years; hearing their owners walking around calling their names but never responding.

The sad statistics are that the longer a sock is missing the more likely that it will never return.  Quick, decisive action is imperative.   The first 24 hours are crucial.  The entire house must be mobilized.  Clear communication is vital.  A detailed description must be compiled.  A timeline has to be hammered out.  And even if these things are done, there is no guarantee.

And so, today, I took the pile of mates out of my sock drawer and put them into a box and put the box into the attic.  I am sure that if I look in the attic tomorrow they too will be gone.  Free at last to wander.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Goodbye, House

Dear House on Statesman Drive,

You have been a wonderful home for us.  We bought you 32 years ago and moved into you on a February day that was filled with wind and sleet.  Our daughter, Erin, was four years old and our son, Jeremy, was 4 months away from being born.

You had a large, two car garage, an above ground swimming pool, a big yard, three bedrooms, a roomy yet cozy den, and an adequate kitchen.  And we came to love you.  And we called you home.

Our children grew up in you; from toddlers to teenagers to adults.  There were many adventures along the way.

And now my wife and I are moving.  Our children have homes and families of their own.

As I clean you out and spruce you up, moving box after box to the car and taking them to a new house, the voices and footsteps of the past echo in the silence and emptiness of you.

In the hallway between the kitchen and the den I can still see my five year old daughter, Erin, in her dance dress, showing me the ball and change.  By the fireplace I can see the cradle where our son, Jeremy slept as Erin leaned over and kissed him.  In the empty dining room I can hear the chatter around the table as the talk turned, over the years, from dolls and toys to cars and dates and schools.

As I climb the stairs, I see Jeremy constructing his giant hot wheels track from the bottom to the top of the stairs and sending his cars racing downward through two loops before crashing into the front door.

In the driveway the sounds of roller skates and bicycles fill the air and sounds of splashing and laughter come from the place where the pool once sat.

When I was cleaning out the storage room I found, behind the door, some writing on the wall that I had never seen before although I am sure it was there for quite some time.  It said simply, yet profoundly, " Erin loves Jeremy."

The love that filled you is what made you a home.  And we will carry this love into our new house and it will be this same love that will make this new house our new home.

Goodbye house on Statesman Drive.  We love you.