Tag Archives: Donald Trump

Our Broken World…and Our Longing for Another

The deep darkness of the world has come home to us in recent days. It’s a combination of things, really. The shooting of innocent young black men, the shooting of police, our nation’s finest, and then two political conventions with two candidates that, more than any election I can recall, define the idea of voting for the lesser of two evils. Truly this is a “Come, Lord Jesus” moment in our nation’s history. But there have been a lot of such moments, haven’t there?

So…I was moved to tears last week listening to Gary Sinese read Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. I hadn’t read the classic since high school (sophomore or junior year?), when I wrote a thesis on how the book shows that “man is basically good.” How I ever came up with that out of this book, I can’t tell you 35 years later. It sure wouldn’t be what I would say now.

But what touched me was one of the familiar scenes in the book when Lennie asks George to tell about the dream the two of them have. Do you remember? It’s a dream of a place of their own. It’s a dream of a place where they don’t “buck barley” for a task-master. But mostly, it is a dream of hutches, and rabbits and hope. And as I heard Sinese’s masterful reading, I realized that George and Lennie’s dream is really the dream of all mankind…a better place. A safe place. A place of belonging. A place, sadly, that is not of this world…

Lennie drummed on the table with his fingers. “George?”


“George, how long’s it gonna be till we get that little place an’ live on the fatta the lan’— an’ rabbits?”

“I don’ know,” said George. “We gotta get a big stake together. I know a little place we can get cheap, but they ain’t givin’ it away.”

Old Candy turned slowly over. His eyes were wide open. He watched George carefully.

Lennie said, “Tell about that place, George.”

“I jus’ tol’ you, jus’ las’ night.”

“Go on— tell again, George.”

“Well, it’s ten acres,” said George. “Got a little win’mill. Got a little shack on it, an’ a chicken run. Got a kitchen, orchard, cherries, apples, peaches, ’cots, nuts, got a few berries. They’s a place for alfalfa and plenty water to flood it. They’s a pig pen——”

“An’ rabbits, George.”

“No place for rabbits now, but I could easy build a few hutches and you could feed alfalfa to the rabbits.”

“Damn right, I could,” said Lennie. “You…damn right I could.”

George’s hands stopped working with the cards. His voice was growing warmer. “An’ we could have a few pigs. I could build a smoke house like the one gran’pa had, an’ when we kill a pig we can smoke the bacon and the hams, and make sausage an’ all like that. An’ when the salmon run up river we could catch a hundred of ’em an’ salt ’em down or smoke ’em. We could have them for breakfast. They ain’t nothing so nice as smoked salmon. When the fruit come in we could can it— and tomatoes, they’re easy to can. Ever’ Sunday we’d kill a chicken or a rabbit. Maybe we’d have a cow or a goat, and the cream is so…damn thick you got to cut it with a knife and take it out with a spoon.”

Lennie watched him with wide eyes, and old Candy watched him too. Lennie said softly, “We could live offa the fatta the lan’.”

“Sure,” said George. “All kin’s a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We’d jus’ live there. We’d belong there. There wouldn’t be no more runnin’ round the country and gettin’ fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we’d have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunkhouse.”

“Tell about the house, George,” Lennie begged.

“Sure, we’d have a little house an’ a room to ourself. Little fat iron stove, an’ in the winter we’d keep a fire goin’ in it. It ain’t enough land so we’d have to work too hard. Maybe six, seven hours a day. We wouldn’t have to buck no barley eleven hours a day. An’ when we put in a crop, why, we’d be there to take the crop up. We’d know what come of our planting.”

“An’ rabbits,” Lennie said eagerly. “An’ I’d take care of ’em. Tell how I’d do that, George.”

“Sure, you’d go out in the alfalfa patch an’ you’d have a sack. You’d fill up the sack and bring it an’ put it in the rabbit cages.”

“They’d nibble an’ they’d nibble,” said Lennie, “the way they do. I seen ’em.”

“Ever’ six weeks or so,” George continued, “them does would throw a litter so we’d have plenty rabbits to eat an’ to sell. An’ we’d keep a few pigeons to go flyin’ around the win’mill like they done when I was a kid.” He looked raptly at the wall over Lennie’s head. “An’ it’d be our own, an’ nobody could can us. If we don’t like a guy we can say, ‘Get the hell out,’ and by God he’s got to do it. An’ if a fren’ come along, why we’d have an extra bunk, an’ we’d say, ‘Why don’t you spen’ the night?’ an’ by God he would. We’d have a setter dog and a couple stripe cats, but you gotta watch out them cats don’t get the little rabbits.”

Lennie breathed hard. “You jus’ let ’em try to get the rabbits. I’ll break their…damn necks. I’ll . . . I’ll smash ’em with a stick.” He subsided, grumbling to himself, threatening the future cats which might dare to disturb the future rabbits.

George sat entranced with his own picture.

When Candy spoke they both jumped as though they had been caught doing something reprehensible. Candy said, “You know where’s a place like that?”

George was on guard immediately. “S’pose I do,” he said.

Steinbeck, John. Of Mice and Men (pp. 55-56). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.



Posted by on July 26, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Abdul My Brother (or Super Tuesday thoughts on Immigration)…by Guest Blogger Josh Knowlton

Josh didn't have a picture with Abdul (not his real name), so a shot of him and his sisters will have to do.

Josh didn’t have a picture with Abdul (not his real name), so a shot of him and his sisters will have to do.

My son penned these thoughts a few weeks back, and I thought they might add some perceptive input to voting choices on Super Tuesday. Wise words to consider if you are casting your vote today…

A few months ago, my tutoring partner and I walked in to the apartment complex of Abdul and Mieh for the fifth time. It would be another long two hours. You see, part of the education for my major at Wheaton College includes weekly tutoring English to a newly arrived refugee family. Abdul and Mieh are the two we were tasked to help with.

Tutoring them is hard work—and it often feels fruitless. These two are both older than 70, from Iran, and speak almost zero English. In fairness to them, we speak even less Farsi. But in any case, basic communication is hard—and teaching is even more difficult. So we do all we can with pictures, symbols, and gestures.

But really, it’s so much more than teaching. My tutoring partner and I are probably the only two Americans Abdul and Mieh know, the only English speakers they can attempt to converse with.

Yet, I know basically nothing about them. Yes, they’re from Iran. But that’s about it. I don’t know why they left, why they came here. I don’t know how many kids they have. I don’t know their last name or birthday. I don’t know what they like to do, or anything about their past or their plans for the future. They’re Iranian for one, and they also seem to be Christian. Why? The small silver crucifix on the table seems to indicate that, as well as their nods and smiles when we mention the name “Jesus”. But it’s all anecdotal, and it’s hard to be sure.

In any case, Abdul has particularly captivated me. He is a bronzed-skinned, white haired man (with what’s left of his hair) with a round belly and almost toothless smile. He limps when he walks. Whenever possible, he tries cracking a joke by saying a word or laughing at something. His smile is contagious. I always laugh back.

But through the jokes and confusion of teaching English on Saturday, something Abdul said one Saturday really touched me. We were trying to explain the concept of brothers and sisters. I don’t think Mieh understood, but Abdul was catching on.

Suddenly, he turns to me and grins his irresistible open-toothed smile. “Me, you, brothers.” he hooked his two pointer fingers together like a chain link to emphasize. “Brothers.”

It took me a second to process what he was saying. Did he even know what brother meant? We had just taught it. And yet he seemed so sure!

And then my eyes watered up a bit and I realized just how powerful the Kingdom of God is. Two people—different in just about every conceivable way—age, marital status, ethnicity, nationality, culture, language—could be brothers through what Jesus Christ had done for both of us.

I answered back emphatically, “Yes Abdul, we are brothers.” I link my two fingers together, mirroring him— “we are brothers.”

Iranians and Syrians, and all Middle Easterners are either our brothers and sisters…or our potential family members. If the U.S. had not allowed these people in simply because of their nationality or their “otherness”, I would’ve never known the blessing of being in Christian brotherhood with Abdul—and he would’ve never known me.

The kingdom of God is so much bigger than we could ever imagine. It’s bigger than black and white, western and eastern, male and female. It’s bigger than communication ability, culture and language. And it’s far bigger than the “safe” American border too.

If we don’t welcome these people in simply because they need our help, let us welcome them in because they are of the Kingdom of God, or could be brought into his Kingdom. Nothing is more beautiful and glorious than seeing God’s community of grace expressed through the diversity of the nations.



Posted by on March 1, 2016 in Uncategorized


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