Day: March 9, 2018



Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State from 1997 to 2001, lamented that if she needed assistance with a military or economic issue, she had hordes of people at her fingertips, but not so with matters of religion.


Shaun Casey

Albright discussed that problem in her book, “The Mighty and the Almighty: Reflections on America, God, and World Affairs,”  published in 2007 by Harper Perennial. 

“She literally had no one to call,” said Shaun Casey, who headed an office under President Obama designed to alleviate the problem.

Casey, an Abilene Christian University graduate, was guest speaker March 5 at his alma mater. He currently is director of the Berkley Center and a professor of the practice in Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. He spoke at ACU on “What Does Abilene Have to Do With Jerusalem? Bringing Religion to American Diplomacy.”

Casey assured the students in the audience that they are receiving an education that will prepare them to do whatever they want. After graduating from ACU, Casey earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School, and a master of divinity degree and a doctor of theology degree from Harvard Divinity School. But the foundation for those degrees and his later work came at ACU.

“A lot of the skill sets I picked up here,” he said, “helped prepare me for my work in the state department.”

In 2013, Casey was teaching at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., when he got a call from Obama’s Secretary of State John Kerry, who wanted Casey to head up the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs. Casey accepted, although he wondered how he and Kerry would mesh. Kerry is a “blue blood,” a New Englander, and a Catholic, Casey noted, while he grew up in Missouri in the Church of Christ.

But he needn’t have worried. The two worked well together and Casey succeeded in heading the office. Casey talked about why it is important to understand religion as part of diplomacy. One reason is that religion is powerful.

“We ignore it at our peril,” Casey said.

And, willful ignorance of the world’s religions has cost the United States dearly, he said, citing the invasion of Iraq as an example.

Casey hired 30 people to work in the office with more than 20 holding degrees in theology. They also had an understanding of religion in various places in the world, not just religion in textbooks.

The employees were tasked with advising Kerry when religion issues arose and training embassy employees on how to do that. They tried to change the culture of the Department of State by stressing how important it is to build relationships before war breaks out. The office was filled with people of numerous religions, although no one was asked for a religious affiliation in the interview process.

Another step toward changing the culture came with the drawing up of set of guidelines for the office, such as seeking joy in your work, building relationships, and driving out fear. Other government workers were in awe and were attracted to that culture.

“We created, I think, a remarkable inter-religious team,” Casey said.

The team created six regions worldwide, with a different religion represented in each. The team helped stem the tide of a rise in antisemitism, worked on the global refugee crisis and contributed to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Despite the success of the office, the Trump administration has decided that kind of work isn’t helpful Casey said.

In a Q&A after his talk, Casey was asked if his work affirmed his faith as a Christian.

“I do believe my faith grew,” he said.

Casey said he has been asked how people can suppress their deeply held religious beliefs in an inter-religious setting. He tried to be an example, he said.

“I do believe Christians can participate in inter-religious work,” Casey said, “to the benefit of the world.”






Nancy Patrick, second from left, joins her Carr cousins for a meal. Submitted photo


Within the same week, I celebrated my 68th birthday and received the invitation and registration material for my 50th year class reunion for the Abilene High School class of 1968. Of course, I already knew I was getting older, but something about a 50th year reunion impressed me with the reality that most of my life is in the past. That didn’t make me sad, but it did make me reflective.


Nancy Patrick

When I was a young child, my parents left our larger family, all in Arkansas, and moved my younger sister and me to Texas where we grew up and stayed with our own families. As a consequence, I lost the close connection I once had with grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Although my family visited those in Arkansas twice a year, those visits were blitzes during which we went from house to house, seeing those relatives for an hour or so, and then moving on to the next house.

In all the decades of my adult life, I have sent annual Christmas letters to family to update them on graduations, jobs, marriages, births, and deaths, but I had no physical connection with my extended family until recently. In February, my mother’s older sister died at the age of 92. Her death leaves only one sibling from that generation, meaning that on my mother’s side, I now have my sister, one aunt, and three cousins.

When I learned of my aunt’s death, I was overwhelmed with a sense of loneliness as I realized that the family I was born into is almost gone. In all these years of separation, my cousins and I had not attended the funerals of each other’s parents, nor had we stayed in touch during our parents’ declining health. I rationalized that it was not necessary to attend my aunt’s funeral in Arkansas—her daughter (my cousin) hadn’t contacted me during my mom’s declining years or attended her funeral.

But, I couldn’t quit thinking about my shrinking family. I remembered the Christmas and summer visits during my childhood and the excitement of spending time with cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents; and I realized I had to go to Arkansas for this funeral. I remembered Psalm 16:6: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (NIV). Although I had never thought of Arkansas as “delightful,” I suddenly realized that for me, it was.

My cousins were truly surprised when I called and said I was coming, but we were all excited to reconnect. As we shared memories, we laughed, cried, sighed, and became young again if only for a few moments. Our shared memories seemed to erase the lost years of relationship, restoring our family with joy. I know my aunt would have loved seeing her daughter and nieces celebrating her life together as we said goodbye to her presence with us. Irish writer George Moore’s words capture the solace I felt back in the home of my birth: “A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.”

Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing.



Psalms of lament typically begin with gloom and end with gladness, sorrow ends with shouting, tears turn to triumph. However, Psalm 88 is the only Psalm that ends in gloom, that ends with a word of darkness. Famous theologian Walter Bruggemann says, “Psalm 88 is an embarrassment to conventional faith.”

MPatrick (1)

Mike Patrick

The psalmist’s lament reeks with honest misery, declares no peace, expresses no joy, and has no song to sing. It reminds us that life does not always have a happy ending. Like the author, we reflect on our woes, sometimes even blaming God for what has happened. Like the psalmist, it is common to ask questions when life caves in on us.

Several years ago, my wife’s parents roomed together in the nursing home. A few weeks before his death, my father-in-law writhed in pain with bone cancer. My mother-in-law, an Alzheimer’s patient, asked me, “Why doesn’t God just come and get us?”

As a hospital chaplain, grieving people ask me questions: “Why did God take my husband’s life?” Why did God allow my child to die?” When they ask these kinds of questions, they generally do not ask me for some theological treatise on theodicy. Rather, it tends to provide a way for them to express and process their lament. Jesus also voiced complaint when he took the sins of the world upon the cross; he cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me?”

When looking for something positive in Psalm 88, the only thought focuses on the fact that the sufferer, who claims that “darkness is my closest friend, prays to God. No matter how dark life becomes, we can still pray.

Because of our discomfort with lament, we tend to move quickly toward a reason for gratitude. One website says that complaining shows evidence of unbelief, gives place to the devil, and is not for Christians. Can we not allow ourselves permission to lament? When we pray for others who suffer, we tend to focus on God’s goodness or God’s plan or God’s grace. Can’t we at least acknowledge the depth of that person’s despair?

Or let me stretch your thinking one step further. When you pray for some joyful person, you tend to pray with him in the representative “we.” We thank you, Lord …we rejoice in your mercy…we acknowledge you as the God of grace. However, when someone laments, we tend to take a neutral stance and pray for that person. We pray that she might have a sense of God’s presence, peace, and comfort. But can’t we pray, instead, a lament for the sufferer? Can’t we be a voice of complaint and petition on his or her behalf? We pray representatively in the midst of joy. Why can’t we do that in the midst of lament?

Do we trust God enough to speak in honest misery whether for ourselves or for others?

Mike Patrick retired as Chaplain and Ministry Education Coordinator after 27 years at Hendrick Medical Center.



I had the privilege this past year of helping send off one of my high school football teammates. His name was Carl. Carl was a lineman playing in front of me for six years on our Plano Wildcat football team. He was always a good friend with a special laugh and sense of humor. Even now, over 50 years after we graduated high school, I can still hear his voice and that laugh. He was a good man, and although I only saw him a few times over the past 50 years, we remained friends with a special bond.

Danny Minton

Danny Minton

Our 1966 high school class in Plano was close. Many of us went from first grade to graduation, sharing birthdays, class parties and teachers along the way. I can look at a picture of our graduating class today and even after all this time name just about every one of them, if not all of them. I’ll add that you could more than likely ask any of my classmates and they could do the same.

But there was another bond within this class that included Carl and me. That bond was our Wildcat football team. Several of us played together for six years. We were blessed with good coaches and examples through those years and grew together not only as a team but a brotherhood. We were successful losing never more than one game in any season. Most of us on the team were good but average players with a few who were college material. Our success came because we played as a team. We played where we were needed, not one person was seeking personal glory or attention. We grew together, this brotherhood of teenagers, battling on the field and comrades with our classmates off the gridiron.

Several are gone now, Carl, Hugh, Steve, Jimmy and Kent, seniors who helped lead us to the championship our last year in high school. Warriors and friends who will not be forgotten, guys I laughed with, cried with and battled with for all those years so long ago but not forgotten.

It is relationships like these that help us in our battles of life. I cannot count the number of times that someone has come to me after a crisis in their life and said, “I don’t know how people make it without a church family!” These words come after they have felt that support and seen their church family in action. This “team” of believers and comrades are there to lift them up and embrace them with love.

We all need groups of fellow warriors to be there for us, praying for us and with us, lifting each other up and holding our hands as we move through life together. One of the worst things that people can do when a crisis appears in their life is to back away from those who love them and are there to support them. The writer of Ecclesiastes expressed the need for our bond of friends in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12: “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (NIV)

I am blessed today to have that cord of three strands on several levels. We need always to be mindful of where our strength comes. The strongest cord comes when we attach ourselves to our fellow Christians entwined with that third strand of God in our lives. That is a bond that will last for as long as we live, unbreakable by what life or Satan may try to do to tear it apart.

I know this for certain, because of a bond that I have with a group of guys and friends from over 50 years ago. Even though we are miles apart in all directions and separated by years, that bond remains intact and unbroken.


Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

John 15:13

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ