June 4, 2020

Random Thoughts on a Rainy Monday


Another week like last week, and I won’t need a vacation, I’ll need an extended stay at a sanitarium.

Speaking of sanitariums, I officiated a funeral service in Martinsville, Indiana Saturday. The funeral home was built on the site of the former Home Lawn Mineral Springs health resort. Throughout the mortuary, they had wonderful display cases showing photographs, china, and other memorabilia from the days when people longing for rest and healing came to this little town in central Indiana. In 1885 artesian mineral springs were discovered in Martinsville, and from 1888 to 1968 it was well known as home to many health spas with mineral water baths. These facilities were like a combination of hotel, restaurant, country club, and hospital, all in one setting. Dignitaries and others traveled by road and rail to enjoy these spas for their perceived therapeutic and health restoring qualities.

One person I met said he had worked as an elevator operator in the facility when he was young. Elevator operator. Just think of all the jobs like that that are gone now in our do-it-yourself society.

That’s one reason I laugh whenever I hear a big business talk about putting their customers first. Leaders in those businesses may think they are doing things for the advantage of their customers, but they rarely ask the customers themselves what putting them first would actually look like. If they did, they would have real people answering the phones. In my business of health care, doctors would actually sit and spend time with patients, and hospitals would provide consistent staffing for their patients. Customer first means giving actual, direct attention to the customer, not just providing better bells and whistles that make the customer say wow. Come to think of it, it would be nice to have an elevator operator to talk to once in awhile.

I finally joined the blu-ray generation the other day. Phenomenal. First up: Lincoln.

Rickey Branch Plaque 296_NSpeaking of movies, we saw “42” the other night. I thoroughly enjoyed Harrison Ford’s performance as Branch Rickey and thought it was the best part of the film. The Baseball Hall of Fame website offers this brief bio of the Dodgers’ executive:

After a mediocre career as a player and manager, Branch Rickey spent half a century in the front office as baseball’s greatest visionary executive. With the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1920s and ’30s, Rickey invented the modern farm system, promoting a new way of training and developing players. Later with the Brooklyn Dodgers, he pioneered the utilization of baseball statistics. In 1945, he became the first executive to break baseball’s color line when he signed Jackie Robinson, who became the major leagues’ first African-American player in the 20th century.

It also notes that Rickey was instrumental in introducing the batting helmet as protective gear, and that he had such a keen eye for talent that one sportswriter opined, “He could recognize a great player from the window of a moving train.” In the movie, Ford plays him as one of those wise and witty leaders who listen well and say just enough to make their point and make you think at the same time. Just the kind of mentor we could all use in our lives.

In the realm of compelling television, have you seen “Call the Midwife” — Sunday evenings on PBS? Deeply engaging and moving.

Our youngest son graduates from college at the end of this week, yet another milestone reached in our family. It will be our final trip to North Park University, where we have enjoyed our visits over the past four years. I’m sure we will keep finding other reasons to go to Chicago, one of my favorite places in the world. I guess this means, however, that we are turning another one of those corners and merging onto a different road taking us into new territory in life. It certainly means that for our son, whom we congratulate and welcome into the world of adulthood.

This Sunday I will finish my spring church assignment for my ordination process. If we were in position to do so, this would be a congregation I’d love to join, but for now we’re moving on.

Next up: filling in at my home church during the pastor’s sabbatical over the summer. Leading worship and preaching each Sunday, doing a bit of pastoral care — back in the parish ministry saddle, you might say, at least on a part-time basis. I’ll be taking a few more days off from hospice work than usual in order to accommodate the additional responsibilities.

Who knows? By the end of the summer I may need that sanitarium more than ever.


  1. I’m beginning to think that the corners and the mergers into a new road in life are just too close!

    We had snow in NWA last Friday. That’s a first in recorded history for a snow event in May in our neck of the woods.

    Thanks CM for letting us into your life and work. Times are interesting…


  2. I finally joined the blu-ray generation the other day. Phenomenal. First up: “Lincoln.“

    Welcome to Blu-ray. It’s awesome. Of course, this summer Sony is introducing its first consumer-priced 4K TVs – Ultra HD. While Blu-ray is 6x the resolution of DVD, 4K is 4x the resolution (double the vertical, double the horizontal) of HDTV (i.e., Blu-ray). No disc content yet, but it will be coming. 55″ retail $5,000, 65″ retail $7,000.

    THE TREE OF LIFE (Terrance Malick) is simply stunning in Blu-ray. Quality varies, though – some Blu-rays are only a tad better than the DVD (poor mastering by the studio), while others are demo quality. JAWS on Blu-ray is great – probably better than you saw in the theater. Read reviews online re: picture quality, dnr (digital noise reduction – reduces grain but also turns faces smooth and waxy if overapplied), color timing, etc., before purchasing a Blu-ray to determine if it’s worth it.


    • Ordered Tree of Life last night.

      • Jonathan says

        I’d like to read your take on Malick’s new “To the Wonder,” particularly after reading this comment/review (see link). I haven’t seen it, but I was very impressed by “Tree of Life.”


        • I had actually hoped to see “To the Wonder” on Sat. but it only played for a week here in Indy. I know it is another contemplative film and I hear the visuals are stunning.

          • Christiane says

            If you appreciate Malick’s work,
            try to see his beautiful film ‘The New World’ . . .

            stunning in its sensitivity, very moving and thoughtful film

            His films speak to the part of us that needs awakening from time to time . . . the part of us that defensively guards against the kindness and gentleness that powerfully evokes the more painful aspects of love and memory and loss.

            Malick’s films can have a cathartic effect, I think.
            Entertaining? Hardly.
            Disturbing? if you are not ‘on guard’, they can shake your complacency to the core, and leave you in a contemplative place for a time. Malick knows what he’s doing.

          • I do not “get” Terrence Malik. I find him tedious and pretentious. Only the physical beauty and chemistry together of Colin Farrell and the underage Q’orianka Kilcher redeemed The New World for me. I couldn’t finish Days Of Heaven although I love both Richard Gere and Sam Shepard. The Thin Red Line compared very unfavorably with Saving Private Ryan, which had more action and less philosophizing.

            I switched The Tree Of Life off after the first five minutes of hearing Jessica Chastain describe their quotidian Texan life in terms of Nature and Grace. Since I don’t believe in that dichotomy anymore, I lost interest very rapidly. ‘The Reformed are going to eat this up’ I thought to myself.

            I don’t “get” David Lynch either , but I loved The Straight Story and The Elephant Man

            Is it because people have never heard of Tarkovsky?

            • I’ve given up on trying to understand people’s tastes. It is enough to know that the world and art is diverse and complex enough to reach us all, if we will let it.

  3. Adrienne says

    Ahhh ~ I wondered when you baseball fans would mention “42”. I saw it last week and, although I am not a Harrison Ford fan, I think he deserves an Oscar nomination at least for this performance. I must say I wondered at times if I was in a time warp as the mention of Jesus, the Bible, (adultery?! Yikes) and the Gospel song about Jesus waiting at home plate seemed so unreal in this day and age of political correctness. Great story of lived-out faith, courage, integrity and character. Take your kids and grand kids to see this one.

    Congratulations to all of your family Chaplain Mike – your road is bending again. You’ll be fine.

  4. Your post title reminded me of a song:

    Thoughts on a rainy afternoon – By Bruce Cockburn

    Rain rings trash can bells
    And what do you know
    My alley becomes a cathedral

    Eyes can be archways
    To enter or leave by
    Vacuums replaced by a crystal

    Jesus don’t let Toronto take my song away

    It’s easy to love if
    You let yourself love it
    But like a moth’s wing it’s easily crushed

    Jesus don’t let tomorrow take my love away

  5. I am a HUGE fan of “Call the Midwife”, which is loosely based on the memoirs of Nurse Lee. It is the only show I allow myself to watch during the week. The very FIRST thing I learned is that there were/are Anglican nuns!

    • Christiane says

      Hi PATTIE,

      be sure to catch The Christmas Special that followed at the end of
      ‘Call the Midwives’, Season 1

      have plenty of tissues at hand . . . incredibly moving . . . here’s a link to info about it:

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      Yeah, I really enjoyed Season 1 of Call the Midwife. The second or so episode that had the nuns singing the Offices as part of the soundtrack inspired me to bust out my St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter and chant the Psalms each day in April.

  6. When I heard about “42” I wondered….when will CM do a post about it? Especially given his love of baseball! CM…any predictions for how the Cubs will do this year? You have to do a couple of posts about baseball. Anything less and IMonk won’t be IMonk. Writing a couple of posts about baseball could help keep you out of a sanatorium.

    I worry about you CM. You have a lot going on and you help keep one of the cutting edge blogs going in Christendom. Don’t push yourself if you need to take a break, we’ll understand. We all want you to take care of yourself, find balance in work, and enjoy your family as this season changes.

  7. David Cornwell says

    Very sorry to hear about the tough week you experienced. On the other hand, glad to you will soon be doing more pastoral ministry. It’s easy to see that you have the listening ear, and the insightful discernment needed.

    When you talk about health care and customer service, it’s almost the invocation of an oxymoron. However, thankfully there are still big exceptions. My present primary physician is Mennonite, and this informs almost everything she does in patient care. She recently had to take time off to give birth and care for her newborn. Durng that period her father, who is a semi-retired physician, took her place. He is like a breath of fresh air. I didn’t want to leave his office, because our conversation was was so refreshing. Sometmes the Kingdom seems so near when interacting with certain people.

  8. Steve Newell says

    Years ago, Red Barber would have a weekly piece on NPR’s Morning Edition with Bob Edwards. This was some of the best radio. Later, Mr. Edwards wrote a biography of Mr. Barber’s life with both the Dodgers and the Yankees.

  9. I second Chaplain Mike’s recommendation of “42.” It’s a very even-keeled, inspiring yet realistic movie.

    The references to Branch Rickey (especially) and Jackie Robinson’s Methodism were really enjoyable. I’m not a Wesleyan but I have always appreciated their ability to live the Gospel in shoe leather. Rickey attended Ohio Wesleyan and his faith was behind his bringing Jackie R. into the major leagues.

    A wonderful flick.