Tuesday, June 24, 2014


"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep."  (Romans 12:15)

The mother of one of my daughter Amy Julian's closest friends died in a fire last night. (Ironically, the fire happened on the friend's father's birthday.)

Here is a report about the fire from the Springfield, MO CBS television news affiliate:

Here is what Amy Julian posted about this on her Facebook page:

Tonight one of my very good friends lost her mom in a house fire. She actually did CPR on her mom to try to revive her. Her dad lost everything and on his birthday. My heart grieves for her and with her right now. Please pray for my friend and her family.

Friday, June 20, 2014


"But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine:  
that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience;"  (Titus 2:1-2 New King James Version)

In roughly three months I will celebrate my sixtieth birthday.  This is an occasion of great stress and sadness for many people.  Most of my cousins are anywhere from two to eighteen years older than I am, and I've heard many of them say they were very depressed turning sixty.  A guy I know has told me several times this year that turning sixty will be very difficult and will greatly bother me.  

This may surprise you, but I don't expect turning sixty to bother me very much at all.  I've never been shy at stating my date of birth nor of revealing my age.  It's a personal choice, but I don't color my hair.  I'm one of those who believes I've earned every one of these gray hairs and I want to display them proudly!  It's no surprise that so many folks have major problems with turning sixty, however.  This is a youth culture.   Seemingly "everything" is geared for people in their teens, twenties, and thirties.  No matter what they say, forty is not the "new thirty"; and sixty is not the "new forty"!  People in their forties are made to feel a bit too old to be "cool"; then at fifty you qualify for A.A.R.P.; at fifty-five you qualify for private senior-citizen housing; and at sixty-two you qualify for public senior-citizen housing.  Companies find all sorts of excused to "get rid of" employees who are over age fifty-five.  Sadly, many of today's "Bible based" churches are almost totally geared to the young.  Let's face it, the "emergent" and "cutting edge" churches don't gear their services to anyone over age sixty!  The trend in many quarters is very loud rockin' music, along with super casual dress, and the feeling that if you're over fifty you'd probably better find somewhere else to worship.

Despite the trends, I'm not upset or ashamed about soon turning sixty.  And, I think we need to re-think how we treat and view our senior-citizens.  For some reason today, I've found myself thinking of three "seniors" who attended the church in Framingham, MA that I once pastored.  All have now "gone home to glory"; but our church was a richer place because of their presence and I was blessed and truly benefited from knowing these three older gentlemen.  Their names were Ernie, Paul, and Ken.

Ernie attended our church regularly for about seven or eight years until his death in the late summer of 2004.  He was eighty-three and just about three weeks shy of his eighty-fourth birthday when he died.  He'd be ninety-three today!  Ernie was a retired prison guard.  That was hard to believe, because he was just not a guy you'd picture being a prison guard!  Somehow, I just can't see him in a uniform ordering guys to line up, but I guess he did all that kind of stuff.  As far as I know, Ernie never married.  He lived in the same residence for his entire life!  In fact, the old house in Norfolk, Massachusetts had been in his family for well over a hundred years.  I knew each of Ernie's sisters previously as they'd attended the church in Walpole where I'd served as an assistant pastor in the 1980s.  Ernie had been on the periphery of evangelical Christianity for years- watching Oral Roberts regularly- and owning an impressive leather-bound King James Bible.  But Ernie was well into his seventies when he made the decision to personally receive Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and follow Him as a disciple.  Ernie was very sincere about this.  He drove an old light green compact Chevy station wagon and he was at church every Sunday unless he was very ill.  He loved to study his Bible, and he would make it a point to focus on certain things.  For instance, one Christmas, he took some time to make sure I understood that the baby Jesus was wrapped in "swaddling cloths" and not "swaddling clothes"!  Ernie was never rude or disrespectful, however.  Never.  He always treated me and everyone in the church with kindness, respect, and dignity.  He never raised his voice in church, and he never caused or participated in any trouble or controversy at church.  We all remember where we were on 9/11/2001, but I also remember where I was on 9/10/2001.  It was a Monday, and Ernie was spending a couple of months in a rehabilitation facility in Franklin, Mass.  He'd undergone a very serious operation.  Ernie knew he could have died, but he enthusiastically stated that he had seen Moses who had told him, "It's not your time".  My wife and I along with several others visited Ernie on the morning of Monday, September 10, 2001.  I remember us going into a community room and watching "Unsolved Mysteries".  We had no idea what was about to befall our nation on that beautiful Monday.  Just a few weeks later, Ernie returned to church and we were all delighted.

Paul died in 2011.  I think he was also eighty-three at the time of his death.  Paul was retired from the I.R.S.  I could no more picture Paul working for the I.R.S. than I could picture Ernie being a prison guard!  Paul was like Ernie in that he was never rude, nor disrespectful, nor impolite at church.  Every Sunday morning, Paul brought in doughnuts for our early morning fellowship time.  They were usually Hostess brand doughnuts or something similar.  Honestly, they were not very good, but I knew that it was the thought that counted, and I appreciated those doughnuts and the love behind them every week.  Paul drove a black, compact pickup truck.  He (and all these older men) had difficulty parking within the lines of the parking lot, and I used to chuckle about that.  Sometimes, Paul would help usher.  On those occasions, I'd ask him to pray over the offering.  Paul was not much of a public speaker at all, but I always remember he'd pray very earnest prayers on behalf of our church and its people.  If you could hear the love and faith in his prayers, it would move you to tears.  Paul was like Ernie in that he very seldom missed church unless he was very ill.  And, he was a regular at our monthly Saturday morning men's fellowship time.

Paul died just a few days after Ken did.  Paul and Ken had each attended a large church in Wayland, Mass. prior to coming to the little church in Framingham.  I forgot to mention that Paul was married as was Ken.  Ken was truly a character.  He was also very faithful to attend church and men's fellowship.  I think  Ken and his wife must have signed up to purchase a "time share" at every presentation they'd ever attended, because they owned a few "time share" properties.  They'd miss church when it was time to go to western Massachusetts or New Hampshire or wherever the other time share was, but otherwise they were very faithful to church attendance.  I remember that when I was growing up in the Catholic Church, many times elderly people would come to mass but spend the time saying their rosaries.  Sometimes the priests would get angry about that.  Well, similarly, Ken liked to read our denominational magazine, the Pentecostal Evangel during the services and especially during my sermons.  For awhile it bothered me, but often after the service  Ken would come up to me sporting a big smile and saying, "You did WELL!"  I realized the matter of reading during the sermons was just a quirk of his.  Ken also was famous for asking everyone and I mean everyone their age.  Following that, he'd proclaim, "Just a YOUNG man!" or "Just a YOUNG woman!"   It did get a little awkward when he'd pull a first-time visitor aside and ask their age, but I think most people understood he was just a friendly old man and took it in stride.  That word is a key to who and what Ken was:  friendly.   He was very friendly.  Ken would like to stay after church and just talk.  Sometimes, it seemed like he talked a little too much, but I always knew he was friendly and that he cared.  Ken also never was disrespectful to anyone at church and never was part of any controversy or problem.  I attended Ken's funeral at First Baptist Church of Sudbury three years ago.  Many in the audience were pupils of Ken's Sunday School classes from the 1970s and 1980s who testified of the impact he'd had on their lives.

Yes, as I'm approaching sixty, I'm thinking of these three guys, all over age eighty.  I'm thinking of their faithfulness, kindness, and support.  They're all in Heaven now.  Yes, we so often want to be "cool" and want to be "young" but I think it would behoove all of us to take a good hard look at faithful senior citizens like these men and (frankly) be more like them!

Friday, June 6, 2014


"Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."  (Matthew 5:4)

Some days I'm totally fine; and some days I really miss it.  Today, I'm really missing it.

You know that bumper sticker that says, "The worst days fishing are better than the best days working"?  Well, I don't know if a New Bedford commercial fisherman would agree with that one, but when I think about my worst days pastoring a church (and believe me there were some really bad days pastoring a church),  I have had to learn the hard way that my worst days pastoring a church were better than my best days have been since then.

Friday nights we usually had Bible study.  There usually wasn't a huge attendance; honestly.  But I really had fun spreading study books all around my office and preparing the Bible study.  (Yeah, I didn't usually do my preparation on-line, I tended to do it the old fashioned way!)  Right about now, the books would be spread all over my office and I'd be making notes about this or that or photocopying question or study sheets to use.

Today, I'm really missing it.

I miss going to the church building early on Sunday mornings and turning the coffee on.   I miss teaching Adult Sunday School.  I really loved that.  And, for the most part, I was good at it.  I miss preaching Sunday sermons.  Honestly, some of them were terrible, but (thank God) most of them were pretty good!  

I miss when someone would tell me that something I said or taught five weeks or five years ago positively impacted them and changed their life for the better.  (Well, sometimes I still have someone tell me that, but just not as much.)

I miss going to ministers' activities, whether it was activities and events in my own Assemblies of God, or whether it was community clergy activities in the community.  (I remember, for instance, being on the committee that organized the one year anniversary Memorial service/event for 9/11.  That was very special.)

I will say that over the past four years of being outside of paid pastoral ministry, I have learned a lot about real life.  I think I've now got a Master's Degree in the School of Hard Knocks.  I guess maybe I was kind of insulated in some sort of a spiritual ivory tower.  I would never have thought that was the case, but frankly, I suppose it was.   During these four years, I have learned quite a lot about real life and real people and real struggles.  Frankly, some of the struggles and problems have been my own, and others have been watching acquaintances who have crossed my path navigate through some very difficult stuff.  In the words of my good friend Gene Sorbo, these are things that I, "would not have signed up for"!

Lately, I'm having a lot of dreams in which I'm about to step into a pulpit and open a service, or I'm about to step into a pulpit and preach a sermon, or I'm about to teach a class.  In these dreams, I'm feeling absolutely electric with excitement!  Then, with the suddenness of an unexpected and extremely nearby flash of lightning and clap of thunder,  I find myself awake in my bed!  It's usually about 4 a.m.  When that happens, waking up in my bed is the last place I want to be!   The shock and disappointment is indescribable.

I used to write a lot of these type of pieces on my blog and in other places.   I was counseled against doing so, and thus I have not written anything like this for a long while.  I'm not sure I can adequately explain this, but today I really needed to "let it out".  I realize that during my years of pastoring I was in a lot of denial about a lot of things.  I know that when denial is stripped away, harsh reality steps in with a vengeance.   Yes, I took a lot of things for granted.   I frankly thought that what has happened to me,  could never happen!

Listen, if you are a pastor or an associate pastor, or in any other full time ministry, please don't take it for granted; and please be open to what the Holy Spirit wants to say or do in your life.  Remember:  it can all be taken away!

My prayer and dream right now is that somewhere, some way, some how,  I can use my ministry gifts again, even if only (as it were) a shadow of what I did in my past.   Yes, that's my prayer and my dream.