My favorite place in Jerusalem was the Western Wall, sometimes incorrectly called the “Wailing Wall.” In Hebrew, it’s Kotel — it rhymes with motel.

I used to go to the Kotel to pray and leave messages for God.


I loved the approach to the Temple mount. I would stand for a while, looking down at it from the approaching steps, trying to form an image of what it must have looked like when it was the hill where God talked to Isaac, where God said that He would never again ask for another human sacrifice.

So what was with all the war and massacre and death? Doesn’t that count?

Then I would walk down the stone steps to the wall and get as close as I could get, so my nose grazed the Wall. I would lay my cheek and the palms of my hands flat against it and feel the humming of power in those ancient stones.

Western wall overview

From close up, you see the messages, tens of thousands of messages rolled tightly into tiny scrolls tucked in the crevices between the rocks. Every kind of prayer, every kind of message, all on tiny folded pieces of paper, cradled by giant stones.

Tucked between the stones were all the prayers, hopes, fears, and gratitude of people who came to this special place to leave a messages for God.

The Wall talks to you and says “You can leave your message here. God always checks his messages and He will get back to you.”

I always brought a message and tucked it into the stones. I knew God would read my message and get back to me. As surely as I knew Jerusalem is the center of the universe and closer to Heaven than any place on earth, I knew I lived down the street from his message center. If every prayer is heard, prayers left at this address got to Him sooner.

western wall with notes

There were groups of rabbis who spent their lives praying at the Wall. For a small fee, they would pray for you. If you believe there is a special potency to the prayers of pious men, the rabbis of the Kotel were worth a donation. They didn’t ask for much – whatever you could afford and for your money, you got a prayer specialist to put the word in for you.

I probably went to the Kotel more than a hundred times over the years, but I most remember one day above all others. I went that day because my mother was dying. I wanted to ask God to give my mother and I some time together.

It seemed pointless to pray for her cancer to be cured. It had spread too far, had invaded too much. I knew it was her time. I accepted death, even my mother’s, but a little time didn’t seem too much to ask.

I bought prayers from the rabbis, then went to the Wall and left my message among the stones.

More than thirty years have passed, but I bet my message is still there, exactly where I left it. With all the other messages left for God in the Western Wall at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.


What is Salvation But the Salvage of Your Soul?

Someone asked a pastor with whom I am acquainted (online) if he had any proof that praying on the Internet accomplished anything. He said “No. The prayer is really for you!”

Still and all, the last time we went to church — a pretty long time ago, I admit — this is pretty much how it went.



PASTOR: “Praise the Lord!”

CONGREGATION: “Hallelujah!”

PASTOR: “Will everyone please turn on their tablet, PC, iPad, smartphone, and Kindle Bibles to 1 Corinthians, 13:13. Also, please switch on your Bluetooth to download the sermon.”

(P-a-u-s-e … )

PASTOR: “Now, Let us pray to commit this week into God’s hands. Open your Apps, Twitter and Facebook, and chat with God”

(S-i-l-e-n-c-e … )

PASTOR: “As we take our Sunday tithes and offerings, please have your credit and debit cards ready. You can log on to the church wi-fi using the password Lord-131. The ushers will circulate mobile card swipe machines among the worshipers. Those who prefer to make electronic fund transfers are directed to computers and laptops at the rear of the church. If you want to use your iPad, please open them. Those of you who use telephone banking, you can take out your cell phones to transfer contributions to the church account.”

(The holy atmosphere of the Church becomes electrified as smartphones, iPads, PCs, and laptops beep and flicker.)


DEACON: Thank you all for being here today. Remember this week’s ministry meetings will be held on the various Facebook group pages where the usual group chatting takes place. Please log in and don’t miss out! Thursday’s Bible study will be held live on Skype at 19:00 GMT. Let’s see your face too! You can follow Pastor on Twitter this week #PastorCounsel for counseling and prayer.

God bless and have a great day.

I don’t know why, but we felt so out-of-place. We didn’t know whether to gasp, laugh, or cry … or maybe, all three.

WorseI forgot my smartphone!


I hear a lot of complaining about aging. Some of it is coming from me, so I admit in advance, I sometimes forget to be grateful I’m alive. Getting old ain’t fun, but not getting old is less fun.

Ghoulie at Gettysburg

Age brings financial limitations, aches, pains, and indigestion. On the plus side, it brings an end to commuting, doing whatever your boss tells you because you need the paycheck, and never having time for yourself. Being alive offers significant advantages over being dead. Which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only alternative to growing old.

dark cemetary

I think we are most afraid of age when we aren’t old yet, but see it coming. Most of the bewailing and bewhining about getting old doesn’t come from old people. It comes from middle-aged folks who feel they are quite old enough, thank you, and could we please just stop this aging nonsense? Can’t things stay put?

Not really.

The good news is the fear of getting old is much worse than being old. When you get to whatever age you have defined as officially “old,” probably when you retire or sign up for whatever your country gives to those who no longer work, old turns out to be life, minus going to work.

Just a continuation of life. There’s no sign saying “WELCOME TO OLD, A REALLY BIG TOWN.”

Old House in Hadley

Many of friends and family members died younger than I am now. A lot younger. There’s little point in agonizing about what might happen. Worry doesn’t change anything, but it sure sucks the joy out of now. The worst part of all the stressing over possible future disasters is we worry about the wrong stuff. Inevitably, what actually happens isn’t what we worried about. It’s something we never expected, for which we are utterly unprepared.

Someone quotable said that in this secular age, worry has taken the place of prayer. I don’t know whether or not prayer was ever effective at preventing bad stuff from happening, but I’m sure worry isn’t.

In the long haul — if you’re lucky enough to have a long haul — there will be sufficient real problems to keep you busy. You don’t need to worry about stuff that may never happen. Figure out what to do about the crisis when and if it happens. Otherwise, enjoy what you can.


I gave up worrying sometime around the time I got the second cancer diagnosis. Clearly, the whole worry thing had failed. It was time to try a different approach.

I recommend living in the moment. Try it. You’ll see.

I don’t mind getting old. I resent being sick and hate being poor. On the positive side, I’m alive to complain about it. A lot of folks I used to know cannot say the same. They can’t say anything. That’s the down side of being dead.

Getting old, with all its hazards, will always beat getting dead.


His 20’s seemed like an absolutely magical time.  Bobby began them with frequent social activities with his high school and college friends.  There was softball, touch football and sometimes bowling.  There were concerts and plays.  There were house parties and gatherings at local sports bars.  Every weekend was an adventure and Bobby was a willing participant in all of it.  If nothing was happening on a given weekend, Bobby would organize something.  He would have people over for a beer tasting event and purchase several different types for people to taste and judge.  He would gather up a group to watch an important sports event at a neighborhood bar.  He would organize a group to go to an Oktoberfest or other festival.  Bobby would not let a weekend go by without something happening.  In this regard, Bobby was quite dependable.


As he reached the end of his twenties Bobby found it a little more difficult to keep the parties going.  Some friends married, started families and were not free every weekend for a Bobby social event.  Others moved away and were no longer nearby to jump into neighborhood activities.  And some were just tired of the Bobby social calendar which began to rely more on drinking in bars than anything else.  Bobby, however, did not slow down and always found someone to participate in his weekend outings, but the numbers had dwindled and Bobby could no longer command the attention of his many friends.

As he marched into his 30’s the lack of friends was barely noticed by Bobby.  He continued his assault on neighborhood bars.  The bartenders of his favorite places knew his name and usually had his beer poured by the time he sat down.  Regular patrons of these bars knew Bobby by name as well.  This made Bobby feel at home whenever he went out to the bars.  It was nice to have friends here, he frequently thought.  It did not dawn on him that all these people were just drinking acquaintances and not really friends, until he reached his middle 30’s.

By that time he found all the partying was wearing him down.  He was no longer in the fine athletic shape he enjoyed when he was just twenty-one.  He did not participate in sports or work out as he once did.  Bobby was handsome and had been quite desirable to many of the young women and perhaps even to some of the guys when he was 30 pounds lighter.  He had paid no mind to that, however, as the social calendar was the most important part of Bobby’s week.  There is no telling why Bobby did not, or could not, develop real friendships.  He was totally clueless as to the reason all the friends he had 15 years earlier drifted away from him.  Perhaps he had drifted away from them.

Headaches and hangovers became the frequent companions to the rapidly approaching middle age Bobby.  It was starting to take him all week to recover from one weekend so he could start up again on the next weekend.  He had taken notice of that and started to give serious thought to getting into better shape.  “I really need to start working out again,” was the thought that began filling his week days.  As a result he joined a health club and actually made a few week day stops there, but his run down feeling generally prevented him from becoming a frequent patron of the club he passed every weekday on his way home from work.

When he was not too hung over, Bobby resumed going to church on Sundays.  It was a practice he abandoned in his early 20’s, since it just did not fit his social calendar.  Now he was asking for guidance.  He desired to change his lifestyle and felt he needed God’s help to do that.  So he prayed often but with little result.  On several Sundays a month he now begged and pleaded with God to help him break free of the cycle of drinking and partying and replace it with something meaningful.  Bobby was smart enough to realize that the weekend bar hopping would never just end without something else to do, and Bobby could not imagine what that might be.

Finally Bobby decided to give up the weekend outings when the New Year came for as long as he possibly could, with or without God’s help.  He figured a New Year’s resolution to stop the weekend madness until at least St. Patrick’s Day would be a great idea.  With a little perseverance, he might give up drinking for lent too.  Imagine no weekend outings until past Easter.  Actually, Bobby could not imagine that but he thought he might give it a try.  While this might seem a reasonable resolution, it terrified Bobby.  He thought he might go stir-crazy during the party break.

Since Bobby had planned that New Year’s Eve was the last night out for a while, he was disappointed to learn there would be a lot of snow.  He ultimately decided not to go out in a storm and he watched New Year’s Rockin’ Eve instead.  It brought back memories of old Dick Clark counting down the old year.  “There are too many drunks on the road anyway.  I can go out anytime.”  So the new year started on a new note.

When the next weekend came, arctic cold arrived to dissuade Bobby from going anywhere but home on the weekend.  As a mater of fact, January had settled into a pattern of snowfalls and subzero temperatures.  Each time Bobby was tempted to go out, he feared losing his nice parking spot on the snowy street or being stuck in sub-zero weather.  By the third weekend, he wanted to hit the local sports bar for the play off games, but the deep snow and bitter cold forced Bobby to reconsider such a plan.  Now all Bobby was seeing was his apartment, his workplace and the snowy roads in between.  After many weeks of this unusual weather pattern, Bobby began to wonder why God was torturing people with the snow and cold.  Surely something was wrong that the awful weather did not just go on for a few days or even a few weeks, because now it had gone on for over a month.

On a February Sunday, Bobby felt pretty good and decided to return to church.  Weather had forced him away from church as well as the bars.  He hardly got out at all for weeks, and then just to the store for a little shopping.  Bobby felt he should point out to the Lord that his weather was keeping Bobby away from church.  Although he did not really expect God to answer, he thought he would just ask him what is up with that.  So he started down the right aisle of the big old church and went half way up toward the front where he picked out a seat he had often chosen.  “Well?” Bobby said to God once he sat down.  He stared at the large stained glass window behind the altar for several minutes before Bobby realized that God had indeed answered his prayers.