Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Adventures of Obama - 5

Obama confronted an unruly bunch;

Republicans about to eat him for lunch;

Liberal Dems threatening mutiny;

Independents jumping ship in futility;

Tea Partyers added their noisy chatter;

Everyone blamed him for what was the matter.

Barack Obama he didn’t worry.

Obama didn’t react in a fury.

He marshaled his forces and faced the Nation;

Then got those lame ducks to pass legislation.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 21: The Prairie

Kearney, Nebraska. Well, it was not quite living on the prairie, but it was in the middle of the state, if you ignore the panhandle, on the way to North Platte, Ogallala, and finally Denver. Situated on the Platte River, which meandered across the width of Nebraska, until it joined the Missouri just south of Omaha. The locals, cattlemen and farmers, coined the phrase for the Platte: “too thin to run; too thick to plow.” Kearney was a cattle-town and a college town with salt-of-the-earth people and a few intellectuals imported to teach the kids the ways of the world. The town was next to Interstate 80, following the old U.S. route 30; before that it was Fort Kearney, a trading post and stopping point for Wells Fargo Stagecoach Line and the Pony Express.

First Christian Church of Kearney, a congregation of the denomination that ordained me, had just fired their pastor in the wake of one of those “church scandals”: Minister runs off with a) church secretary; b) organist; c) choir director; d) other. Half the congregation had left the church. They needed an interim pastor to help them heal and hopefully recover some of the “lost sheep.” I was wrapping up my 3 months at my former parish at Trinity in Lincoln. That church building was being sold to a family which was going to convert it into their home. I was available and, hey, I was an expert at taking on troubled congregations. So while circulating my ministerial portfolio around the country, awaiting my next career challenge, I accepted First Christian’s invitation. My family was able to remain in our Lincoln home until we found another place to serve. So I moved to Kearney into a small house rented and furnished by the church.

This was, I discovered, a time of healing not only for the congregation, but for me. I remembered the advice of my home church pastor in Minneapolis, Forrest Richeson, my mentor and father figure: “Preach good sermons and love the people and you’ll do well.” Old school for sure but wisdom nonetheless. The five or six months at Kearney were an oasis in my desert. I tried to preach good sermons. I visited church members who were still involved and those who had left, some with bitterness. I started small group sessions for people to share their joy and pain and begin to heal. I organized the annual pledging campaign which turned out to be a huge success because it was a part of the healing process. My nights were spent alone since my family was half-way across Nebraska. But I discovered that being alone on the prairie was a necessary part of my own healing. Kearney had one drive-in theatre. I saw every B movie that came to town that summer.

When I left Kearney First Christian they had just called a pastor and I was able to leave him a much healthier situation than when I arrived. The search committee had approached me with the proposal that I consider staying on as their pastor. I thanked them for the compliment but could not in good conscience accept. I had only come as an interim. I had learned my lesson. The Trinity experience was enough to teach me that going against good advice and my better judgment should not become a habit.

I was a good interim facilitator, not a savior. What next?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 20: The Desert

I was never drawn to Catholicism. But I certainly know what some of the doctrine points to in life. My denomination in its wisdom assigned me for 3 months to go over to the church formerly known as Trinity UCC and inventory all of the property and equipment so that it could be sold or distributed to other congregations. Every day I went to my former office and put in at least 8 hours cataloguing everything, making lists, boxing hymnals, bibles, Sunday school curriculum books, files. I knew I was not in hell—or heaven either—I had given up believing in a 2-story universe long ago. Besides, there was suffering during this period. Aha! This must be purgatory! The Catholics got it partly right after all!

It was the suffering of purgatory, a painful purification process. The ego was being put through it. Herr Pastor was dying. Actually, the image of who I was was dying. I was in a desert. I was adrift on a dead sea with tattered sails and no fair wind in sight. Abandoned by God. Alone. All hope gone. Now even “purgatory” could not hold this experience. Even my family was no solace. I could hardly face them. The only respite I found during this time of terror was in learning to play O Sacred Head Now Wounded on the Hammond organ. When I would find myself staring at the empty room with the ghosts of Trinity Church appearing and disappearing, I would go to that old Hammond and play it over and over until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“O sacred head now wounded

With grief and shame weighed down

Now scornfully surrounded

With thorns thine only crown . . .”

Purgatory was not adequate to describe this period after all. There was no doctrine that could hold it. All that was left was to go through it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 19: The Lincoln Years—Endings & Beginnings

It was just after Christmas 1970, New Year’s Eve. The little church hall that had served as sanctuary, education center, and fellowship hall for nearly 13 years was filled with Trinity members, former members, members of other Lincoln churches, and our denomination’s state officials. A catered meal was prepared: the obligatory baked chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and dinner rolls, with a large decorated chocolate cake with “Trinity UCC—1957-1970” in white frosting across the top. Not your usual potluck of many church dinners past, with varieties of hot dishes, baked beans, potato salad, fruit-laced jell-o, and assortments of pies.

After dinner we sang a few of our favorite hymns, introduced all the visiting dignitaries, provided ample time for those present to share memories of the congregation’s life for the 13 years. It had barely reached puberty. There were the work days when we painted the parsonage and the entire church building, the summer pre-school to adult vacation schools, the pre-school started by my wife, Sue, the marriages and deaths, baptisms and confirmations celebrated in that very room, the hopes for completing the sanctuary, the hard times and the spirit-soaring times.

Then came the time of asking each Trinity member family to share their plans for continuing their spiritual journeys. Some were re-joining First Plymouth Congregational, the big downtown cathedral-like church. Some were going to the little neighborhood EUB/United Methodist congregation just a few blocks away. Pastors of both were present to give them a warm welcome. Others were still uncertain where they would land and planned to spend time visiting churches in Lincoln. There were representatives from several denominations in the room, assuring our people of their prayers and willingness to be there for them. It was a real ecumenical event.

It was time. I asked Marie Schneider, who had played the Hammond organ for all the years of Trinity’s life, to play “For All the Saints” as we tried to sing it with gusto through many tears. Then I picked up my guitar and sang, to the tune of “They Call the Wind Maria”, the words from Kazantzakis’ Saviors of God:

“The Cryin’ – The Cryin’ – It calls me to my dyin’”

I put down my guitar, hoisted above my head the big pulpit Bible I had read from and preached from for 3 years, formally sent out the members of Trinity United Church to other congregations in Lincoln, gave the last benediction to be uttered in that place, dropped the Bible on the table in front of me, closing it with a loud bang, and proclaimed the formal life of Trinity UCC ended.

It was an awesome funeral, the best one at which I ever officiated.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 18: The Local Church Experiment

From the fall of 1967 to December 31, 1970 I served as pastor of Trinity UCC. Founded in 1957, it had grown under the leadership of Don Stuart to a membership of about 150 members and built its first building, a combination education and fellowship hall with a kitchen and office to the side. It was a typical suburban congregation with a vision of building a large sanctuary for worship as soon as they could raise the funds. Then when their beloved founding pastor left for San Francisco and they called his replacement, Bill Hall, who didn’t share their vision for the cathedral they had their hearts set on, things changed. According to the stories I heard, there were also some personality conflicts. At any rate the Rev. Hall was “fired” after 2 ½ years and the congregation shrank by a third.

When I accepted their call I was aware of some of the history. The Executive Minister of our denomination’s state Conference took me aside and gave me a piece of advice (the Conference was still providing partial financial support): “If you accept this call I just want you to know that you may be their last pastor. Your job will be to either help them stand on their own or end the congregation’s life.” Of course I was not entertaining the thought of failure. I was going to be their savior. I was “Herr Pastor.” Besides, I had been to RS-1. I knew exactly what the church needed.

The Ecumenical Institute had an intensive training program, an 8-week in-residence re-education in theology, Bible, church history, world religions, parish education, sociology, the family in mission, etc. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity but could not get away for 8 weeks, so I attended in 2-week segments over a 2-year period. In addition, EI brought together people from across the U.S. and world in month-long summer “research assemblies,” attended by as many as 1000 people, to work on practical applications of local church and societal renewal. The summer of 1970 was devoted to the theme “The Local Church Experiment.” Clusters of congregations formed in many cities across the U.S. for leadership training and parish education.

Lincoln was not one of those chosen. So I and a handful of others decided we would experiment on our own. In addition to being co-coordinator, along with Terry Wright, a local Methodist clergyman, of what was known as the Kansas City Region, covering Nebraska, Kansas and parts of Missouri and Iowa, I set about re-writing my congregation’s education curriculum and mission statement, with good intentions but not enough compassion for what I was about to ask of my people. Regional responsibilities involved primarily recruiting pastors and lay people to attend the Institutes weekend training courses, beginning with the basic Religious Studies (RS-1) course. This was in addition to my regular pastoral duties and responsibilities to my denomination.

Having convinced a number of young couples in our church to attend RS-1, and capitalizing on their enthusiasm to bring new life into our congregation, we were on the way to re-imagining the role of our church as a smaller, more vital, congregation with a strong educational ministry that did not require the building of a large sanctuary building. But this scared some of the substantial established families who were not able to share our/my vision. When two of these founding families left the church to go elsewhere, some of the others of the “old guard” became discouraged and decided that we were not going to make it as a viable congregation. It became clear that we were never going to build that great cathedral. They could not see that there were other possibilities. We were a small congregation with a vital and growing pre-school-to-adult education program that was beginning to attract young families. That was not in their vision of what the church was or should be. So the church council made the decision, against my pleading with them to give it more time, to close the church.

I was in shock. My own vision for a vital church in mission to the community was called into question. My idea of the Local Church Experiment was being destroyed. It was about to die.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 17: The Lincoln Years—Discovering the Spirit Movement

“You really need to attend this weekend seminar.”

Larry and Sherry Brown were two of my students at Cotner. I had introduced them. Sherry was an attractive, petite, black-haired girl from a family in one of the churches I had served on weekends. Larry was a handsome, well-tanned product of the western Nebraska sand hills who was planning on attending seminary. I and Fran Houchen, another young radical who had been Larry’s pastor and was now on the staff of a large church in Lincoln, co-officiated at Larry and Sherry’s marriage service. The two of them had just returned from a weekend in Chicago at the Ecumenical Institute’s campus in the west-side ghetto, the very neighborhood where I had taken my Peoria high school group two years earlier.

The Institute (EI as it became known to many, sometimes articulated admiringly and by some in a derogatory manner) was attracting students from all around the country to weekend seminars called Religious Studies I (RS-1 as it became known). EI, part of the church renewal efforts of the sixties, was led by Joe Mathews who I had encountered while on the university campus, and a group of radical young clergy and laymen who had been exploring living in community while teaching and practicing a theology of the church taking responsibility for the community in deep and transformative ways. It was, you might say, the left wing of the church renewal movement.

I was searching for a way to make my spiritual inclinations relevant to the real world. I had learned as much from my students as from any of my teachers. So in November of 1967 I found myself, along with about 20 other pastors and a few lay people, in a church basement in Lincoln, Nebraska being re-introduced to Kierkegaard, Bultmann, Tillich, Bonhoeffer and H.R. Niebuhr in a way I had not dreamed. David McClesky, a tall, lanky Texan, one of 2 “pedagogues” (i.e., teachers—EI had a way of re-interpreting the old words and giving them new images) from Chicago introduced himself with: “I’m a Baptist, and not only am I a Baptist but I’m a Southern Baptist and you can’t get more Baptist than that.” George Holcombe, the other of the pair, who reminded me of a young Scrooge, began his opening lecture on G-O-D (they wouldn’t actually say the word God without spelling it out, at least in the beginning of the course) with this statement: “I’m a radical, fanatical churchman of the 20th century.” He was actually a Methodist minister and McClesky was, I later discovered, a recovering Southern Baptist. I was intrigued enough to stay for the entire 3 days of my mind being assaulted with radical-sounding theological statements, some of which began to make sense in my world, although my intellectual ego had difficulty admitting it.

We began the course by studying a paper by Rudolf Bultmann called The Crisis of Faith, followed by what I now believe was Paul Tillich’s greatest sermon ever, You Are Accepted

You are accepted; accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now. Perhaps you will learn it later.

It was that seminar on that sermon that opened me to see the heart of the Christian Gospel, without all the theological clap-trap that usually smothers the experience of grace and throws us back into our own self-made justifications and judgments of ourselves, others and the world. Before bedtime on the second evening and after a discussion of Pablo Picasso’s painting Guernica, a massive anguished response to Hitler’s saturation bombing of the Spanish town prior to World War II, we watched the classic film Requiem for a Heavyweight, the one with Anthony Quinn, Mickey Rooney, and Jackie Gleason, and discussed its theological implications. All of this was designed to force us to confront our own world views and beliefs and images of God, Jesus, and the doctrines we had been mouthing without ever grounding them in our actual experience of the way life is.

It began to dawn on me that what we were being exposed to was a method of teaching that stripped away old worn-out expressions of concepts that were becoming virtually meaningless through taking their meanings for granted, then re-investing them with meaning from our own experience of life. We were being taken through a journey of de-mythologizing and then inventing new myths (stories) more relevant in a 20th century context. By the time we had been dragged through studies of Bonhoeffer’s paper on “Freedom” from his book on ethics, and H.R. Niebuhr’s “Church as Social Pioneer” I was almost theologically and emotionally exhausted, besides being so physically drained from 2 late nights and just plain rigorous intellectual work. What was I going to do with this now? How was I going to take my little congregation through the veil I had just gone through?


Then came the altar call. The closing meal at which we were each asked for a response to the three days and what we were going to take away. I mumbled something about how I hadn’t really learned anything new from this course (my ego trying to convince everyone that I knew things but actually trying to hide my ignorance). Dave McClesky just quietly nodded, accepting my comment and said simply: “Well then, maybe it’s just a case of how you are going to be responsible for your colleagues and your parishioners.”

I was finished and I didn’t know it. The next chapter will be about the unfolding of the response.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 16: The Lincoln Years—Herr Pastor

1967—teaching assignment at Cotner over as of June. My ministerial portfolio was being circulated far and wide. I was interviewed by a couple of small town churches in Iowa and Wisconsin. Though I received a few letters of interest, nothing seemed to be “clicking.” Academia was no longer a viable option. Then two offers came at the same time, and both were right there in Lincoln. We liked Lincoln. We had made lots of friends there. Our kids were doing well. Both job offers, however, were uncertain as possibilities for long-term employment.

The first offer was with President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” as a community organizer. The second was from a local congregation on the southern edge of the city—Trinity United Church of Christ. I was conflicted for more than one reason. I was in conflict over staying with the Church and especially a career within an institution with which I had a love/hate relationship. To use an image from the Old Testament prophets “The Church was a prostitute, but the Church was my mother.” Or should I choose to act out my passion for social justice and get paid by the government. I was wavering and waffling.

But I had been preaching at Trinity Church for a couple of months on an ad interim basis. So when they offered me a full time permanent position at nearly twice what I had been making, $5500 annual salary plus housing and a car allowance, after consulting with my family it was hard to turn down. I accepted the call at the end of the summer of ’67 and moved into the house owned by the congregation, a three-bedroom ranch-style on a corner lot. Members of the church held a work day and together we painted the entire inside. Then on moving day they came to help us move in. It was the perfect job. My own little parish church. My own little flock of about 100 families to feed, while feeding my own not-so-little ego.

Trinity Herr Pastor

Not satisfied with being a good preacher and pastor, I tried to lead the congregation toward being “relevant” to the times, to be a servant of God in the unjust world. The founding pastor of the congregation had left three years before to be the first “Night Minister of San Francisco.” His parish was the Tenderloin District; he was pastor to the prostitutes and pimps, the down-and-outers and drug dealers. So I got this bright idea that Lincoln needed a ministry to its night life and organized a group of young ministers to take turns, one night each, to visit the taverns and clubs in town. We connected with the local police department and accompanied officers in squad card. We wore clerical collars so as to be easily identified. The only hitch with that was no matter where we went we were known as “Father.” “Let me buy the father a drink” was a common mantra and we would often have a line-up of beverages in front of us wherever we sat. The biggest problem with my little project turned out to be of a sociological nature. Lincoln is not San Francisco. The night life just did not quite measure up in terms of dire need for a ministry. The Lincoln Night Ministry lasted less than 3 months.

Trinity UCC Lincoln NB-2

Trinity UCC was a small congregation whose roots were in the Evangelical Church of North America, which in turn came out of the German Lutheran tradition. It was one of the first new-start congregations after the merger in 1957 of the Congregational-Christian and Evangelical and Reformed denominations. So you had this weird amalgam of Lutheran, Calvinist, New England Congregationalism, and Baptist traditions forming one new body, the proverbial camel that looked like it had been created by committee. Trinity had retained some of the old conservatism of its parents, but since it was a young congregation attracted a number of families from the neighborhood, which was as close to a suburb as a “cow-town” on the edge of the prairie might be expected to have. It is amazing to me now that they put up with me as long as they did. Yet some of my best friendships and memories were formed during the four years I spent as pastor there.


        My 1st Confirmation Class

In many ways the people themselves were open and caring, willing to allow me to try new things. For example, during the 1968 presidential election campaign, following assassinations and Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term, I was approached by Eugene McCarthy’s campaign, the infamous “Children’s Crusade,” to allow campaign volunteers to use our church building as a headquarters for two weeks, sleeping, eating, using phones, etc. I approached the church council and their only question was “Has any other campaign asked to use the building?” When I said “No” they gave immediate and unanimous approval. So Trinity was the only congregation in Lincoln that housed about 50 volunteers for two-weeks during that historic and turbulent campaign.

The patience of the congregation was stretched to the limit, however, when theological issues came to a head and 2 disparate images of the church’s mission collided. That will be told in the next couple of chapters.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 15: The Lincoln Years—If You Haven’t Been to Peoria

The summer of ’66 I was asked to take a summer interim job as Minister of Education & Youth at Central Christian Church in Peoria, Illinois. There was no summer school at Cotner and the salary was as much for the summer as my year’s pay at the school. We moved our little family into a furnished house the church rented for us. Our kids were 5 and 3.

My main job was to organize and manage the vacation church school and run the summer youth programs, which included two weeks at high school church camp. This was a time of growing interest in integration and the more liberal churches were beginning to push the issue, primarily at the national and state levels. Local congregations were dragging their feet, except for a handful of radical young clergymen.

I had been hearing about these “immersion” experiences in Chicago, conducted by the Urban Institute, where people from suburban settings would be “turned loose” for a couple of days to experience the poverty of the inner city. I somehow convinced my senior pastor, Bob Bennett, and the parents of the high school youth group, that this would be a great summer experience for their kids. We rented a 12 passenger station wagon, loaded it with 9 boys and girls with all of their luggage tied on top and rolled-up sleeping bags tucked around them, and headed for the big city. I had made some arrangements through our church’s state office with the pastor of Jackson Blvd. Christian Church, an African American congregation in the middle of Chicago’s west side ghetto for us to sleep in their building, as well as to have a get-acquainted session around a meal with the young people of his church.

We arrived in Chicago as the sun was setting, found the church after driving around the west side of Chicago and stopping at the local Jewel Tea supermarket to stock up on groceries for our stay, the only white faces in a sea of black shoppers with suspicious stares. The pastor met us at the church parking lot with a warm welcome as he unlocked the gate to the wrought iron fence surrounding the building, after which he showed us to the hall where we could lay out our sleeping bags for our two night stay.

The get-acquainted session went well and was an eye-opening educational experience for our kids, as these young black kids talked of what life was like growing up on the west side of Chicago. It also became clear to all of them that their hopes and dreams for their lives were not that dissimilar. It was an eye-opener for me in that it was beginning to dawn on me what a sheltered life I had led and my naïve liberal images were being shattered, one after another.

Somehow we survived that brief immersion and got all the kids back to Peoria safely. The rest of the summer unfolded smoothly. Summer youth camp was a relaxing and fun end of our Peoria summer. Three of the black kids from Chicago attended the camp. One vivacious girl took on a real leadership role at the camp. She was also a comedian. On one occasion several kids were on the lake in boats. The girl was in one boat chiding her two friends seated in the front and back of another boat with a white kid in the middle rowing. The young lady shouted for the whole campground to hear: “Hey look! They’ve got a slave!”

It was only two years later that the west side we had visited was burning after the assassination of Martin Luther King. We were not aware of all the undercurrents of erupting anger we were in the middle of at the time.

So at the end of the summer we packed our belongings and headed back to Lincoln, without a clue what would be next.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 14: The Lincoln Years—Gathering Storms

My two-year teaching assignment at Cotner was extended for a third year. The professor I was filling in for discovered that he needed another year at Duke to complete his Ph.D. dissertation. So I got a reprieve from having to find a “real” job and could stay in the academic womb a little longer. I had my little family and my slightly larger student body and a growing circle of like-minded friends in the university and church community. I was busy on weekends with preaching in small town churches in eastern Nebraska. I taught several off-campus classes for ministers and lay people. Cotner’s dean sent me to represent the school at Society of Biblical Literature and American Academy of Religion regional and national meetings, which gave me the opportunity to rub shoulders with many of the prominent scholars and writers in the theological and biblical studies world.

The mid-sixties were also times of growing unrest on college campuses. The civil rights movement was in full swing. The anti-Vietnam war protests were heating up. I found myself attending rallies for these two causes and helping to found a peaceful anti-war protest on the edge of the campus. Daily we stood on the sidewalk with signs and made our silent presence known in opposition to the war’s escalation. Students were also organizing volunteers to get on buses leaving from the campus to go to Mississippi and Alabama.

The end of my life in academia was approaching but I was not yet aware of it. I delivered lectures at a Cotner sponsored series on The New Testament Conception of the Ministry and Paul Tillich’s Concept of God, and while I received kudos for my presentation, the life of a scholar was making less and less sense to me. Also, in 1966 I attended a lecture sponsored by the campus YMCA delivered by the new-on-the-scene Dean of the Ecumenical Institute: Chicago, Joe Mathews, who began to rock my world and challenge many of my already shaky beliefs about the way life is.


One quote from his lecture that never left me was: “There is only one absolute in life and that is that there are no absolutes.” After the lecture I had the chance to spend a couple of hours with him in a small group of campus pastors. I literally did not know what to make of this guy. It was like it must have been the first time the disciples encountered Jesus. I did not immediately pick up and follow him back to Chicago, nor was he asking me to. But the seed was planted. Sometimes it takes a few years to blossom, as will be revealed as the story unfolds.


Joe in “5th City” with a community leader on Chicago’s west side.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 13: The Academic Dream Deferred

Fall semester ’64 at Cotner School of Religion began slowly. Enrollment was down. I taught 2 classes, one on the Literature of the New Testament and the other The Four Gospels. Neither class had more than 10 students. I must have done well enough because they signed up for the 2nd semester and I even added one class on The Bible as Literature.

Milan Cotner-2

My own student year went somewhat differently. The classics department chair, whose reputation as a Greek scholar had drawn me to Nebraska, died half-way through my first semester. The University “imported” a visiting professor directly from Greece, who became my major advisor by fiat. Elias Kapetanopoulos was a young, arrogant, classic-featured Greek with pre-maturely graying hair who had an attitude best expressed by Gus in the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding: “My ancestors were writing philosophy while yours were still swinging in trees.” We did not hit it off from the start and it continued to descend throughout the year. I probably can’t blame the whole sordid affair on his attitude. I was getting OK grades but not those I thought I deserved. I went to the acting department head and asked if he would take me on as my major advisor. He, understandable, refused, since it was only a 2 person department. I had to stick it out or quit the program.

On reflection I have to admit that there were two egos involved in the matter at hand: His and Mine. The fact that I thought I already knew as much if not more than he did may have been partly in play. And, as I reflect further, I recall having a similar problem for a time with my (now) beloved seminary professor, Ron Graham, until his patient and kind manner, coupled with his wry Aussie sense of humor, revealed to me one day how much I had to learn.

But with Elias K. it was different. He was neither patient nor kind, at least in my ego-out-of-control mind. So after one year my grad student days were over. For the time-being. But that is a story for later. Much later.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Journey of Awakening–12: The Academic Dream

One of my seminary professors was a graduate of a small college in Lincoln, Nebraska. Cotner University was founded by some ministers and laymen of my denomination, The Disciples of Christ, to prepare young men and women as preachers and educators in small town churches scattered throughout the state of Nebraska. It had fallen on hard times and gone out of existence during the Great Depression, but a small group of college trustees had saved a portion of the school’s endowment in hopes of resurrecting the institution. Cotner was started up after World War II as a school of religion and became affiliated with the University of Nebraska.

Dr. Frank Gardner, who was a colorful “disciple” of Henry Nelson Wieman and Alfred North Whitehead and the infamous process theology school at the University of Chicago, and who had played football at Cotner in the late twenties, put me in touch with Dr. Raleigh Peterson, Dean of Cotner. It was the summer of 1963 and there was an opening for a temporary and part-time instructor of religion. I was interested in pursuing a graduate degree in classical Greek with a prominent professor of classics at the U. of Nebraska, so I applied for the job.

I was on the train from Des Moines to Lincoln for the interview when the news was spread from car to car that President Kennedy had just been shot in Dallas. It was a depressing mood as I was greeted by the Dean and a couple of local ministers from the Cotner Board, but I did get offered the position to begin in the summer of 1964. I was to begin by travelling throughout Nebraska on a “recruitment” trip for Cotner. Even though it was the unofficial school of religion for the university, courses were not required and not part of any major, so students had to be particularly motivated to want to enroll in Cotner’s elective courses.

As it turned out I had to delay my start date by a month or so, due to having major surgery on a cyst requiring 6 weeks of recuperation in my in-laws basement in Minneapolis. Finally, with our two little ones in tow, all of our belongings packed into a U-Haul truck, we caravanned from Des Moines to Lincoln, assisted by our friends, Ted and Georgiann Warren, who drove all the way to help with our move. We had rented an upstairs apartment in the big old red brick house that served as the state headquarters of our denomination. Luckily, our rent was only $90 a month, since my salary at Cotner was to be only about $300. This meant I would have to find weekend preaching jobs to take up the slack. On top of carrying at least 2 classes at the U. in Greek and Latin literature.

The month of August was full of travelling the state, speaking at churches and attending endless pot luck suppers, and calling on students who were coming to Lincoln for fall classes at Nebraska.

I was now ready to take on the academic world as both student and teacher.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Journey of Awakening–11: Waiting for ToGo

I hung around for a year after graduation from seminary, taking a couple of classes to “further my well-rounded education.” I was also offered the position of New Testament Greek Instructor at Open Bible College, a training school for ministers and missionaries of the Church of the Open Bible, a home-grown Pentecostal group based in Des Moines. The president of the college was a seminary classmate who, when interviewing me for the job said: “Milan, I know you smoke, but I’d appreciate it if you didn’t around our campus—if any of our trustees happened to see you smoking, it would mean both of our jobs.”

One day after Greek class, the guys in the class were sharing that they wanted to start a basketball team but did not have a coach. They had discovered my passion for the game and asked if I would work with them. This meant that I also had to help them find teams to play since there was no league for their school. I entered them in the YMCA men’s league and arranged some pickup games with a couple of settlement houses. That was the first time most of them had met any black people, let alone play against them. It was an eye-opening experience for all of them, as they tried to compete while watching some of these guys soar over them. It might as well have been Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant on the other team, to amplify the comparison just a bit. All of my considerable coaching experience and even my playing on their team couldn’t save them. I told them they had better pray harder because only Jesus was going to get them through this game.

Because it was such a small college we often did not have enough players at practice or games to have more than 6 or 7 guys show up at any one time. I had to be player/coach and I was not in the greatest physical shape. After the game with the above-mentioned young black men who had “taken us to basketball school” one of our players said to me as we were dressing: “You know coach, if you’d give up the weeds you’d be more able to keep up.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Journey of Awakening–10: Still Asleep in Seminary

I began my seminary career at Drake Divinity School in the fall of 1959 and graduated with a B.D. (Bachelor of Divinity) degree in June of 1963. Ted Warren and the rest of the class I started with graduated in 1962. I told my friends it was because I am a slow learner. I don’t recall all the factors, but we did have two children born during those years: Leslea in ’61 and Robbin in ’63.

Milan Les&RobbSue had to quit her teaching job after one year to care for them. My job at Cottage Grove Presbyterian was theoretically part-time, but because it was almost a campus church with a sizable congregation I probably put in more time and was more easily distracted from studies, I carried a lighter class load in my last 2 years.

Of course there were the “extra-curricular” activities as well. Drake’s intra-mural sports program caught my interest. I organized, managed, played, and coached our touch football, basketball, and fast-pitch softball teams for three seasons. All of the fraternities, dorms, the Pharmacy and Law School had teams. The “Preachers” especially delighted in beating the Lawyers whenever possible. My love of basketball was my downfall. I arranged to get us uniforms with D.U.D.S. imprinted across the front (blue on white—Drake’s colors). We always had to point out that the letters stood for “Drake University Divinity School.”

DUDS Drake Div2Our best season was when we took the team on the road, playing the Drake Freshmen team, a couple of small college teams, even travelling to my old home church in Minneapolis to play the church team I had played on in college. We billed the trip as PR for the seminary, but really just wanted to play basketball. We lost by a couple of baskets as I recall.

DrakeStudentFacultyFB Game

Drake Student Faculty Football Game

I did however do well enough in my studies to get a full tuition scholarship in my last year. Majoring in Biblical Languages and Literature, and excelling in Hebrew and New Testament Greek, I was able to compensate for less interest in classes in preaching, education, church history, and administration. So I finally got my degree, a bachelor’s degree in those days. Years later Drake corrected this “injustice” and issued retroactive Master of Divinity degrees to all of us.

MH Seminary Grad

I was ordained to the Christian ministry in June of ’63 at First Christian Church, Minneapolis.

MH Ordination

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 9: Integration, Family, School, Church & Society

The three years after our wedding were full of family, church, and seminary, not necessarily in that order. Sue and I rented the upstairs of a house from an elderly couple, Phil and Mary Smith. I was a smoker but it didn’t bother Phil who was a chain smoker. The whole house reeked. I am not sure how Sue and Mary survived in that environment. At the time I was not even aware.

Sue Teacher Smouse Sue got a teaching job at Smouse Opportunity School for children with physical disabilities. I continued to travel to Allerton on weekends, to preach and do pastoral duties. Sue ordinarily went with me, unless she had to prepare lesson plans for the next week, or during the second semester of the ’60-’61 school year, when she was pregnant and sick with our daughter, Leslea, born in September of ’61. At the end of the semester I was offered a job as Assistant Pastor at Cottage Grove Ave. Presbyterian Church, at an incredible $3,000 annual salary, plus a 2 bedroom apartment in a house owned by the church (and right next door). The church was within a few blocks of the Drake campus.

Cottage Grove Pres We were ecstatic, although it did require a slight shift in my theological journey. These Presbyterians actually baptized babies. My Disciples of Christ heritage was a strictly adult Baptism tradition. Fortunately, my senior pastor, Ed Ingersoll, a short, pipe-smoking gentleman, was understanding, as long as I didn’t get into arguments with parishioners or try to “dunk” the catechism class graduates I was responsible for teaching.

CG Pres Conf Class 

There were other paradigm shifts happening during the early ‘60s as well. Des Moines was the capitol of Iowa and a university town, but African Americans, or “colored people,” as they were called then, were restricted by some rigid real estate codes from living in certain parts of the city. The civil rights struggle was coming to our city in the form of a movement to have the City Council adopt an “open housing” ordinance to prevent these “redlining” practices. Sue and I helped establish a family-to-family system of whites and blacks inviting one another to their homes to get acquainted, since most whites did not know any blacks personally. We also had lots of “Hootenanys” in our living room.


Our seminary had one black Methodist student, Fred Smith. We could socialize on campus, but I remember being jarred when I learned why he did not respond to any invitations to come to any of our homes, letting us know that there were certain places he did not feel safe being seen.

I had attended the first Martin Luther King visit and speech to Des Moines at the civic auditorium in 1960 and had the opportunity to meet him and ask some questions after his speech. I’ve always said that was the inspiration for my involvement in the ‘60s civil rights and anti-war movements. We did, in fact, get the open housing ordinance passed over the next couple of years, not without struggle and late-night phone calls threatening me and my family, and a few of our church members turning their gaze away when I was around. But on the whole, Dr. Ingersoll and the congregation were quietly supportive of their young radical Assistant Pastor.

Seminary life went on as though not much was going on in the world. Except that we did have some students from the real world. I had mentioned Fred Smith, our one black student, who was a young pastor and family man who let us know what it was like being black in Iowa. Joe Fourre, a “colored” Methodist minister exchange student from South Africa (colored was a legal classification there) introduced us to the struggle against Apartheid. When he had finished his year at Drake and was headed home to his wife and 3 young children, he told us: “Some of us may have to give our lives to end this unjust system.” I’ve often wondered about him and his family. And the one female student in our seminary reminded us of the glass ceiling for women who wanted equal status and pay.

The 1960s were just beginning and we were living our lives unaware of what was unfolding.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 8: Is This Any Way to Begin a Career?

Enrolled in Drake University Divinity School in Des Moines, Iowa, fall 1959. Packed up all of my belongings in my ’53 Chevy, including a stack of books of sermons my pastor had given me, from which I liberally borrowed ideas, illustrations, and quotes to begin my preaching career. Drake had this system of assigning students as pastors of rural and small town churches, congregations that couldn’t afford full-time ministers. This worked out well as on-the-job-training.

Allerton Xn 59-1

I was sent to a weekend church in Allerton, a town of 300 population 10 miles from the Missouri line. There were 5 protestant churches in town. Allerton Christian Church had been a thriving congregation until 10 years prior to my coming, when a controversy split the congregation and all but 35 adults had left. I spent my first year in seminary travelling on weekends the 80 miles from Des Moines, staying with a nice widow lady, Monte Eberlein, who delighted in telling everyone at church and in town how it had “been a long time since she had a man’s shoes parked under her bed.”

Allerton Ms Eberline-1

Ted Warren, my home town friend who was also single but courting his future wife, Georgiann, and I found an apartment and lived together for 9 months of the first year, when he was married and moved up to the parsonage of his weekend church. It was a very frugal year. I made $35 a week plus an occasional tank of gas given by one of the church members who owned a gas station in town. I actually had to find some part-time jobs to supplement my meager income, while carrying a full class load. This was also the year of driving back and forth to Minneapolis to try to convince my future bride, Sue, who would break up with me on a moment’s notice. On one breakup/makeup trip I arrived in the middle of the night and stood under her window throwing pebbles until all the lights went on and she finally came down. Her parents were very patient with the whole process, and relieved when it was resolved.

Milan & Sue Wedding3

Finally, on about the 3rd try she agreed to set a date and we were married on June 25, 1960, with all of my old buddies standing with me.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 7: The Seasons of Love and Learning

“Who is that mysterious beauty with the enigmatic smile and the classic features?”

“That’s Sue Wilson! She’s been away at a fancy college in Illinois.”

She showed up at the Teens & Twenties college age singles group. I was finishing my sophomore year at the U. of Minnesota. She was a year ahead of me, also enrolled at the University. I don’t remember when we started dating or how I got the courage to ask her out. I think it was an ice-skating date. She went to Colorado each summer to work at a guest ranch. Later I found out that she had this fellow staffer summer romance for a couple of summers. He phoned me and my daughter a couple of years after Sue died, wanting me to know how “close they had been.” He was Jewish. He wanted to marry her. She was Christian and couldn’t quite make the leap. So she got me. But not without a struggle. I had the whole school year to impress her. He only had a couple of months in the summer. By the end of my junior year and as Sue was graduating with a degree in early childhood education, we were going steady.

Milan & Sue58 Then the summer came and I was assigned to North Commons Park (from my old neighborhood) with Shirley Larson, a striking blond who was rebounding from a relationship. By the end of the summer I had broken it off with Sue and was spending all of my spare time with Shirley.

Park BD Shirley Larson Of course, a month or two after the summer Shirley went back to her former boyfriend. It took some convincing and crawling, but Sue did take me back and by Christmas we were engaged. Then over the course of the next year-and-a-half she broke up with me twice and relented twice. I said: “Not without a struggle.”

My senior year was made more challenging because my dad was drinking again, then got a job in Ogden, Utah, leaving my mother to sell our house, help me find a room, and join him in Ogden. It was winter. I couldn’t afford to keep my car going so I put it up on blocks at my Aunt Thelma’s place and got a used bicycle to ride to classes and work at the park. Occasionally, when I ran out of money and was hungry enough, I would make the ride to my Aunt Thelma’s in Parker’s Lake, a 15 mile ride one way. And if you think riding a bike for transportation is tough, try it in a Minnesota winter. There were days when I had to take the streetcars. Fortunately it still only cost a dime to ride.

Somehow I got through the school year, to find that my grade point average was not quite high enough to graduate with my class. So on to summer school in hopes of getting the degree by August, in time to enroll in seminary in the fall semester. My two summer classes were almost ended. I was getting a “C” in one and hovering between a “C” and a “B” in the other. Fortunately, that class was Dr. Holmer’s on Kierkegaard. I begged him: “What can I do to get a “B”? He let me write an extra paper and I was able to graduate by the proverbial skin of my teeth. Actually, it was partly Dr. Holmer’s fault. As my major advisor, he advised me to take an “inter-departmental” major, which meant every class I had taken would be included in my GPA. If I had majored in, say, Philosophy, those “D”s from my sophomore year would not have been included.

I really learned a lot at the U. of Minnesota. I just can’t remember exactly what.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 6: Dreaming & Escaping

The Minneapolis Park Board had this great summer recreation program at what must have been a hundred parks throughout the city. Each park had one man and one woman assigned for the summer to run sports, games and crafts programs. Somehow during the summer after my sophomore year I caught the attention of Stan Nemec, the Director of Recreation for the City. He offered me the job of Men’s Rec. Director at Nicollet Field, which was year-round and part-time. This got me through my college years, along with the continued summer program. I organized and coached teams in football, hockey, and baseball for the Park Boys’ Leagues. The rest of the time at work I played pickup basketball games with the “guys from the hood,” a group of mostly African American boys who hung around the field. Evelyn Schellhammer, who was the Girls’ Director and a middle-aged lady with a sour attitude but a good heart, was constantly on my case for spending so much time playing. I told her I was the men’s’ recreation director and my job was to teach kids how to play together and how could I teach them if I didn’t “recreate” with them. She would shake her head and walk away mumbling. You might say I played my way through college. I also played on our church’s team in the men’s church basketball league, as well as making the final cut on the U. of Minnesota Freshman team.

There were also classes to attend on campus and studies to complete. Tests to take, papers to write. I spent lots of time at the Bridge Café, adjacent to the campus, which was, along with the basement of the Library where you could smoke, and my church where Ted Warren and I wrote most of our term papers in all-night sessions, my “study halls.”

I do have memories of going to classes. Freshman English with Dr. Irving Deere, who liked to touch the girls in his office during private “counseling” sessions. Thankfully, he wasn’t into touching the guys. We read Catcher in the Rye and took endless essay tests. Dr. McCorkadale lectured to a thousand of us in Psych. 101 and got a standing ovation on the last day of class. He and his minions introduced us to the famous, now infamous, Behavioral Psychology School (aka the “rats-in-the-maze” school of psychology) and multiple choice exams (aka “multiple-guess” exams, which we studied by going over copies of all past exams, hoping to catch some of the right questions on the current exam). Dr. Jones in World History 101 gave his lecture, “Jones’ Folly,” describing in great (and boring) detail how he had spent 20 years of his career attempting to decipher Minoan Linear B, a pre-Greek cuneiform script, and the day before the lecture, his colleague in the east had “cracked” it. Two years of French and all I can remember is reading The Three Musketeers and how to invite a damsel to your boudoir. Also, in two years of Classical Greek I discovered an interest in language and got straight “A”s.

The most influential teacher I had was Dr. Paul Holmer, who was one of the pre-eminent Soren Kierkegaard scholars, from whom I received an intimate view of the Melancholy Dane and his writings, especially Either/Or, the great work on Christian existentialism, and the Attack on Christendom, which, I am sure, at least in part, led to my demise as a local church pastor (that and encountering the Ecumenical Institute which will be in a later story).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Journey of Awakening – 5: Clueless in Minnesota

Enrolled at the University of Minnesota in the summer of ’55. Tuition only $75 per quarter and an equal amount for books. Living at home helped and my church, First Christian, aka Dr. Forrest Richeson, my pastor paid for tuition and gave me “extra help” when necessary, since I was, until his considerable influence, headed for the ministry. Freshman orientation week was a whirlwind of tours of the campus (at that time 40,000 students strong) and parties. Somehow our orientation host found me attractive which led to a hot evening of necking and petting at the closing party. Can’t remember her name. She was short and chunky and soft. I remember she wore a black skirt and black cashmere sweater. I don’t recall running into her on campus for the next four years. So, for an incoming freshman with only about 3 real dates behind him it was “rush week” and I don’t mean Frats.

Since I didn’t live on campus my social life centered around church and the college age group “Teens and Twenties,” comprised of grads from the high school CYF group and those singles who were not away at college, plus students from the Abbott Hospital School of Nursing which was a few blocks from the church. Several couples formed around the TNTs and five of us guys found wives there, although through the usual tumultuous, turbulent, messy relationship-building required of maturing young minds and hearts.

I continued to work through much of that first year at J. Olson Machine, while trying to maintain a full class schedule mid-week with partying on the weekends, until I was “let go” after a screw-up of a job costing the company tens of thousands. I managed to pick up a few part-time jobs as an order filler and mailer over the rest of the school year and summer and into the next year.

It was also during my freshman year that I started dating Bobbie McLennan (one of the nursing students). My friends Denny Neill and Fred Reed also latched onto theirs, or rather were latched onto. These relationships saved our first year out of high school from totally degenerating into a series of drunken lost weekends. However, we did manage a few unmemorable ones (possible because we don’t remember them). Mostly our lives revolved around our gang of friends. Ev Hall and Ron Morehouse, in the Navy for two years, re-joined us at the end of my sophomore year. Bobbie had dumped me at the end of my Freshman year, which resulted in a whole lot of falling grades in my second year, due to spending a good deal of time in “recovery” and moping around like a sick puppy. Ev started dating Bobbie, which didn’t help. There were other girls who were willing to fill in the gap, but I kept my distance after one or two dates and hid by hanging out in the group.

The summer after my first year at the U. I worked as assistant cook (dishwasher and floor-mopper) at our church camp, Tipi Wakan, which means Lodge of the Great Spirit with our pastor’s daughter and Connie McAdams, who was my summer romance (and who sobbed uncontrollably when I left her, leaving me embarrassed and puzzled that I had no clue how she was feeling). One of my TNT friends, Barb Harden, looked me in the eye after the summer break and said “Hi, Romeo, how many hearts did you break this summer.” I of course was clueless and did not really know how to respond, or rather did not want to acknowledge how afraid of close relationships I was. But that sentence of hers has stuck with me as one that comes up on occasion. Barb is now in my “meditative council” although we have had no contact since that year.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Adventures of Obama - 5

Obama watched the endless attack

On our brave forces assigned in Iraq;

Democracy foundering at home and abroad;

All factions thinking they’re upholding God.

“You’re making mistakes,” say the ‘Libs’, “left and right;”

From the right “You’re an ‘Islamic commie’ we need to fight.”

Barack Obama he didn’t worry;

He didn’t fret and scream and scurry.

He took the long view as he promised before,

And brought our troops home signaling the end of THAT war.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer of Love—the End: At Least I Don’t Hate Cats!

Noah1 Noah3

This is Noah.  He runs Tomi’s house! 


Figaro and Einstein.  They keep Frank up at night!

Einstein2 Figarao I


One of my daughter Leslea’s cats whose name escapes me.


This is Angel.  She lives in Malibu with Georgianna and Holly.

Tipper lives much of his life in a 5th Wheel with my cousin Jan.

Norma Jean1

This is Norma Jean when she had her tail.

And this is Norma Jean without it!

Norma Jean6

Thursday, August 26, 2010

I Fell in Love with Music—Again!

My mother had this Oahu Hawaiian guitar which I inherited when I was in the seventh grade. I learned to play a few chords on it so I could perform in our junior high talent show. Hank Williams was my favorite country singer. I played and sang “Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead” in the talent show. My classmates at reunions have not neglected to recall this performance, in my cowboy hat and Levi’s and engineer boots. That was my introduction to the guitar. I never played in public again, but continued on for my own enjoyment, later adding the harmonica. During the ‘60s I picked up the guitar again, graduating to a cheap but not bad sounding acoustic job so that I could play with some friends at the “hootenannies” we had in our living rooms. It was, after all, the 60s. We played and sang all the protest songs of the civil rights movement and the anti-war movement: “Blowin’ in the Wind,” “We Shall Overcome,” etc., etc. Later I joined in the church renewal movement and joined a secular-religious order. We sang a lot and even wrote lyrics to some of the folk hymns and popular tunes of the day. Then I just stopped singing and the guitar went to my ex-wife when we split up. Except for a few brief attempts to sing in a church choir it seemed that I had just lost interest in music. Until this summer, that is. My friend Frank got this guitar, a steel string Eko made in Italy that he wanted to sell. I took it home to try it out. It sat in my office next to my computer desk, gathering dust for several months. Then this summer Linda, intuiting that I might be almost ready to pick it up, arranged a bartering deal with one of her Tai Chi students: free Tai Chi lessons in exchange for free guitar lessons. I got the guitar out, tuned it up, had my first lesson, and was amazed at what was coming back to me, not just the chords, but the Music, the interest, the passion for it. So I went out and bought new strings and a tuner and re-strung the instrument and am now practicing every day. I even dug out my four harmonicas that have been languishing in my bedside stand for several years. This must be the “summer of love.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Smitten By Samantha!







Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Adventures of Obama - 4

Obama saw a gargantuan gusher.

Oil! – Looked like a real crusher.

The gusher spewed, enlarged its reach;

It fouled the waters, approaching the beach.

The people were anxious, the fishermen scared;

BP couldn’t stop it, its flawed system was bared.

Barack Obama, he didn’t worry;

He wouldn’t yell or scream and fury;

He went to work on a cleanup plan,

And mobilized the forces to save the Land.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Waiting for the Show

Sitting in Palm Springs,

Corner of Starbucks and Coffee Bean,

Waiting for the movie to begin the beguine;

Waiting for the birthday to arrive;

Waiting for anniversaries to come alive;

Waiting for the homecoming;

Waiting for the end of all shortcomings;

While waiting a bus went by

And I – well –

                    Missed it.

But no cry

Or sigh


Just another thought of “I”.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Adventures of Obama - 3

Obama encountered a ferocious Troll

Which came in the form of a popular Poll;

The Troll grew and grew to gigantical size

Until it was bloated; He looked into its eyes

And listened carefully as it demanded attention:

“Obama you know I can eat you, in case I didn’t mention.”

Barack Obama, he didn’t worry;

He wouldn’t bow to its frantic fury.

He summoned his courage, he kept his cool

And said “A Poll ain’t no Troll, and I ain’t no fool.”

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Happy Birthday and Anniversary!

Yes, believe it or not, Linda is having her 67th BD Saturday, and it happens also to be our 34th anniversary.  So below are a couple of photos from our birthday and anniversary archives:

12-Linda's Chicago Party4

Linda is the star of her birthday!

Our Wedding 76-1

      Do you recognize any of these people?

Jann & Lynn-1

                         Or these?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Memories of Writing Class

Wanting to write

Being blocked by unknown demons

Then unlocked by friendly angels:

Cora Lee’s quick-writes,

Bill’s poetry,

Ada’s Twelve Mile Tales,

Ellie’s memories of a child in war,

Carol’s sharing of her journey through abuse,

Lida’s family stories,

James’ coming of age saga,

Helen’s Catholic recovery,

Rose’s Mexican family memories,

And all those other angels

Embedded in my psych like seeds

Waiting to sprout in some new

Flower bed still to be watered.

2010 Writing Class


My Teacher—Cora Lee Brown

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pathology Report

“No Invasion!”

Sweeter words than these?

Not in this lifetime.


Those sounds!

Do they call them birds?

I did not know.


“Decaf please!”

Better taste than this?

I think not.


Tumor gone!

Do I get a hug?

Can’t touch this.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

I Really Did Enjoy the Show

“Did you see that?”

“That was a fascinating shot—are you cutting that thing out?”

“No, I’m burning it out!”

I’m watching this whole process on the big flat screen HD TV as if it is a dance. This little round electronic tool is flitting around as I’m talking to my surgeon through the whole play. I wonder how he got that tool, along with the camera and attached floodlight up through the penis, urethra, and into the bladder. But he is a master of his craft: “Been doing these for 30 years,” as he says. And he is pleased, as am I, that I talked the anesthesiologist into the spinal block so I could participate in the whole show.

Now, the recovery process is not going as smooth as I had hoped: Last night’s midnight trip to the ER because my plumbing wasn’t working; re-introducing the catheter; now wearing a bag attached to my leg that I have to empty every couple hours; waiting for the lab results of the biopsy, which should be here by the end of the week; and finally, looking forward to quarterly “inspections” of the bladder in case there is a recurrence.

But on the whole, it was another freakin’ learning opportunity (AFLO) and I’m glad I was present for it. I’ll keep you posted on progress from time to time.

MM Bladder closeup DSCN5120

Above is one shot of the tumor that was removed and my victory dance as I was about to leave the hospital.  I was going to include a video of the whole operation but did not want to totally gross you out.  And Dr. Torrey wouldn’t let me have a copy.                   

Monday, May 3, 2010


I have a little tumor that appeared inside of me,

And how I came to have it is quite a mystery.

I try to live a healthy life, at least inside my head;

And I don’t smoke or other things that make me stay in bed.


The funniest thing about it is I wasn’t near aware

Until my doctor took one look and said, “A tumor’s there!”

“These things are oft malignant so we have to take it out

And send it to the lab so we can see what it’s about.”


I told my wife and friends about my new internal friend;

And they became concerned and asked me questions without end.

Of course I couldn’t answer them because I hadn’t thought to query,

As men are often wont to do, at least they do so rarely.


But I have confidence and faith in my internal strength;

My doctor’s good and so is life, no matter how the length.

I figure this is just another chance to beat the proverbial odds;

So I’ll let my doctor do his job and leave the rest to God.

Milan Hamilton

April 29, 2010

Saturday, April 24, 2010

National Poetry Month - 8

Adventures of Obama – 2

Obama faced a room full of Titans

Of Wall Street that is, but he wasn’t frightened;

The Bears were growling, the Bulls’ nostrils flared;

The lobbyists bellowed, but he wasn’t scared.

They crawled around threatening, they brayed and they stomped:

“Obama, be careful, you’ll surely get whomped!”

Barack Obama, he didn’t worry.

He wouldn’t bow to their frantic fury.

He stood straight and tall, looked them right in the eyes

And said “Since you’re out of control I’m gonna regulate you guys!”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Poetry Month – 7

Adventures of Obama

Obama took an enormous job,

He faced a fickle, unruly mob;

Whose tongue did hiss and venom did spew;

Whose color oft changed, now red, now blue.

The mob said, “Obama, we’re glad you came.

We got you elected, now just play our game.

Barak Obama, he didn’t worry.

He wouldn’t bow to their frantic fury.

He meant what he said and he said what he meant.

He went on being The President.

Milan Hamilton

April 9, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

National Poetry Month - 6

He Was Born

“He was born the night the Titanic went down.”

Intrigued, I googled, thinking,

As the kid coming up for the 3rd time said:

“There’s got to be a pony in here somewhere!

What happened on January 25th, 1937?

Google said:

Guiding Light airs on the radio—for the first time ever;

Atlantic & Gulf Coast Maritime strike ends—unsuccessfully;

Germany agrees with Britain—all volunteers should leave Spain;

Mrs. Roosevelt takes her guests out—sightseeing;

Don Maynard, NFL receiver and Kathleen Tynan Halton, writer—are born;

Apparently no one dies!

What happened on January 25th, 1937?

I’m here!

Milan Hamilton

April 8, 2010

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

National Poetry Month - 5


Old Woman

What is that smile?

Do you know something I should know?

Living in this cave house for the past 80 years—

Bound feet—but apparently not your spirit.

Someone asked to what you attribute the long life you’ve lived.

“Living underground—warm in winter and cool in summer!”

Is that all there is to it?

Or have you learned somehow to receive life as a gift?

I wanted to tell you about my visit to the Forbidden City

Where so many of your emperors lived, sitting on golden thrones.

Or that I climbed up the Great Wall just two days ago.

But you just sit there and smile

At your daughter

At your grandchildren

At me.

You sly old dragon lady

Just sitting there

Sitting and smiling and loving life as it is.

Milan Hamilton

October 11, 2007