Monthly Archives: May 2012

Sometimes “Thank You” seems inadequate

I never served in the military, but thousands of men and women before me did.  To them, I am forever grateful.  Today I served at a funeral at the Rock Island National Cemetery.  The Rock Island National Cemetery is on an island on the Mississippi River.  When you cross the bridge you are greeted with a security gate that always has at least two uniformed guards.  When they are told that you are there for service for a veteran or a veteran’s wife, they come out of the little kiosk, snap to attention and salute all the cars that drive by.

As we drove farther onto the island and then into the cemetery, anyone that we drove by stopped what they were doing and either gave a military salute or removed their hat and put their hand over their heart.  Today, the island was particularly busy.  Workers were all over the grounds preparing for Memorial Day.  Every one of them paused as we drove by.   I’ve done many services at national cemeteries before.  All of them are emotional.   Today though, was special.  Flags lined the streets, and little flags were planted in neat rows alongside the stone markers.

When kids in my parents’ generation were graduating high school, they were thinking about going to Vietnam.  When kids in my grandparents’ generation were graduating high school, they were thinking about going to Europe or Japan.  When I graduated high school, I was thinking about going to a party to try and meet a girl.

Today I thought of the people I went to high school with that served in the military.  They served for many reasons, and because they served, I didn’t have to.  I wish I could say thank you to all of them. Today as I looked out at the lines and lines of markers, I said a prayer of thanksgiving.  I thanked God for each of those markers, men, women, husbands, and wives that gave a part of their youth.  They put everything on the line so that I could worship, speak, read, raise a family, pursue happiness, work for justice, and grow old in safety.

Sometimes “thank you” just seems inadequate.

Click here for another reflection on Memorial Day

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Rock Island National Cemetery, May 25, 2012 (Photo by Robb McCoy)


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Where the Wild Things Are

I recently wrote a guest column for  If you want to read it, CLICK HERE.  It’s a pretty good article, and a great website.  I also preached a sermon on Mother’s Day around this topic.  If you’re interested in a CD recording, please let me know in the comments. We can exchange information in a private email, and I’ll send you a CD.

Also, check out that picture of me next to the article.  I’ve lost about 35 pounds since that picture was taken.  I look a lot different now.


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A Gift For Mother’s Day

I think the dandelion should be the official flower of Mother’s Day.

I have known a lot of great Moms in my life. On Mother’s Day the custom is to give a gift to the mothers in your life.  Today, I am reflecting on the gifts that I have received from the mothers I have known.

Thank you for the gift of strength.  You showed me strength beyond measure.  You lived out the true meaning of the word fight because you were fighting not for yourself, but for your girls.  You showed me endurance when the medicine and the disease were destroying your body.  Even when the possibility of cure was gone, your spirit lived on.  You reminded me what it means to live, and revealed to me a strength that comes with the abiding presence of God.

Thank you for your gift of gentleness.  Your last words to me were, “Oh Robby, she’s beautiful,” as I lowered my newborn daughter to your side.  Hers was quite possibly the last face you saw.  It was your last gift to me, the last of many.  Thank you for the ice cream and Wheel of Fortune.  Thank you for letting “my” dog live with you.  Thank you letting me help you with your word searches.  Thank you for giving me a glimpse of the Kingdom when I sat at your table, and revealing to me the aroma of heaven.

Thank you for showing me how to dance – even on the table if the occasion required it.  Thank you for loving me as your own and showing me what it means to be a friend.  Thank you for dividing my sorrow and multiplying my joy.  Thank you for the s’mores around the fire in the summer, and the songs of love and family around the fire at Christmas.  Thank you for providing a place I knew I would always be welcome.

Thank you for your gift of support.  Thank you for believing in me even when I didn’t believe in myself.  You weren’t just my biggest fan.  For most of my life I thought that you were my only fan.  Thank you for helping me get back on my bike after I ‘fell off’ (we’ll just leave it at that), and for giving me lunch money when I forgot mine at home.  Thanks for teaching me to hail to the orange, for the letters, and for the surprise boxes of cookies in the mail.  I promise when I finally write my book, you’ll get the first copy.

Thank you for your gift of faith.  Thank you, not just for bringing me to church, but for living with Christ.  Thank you for loving Dad more than anything, and for loving God more.  Thank you for birthing in me a God-given vision, and for guiding me gently as I learned to see it for myself.  Thank you for buying me the watch I wanted – the one with the tiny little buttons that was so impractical.  Thank you for buying another one when I lost the first one.  Thanks for letting me tight roll my pants even though you knew I looked ridiculous.  Thanks for the sawbucks on Friday nights, and for staying up for me.  Thanks for letting me grow.  Thanks for letting me go.  I know someday I’ll have to do the same, and I pray that I can do it with the same amount of grace that you showed.

Thank you for your gift of forgiveness, grace, and love.  You make me a better person every day.  Your forgiveness reveals to me the grace of our God, and I know that the Holy Spirit has bound us with cords that cannot be broken.  Together we are more than we could ever be apart.  You have given me purpose, and you have given me two girls that fill my world.  When I see you read to them, play with them, laugh with them, snuggle them, correct them, and teach them I see the grace of God.  Even when I’m awfully low and when the world is cold, I feel aglow just thinking of you.  And I remain deeply, hopelessly, endlessly in love with you.

Thanks Mom.  Or should I say, “Thanks Moms.”  I’ve been loved by a lot of Moms in my life.  They’ve given me so much.  I hope you like this dandelion bouquet.

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Other FP links about Moms:

Yo Momma’s So Nice jokes

The legacy of the founders of Mother’s Day

A letter to my Mom before being ordained

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Journey to Hope: Suffering

This sixth and final installment of  Journey to Hope, is about a topic that usually doesn’t make us think about hope.  It is suffering.  Is there hope in suffering?

The video that I shared above is a very interesting conversation between the regular Journey to Hope hosts and a chaplain that works in hospice care.  In the course of the conversation with Cathy Chalmers, I was reminded of the power of presence.  While in the midst of suffering, many search for questions.  There is a tendency to want to provide easy answers.  It is much more difficult, and I believe much more faithful, to allow someone to remain in the questions.  To walk with someone in their trial is something I wrote one of my first blogs about.  You can read it here.

Another important thing I took from this conversation is the difference between healing and cure.  It might not be a difference that many people acknowledge, but it is vitally important to know that there is a difference between being healed and being cured.  I’d even argue that they are mutually exclusive.
For there to be true hope in the face of suffering, there must be a chance for healing.  Cure can be temporary.  Healing is eternal.  Suffering can take many forms.  Sickness, disease, poverty, hunger, despair, loneliness.  It is all suffering.  It is all pain.  In the midst of suffering, hope can seem very far away.  There are many times in life when cure and healing seem to overlap.  If you are hungry, the cure is food.  If you are sick, a cure is health.  Yet seeking cure is sometimes treating a symptom.

Healing comes from the source of life.  Bread may cure someone’s hunger, but they will inevitably be hungry again.  Healing comes from the bread of life, which is eternal.  Medicine may cure someone’s sickness, but all medicine – no matter how effective – is simply a stall tactic.  Healing comes from embracing life eternal.  Healing comes from the Holy Spirit that makes all things new.

I have seen people die of cancer that were never cured, but were truly healed.  I have seen the spirit of someone facing death with courage, hope, and grace.  That kind of strength doesn’t need a cure to live.  That kind of strength comes from knowing the value of life.

It is possible to be healed without cure.  It is possible to have peace in the face of death.  That kind of peace comes from knowing that life was lived to its fullest.  That life was spent in loving relationships.  That life was spent in service to God and to humanity.

That kind of peace comes from knowing that this breath is the only one that matters.  That right now life matters.  Right now it is possible to love, laugh, embrace, teach, and inspire.  Right now is all that any of us have.

That kind of peace comes from the assurance that right now isn’t all there is.  It comes from knowing that the tomb was empty.  It comes from knowing that death cannot hold the human soul.  It comes from knowing that Christ died with us and will rise with us.

I have been a witness to that kind of peace.  That gives me hope.  I have seen the good news and I know that kind of peace is available to all.  Suffering may not be cured, but healing is offered to all.

I am a witness to hope.


Week One: Relationships

Week Two: Self-Esteem

Week Three: Work

Week Four: Temptation

Week Five: Money

Hope can come in the form of God’s presence.

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There will be no elephants at our Elephant Wash #ChangeTheWorld

On May 19, 2012, we’re having an Elephant Wash.  There won’t be any elephants (I asked the people at the zoo, and they said ‘”no”).  Instead, the elephant wash will be full of kids and youth reaching out to their community.  I’m hoping that there will be lots of cars and lots of generous people willing to buy lemonade.  The Elephant Wash is Riverside United Methodist Church’s entry into Change the World Saturday.

A few months ago the kids at Riverside United Methodist Church picked a community outreach project.  They decided that they wanted to help the local zoo build a new habitat for their elephants.  The kids of our church love the Niabi Zoo, and they really got excited about helping with the zoo’s efforts to raise $4 million for a new elephant habitat.  We are going to have a car wash and encourage people to make a donation.  Before the car wash, someone from the zoo is going to come and do an educational session with the kids and volunteers.  The zoo is also going to donate a painting for the silent auction.  The artist will be one of the elephant residents of the zoo.  Is an elephant wash going to change the world?

It depends on what you mean by that.  At the very least, it will help the zoo take care of two of God’s amazing creatures.  And it could do a lot more.  It could help our kids learn how it feels to serve others.  It could teach them to be disciples of Jesus by spending their time in fellowship and service.  It could start a conversation with someone that didn’t know anything about Riverside Church.   It could transform the heart of someone that thinks that churches aren’t interested in the community.

If you click here to search for a Change the World event, you can enter 61265 into the zip code, and see ours.  Or you can put in your own zip code and see an event near you.  You can register and volunteer right now, and your name and email will be sent to the organizers of the event.  It is easy to argue that one event at one church couldn’t make much of an impact.  What about 1500 events involving over 20,000 people?  As of right now, that is how many people and churches are getting behind this movement.  20,000 people are rethinking what it means to be church.  And that can indeed change the world.

Change the World weekend is a project of United Methodist Church across the connection coming together for two days of community action.  Many of the projects support Imagine No Malaria, an initiative to eradicate malaria deaths through education, treatment, net distribution, and training; but Change the World is not about a single cause.

Change the World is about churches coming together for a day to get out of the church.  It is about rethinking what it means to “do church.”  It is about helping people to think about church as a verb instead of a noun.  Church can be something we do, not just somewhere we go.

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