Monday, October 31, 2005

I Feel Good (title must be read with the voice of James Brown)

I love Sundays.

Well, most of the time.

Yesterday was a great day in church.

I had breakfast with the members in Fellowship Hall. The services went well. I did a baptism in one of the services. I preached a sermon I felt good about, and looking to next week my Associate will preach this coming Sunday. Then my wife and I went to lunch together and there were no committee meetings to attend during the afternoon or evening -- always a great thing!

After lunch, we went to the Muvico to see Zorro.

OK -- here's one of my sins. Actually a couple of them. First, I think you should sneak in your own popcorn in order to save money. My wife plays by the rules :( She believes in signs and there is a sign that says, "no outside food or drink."

Second, Zorro started at 2:15. It is a 2 hour and 10 minute movie. That means we should have been able to go to Capote at 4:35. If you are going to pay more money for popcorn and Coke than you would pay for a lobster, you should do a little theater hopping. My wife, however, insists on one movie per ticket.

So we went to the one movie -- pure fantasy and escapism. I think I needed that.

I've been feeling down lately.

I find myself thinking of my Dad a lot -- he died in July.

I haven't slept well in days. The only souvinier I brought back from Haiti were nightmares. In reality I held a tiny baby in my arms as it died. In my dreams, I have been holding that baby every night since coming home. Sometimes I look down at the baby and realize it is my child who died.

I didn't like Wilma.

The house is dark on the second floor because the hurricane shutters are still in place.

I've decided my youngest son can forget college -- I'm buying those motorized hurricane shutters. One push of the button and your home is protected.

I'm more than depressed, I've been grumpy!

Then Sunday came and all seems to be right with the world again.

Or as James Brown would sing, "I feel good."

And it wasn't Zorro that made me feel good.

It was even getting to see Catherine Zeta Jones on the big screen, although that might have had a little to do with it.

It was worship.

Often times those of us who design worship make it out to be all joy and praise. We become Reverend Feel Goods, sort to speak. We succomb to the notion that at the end of the service everyone has to be able to say with a James Brown voice, "I feel good."

That way, they will come back next week.

But Sunday's service had elements of Reformation Sunday and All Saints' Day wrapped into one. (We used to do an All Saints' Day worship, but nobody would come to the often mid-week worship -- so now we fold it into the Sunday service).

There is a time in the service when we invite people to stand and say the name of someone in their family or among their friends who has died in the past year. The Clerk of Session stands first (for non-Presbyterians, he is the secretary of the governing body of the local church). He reads the list of the names of members who died during the past year, and their date of death. Then others take turns in standing and giving a name.

"Adam, my cousin."

"Beth, my long time friend."

"Cindy, my mother."

I should have mentioned my Dad, but I just couldn't bring myself to do that. But as people grew silent I asked once more, "Is there anyone else we want to remember?"

One of the members stood and said, "David, our pastor's father."

And I just wept.

And I hate to cry. It makes my face look horrible, clogs my sinuses and in general makes me feel like an idiot.

I was supposed to lead in a prayer at that point, but thankfully my Associate Pastor stood up to lead us in prayer.

God does not promise joy and a painless life -- I think it is one of the shortcomings of contemporary Christian music and contemporary worship is that they lack agony.

I think the road to real joy takes us through pain and sorrow. We shouldn't be looking for ways to avoid the agonies of life. We should discover how to handle them.

This morning -- I feel good.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Why I Like Halloween Better Than Pastor Appreciation Day

Late in October, there is a frightening creature that comes moaning and groaning out of the shadows. It is the ultra-conservative Christian who feels obligated to come to my office to insist that we do something to stop all this demonic Halloween business.

"It's destroying the children," one might say to me. "It's so evil with all this emphasis on witches." Perhaps even with a tear in her eye she will add, "I'm just thinking of the children. Can't we just have the children dress up as Bible characters?"

What fun is that?

There are only four possible costumes -- Jewish lady from the Bible, Jewish guy from the Bible, Roman guy from the Bible, and John the Baptist dressed like a nut and eating bugs.

Hmmmm, what could we do with Bible characters for Halloween?

Sisera -- costume includes a nail in the head, with lots of blood running down. (Judges 4:21)

Guard -- holding his ear in his hand, with lots of blood running down his head. (Matthew 26:51)

The daughter of Herodius -- dressed as an erotic dancer, holding a covered platter. Instead of saying "trick or treat" when someone opens the door -- she could lift the lid revealing the head of John the Baptist on the plate, with lots of blood running down from his head. (Mark 6:22-24)

Hamor -- crying in pain, holding his crotch, blood running from it. (Genesis 34:21-29)

Actually, this is getting fun -- but my point is that unlike those conservative Christian ladies who think only of the good of the children, I'm thinking of enjoying another viewing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre, dressing up like Hannible Lecter and giving out some candy at the door. Best of all, I'm looking forward to all the left over candy :)

Halloween is the best part of October and damned those dastardly damsels who would spoil my fun.

On the other hand, the worst part of October is something called Pastor Appreciation Month. It is described online as "a special time that congregations set aside each year to honor their pastors and pastoral families for the hard work, sacrificial dedication and yada yada yada..."

My experience with Pastor Appreciation Month is that it is a lot like getting through Father's Day without the kids giving you so much as a tie. It's a birthday that goes by unnoticed. Or an anniversary that forces you to say "I love this gift," when in your heart you're thinking, "what the hell is this?"

I meet few pastors who have ever had a good experience with it. Usually it is an after thought of someone in the church, nothing more.

One buddy had the church members come up and pin money and checks to his robe! No loose change there :) Great idea, but he says afterwards his robe was full of little holes.

Fellow blogger "Down Right Jenny" gave her pastor brocolli. Brocolli?

Another buddy served a church that put together a photo album of his ministry. I like that one. A lot!

I think the best story I ever heard was from a preacher buddy who used to serve a church not far from where I serve. He and his Associate were given pedicures and massages at a nearby spa. But he also said he thought it was the work of a small number of church members -- and Pastor Appreciation Month really should involve everyone in the congregation. Those same two pastors also received a cruise to the Bahamas for their annual retreat one year, but again he says it was made possible by an anonymous gift of a single individual.

If individuals are going to do things -- fine, but someone on the Personnel Committee, Pastor Parish Relations Committee, Session or Vestry should remind people that it is Pastor Appreciation Month. This should be a community gesture.

I got one card this year -- it came from a lady who runs the local Hallmark store.

I made a list of Halloween Costumes, here's my list of things to do for Pastor Appreciation Month... If you read this on the day I post this, you've got ONE SUNDAY left to take action. Some of these suggestions take a while to organize, so start planning now for next year.

1. Organize a Thank You book. We often do this when people retire or resign to go somewhere else. Why wait? Get everyone in the church to write a letter, telling the pastor how much he or she has been appreciated. Encourage personal stories to be included. Have the letters sent to an Elder or chair of a committee -- put them in a book and present the book to the pastor on Sunday.

2. Gift certificate -- NO, not at the local Christian Book store. The church already provides expense accounts for that. Make it enough to Men's Wearhouse or something and make it enough to buy a new suit -- especially if you expect the pastor to wear a stuffy old suit all the time. Other possible gift certificates? I like my buddy's experience with the massage and pedicure. I'd love for someone to give me a nice toe nail clipping. On the other hand, Red Lobster or the Olive Garden are also nice.

3. Weekend Vacation -- and I'm not suggesting a cruise like that buddy had. Someone in the church has a house on the beach or a cabin in the mountains just a short drive from the church. Give it up for a weekend. AND -- and this is very important -- give the pastor a free, additional Sunday off for that weekend. He or she may have all sorts of other plans for the rest of the year's vacation. Provide a couple of gift certificates to restaurants in that area.

Those are big things -- other things could be a picnic in the pastor's honor, or a congregational meal. Perhaps a presentation of a small gift during the worship service.

The best suggestions I've seen so far can be found at "My Heart Waits" in that blogger's October 12th posting.

I may sound like I'm a bit hurt by being ignored on Pastor Appreciation Month -- I'm not. I've grown used to nothing happening except a single card or an occasional loaf of homemade bread.

But I've been working with one of the churches in the Presbytery that is in conflict (see my post from a few days ago on the Wolves -- They Sit In Pews And Get Elected To The Session). I think it is important to the health of the congregation to participate in Pastor Appreciation Month.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

My Prayer List -- Or Prayer Narrative

I have a prayer on my PDA, which I use a couple of times each day -- around lunch I go to the Sanctuary and pray in solitude; and at night as I walk in my neighborhood.

It takes about 15 minutes to say this prayer, but it may also take over an hour to engage the prayer, as each phrase can often lead me into further prayer. I have actual names in my prayer -- and often find myself praying over these names for quite a long time as I move through this prayer. I've removed the names here.

It is a weaving together of ancient, modern, and personally written prayers.

There is no "amen" at the end. Amen is to be said in public worship, as a way of saying, "I agree." Unfortunately, it has become a way of saying, "Goodbye" to God and shutting Him out of our minds, preventing us from learning to "pray without ceasing" as Scripture teaches us to do.

For what it is worth, I share it with you...


O Almighty God,
who pours out on all who desire it
the spirit of grace and of supplication:
Deliver me, when I draw near to you
from coldness of heart and wanderings of mind,
that with steadfast thoughts and kindled affections I may
worship you in spirit and in truth.

O God the Father, creator of heaven and earth,
Have mercy on me.
O God the Son, redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on me.
O God the Holy Spirit, advocate and guide,
Have mercy on me.
Holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity,
three persons and one God,
Have mercy on me.


Most merciful God,
I confess that I have sinned against you
in thought,
and deed,
by what I have done,
and by what I have left undone.
I have not loved you with my whole heart;
I have not loved my neighbors as myself.
I am truly sorry and I humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ
have mercy on me and forgive me;
that I may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways.

From all spiritual blindness;
from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy;
from envy, hatred, and malice;
and from all want of charity,
Good Lord, deliver me.

From all deadly sin;
and from the deceits of the world,
the flesh, and the devil,
Good Lord, deliver me.

From all false doctrine, heresy, and schism;
from hardness of heart,
and contempt for your Word and commandments,
Good Lord, deliver me.

From earthquake and storm;
from drought, fire, and flood;
from strong wind, tornado and hurricane;
from epidemic, pestilence, and famine;
from civil strife and violence;
from terrorism and crime;
from war and murder;
and from dying suddenly and unprepared,
Good Lord, deliver me.

In my times of trouble;
in my times of prosperity;
in the hour of death,
and on the day of judgment,
Good Lord, deliver me.

Receive my prayers, O Lord my God.
Hear me, good Lord.

Govern and direct your holy church;
fill it with love and truth;
and grant it that unity which is your will.
Be especially with my congregation
that it may enjoy peace, unity and purity.
Heal our elders from their recent strife.
Bless our staff, especially ....
Guide our Sunday School teachers, musicians and all who work to lead your people in our church.
Bless the current work being done on our stewardship drive and our budget process.
Guide the Nomination process for new elders.
Be with the Sunrise Church and the Hollywood Church
that they may secure new pastors.
Be with the First Church of Miami
in their time of discernment.
Be with the Westminster Church,
in their time of grief.
Be with those churches of our area damaged by Hurricane Wilma
that they may continue your good work.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Enlighten all ministers, elders and deacons
with true knowledge and understanding of your Word,
that by their preaching and living
they may declare it clearly
and show its truth.
Be especially with ...
Raise up new ministers for our churches.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Encourage and prosper your servants
who spread the gospel in all the world,
and send out laborers into the harvest.
Be with Harry in Guatemala,
Marilyn and Dave in Peru,
Alan in India,
Bill in Kenya…
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Rule the hearts of your servants,
the President of the United States, and all others in authority,
that they may do justice, and love mercy,
and walk in the ways of truth.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Bless and defend all who strive for our safety and protection,
and shield them in all dangers and adversities.
Be especially with ...
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Grant wisdom and insight to those who govern me,
and to judges and magistrates the grace to execute justice with mercy.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

To all nations grant unity, peace, and concord,
Bringing an end to all wars in this troubled world,
and to all people give freedom, dignity, food, and shelter.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

That you would make wars to cease in all the world;
give to all nations unity, peace, and concord;
and grant freedom, dignity, food, shelter, health care and education to all people.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

That we may have strength and skill to conserve the resources of the earth,
and wisdom to use them well.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Enlighten with your Spirit all who teach
and all who learn.
Bless especially my wife in her classes, and all who teach with her.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Come to the help of all who are in danger, necessity, and trouble;
protect all who travel by land, sea, air or space.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Strengthen and preserve all women who are in childbirth,
and all young children,
and comfort the aged, the bereaved, and the lonely.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Defend and provide for the widowed and the orphaned,
the refugees and the homeless,
the unemployed,
and all who are desolate and oppressed.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Heal those who are sick in mind, body or spirit,
and give skill and compassion to all who care for them.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.

Teach me to love and forgive my enemies,
those who persecute me,
those who slander me,
those who take advantage of me,
and those I are struggling to love as you would have us to love.
Watch over especially ....
and all others who wish ill of me.
Hear my prayer, good Lord.


Eternal God,
look with favor upon my wife and our marriage,
Give us wisdom and devotion
in our common life,
that we may be to each other
a strength in need,
a counselor in perplexity,
a comfort in sorrow,
and a companion in joy.
Grant that our wills
may be so knit together in your will,
and our spirits in your Spirit,
that we may grow in love and peace
with you and with each other
all the days of our lives.
Give us the grace,
when we hurt each other,
to recognize and confess our fault,
and to seek each other's forgiveness
and yours.
Make our life together
a sign of Christ's love
to this sinful and broken world,
that unity may overcome estrangement,
forgiveness heal guilt,
and joy conquer despair.
Give us such fulfillment of our mutual love
that we may reach out in concern for others.

Watch over our two sons, O Lord.
As their days increase, bless and guide them wherever they may be.
Strengthen them when they stand;
comfort them when discouraged or sorrowful;
raise them up if they falls;
and in their hearts may your peace which passes understanding
abide all the days of their lives;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Lord, have mercy on me.
Christ, have mercy on me.
Lord, have mercy on me.

I give thanks to you, for your love is everlasting

Thank you, God, for the good world;
for things great and small, beautiful and awesome;
for seen and unseen splendors;
for the sun in the day, and the moon and stars at night;
for clear skies and cloudy days;
for butterflies, birds, and all creatures you have made;
for the universe filled with beauty.

Thank you, God, for human life;
for talking and moving and thinking together;
for common hopes and hardships shared from birth until our dying;

Thank you, God, for work to do and strength to work;
for the comradeship of labor;
for exchanges of good humor and encouragement;

Thank you, God, for marriage;
for the mystery and joy of flesh made one;
for mutual forgiveness and burdens shared;
for secrets kept in love.

Thank you, God, for family;
for living together and eating together;
for family amusements and family pleasures;

Thank you, God, for children;
for their energy and curiosity;
for their brave play and startling frankness;
for their sudden sympathies;

Thank you, God, for the young;
for their high hopes;
for their irreverence toward worn-out values;
for their search for freedom;
for their solemn vows;

Thank you, God, for growing up and growing old;
for wisdom deepened by experience;
for rest in leisure;
and for time made precious by its passing;

Thank you, God, for your help in times of doubt and sorrow;
for healing our diseases;
for preserving us in temptation and danger;

Thank you, God, for the church into which I have been called;
for the good news I receive and proclaim by Word and Sacrament;
for our life together in the Lord;

We praise you, God, for your Holy Spirit,
who guides our steps and brings us gifts of faith and love;
who prays in us and prompts our grateful worship;

We praise you, God, above all for your Son Jesus Christ,
who lived and died and lives again for our salvation;
for our hope in him;
and for the joy of serving him;

We thank and praise you, Eternal God,
for all your goodness to me and my family.


O Lord, support me all the day long
until the shadows lengthen
and the evening comes
and the busy world is hushed,
and the fever of life is over,
and my work is done.
Then, in your mercy,
grant me a safe lodging,
and a holy rest,
and peace at the last;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Wilma Update

Wilma was a rough one! But we are safe.

I lost tiles on the roof but not many.

My car windshield will have to be replaced. Seems like I could have found room for two cars to fit in my two car garage, but ....

I'm still researching and reading about Clergy Killers. It gave me something to do while listening to Wilma's wind and rain.

I don't have one in my church, but in my work on the Committee on Ministry, I'm dealing with several other churches and there is definitely a Clergy Killer in one of them.

I'd be interested in hearing additional insights from other pastors, DCEs, musicians and Youth Directors.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Beware the Wolves -- they sit in pews and get elected to Session!

"Obey your spiritual leaders and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they know they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this joyfully and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit."
Hebrews 13:17

"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." Matthew 10:16-17

No one told me this in seminary – or if they did I didn’t listen.

There are wolves in the church waiting to devour pastors, youth directors and music ministers.

I should have known! After all I’d read the Bible and Jesus clearly warned me about these people when he said “If people hated me, guess what, they’ll hate you too. And if they killed me, be ready, they’ll kill you too.”

Conflict will always exist in work places, families, neighborhoods and even churches. But I’m not talking about healthy conflicts here. I’m talking about problems caused by pathological antagonists – what several Christian writers have termed “Clergy Killers.”

Guy Greenfield writes that clergy killers are not a way to “label the person who happens to disagree with a minister.” No, “this term identifies persons who have a very mean-spirited disposition toward ministers and intentionally target ministers for termination.”

No -- can't be! There can't be mean spirited people in the church.

Think again.

This is a hard truth but you can believe it. Some of the people that you will deal with in ministry will do everything in their power to bring the minister down. Not the ministry. The Minister.

These people are affectionately called clergy killers.

These antagonists in the church will get rid of one minister, then the next, then the next, until there are no members left in the church! They will kill the church slowly by quickly killing one ministry after another.

According to Guy Greenfield’s The Wounded Minister there are six characteristics that all clergy killers have. These traits are anti-Christ. Jesus would not employ these tactics yet sometimes his followers do.

1. The arguments of a pathological antagonist are usually founded on little or terribly misrepresented evidence.
The misrepresented evidence comes on all shapes and sizes. Quarreling over irrelevant points, exaggerating one’s position (usually followed with statements like, “People are talking about…” “They feel like your headed in the wrong direction” “Everyone wants to change our worship style”), and making accusations that cannot be proven or refuted. Greenfield even goes on to say that he “would add another fallacy- outright lying or falsification. An antagonist will take certain facts and so twist then that they are blatently false when presented.” Usually though the antangonist will use a combination of all of these tactics. I’ve seen them and you’ve seen them.

The bottom line is that clergy abusers will lie, cheat, and steal to remain in power, intimidate, or exercise control over their ministers.

2. The pathological antagonist will initiate trouble.
They will write letters, often leaving them as anonymous notes. They will become human phone trees. They drop hints that the pastor or someone on the church staff offended them. They will stir up trouble, and as soon as everyone thinks things are calming down, another letter appears, or another phone call is made to the Pastor-Parish Committee or the Personnel Committee.

3. The pathological antagonist is never satisfied.
Clergy killers will never be satisfied ever. Greenfield writes, “No amount of accommodation on the minister’s part will ever suffice.” Often the antagonist will lay down the ultimatum, “It’s my family or the minister.” Or “If we don’t change the worship style, I’m leaving and so will many other families.” Or “If we don’t fire the youth director and get someone with more experience, I’m out of here.” The minister is shown the door. This cycle of abuse continues because the church body routinely follows Chamberlain’s example of appeasement. Chamberlain was the Prime Minister of England who refused to stand up against Hitler. He thought the best way to deal with the Nazis was to sign the Munich Pact with the Axis Powers. He chose appeasement. This decision to appease the Nazis empowered them. Greenfield puts it this way, When the good, prayerful, dedicated, loving lay leaders are afraid of conflict in the church and have no stomach for challenging those who are using secular political methods to run the church, they will choose a philosophy of appeasement rather that reasonable confrontation. Evil will then take advantage of what appears to be an open door to take over and control the church.

Church leaders need to become Churchills, not Chamberlains. Stand up to those who cannot be appeased and tell them, “No.”

4. The pathological antagonist will lead a campaign of attack on the minister.
This antagonist’s goal is often to control the church. He or she may have position and money but what is desired is power. Those who are powerless in their own lives can often satisfy this longing in the church. Their job is in danger, or they have been recently unemployed. Their marriage is in a fragile state. Their children have rebelled, or simply graduated and left home. The person finds he or she has no power over other things in life, so this desire for power focuses as an attack on the leadership of the church staff.

5. The attacking behavior of the pathological antagonist is selfish in nature but is wrapped in a shroud of altruism.
Greenfield says that pathological antagonists will often “seize on some spiritual goal or objective, such as the good of the church and its work in the community, and pretend that this is what he is fighting for. The person is rarely interested in authentic spiritual goals. If one rationale no longer works to his advantage, he will devise another. His stated reasons for opposition are a ruse for his own hidden agenda. That he really wants is power, control, status, and authority.”

6. The attacks are for destruction rather than construction.
When men and women choose destruction over construction no side wins. The church staff member is often crushed under the weight of angry letters, malicious gossip, and loneliness. The collateral damage includes the minister’s family, the congregation and sometime the community.


1. Learn to defend your pastor and church staff from unwarranted and vicious attacks by church leaders (either official or unofficial leaders). Methodist minister Raymond Rooney says, “It would go a long way towards deterring those who would derail a godly minister and church if people would learn to speak up and defend their church’s staff leadership in the presence of those who seek to undermine and tear it down. Do not expect godly leadership if you are not going to stand up for it.”

Aim for identifying, electing and empowering as leaders only those who have a servant’s heart and mentality. Be careful of those who seek leadership positions to become “agents of change,” or to fix what they perceive to be problems in the church. Beware of hidden agendas.

2. Find ways to demonstrate the church’s appreciation for its staff.
Make these demonstrations of appreciation visible and vocal. “Clergy killers” will think twice about undermining the pastor’s work or integrity if they see a lot of visible support for him or her. The same is true with youth directors, musicians, etc. Why? Rooney says such public demonstrations work because pathological antagonists are cowards at heart. That is why they hold secret meetings and spread lies behind the scenes. Nothing speaks louder to them than a well planned Pastor and Church Staff Appreciation Sunday (usually held on the second Sunday of October, although all of October is often considered Pastor and Church Staff Appreciation Month). Hebrews 13:7 says “Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness.” (The Message)

3. The church should recognize that dealing with the antagonist in the church is the responsibility for all church leaders and members. It is not just the concern of the pastor. Rediger, in his book, Clergy Killers, says that as long as congregations see the problems generated by disordered persons as the pastor’s concern, the clergy will continue to be victimized. Congregations are often too willing to blame the clergy. The end result is the loss of one pastor in an intense conflict, the arrival of the next pastor who will also soon leave the parish in an intense conflict. Membership declines and church leaders wonder why they are unable to secure stable pastoral leadership.

4. Recognize that antagonism is caused by evil and sinful human nature.
Stephen Haugk suggests this (and the following remaining steps) in his book, The Antagonist in the Church. We are taught in Ephesians 6:12 “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (NIV) Romans 7:18 says, “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (NIV)

5. Face up to the antagonist. Confront the person. Titus 3:10-11 “Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” (NIV) Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

6. Recognize that most antagonists will not change.
It is unfortunate, but true. In those cases, ignore them, have little to do with them, and forgive them. Paul says in II Timothy 2:16-17, “Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene.” In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked Jesus about forgiveness and the antagonist: "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” (NIV)

For further study
Frontline Fellowship's "Dealing with Pathological Antagonists" found at
Raymond Rooney's article, "For Clergy Under Attack"


We had worship today. Prayers were lifted up -- "Good Lord, deliver us."

We've been fairly fortunate with hurricanes this year, but we keep having to prepare for one and then another. We are tired of this.

I have hurricane panals. You put them up one at a time, securing them in place with screws built into the house.

Someday when I have lots of money and nothing to do with it, I'm buying the shutters that roll out. Push a button, and the shutters roll out and lock into place.

On one of the panels, I have kept a list of the hurricanes for which they have been put into place. The list is getting too long.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Back on line!

I held a baby a few days ago.

It was only a few hours old.


And weak.

And suffering.

He died in my arms.

I've been in Haiti for the past several days. It is a sad place. It is a poor place. I've seen deeper poverty in India and Africa, but in Haiti the poverty is not only deep -- it is universal.

I've been at a hospital that is dark and hot and stuffy. In the pharmacy there are bare shelves, with a few bottles of water and fewer bottles of medicine. On the floor of the operating room where the child was delivered were muddy footprints left by the Haitian nursers.

For those of you wondering where I have been, a group from our church went to Haiti and at the last minute someone dropped out - so I dropped in.

There are 5 of us. We used our carry-on luggage for our personal needs and filled the check-in luggage to capacity with medicines. Three of the others are doctors and there is one nurse. I have no medical training but in Haiti that does not matter. Put me in scrubs and let me hang a stethoscope around my neck and everyone things I'm a doctor. Well, I can do the temperature, respiration, blood pressure, etc. I just did whatever the doc's told me to do.

We flew into Port au Prince and then took a flight to Cap Haitian. We often take a bus to Leogane in the south, but the area around the Port au Prince airport is too violent. These are not good times for Haiti.

We have been in several little communities throughout the northern part of the island. We've visited people who have never seen a doctor, providing what medical care we were able to give. Most of what we did, however, was to re-visit some villages -- we have been trying to set up a rotation system with other churches and medical teams in an effort to provide ongoing care to a handful of communities.

We usually are able to get a little time on the Internet, but not this time.

We are back home in Miami.

We'll go back in December. I won't be with the team but there will be doctors, nurses, and others who go. They will do a lot of great work.

But Haiti will still be poor.

And there will be other babies who will die in someone's arms.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Attention! Attention! Prepare for Security Search!

We need a vacation! I've got a few days after Christmas off, and my sons have decided we need to go to Atlanta to see a football game. They are die hard Falcons fans. Oh, how I have failed them :)

Problem number one -- football games are getting too expensive.

Problem number two -- why see a football game inside a dome when you can enjoy a December or January game in 80 degree Miami weather?

Problem number three -- I heard from a colleague in Greater Atlanta Presbytery that the Georgia Dome now requires everyone to be patted down by security. They suggest arriving at least 2 hours before the game. Hey, you can't tell me this is terrorist related! They just want to sell me more $10 hot dogs and $50 team shirts while I hang around waiting for the game to begin.

Well, we live in a security conscious world, so I've decided everyone leaving comments on my blog have to be patted down. From now on, you have to do the word confirmation thing to leave a comment. I didn't mind the comment spam telling me I had a great blog and "by the way, check out my website about the latest stock picks."

It bothered me a bit when I began to read comments concerned about my sexual fitness. Attention world -- It's not that I don't appreciate your concern, but you need to understand that I will not buy any Viagra until wife suggests it might be a good idea.

But today there were two porn sites leaving links in the comments. What would RG say? (By the way RG, I miss you! Your comments energize me).

Please leave comments -- but prepare to be patted down with word verification :) I would really like to hear from those 62 different nations that seem to be represented among my visitors! Why is someone from South Korea reading this? Or Vietnam? Or Peru? Comment please, even though you have to pass through my new security.

So, where should we really go on vacation? I'm thinking Non-NFL cities!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Remembering the Magic of My Toys - and an ordination vow

I was reading a blog -- sorry I can't remember which on -- and the writer was talking about giving her nephew a bath.

I'm not sure about the age, but obviously the nephew is a toddler. She wrote, "I wish I had known the last time I was going to play as a child in the bathtub with my ship and the little people. I used to have such a good time!! I wish I knew the last time I was going to play in the sandbox my dad made for me too. I used to LOVE playing in there. It was red, and had a cover, and was under a tree to give us some shade. I wish I knew the last time I was going to ride my childhood bike with the banana seat, and the girlie basket with flowers. Just one are too big."

I remember the day my toy soldiers turned to plastic.

They used to have a magic about them.

They weren't movable. You couldn't dress them in different clothing. G.I.Joe's came out while I was a child, but most of the toys were simple. They were small plastic figures of men.

They came in several races. Not white or black, but green -- or whatever color their uniform came in.

Americans were green.

Japanese were beige.

Germans were light green, I think.

Russians were blue.

They were all World War II soldiers, which was great because in my generation everyone's Dad fought or did something in World War II. They were the living heroes of my youth and I always loved hearing their stories.

I would line up the soldiers and prepare them for battle. A crumpled piece of paper -- perhaps some old homework -- became a giant bolder. A baseball cap became a mountain. If I played outside, blades of grass were trees.

There were men who looked through binoculars, all sharing the exact same pose.

There were bazooka men, all kneeling in the exact same fashion.

There were men on the ground, aiming a rifle, in the exact same manner.

But they were somehow different. Each had a personality. Each represented somebody who was alive and struggling to keep the world safe.

It would take time to set up the battlefield, then the guns would fire.

Bullets could only travel on my finger tips.

A man would fire when I touched the end of his rifle, and in slow motion, my finger would move across the battlefield to find a victim, who would fall. Although he'd been lifeless before, he somehow became truly lifeless now.

The Americans would always win.

I packed my toy soldiers away when we moved to Georgia. I was in the 7th grade and that was the year I discovered an alternate universe called reality. David and I bought our fist Playboy magazine, and I've been in love with Dee Dee Lind ever since. He and I decided it was time for us to start dating, and since we didn't want to date each other, we double dated taking Mary and Kay to the movies to see "To Sir, With Love." I tried my first cigarette. I drank a few sips of Vodka.

Somehow in that move to Georgia, childhood was never unpacked.

I found my toy soldiers when we moved to North Carolina a year later. I took them out and set them up in a great, final battle.

When my father walked in, he knew he'd embarrassed me. He assured me that it was all right for an 8th grader to play with toys and quickly left me alone with my toys.

But it was too late.

The magic was gone.

They weren't men. They were pieces of plastic, nothing more.

There is a part of me that clings to the child I once was. I've admitted in a previous post to occasionally -- when I'm alone -- of swinging my arms when turning a corner of the house. In my mind I have momentarily become Superman taking a turn around the Empire State Building.

I need that child in order to carry out my ordination vows -- part of which asks that I serve with energy, intelligence, imagination and love. It is the child in my that nurtures my imagination.