He “was a champion of the faith; a tireless churchman, whose principled wisdom, sagacious humor and razor wit were legendary and widely loved by the casual acquaintances well as by his family and longtime friends” *

 While I was a young law student at the University of Arkansas I was in the midst of a series of transitions. One of those involved conversion from membership in the United Methodist Church to the Episcopal Church.   This conversion stared on an Easter Sunday while I was still an undergraduate.  I was asked by a hall mate whose father was an Episcopal Priest to play for the Easter Eucharist at his father’s church.  In those days the Holy Communion as celebrated in the United Methodist Church followed almost exactly the order of that prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer.  But, experiencing it for the first time as the Episcopal Church celebrates it was an eye opening and spirit jolting experience.  It was at that moment I realized where I was “called” to be.

As I continued to struggle with whether to make the formal “leap” from Methodism to Anglicanism I entered law school at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.  And, it was in Fayetteville that I met Bishop Salmon who was at that time the Rector of Saint Paul’s.  I can remember countless sessions of confiding in him my hopes and fears and of receiving his very steady, calm, and insightful advice.  And, as a result of his counsel and advice I began confirmation classes and became confirmed.

One of my fondest memories is standing on the law school campus during a break with a group of friends and noticing in the distance a long black car progressing silently down the street. That particular street was set below the level of the law school grounds and all one could see was the very top of the car.  It was an eerie sight as the car seemed to float along making no sound. As it drew closer one was able to make out that it was being driven by a large man with long white sideburns dressed all in black except for a small bit of white round his neck.  I then realized it was Bishop (Father then) Salmon calmly and methodically piloting his Bentley as he drove from Saint Paul’s to what he referred to as the Mountain.  This sight made a deep impression and each day thereafter we would gather at the same spot to see if the sight repeated itself, and it did day after day.  Even then the Bishop was instilling faith in a divine changelessness against the changes and chances of an ever changing world.  During Sunday classes at Saint Paul’s he would often decry the trends of current morality by lamenting that in our current climate we “have taken on the values of nomads”.

Bishop Salmon had a calm steadiness about him that encouraged confidence and conveyed that eternal changelessness of the divine.  I remember fondly his stories, his fondness for music, and his truly sage advice.  He will be sorely missed.   Requiesce in pace.



  • The Right Reverend Mark Lawrence



The Synagogue Praying
Gottlieb – Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur

On the way home tonight I  stopped to get gasoline for the car.  Waiting in line to pay ( the card reader on the pump wasn’t working)  I noticed a gentleman standing in front of me with a T shirt containing these phrases:  “Got a Gun, Got a Truck, and Got a Bible.”  As he turned to pay the cashier the full import of the message was revealed.  Got a Gun to shoot them with, Got a truck to run them over, and got a Bible in case nothing  else works.

After an afternoon of navigating through Shelby Spong’s ” Biblical Literalism….” and his lament  over the way in which the Bible has been used to justify every form of evil known to God and mammon this T shirt just fit right in.  How awesome that we can take an ancient set of writings designed to reveal God in all his glory and turn it into a “weapon” of “mass destruction”   The other night my cousin Helen posted a piece in which some evangelist/politician type quoted the Bible to say “homeosexuals should be killed”.  An astute  clergyperson writing the piece made mincemeat of  that argument in revealing the extreme hypocrisy  inherent in it and the underlying meaning of the quoted scripture. But the fact is those who will use the Bible to their own ends continue to do so with a rather solemn glee.  So should I ever write a book about the Bible the title will be “The Elastic Bible”  or “What Do You Want to Justify Today.”

As a culture we are very iconic and yet not.  We set up facades whether in Facebook or through text messages and we convince ourselves that we are what we say we are in those mediums.  To quote Newton Minnow ” The medium is the message” If I am superman on Facebook, I am superman, right?  Well, no, actually you are still you and Herr Nietzsche would not ensconce you into supermandom based on a Facebook post. So, we create icons but fail to create in them the deep meanings that real icons contain.  We are not creating windows through which to view God but rather windows to enhance our own self image.

Sporting a T shirt which puts the Bible in the same category of guns and trucks shows a lack of both mental and moral competence.  Yes, the Bible has been used to justify,even the excommunication of Galileo, slavery and segregation but trucks and guns?  Good Lord have mercy upon us.

Hopefully, we can as a people move beyond “got a Bible in case nothing else works” If not then terrorists, deranged mass murderers and alligators are the very least of our problems. Scripture cannot be used literally.  I’m sorry but i am convinced that until we place the scriptures in their Jewish, liturgical context we will continue to be a people not of the book but rather of the  book as we prefer it to be.

Y’hei sh’lama raba min sh’maya
May there be abundant peace from Heaven
v’chayim aleinu v’al kol yis’ra’eil v’im’ru
and life upon us and upon all Israel. Now say:
(Mourners and Congregation:)


David and Golliath

Tonight as I sat on the den couch trying to recover from a rather frustrating day at the office I found myself wandering into the land of Netflix and by some hook and crook starting a motion picture called “David and Goliath”.  Fortunately my wife rescued me just before the big battle scene as she wanted to watch another show.   It’s a good thing she did as most of my thinking while watching the movie revolved around how poor a production this was and how remarkable that a high school, make that junior high school, production could make it to the big screen and onto Netflix.  All the while my subconscious was focusing on something else. The indecipherable underlying message was bubbling up from underneath pervading my usual calm and causing me severe anxiety. What is it, what are you trying to tell me, and why I asked?

It was only after I had removed myself from actually viewing the movie did the underlying message take hold.  Like Samuel I took a few moments to listen to the inner voice and even ask questions.  The message is clear and makes perfect sense. As you can see from Osmar Schindler’s 1888 lithograph, shown above, David is dwarfed by Goliath.  This is further emphasized in the proportions exhibited in Andrea Vaccaro’s 1635 piece titled “David with the Head of Goliath”, shown below.  The scripture recounts Goliath to have been almost seven feet tall, ten feet in one account, and armed with a coat of mail (armor) weighing one hundred and fifty pounds and holding a spear with a head weighing nineteen pounds.

Head of Goliath

What young man in his right mind would take on such a challenge?  And yet, David did so, having faith in God to bring him through yet another trial. In the words of First Samuel “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the bear, will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.”  Such faith!  Such faith echoes the words of another greater one who made it clear that true faith can actually move mountains.

And, so David did prevail with God’s help.   But, if you think about it David had an advantage.  It was not the advantage of physical size, or strength, but rather the advantage of knowing the form and nature of his enemy and the further advantage of knowing something greater was in play here. David knew God had his back and would not fail him.

The appearance of Goliath created a real stir in King Saul’s camp as the physicality of the apparition was so great as to be overwhelming and debilitating.  Why?  Are not soldiers just soldiers? Perhaps, but Saul’s army had encountered something new,  something unknown, untested,  and unfathomable.  That gave rise to a desperate gnawing fear, a fear of not knowing the nature of the foe and it’s destructive potential that brought them to helplessness.  Big strong men trained at home,  and tested in battle,  became shrinking violets before something their minds could not fathom and their faith was too weak to overcome.   And it was here that David had the advantage.  He had the advantage over his comrades in arms and the advantage over his enemy.  Goliath taunted David and in the words of the writer of First Samuel “disdained him”.  Goliath saw a ‘youth, ruddy, and comely in appearance.”  From that he assumed he knew his enemy – but he did not.  Goliath who lacked faith in God and operated on the same level that most of us do based his conclusions  on the information collected by his empirical senses, alone.  He saw a young handsome man barely bigger than his thumb and made assumptions based on appearances not realizing that there were “more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in his philosophy”.  It was David rather that saw the situation clearly having established a firm faith in the living God and having been delivered by him time and again from the jaws of death.  David did not fear Goliath because he knew what he was up against.  More importantly he knew it really did not matter how “big and bad” it might appear.  As Saint Paul is credited with saying “if God is for us, who then can be against us”. David had absolute faith that God would prevail against anything no matter what.

Today we stand against a foe of which we know not.  We think we know and yet we live in fear and distress.  We flail about looking through our empirical glasses to find ways of coping.  Some want to build a wall, some want to deport certain groups, some want to control the sale of firearms,  and some want to make war against who and what they perceive the enemy to be.  All these represent understandable human reactions to a foe unknown and unfathomable.  Our foe is like Goliath standing huge against the sky with power and might we perceive to be so vast that we are rendered cowed and ineffectual in its reflection.

My thought and my prayer is that we seek that which has power over all.  As simplistic as it sounds we must have faith, faith in God and in his ability to prevail over all evil no matter how powerful it may portend to be.  And, most important we must remember the words of a President who was called to shepherd his nation first through a great economic depression and then a war against a foe so powerful and evil that men’s knees buckled at the thought of it. “We have nothing to fear but fear itself” was the battle hymn evoked by President Franklin Roosevelt as he sought to restore “faith”. And, he evoked ths as he sought to uplift the spirit and to free the people not from immigrants, or unfamiliar religions but rather from fear, “fear itself”  that  “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”  This is what Saul’s soldiers felt and it is what many of us feel today.

Fear of an enemy, and the unknown, is normal and natural but to turn that fear on ourselves is debilitating and self-defeating .   But the perceiving with fear our neighbors and our fellow countrymen and seeing them as our enemy will them and us  and render us helpless before the Goliath.

Of course, Goliath, most likely, was never an actual person but rather a metaphor for the all-powerful, overwhelming foe.  David, while a real person, took on the metaphorical mantle of faith in God as the sole salvation from such a foe.  This story was most likely read in the synagogue, or used in the Midrash as a way of teaching about the power of faith. Whether the story is one of a literal telling of actual events or a symbolic metaphor revealing a greater truth  makes no difference because the underlying truth is revealed either way.

Let us emulate David and seek to cultivate a firm faith in the Lord knowing that if he is with us none can really stand against us.

I think it only fit and proper to reproduce the first paragraph of President Roosevelt’s speech delivered at his inaugural in 1932 in which he addresses the question of fear:

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.



A Post-Father’s Day Reflection


Most of us middle class American types and especially middle class Southern American types think of barbeques, cookouts, and the proverbial father’s day gifts such as a new shirt, tie, or some sort of lawn equipment as the quintessential Father’s Day celebration.  And yes, all of these apply. However, I think there might be more to it than that?  My daughter, the archeologist, and her husband, the artist, sent me a card for this Father’s Day which I hate to say pegs me to a tee,  or rather nails me a tree,  however you want to look at it.   As you can see from the picture above  I am caricatured as being “rather eccentric and somewhat theatrical, but in no way dangerous”.  Now,  most parents on receiving such a card might be a bit  “put off”, or outright insulted, but not I. Knowing my daughter and her wonderful husband I take it as a complement and find  it most amusing, if not outright funny. It is “spot on” as some are wont to say.  Being the descendant of a long line of “eccentrics”,  which is a kind characterization compared to many I have received over the years, I am very pleased.  Upon receipt of the card I texted my daughter with the retort, ala Sir Winston,  reminding her that  “the apple does not fall far from the tree”.  To which she replied “touche”!

I.  The Point of It All

And, there it is: the apple and the tree.  Those symbols pervade our greatest writings including the Holy Bible and point us toward a truth greater than barbeques, ties and lawn mowers. They point us to the realization that taking care of others and shepherding them through their darkest of nights is what a parent, whether father or mother, is all about.  To emphasize this point I was somehow directed by some force majeure away from the gory details of “Ironclad”, a movie I had been watching on Netflix about wicked King John and his attempt to undo Magna Carta (it was only a guideline anyway),  toward an old black and white staring Gregory Peck as a Scottish priest named Father Francis Chisholm.   Along with him was Edmund Gwenn, remember Saint Nick from Miracle of 34th Street, playing a Bishop, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke, as an Monsignor (in Anglican terms a sort of Archdeacon). aptly named Father Sleeth.  The movie opens with the Monsignor visiting a really old Father Chisholm,  He had come in the role of Bishop’s henchman who is to break it to old Father that he was now much too old, and too useless, to continue to serve as a priest in his home parish. After arriving at the conclusion that this old man was totally incompetent and needed to be put out to pasture the Monsignor finds himself drawn, also by some force majeure , to open and read old Father Chisholm’s  journal.  And with that the “Hollywood flashback” of  Father Chisholm’s  life begins.  Having run through two total unsuccessful attempts to be a parish “secular” priest young Father finds himself before an old friend Bishop Hamish played by Gwenn. Bishop Hamish after acknowledging the recent failures of dear Father says they have a new mission starting up in China and they need a priest to be “in charge” .  So unable to say no to Hamish, whose persuasive powers have made him a Bishop, Father accepts and off to China he goes.  I will spare you the details from here as you may wish to watch this movie on the Netflix yourself. Needless to say Father did quite well for himself and as his Reverend Mother companion tells him”he is truly much closer to God than his old Bishop will ever be”. And,  as a result of reading  Father’s journal Monsignor Sleeth cannot bring himself to fulfill his mission and the “force” persuades him to issue a much more favorable report to the Right Reverend.  The  movie is titled “The Keys to the Kingdom”, a somewhat unoriginal but very apt title.

The key point is that as Father Chisholm  is saying good bye to his congregation in China, having been recalled to Scotland for retirement, his chief lay minster and aide Joseph asks the dear Father to bless “these thy children” before he goes.  If there was ever a tear jerker for me here it is: the scene of a large congregation kneeling in reverence before their priest, their father de facto if not de jure, and receiving his blessing.  (Remember I am a bit eccentric) .  That scene drove home the point the “force” was trying to get across.  First, our role as parents never ends and second they extend so far beyond the boundaries of our own immediate family circle as to boggle the mind. Whether you have children or not, married or not, you are a parent, man or woman, you are a parent, a parent to any child of God in need of your help and your love.  We must never turn away and never lay down that burden as it goes to the core of our souls. That does not mean we must forgo the joys of our own families only that we need to realize our “parenthood” is so much broader than that.

II The Gift

Well no shirt, no tie, no lawnmower or golf club for me this year.  Rather a truly thoughtful gift from my wife and son:  The Annotated Version of C.S. Lewis, Screwtape Letters.  Manna from heaven!  Have I not read the Screwtape Letters by this time, you might ask?  Why yes, I would say.  But, only recently and by chance ( I suspect the force had something do with this)  did I run across a copy of the “annotated version” at my public library of all places.  I found that this version contains the notes detailing the source material which Lewis used in composing the work and which he intentionally omitted so as to give his work broader appeal.

For  example: Letter 1 beings “My dear Wormwood, ” and in this version there is a note attached to the word Wormwood, a footnote.  The note says : From the Old English wormod (or wermod), a woody shrub (Artemisia), which has a bitter aromatic taste.  It is used in the preparation of vermouth and absinthe and some medicines…   Well, interesting to know but not that spectacular.  However,  the notes continue.  In one local battle over the relationship between body posture and worship I found as a useful argument both the text of Letter 3 and the notes which accompany it:

One of their poets, Coleridge 1, has recorded that he did not pray “with moving lips and bended knees” but merely “composed his spirit to love ” and indulged a sense of supplication .”2 That is exactly the sort of prayer we want; and since it bears a superficial resemblance to the prayer of silence as practised by those who are very far advanced in the Enemy’s service, clever and lazy patients can be taken in for quite a long time.3 At the very least, they can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers; for they constantly forget, what you must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.

Note 1 references  Samuel Coleridge as an English poet and literary critic best known for “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and “Kubla Kuhn”  and goes on to discuss Lewis’s respect for Coleridge but it also points out his rejection of Coleridge’s conclusions.

Note 2 points out that Lewis is quoting Coleridge’s poem “The pains of sleep” .

Note 3 quotes Lewis tribute to a “Prayer Without Words”  from his Letters to Malcolm, chap 2.

Note 4 is the “silver bullet” and begs to be quoted in full:

 Lewis echoes this idea in chapter 3 of Letters to Malcolm:  “When one prays in strange places and at strange times one can’t kneel, to be sure. I won’t say this doesn’t matter.  The body ought to pray as well as the soul.  Body and soul are both the better for it….The relevant point is that kneeling does matter, but other things mater even more.  A concentrated mind and a sitting body make for better prayer than a kneeling body and a mind half asleep.  “In chapter 5 of Mere Christianity, Lewis writes, “Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body -which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and out energy

So there it is! A better present could not have been had, a ready source of background and source material utilized in a great writing by one of the worlds’s outstanding theologians.

HAPPY FATHERS DAY  and remember to bless and parent all of your children.  Pax et bonum  PN






Detail from an early Christian sarcophagus in the Vatican Museum showing the “traditio legis”, Christ handing on the New Law to Saint Peter

A few days ago I wrote about an experience I received after having coffee one morning with a friend.  My friend and I had engaged in a veritable feast of Christian Midrash[1] expurgating[2] and exegeting[3] to our hearts content burrowing our way through the twists and turns of the tunnels of high theology.  But what struck me to the heart that day was not the fine theological discourses of our conversations but rather the simple sight of young children riding on a train and singing the venerable old song “Yes, Jesus loves me”.  It literally called to mind the scripture in which Jesus tells his disciples to “suffer the little children to come unto me for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”  Only by becoming a loving, trusting child and accepting God’s love do we enter the kingdom. Yes, I realized that day Jesus loves me no matter how sinful and wretched I may be and no matter how much, or how little, of the law I know.  As Saint Paul notes in his epistle to the Church of Rome – what is hard is not determining if God loves us but bringing ourselves to realize that he does and allowing ourselves to love him back.  This is hard because we are fallen and broken and to react with fear, suspicion and hate is much more natural and intuitive than to recognize the love in others and ourselves. God will not force us to love him but he will forever seek to have us do so and welcome us with loving open arms when we do. If there ws ever a “rule” we should always seek to follow it is to literally move ourselves to love God by whatever means necessary. This is hard, but it something which we  must do with God’s help.  We must see everything in our life through God’s love for us and then we will begin to truly love one another and that is the essence of loving God.

As a lawyer I know how easy it is to become caught up in the “technicalities of the law” and to “love the law” all the while forgetting to love what the law is trying to accomplish.  May we always be moved to seek out the love of  God when we try and apply the rules in our own attempts at Midrash.

Of final note:  Father David points to something which I have found, of late, to have truly revolutionized my entire understanding and approach to scripture and that is the intimate connection between Moses, the law giver, and Jesus, the law fulfiller, who as shown in the art work above hands down the law to Saint Peter as a symbol of its repose in Holy Church this being known as the “Traditio Legis”. [4]

The Daily Devotion of June 16, 2016 published by the Living Church Foundation:

A Reading from Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 2:12-24

All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.17But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”

Doing the Law

Daily Devotional • June 16

By the Rev. David Baumann

After having pulled no punches in describing the wicked and ungodly, Paul moves his focus to what it means to know and follow God. He’s already acknowledged the difference between Jews and Gentiles several times — Jews are first to have the gospel preached to them and are the first to be judged if they fail to please God.

Now, Paul contrasts those who “have the law” and those who don’t have it — the law being God’s revelation to the Jews. He moves to a profound insight into what is pleasing to God by asserting that it is those who “do the law” who are justified, whether they are aware of the law (Jews) or not (Gentiles). Paul goes on to affirm that the law is “the embodiment of knowledge and truth,” and those who, because of it, “know his will” have a responsibility to be “a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,” and so forth.

Knowing the law is not enough: “You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?” Well, the answer for us is “yes” — a humble, sorrowful, but truthful yes. Hopefully not always, not habitually, certainly not hypocritically, but because we are human and fallen. Redeemed we may be, but we’re not without sin. And isn’t that where Paul is leading us in this letter?


[1] Midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simple distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings. It fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at.

[2] From the word exegesis meaning : To remove erroneous, vulgar, obscene, or otherwise objectionable material from (a book, for example) before … In this case shifting through the sands to find the meat of the message and not being distracted by meaningless surplusage.

[3] From the word exegesis meaning:  “a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.”

[4] Christ gives the Law – “The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure, where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity” – Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1968.



Eve of the Feast of GREGORY THE GREAT-  Bishop of Caesarea, 379


It is difficult to contemplate the great work of a great theologian and saint on this evening following one of the most horrific of tragedies imaginable. Those families, friends and neighbors of the victims of the shootings in Orlando who prayed and worshiped and trusted in God all their lives must now be staggering in shock, as we all are,  and thinking if not saying the same lament as is attributed to Our Lord by Saint Matthew’s Gospel as he hung upon the cross: “Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani ” which are in actuality Greek words transliterated from the Hebrew meaning “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me”  At times like this we come close to cursing God, if not directly then indirectly through our doubt. Why does he let this happen?  What purpose is served, what lesson is worth such loss of life and emotional pain?

I am afraid I have no answers to offer to these questions.  From our experience of the tragedy in Charleston last year we saw a miracle of forgiveness and love when every sign pointed to hate and revenge.  Perhaps Orlando will produce a similar result.

What comforts me, as it has always comforted me,  is first the hope of the resurrection, and secondly the eternal nature of Holy Church.  Despite war, famine , disease, pestilence and outright barbarity the Catholic Church has endured.  Men like Saint Gregory have served it in ways that have taken complex dogma and turned it into life giving ministry.  Despite the tragedy  of Orlando and its martyrs my faith remains steadfast.  I hope and pray that yours will too.  

Let us pray:

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night, and every night and day for the rest of our lives; for the love of your only Son Our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Be of stout heart and good courage brothers and sisters, love those whom you are called to love despite their ugliness or their  hatred toward you.  In doing so you will save your own soul and theirs. Amen.

Perhaps at a later time we can be more composed and analyze Saint Gregory  with proper regard.



Two Faced with a Vengence

Two FacesTwo Faced IIItwo faced 11


These artistic renderings are depicting two faced people whose presence is something very familiar to us,  We see a bright shinning face on the outside presenting a image of cheerfulness and helpfulness never suspecting that the other face lurking inside portends danger and deceit.  Despite the warnings and cautions of our inner suspicions it happens  that the one we trust the most is the very one that takes advantage of us to the fullest extent. I am re blogging an article about elder abuse which appeared in “The Blog” .  The psychiatrist author makes the point that making a case to prove “elder abuse” you must obtain  expert testimony that really addresses the issues involved and states specifically the evidence which clearly indicates “elder abuse”.  Beware that  those who approach with offers of help and assistance may have motives that may be other than pure. And the deceiver will come in the garb of a sheep but underneath he or she will be a wolf looking for someone to devour.  These thoughts apply particularly to the elderly who trust only to be taken advantage of and abused,


Undue Influence and Financial Exploitation

06/01/2016 07:35 pm ET | Updated 4 days ago

by Bennett Blum, MD

Forensic and geriatric psychiatrist and Director of the Geriatric Division of Park Dietz & Assoc. in Newport Beach, Calif.

Between the Redstone case, with all of its drama and potential consequences, and the upcoming World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, 2016, many people are asking questions about undue influence and financial exploitation; how to determine true from false claims; and how to avoid the problem altogether.

Elder abuse is tragically frequent, and financial exploitation is a common gateway to other forms of abuse.  Most studies suggest that at least 5% of the elderly are victimized each year (approximately 2.0 million people), resulting in direct losses measured in billions of dollars.  In 2011, MetLife estimated the annual financial loss to be $2.9 billion; however, a 2015 report by True Link Financial increased that estimate to $36.48 billion.  According to this more recent report, some form of inappropriate manipulation, or undue influence, is involved in the loss of more than $23 billion annually.

“Undue influence” is a legal term for excessive or inappropriate manipulation.  The behaviors that make up undue influence have been well documented for nearly 2,000 years.  Descriptions and models for determining undue influence are found in the laws of ancient Rome and also in the Talmud.  Those documents describe the same 3 main types of undue influence that are recognized today: deception, duress, and unconscionable or excessive demands.  Everyone — regardless of age, health, education, or experience — is susceptible to one or more of these methods.  Medical issues, whether physical or mental, make it easier for a perpetrator to manipulate or overwhelm their victim, but are not necessary and do not have to be present.  It all depends on the individual’s circumstances.

Perpetrators may be anyone – family members, friends, caregivers, or advisors.  The major motivations are greed and control. Some of the more common strategies for committing undue influence include: 1) making threats, 2) nagging, pestering or harassing; 3) intentionally deceiving or misleading someone by telling lies or partial truths; and 4) isolating the intended victim from the truth, and from people who could protect him. “Isolation” is often misunderstood.  Someone can be isolated even when they are surrounded by people.  In cases involving wealthy victims, this often takes the form of replacing trusted friends, confidants, or advisors with new people who are approved, and possibly controlled, by the perpetrator.


The goal is always the same – to usurp the victim’s decision making role to the benefit of the perpetrator or those whom the perpetrator supports.  Intelligence, strength, and personal drive may reduce an individual’s overall risk, but they are not completely protective.  Intelligent, strong, and decisive people can be manipulated.  A serial financial abuser once said that he routinely manipulated intelligent and successful elderly people.  “People who are successful know their limits and are used to listening to experts.  I become their friend and make them think I am an expert.  Once they buy into that, they’re mine.”

Claims of undue influence often arise when one or more of the following situations exist – blended families; intense sibling rivalry; marital discord; or “brand-new best friends.”  A claim is even more likely to be made if there are questions about the elder’s memory or reasoning abilities, or if the person was weakened and frail due to general medical problems.

In addition to actual abuse, false claims of undue influence are used by those who wish to dispute the wishes of someone who is impaired or has died.  Undue influence claims undermine testator wishes, promote family feuds, and — when prominent individuals or families are involved — create media attention and public scrutiny of their private lives.  In addition, contested wills, trusts, and estate plans are expensive to litigate and can significantly erode the corpus of an estate.  Challenges are more likely to arise when late changes are made to an existing plan.  Planning for the possibility of a will contest is both prudent and cost-effective.

Many attorneys recommend that their client obtain a letter from their doctor.  Unfortunately, this is inadequate in many cases.  Most internists, neurologists, and even psychiatrists and neuropsychologists do not understand undue influence, its assessment, or how to help prevent future claims.  They typically only address the elder’s mental capacity, which is only one of dozens of psychiatric and behavioral variables that need to be considered.  As a result, the medical notes, memos, or letters from professionals who are not experts in this sub-field are often easily undone during the course of litigation.

In contrast, a careful and well-documented assessment covering all the relevant behavioral issues, not just medical or cognitive concerns, can prevent years of litigation and unnecessary delays in executing the client’s desires, and avoid associated public scandals. Two examples:

In one case, a man separated from his wife and wanted to change his estate plan, but believed that his wife would challenge the new will.  An assessment was performed at the time that the will was executed.  When he died several years later, the former wife indeed said he had been unduly influenced.  However, she withdrew her legal challenges after reviewing the expert’s report.

In another case, a wealthy and high profile woman who had suffered a mild stroke wanted to divide her estate equally amongst her children, but also gave one adult child large amounts of cash.  Knowing that there was animosity towards this child from his siblings, the mother agreed to an undue influence assessment.  After she died, the siblings claimed their brother had committed elder financial abuse.  Again, the claims were withdrawn after seeing the report.

In these cases, as well as many others, the estates were preserved, the client’s wishes were carried out, and privacy was maintained.

Financial exploitation by undue influence is expensive and destructive, but it can often be avoided.

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More: Elder Abuse Senior Citizens Financial Exploitation



Francis Picabia, Artistic Nudes Faces, Art Painting, Picabia Masque. “


POETRY and Law – Made for Each Other?

I am re blogging a post from my friend professor Gerry Beyer a law professor at  Texas Tech School of Law in which he reproduces a poem written in lament of the estate planning mess wrought by Prince’s inaction in making appropriate plans for his demise.  Be warned, large or small estate, you really need a will and at the very least a health care directive.  Trusting in the Lord is good for the soul but it can be murder on the health and well being of family.


Thursday, June 9, 2016

Poem on Prince’s Sister Protecting His Estate

PrinceFredrick E. Vars, Univ. of Alabama Sch. of Law, recently wrote a poem entitled, Prince’s Siblings: Thieves in the Temple?, (2016). Provided below is the poem:


There once was a popstar named Prince.

He died and we’ve looked ever since

For a will to instruct us how

To divide this massive cash cow.


People looked high, people looked low.

Was there a will? Answer still no.

His sister rushed into the breach

And sought immediate relief.


She asked not for power or money,

But for a familiar trustee

To protect the diamonds and pearls

Until the true facts are unfurled.


So tabloids let’s NOT go crazy

As journalism, that’s lazy.

Go search for lost kids if you must

Or better a will under dust.



The Gospel according to Saint Mark:  the Tenth Chapter, Beginning at the Thirteenth Verse:

13 And they were bringing children to him, that he might touch them; and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them. “Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands upon them.

Today was a special day because it was Thursday and because it was the Feast of Saint Columba, the Apostle to the Picts.  No, not picks, Picts who were a sort of Scottish tribe known for their fierceness and for having given the Romans fits during their occupation of Britain.  If memory serves Hadrian’s Wall came about because of the Picts.  The Romans developed the rationale that folks like that were best left alone. But Saint Columba adopted them as his own and from his monastery on the Isle of Iona ministered to them, preached to them, baptized them and steadily brought them into the mainstream of the Catholic Faith.

Saint Columba Apostle to the Picts

So back to Thursday:  I attended the Morning Office officiated by a dear friend who found the lectionary prescribed readings distasteful so he substituted his own.As he read the scripture I struggled to find the passages in the back of my Daily Office book but to no avail.  I then turned to the lectionary in the back of the Prayer Book, nope not those,  so when in doubt go with the flow.   He confessed to me later he didn’t much like the book of Ecclesiastes, as prescribed by the lectionary, and decided upon some passages from First Kings.  Knowing my friend to be a rather astute biblical scholar I certainly had no objection though it was good that the PIC (priest in charge) was not about or worse one of our parishioners who like to hear the progression of the readings as set out in the lectionary.

My Officiant friend allowed me to read as a brief homily the biography of Saint Columba from Lesser Feasts and Fasts along with a passage from Adomnán, Columba’s chief biographer, concerning the circumstances surrounding his death.  I will quote it as the language fits the photograph which follows it and which I took one morning in the Seibels Chapel quite by accident.  If you ever wondered if Churches and Chapels are mystical places this photo should remove all doubt especially when combined with Adomnán’s writing:

And when the bell strikes midnight, Columba goes to the church and kneels beside the altar. His attendant witnesses heavenly light in the direction of Columba, and Holy angels join the saint in his passage to the Lord:

Trinity 3

After the Office my friend and I did our usual Thursday morning thing as we meandered through the grounds of the South Carolina Statehouse until we arrived at our destination which was a coffee shop aptly named “The Immaculate Consumption”.  In the process of our meandering I noticed two things.  First there was a young mother with her young son hunched into an almost sitting position and taking a picture of the Statehouse.  It was remarkable the way she was able to  manage the cell phone-camera and the five year old at the same time with one hand.  I almost offered to help but realized that might not have been appreciated.  But all turned out well and I was inspired to take the picture below.  Isn’t it interesting how civil authority in whatever form always presents a very grandiose facade portending to almighty power only to take on the mantel of total helplessness when real people have real problems?




Second, I seem to have noticed for the first time a large statue of Strom Thurmond.  If there was ever an iconographic statement for South Carolina it is, or was, Strom Thurmond!  Don’t get me wrong.  I have not come to bury Senator Thurmond but rather to praise him.  I was never so proud of Senator Thurmond and what I see as South Carolina values as when I saw a photograph of the procession of President Clinton (a true Arkansas icon) into the House of Representatives chamber on his way to deliver the State of the Union address.  Almost everyone in the chamber including Senator Thurmond were standing in recognition that this was the President and regardless of whatever differences you might have with him, chivalry,  and particularly southern chivalry,  or what my grandmother would call simply good manners, demanded that you stand in recognition.  But alas and alack three Senators from our sister states of Tennessee and Alabama were “sitting” not standing with obvious grimaces on their faces expressing with their most serious expressions total and complete disapproval of the President.  Senator Thurmond, on the other hand, stood ramrod straight right beside them serving to highlight not their disapproval but  rather their silly pettiness as a result of their rude behavior. We will name no names but one was a actor for a time who played a DA on television series Law and Order.  For shame! However, from that day forward I began to view Senator Thurmond in a much different light.  No longer did I see him as the epitome of the evil segregationist but rather as a very decedent man, at his core, and who, I discovered, would not rest until he found a solution for a constituent’s problem no matter how long it took.  Yes, he supported segregation, and was wrong to do so, but he found the light and stayed in it for the rest of his life.  It is fitting that his statue be where it is just as it is fitting that the Confederate battle flag has now taken its place among the other relics of history and heritage in a museum. It would nice to see a statue of Judge Matthew Perry to complement that of Senator Thurmond as he was another decedent honorable man in the finest South Carolina and Southern traditions.




At “Consumption” my friend and I played at theology. We explored the twisted and complex pathways of the writings of such men as Saint Francis Xavier, Saint Athanasius, Saint Hilarius (a real Saint) William Tyndale, and even Freidrich Schleiermacher.  Oh, and don’t forget, Saint Augustine upon whose writings much of our modern theology is built.  In between twists and turns we sipped our coffee and ate our scones, and all was well and right with the world. But something was missing and my mind remained uneasy.

As we finished our coffee we resumed our matriculation through the Statehouse grounds and found ourselves walking on the Senate Street side of Trinity Cathedral.  As we passed the furthest reaches of the Parish House and turned to go into the back parking lot we were greeted with the most delightful sight:  “The Jesus Loves Me Train”.  The attenders at the Trinity vacation bible school  were enjoying a train ride[1] around the parking lot while the venerable hymn “Yes Jesus Loves Me” played through the loudspeakers on the train.  It was at that moment that the fog lifted and a light like the one that had accompanied the departure of Saint Columba shown bright.  Here I had been enamored with the life of Saint Columba with the visions of blinding light leading him with the accompaniment of angels into heaven, with the vagaries of what lessons should and should not be read during the Morning Office, and with the esoteric theology involving the writings of great theologians but here in front of me was the true faith in the flesh as exhibited by loving, accepting children who know nothing of the complexities of ritual or theology but who innately love the Lord.   The kingdom of heaven was made manifest in these loving children who in their innocence and open hearts readily accept the kingdom of heaven willingly and without long intellectual discourses.  And, as I stood watching the “Jesus Loves Me Train” the scriptural passage from Mark[2] bubbled up in my mind like a float which had been held under the water until released.  It is seems so simple, so easy, I thought.  As one preacher once asked “can it really be that simple”?



Yes, I think it can, and is.  God loves us. It is we who refuse to love him back.  We find it so hard to be like a child and simply accept love without question.  My mind wants to rationalize it, think it, when what I need to do is “feel” it.

Don’t get me wrong folks as I remain a steadfast Episcopalian who will go on reading the Prayer Book and waiving incense about causing respiratory distress and consternation to many.  But, along with that, I hope to “feel it” much more often. Next time you see a group of young children playing observe them carefully and  “suffer them” to come into your heart. Amen


[1] The picture of the train cost me a commitment to mention the vendor by name and to receive his card:  If you need a train for the kids contact Ride Trains for Fun,    or call 864-923-1444 and ask for Joe Fuller.  Now that I think about it I should have charged for this.


[2] If I am correct each of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) each contains similar passages with slightly different wordings.