short, sweet, and to-the-point — by Keith Elder

Archive for the category “Church”

“Smokey the Bear and Catherine of Sienna?”


Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

Wait for it…  Hold that thought…  I’ll tell you in a sec….

It was just another facebook poster:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” – Saint Catherine of Sienna  (shared on

The irony—and I didn’t know this till I did a little research—Saint Catherine was/is the Catholic Church’s Patron Saint of Fire Prevention.

I’ve known a few “saints of fire-prevention” along the way.  Self-designated dowsers throwing water on anything vaguely resembling innovation. If it was not in the rule book…if it meant going off the beaten path or over the beaten budget…if it threatened to crack the glass ceiling of “the way we’ve always done it”—the saints of fire prevention just said, “No.”  In church. In business. In society.

Unfortunately, the only way we find the new-and-wonderful is to let go of at least some of the old-and-not-as-wonderful-as-it-once-was.  Nicodemus did it in John 3.  It’s the story where Jesus said, “you must be born again.” It’s a new wineskins for new wine thing.


Though Catherine received no formal education, and though she only lived to the age of 33, she was recognized as one of the most intelligent theological and philosophical minds in the Catholic world.  Don’t you know the old cardinals loved having this young, female voice swaying the Pope’s decisions?  But she didn’t care. True truth-tellers aren’t bent by winds of popular opinion. She was a mover and a shaker. And despite her later designation as Patron Saint of Fire Prevention, she was anything but in her life on earth.  She was a fire starter, bringing light and hope and joy and new life to a struggling Church.

Her secret?…

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  She was, and she did.

Oh… I almost forgot….

Besides being bears, what do Smokey the Bear and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

…………..same middle name.

It’s a dumb joke, I know.  But becoming who God meant you to be and, setting the world on fire is not.




“THE World Religion…and Football”


I like that.

“BUDDHA was not a BUDDHIST.  JESUS was not a CHRISTIAN.  MUHAMMAD was not a MUSLIM.  THEY were TEACHERS who taught LOVE.  LOVE was their RELIGION.”

Now, I realize that some folks will be offended to have Jesus lumped in with other world religious leaders and simply referred to as a teacher.  The Easter event did set him apart as being out (of the tomb) of the ordinary. However, whoever made the observation made a good one.  LOVE was the common prize in all three Cracker Jack boxes.  Love was the light at the end of their tunnels. Love was their “bottom line.”

Honestly, I haven’t studied Buddha or Muhammad (by the way, spell-check has three acceptable spellings for “M___”), but even if they didn’t claim to be God, I’m sure they meant well .  They were just trying, along with Jesus and John Lennon, to get people to understand that “All We Need is Love.”

Jesus tried to reboot the system of his hyper-religious forbearers who had gotten tangled up in six hundred and thirteen Old Testament laws and centuries of religio-politics.  We do that too, don’t we?  I mean, get tangled in what version of the Bible is best, and how much of the church budget should go to missions, and what kind of music to play in worship. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. …By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  (John—not to be confused with Lennon—13:34-ish)

A frustrated football coach walks into the locker room after yet another dismal performance, stands before his players and says, “Boys, I think it’s time we got back to the basics.” At this point, he holds up a brown leather oblong air-filled object with white stripes and seams. “This,” he says, “is a football.”  At which point, a big lineman, half-listening in the back of the room, raises his hand and says, “Hey, Coach, could you go a little slower?”

What’s your religion?  I’m thinking, “LOVE” would be a really good answer about now.



“Characters Welcome?…”

The USA Network has a catchphrase that lets you know upfront what they are all about.  The catchphrase: “Characters welcome.”   So, USA Network is about stories and the people who make those stories stories.  

Without characters, the stories would be various words for boring—uninteresting, bland, blah, one-dimensional.  But with these characters, the stories become animated, engaging, unpredictable—they have layers.  The story lines are important, but we are drawn in because of characters (like us) with all of their baggage and backstories and imperfections—their foibles. (Love that word—maybe because I’ve got so many.)

The word, foible, comes from the world of swords.  The foible is the weakest part of the sword—that section from the middle of the blade to the tip.  Carry the meaning over to people and a foible becomes “…a minor flaw or shortcoming in character or behavior…a weakness….” (Merriam-Webster)

As much as we may dislike our foibles; as much as we try to hide or minimize them—they are probably a very important element in our story.  They may make us a little goofy or quirky or temperamental or put-offish, but they make us “us.”   And our foibles, I believe, are the windows God climbs through to do some of his best work.

Jesus’ parables always involved characters with foibles—people making good decisions…people making bad decisions.  Self-consumed people.  Desperate people. Grieving people. Angry people. Hypocrites. People who ought to know better.

His bottom line response: “Characters welcome.”   “Come unto me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.” “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  To an adulterous woman, he said, “Is there no one left to condemn you?  Neither do I condemn you.  Go and sin no more.”  He ate with IRS agents and sinners. He mentioned, to a middle-aged or older Nicodemus, the possibility of being born again–and dangling an impossibility before our eyes just isn’t Jesus’ way.

I’m thinking that The Jesus Network—if Jesus had a network–might use a catchphrase similar to that of The USA Network.  “Characters welcome”.

Until he gets his own network, I guess The Church will just have to suffice.

Characters welcome?….



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