Welcome to the website of a retired United Methodist pastor! This corner of the Internet continues nearly fifty years of a weekly column in a church newsletter, on topics ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. The opinions expressed are the author's and represent no institution, although it is hoped that within these pages you will find a reflection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who, in his own borrowed words, insists that we love God with, along with all the rest of what we are, our minds. "Critical" as used in the title does not mean being nasty or grumpy; it means using intellectual faculties in the service of God. Your reactions, rebuttals, comments, and questions can be addressed to: BobHow9846@comcast.net.
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May 14,2016 - Essay: Adjustments
April 17,2016 - Essay: Jackie Robinson and the Turned Cheek
March 24, 2016 - Essays: Easter Message 2016
Life is series of adjustments
Life is a learning experience, from first scream to final
This thought marched front and center to my consciousness,
like an on-deck batter walking to the plate, as I listened to Ron Darling
explain the intricacies of the age-old duel between the pitcher and the batsman.
Move and countermove proceed endlessly, inning after inning, game after game,
season after season. To live, survive, and succeed requires one adjustment after
When I was eight, I was consumed with envy at next-door
cousins who rode their bikes, with teenaged bravado, sometimes without holding
the handlebars. I kept falling this way or that on my Iver Johnson thin tire
(oh, the ignominy in a balloon-tired age!). Until my Dad took Bobby and
bike in hand and held me upright down the long dirt driveway, letting go,
unbeknownst to me, at sufficient speed to begin my career, in an auto-shrunken
World War II time period, riding miles and miles away and back to 17 Hillside
Young ones have older ones to goad, guide, and assist in
obtaining life's important achievements.
As a teenager I was terribly afraid of and attracted to girls.
Big deal, right? Aren't we all? But I was an only child with no sister to
instruct me in dealing with feminine wiles. Fortunately I had buddies who were
much more experienced in, if no more eager to act on, romantic impulses. One
evening at the tender age of fifteen, a quarter of an hour before our basketball
team, the Atomic Five, was to play in the high school gym, Bucky arranged for
the history teacher's daughter to instruct me in the arts of osculation. I
played the game that night with a face almost as red as the lipstick smeared on
my cheek, and suffered rebuke from a girl in my class who figured out why and
declared she didn't think Bobby was that kind of boy.
I had my trail-blazers for the jungle of adolescence, usually
someone just a trifle older, plus the limit-markers of parents, teachers, and
Learning, learning, it never ends.
On February 4, 1956 I preached the first of a thousand sermons
to a congregation in Brooklyn mostly composed of three generations of Methodists
from Norway. In my home state they called me "Reverend." In Sunset Park
within view of the Statue of Liberty they called me "Pastor." And in the
ensuing seventeen and a half years those cousins of Prince Valiant and Edvard
Grieg taught me, but never self-consciously, everything I needed to know about
being a pastor. Like, among many, many things, cooling it on the
basketball court when elbows are flying, mine included, and being tempted to
forget how my halo looks to the fans in the stands. Or, more to the more
important point, how to deal with a straitlaced congregant angry when she stumbles into a
meeting of the youth fellowship in the church social hall and a dance is in
A pastor has a hundred advisors ready to supply lessons to
make life for all more acceptable, even joyful. (And, sometimes, more
But (and here's where this essay was going from the beginning)
to whom can an octogenarian go for instruction in the inevitable adjustments
aging requires? That's the question that kept nudging me Saturday night at
a dinner with contemporaries in a gym where I once let my elbows fly as I sped to the basket for a layup.
Now the only speeding I do is to the men's room. On my left was a former guard on the college football team, dependent on
a cane, explaining the absence of a wife in the late stages of Parkinson's. To
my right was another lawyer from Manhattan equipped with a walker, which did
not, I am happy to report, diminish his capacity for singing the alma mater or
shooting zingers about those left standing in the race for the presidential
For obvious reason, the company I keep lately is filled with
the halt and the lame and those necklaced with breathing tubes... well, you get
the picture: a constituency comprised of those Wesley had in mind when he wrote
"O, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing" (look it up). In my strength, when the
dog couldn't endure my lap for more than a minute for the blazing of my BMR, I
hardly noticed this constituency. God forgive me. Now I am a member
of it. Without a sherpa to guide me up the mountain of obstacles
that beset those of a good age. Doctors don't help. But I won't blame
them. They are, for the most part, too young, haven't been there, didn't
do that. They can prescribe for acne, but what do they know about
pseudo gout? They produce reams of important and useful information about a
childhood scourge, Asperger's Syndrome; but just a paragraph or two about
Reynaud's Syndrome, that keeps me and millions of others of similar age in
fur-lined gloves and woolen socks throughout the bedtime hours. They can persuade
me to engage in disciplines of longevity; but
they'll have a devil of a time teaching me a cheerful dependency. Geriatrics, I
am told by a specialist in that field, is a profession desperately in need of
candidates. Amen to that.
So, Lord, please send me a latter day Bucky and history
teacher's daughter, to school me in the arts of ossification. Because I
need not only to grow in grace but learn how to grow old gracefully.