Archive for July, 2010

Helping Confused Catholics

July 31, 2010

I read an obituary this morning in the Berkshire Eagle that Robert Moulton from North Adams had passed away.

In the mid 1980’s, while working as a Candy & Tobacco salesman on the road, I noticed a tiny little storefront on Main Street in North Adams. 

It was just a little sliver of a hallway connected to Moulton’s Optical Center.  The storefront was a Catholic Bookstore that one could enter from Main Street or from a little door through the Optical Center. 

Mr.  Moulton was a kind and gracious businessman who seemed much more like a Church Deacon than a Retailer. 

After reading his obituary today, now I know why.   

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/berkshire/obituary.aspx?n=robert-mouton&pid=144373091&fhid=4938

At that particular time in my faith-life, I was still a bit confused about where I stood in relationship to Catholicism.  It is true that I was married in my home-church, St. Mark’s, to my Catholic wife.  What was also true was that I had been absorbing non-Catholic Christian Theology for many years.

One tiny little gem that I found in Mr. Moulton’s book store was a Cassette Tape Series by Dr. Scott Hahn called “Answering Common Objections of the Catholic Church.”  

See the link below to hear the first argument I wanted to have resolved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2QiteSwGRFQ&feature=PlayList&p=639116C1F2E91390&playnext=1&index=7

One common argument against Catholicism that I had accepted was that Peter was not the Rock on which Jesus built His church.  The YouTube video above is Dr. Hahn’s Biblical refutation of that argument. 

When I first started listening to this man, I sensed that I was having a John 10:27 moment.

 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

The tiny little doctrine taught here by Jesus is that we will know His voice and follow it when we hear it.  I could not ignore or deny hearing the Lord’s tender voice through Dr. Hahn and, thankfully, this tape series and this Theologian helped answer and unravel a great deal of confusion I had about my Christianity.

Scott Hahn was a Presbyterian scholar, who was “hell-bent,” or should I say “hades-bent,” on proving Catholics wrong.  His attempt was much like a person lying on the beach trying to prove the sun cannot burn you.  His exposition to the arguments against Catholic Theology forced him to study and re-study the Biblical positions on both sides.

Many of you might hear that same voice that I heard when you first listen to Scott Hahn.  He is not a phony.  I even wrote him a letter of thanks and received a personal reply a month later.

No matter where you are in your Christian life, you will enjoy hearing this very Biblical approach.  If you are not interested or swayed, do not worry, you are still part of the Mystical and Corporate Body of Christ and covered by Jesus’ own prayer Himself in John 17; i.e. “that we may all be one.”

Thank you Mr. Moulton for your life of faith, your conversion and for your tiny little store.

Ethics When We Need Them

July 30, 2010

There is a political race going on in our County that is very interesting to observe.

The race is for Sheriff and the incumbent has decided not to run.

On one side of the race is a local police detective who has no political reputation or baggage to hide.  He only seems to be concerned that our Sheriff’s Office needs new direction.  He is a family man with a stellar reputation that thousands of local people already know as a friend.

On the other side is a State Legislator, who has spent years in office as a politician and who, like the majority of our State’s Legislators, has been riding the incumbent wave of his political party’s dominance.

State Legislator’s here have a reputation for ignoring the wishes of the people and for having the attitude that they know what is best for us better than we citizens know; especially with regard to their liberal agenda.

This morning’s headline is almost comical in light of who is complaining.  The State Legislator, in the face of what appears will be a crushing defeat, has released a statement about his opponent’s followers violating State Ethics rules.

He appears to have read a communication on Facebook between two people that he believes gave him insight to illegal campaigning.  The issues are minor regarding the dropping off of lawn signs.  This communication, for all he knows, is nothing more than a chat online; hardly the type of thing that threatens our world.

Ironically our State is the great enabler of illegal campaigning.  The supposed Ethics Commission, (which has arguably been watered down by political pressure from the State Legislature he’s served in for years), is the same board that, when our Mayor organized a Campaign Rally on School property and spent considerable City resources doing so, sent a warning letter but no fine. 

“Don’t you do that again you naughty boy!” ….is about as tough as it gets around here when campaign “ethics” rules are violated.  It could be that so much of the campaigning, until Scott Brown showed up, was too one-sided philosophically for anyone to judge fairly.  In my view, this board is a bunch of “good-ole-boys” watching out for each other, especially liberals.

What is really happening is this soon to be out of work Legislator is starting to realize that the people are in favor of one of their own.

Jesus too was a working man, a carpenter; and His miracles, like the miracle of this very humble campaign by a police detective, are a threat to the Law Makers and establishment of the day.

The Pharisees & Scribes tried every trick in the book to bring Jesus down, including forcing His execution.

Nice try…but even His death didn’t stick. 

Please pray for all of our leaders, no matter how desperate or wrong on issues they may be.

Our Christian code of ethics demands it.

Are You God’s Play-Doh?

July 29, 2010

There was always something so satisfying as a child to play with Hasbro brand Play-Doh.

First there was the feel and look of it, then of course the interesting smell and finally the magic property it had allowing the forming and reforming of it until it was just right.

In Jeremiah 18 we see what loyal Hasbro employees might say is God foreshadowing and also declaring His love for Play-Doh.

 1The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, 2“Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will announce My words to you.”

3Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something on the wheel.

4But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make.

5Then the word of the LORD came to me saying,

6“Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?” declares the LORD. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.

Of course thousands of years ago they had to use clay, but the concept was the same.

What we did with Play-Doh as children and what our children and grandchildren still do with it today has not changed over the years.

Many of us have deep regrets in life.  Decisions that we made–or were too scared to make–often stay with us for years.

God says He is like the potter.  If for any reason decisions that we make are “spoiled” then the Potter, God,  will simply make something else.

No matter where you are in life, do not let regret cloud your view of who you are in God’s Kingdom.

You are precious and “remade” more times than you think.

And on top of that, this world we are in is God’s playroom.

Whatever He says goes.

Aunt Betty or Billy Graham

July 28, 2010

Every Monday for several decades, my father would make a sales call at Hashim’s Supermarket on West Housatonic St.

There was a special connection there for him because the owner, Joe Hashim, was my dad’s uncle.  Uncle Joe and his wife Aunt Betty lived upstairs above the store.

Aunt Betty was a wonderful cook.  My father was a good eater and by stature he was at least a foot taller than Uncle Joe and probably sixty pounds heavier.  Aunt Betty was even smaller.

Dad’s sales call would wrap up around noon time and unless the moon turned to cheese, he would head up the steep set of stairs around the back of the store to find a huge freshly made buffet waiting for him in the kitchen.

Uncle Joe loved having his nephew there for lunch and my father was an extremely traditional man who cherished family and respected elders.

This lunch was so serious that my mom would just about take Monday evenings off from meal prep.  I remember every now and then, if she did make a big meal on a Monday evening, my dad would just look at her with sad eyes and say; “I’m sorry Alice, I can’t… Aunt Betty today.”

You see Aunt Betty was the type that would see your empty plate as an opportunity to refill it.  That was the custom.  If a man finished what was on his plate, that meant, by tradition, he was ready for more.  Except growing up in the Depression, my father could not throw away food; to him it was a sin.

So you can see how this vicious cycle led to a serious problem for my dad’s stomach.  A sort of “catch 22;” he couldn’t throw away food and she couldn’t allow an empty plate.  I guess the only solution was to eat everything Aunt Betty made that day.

The bottom line was this.  His visit with Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty was the primary reason for his return trip each week.  The food was just a side line.  They never tired of one another’s company and they shared their faith in a special way.

One of my happiest memories of Aunt Betty was when she would unexpectedly call our house in the evening and quickly say; “Billy Graham is on Channel 6 right now.”

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s that would happen quite often.  There was no such thing as a DVR or VHS recorder so those calls were necessary for us to enjoy Billy’s message.

Like Aunt Betty, Billy poured on the message of Salvation through faith in Christ.  He never got tired of dishing it out and every message he gave was packed with truth and good news.  By the time Billy was done you were on your knees thanking God for the abundantly clear bounty of grace and mercy.

Every now and then Billy Graham would bring on a special guest to testify.  Aunt Betty, who was an amazing Lebanese cook, would occasionally make American Chop Suey.  I never could figure out why.  That must have been her special guest.

Lord, thank you for families and food and the way love is shown in so many ways.

Thank you especially for that great team you put together in our lives of Aunt Betty in the kitchen and Billy Graham in the pulpit. 

They both hit home runs every time they were up.

Angels Guarding The Door

July 27, 2010

There is a story in the news currently about two teenage girls, best friends, who were in a tragic car accident.

Sadly one of the girls was killed and the other was very badly injured and has been in critical condition since the crash.  Her face is also so bruised that the girl who lived was mistaken for the teen who died.

One family has been errantly at a bedside while the other family has been wrongly preparing a funeral for who they thought was their daughter.  It is hard to imagine the gamut of emotions for the family and friends involved since the tragedy occurred. 

In the news reports they have been showing photos of the girls side by side and it is almost impossible to tell them apart while they are healthy, never mind while they are bruised or in a coma.

It is still not clear how the families finally came to the realization that the identities had been mixed up by the hospital staff.  Whatever the circumstances it seems as though it was a mistake that could easily be made again under similar circumstances.

In Matthew 13 Jesus is asked by His disciples to elaborate on a parable of the good seed that He told.  They simply did not understand it and Jesus took them aside to explain it further.

 40“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. 41The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. 42They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

In many ways in life, people look so much the same.  Family members are often mistaken for other family members and society often times lumps large groups into single categories.

Jesus makes it clear that only the angels will be able to sort through the harvest and separate the good from the bad.  One thing that Jesus points out is that “everything that causes sin” will be “thrown into the fiery furnace.”

Ouch, that does not sound good.

Lord, please help us never to “cause sin” and always to remember that even though we may look and act like Christians in public, our hearts and souls cannot fool your holy angels guarding heaven’s door.

Downtown Scotty Brown

July 26, 2010

The conference I attended in downtown Boston over the weekend allowed me to meet police chiefs and administrative leaders in law enforcement from all over the United States.

As an avid football fan, it was interesting for me to get to know one particular chief who was from Green Bay.

As the presiding law enforcement officer over the city, he occasionally had the chance to be on the practice field with quarterback Brett Favre now and again.

One quick story he told me, as he visited with our sales team at the conference, was that he was asked to catch a few passes from Brett while he warmed up his arm.

The chief said that at first he did not notice anything, but by the end of the warmup, his hands were bruised.

Every big city has their celebrities. 

Boston’s biggest hero right now may not be a pro-sports hero, (although when he was in high school he had a reputation for shooting long jump shots on the basketball court).

US Senator Scott Brown, unexpectedly walked the floor of the conference as it was wrapping up yesterday.

As a supporter and fan of Mr. Brown I needed no reminder of who he was.

Like a little kid, I yelled out his name and ran up to him with my hand out to shake his.

There was no way he was going to walk by our display without a small commotion happening.

Scott was very gracious, as I reminded him that we were a Massachusetts company.

“Are you selling any of these?” he asked, as he looked toward our BearCat.

“Yes,” I replied.

“I may like to see your factory,  I have to go out to the Berkshires soon.”  he said.

Sometimes we just shake our heads and wonder at the cool things that can happen to us each day.

Like the chief of Green Bay, he was just doing his job, when along came one of the biggest thrills of his life.

I must admit, shaking a man’s hand who I admire should not be that big of a thrill, but for me it was, and most definitely the highlight my day.

What is special about Scott walking the floor of this conference is that he did not forget how he got where he is.

In a non-election year, his appearance at this conference sharply contrasts against the senior Senator from Massachusetts, who made news for buying and mooring a yacht in Rhode Island, coincidentally saving himself a half million in Massachusetts sales tax. 

Now there’s a liberal idea that never gets old.

Everyone we meet may not be world-famous, like Brett and Scott, but they are unique and loved by a Holy God who created them and made them one of His artistic masterpieces.

Lord, help us to remember how special our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors are to you; and also to remember that no matter who they are, even a homeless man in downtown Boston, there is something they can do that we cannot.

Massachusetts and Gomorrah

July 25, 2010

As the politically correct agenda has grown over the past few decades I have often said that what happens in Massachusetts is often a trial run and then ultimately the playbook for our dangerous shift away from freedom.

This weekend I am in Boston on a business trip.

There are delegates and attendees here from all over the US.  They are mostly police officers and their families who have attended the FBI National Academy.

For the most part these people are extremely excited about the US history they are rediscovering as they walk the Freedom Trail or ride the Duck Boat Tours.

The founding fathers lived right here and many of them died or risked their lives standing up to British Tyrannical oppression.

The Boston Tea Party was a real event, where citizens of Massachusetts, masquerading as Indians tossed heavily taxed tea from a vessel moored in Boston Harbor.  Their intent was to protest what they called taxation without representation.

Massachusetts was the birth place and original playbook for the “freedom” agenda that led to our victory in the Revolutionary War.

Several centuries later, one of the greatest assaults on freedom and self governance happened right here in Massachusetts.

Our superior court stunningly demanded that town and city clerks begin issuing marriage certificates to same-sex couples.

There was no debate on the subject allowed.  The people of Massachusetts were not consulted.  What happened was liberal judges, with an agenda, created new law.  The judicial branch of government inserted themselves into the legislative branch’s arena.

When citizens cried out for help from the Massachusetts Legislature they ran for cover.

When 160,000 signatures were collected to bring the issue to a vote the legislature accused the sponsors and anyone signing the petition of being bigots….(did someone say “debate is hate?”)

This story deserves 300 pages; not one tiny blog.

Here is the bottom line.  In Genesis 18:20-21 it is the outcry of the people who move God to action:

 20 Then the LORD said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous 21 that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”

I sometimes feel as though we forget that our cries for justice are being heard. 

We are close to seeing another miracle in America and the Scott Brown election, defying the liberal establishment in Massachusetts, was our Boston Tea Party of 2010.

Let us all, no matter where we are, continue to cry out for God’s help. 

The more we cry and the louder we yell for justice (through prayer and actions) the better chance we have of it reaching God’s ear.

Debate Is Not Hate

July 24, 2010

The title of  today’s reflection is the subtitle of all of my postings since this blog began. 

Since this is the 100’th posting I thought it might be good day to explain further what inspired that phrase and also what it actually means in our lives.

It was clear to me, during the last presidential election, that the liberal chosen one was very long on style but short on substance.

Not much has changed. 

We still must listen to empty rhetoric day after day, while little gets done to help the economy besides extending our debt, vacations and golf outings.

Whenever critically important issues would come up during the campaign, especially those important to conservatives, the liberal media arm of the progressive movement in America would declare that our debate or opposition to anything Washington proposed was based in “hate”.

So, not only are liberals attacking conservatives for their stance on issues, they are attacking our first amendment right to say what we believe.

It was so blatantly obvious to me and wildly successful, that I had to do something to wake conservatives up to the tactic.

The first thing I did was put a bumper sticker on my car that read “DEBATE IS NOT HATE”, “First Amendment Use It Or Lose It.”

I still get many compliments on that bumper sticker.  

As Conservative Christian Citizens, we must realize that everything we say that pertains to the saving of this great land will be attacked and branded as “hate.”  They have no foundation for it, but it is the only tactic they have left.

The soaring rhetoric has lost its pizzazz, the slick one liners and blaming of the past President has no more punch and the state of our economy is overshadowing the shell game of bailouts and debt based solutions.

We have much work to do if we plan on keeping America from further damage.

We must work hard for those politicians who we know will help turn our economy around through common sense and hard work.

And most importantly, we must never allow trumped-up criticism of our desire to debate issues stop us.

In Jesus’ day He warned the Pharisees that even the rocks would cry out who He was, if his followers would not.

Riding My Bike to Heaven

July 23, 2010

The other night I thought it would be “cool” to ride my bike to Onota Lake.  It’s about 2 miles from my house.

My wife worries about me.  She said she’d pray for me as I walked out the door.

Every Wednesday evening in the summer, the City of Pittsfield runs a free concert they call “Live on the Lake.”

It was around 6:45 pm.  Live on the Lake had started at 6.

As I rode down the street it was very noticeable to me how little traffic there was.

I’m usually a bit timid of the roadways and will often ride on the sidewalks, if there are any, as a precaution against accidents.

This night was different.  I rode boldly down Onota Street and never saw more than three cars until I reached Lakeway Drive.

It occurred to me that the reason the traffic was so light was that all the young people in town, especially those who love to bomb around at that hour, were already enjoying the free concert and gorgeous views of West Mountain and breathtakingly beautiful Onota Lake.

Before long I had made it to the top of Lakeway Drive.  It was steep and long but where it intersected with Valentine Road my hunch about why there was so little traffic was confirmed.

“Lot Full” said the sign.

Just before I crossed Valentine Road a van slowed down to ask me where “Lake Oh-Naada” was.  His pronouncement of the word confirmed his out of town status, along with his New York State license plate.

“Right up there,” I puffed over to him, still a bit tired and glad I had an excuse to take a breath.

Before long I was up that last steep hill and gliding down to Burbank Park past a long line of cars on the side of the road.

The lawn was packed, there were dozens of boats just off the shore, and the crowd was all ages and exceptionally peaceful.

The Pittsfield Police and other City officials had decided to make it a “no alcohol” event.

That may have explained the peace and also my intuitive calm on the road while riding my bike.

I was not in trouble, but before long I had a crowd of about 5 or 6 Police Officers chatting around me and my bike.

I’m friendly with them because of my work connection to SWAT teams and they just decided to have a little social gathering for no real reason.  I felt really safe at that point.  My wife had little reason to worry.

In some ways, our journey or pilgrimage here on earth was like my evening Wednesday night.

We hear about a wonderful place called heaven, that everyone wants to go to.

So we start our journey there through faith and works of mercy and we even get to point the way when people ask how to get there.

At times those steps we take are difficult and expose us to danger, but because of where we’re going and the prayers of those who love us, there’s a special covering.

Based on the writings of the Apostles Paul and John, the wonders of heaven are too complex to verbalize and once we get there we’ll be safe in God’s arms for eternity, amongst a multitude no man can count.

Like Onota Lake, there’ll be peace everywhere, we’ll be friends with warrior angels, and God’s love will be the only stimulant we need.

I just wonder one thing.

Will God’s chorus in heaven know the song, “Play That Funky Music White Boy?”

I hope so.  It sure sounded great that night.

When Computers Pray

July 22, 2010

My father, who passed away in 1987, had an incredible reputation in the community, especially among Christians.

Even though he was a candy and tobacco salesman by trade, he was often invited to give sermons and lectures on his faith in God.

There was something very unique about his style that most people liked.  To this day I still bump into old friends and associates that talk about his sermons and how much they loved him and how he made them feel.

I was in my late teens and early 20’s when I began my career in the wholesale company my father owned.

We had about 300 customers to whom we would send out deliveries every week and sometimes every other week.

One year my dad decided that he would write a monthly newsletter. 

This newsletter was a one page reflection on life, written on company letterhead.

For the most part he would write on morality and simple concepts about God as a loving Father.

So many of our customers would tell me, since I was the delivery man back then, how much they loved reading it and how they looked forward to what he would write each month.

Except for one customer. 

He was a storekeeper on Main Street in Great Barrington.  That town was not part of my dad’s route, but they knew who he was as the storekeeper had been around for a long time.

This storekeeper also was known to have a drink or two now and then and one day the combination of my delivery, including dad’s reflection on the top of one of the boxes, and the drinks he seemed to have recently consumed ignited an outburst.

He shouted at me and said, “you take this GD piece of @#%$ and tell him to &^%$# it, I don’t ever want to see this crap in my store again!”

He crumpled it up and threw it at me.

All I can say is that by some miracle, I bit my tongue and walked out of the store without saying a single word.

My blood was boiling and for the rest of the day I wondered why this man was so cruel and thought about how I should go back and tell him off, or maybe do something worse.

I never told my father about this outburst and when the time came each month to put the reflections in the delivery orders I would take out the one that was destined for this particular storekeeper.

One of the exercises my father had each day was a full hour of prayer before work.  He would wake up at 4:30 am and begin his daily routine.  He used to say “you need an hour a day to get the dust of the world out of you.” 

He even did it on weekends.  It was quite impressive.

I am not there yet spiritually, but I do sometimes notice and wish that I could pray like a laptop computer.

Each morning, at an almost “ungodly” hour, my laptop computer goes into its “scan mode,” cleaning and wiping out the “dust of the world” viruses and spyware that it has encountered.  When it is done there is a message waiting for me each morning saying “the computer has been cleaned and updated.”

This daily routine by my laptop is a great feature and almost guarantees my computer will not crash or become infected.  I love that program and the convenience of it.

Our prayer life should be so easy.

God urges us to pray, through the example set by the life of Jesus and the many times He went off alone to pray.

He prayed that His Church would be “one” and He also prayed for strength to overcome adversity.

I know that when that storekeeper threw my father’s letter at me someone’s prayers kept me from losing control; probably my dad’s.

It must have been his automatic 4:30 am cleansing that did the trick.