Daily Devotions


main image

I wrote an Article this week for my "Corner" that will come out on Friday about  my dear friend and mentor, Rev. Allen Montgomery. For today's Devotional, I want to tell you about another mentor in my life, Farrell Burho. Farrell was a great deal of fun. Farrell, Bob Rathbun and I sat together in the tenor section in my home church. The choir director would always yell and me for screwing around during choir practice, when she really wanted to yell at Farrell and Bob.
Farrell would dress up like a frog, named "Phineas" and play with the children. He would work all year making wood plaques and give them to all the kids in the church, acknowledging their specific talents. Throughout the year, he kept record of all the kids activities and accomplishments. He truly cared and wasn't afraid to be silly, and loved affirming young people.
About a decade later, after I became a pastor, Farrell died. He was out hunting in the Northwoods and lost his way. He hunted in the same woods his whole life, so he must have suffered from dementia. The authorities could tell from his tracks in the snow that he had wondered for some time, before finally just sitting down and letting the cold take him. I believe he went from fear, to panic, to acceptance, and trust in God. And God took him home.
In preparing the service, I met with his children. I had never met his grown children. As they told me about his life, it didn't sound like the Farrell I knew at all. They talked about a distant father, who worked many hours at a low paying job, to support the family. When I told them about Phineas the frog, all the plaques and his playful nature, his kids looked at me like I had six heads. I'll never forget their expressions. Their stoic father had a rich, full, loving life beyond anything they could ever imagine.
We are never too old, too tired, or too respectable, to be foolish for Christ. Pray to God, that you might find new and fun ways to be a fool for Christ, just like my dear friend Farrell Burho. Farrell was living proof that being Finnish and being fun was not an oxymoron! Being fun and being Christian is not an oxymoron either!

A Monks' Story

main image


The following story I have used in a number of sermons throughout the years. I found the story in a book entitled, The Art of Possibility, by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander.

A monastery has fallen on hard times. It was once part of a great order which, as a result of religious persecution in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, lost all its branches. It was decimated to the extent that there were only five monks left in the mother house: the Abbot and four others, all of whom were over seventy. Clearly it was a dying order.
Deep in the woods surrounding the monastery was a little hut that the Rabbi from a nearby town occasionally used for a hermitage. One day, it occurred to the Abbot to visit the hermitage to see if the Rabbi could offer any advice that might save the monastery. The Rabbi welcomed the Abbot and commiserated. "I know how it is," he said, "the spirit has gone out of people. Almost no one comes to the synagogue anymore." So the old Rabbi and the old Abbot wept together, and they read parts of the Torah and spoke quietly of deep things.
The time came when the Abbot had to leave. They embraced. "It has been wonderful being with you," said the Abbot, "but I have failed in my purpose for coming. Have you no piece of advice that might save the monastery?" "No, I am sorry," the Rabbi responded, "I have no advice to give. The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you."
When the other monks heard the Rabbi's words, they wondered what possible significance they might have. "The Messiah is one of us? One of us, here, at the monastery? Do you suppose he meant the Abbot? Of course-it must be the Abbot, who has been our leader for so long. On the other hand, he might have meant Brother Thomas, who is certainly a holy man. Or could he have meant Brother Elrod, who is so crotchety? But then Elrod is very wise. Surely, he could not have meant Brother Phillip-he's too passive. But then, magically, he's always there when you need him. Of course he didn't mean me-yet supposing he did? Oh Lord, not me! I couldn't mean that much to you, could I?"
As they contemplated in this manner, the old monks began to treat each other with extraordinary respect, on the off chance that one of them might be the Messiah. And on the off off chance that each monk himself might be the Messiah, they began to treat themselves with extraordinary respect.
Because the forest in which it was situated was beautiful, people occasionally came to visit the monastery, to picnic or to wander along the old paths, most of which led to the dilapidated chapel. they sensed the aura of extraordinary respect that surrounded the five old monks, permeating the atmosphere. They began to come more frequently, bringing their friends, and their friends brought friends. Some of the younger men who came to visit began to engage in conversation with the monks. After a while, one asked if he might join. Then another, and another. Within a few years, the monastery became once again a thriving order, and-thanks to the Rabbi's gift-a vibrant, authentic community of light and love for the whole realm.

Prayerfully imagine a similar realization taking place at Westminster. It is worth praying for!