Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

My son Jon is truly a gifted writer. A 25-year-old, he truly writes like one of the greats. I sincerely hope he gets a book published at some point, because if he does, I think that could be a lucrative career for him. I get compliments about my writing, but in comparison to Jon’s, mine is quite amateurish. It’s gotten better, however. When I read things I wrote in in the early ‘80s, I feel pretty embarrassed because that stuff reads like something written by a high school Sophomore! In fact, in high school, I took a “Creative Writing” class. I hate to admit it, but the material I wrote while in high school read like something by a Sixth Grader! I’m thinking about that high school Creative Writing class as I write because I’m pretty sure this piece would have received a bad grade! I’ve got so many topics on my mind this morning, and I can’t decide which of them to write about, so I’m going to touch on all of them!

No, I just don’t seem to be able to stay on track today! Speaking of on “track”, I stopped by a Christian bookstore yesterday . I needed to pick up some greeting cards and some tracts. (For the uninitiated, a “tract” is a short leaflet urging a response. A Gospel tract urges the reader to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. In some cases there are “tracts for Christians” urging them to read their Bibles more, pray more, and that sort of thing.) I went to the stores tract rack and noticed several computer generated signs taped to the rack. They read: “TRACKS 14 cents; packages of twenty $2.75”. I guess I would have embarrassed my wife on this one, but with a silly smirk on my face I asked the proprietor, “Incidentally, what’s the correct way to spell ‘tracts’?” She was shocked at the misspelling and told me the sign had been produced by an employee. I guess the whole thing of whether one should point out an error like that or let it go is debatable, but I thought the owner would like to know.

The topic of “debating” brings up all sorts of thoughts today. A hotly debated issue on talk radio for the past few days is whether college professor and former terrorist Bill Ayers should have been invited to speak at Boston College. In fact, he was originally scheduled to speak there last night, and my understanding is it was canceled. WTKK’s Michael Graham brought the issue to the airwaves last week. Graham believed there’s no way B.C. should provide any sort of a forum for Ayers and called for the cancellation of the event. At least three of his colleagues at the station strongly disagreed. They felt Ayers should have been allowed to speak but that an opposing spokesperson should have been allowed to debate him. There’s been all kinds of debate (there’s that word again) about whether or not Bill Ayers’ right to free speech was violated. I’ve found myself on both sides of that issue, but I’ve concluded that we’ve got to consider EVERYBODY’S rights when we try to decide something such as this. I think if Bill Ayers wants to proclaim his opinions, he has the right to do that, but I have the right to NOT invite him to do so in a setting for which I’m responsible. I’d never have Bill Ayers speak at the church I pastor, speak in my home, or speak in any venue for which I was responsible. I think I can understand where Michael Graham was coming from. For a Catholic college to have a guy like Bill Ayers speaking there just doesn’t seem appropriate. I guarantee he’d never be speaking at Michael’s alma mater (Oral Roberts University). I’m sure there are many other places Bill Ayers can speak and would speak, so his “free speech” really is not violated.

Another big issue to debate is the government takeover of General Motors and Chrysler. I never thought I’d live to see something like that in this country. It’s not just conservatives who are wringing their hands about that, either. I noticed that this morning’s MetroWest Daily News (which is mostly liberal and mostly Democrat on its editorial pages) ran an editorial which was highly critical of the government takeover. The precedent of government takeovers of private businesses is frightening. I will now put on my “end time preacher hat” and say I believe it’s just another sign of the times.

Still another debatable issue is whether you “call” somebody on something inconsistent they say or do or whether you just let it go. This is another radio matter (and I know some people do say I’m too focused on talk radio!) but I’m shaking my head at Don Imus. A couple of weeks ago he announced that he’s got stage 2 prostate cancer. A day or two later, he launched into a long monologue about how he refuses to be defined by his disease and that he doesn’t want anyone treating him any differently because he has cancer. So, you’d expect he’d say very little more about the cancer, right? Wrong! Each time I’ve tuned in to the Don Imus Show since then he’s been going on and on about the fact that he has cancer! He reminds me of a guy I knew who used to go on and on and on, saying, “I’m just going to keep quiet. I’m not going to say much. I’m just going to keep quiet.” The guy would incessantly repeat those words. Finally, I’d want to yell at him and say, “Well then, just be quiet!” Why does somebody say they don’t want to focus on their cancer and then do nothing but focus on their cancer?
It’s not just Don Imus. In life, I’ve observed that sort of behavior quite a bit.

I’ve also noticed there are people who just can’t get along with other people. They blame everybody else, but the problem is THEM. I have to keep it all totally anonymous, but one way or another I’ve found myself in several situations like that, even recently. Conversely, I’m struck by the example of an older couple I know who NEVER get into relational problems like that. Never! Look at these verses from I Corinthians 13 in the New Living Translation:

<<4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.>>

That’s what characterizes that elderly couple. I think 99% of problems among Christians (especially) would be solved if we just read that, thought about it, and LIVED it! I admit I frequently fail in this area, myself, and it’s something I’m taking to heart this morning.

Towards the beginning of this piece I was writing about tracts or tracks! I think of my friend, Ed Duddy. He is what I call a “model railroading nut”. He had model trains set up in his dorm room at Central Bible College. Sometimes, he walk around the dorm passing out little pieces of model railroad. When asked what he was doing, he’d reply, “I’m passing out tracts!” (or is it “tracks”?!)

It occurs to me that this piece which started off rambling and flowing all over the place may actually BE a “tract” as such. It’s led me to write about how we should think and act (i.e. I Corinthians 13 in the New Living Translation). It actually has continued the thoughts of my opening Bible verse:
“Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

So maybe this really WAS a tract which somehow managed to stay on track!

Friday, March 27, 2009


“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” Hebrews 9:27)

This morning I learned that former Boston radio “talkmaster” Larry Glick died last night following ten hours of open heart surgery. The WBZ website listed him as 87, but I believe he was actually 86 and would have been 87 in May.

Learning of Larry Glick’s passing put me in a sad and reflective mood, for I did have a connection to Larry Glick which was more than just listening to him on the radio. For one thing, Larry Glick was a personal friend of my Uncle J.P. “Jimmy” Keddy. Jimmy Keddy was married to my Dad’s eldest sister, Bea. On the show, Jimmy Keddy was always known as “Mr. McGillicuddy” or “Jim McGillicuddy”. He was a frequent caller and visitor to Larry Glick. Although Larry Glick had a very charismatic, vivacious, and extroverted personality, Keddy described him as a shy man in private.

There are some people you just feel a CONNECTION to, and I definitely felt a connection to Larry Glick. Not only did I speak to him on the air several times, (and had a Glick University tee-shirt) but we spoke by phone off air several times. I was really honored that Larry Glick trusted me enough to give me his home phone number. Evangelicals will understand what I mean when I say I’d shared the Gospel with Larry Glick. Like a lot of people, he heard it willingly, but held to the belief that “whatever you want to believe, IF IT MAKES YOU FEEL GOOD, is O.K.” Well, Biblically speaking, that’s wrong and crazy! He was also very much into hypnosis, and put on a lot of shows as a hypnotist. I know he was very close friends with Paul Tavilla (of the New England Produce center) who was also a born-again Christian and so Larry indeed received the Gospel many times. Did he ever respond to it and “ask Jesus into his heart”? I don’t know. I do know he was born a Jew but embraced what I’d call a very loosy, goosy spirituality.

I said I felt a connection to him. For one thing, I’ve got a VERY similar personality. I’m very shy one-on-one but I have no problem getting up and speaking to large groups. Usually I’m an entertaining, captivating speaker, as he was. There was other stuff as well, such as him being friends with my Uncle, and the fact that his daughter’s wedding was the same day as my wedding: August 28, 1982. When I told that to Larry in one phone conversation, he said, “We’re connected somehow psychically.” Well, I’D never have phrased it quite that way, but I got his point.

Larry Glick was easily the most interesting and entertaining radio talk show host to ever grace the Boston airwaves. He retired in 1992, and there’s no one who has truly taken his place. I understand that over the past couple of years, he was working as a “greeter” in the evenings at Legal Sea Foods in Boca Raton, Florida. I’d love to have gotten down there sometime, had a great meal, and had another chat with Larry Glick, but alas, it’s not to be.

I’m misty eyed today, and my condolences go out to Larry Glick’s family.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


“Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” (Luke 13:4)

Recently, a pastor friend shared with me an issue that has caused him to be at odds with his wife and at times even cause him to exchange tense words with her. The problem is that he likes things TOTALLY quiet in the morning (he’s a senior citizen- no kids or young people are in the home!). This guy savors the stillness and quiet of the morning...just walking around the house, sitting eating breakfast, and maybe exchanging pleasantries with his wife, but not much more. The wife has a habit of flipping on “Good Morning America” as soon as she comes into the kitchen, and she loves to watch the news, weather, and interviews. My friend sees this as a very bad intrusion of the world into their peaceful Christ-centered home. His wife just sees it as a way to stay connected and learn things.

He reports they’ve come to a compromise. When they are actually having breakfast, she turns the T.V. off. It annoys him, however, that when he’s not around, she rushes right to the T.V. and turns it on.

I didn’t say a whole lot to that pastor friend because in my home I’m much more like his wife and my wife is much more like him! I grew up in a home where either the television or the radio or BOTH were on almost all the time. My mother was what people would call a “news junkie”. She completed only one year of college, but when it came to current events,she was as sharp as the panelists on the McLaughlin Group. My Dad enjoyed radio talk shows, especially when they were talking about what was going on with state government. When I was a young kid, we always had a radio going in the kitchen. Then, when I was around 18, my parents got a T.V. for the kitchen. Every night we watched the news on Channel 5 during supper. I know that’s considered a real no-no with a lot of folks, but we did it. On Saturday nights, we’d often be eating hot dogs and beans and watching the Lawrence Welk Show!

As you can guess, I’m one of those types who walks in and immediately flips the T.V. or radio on. During the last year, my wife has had the talk with me that my pastor friend has had with his wife- that she really wants me to turn the media off and focus on her, my kids, and most of all God. I guess part of me feels I DO focus plenty on God and that staying on top of current events is a good thing, but I DO see how things can get unbalanced.

I chose the above verse, because I’ve often used that passage to prove that Jesus DID keep up with and discuss current events. In that passage, he not only talks about the news story of the tower in Siloam falling, but he talks about the Galileans that Governor Pilate had executed, mingling their blood with their sacrifices. So, it’s not wrong to discuss current events, but I guess if it really annoys one’s spouse, then one has to make adjustments in one’s lifestyle.

So, how about you? Are you a news and media person, or do you like things quiet and still? Do you think either lifestyle or preference is any more or less spiritual than the other?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


“...Behold, a sower went forth to sow;” (from Matthew 13:3)

For the past few weeks, my blog has been featured on the “Protestant Blog Directory” at

I hope they don’t remove it when they read this piece because it's not directly and overtly about “spiritual”, “Protestant”, or “Christian” issues. Some of you who’ve read my blog for a long time know that especially in the early days I wrote about a wide variety of issues such as rental car companies, the history of carbonated beverages, the “Lost” television program, the benefits of vinegar as a weed killer, etc. My wife feels that I should strictly write about pastoral/Christian issues, while other people like when I write about secular issues. In the past few weeks, 80% of what I’ve written about has been “spiritual”, but today I decided to talk about grass...not marijuana, I mean GRASS as in a lawn!

Mary Ann is into vegetable gardening and flower gardening. I don’t get too involved in that stuff, but I AM one of those guys like “Hank Hill” on “King of the Hill” who really likes to have a nice looking lawn. I’ve already been out patching some bare areas of my lawn this year- in fact I did that over a week ago. On projects like lawns, timing is EVERYTHING. In Massachusetts, the very best time to plant grass, whether a full lawn or just patching and repairing, is September- preferably between September 1 and September 15 but you can usually get away with planting as late as September 26 or 27. It takes about three weeks for the lawn to “take”. Once it does, it will be fine for the winter. The snow is actually good for it...something about the nitrogen. Then, you’ve got some great grass in the Spring.

In Massachusetts, the second best time to plant grass is April- preferably between April 15 and April 30. Newly planted grass doesn’t need the temperature to be too cold or too hot...moderate to slightly warm temperatures are best, and sunny days alternating with rainy days are best. Lawns that are planted between June 15 and August 15 generally DON’T do well because it’s just TOO hot and there’s not enough rainfall. The rainfall that generally DOES happen at that time of year is the torrential rain of thunderstorms which actually doesn’t do a whole lot of good.

There are a number of things to remember when you’re planting grass, and you should be able to find some great information on-line, but one tip I’ll share is that the PARTICULAR VARIETY of grass is important. I learned this from listening to Paul Parent, a gardening expert on the radio. Everybody loves Kentucky Bluegrass, but it’s NOT necessarily the best variety to plant. Kentucky Bluegrass tends to have broader, thicker blades and a dark green (sometimes almost forest green) color. It LOOKS great. The problem is, it has a very shallow root system. Kentucky Bluegrass is especially hard to grow in very sunny areas. Due to the poor root system, many a hot and dry August has just about killed a lawn full of Kentucky Bluegrass. There’s a variety called Red Fescue which is heartier than Kentucky Bluegrass, and in fact some bags of grass seed are a mixture of Kentucky Bluegrass, Red Fescue, and Perennial Ryegrass.

The BEST variety of grass to produce a healthy lawn is Tall Fescue. It’s roots go about ten times deeper into the earth than the roots of Kentucky Bluegrass. It’s really HARD to kill Tall Fescue. Tall Fescue grass has a thinner blade and a somewhat lighter green color, but it’s very dependable. Something I’ve been known to do is buy a bag of just Kentucky Bluegrass and a bag of Tall Fescue and mix them and plant them together. That gives you kind of a nice color, but will ensure a heartier and healthier lawn. Incidentally, there are some varieties of grass seed that are “annual”. They’ll give you a lawn for one year and THAT’S IT! Stay away from that stuff!

If you’re actually putting in a whole lawn, you’ll need to roto-till the land first, then you’ll need to add in some good quality loam, rake it all in good, and then add your seed and tamp it down. After that you need water, water, water, and more water. Ten years ago, my wife and I completely redid my parents’ lawn in Canton. I will always remember that I was working on that project on the day of the Columbine High School massacre. It was a tough job. 1999 was one of the DRIEST years on record. It killed many lawns. My mother watered every day for three weeks, and NOTHING happened. She was getting discouraged with it, as was I, but suddenly the lawn burst forth and she had a fabulous lawn. A challenge that year was that there was a crabgrass invasion. That’s why experts say it’s better to plant a lawn in September, but my experience in Canton tells me it CAN be done. Incidentally, when you plant a lawn you need to put down some starter fertilizer, but NEVER put down REGULAR fertilizer. It’s too much for the new lawn and it can kill it.

Well, maybe this is more about lawns than you’d care to know, but I’m really NOT an “outdoorsy” person, and yet I’ve gotten pretty good at this lawn stuff.
If I can do it, anybody can!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


“Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.” (2 Corinthians 8:21)

Was it Billy Joel who sang those late ‘70s lyrics, “Honesty, is such a lonely work, everyone is so untrue; honesty, is hardly ever heard, and mostly what I need from you.”? Well, if it wasn’t Billy Joel it was one of those pop singers of thirty years ago.


Somebody sent me a FORWARD e-mail message just recently which told the story of a pastor who was new in a community and who received twenty-five cents too much as change at a supermarket register. He started heading home, thinking, “Well, it’s only a quarter, it’s no big deal.” He instantly became so uncomfortable about it that he had to just make his way back to the checker and give it back. The checker told him, “I knew who you were and I wanted to see if you were honest. I’ll be visiting your church next Sunday!”

I don’t know if that story is true or not, but we’re all tested in that area of honesty. I got home late last night from an Assemblies of God ministers’ meeting. It was a good meeting and I was in a good mood. Like so many adults of 2009, I just HAD to check my e-mail at 11:20 p.m. (I don’t know how I’m going to do with my “internet fast” when I’m on Sabbatical leave!) There was an e-mail from my friend Ed in Texas, entitled something like, “You’re Not Going to Believe This!”

Ed can be a very sensational writer- even more so than me! I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened his e-mail. Ed is a former Assemblies of God minister. He pastored a church in suburban St. Louis for a number of years. His wife, an executive with a communications company, took a company transfer to Dallas about ten years ago. Ed gave up on pastoring and became a rural letter carrier. He had recently been sweating out “mail count”. “Mail count” is an official federal procedure which can determine your pay scale, the number of days you work, and even if you get to keep your job. Ed has been full-time for a number of years. He makes a pretty good salary, works Saturdays, but has Thursdays off for errands and doing things around the house. Ed had recently written that the carriers had been told most of them would lose their day off, have to work 6 days, and get pay cuts. One coworker of Ed’s was angry and said he’d quit.

Saturday morning, I received an ecstatic e-mail from Ed. Yes, he’s even more sensational than I am. He wrote that there’d been a “miracle” and after the word miracle there were about ten exclamation points. Ed was going to be able to keep his day off and keep his rate of pay. Most of his coworkers were not.

I felt his ecstasy! The Bible tells us in Romans 12:15 to rejoice with those who rejoice and I did. What a GREAT story! God has blessed Ed!

Last night, I opened Ed’s “You’re Not Going to Believe This” e-mail. Ed had carefully looked at the postal service’s paperwork and evaluation which had involved him keeping his job intact. He discovered mathematical errors! The postal service was WRONG! He did NOT qualify to keep his job, as is. The true information indicated he needed to also lose his day off and take a pay cut. He told his superiors. As of April 25, along with the others, he is losing his day off and taking a pay cut.

I am ashamed to admit that my first thought was, “Maybe he shouldn’t have told them. Maybe they wouldn’t have known. Maybe they would eventually find out, but in the meantime he’d be O.K.”

Well, of course those thoughts are wrong and sinful. They’re dishonest. NOT telling the superiors would mean having no integrity.

It reminded me of an episode of the 1990s CBS show, “Northern Exposure”. In that particular episode, Ruth Ann Miller, the elderly lady who ran the general store was under an I.R.S. audit. The female I.R.S. agent was going through a divorce and was under enormous personal pressure. For that reason, she did NOT notice that she’d made a major mistake in her calculations in Ruth Ann’s favor. At first, Ruth Ann was not going to report it. She reasoned that she’d been ripped off by the I.R.S. enough times, and that this was pay back. She wrestled with it and wrestled with it. The audit took several days and several sessions with the female agent. Finally, Ruth Ann said, “You made a mistake in your calculations.” and pointed it out. The viewer could tell it was painful for Ruth Ann, but at least she knew she’d done the right thing.

Romans 15:12 also says to weep with those that weep, so now I “weep” with Ed.
Yes, I know, many people are losing their jobs and it’s good that he still has a job. It is. But I know how Ed’s wired. He’s a lot like me. He needs that “mental health” day during the week to putter around the house, do things with his model train hobby, just take a ride to the mall, and so forth. He’s going to have to adjust to life without that stuff.

If you get twenty-five cents too much in your change today, what will YOU do?

Monday, March 23, 2009


“And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.” (Genesis 2:2)

The title is THE “S” WORD.

What’s the S word? “Sabbatical”.

It’s ironic that I just wrote about my high school English teacher, Mrs. Kane, in my last posting entitled, “A Botched Joke?” because the first person I ever heard talk about sabbatical leave was Mrs. Kane. One day in class she was telling us that college professors often are given each seventh year off as a year of rest and enrichment. She was talking about what a great idea sabbaticals are, and that more professions should offer sabbaticals.

I was not aware (until I started mingling with liberal clergy) how common CLERGY sabbaticals are. For years and years in the Assemblies of God and in the more theologically conservative churches I NEVER hears of pastors taking sabbatical leave. Yet, among liberal clergy, and I don’t mean POLITICALLY liberal clergy, I mean the kind of clergy who don’t take the Bible all that literally and who may believe kind of an “I’m O.K./You’re O.K.” kind of thing, I’ve come to see that sabbatical leave is an extremely common practice. When you’re around liberal clergy, it seems someone is always going on or off a sabbatical.

Lest you think I’m criticizing the liberal clergy about this, I’m not. The evangelical churches are now realizing that the liberals got this thing about sabbaticals right. Our current District Superintendent (like a Bishop) Bob Wise is a strong advocate of pastors taking sabbatical leave. He’s introducing this concept to our District. He’s got quite a job ahead of him! Although he took a couple of sabbaticals during his 33-year-pastorate in Brockton, MA, he’s encountering numerous Assemblies of God clergy who have never heard of taking sabbatical leave and who feel it’s unnecessary. Yet, he’s pressing on with this, saying that if clergy are burned out and unhealthy, they will not have healthy churches.

The past eight months have been extraordinarily difficult ones for me. All the whys and wherefores are MUCH too personal even for ME to write about, but I contacted my District Superintendent in December to seek some counsel and direction. After a few meetings, he’s strongly encouraged me to take sabbatical leave. Yesterday morning, I announced to the church I pastor that I’ll be taking sabbatical leave soon. As I can tend to be one who shoots from the hip and then gives too much or too little information, I had a prepared written statement to read which my wife and Church Board helped me to prepare. It’s been decided I will have two months of sabbatical leave in 2009. One will be soon, and will be for total rest. The other will be later in the year and will be a time of personal and spiritual enrichment.

I must admit I had a hard time accepting all this at first. Whereas I was an incredibly lazy person when I was around 20, by my 40s I’d evolved into a control freak and a work-a-holic. Ultimately, that’s not healthy for me or for anyone around me. I have been really scared about the sabbatical because I’ve thought, “What if I don’t change? What if it doesn’t do any good?”

I’ve had to realize that God has seen me “through thick and thin” as they say. My life’s involved a lot of pain, and a lot of sacrifice. There have also been some great victories and some exhilarating moments. My mother was the type who “saw the glass half empty” and sometimes I’m the type who sees the glass as dirty and already in the dishwasher! (I stole that line from my friend Pastor Rob Woods who stole it from a guy in his church!) Yeah, I can look at the dark side of life which is, well, not good.

Boy, I’ve related to George Bailey, the guy in, “It’s a Wonderful Life” who goes to jump off that wrought iron bridge. He forgot that he was rich in friends and truly had a wonderful life. Remember it took “Clarence” to remind him of all that?! Speaking of Pastor Rob Woods, he happened to send me an e-mail a couple of days ago. He reminded me of a time I preached at his church a few years ago and told me of a young man who was very positively impacted for the cause of Christ that night by my sermon. That e-mail was more special than a million dollar check! So, yeah, I’m kind of burned out...and I need a sabbatical, and as Dick Martin of Laugh-In used to say, “I’ll be a better person for it.” I believe I really WILL!

I’ll be going on my first leg of the sabbatical shortly after Easter. Someone has already asked me if I’ll be e-mailing or posting on the blog during that time. I don’t think so, but I really don’t know. So, that’s the “S” word: sabbatical. I get to go on sabbatical. And speaking of “S” words, I guess that’s pretty SPECIAL!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


“Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!” (Matthew 18:7)

In signing on to AOL today, I noticed a news story stating that Alaska Governor Sarah Palin is offended at the remark President Obama made on late night television a few nights ago. It was one of those “shot heard round the world” deals, except that the “shot” was a verbal shot at the Special Olympics. Asked about his skills in using the White House bowling alley, the President said he might qualify for the Special Olympics. That’s one of those lines like Senator Kerry’s “botched joke” about being “stuck in Iraq” which can cause one to go from being a hero to being a zero.

I suppose I should give my opinion about Obama’s “Special Olympics” faux pas, but the truth is, as I’m writing and thinking about it, I’m not sure what it is. I did not vote for President Obama, and I disagree with him at least 50% of the time. That said, I can’t believe he REALLY disdains mentally retarded people or mentally retarded athletes, in particular. On the other hand, Governor Palin’s little boy had Down Syndrome. I can certainly understand her dismay, as that comment hit “close to home” for her.

This business of offending or not offending people can be a veritable mine field! I remember back in high school that Mrs. Kane, my Sophomore English teacher made a crack about the character Maxwell Smart on “Get Smart” who was played by actor Don Adams.

“When I see him, all I can think of is ‘JERK’!” she said.

What she didn’t know is that Mr. Adams’ neice Sharon Mason was one of the kids in the class! (No kidding! I also went to high school with relatives of actor Dustin Hoffman.) In a deadly serious and annoyed tone of voice, Sharon annouced, “He’s my UNCLE”. I think poor Mrs. Kane wanted to fall into the “Cone of Silence” after that one!

If I had a dollar for every person I’ve offended by something I’ve said, I think I’d be wealthy! My wife thinks I’m WAY too careless in my speech and WAY too inclinded to offend people. So, I guess as I think about it, I DO empathize with the President (and poor Mrs. Kane). My old boss D.C.M. used to say he enjoyed hearing me tell stories because I would impersonate each person I was referring to in the story. (That’s true...I DO that.) I remember one time impersonating this lady who was always taking big gaping breaths of air as she talked...like “Stevie” on the Malcolm in the Middle show. What I DIDN’T know was that the lady was a victim of lung cancer and that one of her lungs had been surgically removed! Another time (this WAS when I was in my 20s) I commented to a friend that somebody’s kid was kind of odd looking. I really thought she was just a “normal” but odd looking kid.

My friend looked at me HORRIFIED and said, “That child is BADLY DEFORMED!” hmmmmmmm, I’m glad Governor Palin didn’t hear that comment!

Certainly, I really DON’T advocate malicioulsy making fun of people! If someone had made fun of my father’s Alzheimer’s Disease, I don’t think I would have found that humorous. A friend died of A.L.S. a couple of years ago. Somehow, I don’t think a joke about somebody being paralyzed in a wheelchair would be all that funny, either. YET, I’m the guy who HAS at times made remarks akin to the President’s “mis-speaking” and frankly, SOMETIMES it’s actually led to people being SO offended that they left the church. No kidding. I hate having to THINK about EVERYTHING I say, on the one hand, and yet I REALLY don’t want to say things that hurt people on the other hand.

Another news item this week involved a “remote broadcast” that Boston’s 96.9 WTKK had at the Wilbur Theater for St. Patrick’s Day. It was the 10th Annual “Kiss Me I’m Imus” bash. You may know that when it comes to saying offensive things, Don Imus not only makes ME look like the late Fred Rogers of Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood; he even makes Rush Limbaugh look like Fred Rodgers of Mr. Rodgers’ Neighborhood! Off mike, and shortly after the start of the event, Imus called local talk show host Jay Severin over to him, used pretty harsh profanity, and told him to “get off the stage or I’ll shoot you!” Severin has made quite an issue of the incident, treating it as a serious threat. Imus says, he was “only joking”. On the one hand, if you go to a Don Imus event, that’s the kind of comment you CAN expect will be made. On the other hand, IS it ever appropriate to joke about shooting someone? And, what about when Ronald Reagan said, “The bombs start falling in five minutes”? Was that OK?

I guess just by LIVING offenses will come, as Jesus said! AND, “me thinks” that on the one hand we’ve got to all be more forgiving or we’ll ALL end up suing each other; and on the other hand, maybe my wife is right, and maybe the President and I DO need to think a bit more about what we’re saying and how our words might offend someone...

Monday, March 16, 2009


“...and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (from I Peter 3:15)

One of the many hats that I wear is that I am the Secretary of the Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association. We call it “F.I.C.A.” but people think we’re talking about social security! F.I.C.A. has an arrangement with the MetroWest Daily News that we write a monthly column for them. The particular clergy person who writes the column can have it reflect his or her theological views and political views which may or may not reflect the views and opinions of other members of F.I.C.A. Anyway, I was assigned to write the F.I.C.A. column for March. The person writing the column is supposed to submit it by the 10th of the month. I wrote and submitted mine today. This is what I wrote, and I hope it appears in the paper sometime in the next few days:


Last Saturday morning’s Mel Robbins Show on Boston’s 96.9 WTKK proved to be quite interesting to hear as I drove to an Assemblies of God clergy meeting at our Southern New England District headquarters facility in Charlton. I first caught the last part of an hour which explored the topic of, “Why people lie”. In the next hour of the program, Ms. Robbins raised the topic of the recently published results of the American Religious Identification Survey. According to the Survey, twice as many Americans (that is, 15%) claim to be atheists as was the case twenty years ago. The Survey also indicates that the percentage of people who call themselves “Christian” has dropped 11% over the same time period, and also indicates that those who do identify themselves as “Christian” are less likely to attend church. In fact, Roman Catholic attendance and mainstream Protestant attendance is down, although there is an upswing in attendance at evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Robbins claimed there is a “4,000% increase” at evangelical churches! I’m not sure where she got that figure! A recent on-line newsletter for clergy from Focus on the Family which I received indicated that the American Religious Identification Survey showed a slight increase in evangelical church attendance (but certainly not 4,000%)!

Mel Robbins asked people to call in and talk about whether they’ve fallen away from church attendance, and/or how people balance church attendance with the pressures of everyday life. She told of being “a very spiritual person” who used to attend a church in the D.C. area largely because “she loved the music” but lamented that her kids’ Sunday soccer games leave no time for church. She also expressed frustration that her mother feels she should be teaching her children Christian traditions such as “The Lord’s Prayer” and should be seeing to it that her children get a religious education. There was an eclectic mix of callers during that hour. In one way or another I’d say the majority fell into the category of, “I think as long as you believe in God and you’re a good person church attendance isn’t that important.”

Had I phoned into Mel Robbins, I might have said something like this: It IS true that church attendance in itself doesn’t equal spirituality. Some people attend church just to please family members, because they were raised that way, or even to make friendships and political connections. There are a sizable number of such people who may not even believe in God. I can understand why someone would find such behavior pointless. But I have a lot of sympathy with Mel Robbins’ mother’s position. While I was having my haircut this past Friday, my barber was lamenting the lack of morals and ethics in our present society. A guy about my age, he longs for a simpler time when most people attended church, believed in God, and held to more traditional values. We had a similar conversation just before Christmas. Television commentator Bill O’Reilley wrings his hands over the negative impact that “secular progressives” have had on our society. I think the barber and O’Reilley are 100% right. As much as this will make me sound like a “fire ‘n brimstone” 1840s revival preacher, we need to get back to God! I’m always shocked at the smart contestants who hold graduate degrees who’ll appear on Jeopardy and can’t answer a question indicating that Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount or that Psalm 23 begins, “The Lord is My Shepherd”, or even that Genesis is the first book of the Bible. Billy Graham has said that to many people, “Jesus” is nothing more than a swear word.

I think families ought to make time for God and the things of God. Jewish families ought to join a synagogue and make synagogue life a priority. Catholic, Protestants, and those of other faiths ought to find a house of worship and get involved there. Most people want “a nice church to get married in” or “a nice minister to do Aunt Nellie’s funeral”. Frankly, if everybody just “decided to have their own private spirituality” and to go off to soccer games on Sunday morning or whenever, and if nobody stuck with organized religion, there would be NO “nice churches to get married in” or “ministers to do Aunt so-in-sos funeral”. Worse, there would be no faith groups to offer support during times of crisis.

Our church is very small and has limited resources. Yet, as a pastor I was gratified and blessed to receive two phone calls this past Monday morning lauding the wonderful services we had on Sunday. One elderly woman who is facing a number of pressing issues said, “I felt so GOOD. It felt so GOOD to be in the presence of the Lord. It felt so good to KNOW people cared.” Another call from a middle-aged woman expressed similar sentiments. In the Assemblies of God we say that among the reasons we hold church services is for fellowship with God and fellowship with one another. A number of years ago, when I was on staff at a large church a woman began drifting away from church services but let the pastoral staff know she was “watching Robert Schuller on television every Sunday”. Privately, the senior pastor told the staff, “Next time she’s in the hospital I feel like saying to her, ‘call Robert Schuller and see if he will visit you!’”

I think we can all get that senior pastor’s point. Admittedly, it can take a lot of work to rearrange your schedule and find a good church. There’s a very humorous episode of the animated show, “King of the Hill” in which the Hill family shops around for a new church because a new family has been sitting in “their” seats at the Methodist Church. Over several weeks, the Hills visit a Spanish-speaking Catholic Church, a frankly wild and crazy Pentecostal Church, a folksy church which is a throwback to the ‘60s, and a mega-church. After a few weeks at the mega-church, they come home to the Methodist Church where they started. When you’re looking for a church, you can feel like the Hills in that episode. One thing I tell people who are looking for a church is to never judge any church by one visit at one service. You may have happened upon an unusually bad or unusually good service there. Three visits over a few weeks will tell you what that church is really like. Yes, it takes time to find a good church, but they’re out there and with some effort and persistence, you’ll find one.

I hope the Mel Robbins’ of America will seriously think about their priorities and indeed make involvement with a local faith group a priority!

Friday, March 13, 2009


"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." (Psalm 90:12)

On this Friday the 13th I find myself reflecting upon the passage of time, which is something I often do. On one radio talk show today, a caller insisted that March 13 is the "Ides of March", that is, the day on which Julius Caesar was assasinated. The host thought it happened on March 15. The caller was not persuaded, but the host was correct. The Ides of March is March 15. One reason that date is burned into my memory is that my daughter was married last year on the Ides of March, on March 15, 2008, in Springfield, Missouri. I mailed off an Anniversary card to Amy and David today, and I e-mailed them anniversary wishes. I don't feel old enough to have a daughter that's a married adult!

Every year around this time I remember the first automobile accident I had. It was on March 12, 1973. The accident involved three cars and I was in the middle. I was plowed from the rear by a middle-aged man driving a 1972 Ford LTD and pushed into a Cadillac. In the impact my glasses flew off and were later found on the floor of the back seat. I've had a few car accidents in my driving career, but that one was the worst. I was eighteen years old. My father, the Registry of Motor Vehicles official was pretty upset. He expect everyone in the family to drive (well, "operate"...see my last entry) perfectly. Many people he'd taught to drive had "perfect driving records", and at age 18, my driving record was already shattered in his eyes.

I can vividly remember that car accident. I can bring it back in my memory as if it happened only days ago. It seems impossible that it happened thirty-six years ago. Although 1973 is the topic of a current police drama on television about some cop who went back to fight crime in the distant past of 1973, to me, 1973 doesn't seem like it was long ago at all! I decided to figure out how old I will be thirty-six years from now. I was shocked to compute that in thirty-six years it will be 2045 and I will be 90!

The Ides of March falls at an interesting time of year. In some parts of the country it's quite Spring-like right now. In much of Florida, it's SUMMER-like. In New England, at the cusp between winter and spring, temperatures can swing between 27 and 72 depending on the particular day. It's a time of year that we think of life coming forth from death. On the other hand, it's a time of year we think of death, i.e. Julius Caesar and at least one of those cars on Washington Street, Canton in 1973! For some reason I was thinking of the short story, "The Lottery" this week. I remember that being read to our English Class by Mrs. Kane when I was a Sophomore in high school It's a fictional account of a colonial American village where a lottery takes place each spring to see who will be stoned to death to placate nature and insure a good harvest. Yes, the Ides of March can really bring on some deep philosophical thinking!

Last year, Easter was VERY early. In fact, it was the earliest it had fallen it about a hundred years, and my understanding is that it won't fall this early for over another hundred years. I was complaining last year about how early Holy Week and Easter fell last year. (Palm Sunday last year was March 16.) I really prefer Holy Week and Easter to fall in April, as is the case this year, but in retrospect, in the midst of the tension and bleakness of March, it WAS nice to celebrate Jesus' resurrection!

If you've ever watched that tearjerker cartoon, "Charlotte's Web" you remember the song about how very special we are for just a moment in time. In a literal, physical sense, that's true. The Bible says, life is but a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (see James 4:14). For those who know the Lord, THIS life is just a dress rehearsal for eternity.

Well, that's my musing about the Ides of March on Friday the 13th. I can't stop the fact that I'm aging by the second and that in thirty-six years I'll be 90! But I can rejoice in the fact that because of what Jesus Christ has done for me, I have a glorious eternity to look forward to!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (I John 2:15-16)

There's a disturbing story in the local news this week. A teenage driver, 19-year-old Elizabeth Finnegan of Norfolk was found passed out at the wheel by Ashland police at 7:10 a.m. on Sunday. She had driven her car into a snowbank and passed out; or maybe it was the other way around. Numerous emptied bottles and cans of alcoholic beverages were found in the car she was driving. The most disturbing part of the story is that the young lady was on Probation for have hit and killed a 48-year-old man in Wrentham in December of 2006. At that time, she'd left the scene of the accident but later turned herself in to police saying she didn't know she'd hit anybody. You can read about this in the MetroWest Daily News at


The young lady is being charged with "O.U.I." ("Operating under the influence of alcohol"). You may wonder why Massachusetts doesn't say "D.W.I." ("Driving with the influence of alcohol") which is the term that is used in most other states. It may surprise you that in Massachusetts Motor Vehicle law, there's really no such thing as a "driver", unless you happen to be riding in your car down the road and you come upon a hayride wagon pulled by horses...then the person at the reins would be the "driver". In Massachusetts, the legal term is always an "Operator". In Massachusetts you DON'T "drive" a car, you "operate" it. I can recall years ago that the wording on your license actually said, "LICENSE TO OPERATE A MOTOR VEHICLE". The licenses NOW say "Driver's License" and I think that's been the case for at least twenty years. Massachusetts probably changed the term on the licenses to "Driver's License" reluctantly because police departments and motor vehicles departments in other states may have been confused by the term "Operator".

We've all heard that line, "Driving is a privilege, not a right!" Well serious, hard core Libertarians like San Francisco talk show host Gene Burns can tell you THAT'S been challenged in the courts, and the courts have determined that driving IS a right, and that issuing a "Driver's License" is TECHNICALLY unconstitutional! (A few fanatical libertarians in other states have tested this and that's the way the courts have ruled.) Whatever you MAY think, there have been some very smart legal minds at high levels in the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. They anticipated this problem many years ago, and that's why you don't get a "license to drive" in Massachusetts, you get a "license to operate machinery in the public ways" and issuing and requiring such a license IS constitutional!

Well, whatever we want to call it, that young lady found passed out was under the influence of alcohol. It's OUTRAGEOUS. And, as my son pointed out, she's under age. Does the 21-year-old drinking law stop a 19-year-old from driving drunk? Sadly, it does not. That may be a topic for another day.

I don't drink alcoholic beverages at all for two reasons: One is that I'm an Assemblies of God minister and especially in leadership circles in the AG, drinking is strongly frowned upon. The other is that my late brother was an alcoholic and I've seen the heartache that alcohol abuse can bring upon a family. However, I struggle with other issues. I can be very moody. I can be self-absorbed. I can allow myself to be ruled by my emotions rather than by the Holy Spirit (or even by common sense). When I choose to do that, in a very real sense I'm "operating under the influence". So, today, as I think with anger and disappointment about the actions of that young lady who was found passed out at the wheel in Ashland, I find myself thinking about how many times I reacted to a person or a situation out of my emotions or mood or something which I allowed into my life to "hijack" my day. This is frankly a difficult area for me, and it's an area I really need to pray about, and a part of my life where I really need to yield to the Holy Spirit and "walk in the Spirit so that I don't fulfill the lusts of the flesh" (as Galatians 5:16 says). In fact, I need to be "under the influence" of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, which is, of course, a GOOD kind of being "under the influence"!

So, in a strange sort of "back door" way, I learned a lesson from the actions of Elizabeth Finnegan of Norfolk.


The following is the text of an e-mail which went out to a number of people earlier today. For those of you who live within 40 miles of Framingham, Massachusetts, I'd love to have you join us for a special healing service this coming Sunday evening, March 15 at 6:30 P.M. Here's the text of my "promotional e-mail":


Once again, First Assembly of God of Framingham is having a SPECIAL HEALING SERVICE on Sunday evening, March 15, 2009 at 6:30 P.M. We are inviting you to come.

We were blessed to have 3 Special Healing Services in 2008. Those who came brought their needs before our God Who has the power to save, to heal, to deliver, to provide, to restore, to comfort, and to mend broken hearts and broken lives. God tells us in His Word that NOTHING is too difficult for Him and that He is no respecter of persons. So, whoever you are and whatever your need is GOD IS THE ANSWER.

God heals in MANY ways. Many times He uses doctors and conventional medicine. There are times that God heals instantly. There are times that God chooses to heal gradually. Do we understand God's ways all the time?? NO, but God is God. He knows what's best for each and every person. Be encouraged to come and seek God for your need or needs. Remember, our God cares about even the seemingly smallest details in our lives.

I've shared some of these testimonies of healing before but they are worthy of being repeated.

Eight years ago, my accountant was seriously ill with bladder cancer. At our appointment that year, he told my sister and me that he was doing very poorly and was going to be readmitted20to the hospital following our appointment. I asked him if he would like the two of us to pray for him and he said "yes". We laid hands on him and prayed for a miraculous healing. A number of months later I phoned him to set up another appointment and I asked him how he was doing. He was very cheerful and announced that God had healed him. Eight years later, he's still giving God the glory for healing him from cancer.

Many years ago, when I was a home fellowship group leader in Walpole, we laid hands on a man who had bursitis. We prayed and he was instantly healed from bursitis.

Closer to home, a person in our church, just recently, was set free from a longtime addiction when she renewed her commitment to Christ. A year ago, a man in our church was diagnosed with an enlarged prostate with the likelihood of cancer. Our church prayed for this man several times from the time he received that report from his doctor until the time he went for further tests which included 12 biopsies. By the time he went for those tests, his prostate was no longer enlarged and the test results came back negative for cancer. We believe God answered our prayers and miraculously healed this man.

I've shared these testimonies with you to encourage you. Maybe you've received a bad report from your doctor or maybe you have some type of addiction. Maybe you have a financial need. Maybe=2 0you've been struggling in a relationship with a spouse or a friend. Maybe you've grown cold in your relationship with God. Whatever your need is GOD is the answer. Come and be ministered to Sunday evening, March 15, 2009 at 6:30 P.M.

First Assembly of God of Framingham
32 South Street
Framingham, MA 01702



God Bless You,
P.S. Many thanks to our Board Members who did a super job proofing and editing my original draft of this letter! All of us encourage you to be in prayer for this coming Sunday evening’s service!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well." (Psalm 139:14)

This may not sound like a big thing to you, but it was a big thing to me: I went for a routine physical examination this week. I had not had a complete physical since 1989 although I had a few sort of basic doctor checkup visits in the early 1990s. The only thing I haven't had done yet is a colonoscopy. (Private note: I know, I know, DCM, but give me credit that at least I had the physical!) In the distant past I've written about why visits to doctors have tended to be few and far between for me, so I'm going to skip writing about that. One person recently pointed out that I have regular dental checkups and regular eye exams, and so it doesn't make sense to neglect the rest of the body. It IS hard to argue with that one!

While all of the details and results of the physical are certainly personal, I will say that overall my health is pretty good. There are often concerns about prostate issues for men over 50. My prostate is very good. My thyroid is also very good. Although I am at least thirty pounds overweight, there's absolutely no indication of diabetes. I was actually surprised that I've LOST about ten pounds since Christmas. The doctor would like to see me lose at least another ten. Well, I'll try! My cholesterol number is slightly elevated, but it's not high enough to warrant being put on medication. My B.P. is also a bit on the high side but not quite at the level of needing medication.

It was much harder for me to have that physical exam done than you can imagine! I will admit, however, that hearing that I'm basically in good health was comforting.

I readily identify myself on this blog as "fifty-something" and anybody looking at my "salt and pepper" hair and middle aged demeanor is not going to confuse me with a 27-year-old! Even so, I'm one of those who has had a difficult time REALLY accepting being over fifty. I think of people over fifty as constantly talking about their ailments and operations and what medications they're taking. My parents and their peers were certainly that way. I'm trying not to "go gentle into that good night" if you're familiar with that poem title.

On the other hand, I do understand that we are called to be stewards of not only our money and our things, but of our bodies, also. That thought certainly comes across in verses such as First Corinthians 6:19, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?"

So, yesterday I did something which was very much out of my comfort zone. When you're called to do something outside of your comfort zone, God's grace is sufficient for you (says Second Corinthians 12:9). So, know you can take that step with God's help.

I can't say much more about it now, but at this time I'm finding myself constantly thrown into situations which are outside of my comfort zone, and as the Recovery groups say, I'm trying to take each of these situations, "One Day at a Time".

Friday, March 6, 2009


“There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)

I guess this may be very hypocritical of me- writing, warning of the dangers of becoming too dependent on computers and electronic devices...and I’m writing this ON A BLOG ON THE INTERNET! It’s kind of like T.V. specials for children and families which tout the virtues of TURNING OFF TELEVISION. That also seems rather hypocritical to me!

Please bear with me in my inconsistencies, but I want to tell the story of a minister friend of mine who kept his entire very busy schedule on one of those hand held electronic devises (the brand name starts with “P”) which he would then “sync up” with his computer. I’ve had this guy tell me of how wonderful his calendar system is...that he never keeps a traditional datebook or calendar. Everything goes into his electronic device, and then onto his computer. AND, he believed his system was foolproof because he subscribes to a well known service whose brand name starts with “C”. That service is supposed to back up everything on your computer so that even if your computer had a meltdown, you can go to that “C” brand service and everything is still there.

Well, he’s been having serious trouble with his hand held electronic device. He’s had SO much trouble, that he just bought a brand new one. Last night he left his hand held device hooked up to his computer so that everything would “sync up”...then he planned to transfer the data from the computer today to his new hand held device and all would be right with the world.

This morning he checked:
The old hand held device was devoid of any memory...everything was “wiped out”!
The computer was devoid of any memory OF THE CALENDAR./SCHEDULE...everything was wiped out.
Even the special “C” brand service was devoid of any memory OF THE CALENDAR/SCHEDULE. IT “remembers” the last action of an application. Well, the last action of his electronic schedule was to wipe it all out, so that special “C” brand service also wiped it all out!

He had NO hardcopy of his schedule.

“How can I prevent such a thing in the future?” he asked.

Maybe this was really rude, but I said nothing. I just pulled a BIC pen out of my pocket and held it up!

“I knew somebody was going to do that,” he said kind of sadly.

What he DID decide to do was to e-mail about 200 people that he regularly interacts with. He explained his plight and asked that if he has anything scheduled with any of them, that they mail the information to him so he can rebuild his calendar.

I have learned to “never say never”. Twenty years ago I said I would NEVER have a car phone or a cell phone...NEVER! Well, I’ve now had a cell phone for almost ten years. I also said I did not plan to go on-line and that there was absolutely no need for me to be on-line. Well, I’ve been on-line for almost thirteen years. I also said I did not need to use a computer...that a typewriter was good enough for me. Well, I’ve now been using computers for sixteen years. I am NOW saying I can’t imagine myself keeping my calendar on one of those electronic devices, but maybe someday I will. I still keep a calendar the old fashioned way. In fact, I have my main datebook in my church office and I have a small datebook in my briefcase. I write all my appointments in BOTH. Yes, like my electronic friend, I have to “sync” my calendars up, and I do that every couple of days. It’s very helpful, because sometimes I forget to put an appointment on one or the other calendar, and when I compare them, it helps be to keep my schedule straight!

I really DID feel bad for my friend. He said he’s not going to put QUITE SO MUCH information in his hand held electronic device and he’s not going to be quite so dependent on it in the future. He also plans to printout a hardcopy of his schedule every week or so to save as a backup. That makes sense.

We can get in a lot of trouble when we’re too dependent on ANYTHING. A 70-ish pastor I know became “Pastor Emeritus” at his church a few years ago, and his “GEN X” son became the new pastor. I’ll call the older pastor Elwood and his son Zach. Some months after 30-ish Zach became pastor he was all in a panic because the PowerPoint system was not working at his church one Sunday morning. He was not sure he could even hold a service...as they were totally dependent on PowerPoint for song lyrics, visual aids, announcements, etc. His Dad Elwood laughed.

“Thirty years ago, I had church in an old American Legion hall with folding chairs, a Bible and a few beat-up hymnals,” the older guy said, “PowerPoint is a nice tool and sound systems are nice, but just give me a Bible and a simple podium, and I’m more than comfortable running a service. But my son just doesn’t know what to do without that stuff and considers it a necessity!”

We all become so dependent on so many things! I did not own a car equipped with air conditioning until 1988. Now, if the AC goes out on one of my vehicles, I consider it a catastrophe and remark, “CAN’T this get FIXED?!”

Back in 1974, there was a huge convention and convocation of evangelical Protestants in Lausanne, Switzerland. Many of them signed the “Lausanne Covenant” which committed them to a “simpler lifestyle”. Ruth Bell Graham, wife of evangelist Billy Graham refused to sign it. A feisty and honest woman, she told Billy that she wasn’t going to sign up to live a simple lifestyle! I can’t blame her. I think a lot of times people sign those agreements and then “find ways around” them. But watching my friend’s dilemma today, I felt bad about how dependent we’ve all become on modern electronic devices. Yes, I felt so bad about it that I jumped on my state-of-the-art iMac computer and wrote a posting for my blog!

Fifteen years ago, I would not have known what a blog was! In those days, I probably would have viewed a blog as a bad thing...as a chore I’d never want to be responsible for.

Is this progress? Is this good? I don’t know!

Monday, March 2, 2009


“And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.” (Mark 12:42-44)

Those verses come from a passage of Scripture that we were studying at our Bible study last Friday night. It’s ironic that I’d been teaching and talking about that on Friday night, and then saw an example of it which touched my heart!

Our little church has been going through financial problems. We’re not alone. I heard that donations at one local Christian ministry are down 50% and at another are down 25%. It seems everybody is affected by the economy! The thing that has hit the church the hardest is the cost of oil heat. Foolishly, late last summer, we “locked in” a price for our oil deliveries for the ‘08-’09 heating season. Like many, we thought the price of oil would go even higher over the next 6 months. It didn’t. As a result we’ve been paying more than double for oil that we could otherwise have been paying if we were just paying the going rate. Except for Sunday services, most of the time the heat in our little church building is turned down and it can get pretty cold in there. SO, we’re paying big money to be cold. Well, THAT could be a topic for another day. What I really want to focus on is “widow’s mite giving”.

For the sake of anonymity, I am going to try to be as general and generic as possible as I don’t want to reveal the person’s identity. Sunday morning before service, a person showed up and took me aside. The person handed me an envelope saying, “I wanted you to be sure to get this!” I wondered what the envelope might contain. The outside of the envelope was marked, “For church oil heat”. I opened the envelope, and there was $100.

Now, to appreciate this: the person who gave that $100. is quite poor. It reminded me of when the Apostle Paul wrote that he felt bad taking a generous offering from the Macedonian Christians who gave out of their poverty...but (of course) he didn’t want to insult them by NOT taking the offering. I felt like that.
That $100. was a sacrifice. Honestly, that person may have missed a few meals in order to give that gift. That person may have NOT paid one of their own bills in order to pay that gift. That really poor person made a GREAT sacrifice. Honestly, we need WAY more than $100. to pay the oil bill right now. Again, I really felt like the Apostle Paul, and it would have been so easy to say to that person, “Look, I don’t want to see you missing meals or not paying your own bills. Please just take this back and pray for us.” But, I would be insulting that person, and acting like their gift was not important.

Mary Ann and I have had to make some sacrifices in the church this year. I don’t want to say a lot about it because it would be foolishly calling attention to ourselves. BUT, this donor made a greater sacrifice than we have! It’s very humbling. You can start to feel sorry for yourself when you have to do without a few things in a struggling church. However, when a truly impoverished person does WITHOUT in the manner of that person, you kind of swallow hard and say, “God, YOU’RE worth the sacrifice, and THESE PEOPLE OF YOURS are worth the sacrifice!”

May God bless and help that wonderful person who gave SO much. I’m sure that person doesn’t have access to a computer or e-mail, but I did send a thank you card today. My thank you note really seemed like so little, but I DID write that I understand what a sacrifice they made and that I appreciate it.

Now, for those of you who don’t understand what I mean when I mention “the widow’s mite”, Jesus and his disciples were watching people make donations at the Temple. In those days, they used all coins...no paper money...no checks...certainly no credit cards! A number of people came by and made big donations. A poor widow dropped in “two mites”. That was a very low amount of money. Some might say, maybe 2 pennies in modern U.S. currency. Well, I suspect it was maybe like 2 one-dollar bills. Even so, 2 one-dollar bills are almost NOTHING in the year 2009! Jesus commented on HOW MUCH the widow gave!

He remarked to his disciples, “Take a look at THAT. She gave more that all those people! She gave all she had to live on!”

Maybe it was two mites or two bucks or whatever, but proportionally, it WAS the biggest offering.

In ministry, I’ve found that the poor often DO similarly out give the rich. I truly have! Recently I heard a radio commentator say he doesn’t like the poor because “they don’t SMELL good!” This is a guy I often agree with, but I wanted to throw up when I heard that, and I turned off the car radio!

Thank God for the widow’s mite. On second thought, maybe it should be spelled, “the widow’s MIGHT”.

Sunday, March 1, 2009


( I sent this out to a bunch of people as a mass e-mailing today. I was not originally planning to post it on my blog, but rather only to share it as an e-mail, but my wife, Mary Ann liked it so much that she urged me to post it, so here it is: )

Most of us were saddened to learn of radio commentator Paul Harvey's death on Saturday, February 28 at age 90.

Ironically, in the sermon I'd prepared the day before his death, I used a quote of Paul Harvey's as an illustration. Paul Harvey certainly spoke many "gems" on his radio program and in speaking engagements. The Paul Harvey quote that had the most impact on me is,

"...think overtime trying to anticipate and avoid unerasable mistakes..."

It's from his piece entitled, "To My Son" which is on an audio tape from the mid-1970s called, "Our Lives, Our Fortunes, and Our Sacred Honor".

It's true God will forgive the sins of the repentant and that He can make, "the foulest clean". YES, God forgives sins, but Paul Harvey's quote is about the consequences of what we do...which many times can never be fixed. Driving wrecklessly and taking a life in the process would be an example.

There are FAR better men than I am...FAR better pastors who have had their lives ruined by a one-night stand with a beautiful woman or by embezzling funds or something like that. I know I'm not immune to any such sins! I know I can easily fall, if I "take my eyes off the Lord".

That quote is one I've often come back to.

My sermon was from 2 Kings 20 about King Hezekiah of Judah. He was a good king. That chapter even tells us that God miraculously healed him when he was deathly ill. But he did at least one really STUPID thing which became an unerasable mistake, and ultimately had dire consequences for the Kingdom of Judah. The Paul Harvey quote was a great illustration...and the fact that Paul Harvey died this weekend makes the quote even more powerful and memorable.

so remember to "...think overtime trying to anticipate and avoid unerasable mistakes..."

And if you'd rather hear a Bible verse, as well, remember that Psalm 119:105 says, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." The more we're reading God's Word and following it, then the more likely we will "anticipate and avoid unerasable mistakes".