Ordinary Days

Our family dog died yesterday.  Her name was Chips; she was 18.  Or 126 in those fabled dog years.  The timing of her death wasn’t the best, practically speaking.  She died right after I’d left town for a twelve-hour church conference.  And my wife Kathi had the grading of papers and the chaperoning of our daughter’s field trip already on the docket.

The timing of death is rarely convenient I suppose.

We kept reminding ourselves how long she’d been with us.  And what a kind, tender and relaxed friend she was.  Heck, after 16 years in Florida she’d survived two more years up north.  And made it through two bitterly cold Iowa winters.  She’d learned to find comfort lounging fireside, and on beanbags.   And knew where to find the brightest, warmest spots to lay in the house to achieve the highest quotient of sunlight she could find.

For a dog from the Sunshine State, she’d adapted to her new digs really, really well.

While I was away my wife cleaned up the physical mess often associated with the final moments of life.  She found a small box and made an impromptu coffin, complete with Chips’ blanket and toy chipmunk.  And put her in the beer fridge freezer downstairs, anticipating burial would likely be a day away.

She told the kids.  Five-year-old Graham cried.  Hannah, now nine, stormed upstairs, angrier initially, loudly proclaiming that “I’ll never be happy again.”

Emotions were raw; we were all really pretty fond of her.

Truth be told we all cried that day.

Kathi ordered pizza that night and cuddled up with the kids to watch a Lego movie.  By the time I got home later that evening, I quickly realized the hard work of the day had been done.  As I tucked the kids into bed we talked of Chips, our joys, our sorrows, our memories of her.  We imagined her now running, carefree, in heaven, reuniting with her dog-sister Salsa.

Salsa and Chips go together.  One without the other is incomplete. We named them so for that very reason.  And now, after several years apart, they are together once again.

My wife had done the hard work that day.  I was grateful for her strength.  And proud to be on her team.

When it came time for the burial the next day I picked out a couple of shovels and a trowel from the shed. We selected a spot in the back yard not too far from our fire pit.  And near a large bush birds often gather at to sing.

Digging began.

I started in, Hannah picked up the spare shovel, Graham selected the trowel.

It was a family affair.  A pleasant, unexpected surprise.

Kathi suggested today might be a good day to plant a tree.  Hannah had been given a sapling at school on Arbor Day.  Mom and kids then shifted their focus to the tree, finding a spot for it, digging, and planting.

We then spoke of death, and life.  And how both were fully present in the back yard.  Fully visible from our kitchen.

Grave now dug I retrieved Chips and grabbed a small prayer book I use for funerals.  We gathered around the graveside.  Liturgy began.

First, Psalm 23, and valleys, and shadows, and goodness, and mercy.

Each of us shared a favorite story.  Of first meetings.  And high jumpings.  And dog runnings.  And comfy cuddlings.  And lamb-bone eatings, not too very long ago.

Liturgy continued.

Earth to earth. My wife placed a shovel of it on the grave.
Ashes to ashes. Hannah placed another shovel atop the first.
Dust to dust.  Graham took the trowel and added a bit more.

Rest eternal grant her, O Lord.

We imagined light perpetual shining on her now, and forevermore.

Kathi later joked that Chips been given a Lutheran burial.  My mind wandered to Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and his own stories of dogs and the afterlife.  I realized she was probably right.

Graveside service now complete I dismissed the family to depart in peace – as pastors always do – and was again pleasantly surprised.

They wanted to stay and help put the rest of the dirt on Chips’ grave.  We took turns, with shovel and trowel, moving the earth to its final resting place.

Kathi found a gazing ball and stand in the front yard we’ve wanted to move for a while.  We decided it would make for a better gravestone, so we moved it to the back.  And that’s what it now is.

Kathi and I then went inside.  We embraced.  We sniffled.  We shared a kiss.

The kids asked if they could play outside.  Yes, of course.  We watched as they went to the playset to swing high, high in the air.  A playset less than 20 feet from the gazing ball now serving as a gravestone.

A gazing ball we can see from our kitchen.

And I realized, in that moment, that all was as it should be.


My goodness, it’s early May. Where has the time gone? This weekend we celebrate our confirmands graduation. Next weekend we celebrate our high school graduates.

Heck, finals week at Iowa State starts Monday, and Ames public schools finish up the last day of the month.

You know what all that means.

Summer break!

Family vacations!


We take these getaways for lots of reasons. For one, our schedule, at least for many of us, gets leaner. With schools out students and teachers have more down time. Friends and couples find themselves freer to travel. Parents want to make the most of their time with their shorties, and take them to new and exciting places. Often grandparents and great-grandparents join in on the fun too. In this they help usher in grand traditions for the next generation.

We getaway, at least in this part of the country, to enjoy warm weather as best we can. Having lived in South Florida, below the frost line, for sixteen years, our family was used to seeing the annual influx of snowbirds each winter. People would stay for a long weekend, or week or two, or month or two, or half the year. With temperatures that only bottom out in the 40s most winters down there I totally get the draw.

And when weather warms up here? Heck yeah we want to get away to the great outdoors. Heck yeah we want to enjoy it as best we can.

Sometimes we get away to celebrate. Summers can be a reward of sorts. Another year of school successfully completed. Or another year of work navigated. Or an incredibly cold, record-breaking winter in Central Iowa – survived – we did it!

So we pat ourselves on the back, and look to get away. We look to recognize a job well done.

That is the case with our eleven confirmation graduates. Our confirmands have spent the past three years learning about and growing into their faith, making it their own. Confirmation now complete, school year almost over, celebrations now beginning, I’d bet you a nickel that each one of our graduates have some summer getaway plans forming they’re dreaming about.

And sometimes we get away to mourn. That was the case just over two years ago for my family. After being in a call process with a congregation in Chicagoland – for six months! – the call committee opted to not proceed with either candidate. My wife and I were heartbroken. We have family in Chicago. And lots of friends. And the Chicago Cubs. And deep-dish pizza.

Thinking optimistically, we’d even put an offer in on a house there that we adored. It was a mid-century modern home, built in the 50s with an open-concept kitchen, large fireplace and a massive family room with a wood-beam vaulted, slanted ceiling. It was so cool.

But none of that was to be.

Deep in sadness, Kathi and I did something anyone else that lives less than three hours away from the most magical place on earth would do. We took our family to Disney World!

And it was there, kicking it with the mouse, where we began to heal.

Disciples Getaway
Today’s reading from John 20 also features a getaway, and a famous one at that.

By this point the disciples had been part of Jesus’ ministry for about two and a half years. By then they’d pretty much seen it all. They’d dropped their jobs, left their families. They got away to learn from a charismatic man who simply said, “follow me.”

In their time together the disciples saw miracles performed, parables spoken, and travelled all over the place helping to get the message, of a truly great man, out to all who would hear. Over time they slowly began to realize, and then believe, that this truly great man, was so much more.

The last week of Jesus’ life, for the disciples that followed him, was particularly gripping. They were there for Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem, complete with palm fronds waving. They dined at the Last Supper, eating of the bread, drinking of the cup. They were present at the Garden of Gethsemane when he was taken away. The were aware of his trial, and death, and had seen him after he’d risen from the dead.

And if that doesn’t make for an emotional roller-coaster, over one week’s time, then I don’t know what does.

It is in the aftermath of all these events where Peter makes a decision.

“I’m going fishing,” he declares. Another half a dozen disciples decide to join him.

Perhaps they got away to celebrate the end of a journey.

Perhaps they got away to commemorate the changing of one season to the next.

Perhaps they got away to reflect, trying to make sense of all that had happened.

Perhaps they got away to mourn, knowing the end of their story, at least as recorded in the gospels, was coming to a close.

Perhaps it was a bit of all of the above.

Rocking the Boat
The first night of the fishing getaway the disciples caught zilch, zero, nada. Now back on shore they saw there a mysterious man who then gave them some advice.

Cast the nets on the other side, the man said.

But not all the disciples understood, as this humorous comic suggests.

It’s a reminder that understanding the voice of God, and what exactly to do with it, can be a tricky thing.

Whether the disciples truly understood or not they decided to take this mysterious man’s advice. And they caught so many fish. 153 to be precise. So many they were unable to bring the net in. Instead they began to drag the net back to shore.

When John saw this fishy miracle he immediately recognized the mysterious man, and exclaimed, “It is the Lord!”

Peter, who had been naked in the boat, threw some clothes on, jumped into the water, and then swam to meet his savior.

It’s a fair question to ask at the point…



He was hanging out with a half dozen of his closest dude friends, wearing nothing but his birthday suit.

Which, as we castanets is a reminder. Scripture is filled with humor. And filled with gratuitous nudity too. Aka it’s anything *but* boring.

Anyhoo, the disciples get back to the shore with their fish. We can presume, I think, that they were all now wearing clothes.

The seven then gather over a charcoal fire, sharing in a breakfast of fish and bread. Spending some time to catch up with Christ. It’s a holy scene, represented by a holy, complete number.

That sounds like a pretty good getaway to me.

As spring winds down and we look toward summer vacations, let me encourage you do to something.

Look for signs, of the risen Christ, among you.
Look for Christ-signs in unexpected places.

Places like planes, trains and automobiles.
Place like boats, cabins and tents.

Look for Christ in nature, in people, in unexpected conversations.

Whether your summer getaways are to celebrate achievements or to re-group, or even to mourn something lost, look for Christ in these special, sacred moments.

While our family mourned the loss of a possible Chicagoland call exactly two years ago, God had something brewing while we traipsed around Disney World, busily getting away from it all. What was brewing was in this cute little town we’d never even heard of before, Ames Iowa. And before long, well, you know the rest of that story.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, look for Christ-signs, for they are all around us. And when you find them – for they are there – remember this. Today’s gospel ends with some of the last documented words of Christ ever recorded. And in those words Christ kept things simple.

When you spot Jesus out and about in this world, in whatever form that takes, may it remind you of something. “Follow me,” Christ beckons. “Follow me.”  Amen.

By Faith

This week we celebrate the culmination of a three-year journey for eleven of our confirmation youth and young adults.

As part of confirmation education we ask graduates to select a scripture verse that resonates with them. We then ask them to prepare a statement of faith that incorporates the verse into how they see themselves as a person of faith.

Now I never got to go through confirmation as a youth, at least in any formal way, because I wasn’t raised Lutheran.

And because of that I never got to pick a confirmation text. Which is kind of a bummer, because it’s a really neat ritual.

This text, in a way, kinda represents my confirmation scripture. Albeit two or three decades later than our confirmands selected theirs 😊

Faith Unseen
Specifically, my confirmation text for you today is the first verse of Hebrews 11.

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is an assurance.
Faith is a hope.
Faith is a conviction of things not seen.

What a neat definition of a really abstract concept.

This is one of those verses often that pops up as a meme, complete with a visual of a beautiful forest or beach or mountain. Google Hebrews 11:1 meme some time and check out the images paired with this text to see what I’m talking about.

But, similar to many a modern meme, often we need some background to have a more complete understanding of what amounts to a short, specific quote.

I mean really, if faith is defined by things not seen what the heck is faith?

I’m a seeing is believing kind of guy. Maybe you are too.

Faith Seen
Fortunately the rest of Hebrews 11 gives all kinds of tangible, assessible ways to see faith, here, and now, and in the flesh. In it, there’s 18 sentences, out of 28, that begin with the words “by faith.” Each sentence then continues by providing examples of what faith looks like for many of the heavy hitters of the Old Testament, including Abraham, Jacob and Moses.

And in this we end up with a kind of map that details where faith intersects with our daily life. Here’s what that looks like for Abraham.

By faith Abraham set out, away from home, to receive his inheritance, not knowing where he was going.

By faith he stayed in this new land, which was foreign to him, waiting for God’s promise.

By faith Abraham and Sarah then conceived a child. Even though they both thought themselves too old.

For it was by faith that Abraham listened to God, and stayed true to where God was calling him. And this faith then led to a series of others that followed God’s call on their life, including Jacob, and Moses, and Mary, and Christ, and Katie and Marin Luther, all the way up to you and me.

How did they have the strength to follow their creator’s plan?

By faith.

All this leads us back to our confirmands, and their statements of faith.

So what does faith look like for you, new graduates? My guess is your backstory likely goes kinda like this…

By faith, you were formed, in a divine union between two people. In a plan that dates back to the beginning of time.

By faith you’ve been brought to the waters of your baptism, claimed as a beloved child of God. This weekend you’ll confirm this claim, and do so in front of hundreds.

By faith you’ve celebrated communion, eating of the bread, drinking of the wine. In this you take all that Christ has done through his life, death, and resurrection, and become one with it.

By faith you have spent the past three years learning of what was, up until then, the faith of a previous generation. From Old Testament to New to the Protestant Reformation you’ve had an awful lot to absorb and reflect on.

And, by faith, you now boldly proclaim what you’ve learned, making this faith not of others, but now your own.

And that’s that, right? Confirmation.graduation.done.clap.

Hopefully not 😊

Let me encourage you, new graduates, to continue to live by faith. Both now and for all your days.

By faith dive into high school. Give it all you’ve got.

By faith consider college. It is for some, but not all. Listen for the voice of God to guide you.

By faith seek out love, perhaps marriage, perhaps children. When the time is right, of course. Mom and Dad may have an opinion on when that is, I’d imagine 😊

We are called to be in relationship with each other, in so many ways. Keep your creator in the middle of them all.

By faith follow your vocational call, whatever that call may be. Be open to some surprising paths. I myself continue to be surprised with where God’s called me. Aka didn’t see this one coming.

Some of you are called to be pastors, or teachers, perhaps prophets. Others healers, builders, and bus drivers too. If your call is from above you will be blessed, and bless many, many others along the way.

By faith give back to this world. A world our savior Jesus Christ loves so much. Heal the sick. Feed the hungry. Right the wrongs. Love your God. Love your neighbor. This is a common call, for each of us. And an important way we live out our faith.

Let me encourage you, graduating young adults, to make your faith visible. Be convicted, through faith, of things not always seen.

Make your faith visible in everything you do.

Make your faith visible in every facet of who you are.

For when you live, by faith, your journey will always be fulfilling.
For when you live, by faith, your time on earth will be as it should be.
And when you live, by faith, your journey, young adults, has only just begun.


The Rogue One

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy…

So begins George Lucas’ 1977 epic space opera, Star Wars. I bet you can easily picture the yellow text, set atop a black and starry background, slowly scrolling through the screen, getting smaller as new lines of text appear.

And don’t forget that phenomenal John Williams soundtrack that starts the film too…

The video clip captures the experience better than mere text ever could.

It’s an amazing movie franchise that spans 10 feature films over four decades, with more on the way.

To be honest, watching Star Wars movies always makes me feel a little churchy anyways. When hearing that familiar phrase, “May the Force be with you,” I can’t help but want to reply, “And also with you” 😊.

Ironically, the backstory for the opening plot, of the first 70s Star Wars film, only came out a few years ago, in 2016. This Star Wars backstory film, Rogue One, details just what it took to acquire these valuable, life-saving plans.

Rogue One
Rogue One tells the tale of a group of unlikely heroes banding together to counter the Empire’s massive weapon, the Death Star. The sense of dread that hangs in most every scene of Rogue One is palpable. There is humor in the film, but just a touch. There is color, but just a touch. Mostly the film features a visual palette of black and white with lots and lots of gray.

And why not? The odds for this mission seem insurmountable: they faced a destructive empire at the height of power. And they face a weapon with the destructive force to annihilate an entire planet.

Early in the film, Cassian Andor, a rebel intelligence officer, tells the film’s heroine, Jyn Erso, what keeps him going.

Rebellions are built on hope, he tells her.

Jyn responds with something resembling a mix of scowl and smirk. Aka she ain’t buying it. The empire she faces has already killed her mother, taken her father from her, and enslaved her for most her life.

Hope, with this backdrop, is hard.
Hope, with this backdrop, doesn’t come easy.

Yet the two press on.

Over time her heart begins to soften. Viewers begin to imagine that there just might be a shred of hope within Gyn Erso still.

Eventually this phrase, rebellions are built on hope, is what she uses to help draw others to the mission, despite daunting odds.

This ethos, that rebellions are built on hope, carries the rebels to their spacecraft, fittingly called Rogue One, and toward their ominous task.

This belief, that rebellions are built on hope, give the Rogue Ones the strength they need to acquire the plans to the dreaded Death Star.

It is this hope, that empowers the rebellion to lower the shields and transmit the plans, via satellite upload, to the outside world.

And before you know it the plan, to overcome death, once and for all, is known throughout the galaxy.

The Backstory

Two millennia ago, on a continent thousands of miles away…

There were wars, and rumors of wars, and poverty, and sickness, and death.

There was an empire, known for its brutal rule leaving little room for dissent.

And there was God, sadly knowing this divine creation was not as it should be.

Within this context God sent the ultimate rebel, The Rogue One, to deal with this culture of sin and domination and death, once and for all.

Pursued by agents, from both the religious and political empires of the day, the Rogue One was custodian of sacred plans. These plans can save God’s people and restore peace, and freedom to the galaxy…

(Feel free to hum the John Williams opening tune for this text too 😊 )

So begins our epic faith-drama that culminates Easter day.

The Rogue One
The Rogue One, referred to by many as Christ, also knew that rebellions are built on hope.

Christ’s rebellion of hope drew others to the mission, despite daunting odds. First one, then two, then twelve. Later hundreds, thousands, millions, and billions. When you offer light, when all anyone else deals in is darkness, word quickly gets around.

Christ’s rebellion of hope met people in their place of need. Wherever that may be. The hungry were fed, the sick healed, the marginalized embraced.

Christ’s rebellion of hope centered on the forgiveness of sin. No more were we to judge others, or ourselves. Our culture of domination and threats and oppression could now be replaced with one of faith, and hope, and love.

Christ’s rebellion of hope got noticed by the empires of his time. It could not have been any other way. His ways were a threat to the powers that be. Something had to give.

Christ’s rebellion of hope carried him toward the most ominous sign of death that ever there was, a cross of crucifixion.

For a mere mortal that would have been the end.

But for the leader of a divine rebellion?

One built on hope?

It was only the beginning.

Luke 24
The Easter text opens on the first day, at early dawn. When news of Christ’s successful rebellion, over sin and death and the grave, first got out, it was still quite dark.

It’s always darkest before the dawn.

But watch out world, here comes the light.

The group of women going to the grave had a simple goal, to prepare a body for burial. But when they arrived, much to their surprise, the stone had been rolled away. The tomb was empty.

The angels they met enlightened them. “Why do you look for the living among the dead? Don’t you remember,“ the angels said, “that Jesus told you he must be handed over, must be crucified, and on the third day would rise again.”

The women then remembered.
The women then went.
The women then shared this good news with others.

It was then, for the first time, The Rogue One’s plan, to save the world, was fully understood.

It was then, for the first time, The Rogue One’s plan, to save humanity, was transmitted, person by person by person, to the rest of the globe.

Star Wars Redux
Getting back to Star Wars, just a bit, there’s this great scene, right at the end of Rogue One, where Darth Vader cuts through dozens and dozens of members of the rebel alliance, trying to retrieve the stolen plans.

It’s great because we know this character Darth from so many films that follow.
It’s great because we see him at the height of his power.
It’s great because we know what’s at stake in this classic battle of good and evil.

But mostly it’s great because we, the modern viewer, already know how it ends.

As a rebel alliance commander hands over the transmission to Princess Leah, he asks, “What is it they’ve sent us?” Leah smiles and responds with but one word:


The closing credits then roll.

The world of 2019 isn’t that different than it was two millennia ago. Our empires of today are perhaps a bit more nuanced, taking the form of governments, and corporations, sometimes religious institutions too.

Similar to the Death Star, some of our empires have enough power to destroy an entire planet, with their tanks, and their bombs, and their bombs, and their guns.

Other earthly empires have the power to draw resources meant for all of God’s children, and instead put them in the hands of only a select few.

Let me give you a brief, biblical analysis of this current reality.

That. Ain’t. Right.

And when those worldly empires look to sink their teeth into you, and they will, let me encourage you, people of God, to do something.


Rebel against our inherent fallen nature that pushes us away from each other.

Rebel against empires that tell us the only person we should worship is ourselves.

Rebel by focusing your sights on the leader of this timeless, grand rebellion.

He is The Rogue One. He is the Christ.

And then Remember.

Remember the odds, for God’s mission to the world, seemed insurmountable.

Remember Christ pressed on, through his life, and death, and resurrection.

But mostly? Remember this:

When this world is at its darkest hour, simply lift your head to the heavens.

And then ask your Creator a question.
“What is it you’ve sent us?”

God then smiles, and responds with but one word:



A Good Friday funeral homily.

We gather to reflect on the life of Jesus.  To some he is Son, to others Brother, to many Friend.  He is known by so many names, including Emmanuel, Teacher, Lamb of God, King of the Jews, Light of the World, Son of God.

Many of us refer to him as simply Christ.

And no matter how we relate to and know Jesus, for those gathered today, we share this in common:  For each of us, he was loved.

We gather to remember.  We remember a conception; how Jesus came to be was arguably downright immaculate.  We remember a baby, born in a Bethlehem barn, yet visited by kings.  We remember a boy, who wanted nothing more than to spend time in his Father’s house.  Even if it meant mom and dad thought him lost.

Perhaps most importantly we remember not just any man, but a highly accomplished one.  What Jesus did, in his final three years on earth, far outweighs anything anyone could ever do in a complete lifetime.  Or even a hundred lifetimes.

We remember a man of the people who loved to travel.  Jesus reached, by foot or by donkey, far-flung destinations like Galilee, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and Jericho.  He was always seemingly on the move.  From desert temptations, to river baptisms, to seaside fishing, his ministry was never defined by one single space.

We remember the best preacher who ever was.  Sometimes he told it to you straight.  Other times he spoke in parables, a master storyteller through and through.  His earthy, elemental narratives had a way of getting your attention in unique, memorable ways.  Whether he spoke of lost sheep or lost sons, or simply the upcoming harvest, you could be sure: his stories would make you rethink just about everything.  At least everything you thought you knew about this mixed up, crazy world.

From temples to homes to mountains to hills to boats, Jesus was always ready to share the inspired Word.  Sometimes he drew crowds numbering in the thousands.  Other messages were just for a select few.  But the size of the crowd didn’t really matter. “Wherever two or more are gathered in my name I am there with them” he always liked to say.  From that we take comfort that, while gone, he is still, some how, some way, still with us right here.

We remember a man of miracles.  From feeding 5,000 to walking on water to turning water to wine it seemed there wasn’t much this man couldn’t do.  It wasn’t that Jesus liked nature.  Or even that he was one with it.  Jesus was nature itself.

We remember someone who always stood up for the underdog.  Whether it was a woman who’d been divorced five times, or a religious minority, or the poor, or a leper left for dead at the city gates, Jesus was always on the side of the oppressed.  Always.  No exceptions.  He ate with, drank with, spoke with, and healed people society said he should have nothing to do with.

But you know what?  He did it anyways.

My guess?  If he’d been with us longer he would have stood up for more kinds of underdogs, more types of marginalized people, more oppressed minorities. And done so in ways we can only begin to imagine.

We remember a man unafraid to speak truth to power.   Jesus seemed really bothered when people used their influence to harm others.  He stood up to the religious elite, the political elite, and the wealthy.  And he wasn’t shy about it.  He let them know, in no uncertain terms, that oppressing God’s children was wrong.  Wrong because the kingdom Jesus spoke of stands for So. Much. More.

This one trait, speaking truth to power, is why so many were drawn to him.  This one trait, speaking truth to power, ultimately got him killed.

We gather to grieve.  We grieve for someone special; Jesus touched each of our lives in many, many ways.

We grieve a life cut short, tragically, at the age of 33.  We wish Jesus were still with us, in the flesh.

We grieve alongside his mother Mary.  A parent should never have to bury their child.  His death runs counter to all the promises the angels made Mary while pregnant.  We can’t help but question what we thought we knew him to be.

We grieve for a man many dreamed would be our next earthly king.  Those dreams are now dashed.  We’re left to ponder what life here, without him, even means.

And we grieve someone who once said, rather famously, destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  Some of us laughed at him for this.  Many believed there was no way a massive building could be rebuilt in such short time.

But perhaps those words hold a different meaning.  And for this, we hold on to, one infinitesimally minuscule, glimmer of hope.  Amen.