A Sidekick's Blog

A True Church is More

January 30, 2017
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According to Ligonier, the marks of the true church are:

Pure preaching of the gospel,
Pure administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and
Church discipline.

But of course, a true church ought to be more than just these. It is a place where disciples are made. It is a place where the people become a family and friendships are forged that make discipleship – and pure gospel preaching, pure sacraments, and church discipline possible.

Friendship is absolutely vital. One can belong to any church with these three marks and still never become a disciple if he or she is not open to the risk and joy of forging real friendships. We can call each other “brothers and sisters in Christ” without ever learning the real meaning of the common bond we share under our Father God and Elder Brother Jesus Christ.

That’s the hard part. In every church I have ever been a part of, with the exception of two in my childhood, I have forged no friendships at all. Lots of acquaintances, lots of people that I shared a lot in common with (music ministry, youth trips, mission trips, etc), but no friendships that fostered real discipleship to Christ. I’m lonely as can be, surrounded by people who call me “brother” but with whom I share nothing but handshakes and casual conversation once or twice a week.

I can’t say I ever really learned how to make friends, or even to be a friend.

At my age I wonder if it’s too late now.

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A Tribute to My Father

January 22, 2017
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We were not on good terms when my (biological) father died last Thursday. He had attacked my bride, blaming her for “all my troubles” following my life-threatening battle with severe depression. He never showed any respect for the female members of my family. Neither my wife nor my daughter – both of whom I am immensely proud of – was worthy of any mention in his letters or phone calls for the last several years of his life. Informed of my brush with death, his response was heartless and cruel, especially toward my wife. That was our last contact, about a year ago.

“Joe,” as we always called him, was a brilliant composer of classical music that never got published as far as I know, but efforts to get one of the local colleges up in his hometown to publish it and play some selections were mostly successful. He wrote several hymns as well, which were heard, as far as I know, only at the little Lutheran church he attended. I hope they will find their way into publication so that that part of his legacy can live on and bless many others. Joe was a military veteran, an arch-conservative, a certified NRA firearms instructor, and a faithful husband.

When Joe and his wife Hilda visited us in Florida, he had nothing but good things to say about my stepfather, who was living with us by then. One of my favorite memories of Joe was one wonderful day of target shooting in which everyone including my kids and nephew participated.

Joe helps Danny perfect his technique.

That’s “Dad Hiley” seated on the scooter, Joe teaching, and Hilda poking her smiling face from behind Dad.

Shooting sports were a love we both shared. Here Joe and I went skeet shooting a few times, both at his home in Virginia and mine down here in Florida.
Great memories!

I renewed my acquaintance with my biological father when I was 14 and intensely curious about finding and getting to know my “real” father. He was very accommodating then, and we kept in touch by phone and correspondence for many years.

I met my half-brother Charles on that first trip to Virginia, and always enjoyed the pride that Joe had in him. Charles is a French-trained pastry chef who owns and operates the best bakery in Luray, Virginia. If you’re ever traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and plan a visit to Luray Caverns, be sure to stop in at the Main Street Bakery and Catering shop and tell them Robin sent you!

Joe hated technology. I tried several times to get him a computer in the hopes of teaching him to use it, if only so that our correspondence would be easier and faster, to include pictures, links, and other stuff to enrich it. But really, nothing beats pen and paper and “real” printed photographs, newspaper clippings, and the like. It seems technophobia was another trait we shared.

Joe never got my Star Trek references.

“Holy moley, it’s genetic!” was Suzie’s first response to meeting Joe and witnessing the idiosyncrasies we shared, from the frequent lack of a proper “filter” for our words and behavior in social situations. I was not raised by Joe at all. Yet I act like him in several ways and share his contempt for the new math and modern technology. In a conversation with him about Asperger’s syndrome (before it was re-named to “high functioning autism”) his reaction was, “Holy moley there’s a name for this?” I believe that is a trait we also shared.

Even though we parted on unfriendly terms – so much so that I was not supposed to be informed of his death – most of my memories of Joe are really good ones, and I’m proud to be his son.

Rest in peace, Papa Joe. I’ll see you again soon, in the next world, where our falling out won’t matter one little bit.


What’s Social About Social Media?

January 16, 2017
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Doing my FedEx Ground delivery route last week I came across something that just made my stomach do flips, and apparently it bothered me more than I thought, since I’m still pissed off about it three days later.

It was some kid’s birthday party or something. There was a bounce house, children’s music playing, and several kids gathered. Two were using the bounce house. The rest were all over the yard and some were playing in the street. Where were the parents? Who’s watching those kids?

Oh, there they are. Sitting around on lawn chairs, not even looking up from their cellphones and tablets. Not speaking to each other, not minding the kids. Every. Single. One of them. I slowed to avoid hitting any kids that might run into the street, and kept watching for some sign that at least one of the adults there was paying attention. Nope. Not even one.

“Wait, let me take a selfie.”

Eyes glued to their devices, fingers and thumbs racing across electronic keys, watching videos and taking selfies for posting to social-media. I wanted to stop, get out of the truck, and lecture the mind-numbed zombie-like idiots whose little kids were all over the place, unsupervised because their parents are glued to their stupid devices. They weren’t even aware of each other, much less their children. I didn’t stop and lecture them, though. I like my job and I need it too much.

But I also like kids, and I care about their safety even if their stupid parents don’t. So I beeped the horn in the hope that at least one of the adults would look up for a moment and see what was happening. Nope! No one did. Freakin’ dolts. So I called the cops and reported children in danger.