Credo II

Chapter 2

“…the Father almighty…”

My dad jingled. He would take the bus to work downtown each morning and come home predictably at the same time each afternoon to the same bus stop. The stop was three blocks away, so too far to meet him there. But my brother and I were allowed to watch on the front sidewalk and when he came into view on the other end of the block, about two hundred yards away, we could run to meet him. This probably served my mother well; she could have us out of the house, attention fixed on something not likely to cause harm to ourselves or others, and reasonably safe.

Sometimes on a good day he would let us take turns and ride on his shoulders the rest of the way home. But since it was an uphill climb and there were two of us, usually he would convince us to walk by his side and hold his hand. The top of my head came to about his waist so my ear was right next to his pocket. What I remember most about those walks was the the jingling of change and keys in his pockets. It sounded like little silver bells. Only dads jingled. Not moms, not kids, only dads. My dad.

My creed identifies God as “the Father.” God is the Father, but so is the priest, so is the rote beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, and so is my dad. What can “God, the Father…” possibly mean?

In religions other than Christianity, and even in our own Old Testament, God’s title is some variation on “Ruler of the Universe” or “Lord and Master.” The Man Upstairs, the Big Boss. Not Dad.

“Dad” implies something much different than “Ruler of the Universe,” does it not? The Ruler is almighty certainly, but he rules over the nameless masses with the threat of punishment or even complete annihilation for disobedience, and the less well-defined benefit of obedience is continued existence. This is understandable. A Being as powerful and universal as we imagine God wouldn’t, to our human way of thinking, be capable of being personal. I mean, He’s got over six billion living souls on this planet alone, not to mention the ones already in heaven and hell. And we are not even talking about managing the couple hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe and all the living creatures great, small, and microscopic. It’s a helluva job and no reason to think He would pay any attention to me (unless maybe I stepped out of line).

Dad, on the other hand, knows exactly who I am. He created me with his own DNA through his passion and his love. He knew me as a baby before I could know myself. He protected me and guided me until I could take care of myself. And every now and then he punished me for being violent or disrespectful or putting myself or others in danger.

Jesus shocked the world when He referred to God as “Abba,” an informal and familiar term in Aramaic meaning something close to “Dad.” God is personal, He is loving, and, after understanding that He really exists, this is the most important thing we need to know about Him: He’s Dad. He created you with His own DNA through His passion and His love. He knew you before before you knew yourself. He protects you and guides you.

And, yeah, sure, He’s almighty. We kinda expect that out of God; otherwise, He wouldn’t be God. But when we put father together with almighty, I think the most amazing thing about all the powers He displays is to be Dad. Not just to me, but to every human being born since the beginning of time. The father almighty. Dad.

Now I’m an old man and I’ve lived a life far less than perfect. I don’t want to label myself a sinful man, but I can’t claim to be righteous either. When I’ve drifted, I’ve felt myself struggling, unsettled, lonely and lost. On other days, my best days, I wait for Dad, looking for him in the distance, and when I see Him coming I run as fast as I can and we walk together, holding hands, a jingle like silver bells in my ear, because only He sounds like that. And together we walk toward home.

Credo

Core beliefs are a “creed.” In Christianity that would be the Nicene Creed dating from 325 A.D. and the derivative Apostle’s Creed dating from about one hundred years later. These Creeds, nearly identical in content, define Christianity, both Roman Catholic and Protestant. Christians, like myself, have memorized these lines and recited them in liturgy for nearly 1,800 years, but this familiarity may have bred a certain thoughtlessness about the implications of each word and phrase.

Over the next several weeks I hope to go through each phrase of the Apostle’s Creed with a personal reflection to claim, along with my spiritual forebears, the essence of my faith. I invite you to share with me.

The Apostle’s Creed

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
      creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
      who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
      and born of the virgin Mary.
      He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
      was crucified, died, and was buried;
      he descended to hell.
      The third day he rose again from the dead.
      He ascended to heaven
      and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
      From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
      the holy catholic church,
      the communion of saints,
      the forgiveness of sins,
      the resurrection of the body,
      and the life everlasting. Amen.

“I Believe in God…”

My father’s father never went to church. I did not know him very well. He died when I was nine and his last years were marked by hearing loss, which made it hard for him to understand, and Parkinson’s disease which, made it hard for him to be understood. But by all reports he was a good man: hard-working, honest, loyal to family and friends, a good husband, a good father, a good farmer. I don’t know exactly what he believed, probably nobody did. He never complained and he never explained. He lived as if he believed that a small corner of a cold, unfeeling world could be brought to heel with diligence and luck, and a better world would be left behind for his wife and children.

And yet on his death bed, after his wife and children had gathered and prayed, he had a few moments alone with his son, my father, and he said, “Do you think there could be something to all that?”

It’s a good question, better asked earlier in a lifetime, because it might make a difference not only in how you spend eternity but in how you live your life. Yet, the belief in God is often difficult for highly practical, self-reliant men like my grandfather who distrusted superstition. So, men like my grandfather don’t talk about it. They let others (like my grandmother) worship and pray while they go about their business, possibly entertaining but never answering that deathbed question. Could there be anything to all that?

The answer is Yes. I want you to know that I know and that and you can, too.

I want to tell you about the logic and evidence behind a belief in God. I want to point out that superstition is belief in something without evidence and faith is belief in something with evidence. I want to point out that our most cherished ideals–Beauty, Justice, Truth, for example–must come from holy source; they are not something that can be proven, but we all know them and treat them as self-evident and real. I want to point out that every culture known to history had a religion that believed in God; we are at the end of a chain of wisdom tens of thousands of years old that believes in God. I want to point out the transcendent experience we all have when we witness any one of the three big life events: falling in love, the birth of your own child, the death of a loved one.

All those things are true and I could go into great detail about each sentence, and you may believe me and you may ponder what I say and you may think of counter arguments because there are always counter arguments. But the most important answer to “Could there be anything to all that? is Yes, I have experienced the Something, I have tested it in my life and found it to be true; it is good, and I want that Something for you, too.

Knowledge is a tool, something that can grow or be modified by new information. On its own, knowledge is not personal, not foundational. It is used to solve a problem, or answer a question, or a way to ask another question, but knowledge only defines a framework in which we interpret reality. Experience defines reality.

My first experience with God was when I was fourteen. I say “experience” because I had already a “knowledge” of God in the Protestant Christian tradition through Sunday School, the Bible Story Book read to me by my mother before I could read myself, and confirmation classes that took three hours of every Saturday morning for two years before the ceremony to confirm my baptism vows and take responsibility for my own soul. Lots of knowledge; not much experience.

By this time in my young life I already knew enough to be skeptical, and it was then and it is now in my nature to be skeptical. The entire Christian tradition could be a myth no different from the myths of the Romans and the Greeks, and for that matter the myth of Santa Claus–constructs created by society to control the behavior of small children and gullible adults. Karl Marx called religion the “opiate of the masses.” Sigmund Freud speculated that God was a construct of our unconsciousness that represented our inner father figure, that part of our unconscious that makes us behave.

Maybe, maybe not, I thought. But on the other hand, all of those I loved and respected–with the exception of my grandfather–believed in this Christian myth.

Then I found myself walking alone in a cold, October rain on a deserted city street, severely underdressed in a tee shirt and blue jeans, wet through to my underwear. I still had a long way to go before I got home. I decided to put God to the test. I asked the Creator of the Universe to make me warm and dry, and since the request was de novo I thought it only fair that He should get a full ten seconds to fulfill my request. If He could do that, I told Him, I would believe the whole God, Jesus, Resurrection thing as true. If it didn’t happen, I would remain skeptical.

I counted down from ten to zero, and was about to embrace the life of an agnostic cynic. I had even formed the words in my mind, “See? There is no God.” At that moment, before I could embrace the words as a thought, much less speak them aloud, the family car pulled around the corner, driven by my brother who didn’t actually have a driver’s license. He popped open the door and yelled at me to get in, which I did, and found the car had already been warmed to about 900 F with the heater still blasting away. In a few minutes I was home, changing into dry clothes and eating fresh-baked bread at the kitchen table.

It seems like a trivial incident, a coincidence perhaps. But the unlikely circumstance of my “salvation” occurring at the exact moment I requested it, puts the experience beyond coincidental into miraculous. A small and very personal miracle perhaps, but still a miracle.

I would like to say that this experience made me a good person, but that would be a lie on so many levels. What it did do was convince me that whatever else I might be cynical about and whatever decisions I made or actions I took, I could not tell myself that God was not real. As I have looked back on this watershed experience, my personal testimony, I think that God may have been laughing at how trivial my request had been.

But now when I think about this story–a kid being alone, cold, wet, and a long way from home, I see it as a metaphor. That’s where God finds us, or more accurately since He hasn’t lost track of any of us at all, where we are open to finding God. Like my grandfather. In pain, certain he would not be going home, and uncertain of what lay ahead. 

My dad told my grandfather, “Yes, there is something to all that.” And my grandfather listened, and a few hours later he died.

For months afterward, my dad grieved over the loss of his father. He sat with his own mother every night for several weeks then called her every evening for the next six months or more. But he remained troubled, slept poorly, and grieved until one night he saw his father in a dream. Grandfather didn’t say anything that Dad could repeat later, but only indicated that everything was all right, he was at peace and my dad could be at peace, too.

So…I believe in God…for lots of reasons, but mostly because He shows Himself to lonely, cold, wet boys a long way from home, and old men on their deathbeds.

Thoughts While Walking for Water

Last week someone asked my missionary friend, Todd Lemmon, recently returned from Uganda, how far his family there had to walk for water.

“Oh, they are very fortunate,” he said. “Only two hundred meters to the nearest well.”

I agreed. Two hundred meters is so much less than six kilometers, even if you had to do it two or three times per day. But it’s not the whole story. As I walked today, doing my Global World Vision 6K for Water, I remembered an afternoon in Tiburon, Haiti, shortly after a thunderstorm. My local friends pointed out a recently completed public well two hundred meters away. Just then a little boy, maybe about four-years-old, burst out of the nearest home, ran into the middle of the street, kneeled down in the middle of the biggest nearby puddle, put his face down and drank his fill.

Six kilometers is way too far to walk for water. Sometimes even two hundred meters is too far.

But distance isn’t every barrier. Clean water is easy to explain. But why World Vision? 

My friend Greg Stritch told me how once, soon after he had developed a heart for Haiti, he brought well-drilling equipment then traveled from village to village offering to drill wells at each place for no cost. Several villages took him up on the offer and he went home feeling good about his mission.

The next year he returned to one of the villages and asked one of the residents about the water. He was surprised to hear that the villager still walked to a river instead of using the closer well…because the well water cost too much! On further investigation he found that the mayor, who apparently owned the land around the well, now charged his neighbors access to the water that had been generously provided by strangers. He was richer, but the village was not healthier.

Sometimes wells aren’t enough. Hearts and cultures have to change, too. World Vision builds that into their aid packages.

I thought of a Jewish friend who frequently walks where I was in the Timucuan Preserve. I wondered how I would explain the “World Vision” on my shirt to her…how water doesn’t help unless hearts are changed to, you know, Christian, values. Or really Judeo-Christian values, right? Because the Jewish God and the Christian God are the same God, and He is the same yesterday and today and tomorrow, forever and ever. The Old Testament God and the New Testament God are not separate deities, surely? We must all be on the same page here about clean water.

This recalled a dinner conversation I had with a different friend a few months ago. This friend is bright and charming and generous, and in the spiritual spectrum somewhere between closet Christian and seeker. He liked the New Testament God, but not the Old Testament God. We both had too many glasses of wine to engage in a debate to a satisfactory conclusion, but his comment came back to me today. What’s the difference between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God? And what has that to do with water?

To me, the character of God doesn’t change throughout the Bible, but the degree to which He reveals his character progresses, and the means He provides for reconciliation to Him becomes progressively more accessible. He gave us, through Moses, the Ten Commandments, a minimal behavioral standard for living decently in community while we searched for Him. Through Jesus, He gave us guidelines for living big: Blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who haven’t got it figured out–those who mourn–who care enough to risk being hurt–those who are meek–who don’t have to get the title and the accolades–those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are merciful, those who are pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for righteousness. Blessed are all those guys! LIve big! And if we open our heart, He fill it with His Spirit and guide our thoughts and actions. We can live big.

In the Old Testament, He promised to lead us beside still waters where we could drink our fill. In the New Testament, He promised to give us living water so we will never thirst again.

So, 3.72 miles, six kilometers, later, I am grateful for fresh, clean, cold water. And living water.

The Fourteenth Miracle

“The one who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me will betray me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.” Matt. 26:23 (NIV)

In the early 1980’s I cared for a forty-eight year-old man with an acute subarachnoid hemorrhage from aneurysm. In those days delaying surgery for seven days after the initial bleed was thought to allow time for the brain swelling to go down making the surgery safer. The decreased surgical mortality made up for the small number of people who would re-bleed during the waiting period. One of the trickiest parameters to manage during that week was blood pressure. If the pressure went too high, the aneurysm would rupture; if the pressure went too low, the patient would suffer a stroke.

This man’s high blood pressure was difficult to control on several medicines. Fearing a rupture any moment, I ordered a seldom-used IV alpha-blocker at a low test dosage of 0.5mg, not wanting to over-treat. Normal doses would be 1 to 2 mg. An hour after the phone call, I got a call from the nurse that the patient had gone into shock and the ICU staff had already begun resuscitation. I arrived at the hospital a few minutes later to help with the unsuccessful code.

The fatal blood pressure drop had occurred shortly after the “test” dose. The nurse held out the empty 5.0 mg. glass vial. She had given ten times the ordered dose, a lethal mistake.

They don’t make that drug anymore, and pharmaceutical companies now take care to avoid packaging medicines in ways that make such mistakes easy. But the changes came too late for that patient, too late for that nurse.

She was inconsolable.

We make mistakes. She read a drug label wrong. Judas Iscariot read the Messiah wrong, and no one has ever forgotten the betrayal with a kiss. I know I’ve made big mistakes. A drill plunging into the all-important speech and language areas as I tried to drain a subdural hematoma. An injury to the carotid artery leading to a fatal stroke while I tried to get control of the blood flow to a giant aneurysm. A wrong-sided scalp incision. A bruised spinal cord.

The consequences of the big mistake are not limited to the victim. Yes, the nurse’s patient died. But what happened to the nurse? She was a good nurse–smart, hard-working, and compassionate. When we lost the patient, did we lose the nurse too? What happened to me?

Yes, Jesus died. But what happened to Judas?

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. Matt. 27:3-5 (NIV)

Remorse leads to despair. Returning the money was not enough. Despair led to suicide.

The nurse underwent a review and received a cautionary letter in her permanent file. She took a course in error prevention. The drug company changed the way they packaged the medicine and the hospital changed risky methods of ordering and dispensing medicines. She could have returned to working in the ICU, but she did not. Because she needed one more thing to be fully restored.

I know. There are times when the word Sorry is too small. I’ve paid for the consequences of my own mistakes, struggled with my own self-confidence, wondered if I should go back the next day to take care of the next sick person.

The passion story of Jesus carries a parallel story of betrayal. Judas wasn’t the only one to lose hope. Peter, in spite of his bluster of faithfulness on the night of the arrest (quote: “Even if I have to die with you I will never disown you”) by morning had indeed publicly denied knowing Jesus three times. When the cock crowed at the break of dawn, Peter remember his vow and wept.

Matthew doesn’t mention Peter again in his Gospel. Neither does Mark. Luke and John both tell us Peter ran to the tomb after two women had found it empty. Then we don’t hear anything about Peter until another episode recounted in the Gospel of John that occurred a few weeks later.

Peter had given up Jerusalem, returned to his home and his old job. I imagine him severely depressed. He had stood at the threshold of the Kingdom of Heaven, looked in, saw the endless beauty, and met the king. Then someone asked if he knew Him, and Peter said No, no, no. Not me! Then, three days later, his own eyes told him that he was wrong. Jesus was who he said he was, and Peter had failed his very first trial.

Three years before, when Jesus had sent them out on their own for the first time, in his guidance had said, “Whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Peter was disowned before the Father in heaven. Life could offer him nothing more than return to fishing in the obscure province of Galilee. He had turned away from the kingdom of heaven at the critical moment. He had made the big mistake.

Now he worked all night and caught not one fish. He was no longer good at fishing. Total and complete failure. And this time of day was the worst, the graying of the sky before dawn, the time the cock crows. Tired, depressed, and hungry, he felt like throwing himself overboard.

In a few minutes he would do just that. But for a reason he did not expect.

He smelled something. Smoke. And fried fish and warm bread. It tickled his hunger and made him lift his head. A hundred yards away a small fire flickered on shore. Some early riser getting ready to make breakfast. Some early riser who was apparently a better fisherman.

“Friend,” the stranger called out to them, “haven’t you any fish?”

Was their failure that obvious? Even from a hundred yards away?

Peter’s companions shouted back, “No.”

“Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

Just what he needed. A know-it-all. Like the water on one side was different than the water on the other. An idiot bent on making them all look like idiots. Before he could say a word, though, their nets were up and tossed out again over the opposite gunwale.

The net filled quickly and the boat tipped dangerously toward the starboard. They couldn’t pull in the seine of squiggling fish. Peter’s crew kept the ropes tight and started rowing for shore, dragging their catch.

Peter squinted now through the mist and the pre-dawn gray at the flame and the figure on the shore. It sounded like, looked like…but it couldn’t be. Then his cousin John whispered loud enough that Peter heard, “The Lord.”

He looked back into the boat. James and Andrew struggled with the oars, John kept the net tight. Peter should help. The boat barely made headway and Peter was clearly the strongest rower. John lifted his eyes from his struggles long enough to meet his gaze. The Lord, he mouthed.

Peter leapt over the side, the cold water shocking his tired mind bright and clear. He swam hard and fast, keeping his eyes on the small flame. Dripping across the beach he came to the banks of flaming coals, fish already cooking and bread being warmed.

Jesus (it had to be Jesus), said nothing at first, only squatted by the fire and turned the fish. Peter, too, said nothing. What could he say to the the man who had talked with Moses and Elijah, who had walked out of his own tomb?

The words Whoever disowns me echoed again in Peter’s head, as they had for the last three weeks. Why was he here giving them fishing instruction and cooking breakfast? Is this the final farewell? The final I warned you, but you wouldn’t listen. Better luck next time message? He deserved the message, he knew he did. What he didn’t deserve was a record-breaking catch and breakfast.

The boat’s keel crunched into the gravel beach behind him. He heard the bang of the oars on the gunwales and the splash of men struggling with a full net of live fish.

Finally Jesus stood up. Their eyes met, and Peter waited for his dismissal. But he said, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”

Peter turned and ran to the boat, scrabbling over the side, grabbing the net from the exhausted crew and dragging it up the beach. Then the four stood before the fire, Jesus on the other side with a griddle and a basket of bread. Had the heavens opened and choirs of angels begun to sing, they would have been less surprised when he simply said, “Come and have breakfast.”

Words failed them. They ate in silent wonder. When they could eat no more, Jesus spoke to Peter. “Do you love me?” he asked.

“Yes, Lord,” Peter answered.

Jesus repeated the question two more times; Peter repeated his answer two more times.

Three times Peter denied knowing Jesus, three times Peter affirmed loving Jesus. The balance was restored. Jesus went on to say a few more things, saving the most important for last: “Follow me.”

After the big mistake, you can throw the coins back into the temple, you can take your letters of reprimand and remedial education courses and pay your fines. You can say you’re sorry.

But if the mistake is big enough, you still live in the cloud of despair.

I hope you haven’t made any big mistakes. Some of us have divorced someone that didn’t deserve it, some of us have abandoned children, some of us have had abortions. Some of us have robbed people legally or illegally. Some of us have killed people for no good reason, and some for a good reason only to discover there are no good reasons.

Remorse, depression, and despair pull us into a deep, dark place, and if you are there right now remember that little light you see a long distance off in the mist is Jesus cooking breakfast for you.

Head for shore. Sorry will be enough. You are forgiven.

Day Hike, Night Run


A man named James, a recently retired professor of economics, broke his neck. The circumstances seemed like the usual sort of thing: One Tuesday morning he noted a light out in his kitchen ceiling so he got his step ladder, climbed up, changed the bulb, and fell. Could happen to anyone.

Except for one thing. His blood alcohol level on admission was well over the level associated with intoxication. The other lab tests did not show the signs of damage from chronic alcohol, things like liver abnormalities or bone marrow suppression, but the fact that he appeared quite sober with that alcohol level paradoxically demonstrated that his system was quite used to functioning under the influence.

The good news was that his spinal cord had not been injured. Although he was in great pain, he should survive and walk normally as long as he didn’t suffer another compounding injury before the bones of the spine healed solidly.

His neck was braced and a CT scan and MRI defined the specifics of his C2 fracture, one that carries the ominous appellation of Hangman’s Fracture. Because of the alcohol level, he also received some sedative medications designed to prevent delirium tremens. By the next day I had determined that his fracture would likely heal with a brace and he would not need an operation. By the third day, his pain was under good control and he could walk independently and safely. He could go home.

And that’s what usually happens. I go in, tell the patient to wear the brace, not drive or climb on ladders, make an appointment to see me in two weeks, and call if…blah, blah, blah. Sometimes I even add a cautionary note about alcohol, stuff like, “Drink only in moderation,” or, “Just say no.”

This morning, however, before I got to his room, I had a little more imagination–or maybe a vision from God–about what it might be like for a guy who had all the respect in the world at the university to be now sitting home on a Tuesday morning with nothing else to do but change the lightbulb and nothing else to make him feel good other than spiking his orange juice with a tumbler of vodka.

I know what it’s like to be addicted to a substance. My particular addiction is to tobacco, actually much worse for health than alcohol, but fortunately not as destructive to performance or relationships. Although I haven’t had a cigarette for years I remember clearly about a hundred times I “just said no” in the morning and smoked a pack before lights out that night.

“Just say no” was not going to work with Professor Jim. And if he fell again, even with his brace, he could very well be dead long before the ambulance ever arrived. There was a reason they called it Hangman’s Fracture.

After I arrived at his room I got him up and walked him around a little, just to see for myself if he was steady on his feet and not grimacing in pain. Then he sat on his bedside and I sat in a chair facing him. I gave him the good news about going home and the likelihood of healing and the usual instructions. Then I hesitated.

He was my senior by twenty years and a full professor–in more archaic terms, my elder. I had authority by my degrees and training to give him advice about spine fractures. But about lifestyle choices? About addictions? Maybe not. The easy thing to do, the thing I had done a hundred times before, was to tell myself it wasn’t my specialty, it wasn’t my problem, and let him go on and deal with his life as best he could. His problems, his choices.

Another story: About two thousand years ago a guy named Cleopas woke up after a holiday weekend with all hope drained. The person he had believed would usher in a new era of justice and peace and joy had been brutally and publicly executed, and furthermore, under cover of darkness, somebody had stolen the body. Cleopas could have stayed in bed. He could have drained a wineskin on his own. His problems, his choices.

Instead, he got up, took his first step, then another, then found a friend. They decided to go for a walk together, a day trip to a town called Emmaus. 

“I know why you fell down,” I said to the professor.

He nodded, a bit bemused as I seemed to state the obvious. 

“You fell off the ladder because you couldn’t help it.”

His eyes blink in agreement. He would have nodded except for the brace.

“You couldn’t help it because you’d been drinking.”

He didn’t try to nod this time. His expression stiffened, and his eyes fixed on mine.

“And you’d been drinking because you couldn’t help it.”

His expression softened, saddened. His gaze dropped to the floor.

“You couldn’t help it because you can’t fix it alone,” I said. I told him about avenues of help, about Alcoholics Anonymous. I wish I could tell you I prayed with him, but I wasn’t that wise. 

Professor Jim thanked me for the advice and shook my hand meeting my eyes again. I left to sign him out uncertain if I would ever see him again.

About Cleopas: Along the way, he and his friend encountered a stranger, told him of their hopelessness, then listened to what he had to teach them. Then they sat down to share a meal and discovered themselves to be in the presence of the Risen Christ. No longer hopeless and unable to contain themselves, they ran back through the night to tell their friends.

Professor Jim came back to office two weeks later with his wife. He had gotten up from his bed, taken a step, then another, then called a friend. They had started a journey together to to a place called Alcoholics Anonymous. There he discovered himself to be in the presence of the Risen Christ, the One who runs to you when you walk toward Him.

Jim thanked me again, and again when he kept office appointments six weeks and twelve weeks later. His fracture healed. I didn’t see him again, but he had coincidentally joined the church and Sunday School class my parents attended, a fact that allowed me to follow the subsequent ten years of his life, a life lived lived out in peace and joy.

When I find myself slipping toward despair, those times the wrong seems oh-so-strong, and I don’t feel like getting out of bed, certainly not to face reality, then I try to remember Professor Jim, and Cleopas, and I resolve to take a step, then another, and find a friend to go on a journey. I try to listen and learn, even from a complete stranger, and so far I have always encountered the Risen Christ. Then I want to run through the night to tell my friends.