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BY Norris Burkes Aug 9 2020

There’s something you should know about me. I suffer from OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder).

Please, take my confession with a grain of salt. Or grab the whole shaker in case you need more. Mine is more an imaginary OCD, a mild case with respect to those who suffer the real mental-health diagnosis.

With my “Just Right” OCD version, I compulsively note license plates without current registration tags.

I see them everywhere: stoplights, parking lots, church picnics. If I’ve stood close to your car’s trunk, you may assume I know when your tags expire. 

To illustrate, imagine I’ve come to your house for dinner. As the evening winds down, you walk me out onto your driveway. We stand for a moment in the long shadows of the setting sun to make closing conversation. 

As I open my driver’s door, I stare down your license plate to see if your tags are expired.

No. That’s not altogether accurate.

I probably looked before I walked into your house. Now I check to see if you had time to renew them during dinner. Worse yet, if I followed you to your home, I’ve already noted that your right brake light is out, and you consider the use of turn signals to be optional.

Despite our pleasant dinner conversation, I’ve labeled you a “scofflaw,” something Oxford dictionary defines as, “A person who flouts the law, especially by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.”

Now my OCD is kicking my insides and I’m wondering how to confront you. I want to say, “Hey, Scofflaw! Why don’t you pay your car taxes like the rest of us?”

But, remembering my ordination vows require a more pastoral approach, I compose something less presumptive, giving you the benefit of the doubt. “Oh wow, I think your car tags have been stolen.” (It happens. That’s why my OCD demands I follow AAA advice to score mine with a razor, giving the thief useless pieces.)

My whimsical approach in today’s column likely has you amazed at how much time this quarantine allows me to “navel gaze” – that is to think about my own stuff. 

But Jesus expected us to occasionally take this introspective approach. See what he says in this excerpt of Matthew 7 in the modern New Testament paraphrase version called “The Message.” 

1-2 “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. 

3-5 Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

Sadly, the scripture confronts me with the fact that I rarely inspect my own vehicles for lights, tags and tires. Yet Jesus’ teaching tells me that the only thing I can control in my life, or in this pandemic, is myself. I can’t keep my neighbor from going mask-less or breaking quarantine to sing in the church choir. I can’t even prevent her from riding her Hog to South Dakota this weekend for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, complete with booze and bacchanalia.

The only legitimate way we exercise influence on each other is to let our light shine on our own sins.  If I want to influence you in a positive way, I should make sure my tags are current and my lights are working well. I should do my best to provide positive reasons why you shouldn’t be an idiot. 

Whoops, sorry about that last one.  

But fortunately, that’s pretty much the only OCD issue I have. 

Wait. I might have another compulsivity. Did you notice how I readjusted the serving spoon in the mashed potato bowl during dinner? I really can’t stand it when it’s pointing at me.

But that’s the only one. 

Well, maybe I have another one – 3 or 4 tops. But maybe I have ….  

My list, along with my word count limit, grows exponentially. 

Oh my, the salt runneth over.


Read more at Contact me at or 10566 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602 or via voicemail (843) 608-9715. Twitter @chaplain.