Thursday, September 30, 2010


“And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,” (Revelation 14:6)

It’s ironic that I now work at a telephone answering service because I really didn’t enjoy talking on the phone THAT much throughout my life. On any given day, I probably talk to hundreds of people on the phone. Most are located in New England- in fact, it works out that most that I talk to are either in Massachusetts or Connecticut. I also have spoken to people around the country, however, including Tennessee, Texas, Washington State, Utah, Idaho, and Virginia, among others. The overwhelming number of people we answer for are calling doctor’s offices. A few are calling lawyer’s offices or financial counselors. Some are calling businesses to have their septic tank pumped or to have their swimming pool closed up for the winter. I answer for callers from Weston and some of the other most wealthy suburbs near Boston, and I answer for callers from Boston’s toughest inner city neighborhoods. Whether the two-year-old is Latisha from Dorchester or Madison from Wellesley, the parents have the same tone of concern in their voices and are comforted when I tell them, “You’ll receive a call from the on-call pediatrician within fifteen minutes”.

Some of the calls we take are pretty exciting. A couple of months ago, one of my colleagues took a call from a very famous Boston television sportscaster. He was thrilled to be speaking to him, and they chit chatted for just a minute before the message of a doctor’s appointment needed was electronically sent. A few Saturdays ago, I answered for the wife of a Boston area media personality. I couldn’t resist asking if this was the famous so-in-so family and the wife pleasantly informed me that it was. Like my colleague, I chit chatted with her for just a little bit before sending the page off to the pediatrician who’d be calling them back about their little girl who wasn’t feeling well.

Today, I took a call from a young woman from the inner city. She was calling a medical practice to apologize for missing her appointment yesterday. She wanted to make sure I understood and that the doctor would understand she missed the appointment for a good reason. “I’m a relative of that two-year-old that was shot to death,” she informed me, “I really wanted to try to get to the appointment but with everything that was going on, I just COULDN’T.”

Boy, did I feel a sense of solemnity!

What do you say? This was a famous person of a much different sort.
“Like so many others, I’ve been saddened by that story in the news,” I told her, “and I want to say I’m sorry and I express my condolences to you.”

I felt like being quiet for awhile after that, but it was during the lunch period, and the phones just ring off the hook. I probably took at least eleven calls in the next five minutes. You get “on a roll” with the job. There are certain spiels that you recite over and over. Renae who trained me back in March gave me a lot of good tips on things to say when you answer a call. But I don’t think anyone can prepare you for speaking to the relative of a little child in the inner city who was shot to death.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


“And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher: she was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;
and she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38)

Today, September 26, 2010 is my daughter Rachel’s 24th birthday. I met another special “birthday girl” today! Bread of Life Assembly of God where we’ve been attending church up in Westminster has started having coffee and fellowship before the morning service. As I sat in the lobby waiting for the coffee to be ready I overheard an older woman with a cane happily telling someone, “TODAY is my birthday!” I walked over, greeted her, and asked, “So today’s your birthday?!”

To my surprise, she replied, “Yes, and I’m 99 today!”

Ninety-nine! I knew she was old, but I’d have guessed maybe 83 or 84- certainly not 99! She definitely did not look THAT old! It turned out the woman’s name is Thelma and she’s originally from New York City. Thelma came over to a lobby bench, sat down, and told told me quite a bit of interesting things about her over about five minutes. You know how old people can get “on a roll” talking about themselves, and you just want to get away from them? Well, I EXPECTED it to be like that, but it wasn’t like that at all. I was really interested in what she had to say. Thelma moved up to north central Massachusetts about six years ago to live with her daughter. A friend she’s made here brings her to Bread of Life church every few weeks and she loves it. Thelma is mentally quite sharp and has the energy of a 60-year-old. It turns out she’s an accomplished artist, and STILL takes orders for paintings! She’s also very proud of her small Methodist church in New York.

Thelma told me that back in the 1970s, the small Methodist church was slated to close. That did not set well with her. “This church is NOT going to close as long as I’m alive!” she defiantly proclaimed to the church’s leaders. Her plan was to organize massive church bazars to bring in funds. She was criticized for the plan.
“So you plan be be LIKE A GYPSY?!” her detractors accused. Ironically, Thelma put together a large and outstanding bazar which brought in a lot of money. After that, she ran two such events every year. She also donated artwork to be raffled off. (Granted, the Assemblies of God is not into raffles, but it worked to help this Methodist church.) A small Pennsylvania church heard about the success and turnaround of the New York church, and Thelma coached them into having fundraisers which turned that church around. Thelma told me it’s been over thirty-three years since her Methodist church was supposed to be closed, and it’s going strong today.

I informed Thelma that my daughter Rachel, also born on September 26, is also an accomplished artist. Thelma asked me to tell Rachel to donate quite a bit of her artwork to churches and hospitals, and said that if she will do that, God will bless her. Thelma says she never smoked and has watched her diet, but that she believes the major reason for God giving her along life is that she has used her talents for Him.

What a blessing to meet this woman today! She’s the coolest 99-year-old!

Friday, September 24, 2010


“But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62)

I want to be careful in writing about politics. Back when I began my original blog on AOL in 2006, I’d read an article in Leadership Journal which stated that a minister should NOT write about politics on his blog. I have written about politics on my blog a FEW times, but not very often. My somewhat more liberal friend, The Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell who along with her husband and family now lives in Oklahoma recently wrote a powerful piece on HER blog indicating that it’s not liberals or conservatives, Republicans or Democrats, or other politicians we need. Rather, we need to take seriously what the Bible says about God’s love and forgiveness, and our responsibility for our fellow human beings. She may be theologically kind of liberal, but she’s CORRECT about that. And, I will add that when I was pastoring, I did not allow voter registration drives and other “politicking” at our church’s activities. Now, I DO tend to be a “civics geek” in my private life, but I try to keep my boundaries in that area. Thus, I hope you’ll consider this a disclaimer and something to help you get into the proper perspective as I write my PERSONAL thoughts about the current Massachusetts Governor’s race, and please feel free to agree or disagree with me.

My son Jon and I watched the last part of the Governor’s debate that was on television a few nights ago. Jon’s observation was correct when he commented that none of the candidates for Governor are what you’d call “great” or “ideal” to be Governor of Massachusetts. He somewhat lamented that we will have to settle for a “lesser of evils” again. We agreed that current Governor Deval Patrick absolutely did the best in the debate, although we have totally ruled out voting for him. And, we agreed that Republican Charlie Baker did the worst. We also scored Green-Rainbow candidate Dr. Jill Stein in second place, and Independent Tim Cahill in third.

I don’t know who Jon will ultimately vote for, but despite his flaws, I plan to vote for Tim Cahill. Tim Cahill is dead wrong on gambling casinos, but there’s something about Tim Cahill that strongly connects with me and that I admire. I guess I’m a Don Quixote. The guy who sets out on an emotional and “impossible” quest- he will almost always be a hero to me! It should then come as no surprise that my favorite film is “Field of Dreams”. I’ve seen it a number of times, but there are still scenes in that film that move me to tears. I’m SO much like that Ray Kansella character in the film!

You know what? Anybody can do the SAFE and “sensible” thing. It takes a man or woman with GUTS to step out there for a cause they believe in- even when society is going to rip them apart. I don’t agree with much that Green-Rainbow candidate Dr. Stein stands for, but BOY is she brave and courageous. I don’t now what her specialist is as a physician, but THERE’S a woman I’d want to have as my doctor! And, Tim Cahill? He’s been slammed in the media...mainly by my fellow Republicans as a good old Beacon Hill boy who doesn’t care about the real people of Massachusetts. I think that’s SO unfair. Tim Cahill had it made in many ways. He could have been reelected as State Treasurer. He could have stayed in the Democratic party and “played ball”. He MIGHT have been a serious Democratic candidate for Governor in a few years. He could have built alliances that would have insured his long-term success.

Instead, he did what many would consider a very foolish and stupid thing: He left the Democratic party and he is running for Governor as an Independent. Both sides are slinging mud at him, although the majority of the mud is from Republicans. Cahill’s got a great Lt. Governor candidate as his running mate, former Republican Paul Loscocco who was a several term State Rep. from Holliston and is a good guy. I’ve got a friend who is a full-time state worker who plans to vote for Tim Cahill because he is a “regular guy” and that’s how he strikes me. He is NOT the greatest debater. He is not as charismatic as a John F. Kennedy. He is not as bright as a William F. Buckley. But he’s got GUTS. To steal and paraphrase a line from the old 1939 film, “What has he got that other pols don’t got? COURAGE!!”

I was sad to learn today that two of Cahill’s TOP campaign leaders just QUIT because Cahill’s standing in the polls is mediocre. These were campaign manager Adam Meldrum and senior strategist John Weaver. To use one of my late father’s terms, “What a couple of beauts!”. I have no respect for lack of loyalty. It’s so human to be with a winner and to “dis” a loser. Look at Jesus. No, Tim Cahill’s no Jesus, but I think of the fact that the same crowd that was hailing Jesus as Messiah on Palm Sunday was calling for his execution on Good Friday morning.
When you believe in somebody, you stick with him or her! You stick with them when things are up and when things are down! You don’t BAIL when the going gets tough!

This has got to be very disappointing for Tim Cahill, but here is his quote regarding today’s bad news:
"We move forward, and it's not the consultants or the pollsters or the pundits that are going to decide this race, but the people of Massachusetts, and I've still got a great message that's resonating, ... I have no intention of quitting or leaving; I have every intention of winning."

You have to make up your own mind about the voting. Honestly, I have no idea how Jon will vote or how my wife or Rachel will vote. Maybe each of us will pick a different one of the four candidates! That’s a personal decision. But I wanted to let you know I’m voting for Tim Cahill and that I really admire the guy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (I Corinthians 10:31)

Many local readers are aware that the small church I pastored for many years was closed by the Assemblies of God hierarchy last March. 2010 has been a year of radical change and transition for me! I’ve found myself employed at jobs I never thought I’d be doing. One is working as an operator at a local telephone answering service. Another, which will be the focus of this column, is as a temporary part-time “handout distributor” at a local wholesale warehouse store.

From time to time, I’ve been able to come in and spend three or four hours at the store entrance handing out fliers about the latest Optical Department sale. I’ve typically done this about five times each month for the past few months. During the over twenty-five years I served in full time ministry, I thought I’d learned a lot about people. In these past few months as a handout distributor, I’ve learned a lot more.

Handing out fliers is really not HARD work; but it COULD be depressing and demoralizing if you allowed it to get to you! The good news is that at least two-thirds of the people receive the handouts in a pleasant and polite manner. When I’m working, I try to greet people in a friendly and enthusiastic manner. I was handing out fliers on Labor Day afternoon, and I greeted each customer with a smile and an enthusiastic, “Happy Labor Day!” The 66.9% of people who took a flier and wished ME a “Happy Labor Day!” as well were appreciated. But THEN there were the OTHERS!

This would make an interesting sociological study: For some reason, foreigners and people from ethnic and racial minorities are MUCH more likely to take a flier and be friendly. White upper middle-class people are likely to refuse a flier and to be unfriendly. (Of course, there ARE exceptions!) The people who act most annoyed are macho good looking guys, and feminine, beautiful women. Is it that whole high school thing about the football stars and cheerleaders who treat others like dirt? Honestly, that’s what it SEEMS to be!

Here is what I’ve WANTED to say to those who refuse the fliers:

This wholesale club offers GREAT deals! Even allowing for the Membership fee, you save SO much money shopping here! With Membership in ANY group, there are certain responsibilities and obligations. Maybe YOU aren’t interested in the Optical sale I’m promoting, but the success of EACH department of the store ensures the success of the store and the wholesale club. Even if YOU don’t need glasses, maybe you have a friend who’d appreciate knowing about the sale.

Some people say, “NO, I don’t want to take a flier; I’m trying to SAVE THE ENVIRONMENT!”

I’ve SO want to respond, “HOW do you think you’ll save the environment by not taking a flier? Many thousands of these have been printed up and are being distributed everywhere. The sale is time sensitive. If nobody takes the fliers they’ll just be thrown out anyway! If you take one and put it in your recycling bin, you may well do MORE good as far as the environment goes!"

In fact, when the fliers are distributed, sales at the Optical Dept. DO go up. That’s not only good for the Optical Dept. but it’s good for the entire warehouse club. Sadly, a many fliers are left in shopping carts and in the parking lot. When I see them, I try to pick them up and dispose of them properly. That gets me to another pet peeve: Not only should people NOT leave trash and papers in shopping carts, it’s SO much easier if they’ll take a minute and wheel the cart back to the inside of the store. Almost NOBODY does that at any store. That was one of my late father’s rules. I will admit that from time to time I do leave my own shopping cart in the parking lot, but at least 75% of the time I wheel my cart back inside the store. I always feel SO good when I do that. I know some will ask, “Yes, but what about the people who are employed getting all the shopping carts from outside and bringing the carts inside?” Don’t you think it would be much more cost effective and make for much more pleasant shopping to have those folks working inside the store on other matters and available to help you when you have questions and needs?

Bottom line, next time you see a guy or gal handing out fliers at a warehouse store, SMILE AND TAKE ONE. And, bring your cart back when you’re done putting your groceries into your car!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


“Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom:
but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.” (Proverbs 15:21)

Back in the days when it aired on Saturday mornings, I used to like to listen to “The Pat Whitley Restaurant Show”. People were encouraged to call in “to praise or zing” mostly Boston area restaurants. Upon glancing at today’s MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, MA) I was surprised to see the front page, top of the fold headline: “Framingham's Suso leadership criticized, integrity praised.”

I guess it was around five years ago that the Town of Framingham (yes, it’s got almost 70,000 people but still has Town government) hired Julian Suso as its new Town Manager. There were three finalists for the position. Two were from other Massachusetts communities, and Suso was from Mentor, Ohio. A “civics geek” I poured over the newspaper articles at the time, closely following the story. Frankly, I believed an Ohio City Manager would likely be a bad fit for Framingham. Back in “Introduction to Political Science” class at Stonehill College, we were taught that there are two regions of the U.S. that are very distinct and unique, and that outsiders have a very difficult time fitting in and being successful in these regions: the Deep South, and New England. My life experience has generally confirmed that premise. It seemed to me that to be a Town Manager in a place like Framingham, you’d have to understand what makes native New Englanders tick and how to earn their respect and lead them. I was skeptical that Julian Suso could do that. He was hired, and he proved me wrong.

The thing about Julian Suso which impressed me from the “get go” was that he was out on the streets of downtown Framingham shaking hands with the people and getting to know them. When pretty much anything was going on in Framingham, he was there. Suso has a personality and temperament which you don’t often see in people: he’s very confident and can definitely lead, but he’s also very pleasant and “down to earth”. He’s definitely a guy you’d want to go to a ball game with and have a beer with. (Well, since I don’t drink, I’d have a Coke with him!) Julian Suso is the only Town Manager who ever came to one of our Framingham Interfaith Clergy Association meetings. His son was studying for the Catholic priesthood, and he had a respect for clergy and churches that you don’t always see today. We offered Suso some suggestions, and not only “religious” ones. One thing we asked for was improved street signs which would not only give the name of side streets but the name of the street you’re traveling on. A number of those were installed as a result of that suggestion.

Framingham’s five Selectmen evaluated Julian Suso on a 1 to 5 scale in seven key areas. Ms. Ginger Esty, the friendly but feisty old Yankee on the Board gave Suso his highest grades, 5 in every category. But current Chairman Dennis Giombetti gave him the lowest scores, averaging out to only a 2.9. Giombetti criticized Suso for not "(taking) command of the organization's direction.”

Framingham’s been through a number of Town Managers over the twenty-three years I’ve lived here. Each has had strengths and weaknesses but in my opinion so far there’s been no one better than Julian Suso. Reading the article immediately brought to my mind the issue of pastors being rated by their church boards. The Rev. Dick Germaine, a very bright and seasoned minister in his early 70s, is the Executive Director of Barnabas Ministries, Inc. which offers a variety of ministry to pastors and churches, including conflict resolution between pastors and boards. Dick often cites a statistic that pastors are expected to be highly proficient in eighteen areas. These areas include managerial skill, business competence, counseling, visitation, teaching, preaching and other public speaking, relationships within the community, church growth, having an exemplary marriage and children, and others. Only about one in a million pastors meet all eighteen. Many church boards are frustrated and disappointed with their pastors who are considered way below par in at least half of these areas. Many pastors change pastorates the way some people trade in cars; always looking for success and appreciation, and seldom finding it.

Last night, Mary Ann and I drove up to Leominster to hear a guest speaker at an Assemblies of God ministers’ meeting. The guest, Gordon Douglas, was billed as a “Christian comedian”. He IS a Christian comedian, but I was surprised to learn he was much more than that. A lanky and slightly physically awkward 52-year-old guy with obviously dyed hair, he WAS a great comedian and an outstanding speaker. In his forty-five minute presentation, Gordon had us laughing and crying. Gordon grew up in the Philadelphia area. When he was a teenager, his father was very seriously ill, and the family went through great difficulties. Gordon wasn’t real popular in high school and couldn’t get a date. He was filled with hate. He told us that when he first went into comedy as a very young man in the 1970s, he was a Don Rickles type comedian. Gordon went out to Hollywood where he met and performed with a number of big name people including Carol Burnett. In those days, he also became a born-again Christian. That meant seriously cleaning up his comedy, and cleaning up his comedy began losing him bookings.

Gordon moved back to Philly, and joined a Baptist church. The pastor encouraged him to begin taking classes at a local Bible college. He hated school, but began, taking a class or two at a time. It took him thirteen years to finally earn a Bachelor’s degree. By then, he’d become the youth pastor at his church; a very good and successful youth pastor. Stepping out and taking a pastorate of his own did not work out well, however. The average age of his congregants was over 70. In three years, the church decreased from 60 to 30 people. The small church struggled and struggled. In the meantime, a series of amazing open doors to do comedy came his way. It’s much too long of a story to write here, but the open doors were obviously ordained of God. Gordon’s church, now down to 25, including his large family, was right on the brink of being closed down. Instead of closing the church, however, a new man was brought in to be the pastor, and Gordon was made the Associate Pastor. He’s able to preach there about once a month, and the rest of the time he’s traveling and doing Christian comedy. Gordon only saw 3 people “get saved” under his pastorate, but he leads souls to Christ in his comedy venues all the time. The exciting thing is, he’s also gotten into secular clubs where he invites those who needs prayer to come and see him after the gig. Scores of people have “come to see him” for prayer and many have given their hearts to the Lord.

After last night’s meeting, I went to Gordon Douglas’ “table” where he was selling DVDs and books and told him how MUCH I related to him. “You read my mail,” I said, as I told him some of my own life story and of the church I’d pastored closing.

“I thought I could build a church on my public speaking...that people would come out to hear me, but I was wrong.” he said.

“I did the exact same thing.” I replied.

I do regret there was not a 2nd chance for the church I pastored, but I rejoice with Gordon Douglas and in what the Lord has done for him.

Back to Julian Suso, he applied to be Brookline’s Town Manager a few months ago. He was a finalist there, but did not get the position. I know John Carroll, now about 80, who served at Norwood’s Town Manager for over twenty-five years but that’s a rarity. Pastors and Town Managers...they just can’t meet impossible situations, and all too often, they don’t stick around. I hope that won’t be the case with Julian Suso!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


“And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven. “ (Luke 10:18)

This may well be the SHORTEST post I’ve ever put on the blog, but I just had to share with you what I saw this morning!

Boston’s MetroWest suburbs had some pretty vivid thunderstorms around 7 o’clock this morning. These were the kind of storms with dramatic cloud to ground lightning bolts. Today was my “John 17:23 Pastors’ Group” in Hopkinton. (Well, I know I’m not pastoring right now, but these guys are nice enough to still allow me to attend!) I sat in the car at a red light at Franklin and Mount Wayte Streets in Framingham by the Kathleen Daniel Nursing Home. Directly in front of me were the two radio towers at the old Fairbanks Broadcasting building, where J-Light Christian radio used to broadcast, among other stations. Suddenly, a lightning bolt HIT one of the towers!!


It would have made a SPECTACULAR photo!!

I almost couldn’t believe what I was seeing! That was MAYBE a tenth of a mile in front of me! The flashing red lights for THAT transmission tower were instantly knocked out.

I think that is the closest I have ever been to a lightning strike!

One time, around 1973, I was walking across the campus of Stonehill College in Easton, MA and a lighting bolt fell about an eighth of a mile away, and THAT was also pretty scary!

Just had to share that one! Too bad there wasn’t a photo of it! It would have been great for Michelle McElory’s “This Is Framingham” blog!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


“And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” (Luke 9:52-55)

This morning on WRKO, talk show host Todd Feinberg announced that Pastor Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainsville, Florida is holding “International Burn A Koran Day” on Saturday, September 11 in commemoration of attack on America by radical Muslim extremists on September 11, 2001. Callers were asked to voice their opinions of “International Burn A Koran Day”, and a variety of opinions were stated. (I know Jones intends to burn A Koran. I’m not sure if ONE Koran will be burned, or if a bunch of Korans will be burned. I’m also not sure if he is asking others to burn Korans on that day, but the title of the event certainly implies that.) News reports also state that General David Petraeus says this rally could 'endanger' American soldiers in Afghanistan. I understand protests against America have already broken out in Afghanistan and that there have been burnings of American flags by Afghanis.

I considered writing a blog post about the proposed building of a mosque and Islamic center only two blocks from New York City’s “Ground Zero”. Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past six weeks, you’ve probably read or heard about that. Mayor Bloomberg and President Obama have weighed in as being in favor of the construction of the mosque and Islamic center, while David Limbaugh (Rush’s brother), talk show host Michael Graham and many others have spoken out against the plan. Those in favor have argued that this is America, we have freedom of religion, and that therefore it’s perfectly within the rights of Muslims to build a mosque and Islamic center almost on top of “Ground Zero”. Opponents have argued that building such a facility shows GREAT insensitivity to the families of those who died on 9/11. I have to come down on the side of NOT building the mosque and Islamic center there. I don’t have a problem with building a mosque and Islamic Center in Manhattan, but this is just TOO close to Ground Zero and is opening too many wounds with too many people.

In 5th Grade, I remember Miss Ennis teaching me that “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right.” It’s true. It’s wrong and insensitive for Muslims to want to build that facility so close to Ground Zero. It’s also the “right” of Pastor Jones to burn the Koran on 9/11, and even to encourage others to burn Korans on 9/11. He is exercising his rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religions. Jones’ proposal is also incredibly insensitive, unkind, intolerant, and inappropriate! May I add, it’s STUPID! Today, I’m thinking of the above passage from Luke. A village of Samaritans did not receive Jesus. Essentially, they “dissed” Jesus and rejected Him. The disciples were LIVID! They were out for blood...well, literally, FIRE! They wanted to call down fire from Heaven and consume the villages!

Jesus would have no part of it. He even cautioned them that they did not know “what manner of spirit” they were of. Their thoughts and wishes for these Samaritans were not GOD’S thoughts and wishes. They were selfish, dark, and vile. I think Jesus would give the same admonition to Pastor Jones and his followers. Do you want to have an impact on Muslim extremists? As hard as this is to do: PRAY FOR THEM!

Sunday, September 5, 2010


“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)

I realize wikipedia does not have the prestige or accuracy of the old classic Encyclopedia Brittanica. Even so, I did get some help from wikipedia about the background and importance of the Labor Day holiday. From wikipedia:

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 6 in 2010).

“The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with the labor movement as a top political priority. ... All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday. ... Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. ... In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons.”

For several years on Labor Day our family used to drive Rachel to Westfield State College (now “University”) and help her moving in. Last year’s “moving in” day was actually several days before Labor Day and this year’s was a week ago! Even so, I miss those Labor Days that we’d drive out to Westfield. We’d leave at 6:30 in the morning, grab breakfast from McDonald’s Drive Thru, and be at Westfield State before 8:30. After all the moving in hassle, we’d leave for home somewhere between 11:30 and 1:00. It became such a tradition that I really miss it.

If it seems to you like Memorial Day weekend was only four weeks ago and Fourth of July weekend was only two weeks ago, welcome to the club! We’ll be shoveling snow and doing Christmas shopping in what’s going to seem like two more weeks; and I frankly find that depressing! Even so, I’m going to try to enjoy Labor Day! I did have a speaking engagement (actually a “preaching engagement”) at a church in Franklin this morning and I LOVED it! I don’t think there’s any greater “work” a person can do than proclaim the Gospel. For right now most of you know my principal means of income is working at a telephone answering service and I AM grateful to have that job.

I find in life that some people are work-a-holics and some are very lazy and irresponsible. My father was a work-a-holic. When we were kids, my brother and I used to call him, “Mister Manual Labor”. If you like military marching cadence songs, go to youtube and do a search for the cadence song “Hard Work”. There are a couple of versions of it there on youtube. That makes a great Labor Day theme song. It also could have been a great Gene Baril theme song. My father was very “handy” mechanically and around the house, as was my late brother Eddie. I’m not! If you’ve ever seen that home improvement show on one of the cable channels, “Holmes on Homes”, he was as much of a perfectionist as Mr. Holmes, but unlike Mr. Holmes, he did not have a crew of 10 or 15 guys working with and under him. He had just himself and what work he could get out of us kids. Dad did everything slowly and painstakingly.

He built a fence around the Canton property. He did not want that fence to fall down, SO he built a cement and stone base. AND rather than using wooden support posts, he used galvanized steel poles. The holes for the steel poles were all 6 feet deep. He dug each hole by hand. Then he line up the poles PERFECTLY with levels and rope. THEN, he filled the hole with cement. No kidding, I’m actually very good at mixing cement...I’ve mixed enough of it! THEN, he dug a 2 foot trench between each post. The bottom of the trenches were filled with crushed stone and cement. The top were granite “cobblestones” and cement. That’s just the fence BASE. The wood was cedar and redwood, nailed and screwed together by him. Then the wood was painted red. The fence took about 3 summers to build in the 1960s. By his death in 2000, much of the 30-plus year old wood was rotting and deteriorating, and my sister took some of it down, but the base and poles remain. (The healthy part of the fence was repainted green to look better next to trees and the now yellow house.)

At the time Dad was building the fence, his sister-in-law Aunt Milly marveled at the hard work, and told my mother, “That fence will be left as a memorial to him”. My mother didn’t understand at the time, but over forty years later, it does stand as a memorial to him. Dad only relaxed when he got away from the Registry of Motor Vehicles and he got away from his Canton residence. That WASN’T enough. His work-a-holism really began to frustrate my mother. HE was such a perfectionist and wanted a house and property which would last forever. She got to the point she’d rather have lived in a slapped together 1950s starter home, sold it when the kids were grown, and lived in a simple apartment. She’d have preferred spend money on restaurants and trips and new cars, and not on galvanized pipe, cement, stones, the highest caliber piping (inside the house), the highest quality wiring, etc. etc. etc.

Which of them was right? I don’t know. They’ve both been dead for 10 years.
I guess it’s smart to strike a balance between my Mom who’d like to have spent her life laying around reading poetry books, and my Dad whose idea of a great time would be screwing bumpers on new Jeeps at the Toledo plant for 14 hours a day! There’s gotta be SOME balance between work and play. Neither can get out of whack or you’ll pay for it.

I will be 56 this month. That’s sobering for me. One reason is back to my Aunt Milly who was a real character. It was at age 56 that she began seriously thinking about retirement and her sunset years. She kept telling everyone, “I’m 56!!!” That was in 1968, and we kids got a big laugh out of it. But the other more sobering reason is that at age 56 my Dad began having serious health problems. He had serious heart problems, vascular problems, persistent massive nosebleeds, a stroke, a bleeding ulcer which nearly killed him, several mini-strokes, and finally Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer. He died at age 77. It was a depressing and debilitating 21 year decline. I definitely don’t want age 56 to being a depressing and debilitating 21 year decline for me.

My mother died of cancer but was very healthy until she was well into her 70s. The good news is, genetically as far as HEALTH, I tend to be taking much more after her...thank God!

Anyway, this Labor Day I’m thinking, there’s gotta be a middle ground between Mister Manual Labor and Mister Couch Potato!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

FOLLOW UP TO "Is Hurricane Earl Coming?"

Well, it's Saturday morning around 9:25 a.m. here in Framingham, MA. In response to my post from earlier this week, "Is Hurricane Earl Coming?" it was pretty much a DUD in Framingham. As I write, it's around 75 degrees outside with blue skies and low humidity. There IS a breeze, but no high winds. Hurricane Earl passed quite a bit further southeast of New England than was expected a few days ago. My understanding is that Nantucket Island DID in fact truly experience hurricane conditions, and parts of Cape Cod had pretty severe tropical storm conditions. Framingham and Boston's MetroWest suburbs were just too far northwest of the hurricane to experience much of anything. It did rain for several hours, and I believe it rained hard for awhile during the night, but there was virtually NO wind. To get up this morning, you'd NEVER know there had been a hurricane close by!

My daughter Rachel is very disappointed as she wanted to see a hurricane, but I'm really glad we did not get it!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


“And he said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is.
And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass.
Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:54-56)

Last night around nine I was briefly talking to a friend on the phone.

“I just hope we don’t get that hurricane!” I said.

He had no idea what I was talking about and I had to explain to him that there’s a big and powerful hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean called “Hurricane Earl” which has a chance of hitting New England on Friday or Saturday.

This morning at my job a woman asked me if I was doing anything special for Labor Day weekend. I did mention that I have a speaking engagement on Sunday, and I also said, “I hope to not be affected in any way by the hurricane this weekend.” She also had no idea what I was talking about, and assumed I was planning to travel far from New England this weekend.

It’s apparent that quite a few people almost NEVER follow the news or weather! The above quote comes from Jesus’ earthly ministry where He commented about people studying the skies to predict the weather. I guess many people today don’t function any differently than that.

Hurricane warnings can be perplexing. I remember that around this time of year in 1976 a hurricane was forecast to hit New England. People boarded up and taped up windows, and made all sorts of preparations. Nothing happened. In September of 1938, a massive hurricane hit New England. It was NOT well forecasted. People were caught unawares. Especially in Connecticut and Rhode Island a number of people were killed. The last time I remember our area having much of an impact from a hurricane was when we got the remnants of a hurricane that had gone well inland (south of us) in 2003. Sept. 19 of that year was my 49th birthday. It was a miserable day; very humid, very windy and very rainy. It was certainly not at hurricane strength- just a lousy, stormy day. I think the last time New England suffered any serious impact from a hurricane was Hurricane Bob in August of 1991. I remember we had a lot of tree limbs down in our yard, and we lost electricity for three or four hours, but it really wasn’t all that bad. In September of 1985, New England WAS pretty hard hit from Hurricane Gloria. There was a lot of serious damage with that storm and we had no electricity for quite a few days.

At this point (Wednesday morning) it’s really too soon to tell what will happen, but one of four things will happen “weather wise” on Friday and Saturday:

1. We’ll be very hard hit by Hurricane Earl; there will be lots of damage; and it will take days to get back to normal.

2. We’ll be brushed by Hurricane Earl; there will be a few trees down here and there and some power outages. By Sunday morning, pretty much everything will be fine.

3. Friday and Saturday will be like Sept. 19, 2003...lots of wind and rain, but no real hurricane...just a lousy day.

4. There will be little or no rain and wind on Friday and Saturday. The storm will track well to the east of us and it will be no big deal for New England.

At this point, we just don’t know. I’d vote for number 4 and MAYBE for 3, but that’s it. Well, in a few days, we’ll find out.

Now, Pat Robertson claimed he could speak to a hurricane (like Jesus spoke to a wind storm) and make it go away. Pat, I think it’s time to get speaking to this hurricane!