Sunday, February 24, 2013


"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25)

This morning I found inspiration in "Marlboro Country". No, I did not smoke any cigarettes! What I mean is, I went to church in Marlboro, MA and had a blessed and inspiring time.

(For spelling purists, the official legal spelling of the central Massachusetts city is "Marlborough" and not "Marlboro" although you often see it spelled the same way as the cigarette brand. That's also true for the Town of Foxborough where the Patriots play, often spelled "Foxboro" and for about a dozen other Massachusetts communities whose legal names - going back to the antiquated English of the 1700s - end with that silent "ugh" which is a product of a bygone era!)

Many of you know my wife and I are Members at Bread of Life Church in northern Worcester County. It's a long way from the immediate Boston area where I now reside, and it's a long story why we attend there. Bread of Life Church held their service on Saturday afternoon due to the snowy weather forecast, and I was working so I couldn't attend. It was with much surprise that I awoke today to discover that in the immediate Boston area it was pouring rain but that we'd had no snow whatsoever! I decided to venture out and go to church at New Hope Community Church (Assemblies of God) where my good friend Rob Woods is pastor and where two of my kids attend. The drive was easy. There was really no snow at all falling until the Natick/Framingham line and what snow was falling was not sticking this morning. I arrived at church about twenty minutes early. Well, I quickly learned they were functioning with a delayed opening so I was thirty-five minutes early! (Rob and Shelley Woods drive in from their home in Worcester where they did have a fair amount of snow! Thus, the pastor called for a delayed opening!)

I didn't mind being so early. It felt good to just sit and listen to the musicians and singers practice. One lay leader in the church sat next to me and conversed for a couple of minutes. He asked how my week went and I muttered some sort of an "O.K." to him.

"No problems, huh?!" he excitedly said.

This was one of those moments when if I'd been a female, I think I'd have burst into tears. Without realizing what I was saying or doing, I said in a soft but shaky voice, "Oh, no, I've got big, big problems; and that's about all I want to say about it."

I think he as a little taken back and said he'd pray for me. Then he moved on to greet other people. A couple of days ago I made the mistake of overly dwelling on some negative circumstances. The next thing I knew, two Elton John songs were playing over and over in my head: "Sad Songs" and "Levon". From the viewpoint of secular music, in many respects they're good songs, but from the viewpoint of God's perfect plan and redemption, those songs will do nothing for you. (Well, actually, they will do something for you- they'll just drag you down.) Today, I was in the house of the Lord, and it was absolutely the right place. New Hope Church is technically speaking a "storefront church". I don't like that term because it conjures up images of tiny, run down, inner-city churches with hysterical and emotional preachers and people banging tambourines and acting fanatical. In fact, this church shares its space at 204 Main Street with a Brazilian Baptist church which holds its main services on Sunday nights. The church sanctuary must seat at least two hundred. It's a modern, attractive facility. The seats are modern and very comfortable. There is also a fellowship hall and other rooms.

The musicians were having some kind of trouble with their sound system. I guess it was a faulty amp. that the electric guitar was hooked up to. There was a lot of distortion. Even so, the musicians pressed on and we had a good worship service. Pastor Rob Woods preached a good sermon on Abraham. A lot of the sermon was very basic, but there's one line that stuck out for me and that I found myself "chewing on". Pastor Rob said, "It was when Abraham became lethargic that he got into trouble!" He spoke about the danger of allowing ourselves to become lethargic in our Christian walks. Honestly, I've struggled off and on with leghargy over the past twenty years or so, and I've found that numerous other Christians have confessed to the same thing. This is an area where the forces of darkness attack us and so often we stupidly give in to it!

As a former pastor, I am fascinated to watch how other pastors function and operate. I was very surprised that New Hope Church was having their Annual Business Meeting right after the morning service today. I only had the Annual Business Meeting once or twice on Sunday right after the service, but I did hold probably six or seven Special Business Meetings at that time over the years. I hated having a business meeting right after the Sunday service. (We used to usually hold our Annual Business Meetings on Saturday evenings.) I would become so stressed out about the upcoming meeting that I would have a hard time preaching and praying. Rob stated his Meeting would be short as all the elected offices were uncontested so the elections were really just a ratification, and then they were going to briefly go over the Financial Report. Rob was very upbeat. As pastor, I hated when offices were uncontested. I felt it reflected a church that really didn't care. As much as I hate to admit this, I know I struggled with "seeing the glass as half empty" when I was pastoring. Rob seems to "see the glass as half full". Rob's almost twenty years younger than I am, but I suspect I could learn a lot from him.

Yes, I had a good, inspiring time in Marlboro Country today. I'm motivated to press on despite many problems and setbacks in my life. If you live anywhere near Marlboro, MA, New Hope Church would be a great place for you to cheeck out! Seriously.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


"Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;
Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality." (Romans 12:11-13).

This morning, February 19, 2013, the funeral of Al Riveras is taking place. I attended the funeral home visiting hours for Al yesterday afternoon. (This was the most crowded "wake" at 4 in the afternoon I'd ever experienced.) I seriously considered attending Al's funeral this morning. My work hours change from week to week, and it was a real blessing to have Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning available; but upon giving this some serious thought, I honestly thought I could make far more of a contribution to Al Riveras' memory and to his family by writing this piece than by attending his funeral.

My title of, "Flowers For Al", is a takeoff on the title of the 1958 short story, "Flowers For Algernon", by Daniel Keyes. (I happen to love short stories, but other than that explanation, this piece has nothing to do with, "Flowers For Algernon", nor with short stories.) The family requested no flowers for the visiting hours or funeral. This is because several family members are allergic to flowers. Flowers look nice, but they don't last long, anyway. My friend David C. Milley who used to be both my pastor and Al Riveras' pastor many years ago has often said that we should honor people while they live and not send them flowers when they're dead. My only regret about this piece is that Al Riveras won't read it. Well, maybe I shouldn't write that. Nothing is impossible for God. Maybe somehow in Heaven All will read it, but I certainly can't expect that.

Al Riveras and his wife Ciel Riveras actively attended Christian Life Center church in Walpole, MA back in the 1980s as did I and hundreds of other people. (That church has experienced a number of successes, setbacks, and changes over the past twenty-five years, and now continues in Sharon, MA as "Victory Assembly of God".) In those days I saw a lot of Al. Well, everybody did! Al was a very big guy. He was the quintessential "Big Al"- tall, heavy, black curly hair, somewhat "ethnic" looking (Al was Greek by heritage). Just about any time the church doors were open, Al and Ciel were there. Incidentally, Ciel is thin with light hair, and has a very sweet personality. Despite Al's physically large presence, there was nothing brash nor rude nor pushy that I can ever recall about Al Riveras. He was an auto mechanic, and a good one. He was the type of guy who worked hard at whatever he did. He was very friendly. Al had a great sense of humor. In a nutshell, Al and Ciel were just people you enjoyed being around. Honestly, there were people in the church in Walpole that my wife and I knew much better and were much closer to, but as I've thought about Al and Ciel over the past few days, I've fondly remembered visits to their home in Norwood and just how warm and pleasant they were.

It was with shock that I read a brief e-mail from a friend in which he wrote he'd just learned Al had died suddenly. The initial report was that Al died from a massive stroke, but I later learned it was a massive heart attack late last Wednesday night. I racked my brain to try to remember the last time I'd seen Al and Ciel, and to the best that I can recall it was around seven years ago at a funeral. I had no idea where the Riveras' were living or attending church, but over the next few days I learned they'd been living in Taunton for many years and are very active in a church in Foxboro. In fact, I've learned Al was an extremely active and committed layman at his church. In my opinion, we "born-again Christians" make a big mistake when we value people and categorize people the same way the world does. We have plenty of our own superstars. We have flashy singers, musicians, and entertainers upon who we pour all sorts of adoration. We make stars of great speakers and pastors. Somehow, the woman who keeps the church kitchen running and who directs and makes all those great church suppers happen, and somwhow the guy who "snakes" the church plumbing system when it backs up and who makes sure the roof gets repaired are treated lower than, well, some bum on the street corner. How pathetic! (Now, it's not the people doing the church grunt work who are pathetic, it's those who view them as unimportant but view flashy "Christian" entertainers as important that are pathetic.) I've learned Al was a Deacon and an usher and did all sorts of other service at his church.

I had a guy at the church I pastored in Framingham who was a lot like Al. "Bill" (his real name) was also an auto mechanic. Bill was a Deacon and an usher, but essentially an overall servant who would do anything needed at the church, no matter how difficult or how dirty the job. Bill never taught any Bible studies, nor did he ever preach any sermons. Once in a great while, he'd have to make an announcement about something, and he hated doing that. I can't imagine Al delivering sermons or doing anything like that, either. Yet, any pastor will tell you that the Bills and the Als in our churches are invaluable, and sadly, sometimes irreplaceable. I was talking to "Mike" a family member during the visiting hours time yesterday. Mike commented that Al had done so much at the church that his death leaves a tremendous void. Mike commented frankly that a lot of people are now going to have to step up and roll up their sleeves and at least help to fill Al's shoes there. Amen, Mike. Yes, we make such a big deal about it when pastors, teachers, and musicians die. And, I'm not saying we shouldn't. I can speak well in public, I can teach classes and Bible studies, I can write fairly well, and I can even sing O.K. But to the best of my memory I've never snaked a drain nor figured out how to repair a roof and done it, nor repaired a furnace. Oh, how we forget that Jesus Himself was a blue collar worker- a carpenter, who'd be ever so comfortable helping Al or Bill snake a drain or fix a furnace. Really.

Yes, I'm a pretty good speaker, but it was honestly hard to know what to say to the family at that funeral home yesterday. They're understandably in great pain. Al is in Heaven and all his troubles are over, but for the family it's such a loss. I hope many will reach out to the family and help them through the difficult weeks and months ahead. But if all we do is shed a few tears and then say, "oh well, that's life", we're really missing a lot! Al was a good faithful man. He was a good Christian. He was not perfect. Of course not! No one is! But he was not afraid to jump in and serve the Lord where He could. He was not afraid to use the talents and gifts God gave him. Al was one of those "salt of the earth" types who would literally give you the shirt off his back. How we need the "Als" at this time!

What a mess our world is in. Sadly, most of the evangelical churches and Christians are getting weaker and weaker and lazier and lazier. I write this piece to honor Al Riveras' memory, but also to let those who never met Al Riveras know about him. Al went to bed late Wednesday night, and went right into the arms of Jesus just a few minutes later. He left a fine legacy. When it came time to be "born again", to give his heart to Jesus Christ, to secure his eternal destiny, he did not play crazy games, he did it. And then when it came time to contribute to his church, his family, and to society, he did not play games, he did it. He's in Heaven now. But I want to ask you: 1. Have you given your heart to Jesus- have you made a 100% commitment to Christ and settled your eternal destiny? 2. Are you obeying God and faithfully serving where He has called you to serve?

If you would like to view Al Riveras' obituary it is found on the website of Roberts and Sons Funeral Home, Foxboro, MA; easily found through an online search engine.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


"Rejoice evermore.
Pray without ceasing.
In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." (I Thessalonians 5:16-18)

There are pros and cons to owning and driving a very old car with high mileage. On the positive side, you don't have a depressing car payment to make each month. And, you truly own the car; a finance company or bank doesn't own it. On the negative side, you feel like classic television's Lt. Columbo! You pull up in this small, foreign eighteen-year-old junker, and people look at you like you're half crazy! And, on the negative side, you never know what can and will go wrong with the car! You can get a shocking surprise without any warning.

On Tuesday of this week as I was driving along, I noticed an orange light on in the dash area. At first, I thought I had forgotten to turn off the rear window defroster. Upon giving a quick look, that was not the issue; rather, my CHECK ENGINE light was on. During the past four months, the CHECK ENGINE light has come on briefly a few times, for no more than ten minutes at a whack, and then gone out. Until this week, it was only when I was going above forty-five miles per hour. On Tuesday, it stayed on for over a half hour; no matter what speed I did. I stopped the car and started up a few times and the CHECK ENGINE light was still on. I figured it was on for the long haul this time- that six months from now it would still be on- that it would involve some sort of costly repair which would not be worth doing to this car. Well, to my surprise, after the car sat for a few hours and I was driving it again, I noticed THE LIGHT WAS NOT ON ANY MORE! It has not been back! I realize it COULD come back again, but I'm very thankful it went out!

Yesterday, I had another little scare with the 1995 Subaru Impreza. I was driving along Route 27 "northbound" from the Canton, MA area to the Framingham, MA area. At the Sherborn/Medfield line I suddenly distinctively smelled the smell of burning plastic. Whether in a car or in your house THAT is a smell you don't want to smell! (About twenty years ago, Mary Ann and I woke up smelling burning plastic throughout the house. That necessitated a call to the Framingham Fire Dept. and a fire engine and firefighters coming out. It turned out that a relay had shorted out in a freezer in the basement. The basement was filled with smoke with a burning plastic smell- the smell had permeated the entire house!) I really wondered if smoke would suddenly start pouring out from under the hood and then I'd pull to the side of the road and the car would burst into flames. Well, after I drove a mile, the smell was still there, but about half the intensity. I drove another mile, and there was only the faintest burning plastic smell. I drove still another mile and there was no smell at all. There has not been any smell since then. I wonder if I was smelling something OUTDOORS at the Sherborn/Medfield town line area, or if I was smelling something coming from another car. As with the CHECK ENGINE light situation, I was glad this turned out to be a "false alarm".

Many years ago during a Sunday night service I was leading, I was taking vocal testimonies. One of our church's Board Members, Bill Lincoln raised his hand and said, "I thank God that nothing happened." He then went on to explain what he meant...that we face challenges and dangers every day. There could and probably are countless incidents where God and His angels protect us that we are not even aware of! Honestly, Bill is right. We forget so many times to thank God that "nothing happened". AND, we sometimes forget to thank Him when seemingly scary things happening to a car or a computer or other technical device turn out to be nothing. So, today I'm "thankful nothing happened"!

Sunday, February 10, 2013


"And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.
But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him," (Luke 10:30-33)

Routine; that is habitually doing things the same way over and over and over in an orderly fashion. "Just like clockwork," some would say. There are people who absolutely despise the idea of having daily, weekly, and monthly routines; and there are people who thrive on such routines. I thrive on routine. There are certain people who suffer from autism, NOT ALL but CERTAIN people with autism that must live by routine. Remember Dustin Hoffman as the rain man who had to watch Jeopardy and The People's Court each weekday? If "Raymond" had his routine disrupted, he could become "unglued".

I don't think I have ever told anybody this, but I have an affinity for that Raymond character. I very much identify with him and his love of routine. Honestly, when someone disrupts my routine, I want to yell and lose control and continually yell something like "Wapner! Wapner! Wapner!" or "Vern; V-E-R-N; V-E-R-N!" I really do! Of course, I'm not autistic and I've learned to restrain my gut level impulses most of the time. I've learned to (as that old song says) "Don't cry out loud, just keep it inside, and learn how to hide your feelings." I actually asked the mother of an autistic boy one time if she thought it was possible for someone to be "just a little bit" autistic. She told me she thought it was and that she and one of her siblings actually had what might be considered some very mild autistic traits. I wonder sometimes if I'm maybe one percent autistic, if that's possible!

Now, back to the subject at hand: routine. I'm fixated on routine today because for the past couple of days my routine has been totally disrupted. I was away at school in the midwest during the Blizzard of '78 and its aftermath, and I wonder how the people coped with it back then. You see, as bad as the Blizzard of 2013 has been, it's really mild in comparison. In February of 1978, most of them did not expect that a blizzard was coming. It happened on a Monday and not a Friday. It snowed about a foot more snow, but the storm lasted twice as long. The driving ban was not twenty-four hours, no it was several days! The National Guard was actually dropping off food supplies in various places and people were going to them, in some cases loading up their children's little red wagons and bringing the bread and milk home! I've had my routine totally disrupted for what is now the third day and I feel, well, totally discombobulated! I am very thankful for my daughter Rachel and my son Jon. Jon just kind of "goes with the flow" but Rachel, like me, is very orderly and scheduled. She's really into cleanliness and "not being gross"- frankly more than I am. I know having me here in their small apartment with my bad habits (I'm noisy and fidgety and by Rachel's standards careless with how I use the stove, etc.) has got to have been hard on her routine, too.

There was a study a number of years ago that found that people who are "religious" actually inherit that trait. Now, of course a number of evangelicals and charismatics pretty much "hit the roof" when that study came out and they disagreed with it. This may shock my readers, but I agree with the conclusions of that study. It didn't say that "spirituality" was inherited, nor that a love of God was inherited, nor that a desire to know God and do His will were inherited. No! It said that the tendency toward "religious" behavior was inherited. There is a difference. I hate to admit this, but I tend to follow routines in the living out of my Christian faith. It's frequently taught in Christian circles that this tendency is a good thing. I've read many a book on Christian discipleship which taught that following such routines is good. I even showed a video teaching series one time when I was pastoring in which the teacher told viewers they "had" to do their prayer and Bible reading time "early in the morning" because that is when all the great men of God of the past did their prayer and Bible reading. As much as I'm a person of routine, when that DVD presentation ended, I got up before the class and disagreed with it. I said that I fully believed we should pray and read the Bible each day, but that to insist that this had to be done early in the morning was legalistic and wrong. What I did not tell that class is that while I did not agree with that teacher, I could understand how he came to that conclusion and that I have plenty of rules and regulations I insist on living my life by that are probably, well, not really Scriptural nor what God really asks of me. I had a deeply religious paternal grandmother and a deeply religious maternal grandfather. I mean deeply religious. My mother's father, Joseph Philip Richard, worked for the Post Office for decades. His one vice was that he smoked a pipe. But he maintained a room in his home which was "his" room with all sorts of pictures about "the sacred heart of Jesus" and all sorts of religious artifacts. He kept little record books about his mass attendance. He went to mass every day and usually twice on Sunday- sometimes he went three times on Sunday. He died in 1960, but my grandmother kept his room exactly as it was when he died, until 1967. As a kid, I had leafed through the record books of his mass attendance and marveled. I know we evangelicals and charismatics have a lot of problems with the excesses of extreme Roman Catholicism, but before you start judging Joseph Philip Richard, I will add that he had miracle answers to his prayers! Was he "saved" as we born-again Christians would put it? I don't know, but I'm certainly not ruling that out. But the bottom line was, he obviouisly got great comfort and purpose from following those religious routines. My father's mother, Marie H. (LeFebvre) Baril was also one who practiced a very regimented Roman Catholicism- maybe not quite as regimented as that of Joseph Philip Richard, but it was close. She obsessed about what she believed to be the falsehood and error of Protestantism, to the point that she demanded that no Protestants ever be buried in the family grave! Ironically, at least two of her kids and several of her grandchildren, including me, have left the Catholic faith,and there are some Protestants buried at the family grave! For her, like my Mom's Dad, there had to have been great comfort in the regimented, disciplined practice of the (Pre-Vatican 2) Roman Catholic faith.

Am I saying I inherited their tendencies toward routine and religious duty in my life? I'm saying exactly that. It does have some good aspects. I do followed a disciplined regimen of reading the Bible and praying each day. When that regimen is broken, it really unsettles me. I feel guilty and uncomfortable about it. And, yes, in the past three days that routine has been unsettled and I do feel a little guilty and uncomfortable about it. Today is Sunday. I'm not going to church because it's so far to drive and I have not even started up my car since Friday morning and it's still in the TD Bank parking lot in downtown Framingham. Do I feel guilty about not going to church today? Honestly, a little bit, yes.

Outside of all the "religious stuff" there's a lot of other routine I have in my life. One of the things I least like about the present job I have is that you have a different work schedule every week, and you don't know your schedule for the coming week until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. I hate that. Like "The Rain Man" I really like to do the same things at the same times each week. I was really disturbed when WGBH-FM moved "my" short stories program from Saturdays at 9 p.m. to Sundays at 6 p.m. a few months ago. Then I was almost as disturbed when they moved it to Sundays at 4 p.m. a few weeks ago. There goes that "Raymond" thing again! My routine was off! Last weekend, CBS did not show 48 Hours Mystery on Saturday night because of a special show about the Super Bowl. Well, that's a show mostly about murders and I felt like murdering those CBS executives! So, here I am, it's Sunday morning and I feel totally displaced, totally disrupted and wondering how I will ever reestablish my routine! I don't like the way this feels, at all. I can't imagine how people cope with their houses being leveled by EF-5 tornadoes! I can't imagine how those Jews in Eastern Europe coped with being herded into railroad cars, and if they were "lucky" having to put on prison garb and do hard labor. (And, we know what happened to the "not so lucky" ones, don't we?!)

Listen, I'm not saying I'm proud of this, but this routine thing is important to me. Now, why did I start this piece quoting from the story of the Good Samaritan? My focus is the priest and the Levite who noticed the injured man and did nothing. I have often heard preachers say that the priest and the Levite were probably on their way to the Temple to fulfill their religious duties and therefore couldn't be bothered to waste their time in helping this guy. They couldn't have their religious routine disrupted. They had to continue on to the Temple. I suspect that's true. There are other studies about people who are fixated on routines which indicate these people are much more inclined to develop dementia in their elderly years. I know of an older woman who was very routine oriented (probably worse than I am) who indeed now has dementia. That concerns me about myself. If you do everything automatically as I very much like to do, there's a lot less thinking involved and over decades it's a lot more likely you'll just sail right into dementia without even being aware that it's happening.

One of my routines, is that I like to post at least one new piece on the blog a week, and usually several. So, in a sense, I used a routine to try to cope with a disrupted routine. And, after all I have written, I honestly can't wait to get back to my, yes, life with all of its usual routines!

Friday, February 8, 2013


"But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth ; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." (I Samuel 16:7)

This past Thursday afternoon, I stopped into a post office to purchase a few stamped envelopes. Directly in front of me in line were two young people who absolutely caught my eye. I would guess that each of them was around twenty-one-years-old. Each was wearing a red hooded sweatshirt. I have a number of comments to make here that could get me into some difficulty and even cause some people to lose respect for me. I know we're not supposed to judge people by their looks. The Bible verse I opened with makes that very clear. It comes from the story of the prophet Samuel anointing young David as the future king of Israel. Samuel was very impressed by David's tall, handsome, and impressive older brothers. In comparison, David was just a kid. Yet, David was the one whom God had chosen. Looks meant very little to God; it was a person's heart, that is his character and values that really mattered. Yet, the way we dress and act does speaks volumes about ourselves. If we're slobby and rude, for instance, belching and chewing gum with our mouths open, giving off body odor, and "wearing" samples of lunch stuck to our faces, there's just a certain impression we make that says we're careless and insensitive.

Yes, the two young people in front of me with the red hooded sweatshirts made an impression. To use a common expression, they were "making out all over the place". Several times they passionately kissed. One was a white girl who looked like her image could have been on a Norman Rockwell painting. She was pretty. She did not look like a model, but she was pretty. More than that, I'd describe her look as "sweet". That old song, "Ain't She Sweet?" could certainly have described her appearance. There was a look of innocence and goodness on her face. In fact, she looked so innocent as to be naive. She had a few small freckles and a pleasant smiling face. She was thin, not painfully thin, but just a bit thin. She wore an attractive pair of dark blue denim jeans. She had beautiful brown hair. It was on the long side, and included a pony tail. Her companion was, I think a male. I am still not certain of the companion's gender. I will use the term "he" but "he" could have been a "she". The companion was at least part Far Eastern- maybe Chinese. I am not convinced the companion was fully Chinese; perhaps he was part Far Eastern and part Caucasian. His hair was black. It was shorter than the brown haired girl's but it was fairly long. The black hair was a mess. I am embarrassed that I awaken with a terrible case of "bed head" every morning. Only a good showering fixes up my hair! This kid definitely needed such a shower! He was wearing baggy beige shorts. Shorts just did not seem like proper February attire! I did not detect any facial stubble on the black haired youth; and the mannerisms seemed slightly feminine. This person was a bit overweight. (I'm quite overweight, too, honestly!) The messy dark haired one was covered in tattoos all over his left arm. I'm not a big tattoo person at all; but I will admit that some small tattoos can be attractive in certain cases. These tattoos were psychedelic and just way over done! It was like, "How would you like a bit of arm with your tattoos?!" Why anyone thinks that looks attractive, I don't know! The messy black haired person also had pierced ear lobes and big ugly studs in them. I'm not enthusiastic about guys wearing earrings, but again, a small jewel on the ear can look attractive. There was nothing attractive about these studs.

My father would be ninety years old if he was still alive. Dad was a World War 2 vet. He hated the Beatles. He hated the Rolling Stones. He hated just about all pop music which came out after the era of President Kennedy. He hated long hair on guys, and for the most part disliked facial hair on guys. He made a big deal about appearance. As a teenager, I disliked the way he judged people's looks. Now, here I was: age 58, uncomfortable with certain fashion styles of people under the age of thirty-five; and thinking exactly like my father would have! Several times, the couple asked each other, "Do you love me?" to each other. The pretty girl with a look on her face as if she'd won the greatest prize in all the earth answered, "very much!" I so wanted to grab her and say to her, "Don't you realize you can do much better?!"

I did feel a little guilty about that.

I really didn't know these people. I just had experienced what they looked like, what they acted like, what they seemed like. The girl's looks and demeanor pleased me. Her companion's didn't. I'm not particularly macho or particularly good-looking. I'm overweight. I've got lots of frankly weird traits. You'd think I might have some more sympathy for the messy haired young person sporting the tattoos and ugly ear jewelry. I had none. There's a very strong passage in the New Testament book of James about the sin of "showing partiality" based on superficial matters like how much money one has and/or how one looks. Most pastors preach great sermons from that portion of Scripture, and most are guilty of showing partiality.

Appearance is far more important in our culture than most of us want to admit. Again, I may have been all wrong in my visual assessment of this couple. I felt a little ashamed as I was walking out of the post office.

I have entitled this posting "Shallow or Astute?". I found an online definition of "astute" which reads: "Having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people and turn this to one's advantage: 'an astute businessman'." So, what about it? Were my impressions in the post office reasonable? Was I being very shallow? Was I astute? And, what do you suppose Our Lord Jesus Christ would have to say about all of this?

Sunday, February 3, 2013


"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2)

Today happens to be “Super Bowl Sunday” but I wasn’t feeling especially super as I started out my day. Without going into tedious and unnecessary detail, I’d been struggling under a load of personal stresses and issues for several days. A friend called me early this morning, and got an earful from me. If you’ve ever seen Robert Duvall in the film “The Apostle” (which happens to be one of my favorites) I was a lot like Duvall’s character Rev. E.F. Dewey in his “mad at God and yelling at God” scene. You can watch that scene at: He listened. He let me get it all out. Then he gave me some good counsel and helped me get things into the right perspective. It was exactly what I needed and my whole outlook changed!

Many, many years ago, a guy I know named “Richard” was driving along in his old Dodge van. Richard, a television repairman, got a strong internal message from God to “STOP”! He stopped. His van was in front of the home of a woman whose television set he had repaired in the past. Richard had the STRONGEST impression to just get out of the van, walk to the front door of the house, and ring the doorbell. He really had no idea what he’d say if or when the woman opened the door. Maybe:

“How’s your T.V. today?!”

He rang and rang and knocked and knocked. Suddenly, the woman opened the door. She seemed distraught. She was stunned that Richard the T.V. was there pounding on the door. You see, the woman had been just about to commit suicide when Richard came to the door!

We’re all so busy. We’re too busy. We forget to reach out to those around us, and we forget to obey the promptings of the Lord.

I’m glad my friend called me today, listened to me in my faithless and foul mood, and offered me prayer and wise counsel. I’m glad Richard stopped at that woman’s home and prevented a suicide.

There are needs all around us. There are also people who may not be depressed or sad but who just need a good solid word of encouragement and appreciation from us! This year, Lent starts on February 13 and ends on March 30. I’m actually not a real big “Lent” person. Lent is not all that important in Pentecostal churches. But I think it would be great this Lent if all of us would make a conscious effort every day to just reach out to someone with a word of encouragement and appreciation. And, it would be great to make a conscious effort to pray and see who God may want us to reach out to and encourage.

Imagine if the link to this blog posting was forwarded to every Christian in North America and if we all made a commitment to do this. There’s no telling what a difference it would make this year!

So, for this “Lenten season” my encouragement is: let’s LOOK, LISTEN and LIGHTEN SOMEONE’S LOAD with our contact, prayer, and encouragement!

I sincerely hope and pray you’ll join me in doing that! I’d also love to have you post your feedback about this as a comment below. God bless you.