One Grandfather’s Take on Marijuana

“Evil thrives on apathy and cannot exist without it.” Hannah Arendt

            Today is my birthday. I’m now 61 years old. I couldn’t have imagined, as a kid, that I’d be this old. But here I am – a husband for 38 years, a father of three precocious daughters, and, of all things, a grandfather of four boys. As a kid, I was largely clueless about a lot of things, which is the way it’s supposed to be. But, as an adult, if we aren’t aware of what’s happening – especially because of indifference – well then, we have the beginnings of real evil.

            The State of Wisconsin, the place I have lived for the past thirteen years, now stands out as what I describe as a marijuana desert. In every state of the union, either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana, or both, are now legal. But not Wisconsin. State Republican House Speaker, Robin Vos, has stated multiple times, “We are looking to say medical marijuana for people who have a truly awful long-term medical condition should be something we at least consider…. I don’t think recreational should ever happen.”

            My grandson is thirteen years old, and has had epilepsy his entire life. Every time my little buddy is hooked up to an EEG (used to measure the electrical activity of the brain, via electrodes applied to the scalp) the data shows that he, at times, experiences as many as three seizures per minute. 

Granted, they are rarely the grand mal, big-daddy-of-them-all, kind of seizures. Nevertheless, they are still seizures. The best pediatric doctors in the Midwest for this kind of thing tell us something that doctors aren’t prone to say, that they are stumped. Little buddy experiences up to seven different kinds of seizures, and he has defied any kind of solid diagnosis as to the nature of the epilepsy, let alone even thinking about a prognosis – other than that, if unchecked, he will not live to see adulthood. 

Yes, he is on medication – lots of it – with unimaginable side effects. Yet, without the meds, he would be having literally hundreds of seizures in any given day. Even on a good day, he has dozens. And even though most of his seizures last only a few seconds, each and every seizure damages the brain, if only a little bit. Add up the thousands of seizures over the span of a thirteen year old life, and factor the tens of thousands of them he will yet have in the next years and it, in my puny limited understanding, doesn’t look promising no matter how you examine it.

            When supposedly well-meaning politicians, pundits, religious folk, and faith communities rant about the ethics and morality of ungodly “potheads” having a legal avenue for their recreational smoking, what gets lost in the mix are children and families who could potentially be helped by legalizing marijuana – by a carefully genetically engineered strain administered medically and safely. 

In this grandfather’s mind (and heart) the greater risk is to keep doing what we’ve always done and hope that all will work out okay someday. When it pertains to a child’s life – that kind of thinking doesn’t cut it for me. It’s nothing more than the banality of evil, of keeping some political constituents happy, above thinking about the life of human beings in your own backyard.

            As a Christian Pastor, encountering this kind of ignorance amongst both politicians and parishioners is nothing new. Far too many of my denominational meetings have been given to angry persons upset about abortion and gays. Whereas there are those who believe this country is, in the words of one man, “trampling our Constitution and we are being judged as a nation for killing babies.” 

Without me even attempting to deal with any rightness or wrongness to that statement, the only kind of good that that kind of proclamation did was personal to the proclaimer – he just got something off his chest, and maybe he felt better for it. But I was left wondering: What about women who have had an abortion?  I cannot even begin to imagine that if there was a woman in the room who had an abortion in the past having to sit and listen to a guy put a label on her as a murderer. There is enough regret and grief in many a woman’s own heart without having someone twist the knife for her.

            There is a reason why many people often do not want others to know what they really think about certain issues, and why they want to keep all their skeletons in the closet. They do not want to be judged and condemned, and they have every reason to think that they will be – whenever they hear the raving of “Christians” who believe they are doing God a favor by effecting holiness through noise. 

It is imperative that we all, especially the Church, do the best we possibly can in order to create and sustain a culture of compassion and care through continual monitoring of what actually comes out of our mouths. When there are oft mentions of “the sin of homosexuality,” peppered with defamation upon LGBTQ+ folks; whenever there is a stream of hateful references to particular persons in poverty, or groups of black and brown people; and, when there is a blanket denunciation of marijuana as always being linked with persons getting high; then there is not an atmosphere of grace that leads to life, but a culture of fear that leads to death.

            Where some see the “issues” of gay marriage and transgendered inclusion, I see people created in the image of God who have the same needs of respect and equality that I do. Where some see political “issues,” I see persons in need of God’s justice and peace and basic human rights and decency.  Where some see the “issues” of poor lower class people versus upper class wealthy people; or Latin concerns versus Black concerns; or blue collar people’s agenda versus white collar people’s agenda; or plain (white) Americans versus all the other hyphenated Americans; instead, I see people – people in need of grace, mercy, and peace, just like me, who need a seat at the table and are heard in their own right with listening ears from me.

            My daughter needs support with her special needs son who happens to have epilepsy.  I am glad I can be there for her and for him. I am glad my church and many others care about them. This old sinful world has enough shame and pain in it without adding to the pile through ignorance and strife. Before we use our tongues, let’s have some working knowledge and some basic education about what we are talking about.  Most of all, let’s have some basic decorum and some working knowledge of God’s grace.

            So, this grandfather says to those in political power: “Do you consider this situation of a young boy with a terminal condition of epilepsy acceptable?” Evidently so since lawmakers have purposely dragged their feet for years about medical marijuana. There are times when individuals need to be called out, and a situation must be named for what it is. This grandfather, for one, is calling out the Wisconsin legislature, along with Speaker Vos, and naming this for what it is: indifference to human suffering.

            As of today, it is unfortunately too late for my grandson to have any significant assistance from medical marijuana in the form of cannabis oil for his condition. His epilepsy has come too far, and his brain has simply had far too many seizures. The hard reality is that, apart from a miraculous divine intervention, my grandson (who, I might add, is one of the nicest people of any age you’ll ever meet) will likely never see adulthood. But that wasn’t true 10 years ago, when I was writing letters and, evidently, speaking into the wilderness – getting form letter responses, if any response, at all.

            The time for consideration is past. Debate the “issue” of marijuana all you want. Meanwhile, there are people in Wisconsin who live with chronic pain and have to cross state lines just to get some help and a bit of relief from their chronic conditions. It is not supposed to be this way. And it does not have to be this way. Never mind that medical marijuana has been shown to significantly reduce and even eliminate some seizures in children. Ears have been stopped up and eyes wide shut for so long that hearts have become hard – and cannot even have compassion on children who are, frankly and literally, dying.

            There is a biblical proverb which states, “People who respect others will be blessed, but stubborn people will have plenty of troubles.” (Proverbs 28:14) We expect kids to be immature. And we expect the adults in the room to have the requisite growth over a period of time in order to make wise, responsible, and mature decisions. It looks like there are lot of politicians in need of remedial learning. Their stubbornness has already led to too much trouble for all of us.

*The Epilepsy Foundation exists to lead the fight to overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and to accelerate therapies to stop seizures, find cures, and save lives. For more information, you may go to their website at

**To learn more about epilepsy in Wisconsin, go to their website at

***For information on medical marijuana and epilepsy:

Submission Is an Attitude (1 Peter 2:13-17)

For the sake of the Lord submit yourselves to every human authority: to the Emperor, who is the supreme authority, and to the governors, who have been appointed by him to punish the evildoers and to praise those who do good. For God wants you to silence the ignorant talk of foolish people by the good things you do. Live as free people; do not, however, use your freedom to cover up any evil, but live as God’s slaves. Respect everyone, love other believers, honor God, and respect the Emperor. (Good News Translation)

Submission is a word a lot of people would like to do without. And that’s understandable. We’ve all likely had the experience of being under the authority of someone who either didn’t know what they were doing, or who gaslighted us, took advantage of us, and maybe was even downright mean and nasty toward us. What’s more, it’s hard to obey someone or some institution who we aren’t quite sure has our best interests at mind.

And then there’s an association with the word “submission” as being forced to do something you don’t want to do. That sort of understanding of submission is actually slavery and oppression, not submission.

Simply put, to submit is the informed and willing choice to place oneself under the authority of another. If it isn’t a willing and informed choice, then it’s either manipulation or coercion by another.

The Apostle Peter was referring to submitting to human authority by a volitional choice of our will. And what he was encouraging believers to do was no small thing.

The Roman Empire was an ancient behemoth. At the time of Peter’s writing, the Romans were firmly in charge of Palestine – Gentile rule in a Jewish land – and they did not take kindly to any ideas of rebellion. The Jews wanted their own autonomy and rule. To be subject to the Romans was, for many, humiliating and unacceptable.

So, why in the world should anyone willingly choose to submit to an empire that doesn’t align with their values, aspirations, and goals in life?

Peter made it clear why: Submission helps clear away the obstacles to freedom (both personal and corporate) and doesn’t give the persons in authority a reason to speak or act foolishly.

It’s hard to submit; it’s not an easy thing to do. Yet, if we will continually connect submission with why we are doing it, this helps us persevere, especially under leadership which is less than stellar.

The real issue is how we deal with unwanted circumstances in our lives. Although we didn’t ask for many of the unfortunate situations in life, our response to them is critical, and makes all the difference.

“Evil is changed into good when it is received in patience through the love of God; while good is changed into evil when we become attached to it through the love of self. True good lies only in detachment, and abandonment to God. You are now in the trial; put yourself confidently and without reserve into his hand.”

François Fénelon, Let Go: To Get Peace and Real Joy

Admittedly, it is maddening when an injustice is done to us, or we observe someone else experiencing something they don’t deserve. Unjust actions and words perpetrated against us are out of our control. What is, however, within our control is our response. We can choose how to react in each and every situation we face.

“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.”

Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

We, indeed, have a range of responses we may choose from: We can react in passive-aggressive anger, become sullen and morose, stuff all our emotions down and ignore them, lash out and verbally attack; or we can choose to accept the situation for what it is (and not what we want it to be) and submit ourselves to God.

All of you must put on the apron of humility, to serve one another; for the scripture says, “God resists the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, then, under God’s mighty hand, so that he will lift you up in his own good time. Leave all your worries with him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:5-7, GNT)

Submission to God often comes in the form of submitting to the human authorities in our lives – even when those persons and institutions over us are imperfect. Systemic evil isn’t changed by our response of perpetrating even more evil back upon them. Rather, unjust structures are transformed through godly persons choosing to work within the system to do good, not harm, and to love, not hate.

Christian freedom is never a matter of simply doing whatever the heck you want to do, regardless of how it impacts anyone else. Our freedom is in the ability to make choices about what sort of attitude we are going to have in all the circumstances of life we encounter.

Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or from a cheap desire to boast, but be humble toward one another, always considering others better than yourselves. And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:

He always had the nature of God,
    but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God.
Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had,
    and took the nature of a servant.
He became like a human being
    and appeared in human likeness.
He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death—
    his death on the cross. (Philippians 2:3-8, GNT)

Therefore, what we’re left with is the willing choice to alter our own life, instead of continually trying to make everyone else change. It comes down to showing respect for all humanity, honoring God with our attitudes, and loving our sisters and brothers in the faith who face the same sorts of challenges we do.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Viktor Frankl

Be safe. Be strong. Be spiritual. We are all in this life together.

Dealing with Denial (Jeremiah 32:1-9, 36-41)

The Lord spoke to me in the tenth year that Zedekiah was king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year that Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylonia. At that time, the Babylonian army had surrounded Jerusalem, and I was in the prison at the courtyard of the palace guards. Zedekiah had ordered me to be held there because I told everyone that the Lord had said:

I am the Lord, and I am about to let the king of Babylonia conquer Jerusalem. King Zedekiah will be captured and taken to King Nebuchadnezzar, who will speak with him face to face. Then Zedekiah will be led away to Babylonia, where he will stay until I am finished with him. So, if you people of Judah fight against the Babylonians, you will lose. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Later, when I was in prison, the Lord said:

Jeremiah, your cousin Hanamel, the son of your uncle Shallum, will visit you. He must sell his field near the town of Anathoth, and because you are his nearest relative, you have the right and the responsibility to buy it and keep it in the family.

Hanamel came, just as the Lord had promised. And he said, “Please buy my field near Anathoth in the territory of the Benjamin tribe. You have the right to buy it, and if you do, it will stay in our family.”

The Lord had told me to buy it from Hanamel, and so I did. The price was 17 pieces of silver, and I weighed out the full amount on a scale….

Jeremiah, what you said is true. The people of Jerusalem are suffering from hunger and disease, and so the king of Babylonia will be able to capture Jerusalem.

I am angry with the people of Jerusalem, and I will scatter them in foreign countries. But someday I will bring them back here and let them live in safety. They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will make their thoughts and desires pure. Then they will realize that, for their own good and the good of their children, they must worship only me. They will even be afraid to turn away from me. I will make an agreement with them that will never end, and I won’t ever stop doing good things for them. With all my heart I promise that they will be planted in this land once again. (Contemporary English Version)

Denial is a powerful mental force.

Disaster was about to befall Jerusalem and its inhabitants. Few were prepared for what was ahead. But they should have been ready. That’s because the prophet Jeremiah repeatedly told the king and the people about their need to live in justice and righteousness.

The dominant belief within the city was that judgment would never come to them. The people looked at their covenant with the Lord, and the presence of the temple, as some sort of rabbit’s foot or insurance policy that would keep invading armies at bay.

But they were in denial about what was actually occurring. The people lived as they wanted, giving Yahweh some temple time and a bit of worship, but then turned around and also worshiped other gods. Furthermore, they exploited the poor, took advantage of the needy, and engaged in unscrupulous business practices. So, the prophet Jeremiah was given a message by God to the people:

I brought you here to my land,
    where food is abundant,
but you made my land filthy
    with your sins.
The priests who teach my laws
    don’t care to know me.
Your leaders rebel against me;
your prophets
    give messages from Baal
    and worship false gods….

You, my people, have sinned
    in two ways—
you have rejected me, the source
    of life-giving water,
and you’ve tried to collect water
in cracked and leaking pits
    dug in the ground. (Jeremiah 2:7-8, 14, CEV)

The message was repeatedly ignored, along with warnings of judgment, if the people did not change their errant ways. The city’s denial was palpable, holding the false belief that the Babylonians could never take them, and that God was on their side.

Pay attention, people of Judah! Change your ways and start living right, then I will let you keep on living in your own country. Don’t fool yourselves! My temple is here in Jerusalem, but that doesn’t mean I will protect you. I will keep you safe only if you change your ways and are fair and honest with each other. Stop taking advantage of foreigners, orphans, and widows. Don’t kill innocent people. And stop worshiping other gods. Then I will let you enjoy a long life in this land I gave your ancestors. (Jeremiah 7:3-7, CEV)

The antidote to denial is acceptance – not necessarily accepting that a situation is okay, fine, or right – but that the situation is actually there; it’s true, and I’ve got to face it as it is, and not as I want it to be.

The Babylonians were at the city gate. Yet, even then, Jeremiah was getting the stiff arm from King Zedekiah and was in prison for preaching sedition. Nobody wanted to face the music – that a funeral dirge was about to play. But they needed to own up to what was happening and why they were in such a position.

It’s a sad scene. It’s hard to watch, whenever others refuse to listen, knowing what will happen if they keep to their denial. There were some things Jeremiah did and didn’t do when he was in this awkward and precarious position.

Jeremiah did not:

  • Give up and/or shut up. He didn’t give in to the temptation of being frustrated, throwing up his hands, and walking away; and he didn’t adopt their denial and stop talking.
  • Manipulate by resorting to shaming the people, or using Machiavellian tactics to force or leverage repentance out of them.
  • Say, “I told you so!” In fact, he did just the opposite; he grieved and lamented the unchanged hearts and the destruction which did happen.

Jeremiah did:

  • Connect with both God and the people. He was able to differentiate himself from the situation, while at the same time, remaining connected as a voice to the people.
  • Accept his role as prophet. He took responsibility for himself and his own particular calling – and nothing more than that. He focused on what needed to be said and done in the moment, and left the rest to God.
  • Kept living his life. He went and bought a relative’s field, keeping the land in the family, knowing he was still going to have a life after such devastation.

The Lord, as the Good Shepherd, isn’t going to herd cats – so we must follow as the sheep who trust in the Lord’s voice and actions, to say and do what we most need to hear and obey.

Just and right God, you invite us to give ourselves in service to others, equipped with justice and righteousness. Be with me as I choose each day to reflect your divine presence in our world. Give me the courage and generosity to respond to your love, and to your call. May all your people speak your message with bravery, humility, and skill. Open the minds and hearts of those in denial — that they may accept you and your words. Amen.

Learn to Live Well (Micah 7:18-20)

The Prophet Micah exhorting the Israelites to repent by Gustave Doré (1832-1883)

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity
    and passing over the transgression
    of the remnant of his possession?
He does not retain his anger forever
    because he delights in showing steadfast love.
He will again have compassion upon us;
    he will tread our iniquities under foot.
You will cast all our sins
    into the depths of the sea.
You will show faithfulness to Jacob
    and steadfast love to Abraham,
as you have sworn to our ancestors
    from the days of old. (New Revised Standard Version)

In a world obsessed with constant and rapid change, it is refreshing to know that there is a God whose essential character, attributes, and way of being in the world never changes.

The Lord is a God who is faithful, always keeping divine promises to people. God is pleased to show steadfast love and kindness through extending forgiveness. And because the Lord values pardoning human transgressions, God always looks sin square in the eye – not ever sugarcoating iniquities – and puts it down like a rabid animal.

In the prophet Micah’s day, the social and communal sins of the people were legion, leading to a great deal of injustice. Wealthy landowners creatively and unjustly seized property in order to feed their continual greed for more; false prophets went about preaching a positive future of peace, even though the poor became poorer through no fault of their own; and the nation’s leaders abused their power by fleecing the people of what little they had to begin with.

In short, dishonest business practices, dressed up by leadership as the path to prosperity, stirred up the just and right indignation of God. An assurance of pardon comes, yet only after there is confession of sin.

In this present contemporary era, we have our own legion of social sins which must be identified, confronted, confessed, expiated, and replaced with virtues that foster life and happiness.

Today’s way of doing business – whether in the corporate world and even in many faith communities – is to embrace an unholy ethic of more, faster, and better.

“Wait,” you may push back, “that doesn’t sound to me like anything bad.” And I would respond by saying that this is evidence of how far into our sin we have become, that we cannot distinguish our unjust practices from legitimate just practices.

Behind many contemporary business “ethics” are compulsions to beat the competition at all cost, obsessions with more money, and a lust for power and control. These are not practices helping people to live well.


In ancient Egypt, Pharaoh’s massive industrial complex was built on more – more pyramids and buildings, more wealth, more power and influence. Behind the “more” is usually old-fashioned greed. We want more market share, more numbers, more options and opportunities, more control.

Yet, what if the people doing the “more” are already tired, weary, and have given what they can? Like the Israelite slaves in Egypt, making more bricks translated to more wealth. And if it takes a literal whip to make them do more, then so be it.

Many modern workers put up with the “more” mantra only because they need their jobs and fear losing them if they don’t keep a ridiculously high level of production. And if anybody complains about it, they immediately get labeled (by the people in power) as not being grateful.


I once worked a job where a manager would occasionally and literally stand over my shoulder and time me with a stopwatch… sheesh… and I worked another job in which there was a quota for every day; we had to keep pace because production was king.

You don’t need to be in a factory for the clock to be the taskmaster. I don’t know of anyone who is hounded by a boss about time to experience contentment, peace, and rest. Speeding up to meet a quota or deadline only promises to create the necessity for more change, done faster.

None of this makes for a good life; and I would argue that it doesn’t make for good business either. It only produces empty and vacuous people who sacrifice themselves on the altar of work.

We are finite creatures with finite time and resources. We are not inanimate machines without a soul.


One of the manifestations of valuing speed and productivity is also expecting fewer mistakes – because imperfection slows the wheels of progress. This is where people begin to be treated like machines instead of humans. And they become expendable; if they don’t do better, they get replaced with someone else.

Furthermore, this push to do better is often why workers are told to keep their problems at home and not bring them to the job. This has had a terrible impact on individuals, their families, and their relationships.

Forced compartmentalization has the effect of breaking down integrity and creating disparities. People’s very normal struggles cannot be shared with anyone but a professional counselor, therapist, or pastor. Their feelings and emotions become privatized.

Giving someone a list of resources might make management feel better, but it does little to actually help a grieving person who is right under their nose. Depression sets in because the person’s experience and emotions have been implicitly invalidated, leaving them with a sense that they’re meaningless and are a burden on others.

More, faster, and better – continually pumped into society’s bloodstream – is only making the world anxious, depressed, and with no energy to keep being yourself, that is, if you even know who you are anymore after such a pace of work.

What If?

Instead of more, faster, better, what if we…

  1. Embrace an unforced rhythm of life which recognizes the values of slowness, simplicity, and satisfaction?

2. Ask people to be themselves, to live life at a pace that’s doable and enjoyable?

3. Expect workers and people everywhere are to rest and adopt Christ’s easy yoke?

4. Take up the mantle as God’s people to be a counter-cultural movement of relationships which emphasize grace, love, mercy, patience, peace, joy, and spiritual support?

5. Put our energies into the careful construction of souls, instead of draining the spirits of people through unrealistic expectations?

6. Sought to live a simple life, without the need for more?

7. Learn to be satisfied with what we already have?

8. Rid ourselves of financial language to communicate with one another? (e.g. “invest in eternity,” “be an asset, not a liability,” “pay your debt to society,” etc.)

For the Christian, transformation isn’t dependent upon praying more, reading more, giving more, or serving more. Spiritual growth isn’t realized overnight; it takes time, in fact, a lifetime. And change isn’t about trying to be better, since our identity is already firmly in Christ.

My friends, you and I are enough. Transformation of life is the result of becoming open and receiving the grace of God in Christ. If we want forgiveness, we must face the sin of our world in all of its deceit, degradation, and damage.

Let’s not find ourselves on the other end of God’s ire because of unsound practices which dehumanize others. But let us accept and adopt rhythms of life that are consistent with being human and caring for others. That’s what the prophet Micah was looking for.

May it be so, to the glory of God.