The Most Christian Person I’ve Ever Met

Teresa of Avila Turns 500

Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three

[She] has now died, full of joy at having found rest, and within her lives Christ. Let us see what her new life is like, and how different it is from her earlier one. (Teresa of Avila)

He worked the soul like he worked the land
He spoke in ways that anyone could understand 
Simple words of simple faith 
And when it came to love 
He would go out of his way
A helping hand 
A soothing chat 
And he practiced what he preached imagine that  (Michael W. Smith)

The metaphor of death and new life is common in spiritual literature. In order to have new life, we must die to our previous existence. Sometimes this death is nearly imperceptible, other times it’s significant events like a book, an illness, or a person that catalyzes our transformation.

About twenty years…

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Why Are They Driving Soooooo Slow?

Teresa of Avila Turns 500

Why are they driving so slow? “They” is probably grammatically incorrect unless we’re talking about more than one vehicle. If it’s only one vehicle, the question is only correct if two or more people are driving the same vehicle at the same time – which might explain why they’re driving so slowly. We could ask: Why are you driving so slowly? We’ve corrected some of the grammar, but it doesn’t help much because he or she probably can’t hear you. If the driver can hear you and if he or she is having that much problem driving, we shouldn’t be asking them questions.

Actually, slow drivers don’t bother me too much, but here’s what does bother me. It’s the person at the soda machine trying to make sure all the foam subsides in their cup repeatedly so they can fill their cup to the brim with liquid before moving…

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Reflections on a Great Friend: Paul Kopp

Paul and I went to a number of Twins Games through the years. I never knew what I would enjoy the most: The game itself, as we discussed the intricate details of baseball along with reflections on baseball history – or, would it be the deep conversations as we drove over two hours to and from the stadium. Of course, with Paul, the best part of any trip is the unexpected. In this case, it was parking the car.

I was driving. Paul was navigating. He directed us to the parking lot of Bethlehem Baptist Church near the Metrodome. Paul said we could park here. I explained to Paul there was “No Event Parking ” signs everywhere. Our car will get towed.

He said, “No, it’s OK. We can park here.”
“But Paul, I don’t want my car towed.” 
“They won’t tow your car. It’s OK!” 

Then Paul began to write something. 

“I’ll put this on the dashboard.” 
“What does it say?” 
“It says my sister is a member of your church. Thank you for letting us park here.” 

I’m thinking that should settle everything. The tow truck driver is going hook up our vehicle and suddenly see the note on the dashboard and say, “I didn’t realize his sister went to church here. My mistake!” 

Just then, I saw a person that might work at the church. “Paul, let’s at least ask him if we can park here.”

Paul walks over to him like he’s a Jedi Knight talking to a Storm Trooper (you know — “These are not the droids you’re looking for.”)

— “Hi, we parked our car over there.” 
— “My sister goes to church here.”  
— “We put a note on the dashboard too.” 

The whole time Paul is talking, the guy is nodding like he is in a normal conversation. Then the man said, “OK – thank you for letting me know.”  As I began to walk away, Paul says to the man, “Can we pray for you?” 

This is a microcosm of a 40+ year friendship with Paul: Continuous joy, unexpected twists and turns, led by the Holy Spirit.

We met Paul and Sandy in 1981. Janet began doing daycare for their daughter Kristen (age 1 at the time). A life-long friendship developed with many family celebrations and get togethers (Sandy and I also have the same birthday). Paul and I shared many common interests including family, baseball, politics, but mostly, a serious approach to practical Christianity. We also enjoyed much of the same music (like U2):

Yeah, we’ll shine like stars in the summer night
We’ll shine like stars in the winter night
One heart, one hope, one love
With or without you . . . 

The first thing I noticed when we met Paul and Sandy was how calm they were. (Sandy on the phone: “I suppose I should go now. I saw Paul drop by the window. He must have fell off the roof.” Yes – you did read that correctly! ) She must have been used to Paul doing things like dropping from the sky. Once Paul showed me where he was driving a pick-up truck with their piano in the back. He took the corner too fast and too sharp and the piano flew out of the pick-up and shattered all over the intersection. This is why when we moved into our current house, Janet whispered to one of my other friends, “Don’t let Dave and Paul carry the china cabinet.” Again, I have shared characteristics with Paul – dropping things, breaking things, and injuring ourselves. The china cabinet was safe and sound, but then we heard a crash from the other room. Paul dropped the silverware all over the kitchen floor.

Paul filled so many roles at different points in my life: prayer partner, intellectual, encourager, sports enthusiast, political analyst, theologian, prophet, comedian, counselor, and so much more. People are right to see Paul as a very kind man. But those who see Paul only as a very kind man miss the grand scope and immensity of who he is.  

Paul is dying. I will miss him immensely. But to say that Paul is dying doesn’t mean he is losing his life. He gave that up a long time ago. He found peace and joy in giving his life to be like Christ. He found peace and joy in giving his life to others.  Even in his recent suffering, like Christ, he’s giving his life to bring love, joy, and peace to others. He went to the hospital in Fridley, MN. Paul didn’t find healing there — but the hospital did. The doctors did. The nurses did. The staff did. And in these last days of his life, Paul’s suffering will ultimately help his family and friends find the love, joy, healing, and peace he’s always wanted for all of us. It may just take us a while. 

Thank you Paul for giving so much life to all of us. 

And you give yourself away
And you give yourself away
And you give
And you give
And you give yourself away

.

All Song Lyrics: U2: With or Without You

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This Land is Your Land

I wrote this a few weeks after George Floyd died. Today marks two years since his death.

Teresa of Avila Turns 500

When I was child, we used to sing This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie.

This land is your land, this land is my land.
From California to the New York Island
From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream Waters
This land as made for you and me.

The song caught my attention again about six months ago. I began noticing the imagery: “As I was walking that ribbon of highway.” my mind traveled back to my childhood of riding down two lane highways to visit grandparents. I remember seeing those “ribbons” cutting through the rolling farmland. (Of course this took place in a smoke-filled car, AM Radio, parental bickering, extreme boredom, and an occasional bout of car sickness.)

As I further reflected on this song, I began to notice Guthrie’s alliteration:

I roamed and I rambled and I’ve followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her…

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A Black Dog, a Cheerful Priest, and an Unresponsive Walker

I wrote this a few years ago on the value of silence, meditation, and reflection.

Teresa of Avila Turns 500

Prayer and Meditation Part II

When I go to my place of solitude I regularly see the same man walking his black dog. I drive slowly and carefully because, at dawn, his dog is hard to see. As I pass the dog’s owner I wave but never get a response. I think he should be friendlier, after all, this is Minnesota. If he doesn’t want to be friendly he could at least appreciate my concern for his unleashed dog and give me a “thanks for not running over my dog” courtesy wave. Maybe he thinks a wave might invite some weird conversation or confrontation, yet, after several years, you would think familiarity would at least produce a head nod.

I made a rare trip to a Catholic church for a First Communion service. The church service was simple and the sound system lacked sound. I am not used to this…

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