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People matter

by davesandel on March 16th, 2019

People matter

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Jesus said to his disciples, “Pray for those who persecute you.”

– From Matthew 5

Dad could hem, haw, and holler at his sometimes stubborn cows. Moving them up a cattle chute or through a gate really took it out of him. Inevitably he was quiet afterward, and I can only guess what he was thinking.

When it came to people-matters, Dad smiled often. He told jokes. His laugh was infectious. And he forgave. Another farmer reneged on a signed deal with dad, which cost him a bunch of money, but he did not pursue. No one went to court, and no lawyers were called. The dispute blew over. I didn’t forget it, but I think Dad did.

On Saturday mornings at 7:30, he drove three miles to Faith Lutheran Church for a get-together with alumni from a renewal program called Kogudus. Like Cursillo and Walk to Emmaus, Kogudus weekends sparked loyalty and enthusiasm in old-time Christians that went far beyond the three day retreats. I usually went with Dad when I lived at home.

Pretty simple, really. A little coffee, maybe doughnuts, song, a short liturgy unique to Kogudus. We took turns leading discussion about a bible passage. Not many folks came: another farmer, a teacher, an accountant, a politician, occasionally a preacher. One of the men, a retired farmer named Al Schmidt, became one of my best friends. Al is at the top of my list of mentors.

Dad’s gentle way with fellow humans rubbed off on me. I got to watch him “pray for those who persecuted him.” What I never noticed in him was any sense of superiority. He was far more publican than Pharisee, which showed not so much in his words as in the gentleness of his glance.

I always thought he was shy. I think now perhaps he was simply humble. Like me, he was an oldest son. But while I have been a rebel, he was not. While I have made too much noise, he made too little. He told us that at Kogudus, God turned his heart toward home. What had been mere compliance, God transformed into obedience. Outwardly so much looked the same, but inwardly, Dad became a man of prayer. He obeyed God.

Years ago at Saint Meinrad’s Abbey in southern Indiana I met Father Coleman, who reminded me of Dad. He and I were the same age, but Father Coleman had been at Saint Meinrad since he was 16. Over the years he taught philosophy and theology. He polished his music and became an accomplished organist. For a few days he was my spiritual director, and we had spirited conversations.

I knew the way Father Coleman set his roots had blessed him. Dad set his roots too. And neither of them made enemies. Instead, I think they prayed for those who “persecuted” them.

I have been a wanderer. The roots I’ve set have only come in the last couple of decades. I still suffer from “monkey-mind.” But I am so thankful for these men who showed me their ways of obedience, faithfulness and prayer.

Most of these men have died, Lord. Thank you for loving them and teaching them to love. Thank you for teaching me through them. Let us all dwell in your house forever.


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