Dad and The Pastor: Knowing The Man – Part 17

(Continued from yesterday.)

“Ellsworth Bowden and I were respectful combatants on the battle field of theological differences. But he was a phony.”

There was a gasp from the audience. I looked at Mrs. Bowden. She didn’t blink an eye. In fact, she even gave a slight smile of approval.”

“Ellsworth Bowden strutted about like some intellectual snob, but at heart he was a farmer. Until this day I thought it was the discussions he enjoyed with me. It wasn’t, he liked being on the farm. I think all along he wanted me to ask him to plow a field or hoist some hay, or even shovel manure.”

“Ellsworth Bowden could walk the campus and hallways of Princeton and speak the language of the elite, but at heart he was a farm boy.”

“I don’t know how Ellsworth wanted to be remembered. I think he would leave that to each of us to figure for ourselves, but the only one in this room that it matters to is

Mrs. Bowden; it’s how she remembers him. And I look at her today, right now, she smiles. That is all we need to know about Ellsworth Bowden; he left his wife with a smile.”

“That’s what I’m going to do from now on when I think about him; I’m going to smile.”

Dad smiled at Mrs. Bowden than looked at everyone. Dad nodded to the funeral director and he began to show everyone out.

Dad politely grasp Mrs. Bowden’s hand. “Will you be having supper with us this evening?”

“Sure,” Mrs. Bowden said. “Do you have the apple cider that Ellie went on about?”

“We have some fresh squeezed,” Mom said.

Mom went with Mrs. Bowden and Dad and I headed to the car alone. Everyone who attended the funeral remained in the parking lot. Dad received handshakes from everyone.

He was about to get into our car when a short man in a blue suit called out, “Tenny!”

Dad turned around.

“Jim Turner,” the man said. “We used to run around together in our wayward youth.”

“Shhh,” Dad said and smiled. “My wife and son.”

“Nice of you to honor Pastor Bowden in that way,” Turner said.

“Thanks,” Dad said. “He was a good man.”

“We were advised not to come by the church board,” Turner said.

“I figured as much,” Dad said.

“But everyone got a letter from Pastor Bowden,” Turner said. “It appears he wrote, addressed, and stamped letters to everyone and left them with his lawyer to mail at his death.”

“That’s interesting,” Dad said. “Thanks for passing that on.” Dad shook his hand. “We’ll talk some other time, Jim. I got some things to do on the farm.”

Dad and I pulled from the parking lot and turned toward home.

“An old friend,” Dad said. “Good man.”

“You did a good job today, Dad,” I said. “Bowden knew you wouldn’t speak in the church. He wrote everyone to come to the funeral home.”

“Seems like he knew me better than I knew him,” Dad said. “All this time he was sizing me up. That’s amazing and I thought I knew him.”

“You really liked him, didn’t you?” I said.

“Oh yeah!” Dad said. “Just because we raised our voices a bit and he stormed away without a goodbye only means our convictions are tested beyond our restraint for civility.”

“But you always managed to remain cool,” I said.

“Well,” Dad smiled, “Bowden left in time.”

We drove for a while and were nearly home. “What have you learned?” Dad said.

“You said something a little while back,” I said. “You seemed disappointed that Bowden knew you better than you knew him.”

“It seems like I missed all the clues,” Dad said.

“But didn’t you tell me once that a man of principle is predictable, because he always does the right thing?” I said.

Dad paused. We turned in the driveway to our home. He turned off the car and just as I was about to open the car door Dad rested his hand on my arm. “Thanks, son.”

The End


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A Miserable Childhood

Adult Visions

As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

When a child I thought all decisions my parents made that did not conform to my world-view was selfishness on their part. Decisions made contrary to my view were made for the soul purpose of making my life miserable. I suspected parents wanted nothing more for their children than to have a dull and miserable childhood.  I thought the decision making process started with, ‘what will make him the most miserable’ and mom and dad worked there way back from there.

As an adult having three children I can confirm all of the above as true.



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Dad and The Pastor; Dad Reads The Pastor’s Letter – Part 16

(Continued from yesterday.)

There was a commotion from the back of the room. A cool breeze rushed in. Dad looked up. Mrs. Bowden, Mom, and I turned around. People were streaming in and the room eventually became cramped.

“Mr. Tennyson,” the funeral director said. “May I have a moment with you.”

A half hour later Bowden’s coffin was moved to the largest room. The funeral home was packed. People were standing in the lobby and in the parking lot.

I was nervous for Dad, but there was this calm over him that came only after a hard rain when the crops were in.

“Mrs. Bowden wishes to thank all of you for coming today,” Dad said. He smiled once again at Mrs. Bowden.

“My name is Martin Tennyson. Some of you know me, some of you don’t. Not until this day did I know Ellsworth Bowden.”

“There were two sides to Ellsworth. Two men struggling inside his conscience. One man was humble, kind, compassionate, and true. The other man doubted.”

Dad pulled an envelope from his suit’s inside lapel pocket. “Bowden gave me this a month ago and told me to read it at his funeral.”

Dad tore open the envelope. He opened the letter. “It is not often, if ever, a man has the opportunity to preach at his own funeral.”

“I met Tennyson many years ago. He may not know it now nor knew it then, but I liked him.”

“In the past three years we have had many informal discussions about, life, death, the Bible, theology, farming, and what ever the wind blew our way, but it focused mainly on the Bible, theology, and the church.”

“Many years ago I made a decision to serve the needs of the people in the church although my reason and logic dictated, in strong terms, the church as an organization was built for the sole purpose of providing a comfortable living for itself only.”

“Doctrines, teaching, and liturgy was out of touch with the Bible’s clear and simple truths. The church had created a labyrinth of policies, edicts, and epistles that confused and confounded even the best of minds. For many here today this will make little difference in how you view the church or your lives.”

“Over the past three years Tennyson and I argued strenuously about church doctrine. At first it angered me. He was a farmer and had managed to pull himself from the quicksand of teachings that in themselves made sense to only the ill-informed.”

“At this point, Tennyson, tell everybody not according to church doctrine, but according to the Bible where I am.”

Dad looked up from the letter. “In the book of Ecclesiastes it states the dead are not anywhere. They are not conscience. Jesus likened death to sleep. This thinking and this thinking only makes the resurrection logical. If one goes to heaven immediately why does the Bible speak of the resurrection in the last day?”

Dad looked down at the letter, smiled, and read. “It says, ‘Thank you, Tennyson.’” Dad continued. “Next, Tennyson, tell them about the trinity.”

“Bowden argued for the trinity and I argued against it,” Dad spoke. “The scriptures plainly and simply point out and illustrate the relationship between the father and the son is like a father and a son. The father is the progenitor of a son; one is creator the other is created. Jesus never claimed to be equal or the same. In fact, he said there were things the father knew that he did not.”

Dad looked back at the letter. “It reads, ‘Thank you, Tennyson, now tell them about hell.’” Dad looked up at the attendees. “Hell is not a place or concept found in the Bible. Jesus at times referred to a garbage dump outside the city of Jerusalem to illustrate complete destruction. How can one possibly fathom a loving God torturing people forever and ever? In many cases in the Bible the word hell is better translated grave or pit.”

Dad looked down at the letter again and read, “Thanks you, Tennyson, now tell them about the soul.”

“The soul in most instances in the Bible is a breather,” Dad said. “Once it stops breathing it is no longer exists. The Bible does not indicate that something survives death, yet it assures us of life again. How this is done is likely just as miraculous as the creation of life itself. If we believe God can create man from the dust of the ground, what little effort is needed to recreate a life that had lived and died from the same dust?”

Dad looked down at the letter again and read, “Thank you, Tennyson, you are nearly done; now you may say some words about me and don’t preach me into heaven!”

Dad smiled. “Well you heard what the man said.” Dad breathed deep. He closed his eyes for a moment. I knew he was saying a quick prayer. He smiled and began to speak.

(Continued tomorrow.)

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A Fight To Detroit

thM9AP45P5Middle Seat

It turns out that your neighbor on the plane/bus/train (or the person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop) is a very, very chatty tourist. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?

A little better than a week ago I was on a plane to Detroit.

The day before a call was received from hospice care; it was likely my mother would not live beyond three or four days. Tickets were purchased for the next day.

Early the next day a niece called; she said it was not likely I could make it home before Mom died. She handed Mom the phone. I told her I would see her later and she should just relax. I told her I loved her and that was the end of the conversation. Ten minutes later my niece called back, Mom died three minutes after saying goodbye.

The flight would be somber, filled with memories, tears, and grief.

The plane flew from Boise to Denver where a connection was made for a flight from there to Detroit.

On the flight to Detroit a woman sat next to me. Before the plane was airborne she asked my final destination.

“Detroit,” I said sensing a chatty flight.

She forced a smile. “Me too. Visiting family?”

“Sort of,” I said. “My mother passed this morning.”

Her face lost expression.

“Is something wrong?” I said.

“I’m going to Detroit for my son’s funeral,” she said. “I’m so sorry about your mother.”

“She was 100,” I said. “She had a good life. How old was your son?”

“29,” she said.

My mourning could not possibly be as much as hers.

“Tell me about him,” I said.

And she did.

Towards the end of the flight I shared a couple of comforting scriptures from the Bible. The reality is that by listening to her and the scriptures read, I was the one comforted. (Job 14; Acts 24:15; Revelation 21:3, 4)




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Dad and The Pastor; Meeting The Pastor’s Widow – Part 15

(Continued from yesterday.)

Dad drove to the funeral home with Mom and I. We didn’t say much. I just looked out the window and Mom and Dad talked about having some beef slaughtered and packaged.

Dad pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home.

“We must really be early,” Mom said.

Dad looked at his watch. “The funeral starts is 20 minutes. It looks like everyone whose going to be here is already here.”

“It looks like the employees of the funeral home and that’s it,” Mom said.

“I never thought for a moment I’d pack the place out,” Dad said.

We walked into a small room. Bowden’s coffin was in a corner. There were perhaps a half dozen flower arrangements and that was it. A lectern was to the left of the coffin. Only one person was there. It was Bowden’s widow. She sat in the front row. She wore black and dabbed her eyes.

“Mrs. Bowden,” Dad said.

She looked up through her red puffy eyes.

“I’m Martin Tennyson. This is my wife Laura and my son Quinn.”

“Thanks so much,” she said. “Ellie thought so much of you. He talked about your family quite often. He used to say if he had it to do all over again he’d like to be a farmer.”

“He’d have been a good one,” Dad said.

“That’s how I met Ellie,” Mrs. Bowden said. “4H years ago. I never wanted the ministry. I suppose he told you all about that.”

“In his own way,” Dad said. “I think I’m going up to the casket for a moment if you don’t mind, Mrs. Bowden.” Dad nodded at Mom and me. “Perhaps you, Laura, and

Quinn can get to know each other.”

Dad stood at the coffin with his head bowed. A tear fell from his eye. He mumbled a prayer to himself and stared at the wall behind the coffin. I never saw Dad look like that before. He was so peaceful he appeared angelic.

The funeral director approached him and whispered into his ear. Dad glanced at his watch.

Dad turned to Mom and I. “Why not sit on each side of Mrs. Bowden we are going to begin in a moment.”

“Mrs. Bowden,” Dad said. “Is there anything special you want me to mention?”

Mrs. Bowden turned to see the room empty. She looked at Dad. “I thought you might say he deeply cared for the parishioners and often paced the floor worrying about their problems, but it seems like there is no one here to hear that. Did you know that Mr. Tennyson?”

“No,” Dad said.

“You probably thought he was a stuffy, arrogant, windbag,” Mrs. Bowden said.

Dad smiled. “Yes, I did.”

“That’s okay,” Mrs. Bowden said. “I called him that a time or two, but that was not the real Ellsworth. He was kind, and funny, and really down to earth. He put on so much.”

“I guess those are things I didn’t know,” Mrs. Bowden said.

“You are quite remarkable, Mr. Tennyson,” Mrs. Bowden said.

Dad smiled. “How’s that?”

“In spite of how he treated you, you are still willing to speak at his funeral,” Mrs. Bowden said. “He said that’s the kind of man you were.”

From the back of the room the funeral director cleared his throat. Dad looked at his watch again. “It’s time to start,” Dad said.

Dad stood behind the pulpit. He scratched next to his nose, a habit when Dad was nervous. He cleared his throat and smiled at Mrs. Bowden.

(Continued tomorrow.)

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“If You Build It They Will Come” And Watch

th4WFX8RGGCan’t Watch This

When was the last time you watched something so scary, cringe-worthy, or unbelievably tacky — in a movie, on TV, or in real life — you had to cover your eyes?

I pretty much do all of the above when just passing by the TV or channel  surfing.  TV is bloated with the most unbelievable lack of talent, artistry, and creativity.

Somebody, no a bunch of somebodies thinks the public wants to see at every turn skin shows with sexual tension and innuendo, homosexuality, gutter language, and graphic violence. I really don’t think people with breeding. common sense, and taste like it.

When a program is said to have adult situations and humor, it does not mean that. What it means is dirty, base, and perverted bilge.

Nearly everything on TV is entertainment based.  Talk shows are inundated with entertainers. They are boring, flip, and empty. A Kardashian has and ingrown hair and it’s news. George Cloney makes a political or environmental statement and it’s news. Honey Boo Boo passes gas and that’s news, that’s funny, that’s entertainment.

For certain, there is good programing, but few want to devote the time to write it, produce it, and direct it.  There is in the background, though, a Field of Dreams scenario; “if you build it they will come.” It takes courage, vision, creativity, and talent.”

It’s embarrassing to watch a kid on stage with no talent. We know he’s bad, but he thinks he’s good and so does his mother who believes in him, but the kid is so pathetic we applaud anyway. Later everyone thinks, “Everybody clapped, he must be good.”


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Dad and The Pastor; Bowden’s Will – Part 14

(Continued from yesterday.)

I recall the events that day as plain as it happened yesterday. Dad held on to Bowden until he calmed.

Two months later Bowden was in and out of the hospital. Dad visited each time and when he came home would sit and think for a while. I asked Dad each time how

Bowden was doing and he’d tell me whether it was a good day or bad day.

It was a warm fall Saturday. Dad was in the field combining soybeans. The phone rang and I answered it. It was the church secretary. She told me that Bowden died just within the hour and he wanted Dad notified immediately.

I climbed on a small tractor and raced out to where Dad was harvesting. I wasn’t sure how Dad would take the bad news. I wasn’t even sure the men liked each other.

Nevertheless, it seemed strange to me that one of Bowden’s wishes would be that Dad be contacted so immediately.

I waited till Dad came to the end of the field. He shut down the combine and waited for me to climb up into the cab.

“What’s up, son,” Dad said.

“I just took a call from the secretary at Bowden’s church,” I said and paused. “Bowden died about an hour ago.”

Dad tightened his lips and though for a moment and nodded slowly. “They say anything else?”

“No, that’s it,” I said.

Dad thought some more.

“You want me to take over for a while?” I said.

“No,” Dad said. “When I’m working these fields I get a lot of thinking done. Go tell your mom and ask her to take my best suit to the drycleaners.”

Dad completed the field three hours later. By the time he arrived at the house three men in suits were waiting for him. Their names were Blevins, Herrnstein, and Lukmam, members of the church board.

Dad washed up and invited the men to sit at the dinning room table.

“We won’t be long,” Blevins said.

“Are you sure you wouldn’t like coffee are some refreshment,” Dad said gesturing toward the table. Dad pulled a chair from the table.

Lukman looked at Blevins waiting for approval.

“Please sit,” Dad said. “I imagine this must be a difficult time for the church.”

“We really don’t have the time,” Blevins said.

Dad returned the chair. His eyes darted across the men’s faces. Dad’s friendly and sympathetic face turned firm.

“What brings you men here?” Dad said.

“A situation has arisen,” Herrnstein said. “One which you can easily alleviate.”

“I’ll do what I can,” Dad said, “but I’m in no position to help, I’m not a member of the church.”

“That’s the problem,” Blevins said. “It seems Bowden had a will made out. In that will he said you were the only one to speak at his funeral.”

Dad was stunned. He pulled out a chair and sat.

“You see,” Blevins said. “You are not permitted to take the pulpit at the church. You are not a member. An exception could be made if you were even clergy, but even then that would be restrictive. It requires seminary approved by the church.”

“So if you would merely decline that would be the end of the matter,” Lukman said.

“But what about the wishes of Bowden?” Dad said.

“He’s dead,” Blevins said.

“Not according to church doctrine,” Dad said.

Blevins, Herrnstein, and Lukman all looked as if they wanted to leave. The kept eyeing each other and the door.

“Bowden taught that doctrine,” Dad said. “He knew it when he wrote his will. He knew the position he was putting us all in. It seems we are at an impasse.”

“Blevins pulled a folded piece of paper from the inside lapel pocket of his jacket. He unfolded it and pressed it out in front of Dad. Herrnstein pulled a pen from his pocket and laid it next to the paper.

“What’s this?” Dad said.


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