Monday, June 25, 2007


saw this sign as we drove away from the National Airport in DC...

the jokes are just too easy...

Robert W. Cholke

Yesterday I learned of the death of the Rev. Robert W. Cholke in April of this year at age 67.

Cholke (everyone that I knew who knew him called him "Cholke," even Lee, his wife at the time) was my and Cheryl's CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) supervisor at the Haverford State Mental Hospital outside of Philadelphia. He was one of the most important people in my early formation as a clergy person. His imprint is still clear to anyone who knew him and who knew me before my time at Haverford. Cholke was bright, insightful, one of the most perceptive persons I have ever known, and funny. Most of all, he was real. There was no pretense and nothing hidden. He shared himself openly and freely.

Let me tell three stories about Cholke.

1. I clearly remember my first day at Haverford... I was more than a little nervous. I had had almost no experience with mental illness and was filled with stereotypes. My theology at the time was narrow and naive. And there was Cholke... chain smoking, heavy drinking, couldn't form a sentence without a 4 letter word, Lutheran, Cholke. I was aghast! What could this man teach me? He couldn't even be a real Christian. I was sure it would be a waste of time, just a hoop to jump through to finish seminary. I'd hang in there and be done with him as soon as possible. Little did I know.

2. As part of the CPE program we had individual sessions with the supervisor. One day, I arrived to see Cholke and he was running late with a patient. I sat outside the door for a few moments before it opened. When it began to open, I stood to enter. There in the doorway was a man who I reacted to as one of the most repulsive human beings I had ever seen. I could smell him from feet away. His speech was slurred. He was missing teeth. His face was swollen and bruised, as if from a fight. His clothing was dishelved and his hair was a mess. He had tardive dyskinesia - a side effect from the use of major tranquilizers that cause an individual to loose control of small muscles when they aren't using them. When he wasn't talking his tongue darted around uncontrollably. His fingers also moved, as if with minds of their own. My first reaction was to step back. His attention was on Cholke who was there completely and absolutely for him. Before he left, Cholke took the man and embraced him with a smile and a laugh. Cholke saw what I could not. He saw the face of Jesus. No, he saw this man as a child of God. It was a moment of grace for a man from whom most would run. For me, it was a moment of transformation - one huge step on my journey to see what is real and true.

3. Cheryl and I participated in a couples' group with Cholke and Lee. Week after week Cholke would see something the rest of us had missed, share it, and we'd all think, "how'd we miss that?" Then came the week we were looking at some of the issues in Cholke's relationship with Lee. He was as clueless as the rest of us when it came to his own relationship.

I could write pages about the things I learned from Cholke and the ways those insights changed who I am. Whenever Cheryl and I would talk with another clergy person regarding their CPE experiences, more often than not we would shake our heads and give thanks that Cholke had been our supervisor. I hope he would be proud of who I have become and of the ministry I do. I know he would shake his head, laugh, smile, and call me on things I had not seen.

I hadn't seen him in more than 20 years. I am sure that he grew and changed and that the journey of his life sharpened his insights and enriched his ministry of caring. I do know that he married again and that family life had brought him both joy and pain. I pray for those who loved him and were close to him during these years, that God will hold them close in grace and love and ease their grief, especially his wife, Joanne Martindale.

These words were found in some of Cholke's papers... and they sum up his spirit...

People don't need a long life,
As much as they need a compelling reason to live,
And a compelling reason to die.
For upon these two necessities
Is Life for the human being
(in that great array of living things)
Sustained, enabled, and fulfilled.

Chaplain Robert W. Cholke, 5/18/94

Thank you Cholke for all that you taught me, for the imprint you made in my life, helping me to be come who I am. My life is richer and fuller because of you. Rest in peace my friend.

Congratulations John!

things change

Our baby... a 6'3", 285 pound baby, graduated from high school on the 15th. We are so proud of John. He is turning into a wonderful young man. His mother and I are excited and expectant to watch as he continues to grow and mature and turn into the good man we see taking shape. I'm sure there will continue to be surprises... but that makes the future even more wonderful.

He begins as a student at Santa Barbara City College in the fall, probably as a business major. We'll see where his path leads him... and watch proudly.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


no... not the city. I just had to write about her.

It really has been a roller coaster ride hasn't it? First, she gets sentenced to jail. In California a celebrity getting found guilty and sentenced is a very very very rare thing. We know which side our bread is buttered on and we give them the slack they need to live the excessive lives we all wish we could. Then she is released because of "medical reasons." Say what? I'm guessing that a significant proportion of the inmates in the LA county jail have drug problems, or mental illness, or severe anxiety about the place they are (most people don't get excited about going to jail and it is a scary place).

I have to admit that at first I felt like cheering when she went back to jail... spoiled little rich girl needs to learn a lesson... but the more I thought of it, I began to think that maybe... just maybe she should be released.

We have incredible over-crowding in our jails. All kinds of people (Paris included) end up there when some other setting would be much more effective at dealing with their problem. Perhaps she should be doing community service in a physical rehabilitation facility that deals with folk injured in automobile accidents. Or maybe she should be spending her time helping homeless alcoholics. Something... anything... to help her learn what a spoiled brat she is and turn her life outward.

And there are those who are there because of who they are. Racism is still operative both in our laws (look at the laws for crack abuse - mostly a crime of poor minority folk - vs. powdered cocaine - a drug of rich mostly white folk) in enforcement (lots of my friends have been pulled over for DWB - driving while black), and in sentencing. Of course there are issues of personal responsibility but there are also issues of culture that cannot be dismissed. There must be something wrong wen we are second only to Russia in the percentage of our population in prison.

So Free Paris! And if you want a little pink bracelet that says just that, for only $9.99 you can order one here

Friday, June 08, 2007

Shift Happens

A friend sent me this link....

it is long but raises some interesting questions.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Prince at the Alma Awards

with Sheila E and Grupo Fantasma!

my, my, my...

what more is there to be said?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A Man of Grace

I have to admit that I wanted to blog about Scooter Libby and especially about te vice president's reaction to his conviction but good news prevailed.

Yesterday's L.A. Times had a front page article on David Scholer, professor of New Testament at Fuller Seminary. Dr. Scholer is dying with cancer but has learned to live the verse from Thessalonians - "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances." And his life exudes grace to all who come in contact with him.

I have met him in passing, read some of his writing, and heard him speak a number of times. He is an American Baptist and his theology and style exemplify the best of what I understand of the Baptist tradition. Good stuff... his scholarship, but more important than that to me has been his faith and the way he lives his life. May I learn that lesson.

Monday, June 04, 2007


In the last week I've rented two little films that were fantastic and which I would highly recommend seeking out...

The Beauty Academy of Kabul is the first. Yes, it sounds like and is an oxymoron - a beauty academy in Kabul. What it also turns out to be is a quiet and gentle lesson about every day acts being subversive, about unintended consequences of international policies, about the power of the human spirit.

The second film is one that you'd likely never hear about. 10 Items or Less is an intimately scaled film staring Morgan Freeman as an actor researching a part and Paz Vega as a checkout girl in a grocery store. The film follows the two of them for the better part of day as they interact with one another. The characters are wonderful. The story is human. When the film ended, I wished they could both become my friends. But as Freeman's character and Scarlet acknowledge near the end of the film... they'll never see one another again. We'll never see these characters again, but it was certainly worth spending a short 82 minutes with them.