Sunday, October 30, 2016


Because I live too far from White Plains, N.Y. to commute back and forth during our two and three-day Cabinet meetings, I typically stay overnight in a hotel near the NYAC  conference center. I’ve been doing this for years without incident.  

Until recently.

Following a long day in Cabinet, I drove to my hotel nearby and checked in at the reception desk.  In exchange for an imprint of my credit card, I was handed a tiny envelope with my card key inside and my room number on the outside.

On the way to my room, I tried to decide how I might treat myself on this hard day’s night. Should I do some laps in the swimming pool?  Should I sweat it out in the steam room, or chill out in the hot tub?  Or should I just put on my PJs and watch what was left of the Monday Night Football game?

After I reached the place where the number on the room matched the number on my tiny envelope, I slid the plastic card into the slot and entered the room. Imagine my surprise when I found several lights already on, the television blaring, and a shirtless man in my bed!


While stammering something about it being “MY ROOM”, I did an about-face that would’ve made Oliver North proud.  Keeping with the Marine theme, I then marched down to the hotel lobby to tell the receptionist that there was a strange guy in my hotel room. 

Believe or not, here’s where things got really weird!

When I told her what had just happened, she acted as if this sort of stuff took place all the time - like I had just complained that the television remote didn’t work, or the shower dripped, or the last sheet of toilet paper wasn’t fanned out to look like the tail of a proud peacock.  Without so much as an apology or an upgrade, she handed me another key card for another room. 

This second room was dark and vacant when I entered, thank God, but the damage was already done.  I realized that if the unreceptive receptionist gave me a key to someone else’s room, she could easily give someone else a key to MY room.

Immediately, I looked through the peep hole to make sure no one was standing there, triple-locked the door 10 or 20 times, and then closed the drapes extra tight.  Before getting into bed, I grabbed the letter opener from my computer bag so that would have a weapon within reach while I slept (fyi, I didn't sleep).

As I tossed and turned all night, I wondered…is this how my wife feels whenever she travels alone?  Afraid.  Vulnerable.  At risk.  Open to attack. 

Is this how my diminutive daughter feels when she walks home from the campus library after dark?  Is this how my sister feels when she leaves the mall at closing? 

Is this how innocent civilians feel when ISIS or the Taliban takes over their village, city or province?  Is this how political refugees feel when they leave their war-torn homeland with their worldly possessions on their backs? 

Is this how my black brothers and sisters feel whenever they encounter a cop? Is this how homeless folks feel whenever they sleep on the streets or in shelters? Is this how my friends in the LGBT community feel whenever they go to school, or a club, or a church? 

Last question – have I done all that I can to assuage the fears of these beloved children of God? 

I’m afraid…not. 

Unhappy Halloween.  


Tuesday, October 18, 2016


I wasn’t texting when it happened.   And I wasn’t checking emails on my cell phone.  And I wasn’t changing radio stations, munching on a McMuffin, or punching in an address on my GPS.  I was just driving my car.  Nothing more, nothing less. 

“Swear to God, Officer.”

That said, I WILL admit that my mind wasn’t exactly on the road.  Truth is, I was thinking of my father. 

You see, it was exactly 13 years ago that my dad was killed.  I’ll spare you the details, except to say that his death was sudden, tragic, and at the hands of another.  

Maybe I was thinking about his autopsy for the kjillionth time, and its myriad medical inconsistencies.  Maybe I was thinking about all the holes in the police investigation, if you can call it that.  Maybe I was thinking about those who came to my father’s funeral, and thanking God for each of them.

Whatever it was that I was thinking about, I was NOT thinking that a scrawny gray squirrel, doing an impression of Usain Bolt, would suddenly bolt across the street on which I was driving.  Immediately, I swerved to avoid the little guy, but as fate would have it, I hit him with my left front tire.

I felt it.  I heard it.  And when I looked back anxiously in my rear view mirror, I saw  it.  For the first time in my life, I had run over a squirrel. 

Coincidentally, my father was not a fan of squirrels. Watching them dig up his flawless lawn in search of last year’s nuts drove HIM nuts!  As did the fact that they would climb up and eventually empty his so-called “squirrel-proof” bird feeder of all the seeds that were intended for other, more Disneyesque, creatures.  

To him, squirrels were hairy rats that were destructive, disgusting, and a big ole pain in his...

“…but Dad, they are living and breathing evidences of God.  Learned it in church.”

In my last parish, I was leading a Bible study one evening.  As was my custom, the class began with me asking that wonderful Wesleyan question: “How are things with your soul?”

George T., the elder statesman of the class, quickly answered, “I have just seen undeniable and incontrovertible proof that God exists!”

A hush fell over the room, as we waited to hear how George, during his one-block walk to church, had witnessed something that all of humankind has been searching for since time immemorial. 

He shared how he was considering crossing Church Street when a squirrel scurried into the middle of the road - but then froze when it noticed a vehicle bearing down on it.   As soon as the driver saw the squirrel, said George, the car swerved. 

“The car swerved!”, he repeated.  

  When it became painfully clear to him that no one else in the room came to his conclusion, George explained slowly that deep down, at our very core, human beings are good.  That’s our nature.  That’s our instinct.  We have all been wired (by God) to instinctively have high regard for life – even the life of a lowly squirrel.  

I’ve never forgotten that.  As a result, every time I see a squirrel, living or otherwise, I am reminded that we have an amazing and loving Creator who created us all to be good – to squirrels, to refugees, to people in the other political party, to folks who don’t look like us - to EVERYONE!

If only the person who took my father’s life had squirreled that one away.