Why I can’t vote for Donald Trump

It took me months of pondering to recognize how I could write about Donald Trump in a way to keep it from politics or how the media talks about him.

This is about neither politics nor the media.

If it were about politics, alone, I might be a Trumper. I’ve always been conservative. And pro life.

But, it’s not about politics. It’s about what comes from the man.

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When I was a pastor, if I had spoken in the manner our president too often speaks and tweets—making fun of people, berating people, belittling people—I would have been kicked out of office.

At first, I would have been given a stern talking to. If I kept it up, I would have been gone.

If I had previously held the respect of the members of my congregation, I would have lost it. I would have deserved to have lost it. The blame would have rested where it belonged: on me.

Pastors are held to high standards. A few of the biblical criteria are that ministers are to be self-controlled, gentle, with behavior that is above reproach. And don’t forget the Golden Rule, to treat others as one wants to be treated.

If pastors are to model such behavior, shouldn’t the person holding the office of President of the United States be similarly obligated?

If—the way our president has done—I called out those who perhaps could stand to lose weight, before the leaders of my congregation had a chance to corner me my wife would have asked me where my head was.

If—the way our president has done with opponents, those who no longer work for him, and even some in his own party—I referred to anyone as a clown, or a spoiled brat without a functioning brain, or a low class slob, I would not have even gotten out of the room before I was nailed for my behavior.

And if I used such language on Twitter or anywhere online, my wife Julie would have taken my phone away and blocked my internet usage the way parents have to punish their children who cannot mind their manners.

And all of the behavior that would have been unacceptable would have remained unacceptable no matter how well I ministered to my congregation, no matter how well I might have preached.

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I framed this as when I was a pastor. I’ve not been a minister for five years. But I’ve remained Julie’s husband. And my children’s father. And an Eilers. Not to mention my most important standing: Christian.

And all of the behavior that would have been unacceptable from me when I was a pastor remain unacceptable.

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People who don’t act in a respectable manner do not deserve respect.

Donald Trump too often does not speak or tweet in a respectable manner, thus I do not respect him.

He’s my president, and I respect the office he holds. I pray for him every day. I long for him to serve our nation that we might live in peace and prosper, that we might be a shining example to other nations.

I do not wish him ill, but because I do not respect him I don’t want him to be president.

I would prefer he recognize his boorish behavior for what it is. I would prefer he change the way he too often treats others.

If he were to do so, I could come to respect him as a human being.


Leave the ear buds home

I was running the Fall Creek Trail on August 16. It was a glorious morning—upper 60s, low humidity, mostly sunny—so there were a lot of walkers, runners, and bikers.

Perhaps I was hearing voices because I had just encountered the two people of whom I write in this piece.

I had already been overtaken by several bikers. Two of them were zipping along at a quick clip. I was glad to be in the stretch, which I captured in the photo, where the foliage is away from the trail and I could keep out of the way.

Signs are posted about every half mile reminding trail users to keep right. When bikers are coming up on you, it’s important for both you and them to be out of the way. Joggers, too, of course. I don’t like to have to go onto the grass—a twisted ankle is always but one misstep away—but it’s more dicey for bikers.

I saw a man ahead, walking in the direction I was running. He looked about my age. He kept drifting into the center, staying there too long, then moving back over. I noted the speaker buds in his ears. I wondered if his wandering might be due to his losing track because his concentration was in his ears.

I pondered saying something to him. Generally, I keep it to a friendly “Good morning!” But this guy had me concerned. I decided to warn him.

Coming up on him, I called out, “Excuse me, sir!” He turned, looking as if I’d caught him off guard. He offered a clunky, “Hello.” I said, “Be sure to stay to the right. There are bikes coming from behind.” He just looked at me. I kept running.

When I reached my turnaround point, I wondered if I would again encounter him. I wasn’t happy with how he reacted to my warning. I rehearsed what I might say. Sure enough, in a few minutes there he was, also having reversed course.

As I neared him, I called out, “Hello, friend!” He turned, saying nothing. “I didn’t mean to sound bossy. I was concerned for your safety.” He just looked at me. I was now past him and kept going.

I still didn’t feel good about it, but what was I going to do? I really wanted to say, “Those ear buds might get you hurt. They are distracting you. And if a biker hits you, he or she could get hurt worse than you.”

I wasn’t two minutes past him when an older woman approached. She was walking a dog. Well, she had the leash on her wrist. She actually was reading her phone.

Her dog was, you guessed it, drifting all over the trail. And, this time, I saw two bikers coming up on the woman. As I got near, I offered a friendly, “Good morning!” She looked up and returned it, so I continued, “Watch your dog. Bikers are coming up on you.” She thanked me, pulling her dog from the center of the trail.

The Fall Creek Trail is a lovely place to walk, run, or bike. It’s safe from motor vehicles, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t need to pay attention. And be a good neighbor.

Besides, have we lost the ability to be alone with our thoughts? To soak in our surroundings? To engage our minds, perhaps even using this quiet time to work out something that’s troubling us or, shoot, simply to plan the evening meal?

We whine about how busy we are. When we are out getting some fresh air and exercise, it’s the perfect opportunity to unbusy ourselves.

Enjoy the outdoors. And be smart. Leave the ear buds home and the phone in your pocket.

Meme what you say

I remain vigilant in my search for the memeing of life.

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I don’t like to stop when I am jogging, but I had to snap a pic of this. Within seconds after resuming my run, I knew what this tree was telling me.

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I bet this makes you wonder what I do to remember that I have an appointment to take my car in for servicing.

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Your bark always bites.

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Two things our mothers taught us, wrapped in one thought.

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. . . or delusional.

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I created the following after the El Paso and Dayton mass murders. The next day, my cousin—a guy whose personality matches up with my own—died after an accident at home.

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For as hard as life can be at times, I am always able to bounce back. Thus, I return to the hopeful spirit that had me create this one even as I have been mourning this week.

. . . and so can I.

So long for now, dear Kurt

Kurt’s most recent Facebook profile photo.

You know that type of person, the ones you are always glad to see. The ones who light up a room with their natural smile and witty remark. The ones with whom you can pick up a conversation as if you’d just talked the day before, even when you hadn’t seen each other for years.

My cousin, Kurt Mackey, was one of those. On August 5, the light he shined on earth went dark. In our hearts, his light will continue to radiate with the joy he brought us.

Kurt was fifty years old. On August 3, he took a spill, hitting his head. Hidden internal bleeding was the culprit that finally overwhelmed his body.

It took a lot to overwhelm Kurt’s body. He lived with diabetes. He was just a young kid when that nasty condition struck. A decade or so ago it caused him to require a kidney transplant.

I’ve known many people who are diabetic. I can’t think of a one who didn’t handle the malady with grace. The daily checking of their blood sugar. The ongoing doses of insulin. The ways in which the ailment attacks the body, one of the common evidences being what Kurt experienced with his kidneys.

If you didn’t know they were diabetic, you wouldn’t know it by their words or actions. That was Kurt.

I’m just about the last relative who should be writing about Kurt. I didn’t know him nearly well enough. What I know, I hope adds up to a fitting tribute, because what I know is that Kurt was one of those people I was always glad to see and, for how little time we spent with each other over the years, when we saw each other you’d think we hung out together all the time.

Kurt is noteworthy for me, because he is the first person in my life whose birth I specifically recall the date. It was Columbus Day, 1968. I was eleven. At the time, I told my mom that I couldn’t remember when any other cousin had been born, or even the date my youngest brother, Mark, was born. But, Kurt’s birth stuck, and never slipped from my mind.

With eleven years between us, we didn’t have a natural bond when it came to family gatherings. Yet, when he was old enough to show his keen wit, it was on display. The kid made me laugh. Sheesh, that punk was almost as funny as me.

Because I moved away, there was a long time that we didn’t see each other. Facebook reconnected us, and his goofiness, which matches up so well with my own, came through on many of his comments online, but it wasn’t until 2015 that we spent time together.

And that he gave me two hours of his time filled in everything I needed to know about him.

My sister, Sue, had undergone back surgery. She lives in Grand Rapids. I drove up from Indy to spend a couple of days with her while she was hospitalized.

As I arrived, doctors and nurses were rushing to Sue. She had suffered a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot in her lung. A huge one. Soon, her doctor revealed to Sue’s daughter, Cara, and me that she was very pessimistic that Sue was going to survive.

We kept vigil with Sue.

Kurt, and his lovely wife, Cindy, lived nearby. The third day I was there, Kurt walked into Sue’s room, his natural smile bursting from his face as his surprise entrance brought me to my feet with instant joy.

This was the day we got to know each other. Kurt showed that he knew how to hold a conversation, as we bounced questions back and forth, this one filling in how he went to college, and got married, and the work he did, and then the other having the chance to do the same.

And we laughed. That natural ability he had to find the funny aspect to you name it. He was still almost as funny as me (wink).

I’m sure I said a half dozen times, “Hey, you’ve been here awhile. I bet you need to get going.” “Nope. I don’t need to meet Cindy until…” and we kept talking.

Those were a few tough days in the hospital, not knowing whether Sue would make it and, even when she rallied, she mostly was out of it and slept. That afternoon, Kurt bridged the boredom gap for me. Thanks, bud.

Finally, there was last month. Indeed, it was exactly one month before he breathed his last and went home to the Lord. On July 5, we enjoyed a splendid reunion.

Julie and I were in my hometown of Montague for the first week of July. I posted something on Facebook about it, which our cousin, Kim, picked up. She said that a bunch of them would be in Muskegon for the weekend, for the graduation party of the daughter of yet another cousin. Kim put together a gathering, nicely enough, at my son’s pizza joint, Rebel Pies.

Here’s the gang who gathered that evening.

Kurt just can’t contain his youthful exuberance. That’s him, making the “hang loose” sign, behind me. Cindy, with her lovely smile, is to his left.

I could write plenty about each one at this hastily-arranged reunion. Indeed, I had not seen Uncle Ky, my Godfather, since we laid to rest his wife, Aunt Ginger, a quarter of a century earlier.

I hadn’t seen Kurt since that day in Sue’s hospital room. Four year’s time meant nothing. We met, we hugged, we were off and running. I tried to keep pace with his quips.

As wonderful as was being with Kurt that evening was that Cindy sat next to me. This was the first conversation I ever got to have with her. What a delight it was. I can best sum it up by quoting from her Facebook post from the evening of Kurt’s passing.

She called Kurt her best friend.

Getting to know her a month earlier, I saw why it was so. One as lovely as the other. A nicely-matched pair of human beings.

The Lord be with you, Cindy. With the spirit you showed me last month, I know you will continue to shine brightly wherever you go, in whatever you do.

Everything else I might say about Kurt—for instance, he was a fine musician—my telling pales in comparison to what his six older siblings and good friends can tell, so I will leave it to them and conclude with another thing Cindy noted when informing us of Kurt’s passing.

She rightly stated that Kurt had gone to our heavenly Father.

Because God gave His only Son to be our Savior, Kurt, you are safe in Jesus. Now, we will keep the faith that we might join you in the best reunion of all, the eternal one of Paradise with our Jesus.

The Lord Jesus is the reason I titled this piece, “So long for now, dear Kurt.”

And you, dear cousin, are the reason I will enjoy being with you, forever.

The first blare

On day six, I blew my horn.

On day five, I encountered the dog that pushed me over the edge, to equip myself in case of attack. Whence last I saw that dog, busy 46th Street was closed for construction, and he had no traffic to keep him from pursuing me from his side of the four lane road.

That day, he entered the road. I stopped, turned to him, and yelled as loud as I could, “Stop!” He stopped momentarily. As he was resuming his pursuit and I was still yelling, his owner appeared and called him back.

46th was recently reopened. The speed limit is 45 mph. When he (with both dogs in this piece, I don’t know their sex; I call both “he” because I don’t like calling a pet “it”) spied me, he went to the edge of the road, barking his lungs out. Thankfully, car after car zoomed between us, he stayed put, and my horn remained clipped to my waist.

The next day, my sixth carrying the horn, as I ran down Marilyn Street, more than five miles into my run, I recalled that a small dog sometimes runs out after me. Sure enough, there he was, and out he came.

I quickly slid the horn off my waist, put my finger on the trigger, and waited for him to approach me. As I continued to run, he got within ten feet of me. I let loose.

I gave him a one second blast.

And what did he do?

He stopped.

His ears went erect. He looked at me funny. He didn’t seem dazed, but he definitely looked confused.

Soon, I was past him and he resumed running. Now, however, he didn’t approach. He ran parallel to me, remaining on the edge of the street.

He returned to barking. I kept the horn pointed at him, my finger on the trigger.

Calmly, I kept saying to him, “Staaay. Staaay. Staaay.”

Finally, either he tired of the game or we got to his boundary (which should include the street, for Fido’s sake!). I holstered my weapon and finished my run.

Now I know the horn achieves what it advertises … at least on this dog.

I’ve vowed never to use the horn unless a dog enters the street. I’ll keep the vow but, having felt the power of my horn, I now have an itchy trigger finger.

Prayer: an ongoing conversation

This illustration pretty much captures my life!

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The morning of August 1, I was running. It was sunny. In the upper 60s. Low humidity. I was in the third mile, not yet halfway to my 6.33 total, when I put it all together.

I was feeling great. Appreciating my surroundings. Our safe neighborhood. My good health. The desire to work my body hard and the ability to do so.

I said a prayer of thanks to the Lord.

I noticed that I had already said a bunch of prayers as I ran, as I do on every run. As I do throughout every day. As comes naturally after a lifetime of practice.

And I wondered how many times a day I pray.

So I started counting.

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Before I get out of bed. I awoke at 5:15. Before moving, I say “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” then “this is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it,” and finish with Martin Luther’s morning prayer. 1.

Podcast devotion. Making the coffee, I listened to a podcast devotion. I pray with the closing prayer. 2.

Bible reading. I read the daily lectionary, concluding my reading with a prayer of thanks. 3.

Daily devotions. I read two booklets each morning. 4 & 5.

When Julie leaves for work. I try not to pray the same way every day, but my prayer generally asks for her safety on the road and that she has a good day of work. Then, I pray for all who are on the road and giving their labors for the good of the community. 6.

Breakfast. I pray before and after my meal. 7 & 8.

School buses. A bus passed our house. The first time I see one in a day, I pray, “Lord, please bless our school buses and keep safe all of their occupants.” 9.

Ready to run. Before I leave the house, I pray, “Lord, please keep me safe, strong, and smart.” 10.

Beginning my run. I again say the name of the Trinity. I say the Lord’s Prayer, pray for my family and a list of others, pray a refashioned version of Luther’s morning prayer, and conclude with either the common doxology or the “Create in Me,” or both. 11.

Roofers. I saw two men shingling a house. I prayed for them, then prayed for all who labor for us for the good of our homes. 12.

House for sale. The first yard sign I saw, I prayed, “Lord Jesus, bless all those selling their homes and those buying, that things go well for them.” 13.

Public buses. Seeing an IndyGo bus, I prayed the same as I pray for school buses. 14.

Lawn mowers. As I saw a woman mowing, I prayed, “Lord, bless her and keep her safe, and all who are laboring for their homes and families. 15.

The run. Appreciating everything about the morning, I thanked the Lord for the weather, our neighborhood, my good heath and desire to work my body, and for everything He provides for my body and soul, now and forever. 16.

Sirens. Every time I hear a siren, I pray, “Lord, bless those in their need, and those serving them.” 17.

While running. Every five minutes, my app calls out the time, my distance, and my pace. With each call, I say a prayer of thanks. When the call includes having reached the next mile, I add, “Keep me safe and strong and smart all the way, dear Lord Jesus.” 18–32.

Busy roads. Most of my running is on side streets and sidewalks. I have to cross two or three busy roads every run. This day, I had to cross Emerson and 46th twice each. I prayed for safe crossing. Twice, I had to run along 46th, in the bike lane. I run toward the traffic and keep my eyes peeled. Still, I pray for safety. 33–38.

Arriving home. I always say a prayer of thanks. 39.

Lunch. My usual prayers before and after eating. 40 & 41.

More sirens. Wherever I am, whenever I hear them, I pray. 42.

Safe son. Our youngest lives with us. He went on an errand. I prayed for his safekeeping. 43.

Garden. I checked our green beans, but they weren’t ready to pick. I noted our first two watermelons are growing. I toured the entire garden, taking pictures of tomato and green pepper plants that are heavy with fruit. I said a prayer of thanks. 44.

Julie heading home. She always texts me when she leaves work. I pray for her safety, and for all who are on the roads that they might have safe homecomings. 45.

The garage door. When I hear it move, I know someone has arrived home. I said my usual prayers of thanks when my son and Julie got home safe. 46 & 47.

Supper. The usual two prayers. At the dining room table, we pray together. 48 & 49.

And more sirens. The evening is usually busy for our ambulances and firefighters. 50–52.

Bed. I conclude my day with Luther’s evening prayer and anything specific to the day. 53.

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Our mom taught us kids to pray. The prayer I say for my family is an adaptation of the family prayer we said together before bed. As we kids grew, our parents were zealous in their faithfulness to the Lord, brought us up in it, and it grew in me. By the time I was in my twenties, I had an active prayer life.

Prayer is simply the believer speaking praises, thanks, needs, and wants to the Lord. For me, it’s an ongoing conversation—as natural to turn and talk with my Lord Jesus as turning and talking with Julie.