Monday, March 31, 2014


"Have you entered the treasury of snow,
Or have you seen the treasury of hail,"  (Job 38:22 New King James Version)

"A blizzard for April Fools Day?"

There's been a lot of talk by weather forecasters and others here in Massachusetts about an "April Fools Day blizzard" that happened "just a few years ago".   Do you remember that storm?  In fact, there was an unusual blizzard at this time of year.  Indeed, it seems as though that storm just happened; maybe seven or eight years ago.  In fact, that blizzard took place in 1997!  The circumstances of that blizzard were unusual!

In 1997, March 30th fell on a Sunday; March 31st fell on a Monday; and April Fools Day fell on a Tuesday; exactly the same as this year.  A difference is that Easter Sunday was March 30th that year.  (This year, Easter is late, falling on April 20th.)  The weather on Easter Sunday of 1997 was very nice.  It was sunny and as I recall, by the afternoon, the temperatures were well into the sixties.  It may surprise you that when I was pastoring I often did not preach on Easter Sunday.  That's very unusual.  Most pastors consider Easter Sunday their highlight day of preaching for the year.  It's like a preacher's Super Bowl!  Pastors work and work to prepare the finest and most exciting and intense Easter sermon imaginable.  (Frankly, that's a lot of pressure!)  I have five Easter sermons that I've used through the years; one from each of the four Gospels, and one from First Corinthians fifteen which is considered Paul's great Resurrection chapter.  After I'd preached all five at First Assembly of God of Framingham, Massachusetts, I felt kind of sheepish about repeating them, although I think I repeated most of them at least once.  I vastly preferred to bring in guest speakers for Easter.  That way, I'd get to hear a fresh Easter sermon and get to relax and enjoy the day.  In 1997, I brought in Harvey Meppelink as my Easter Sunday speaker.  Harvey is well known and highly respected in the Assemblies of God,  particularly in Southern New England.  He gave a great sermon that morning.  The attendance was good that day, but not great.  I was always disappointed when attendance was less than "great" on Easter Sunday, but Harvey's truly great sermon helped take the sting off my disappointment about some empty seats.

My focus was not at all on the weather forecast that Easter Sunday morning.  I was therefore very surprised when Stephen (not his real name), a lay leader at the church enthusiastically announced to me that a blizzard had been forecast for Monday.   Stephen was unusually excited about the blizzard coming.  I must admit that despite all he said about a blizzard, I was quite skeptical.  It was Easter, sunny, and heading into the sixties.  It seemed like maybe Stephen got Easter confused with Christmas, or something like that!  I don't have enough time and space to write all there is to write about the matter of Stephen and weather, but trust me, it's a complicated enough subject that could be the topic for a future blog post.  Stephen is an engineer and very well educated.  He's a smart guy and he's the epitome of "a sensible guy".  It may sound odd, then, when I tell you that he has some sort of (what I call) a "weather blessing" from God, but he does.  Any time Stephen and his wife came to an outdoor church function or attended an outside wedding or party or anything of the kind, the weather would be outstandingly wonderful!   Now, mind you, there could be intense storms and a tornado watch, but as soon as Stephen's car would pull up, the clouds would part, the sun would come out and great weather would reign for at least a quarter of a mile in any direction.  (No kidding!!)  I found out that the reason Stephen was so excited that Easter morning is that apparently his weather blessing also works (sort of) in reverse.  At that time, Stephen was in some kind of boundary dispute with a neighbor.  As I recall, the neighbor contended that Stephen's fence was actually on the neighbor's property and demanded that it be taken down.  This had gone through legal channels, and Stephen had been given the date of March 31, 1997 by which the fence had to be taken down.  Stephen had trusted God that as a sign from Heaven, there would be a catastrophic blizzard on March 31.  He was ecstatic because the blizzard was indeed coming!  (When the snowfall totals were tallied up a couple of days later, Milford, Massachusetts had the highest total snowfall.   Stephen's house, as the crow flies, is about seven miles southeast of Milford, so he considered even that snowfall total figure as significant.)

Notice I'm talking about March 31 and not about April 1.  It's much cooler to call the storm of 1997 the "April Fools Day blizzard" but in fact most of the snow fell on Monday, March 31.   On Monday, March 31, there was a Special Business Meeting at the Assemblies of God district office located at the Charlton/Sturbridge line on Route 20.   We were called upon to vote on some major proposals being considered to update our Bylaws.   I remember picking up breakfast at McDonald's on Route 9 westbound in Framingham at about 8:15 a.m.  At that time, it was raining and the temperature was about forty degrees Fahrenheit.   It was hard to believe that on the previous afternoon people were out shooting hoops in the sunny sixty-five degree weather.  Indeed snow was forecast.  I wondered how I'd fare in the storm as I drove out to the district office.  

I actually "spoke from the floor" a few times at that Special Business Meeting.  In those days, I used to like to do that.  I don't think I've spoken from the floor at any Assemblies of God meeting in well over twelve years.  That sort of thing just isn't important to me anymore; frankly.   I will say that around 10:30 it started snowing outside the district office.  I don't remember if I stayed for the entire meeting or not.  I think I may have slipped out a little early; maybe a bit after 12.  My son was an 8th Grader in those days at First Assembly Christian Academy in Worcester.  We carpooled with another family and I knew I had to pick the kids up after school.  I remember that the drive was long and difficult.  I think I stopped for fast food, but it's so long ago that I don't remember.  I do remember stopping to mail a letter a couple of miles from Worcester's First Assembly and that there was indeed a total blizzard in progress!  

The drive home to Framingham from Worcester was long and difficult that afternoon.  As I recall, it took me about three hours!  I was so glad to get home!  (Yes, Stephen sure got his blizzard!!)  The next morning, it was a white and snowy mess outdoors!  I remember that a lot of tree branches and limbs were down.  I did like that when I was pastoring a church, I did not have to get out to work or anything like that.  Of course, schools were closed.  I remember doing a lot of shoveling on April 1, 1997!   As I recall, it only took about ten days for all the snow to melt, but there were trees and limbs and branches down all over the place in Massachusetts, and it was probably about six weeks before all of that stuff was truly cleaned up!

Today, it's wet and raw in the Boston suburbs, much as it was seventeen years ago, but I don't think it will change into a raging blizzard in another hour- and for that, I'm truly thankful!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


"So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name." (Acts 5:41)

Despite Mr. Lou Pelletier's appearances on television and radio shows over the past few weeks, you may not have heard about this.  The Pelletier family is from West Hartford, CT.  I do not know them personally.  Their teenage daughter, Justina, suffers from mitochondrical disease.  The Pelletiers were taking her for treatment to Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston.  On February 14, 2013, doctors at Tufts sent her to Children's to see a physician they'd highly recommended.  But Justina never got to see that physician.  A psychiatrist intercepted the situation, was convinced that the teenager's illness was psychosomatic and that the parents were doing harm to her; and reported this to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families who took custody of Justina.  Since that time, the Pelletiers have had only minimal visits and contacts with Justina.  She's currently in a locked facility in Framingham, MA.  The medical diagnosis and concerns of doctors from Tufts New England Medical Center have been ignored.  Justina has been given no treatment for her mitochondrical disease for months.  She could die.  A number of people in the media have publicly spoken out in favor of the Pelletiers including Glenn Beck, Dr. Phil McGraw, Michael Graham of WCRN radio in Worcester, MA and Dan Rea of WBZ radio in Boston, MA.  This week, Massachusetts Judge Joseph Johnston ruled against the Pelletiers and for the Massachusetts Department of Children and Famlies- allowing them to continue custody of Justina Pelletier.  I've been very bothered by this case for many reasons.  Perhaps it's my "marching to the beat of a different drummer" personality; perhaps it's because in the past as a pastor, I "fought city hall", and honestly it took quite a toll on me.  The Pelletiers are very religious people.  They're Roman Catholic and so we'd have some differences, but from everything I've seen and heard of them, they're very much, "God and country" kind of people.  The poem below is a take-off of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "Paul Revere's Ride".  The poem has a happy ending.  This story does not currently have a happy ending, but I believe it people will pray and people will speak out about this, things will change. there will be a miracle, and there will be a happy ending.

(take-off of Paul Revere’s Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
LISTEN, my children, and you shall hear
Of the terrible plight of Justina Pelletier,
‘Twas the fourteenth of February, in Twenty-thirteen;
Wrongly did institution and state intervene
And tarnish that Valentine’s Day in said year.
They said to her folks, ‘We decree what’s best
By clinic and court in Boston-town to-night,
Hang your parenting up
Give your daughter to the custody of D.C.F’s light,—
One: understand, and two, you will see;
And we qualfied experts, her parents will be,
Exerting our influence, and indeed doing harm
Maligning Lou and Linda, but we do so with charm,
And as for your rights, why we’ll cut off your arms.’

And the parents said, ‘No way!’ and with a mighty roar
Proclaimed word to Glenn Beck, Dr. Phil and more,
But the state claimed victory on a dark March day,
Judge Johnston upheld their depressing ways
Yet the citizens, mobilized for this culture war;
Just a few, ordinary ones with rapt attention in their cars
Across the world like a shining star,
A huge army rose, in civic pride
By who, true right was magnified.

Meanwhile, watchmen, through Facebook and phone,
Wandered and watched with eager ears,
Till politicians were stunned by cheers
The muster of men at the church house door,
The sound of prayers, and the vigils proclaiming,
And the lives to be saved they were gaining,
Never to hang their heads nor be silent any more.
So through their pain the Pelletiers;
And all their supporters with cries of alarm
To every American village and farm,—
A cry of faith and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the pain of great suffering and loss,
Citing our history and the ways of the past,
In their hour of darkness and peril and need,
Led people to waken and listen and hear
Restore a family and bring blessings, indeed
From the terrible plight of Justina Pelletier.

Monday, March 24, 2014


"And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken."  (Luke 18:34)

I miss preaching sermons terribly!  This is for many reasons, but among the most important reasons I miss preaching sermons is that I miss pouring over portions of Scripture, then "seeing" things in the verses I'd never noticed before, then receiving all kinds of insights, and finally putting together a really interesting sermon to deliver to my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Incidentally, the person who gets the most out of a sermon or a Bible Study is usually the teacher or preacher who prepares it and who gets (as it were) saturated with Truth from that preparation.  Some weeks ago, I spent some real quality time in Acts chapter sixteen and then prepared a sermon from that chapter, which like the Beatles' "Father Mackenzie" no one may hear, but I felt it was worth posting on the blog and I did so in early January.  This week, I spent some time in Matthew chapter sixteen (yeah, I don't know what it is with me and sixteenth chapters lately!) and saw a pattern I've never noticed before.  The chapter features several instances where the hearers are absolutely "clueless" about the things of God and what the Lord is trying to say to them.  I realized that insight would make for a great sermon.

I actually thought of the title: "Who Is the Stupidest?!"  I don't think that is a bad title!  It's somewhat abrasive and attention getting- and it's pretty accurate.  Yet, I remembered something a gentleman once said to me when I was a young Assistant Pastor in my twenties.  He told me I used the term "stupid" much too often in preaching and in teaching and he found it offensive and inappropriate.  Again, I think there is an effective use of the term "stupid" but I know a lot of folks would disagree with me.  Thus, I settled on the title, "Who Were the Most 'Clueless'?"   

There are twenty-eight verses in Matthew chapter sixteen, and there are really four distinct situations in which people "don't get" what the Lord is trying to say.  In the first situation, a group of  Pharisees and Sadducees come to Jesus saying they want Him to give them a sign from Heaven.  Are they serious?!  Jesus was working signs all over the place:  Dead people were being brought back to life, cripples were being healed and walking around, the blind were seeing, the deaf were hearing, and lepers were being instantly and miraculously healed.  For that matter, Jesus could walk on water, and He miraculously fed thousands of people by multiplying the food.  I'd be embarrassed to then ask for a "sign from Heaven"!  Jesus essentially brought up that old saying about the sky being red- sort of a first century version of, "Red sky at dawning, sailors take warning; Red sky at night, sailors delight."  He flatly told them He wasn't going to give them any sign.  Bravo, Jesus!  Now, I guess I will anger some of my readers, but I just have to state it:  What a stupid request to make of  Jesus!

The second situation about "clueless" people involved Jesus' disciples.  They were sailing across the Sea of Galilee, and they'd forgotten to bring bread.  Jesus instructed them to, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees".  They assumed Jesus had  to be angry with them for not bringing bread.  This may sound irreverent, but I think at times the disciples really must have tried Jesus' patience.  Jesus explained to them that He'd recently miraculously fed a crowd of five thousand and then a crowd of  four thousand.  He wasn't talking about bread, He was talking about the wrong teaching of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Thirdly, some situations involving Peter show him at his best and at his worst.  Peter was like that old nursery rhyme in that when he was good, he was very, very good; and when he was bad, he was horrid.  Privately, in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked the disciples who people were saying He was.  They gave various answers, but Peter said in verse sixteen, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."  Jesus praised this response, saying that Peter did not come up with it on his own, but that God the Father had actually revealed it to him.  I can imagine Peter beaming and having a huge ego at that point.  That was Peter's nature, and sadly, a lot of us can relate.   Incidentally, this is the passage from which Roman Catholics get the idea the Church would be built upon Peter.  Well, it really doesn't say that.  The "rock" upon which the Church would be built was not Peter, though his name did mean "rock" or "stone".  The "rock" was the "rock of truth" that he'd proclaimed.  Protestants who totally dismiss Peter's authority based upon this passage, however, are as misinformed as are their Roman Catholic friends.  The Church would not be built upon Peter, but Peter would be a key authority figure in the Church and Jesus does make that clear in this passage.  Yes, old Peter must have been "riding high" that day.  Not long afterward, however, Jesus bluntly told his disciples that when He went to Jerusalem, He would greatly suffer and be killed, and then would rise from the dead.  Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke Him!  As a good first century Jew, Peter expected the Messiah to supernaturally kick the Romans out of Palestine and set up the Kingdom of God on earth.  The idea of the Messiah being mistreated and killed was "off the wall" to him.  Jesus' response has to have floored him!  Jesus told Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan," in verse twenty-three.  He told Peter his thinking was that of man but was not of God!   I suppose after that, Peter's big head shriveled down to size!

It might surprise you that none of the above people or situations in Matthew chapter sixteen were the most "clueless" or (yeah, I will say it) the most stupid.  That "honor" goes to the person mentioned in the final verses of the chapter who refuses  to humble himself or herself; who refuses to "take up the cross" and follow Jesus.  Jesus had harsh words for those who put their life and their comforts and their successes and their ambition first and foremost in their lives.  Frankly, putting your life and your comforts and your successes and your ambition first and foremost in your life is, well, not Christian!  Jesus here warns of the person who does all of that and yet loses his soul.  Billy Graham can preach on a passage such as this one much more effectively than I can, frankly; but Billy Graham was never afraid to publicly proclaim this message.  The most clueless person- the stupidest person- is the person who puts all that junk ahead of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God.

It's sobering, isn't it.

Listen, I don't like to suffer.  I like to be comfortable.  At times, I've had ambition- probably too much ambition.  At times, my attitude has been,  "I want to run my own life, thank you."

It's wrong.

Yes, it's sobering, isn't it.

Someone may ask, "What about 'God helps those who help themselves'?!"
If you can find, "God helps those who help themselves" in the Bible, I'll quit preaching.
You will never find it, because the message of the New Testament is that humanity is so lost that we desperately need Jesus and we need to surrender our all to Him.  I know.  This is tough stuff.  When you  preach a sermon on a passage such as this, you may not be popular.  But, this chapter really touched me this week, and if I was still pastoring, I'd preach it in the near future.

Friday, March 21, 2014


 "And shall not God avenge his own elect, which cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them?
I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?"  (Luke 18:7-8)

This morning as I drove my car across the Walpole, MA town line, I noticed a small posted sign that I guess I've never noticed before.  It was a small white sign with black lettering on one of those poles that they typically attach a speed limit sign to.  It read, "A 911 COMMUNITY".

For a split second I thought,  "Now, that's odd.  Why would you need to announce that with a road sign?  Doesn't every municipality in Massachusetts have 'Dial 9-1-1' to contact the Police and Fire departments?"   In fact, I think most now have "Reverse 9-1-1";  they can call your landline phone to report important emergency community news.   A couple of seconds later, I realized the sign looked old.  It was probably at least twenty years old, and likely older than that.  When "Dial 9-1-1" was introduced to communities in the 1980s and early 1990s, it was a very big deal.  I remember the days when a City or Town's police squad card would boldly proclaim the police station telephone number.  In Massachusetts, most fire department's phone numbers used the digits "1313" and most police departments used "1212".  Of course, you could always dial "O" for Operator and get the police department or the fire department that way.  The whole "Dial 9-1-1" thing offered a number that was universal and easy to remember.  Children in elementary schools were taught to "Dial 9-1-1" for emergencies.  Today, at least half of the households in our state don't have a landline phone anymore, and many of us call 9-1-1 from our cell phones wherever we are.  In that case, 9-1-1 calls actually go to the State Police and not your local town police, but the State Police can transfer you to your local police station (if necessary) in a split second.  Yes, that "A 911 COMMUNITY" had to be from a bygone era when it was important to let motorists know that if they had an emergency in the Town of Walpole, the would only need to "Dial 9-1-1" to get help.  It was their way of telling folks theirs was a cutting edge community and help was only a phone call away.

The whole 9-1-1 thing this morning led to my mind wandering.  We really don't need signs at Town borders anymore which proclaim, "A 911 COMMUNITY"; but similar signs may be needed at (of all places) the entrances to certain church parking lots.   Those signs might say something like, "A PRAYING COMMUNITY".  The above Bible verses from Luke chapter eighteen (which emphasizes faith and prayer) tell of a day when faith and prayer, even among God's people, will be few and far between.  I remember one of our elderly members lamenting to me when I was pastoring that, "We're not really a praying church."   I suppose some might have taken issue with her, but the fact was that (as in most evangelical churches) it was very difficult to get people to turn out for prayer meetings.   We talk a lot about prayer, but many of today's Christians and churches do very little praying- and sometimes even when they do pray, there seems to be very little power or faith involved.   I'm really not "shooting" at anyone here.  Honestly, I think I was a better pray-er in my past and I think I prayed with more faith and power years ago than I do now.  I'm like a lot of people who've (wrongly) been worn down by the problems and disappointments of life.  Do you remember the Parable of the Sower and the example of the seeds that "grew among thorns" (see Matthew chapter thirteen)?  I just read that last night for my personal devotional reading.  Jesus said that symbolized people who became so affected by the problems and stresses of living and making money and all the issues of life that their Christian lives were choked out and they became fruitless.  Boy, was that a sobering passage for me to read last night.  I don't want to be like that, and if I'm getting to be like that I want to change, fast!

Again, I'm really not picking on anyone.  That sign caught my attention and got me thinking this morning.  Thought:  Is your church a praying church and are you a praying Christian?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope."  (Jeremiah 29:11 New King James Version)

It doesn't seem possible that it's been about seven weeks since my dear friend the Rev. David C. Milley passed from this life into Heaven.  I really miss him.  It's not that I saw him that often; but  almost every day there were anywhere from two to five e-mails I received from Dave.  Most of them were forwarded e-mails about what a horrible president Mr. Obama is.  Dave wasn't shy about sharing his political views!  Some were humorous e-mails about getting old.  Some were just plain interesting.  One was a series of photos of cars of the fifties which included a multiple choice test to see if you could correctly identify the makes and models.  I was proud of the fact that I got 100% on that one!  There have been no Dave Milley e-mails since the first week of January, and there will never be any more.  I still have Dave Milley listed in my on-line address book.  I cannot bring myself to delete that; nor have I been able to delete Dave Milley's home phone and cell phone numbers from my cell phone contact list.

I knew Dave Milley for thirty-six years, in quite a number of capacities.  I met Dave Milley in early 1978 when he would have been about thirty-seven-years old.  I met him with a group of other Bible College students at a Shoney's restaurant in Springfield, Missouri.  Dave was the new pastor at our church in Massachusetts.  He was in Springfield, Missouri on church business and decided to meet the church's college students and treat us to dinner.  It was nice.  I will say that I didn't know what to make of him at first.  Dave was totally different from the previous pastor, old country preacher Lloyd Westover.  He was impeccably groomed and very well dressed.  He reminded me of a successful lawyer or an energetic candidate for the state senate.  It would take me awhile to get used to him, but during that year's summer I came to enjoy his style of preaching and running church services.  We sang a lot of upbeat chorses.  The sermons were simple, often evangelistic, but dynamically preached.  Dave Milley was not boring!

It's a very long story of how I came to be an Assistant Pastor at Christian Life Center church in Walpole, Massachusetts working under Dave Milley a few years later.  He had hired me against the better judgment of a number of the church's lay leaders.  I was seen as a very nervous and insecure young man who was not a leader and was afraid of my own shadow.  Perhaps that was a bit unfair of them, but it was not completely inaccurate.  Despite their misgivings, Dave enthusiastically hired me.  He told me he believed I was an amazingly gifted teacher- very bright and very talented.  He told me I should get a couple of graduate degrees and teach in a Bible College- that I'd be far better than any of the professors they currently had.  To this day, I don't think that was true,  but I very much appreciate that Dave Milley believed in me and gave me an opportunity that no one else would have!  That's one of the most important aspects of Dave Milley's personality and philosophy that many more of us need to emulate and cultivate:  Dave Milley saw people not as they were but as what they could become.   He believed in people that perhaps no one else would believe in.  I have never forgotten what he did for me.  Oh, make no mistake about it, Dave Milley was a very difficult guy to work for.  He was a strong Type A personality and a perfectionist.  In those traits he reminded me a lot of my father.  He could me moody and he could have unrealistic expectations, but he had a huge heart!  (It's ironic that his heart was the cause of his death.)  Dave Milley was also quite the "businessman".  That may sound very unspiritual, but the fact is that pastoring a church is really (in so many ways) running a small business.  I'm not a business type at all, but I learned invaluable lessons from working with him that greatly helped me when I pastored my own church.

One of those lessons was about not giving handouts to strangers who inevitably show up and ask for them.  It may surprise you that  most pastors and most churches encounter strangers who phone them and even show up at their doors on occasion expecting a handout of money.  It may also surprise you that a lot of pastors and churches regularly give handouts to such strangers.  Dave Milley never did.  Never.  He had a rule:  If you will show up at church for three Sundays in a row, then we'll give you financial help.  Of course, ninety-nine percent of them never showed up again; they went off yelling angry profanities.  This may sound cruel, but in reality it wasn't.  It was good stewardship.  In fact, Dave Milley saw to it that quite a few truly needy people in the church congregation received a lot of financial help and other practical blessings.  He was all for helping people, but he wasn't going to be a stooge for anyone.  I followed that exact pattern when I was pastoring.  Yes, a lot of people swore at me and accused me of being a terrible Christian, but I believe I did the right thing just as David Milley had done the right thing regarding such situations.

During quite a number of years I had no contact with Dave Milley.  We lived our lives and went our separate ways.  I only saw him once in a great while.  In the summer of 2009, I came to a place of great crisis in my life.  I was in a very bad way.  I was not far from a complete mental breakdown and hospitalization.  (Thank God, neither ever happened, but they very well could have!)  One morning I put out a mass e-mailing saying I was taking myself off the computer for a period of months.  I was essentially saying I was going to pull myself into a cocoon and totally isolate.  An hour after sending that I mail, I received a very anxious phone call from Dave Milley.  He sounded truly distressed.  I could hear the compassion and concern in his voice.  "Bob," he said, "I received that e-mail. What's going on?!"  In a very feeble manner, I poured out my heart to him.  Dave told me to not isolate the way I'd planned to.  I told him I did not know how to undo the message of the e-mail I'd sent out.

"All you have to do is say you made a mistake."  is what he said.  He told me I did not owe anyone any explanations.  I did that.  I have never forgotten the help and compassion he gave me that morning.  It is very possible he saved my life that day.  I really mean that.  From that day forward, Dave Milley was a giant to me.  His friendship and support meant everything to me.

I last visited with him last November.  We had a great visit at his apartment.  He phoned me a few days later and asked me if I'd visit him much more regularly.  I told him I'd be glad to.  A couple of weeks later I called him asking if I could come over.  He sounded very weak.  He told me he was not feeling at all well- that it just would not be a good time for me to come.  I told him that was fine and we'd do it another time.  Well, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas and New Year's came, and that visit never happened.  In early January, Dave Milley collapsed, was hospitalized, and died a couple of weeks later.

At every Communion service he presided over, he always closed by saying, "If the Lord returns before our next Communion service, I'll meet you just inside that Eastern Gate!"  Well, someday when I enter the next world, I'm really not expecting to see St. Peter.  I'll be looking for Dave Milley- just inside that Eastern Gate!

Thursday, March 6, 2014


"I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:" (Deuteronomy 30:19)

My title for this piece was my fifth choice.  Initially, I came up with, "Confessions of a Loudmouth".   In a way, it wasn't a bad title, but I just didn't care for the word, "confessions" and all that it implied!  My next choice was, "Life as a Loudmouth";  then, "A Loudmouth's Life"; and then, "A Loud Person's Life".  Finally, I came up with the least catchy but most accurate title:  "Life as a Loud Person".  I'm loud.  That is, my voice is very loud.  It's penetrating and it carries.  My choice of Deuteronomy 30:19 above was intended to highlight the part about, "blessing and cursing".  You see, I am not sure if my loud, booming, penetrating, carrying voice is more of a blessing or if it's more of a curse.  Throughout the course of my life, it's been both.

I am guessing that probably about five percent of the world's adults are blessed or cursed with one of these loud, booming, penetrating, carrying voices.  I don't think it's many more people than that.   Folks who are of the five percent will absolutely resonate with what I'm writing here.  And, folks who are of the ninety-five percent who have "normal" voices, or at least softer ones, may never truly understand those of us who have naturally loud voices, but this may help you to appreciate us better and to learn some things that I suspect you did not know about us.

My voice is absolutely genetic.  My father had the same voice.  Well, to be completely accurate, my father's voice was very similar to mine with the exception that it was even louder and more penetrating than mine is!  Dad was one of eight children (one died in childhood).  Only two of them had these amazingly loud and penetrating voices:  My Aunt Estelle and my father.  I remember that when Aunt Estelle would call on the telephone, you could hear every word she was saying coming out of the receiver;  in fact, the words were blasting from the receiver!  You could walk into the next room and still hear just about every word she said.  It was amazing.  When she spoke in person, her "normal" voice just boomed.  Aunt Estelle did not need a microphone.  She could have addressed any large crowd with her voice only- and virtually no one would have had any difficulty hearing her.  Dad also came booming through the phone when he spoke.  When he was having a typical conversation, it could be heard throughout the house.

Dad used to have very long phone conversations late at night with my Aunt Flo.  Flo did not have the booming voice, but she was a perfectionist like Dad and she could be argumentative like Dad.  My father would be on the phone with Aunt Flo between Midnight and 2 a.m.  Their conversations would often be arguments about the proper way to close a garage door, or the proper way to change a light bulb, or the correct way to store paint cans.  (I'm not kidding!)  My father's general conversation would blast into my bedroom upstairs.  I could hear every word clearly and distinctly and I absolutely could not sleep!  Ultimately, I got myself some good quality ear plugs, and I'd pop them in every night!  It was the only way I could sleep.  You may think my father was very inconsiderate, but as a person who has inherited this voice, I know that my father had no idea how loud and penetrating it was.  When he spoke what for him was just normally, it actually was blasting through the house.  That can be the curse part of being one of the five percent!   This may be hard for a lot of you to believe, but it's true.  We're just speaking comfortably and normally.  To us, it doesn't particularly sound loud at all.  In fact, when we're confronted about being too loud, it's very shocking and embarrassing to us!

Over twenty years ago, I was with a group of pastor friends in a van riding down to meet a pastor friend in northern New Jersey.  I was having a conversation with one guy in the van when he suddenly looked at me angrily and said, "Stop shouting at me, Bob!"  I was absolutely shocked because I was not shouting, I was having a conversation.  I was quite embarrassed, and pretty much stopped talking for awhile.  Just about three years ago, I was at a restaurant with a friend.  I was pouring out my heart to my friend, sharing about a personal situation that was greatly troubling me.  There was a middle-aged man seated directly across from me.  He looked a lot like New Jersey's Governor Chris Christie. As I spoke, I realized the "Chris Christie" guy was staring at me.   In fact, he was angrily glaring at me.  He looked a little "off".  He was not eating; just glaring at me.  I stopped, looked directly at him, and nervously asked, "Are you O.K.?"  He immediately and angrily shot back, "Yeah, are YOU??!!"  My friend with whom I was speaking then calmly said to me, "Bob, I don't think you realize it, but you're actually very loud and everyone in the restaurant can hear you."  I was completely humiliated, embarrassed, and quite ashamed.  Theses are just two of scores and scores of such situations that have happened throughout my life.  I guess it's like the way being seven feet, five inches tall would have its good points and bad points.  You'd probably become a great basketball player, but you'd be always whacking your head on things!

During the many years I pastored, my voice was great for the pulpit!  I have written on my blog previously about Claire Grimes, a senior citizen who served for years as our church's Secretary.  Claire began wearing a hearing aid about twenty years ago.  By 2000, her hearing was quite bad.  Claire's hearing loss really (and understandably) bothered her.  On more than one occasion she said to me, "I could not hear anything the people said in Sunday School class,  I could not hear what anyone said at fellowship time, and I could not hear any of the testimonies people gave during the service. But there's one thing I'm thankful for.  I can always hear you!  I never miss any of the sermon or any of your Sunday School teaching.  I hear every word you say clearly!"  Knowing that has more than made up for the negative things that have been communicated to me about my loud voice!

I will say that when I think about it, I can speak softer.  What you probably don't realize, though, is that for those of us with these booming voices, it's a chore to have to think about it, and when I am forcing myself to keep my voice down it feels very uncomfortable and unnatural to me.  One might think it would get easier, but it doesn't, because when you're born with one of these booming voices, just speaking at a comfortable volume is natural and trying to force it to be soft is very unnatural and not comfortable.  Ironically, the more I like a person and the more I feel comfortable with a person, the more I'm going to speak (what to them is) loudly!  To then be told,  "Stop shouting at me, Bob!" honestly feels like a total rejection and is deeply painful.

At the answering service job where I work, we're in "close quarters" in a call center.  Of course, if my voice is booming so strongly that no one else in the room can hear, well, the other operators can't do their jobs.  It has been tough for me at times.  I try to think about it and deliberately keep my voice down; at least fifty percent of the time, I totally fail at this!  I will say, that Marianne, a coworker, just looks at me pleasantly and says, "Inside voice, please!"  and that works for me.  I have told my coworkers that if I'm loud, I do not realize it- to just nicely remind me, and I will work at toning it down.  Most of the time, that's worked O.K.

This leads me to a word of advice for those of you who are exasperated with a friend or family member who has one of these booming, penetrating voices.  Please understand that for that person, to be angrily confronted about it is deeply  embarrassing and very painful.  Please don't say something angry and confrontational about their loud voice!  Instead, calmly and pleasantly say something like, "I'm really not trying to be a jerk or anything, but I don't think you realize you're very loud.  Could you just speak a little softer?"  That is GRACE in action!  For the "Loud Person" it's a thousand times easier to receive!  Instead of making you want to hide in a shell or run away or (frankly) feel sorry for yourself, it makes you want to (as uncomfortable and unnatural as it is) speak softer to accommodate the person who pointed out your loudness.

Now, you've got to admit, it's a shame I never went into the military service!  Wouldn't I have made a great drill sergeant?!

I hope you found this piece to be helpful to you.