Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Monday, December 24 started off well enough. Considering the snowy, icy, and just plain awful weather the Boston area has recently endured, this past Monday wasn’t bad at all. I got some errands done during the morning, and I also spent a few hours at the church office putting the finishing touches on the Christmas Eve service. Well, we DID take in a modest amount of water at the church facility which I had to “wet vac” up, but aside from that, it was a great morning.
I came home early with plans to enjoy a leisurely afternoon prior to the 7:30 p.m. Christmas Eve service. In the mid-afternoon I was sitting at my home computer when I heard the doorbell ring and also heard someone pounding on the door. I ran downstairs, but my two young adult offspring told me they’d gone to the door and whoever was there had already left. I glanced out the front door, and I saw a man with what appeared to be a loose-leaf notebook across the street talking to the woman of the house. He talked and talked and talked. I think he was there for at least fifteen minutes. I assumed he was some kind of a slick magazine salesman and I was really glad to have avoided him.
About two hours later I was lying down, sort of half asleep with my bedroom television set on. It was now dark outside. Suddenly, there it was again...the sound of someone ringing the bell and banging on the front door. In sort of a tired, annoyed, and foggy state, I staggered down the stairs and opened up the door. There was the same young guy I’d seen talking to my neighbor. I noticed he was wearing a “Verizon” badge. The guy was no more than thirty, IF that. He was talking a mile a minute. The subject was Verizon FiOS. It seems Verizon FiOS is coming down my street in January and the young man strongly implied that all my neighbors are signing up.
“You’re the last house!” he announced.
He seemed alternately pleased that I currently have regular Verizon telephone service and dismayed (more like incredulous) that I have AOL dial-up for internet. (Well, the demographic for AOL dial-up is very non-technically inclined people over the age of 50, so I certainly fit the bill.) The young man continued talking excitedly through the screen door. I was becoming more and more annoyed at the cold air coming into the house, but I was not about to invite this guy in. My wife was sitting in the living room, my grown kids were upstairs, and we had Christmas gifts and “stuff” strewn about. The gist of his spiel was that the street is being hooked up for Verizon FiOS in January; that “everything is going digital”; that Verizon wants everything regarding FiOS done before 2009; and that I need to jump on board now, if not yesterday. He also threw in the part about getting a new $400 High Definition television set just for signing up.
With the exception of our church volunteer secretary Claire, nobody hates being confronted by a “foot in the door” salesman worse than I do. I could feel myself getting perturbed. The next thing I knew, he commented about my “Rev.” title, and literally started talking religion and even sharing some personal problems which would require counseling. No kidding. Well, when someone’s “talking religion” and flattering you for being a minister while they babble about you needing to sign right up for Verizon FiOS, that just plain puts you in a tough and uncomfortable position.
As the Verizon salesman talked, inwardly I debated whether my wife was awake or not and whether it would be rude to yell for her or drag her to the door. We currently have Comcast digital and a 27-inch “regular” T.V. My son has everything hooked up just the way he likes it, and since I’m nontechnical, that’s just fine with me. I wondered if Jon would appreciate me switching to Verizon FiOS, and I doubted he would. I wondered if I could get FiOS for internet and phone but not television. I had a bunch of questions, BUT I was also tired, cold, confused, and just wanting to make this guy go away!
The next thing I knew I was signing and initialing a work order having agreed to a Saturday, January 12 installation appointment. The moment I closed the door and walked into my living room, I felt more stupid and embarrassed than I have in a long time. When I explained what had just happened to my incredulous family, I felt even more stupid and even more embarrassed and angry and ashamed. I felt like an 83-year-old who had just spoken to a door-to-door life insurance salesman and signed up for $10,000 worth of life insurance at $750 a month for the rest of his life!
I don’t mean to sound like I’m putting down Verizon. I am a Verizon stockholder and I have Verizon for cell phone service as well as home and church telephone service. I’ve also enjoyed Verizon service and I always speak well of Verizon.
What I hate is this: I want Verizon FiOS. And I don’t want it. I want high definition television. And I don’t want it. I sort of like Comcast cable. And I sort of don’t like it. I want to do the right thing. And I DON’T KNOW what the right thing to do is! I DO know I certainly don’t want to be given any more unexpected cold turkey presentations in which I have to make an instant decision about ANY product!
My wife is frankly much more business-oriented than am I, and she is our church’s Treasurer. She is going to call Verizon. It’s possible we’ll get Verizon FiOS for telephone and internet but not television. If that sounds like a financially foolish expenditure out of my pocket, keep in mind the church pays my phone bill and it’s a parsonage I live in. As a family, we spent some time late in the day on Christmas Day talking the whole Verizon FiOS thing out. My wife really wants to get the Verizon television. My son and daughter really don’t want to. I’m split on it. At least we do have a few days to think about it and learn more about it.
I’m a VERY sensitive guy. Too sensitive. I hate feeling like I’ve been “had” and manipulated. That’s exactly how I felt about what happened on Monday. I know this will sound terrible to some of you, but this whole experience kind of spoiled my Christmas eve and even my Christmas morning.
Receiving some nice Christmas presents and eating a nice Christmas dinner calmed me down - somewhat.
I don’t like surprises and I don’t like to be pressured to make changes.
High pressure appointments on your doorstep at 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve when you’re trying to think about a Christmas Eve service and the birth of Jesus and holiday and family obligations and a million other things; well, if there had been a Verizon FiOS high definition picture of my face on Monday at 6 p.m. I would have looked like that Native American weeping on the anti-litter public service ads back in the late 1960s...
Sales? There’s just GOT to be a better and less tacky way to do things...
Saturday, December 22, 2007
It was such a blessing to hear Jerry Williams' recitation of Dylan Thomas' "A Child's Christmas in Wales" on Boston's WRKO radio this morning. For me, hearing Jerry read that live on the air every year was something that made each December special. It's remarkable that Jerry used to read that LIVE and FLAWLESSLY. Jerry Williams was an extraordinarily talented man. I guess "he never had a dinner" to paraphrase his regular complaint, but he did leave quite a legacy. Thank you to WRKO's Mo Lauzier for playing that and for Bill Smith for producing that!
That verse is about the Day of Pentecost and there’s much I could write about it. Today’s title, however, is just a silly “take off” on it, as I say, “They are full of NEW WHINES!”.
This is just a pet peeve I have. It really bothers me when people whine.
It’s bad enough when a child of three or four whines! You know, that annoying, emotional, manipulative, drawn out, “But I wanna go to the zooooooooo......!” followed by crying and (often) kicking and screaming. As bad as that is, well, it’s CHILDISH behavior and there are ways to handle it. But when someone over 30 whines, it’s, well, I’m actually at a loss for words about it...
You can probably guess, and YES, in the past twenty-four hours I had to deal with a whining adult. For anyone who’s trying to guess who the whiner was, I need to make it clear, you won’t be able to. It’s NOT someone from the church i pastor. It’s NOT a relative of mine. It’s also NOT someone who lives in Massachusetts. And, I’ll tell you it was over the phone. Now, that WAS unpleasant, but had the person been right there in person it would have been MUCH worse, so I guess I can be thankful it was over the phone.
I sell automotive collectibles. It was someone whining about the mail order of automotive collectibles I’d recently filled. I think I would rather have listened to a 5-year-old whine that they wanted a chocolate ice cream cone, not a vanilla. The one thing I hate about selling automotive collectibles is that at least half of those who buy them whine that they got a lousy deal, or they should have gotten more for their money, or I gave a friend of theirs a better deal....something like that. They really should read the parable of The Laborers in the Vineyard in Matthew’s Gospel because among other thing that parable teaches is Jesus wasn’t crazy about whiners, either!
Have you ever traveled to a Third World Country? I have. Haiti. Twice. Listen, we have SO much stuff in this country, it’s almost sickening. While two-thirds of the people on this planet go to bed hungry every night in their shacks, we complain because we paid $20 more than we should have or some other such silly thing.
I love the spiritual side of Christmas. I went Christmas caroling with several other people a couple of times this week and I really enjoyed that. I will enjoy our church’s Christmas Eve service on Monday night. But all the materialism, and the cutthroats at the shopping centers (I won’t even go to Natick Collection! Framingham Shoppers World is the closest thing to a “mall” I’ve been to this December), well, I can take very little of that.
I’m about to start WHINING, myself, so I’ll stop!
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I know the title of this piece strongly implies that I’m going to write about Mormonism; but I’m not. I don’t think I know enough about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints to write about it and its teachings. The “Romney Religion” I want to write about is the “religious” devotion that Boston talk show host Jay Severin has for Mitt Romney. Now, please don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying Jay believes Mitt is his Messiah who will take him to Heaven one day...I’m using “religion” more in the sense of the late 1960s Rolaids commercial where a blue collar guy confidently affirmed to the camera, “I take Rolaids RELIGIOUSLY!”
Jay Severin IS a very intelligent guy and a captivating guy to listen to. I think he more than anyone else built Boston’s FM Talk station WTKK from being a tiny upstart in 1999 that a number of media critics thought would never make it, to being one of the 3 or 4 most important and influential radio stations in the Boston market. Jay is like the old nursery rhyme about the girl with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When Jay is good he is VERY VERY GOOD, and when Jay is bad he is HORRID. Yesterday was Jay Severin’s last day before Christmas vacation. I do wish him a good vacation. I THINK he is going to Iceland. But after yesterday I’m saying, “Enough ALREADY!”...at least “enough for awhile”.
Listen to someone talk incessantly about how much they LOVE someone or how much they HATE someone day after day after day after day.... well, it just gets OLD. Jay Severin LOVES Mitt Romney. He loves him. Jay believes Mitt Romney would be one of the greatest Presidents we’ve ever had...certainly the greatest of the past fifty years. He calls Romney, “Mount Rushmorian”. Conversely, Jay makes John McCain sound like a sappy but slick used car salesman who’s shaking your hand and giving you a free cup of coffee while he’s sticking you with a lemon. Yesterday several callers tried to “call” Jay on this stuff, and he gave all short shrift. One man was cut off and verbally ripped to shreds AFTER he was knocked off the air. Boy, Jay, that took a lot of guts...NOT!
As a wrote a few postings ago, I really regret that the MetroWest Daily News ran a photo of me saying, “I studied the issues and I chose Romney”. Well, I did. In 2002; when Romney ran for Governor. And, speaking of religion, no I don’t think Romney’s religion should have anything to do (either way) with whether he becomes President. I know it’s said that clergy should not endorse candidates. It’s something I really try not to do. But I just can’t hide the fact that I’m voting for John McCain in the Massachusetts Republican primary. Callers tried to tell Jay Severin McCain is much more ejectable than is Mitt Romney. Jay does not want to hear that, but it’s true. The President is the president of ALL Americans. To get elected, a person HAS to know how to appeal to and draw in all Americans. In 1964, the hard-line right winger Barry Goldwater did NOT know how to do that and he was crushed by Lyndon Johnson. In 1972., the hard-line left winger George McGovern did NOT know how to do that and he was crushed by (of all people) Richard Nixon. Now, it’s true Ronald Reagan was a pretty hard-line conservative Republican. But Reagan knew how to appeal to all kinds of people and Reagan had been a very popular Governor of California.
Could Mitt Romney have beaten Deval Patrick last time? I don’t think so. Mitt looks like a 60-year-old “Ken” doll. Mitt looks like he came right out of central casting to play the role of President of the U.S. Now, I realize Ronald Reagan WAS a professional actor, but he came across as much more sincere and credible than Romney does.
If Romney is the Republican nominee I will vote for him for President in November of 2008. Romney would be an “O.K.” president. Admittedly, he would be a much better president than is George W. Bush. Why do I think Romney would be just an “O.K.” president. Well, let’s see, he was an “O.K.” Governor of Massachusetts- just O.K., so why should I expect his presidency to be any different?
Incidentally, in 2000,. Jay Severin was as much in love with John McCain as he now is with Mitt Romney. I remember long and intense monologues singing McCain’s praises and I think I even remember him saying that McCAIN would be a “Mount Rushmore” level president.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
In my last posting I mentioned that I’m not a “snow person”. I’m not, but since I’ve always lived in a place that gets cold and snowy in the winter (Massachusetts and Missouri) I’ve had to learn to adapt to it.
Sunday WAS a tough day, although it certainly could have been a lot worse. I had pretty much made up my mind by 4 p.m. on Saturday that church would be canceled. Thus, it was with no great shock that when I got up at 4:30 on Sunday morning, almost an inch of snow had fallen and it was snowing steadily. The weather forecast for Sunday which The Weather Channel was putting forth could be summed up as “gloom ‘n doom”. At 5 a.m. I put out my official e-mail canceling church and between 6 and 8 a.m. I pretty much called everybody who needed to be called.
(Incidentally, being the RADICAL and ECCENTRIC guy that I am, I didn’t really CANCEL the service...as in baseball I just kind of “rain checked” it. What would have been the Sunday morning service will take place on Wednesday night at 7:00. Visitors are welcome, and in fact encouraged to attend!)
Along with my son, I shoveled at least 3 times at home, and we went over to the church and helped shovel out the walkways there, as well. The weather ran the gamut from fluffy snow in the early morning to rain in the late afternoon, to bitter cold and strong winds after Midnight.
On Monday morning it was hard to believe it was raining and around 40 degrees just a few hours earlier, for everything was as frozen as I imagine northern Siberia to be! I tried to get into my 1989 Volkswagen Golf and the doors were frozen shut. This necessitated the use of a long extension cord and a hair dryer. I called this piece “Practical Tips” and this is one of them. Simply running the hair dryer over the edges of the door and over the door handle areas for a couple of minutes enabled me to get into the car. The next event, however, was more frustrating than the frozen doors were. I just could not get the car started. The engine would “turn over and die” and again “turn over and die”. I realized the car’s gas line was frozen! I tried to walk up Harrison St. to the Exxon gas station and the snow banks around the barricades (you’d HAVE to know Harrison St. to appreciate this...it’s kind of like Berlin before 1989) were so high I could not walk through! After an embarrassing phone call to my wife, she brought me her Dodge Caravan and I went out and bought some gas line antifreeze. This is NOT to be confused with the antifreeze you put in your radiator! It comes in little plastic bottles. Years ago, it was called “dry gas”. If you don’t know what gas line antifreeze is, ask at your local auto parts store or gas station...most carry the stuff. At first, I was disappointed because pouring it into the gas tank did not yield any results. But, after a few hours, the Volkswagen started and ran normally My late father used to swear by gas line antifreeze. In the winter, it’s a good idea to put a bottle full in every time you fill up with gasoline. It will prevent the kind of thing that happened to me yesterday.
Well, I’m tired and I’m sore and I’m not ready for Christmas.... maybe somebody has some practical tips for ME!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
"Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail" (Job 38:22)
I'm not a big "snow person".
Well, actually, my life experiences with snow have "run the gamut" as they say. As a little kid growing up in New England, I loved playing in the snow. I loved when school was called off because of snowstorms. As a teenager who had to do a lot of snow shoveling, I wasn't so excited about it. As an adult I've hated driving in the snow, and even though I'm a native New Englander, I've really never got used to driving in the snow and I just plain don't like it.
Thursday was quite a day. At one small doctors' office just off downtown Framingham, a construction crew was building an outdoor deck. I'm serious. Even more ironic: our lawn service company did the final fertilizer application of the season, and left one of those little "fertilizer application" pennants plunked into the front lawn.
I don't know how the decking crew did, but I'd say they probably had to knock off by 1:30. Even a white-collar type guy like me knows they were at least one month late in attempting to build a deck before winter weather! Friday morning the little lawn company pennant was sticking up above the snow. We took a couple of pictures of it!
I am very fortunate to live only a mile and a half from my office. I went home at Noon and did not go back to the office. I did take a walk to the bank and library downtown. I was amazed that the cars on Concord St/Rte. 126 were moving at no more than an ant's pace. I was doing much better on foot! I was kind of "bummed" that the library closed 5 minutes after I got there, at 2 p.m.!
This weekend is going to be a spiritual challenge for me, because like 98% of Protestant Pastors, I hate Sunday morning snowstorms! This may sound very mercenary, but you'd THINK people would give double in the offering the following week, but it usually doesn't happen. (Well, in all fairness, some people DO give double the following week, but financially Sunday snowstorms are really bad for churches.) I guess I need to remember Romans 8:28. (Nope, I'm not gonna quote it. I will let you look it up.) And I guess I've just got to remember that this is Massachusetts and this is December. Merry Christmas!
Friday, December 14, 2007
This past Sunday after our morning worship service, 82-year-old Ken Lavers was ecstatic. He was more happy and more enthusiastic than perhaps I've ever seen him.
Ken was adamant that the sermon I had given from Luke chapter 1 (focus on Mary...Advent theme) entitled 'A VERY SPECIAL MESSAGE', was exactly that. Ken was emphatic that I needed to write it down and have it published in the newspaper! He was insistent!
Well, actually the local newspaper DOES occasionally publish sermons but usually they're part of a monthly seriws in which it's prearranged for local clergy to submit something. (I've done so a few times in the past.) Since I'm not scheduled to write that column for Dec. 2007, I did not think it would be appropriate for me to write out a condensed version of the sermon and submit it to the paper.
I DID GIVE IT SOME THOUGHT AFTERWARDS, THOUGH.
In the spirit of PROVERBS 27:2 "Let another man praise you, not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips" I realized that since this was KEN'S request and desire, it might not be a bad idea for mt to offer it on-line to those who know me. What I HAVE decided to do is this: If you'd like a copy of 'A VERY SPECIAL MESSAGE' just e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request it, and I will e-mail it off to you.
You'll make Ken happy. You'll make me happy. And it might bless you at this Christmas season!
I am just letting you know I am having problems adding "stuff" to my blog.
I know, I know, I added this. But I had to go through a lot of convoluted stuff to do it.
Several months ago, I had problems with my home computer which ended up with me no longer being able to add stuff to my blog from my home computer. So, what I have been doing is writing my blog entries at home...then e-mailing them to myself. Then going to the Framingham Public Library and opening the e-mail and THEN clicking on something that says "add to blog". Up until yesterday, that ALWAYS worked. NOW, it will not let me do that. I just keep get an icon saying "AOL journals are not available-try later". So, I went through a convoluted method to get my blog opened and write this. But now I CANNOT just click and post the e-mails onto the blog. If this continues it will be a real problem. I may have to go to the library and stand there (yup you gotta stand at the Framingham Public Library at the computers) AND you only get 20 minutes and then the system shuts you off for 2 hrs.
If anyone from AOL is reading this and has any idea how any of it can be resolved, I'm very open to your help. I have found accessing AOL help on-line which used to be very easy is now very challenging. So, we'll see how I'm gonna handle this....
Stay tuned.... I'm still gonna be trying to post stuff here but it may end up being a lot more work....
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
About ten days ago, my sister (who lives in Canton) received a mailing inviting her to a special event at a hotel in Dedham. The mailing was from “Television Preview”. Included in the envelope were four tickets to the viewing of two “pilot” episodes of television programs; each of which is being proposed to become a regular prime time television series . The mailing instructed the recipient that if he or she could not use the tickets they should pass them on to others who might like to attend. My sister was unable to attend so she gave the tickets to me.
On Saturday evening, my 21-year-old daughter Rachel and I went to the “Television Preview” event. The meeting was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. The instructions stated that doors for the special screenings would open at 7:15 and that nobody would be admitted after 7:45. We arrived sometime around 7:05. A substantial line had already formed- each person eagerly clutching the green admittance ticket in hand. Upon being admitted to the large room we were given portfolio packets with instructions stating we were not to open them until instructed to do so. There must have been at least 100 people present, and I’d say more like 150. The first thing we had to do was fill out a lengthy questionnaire about product preferences. Those were collected and a couple of drawings took place. Winners will later receive gift baskets of assorted products.
It was exciting to watch these “pilot” episodes and to know that our input would be counted as to whether these shows ever actually hit the airwaves. The first was a one hour drama with a psychic/suspense theme. Most highly committed evangelical Christians are not going to care for dramas which have psychic themes, so I had a heavy bias against it right away. The show was just not that good, however. Regardless of one’s religious or spiritual convictions (or lack thereof) this was just not a very good show. After viewing it we were read a series of questions to which we responded on questionnaires. The final question was to state our ultimate opinion of whether this show should ever hit the airwaves....we had to circle a drawing of a “thumbs up” gesture if we liked it or a drawing of a “thumbs down” gesture if we didn’t like it. Without hesitation, I circled the “thumbs down”.
The next show was a 21st Century family sitcom in the genre of the 1980s’ show “Full House”. As I watched the first two minutes of inane conversation and an annoying laugh track, I expected to hate the show. Within five minutes, however, I was laughing with enjoyment and thoroughly loving this very “little kidsy” comedy. A lot of the humor was both satirical and slapstick, and it was the kind of stuff that I really get a kick out of. Once again, we were read a series of questions and wrote our responses. I gave the sitcom a “thumbs up”.
We later had to watch a proposed television commercial and we asked to respond to several questions about it. And, we were asked (too many) questions about what prescription and over-the-counter medications we have purchased in the past year.
The final question was the opportunity to write a couple of sentences about what we thought of the whole experiences. I glanced at 21-year-old Rachel’s paper and saw that she’d written the word “awesome” as part of her sentence. I wrote that the chairs were uncomfortable, but that overall I’d enjoyed the experience.
If you ever get an invitation to a “Television Preview” I hope you’ll attend!
I wonder if either of the shows we viewed will ever become a prime-time program!
Saturday, December 8, 2007
On Friday, I attended a luncheon for (mainly) pastors at historic Park Street Congregational Church in downtown Boston. The event was promoted by “Vision New England” (formerly “Evangelistic Association of New England”) and was funded by the Day Foundation. (The Day Foundation was set up by the original owners and founders of the Days Inn motel chain...it funds many evangelical Christian events, especially educational events.) The topic was “Evangelicals and Intellectualism” and featured noted Christian intellectual writer and speaker Os Guiness and noted historian Dr. Mark Noll who is a Professor at Wheaton College in Illinois.
This is REALLY embarrassing, but to show you how much of a non-intellectual I am, I signed up for the event when a promotional mailing arrived, but I COULDN’T EVEN REMEMBER WHAT IT WAS ABOUT! All I remembered is they were serving a free lunch!
I went into Boston by public transportation. I arrived at Park Street Church around 20 minutes before 12. Renovations are being done on the exterior of the church building, and it was a little confusing at first to find the correct door, but once inside, I was surprised to follow directional arrows to THE CHURCH SANCTUARY. One pastor from Attleboro sat down and chatted with me for a few minutes.
“Wasn’t this billed as a LUNCHEON?” he asked.
“Yeah, I was really surprised we’re in the sanctuary.” I replied.
The event was promoted as running from 12 Noon to 1:30. At around 7 minutes after 12, the Senior Minister of Park Street Church greeted us, and introduced a Professor from Boston University who gave an overview of what we’d be listening to for the next hour. I’m now pretty far removed from academic circles, and I’m kind of embarrassed to say I’m one of the few pastors around who has only gone to the Bachelor’s Degree level. (Well, I’ve got one Bachelor’s Degree in History, and one in Bible. Does that count for something?!) Many of my colleagues have Master of Divinity or Doctor of Ministry degrees so that sometimes makes me feel a little inferior.
Anyone who believes all evangelicals are right-wing nuts may find what I’m about to write surprising. Os Guiness said “there is a need for the restoration of evangelicalism”. He decried the direction the evangelical movement has taken over the past thirty years. Guiness urged pastors present to stay away from partisan politics and political ideologies. He also lamented the lack of civility and the worldliness in evangelical circles. Historian Mark Noll called for the abandonment of “creation science”. Noll feels Christians who defend the literal Biblical account of creation have essentially committed intellectual suicide. He believes society would be far better served if the born-again Christians would just get on board with evolution. It may surprise readers that recent surveys indicate that 16% of born-again Christians believe in Darwinian evolution and that percentage is steadily growing. All that said, I have no plans to throw in the towel on Genesis chapters 1 and 2!
Following presentations by Os Guiness and Mark Noll, the floor was opened up for questions and answers. The big mistake Park Street Church made is there was no “floor mike” for the questioners so nobody could hear the questions! One person requested that Guiness and Noll REPEAT the questions so we could hear what they had been asked, and they refused to do that!
At around 1:05, we were dismissed to the fellowship hall for Panara Bread Box Lunches. The box lunch was O.K. Not great but O.K. I happened to sit at a table with a chemist from Mass. General Hospital who’d attended the meeting and absolutely loved it. I was pleased that free books were given out to the pastors. I got Mark Noll’s “Turning Points” and D, Michael Lindsay’s “Faith in the Halls of Power”. Lindsay is a Professor at Rice University and was present. Lindsay did not speak at the Park Street event, but all three academics were actually in town because they’re speaking at a forum at Boston University.
On this week’s “The Office” the “Michael Scott” character visited a
university campus and referred to it as “the tower of ebony and ivory”. Well, I feel like I visited “the tower of ebony and ivory” today. I know some of my fellow evangelicals will think I’ve visited the tower of Babel after reading this!
Thursday, December 6, 2007
On Wednesday afternoon I unpacked our family’s package. I know it’s not Christmas... it IS Hanukkah, but I’m not Jewish. So, what am I doing unpacking a package for our family? Well, actually, every month a package arrives that I unpack. As I was unpacking it and putting our family’s “stuff” away I thought I might like to share it on the blog.
Back in mid-1995, our friends Jim and Bev asked us (well, sort of in a nice way “bugged” us) to have an in-home presentation of something they thought we’d find exciting. I’d sat through had various vacuum cleaner sales presentations before, as well as “Get Rich Quick” schemes, so I was skeptical. Finally, I agreed to have Jim & Bev over, and Mary Ann and I sat and listened to Bev’s presentation which took about an hour, as I recall. I won’t tell you the name of the company, but I imagine a lot of you are thinking it begins with either the letter “A” or the letter “S”. It’s neither one of those. If I DID name the company here, I’d guess two-thirds of you have never heard of it. I had never heard of it until mid-1995. I found out that this company that I’ll call “THE BIG X “ was founded in 1985 in the western U.S. The products at that time were mostly household cleaning products, cosmetics, “health and beauty” products, and a limited line of vitamins and health aids. (Since then, the company has expanded to include many more products.) An executive of a nonprofit ministry, Jim explained that a percentage of everything people enrolled as customers purchased went to the nonprofit ministry, and a percentage went to Jim & Bev.
One thing I really wasn’t sure enough is that to make “THE BIG X” work, enrollees HAD to place an order every month and HAD to agree to buy a certain amount of stuff. I wondered if my wife and I could possibly keep that up. And it seemed weird that we would NEVER buy brand name toothpaste or brand name bar soap or brand name hairspray every again. Jim and Bev stressed the OUTSTANDING quality of the products. They were friends and we wanted to help them. We enrolled.
“THE BIG X’ promised that if you used their toothpaste, your dentist would notice a huge improvement and would ask what toothpaste you were using. Honestly, THAT DID HAPPEN! I’ve brought several tubes of toothpaste in over the years for my dental hygienist. In fact, my young adult daughter in Missouri will not use ANY toothpaste except for “THE BIG X” toothpaste. Periodically, we send her some.
Our other daughter found that “THE BIG X” products are absolutely superior for acne. They are. I may be 53, but I STILL have acne breakouts at times, and the products are wonderful. By far, the BEST product “THE BIG X” offers is their bar soap. It’s a true “high end” product. There’s nothing as good as it in any store.
When I enrolled, I was ECSTATIC! I thought I’d sign up EVERYBODY I knew and I’d be rich! Well, some people have become wealthy through introduction people to “THE BIG X” company. The first mistake I made was barraging all my friends and pressuring them to enroll. I got the cold shoulder from all of them. The company really DISCOURAGES that sort of thing. I thought I was SO personably and had SUCH sales ability that MY methodology would work. It didn’t.
I DID do several in-home presentations for “THE BIG X” back in the 1990s. Nobody signed up. I later found out that after doing many, many in-home presentations, Jim and Bev only got 6 or 7 households to sign up, including ours.
“If you want to find out what people REALLY think of you, try to enroll them n ‘THE BIG X’ “ Jim once told me, “It really kind of hurt,” he said, “because I found out how little some people really thought of me.”
Over the years I have met other people who are enrolled in “THE BIG X”. All just love the products and keep ordering them every month. All have also agreed that they just couldn’t get anybody to join. Sometimes I wonder if the company would do better if it had jingles or advertised on television.
Yup, I unpacked my anti-itch cream, and my vitamins, and my soap and hairspray and other items on Wednesday afternoon. And I just had to tell you what your missin’ !
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
This may greatly surprise a number of people who know me, and who know that I have stated on numerous occasions that I am voting for John McCain in the Massachusetts Republican Primary. Well, I am still voting for John McCain in the Massachusetts Republican Primary.
Here is "the story behind the story": Yesterday afternoon as I entered the
Framingham Public Library, I was stopped by a reporter and photographer and asked to answer a few questions about the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon and whether I thought that should be an issue in this campaign. I made several comments including the fact that in the 2002 Governor's race between Mitt Romney and Shannon O'Brien, I studied the issues and I chose Romney. Romney's being a Mormon did not influence my vote either way. If you read the entire article under the photographs, it does clarify that I said that statement "I studied the issues and I chose Romney" about the 2002 Governor's race.
I think it's unfortunate that they used THAT quote with the photo, however, because it implies I'm voting for Romney in the 2008 Presidential Primary, and I am not.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
This morning on his new radio program, Don Imus interviewed several Presidential candidates from both parties. (Incidentally, as you cross reference this with my last posting, you may think that I don’t tell the truth. I never said I wouldn’t ever listen to “Imus in the Morning” again. I just stated I liked the old show better and I’m somewhat disappointed in the new show.) Anyway, Governor Bill Richardson, who is one of the Democrats running for President, made THIS statement: “Of the past eight Presidents, seven of them has either been a Governor or an ex-Governor.”
That statement was taken as fact and not questioned. It’s not correct!
The present President, George W. Bush WAS a Governor, so that’s ONE.
Just before him in office was Bill Clinton who was Governor of Arkansas, so that’s TWO.
George Bush, Senior was not a Governor.
Ronald Reagan was Governor of California, so that’s THREE.
Jimmy Carter was Governor of Georgia, so that’s FOUR.
Gerald Ford was a long time Congressman but as far as I know he was never a Governor.
Richard Nixon did run for Governor of California in 1962, but he lost. He was never a Governor.
Lyndon Baines Johnson was a Congressman and a U.S. Senator. To the best of my knowledge he was never a Governor.
and, if we’re counting John F. Kennedy, who technically would make 9 Presidents (but one of 8 of the most recent former Presidents) he was a Congressman and a U.S. Senator but definitely never a Governor.
If anybody can prove to me that Goerge Bush, Sr. or LBJ or Nixon or Ford or JFK were ever Governors of states, I’ll stand corrected, but I don’t think you’ll be able to!
I’m going to really have to “set this one up”, that is, once I tell you what it’s about, I’m going to have to give a huge disclaimer and explanation or many of you are going to jump to some very wrong conclusions about me. (Some will probably jump to those conclusions even WITH the big “set up” and disclaimer!)
I’ve been a big fan of the Don Imus radio show (and, well, I watched it when I could on MSNBC, also) for quite a number of years.
When Imus “had his great fall” in April of this year, many in the media portrayed him as a hateful, racist, vile evil and absolutely disgusting human being. Those were the FRIENDLY portrayals! The unfriendly ones portrayed him as slime and not even human. Thus, saying, I’m a Don Imus fan almost comes across like saying something like, “I’m a Charles Manson fan” or “I’m a Lee Harvey Oswald fan” or something. Those of you who never listened to Imus may be surprised to learn that one of his biggest fans, dearest friends, and most loyal supporters was Bishop G.E. Patterson of the Church of God in Christ. (The Church of God in Christ is very much like the Assemblies of God to which I belong- the difference being it’s about four times larger and it’s Membership is 98% African American.) Yes, the great Memphis black preacher was very close to Don and was a guest on the program a number of times. Patterson passed away about a year ago, so he wasn’t able to be an emotional and spiritual support to Don Imus this past Spring, and that’s too bad.
Now, I’m NOT defending the comments that were made about the Rutgers girls’ basketball team. I heard the comments and I winced and knew they were wrong and outrageous. I DID fit the demographic of an “Imus in the Morning” fan, however....white, male, between 40 and 65, college educated, white collar job. There were always GREAT interviews on “Imus in the Morning”. Regulars included Senator John McCain, commentator Pat Buchanan, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, columnist Mike Barnicle, and once in awhile, even Jay Severin and Michael Graham from 96.9 FMTalk in Boston. The joking and bantering between straight man Charles McCord (a born-again Christian and a Springfield, Missouri native), Lou the engineer, Bernard McGuirk the producer, and the various sports guys including Syd Rosenberg are what really made the show. You had to have a certain sense of humor to “get” the Imus show and I definitely got it. The funniest thing was Bernard’s impersonations of New York’s Cardinal Egan. At times it was so funny, I had to turn the radio off because I was just too distracted!
Imus also got me to like country music. I would not know who Montgomery Gentry, Patti Loveless, or the Flatlanders were without “Imus in the Morning”.
My guess is most guys who loved “Imus in the Morning” also love “The Three Stooges”. It’s very much the same humor. Well, IF you’re a Three Stooges fan, you know how disappointed you are when you turn on The Three Stooges expecting to see a “Curly” episode like “Calling Dr. Howard, Dr. Fine, Dr. Howard” or something like that, only to have it be a “Shemp” episode? All Stooges fans know what I mean. Well, when I turned on the NEW “Imus in the Morning” this week, that’s what it was like. While Charles McCord is back, several of the old gang are not. There’s some female comedian from Texas...well, let’s just say, the old Imus would have said she was “awful”! Imus was trying to sound confident and trying to sound cool, but he just couldn’t pull that off. You could tell he’s rattled and nervous about what happened. Imus even gave glowing words of praise about Al Sharpton. The new “Imus in the Morning” is “Imus Lite”. It’s even worse than a “Shemp” episode. It’s a “Joe” episode! Joe Besser who was only in a handful of “Three Stooges” episodes in the late 1950s refused to take part in the slapstick...so it was really “The Two Stooges and Joe”...not worth watching. I will give the new Imus show a few more listens, but I gotta tell ya, I’m “wicked disappointed”...
P.S. I had hoped the new “Imus” T.V. affiliate would be “Fox News Channel”. Nope. “Imus” has gone from MSNBC to....are you ready? R.F.D. TV!
Monday, December 3, 2007
In the mid-1980s I had the idea for an invention. I have NEVER liked the anonymity of telephones. When somebody knocks on your door, you can peek out the window and see who it is. If it’s somebody you want to avoid, you can close yourself in a closet or lay down and don’t make a move or a sound until the intruder goes away. Up until just a little over ten years ago, if the telephone rang you didn’t know who was calling. Now you COULD do what I’ve done and others have done...you could let your answering machine pick it up...and when you heard, “This is a VERY IMPORTANT CALL about $362. you owe on your credit card bill,” then you could get a big smile on your face and be glad you let the answering machine take the call! Still, that was a very cumbersome and impolite way to screen calls. I had the idea for a screen which would give you a readout with the full telephone number, including area code, of the person calling. I did not know what I could call this invention, or HOW it could possibly be made, but it struck me that the U.S.A. had landed a man on the moon in 1969, but still we had no technology to show us who was calling when the phone rang.
About ten years after I had my idea, Caller ID was introduced in limited markets. When it became available in the Boston area around 1995, I got Caller ID for both my office and my home. I was delighted that Caller ID not only gave you the number but also the NAME of the caller. I never imagined THAT. But the fact is, I had the idea for Caller ID, but being very unscientific and very non-technically inclined, I really had no way to tangibly build my idea.
I’ve got an idea for something else which would be MUCH more complicated and technically difficult than Caller ID was. I don’t believe the technology exists TODAY to make what I want, but I absolutely believe that “should the Lord tarry” as we born-again Christians say, such a thing WILL absolutely be invented and on the market within 100 years, and probably within 40 years. My idea is for some very high tech way of “projecting” (for lack of a better word) a written page, or part of a written page in somewhat transparent lettering in front of your field of vision. For example, I could be out raking leaves and in front of me, I would “see” a readable transparent image of, say, Mark chapter 7 from the Bible. As I raked and bagged, I could also be reading, “And he took him aside from the multitude, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spit, and touched his tongue; “ (Mark 7:33). I could read that verse and the verses around it and think about it and continue to think about it, and yet be raking. OR, I could be walking down Concord Street, Framingham, and in front of me in my field of vision would be a transparent but quite readable I Corinthians chapter 13.
Such an idea may sound absurd, but it really isn’t. I know many would say, “But you can listen to the Bible on tapes or C.D. while you rake.” The problem is, that when born-again Christians read the Bible devotionally (and MILLIONS AND MILLIONS around the world do read the Bible devotionally every day) we don’t read it like you’d read an ordinary book. We don’t go for speed. We might spend a half hour on just one chapter...or on half of a chapter.... or on five verses....or on one verse. I’ve spoken to elderly evangelical Christians who have lost their vision and they tell me how much they detest the Bible on tapes or C.D.s. I can understand why. Sometimes I HAVE listened to the Bible on tape as I’ve painted, or folded laundry, or repaired a broken wooden drawer, or some other such thing. And I’ve found it almost pointless. I need to stop, and LOOK, and PONDER a verse or a short passage, and I can’t do that unless I’m seated and staring at a Bible.
For Christians who love to be active but who want to have a quality devotional life- that “piece” can be frustrating. For about ten years, I’ve been walking and praying. I used to be one who went into a private room and knelt down and prayed. I almost never do that now. I’ve learned the exhilaration of walking and praying. And it’s wonderful. I’ve also done things like raking leaves and praying or shoveling snow and praying or mowing the lawn and praying and it’s WONDERFUL. But I’m frustrated that I can’t do the same thing with Scripture reading! With an invention such as I’m describing, which would involve some sort of VERY tiny device, with a very tiny battery, and a very tiny computer chip and some way of “projecting” the words so YOU could see them but on one else could...well that way I could walk or mow or shovel and read the Bible devotionally just the same way I pray. I know that someone may say, “you could have a Palm Pilot with the Bible on it” (or some other such thing) but to try to rake leaves or mow a lawn or shovel snow while you’re looking at a Palm Pilot...well I might as well just carry my small New Testament, but again, to try to rake or mow or shovel while you’re reading a Bible in your hands...well it’s just not practical.
There are certainly questions about such a device being invented. Would you be able to use it while driving? That would probably be a bad idea. Would it work in the dark or in very bad weather? Maybe not- I’m not sure.
I know the idea of such an invention sounds crazy...but think back to 1962 (for those of you who can possibly remember 1962, as I can). In 1962, who would have imagined cell phones, or Blackberries, or lap top computers, or C.D. players or D.V.D. players, or high definition television, or even answering machines, for that matter? (The first answering machines came on the market in the early 1970s.) Yet, we take all of this stuff for granted today.
What I’m writing about here and wishing for WILL exist within 100 years and probably within 40 years. I hope I will be able to see it and benefit from its use. Would I like any financial benefits if such a thing is invented? Well, I realize I wouldn’t have a patent on it or anything like that, but I DO have this piece in cyberspace. I’d love to be supplied with any such devices FREE, and I’d be thrilled if somehow my name was used with the product, but I realize it would be far more likely I’d be the next President of the United States!
What do you think? If you know of some M.I.T. type technology genius, send this his or her way...maybe it will start the ball rolling on such an invention!