Among the many things that helped me, a child of Southern California and “mature” man of Taiwan, to choose Holland, MI as a retirement spot, is a group of men who have been meeting once a week to cook and share breakfast at Hope Church for over 60 years. Recently the last charter member, who is now 97, retired from the group. He had already been exempted from any responsibility on the cooking rota, but found himself no longer up to the early rising time on Wednesdays, nor to the joyful conversations around the table.
Each Wednesday, 2 of the guys cook and set the table for everyone else. There are between 15 and 20 in the group. Food has to be on the table promptly at 6:15 or the razzing starts. Then, after a short (the shorter the better) prayer of thanks, we dig in, eating and shooting the bull for about 20 minutes. The plates are removed, and coffee cups are refilled, after which a few pages of whatever book we’re working through are read. That takes up about 5 minutes, after which discussion of those pages commences. Sometimes the talk stays “on topic”, sometimes it wanders.
I wandered into this group one Wednesday morning in 1990. I was a stranger, and they took me in. Participants at that time included a retired accountant, a retired dentist, a semi-retired physician, a truck driver, a retired English professor, and a bunch of other “old guys”. I was nearing 40 years of age. The next youngest guys, a pair around my age, related that their spouses had opined they were too “young” for the group. Six months and several breakfasts later, I returned to Taiwan. But every time I came back to town I’d show up on Wednesday morning and eventually be back on the cooking rota for so many months as I was around. Through the “book” part of breakfast I was introduced to authors like Frederick Buechner, Anne LaMotte, N. T. Wright and Marcus Borg. When arriving here in 2018 I was dropped into Speaking Christian by Marcus Borg. We’re nearing the end of that book, a chapter on “The Lord’s Prayer”. One of the guys is a little touchy on that topic, because he wants the prayer said by everyone, everywhere, in the words as he learned them when a child. In his estimation, there’s no equivalency between “save us from the time of trial” and “lead us not into temptation”.
The discussion sent me to my files, where I discovered 38 “rewordings” of the Lord’s prayer that I’ve penned since 2001. I can vaguely recall even more, but they’re lost somewhere in cyberspace or locked in defunct hard-drives. I put together a document, mostly with my breakfast buddy in mind, and I share one with you. It can be sung, by the way, to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance.
Loving Father eternal you own us. That your name’s holy is quite a bonus.
May your kingdom be coming among us. Do your will both in heaven and earth.
Give us daily the things that we’re needin’, and forgive all our sinnin’, we’re pleadin’.
As we likewise are others forgivin’. Keep temptation away, evil end!
All the kingdom and power and glory that have always been part of your story,
these are yours since creation, eternal. Then and now and forever AMEN
Tune: Mexican Hat Dance https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_g8CEOpVSZU
David Alexander resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan