Final Salute: A Story of Unfinished Lives

A "must read." I just listened to an amazing radio interview with Colonel Steve Beck (USMC), and author Jim Sheeler about the "story" of fallen Marines from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The interview played on National Public Radio's program, "FRESH AIR" with Terri Gros. It was a riveting program.

So riveting, in fact, that I went to and purchased the book which is due to be released tomorrow.

Let me encourage you to get this volume, and read it. Give a copy to a your pastor, or to someone whom you care about deeply.

Our brave men and women in uniform deserve our deepest respect, adulations, and heartfelt gratitude.

Some "Points to Ponder"...

Taken from GINGER SNAPS: Fun Thoughts on Life (Compiled by Dian Ritter):

Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.

Beaten paths are for beaten people.

There's no such thing as a ladder of success: It is a greased pole.

A friend is always delighted at your success--as long as it doesn't exceed their own.

Success tip: Start at the bottom and wake up.

There is no traffic jam on the "extra mile."

Our first energy crisis was known as Monday Morning.

Gambling is a way of getting nothing for something.

You can't take it with you, and it's getting harder to keep it while you're here!

Bringing up children is simple--if you don't have any.

I'm a light eater: As soon as it is light, I start eating!

Fight Truth Decay.

Frown--at least you'll get credit for thinking.

If you ask enough people, you can usually find someone who'll advise you to do what you were going to do anyway.

**Everyone has insecurities...but often about different things**

People carried away with their own importance seldom have far to walk back.

A great deal of what we see depends on what we are looking for.

**I came up with this one--all by myself!

To the Chicago Tribune

I sent the following letter to the Chicago Tribune yesterday. Let's see if it gets published. Here it is:

We have had a rash of violence on the city's South side. I have been deeply troubled by all the "gun violence" and other forms of criminal activity that regularly makes the news here in Chicago.

I've lived here almost eight years, and it has troubled me for almost that entire time. I'm glad that Mayor Daley's office finally recognized that "parents" have responsibilities too. Now, if the parents will believe that ONE concept.

However, I was a teenager not too many years ago (less than 30 years ago), and I grew up without all the "stuff" that many teens (and their families) think necessary for survival today. I have some things for our "society" to think about.

First, for the parents:

Telling your child "NO" and meaning it, (and being willing to enforce the consequences) is not child abuse. It is your responsibility. This is particularly important when it comes to curfews, homework, and respect. If that child lives under your roof, eats from your table, then he/she should be served notice: they will observe and obey YOUR rules. That is your responsibility.

Knowing where your child is before, during, and after school hours is not "spying" on your children. It is YOUR responsibility to know where they are, and what they are doing.

Knowing your child's friends and other relationships is YOUR is not "emotionally abusing" to anyone...and particularly not to your child(ren).

Knowing (and respecting) your child's school teacher is YOUR responsibility. His/her job is already difficult enough, because 9 times out of 10, they are having to teach "your child" things that you should have taught them in the first place...IN YOUR HOME. Be grateful for your child's teacher, and support them every opportunity that comes along.

Telling your child that guns, gangs, and sexual activity are OFF-LIMITS to them (and meaning it) is your responsibility. Their "self-esteem" will be in much better shape when you give them boundaries, and consequences. They need both. We do not need more "babies" having babies, and "children" raising children. Abstinence still works. Your children must know this, and you must tell them. Abstinence from GUNS, GANGS, and SEXUAL ACTIVITY (until they are much more prepared than they currently are) is possible.

For the child/teenager:

I grew up without the love and guidance of my natural parents. They abandoned me when I was very, very small. But what I did have was alot of grown-ups who cared about me enough to make sure that I got a good education, and learned how to find my place in the society. I have some advice for you too:

It is not abuse when an adult insists that you use good manners. This includes "sir, ma'am" and "please" "thank you" and " you are welcome" in your conversations. It is your responsibility to learn these things, and it is the adult's right to insist that you learn them.

You are not entitled to the same "respect" as adults because you are not an adult--yet! When an adult tells you to comb your hair, pull up your pants, and look like a "prospect" instead of a "suspect"--listen to them! We have been down those "roads" before and we see how dangerous they can be. Your self-esteem will not suffer. And if it does, you will get over it. You will be grateful that someone cared enough about you to not let you "self-destruct".

Your friends are not always right. And if they live "without boundaries" chances are they are usually wrong. Show them what an intelligent, maturing person looks like, from your own example.

You can wear cheaper clothes, and cheaper shoes, and still live! The world will not stop rotating if you have to look "normal" and "presentable."

Respect your school teachers. Insisting that you learn and not be a "thug" the rest of your life is not abuse! It is what the taxpayers of this nation expect and deserve. If you are truly being abused, make sure that you tell an adult, and then let us help you. But insisting that you "learn the lessons" and become a productive member of the society is our right...and it is your responsibility.

"Stimulation Addiction"...We are Paying the Price...

I recently had a conversation with a very close "family" member, and they were telling me how "tired" they always seem to be--exhaustion is their current state of life. I did my best to must as much sympathy as I possibly could, but for some reason I wanted to say, "It's all your own fault."

This friend/family member has two almost-teenaged children, a boy and a girl. These two "almost teenagers" are constantly on the go: doing something every waking hour of the day. They are in school during the normal hours, then participate in every extra-curricular activity imaginable when they are not "in school." And they are not even teenagers yet!

This family doesn't have a clue what it means to be "still, and unoccupied"--not even for a few hours. I feel sorry for them.

Here's why:

Our entire culture seems to be addicted to activity and stimulation of one type or another.

All the time.

We make sure that something is stimulating our minds, nerves, or bodies at all times. We have long lost the concept of being "still" and just "being." It's the television, or the computer, or the radio, or the baseball/basketball/football/rugby/soccer et al and we never know when to say "it's enough. Now we are just going to enjoy each other, and the peace and quiet of life."

If it's not a cup of coffee (which these days more resembles a "chemistry experiment"), then it's something else that has to get us "jump started." That's a very sad commentary on what "contemporary culture" has become.

No wonder the Scriptures admonish us to "be still and know"....we seem to have so much 'going on' around us...but "know" so very little. We are constantly "on the go" and miss so much that God has to tell us, show us, and do within us.

I remember telling a friend (some years ago) that God often speaks clearly to me when I am in the shower in the mornings...and as funny as that may sound, it was true at the time. It seems that was the only time the Lord could have my complete attention....and it's not a very flattering commentary on my ability/desire/opportunities to "listen."

So, what do you think? Are you 'stimulation-addicted'? How do you know? What do you propose to do about it?

A Cause for GREAT ALARM...

Many thanks to my friend, Pastor Jim Martin (out in the "Midwest") for this wonderful satire:

I see on the news that wind generators are popping up all over the United States. This causes me grave concern. I'm afraid that if every state in the union starts building wind generators, then all of our wind will be used up and we'll be forced to become dependent upon foreign wind. Do you realize that right now we have no wind reserve set up. This is a resource and must be managed correctly. If not, one day we'll go outside and want to fly a kite and be unable to because there will be no wind left for the common man. It will be all controlled by foreign own wind magnates with no concern for the well-being of the American people. All they will be interested in is making a profit and having enough wind for themselves. I think we also need to look at developing alternative sources of wind lest one day all the wind be used up and the people be left without power.

I have confidently assured him that as "long as there are Preachers and other public speakers, we will not have a shortage of either wind or hot air."

What say ye?

Happy Birthday, Raymond Pruitt: Eighty-Six Years Young!

One of my "heroes" in life celebrates his 86th birthday today!
Bishop Raymond M Pruitt, one of those gentle giants of the Pentecostal tradition and a lifetime hero of mine, turned 86 today.

I first met Raymond Pruitt when I was just a snotty-nosed teenager in the West Huntsville (AL) Church many years ago. At the time, he was a professor at Tomlinson College in Cleveland, TN. He is a prolific author, an extremely capable administrator--having served as overseer in Nebraska, Hawaii, Kansas, England, Canada, and elsewhere. His son Jim, and daughter-in-law, Mary Grace, were members of the West Huntsville congregation. Thus, I got to know, love and adore the Pruitt family. I loved them then, and now more than thirty years later, I still love them.

Bishop Pruitt and his wonderful wife Aleda began their ministry many years ago right here in Chicago. Few people have encouraged me over the last 3+ decades the way that Raymond Pruitt has encouraged me. Whether I was in the military, in seminary, or just living "life", this humble and godly man has always had a "timely" word of love and appreciation for me. There have been times when I just felt like calling he and Sister Pruitt to let them know how much they have meant to me over the years. I'm glad that I did. Both of them are such treasures in my life.

I could say so much about Raymond M. Pruitt. Right now, all I want to say is

Happy Birthday!

Pope Benedict XVI and 45,000 people in Washington, DC

Let me say, first of all, that we Americans are delighted that the Bishop of Rome has come to visit the United States. His bright red shoes (8.5 shoe size, USA standards), his incredible intellect, and his good heart will definitely bring "something" to us during his very brief stay here on this side of the Big Pond.

But what about those forty-five thousand people who gathered into the baseball stadium in the District of Columbia to see "the Vicar of Christ"? I'm wondering if any of these people who were so "pleased and delighted and blest" to see the Pontiff will truly seek after the Christ whom He supposedly represents.

Now don't get me wrong here. I have MANY, MANY friends who are Roman Catholic. A few years ago, I had even given it a brief (yet very serious) consideration myself. Yet, somewhere in the depth of my "heart of hearts" I knew the corruption and contradictions the "Church of Rome" has made of the Holy Scriptures.

I always admired Pope John Paul II (Karol Wotilya), and was tremendously saddened when he died a few years ago. I felt then (and I feel now) that JP2 was a tremendous world leader, a great man of integrity, and someone who truly possessed a personal relationship with the Christ he proclaimed.

For the next few days, His Holiness Benedict XVI will have the world's attention while he is here in the United States--and that is as it should be. But what about all those "adoring faithful" once he leaves and returns to the "Eternal City"?

What about my Catholic friends who think nothing of regular drunkenness, sexual immorality, lack of personal integrity, and the "emptiness" of their rituals (once they get around to performing them)?

What about those "Catholics" who claim to see "The Blessed Virgin Mary" every time there is an unusual "natural phenomenon" (strong water stains, abnormal salt deposits)? While the Pope represents some 70 million Catholics in the USA, I wonder how many of them are really concerned about the Son of God that he preaches? Many will believe every report of the "miraculous" but won't come near the "truth of the Gospel" to save their lives and the life of those they love the most.

Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life..No man comes to the Father except by Me."
I hope that 45,000 people remember that tonite, when the revelry and excitement of the "German Shepherd" has been muffled.

What would "they" say about you?

At a men's small group meeting last Saturday morning, it was my responsibility to "lead the Bible discussion." I found out the week before that I was being "tagged" to lead the group's gathering for the following Saturday morning.

I thought all week about what we could discuss. I wanted to stay away from the "deep theological issues" (eschatology, pneumatology, etc). I felt that we should think about the "common stuff" in Scriptures that we often whiz right by, without paying much attention to what is there.

Here is the passage I used:

1 I commend to you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant of the church in Cenchrea, 2 that you may receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and assist her in whatever business she has need of you; for indeed she has been a helper of many and of myself also.

3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, 4 who risked their own necks for my life, to whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles. 5 Likewise greet the church that is in their house.

Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ. 6 Greet Mary, who labored much for us. 7 Greet Andronicus and Junia, my countrymen and my fellow prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.

8 Greet Amplias, my beloved in the Lord. 9 Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and Stachys, my beloved. 10 Greet Apelles, approved in Christ. Greet those who are of the household of Aristobulus. 11 Greet Herodion, my countryman. Greet those who are of the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord.

12 Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, who have labored in the Lord. Greet the beloved Persis, who labored much in the Lord. 13 Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother and mine. 14 Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren who are with them. 15 Greet Philologus and Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas, and all the saints who are with them.

If a church member was writing a letter that would possibly be read many years after it's writing, and your name was mentioned, what would be said about you?

Personally, I think Paul was doing more than just mentioning people who were "co-laborers" in the Gospel. I believe he was pointing out people who were "special" and had much to offer, and had the reputation for being everything a good faithful Christian should be. (We find in other passages where he was not so complimentary towards some folks).

So, now I ask the question: "If a member of your local church were writing a letter to be read to posterity years later, what would they say about you?"

President Carter...Go home...

And stay there!

You have no business being in the Palestinian territory and negotiating anything with HAMAS.

You are a great man, and I have tremendous respect for you...but you have OVERSTEPPED your authority, and have brought an embarrassment to the United States, the Israelis, and the mutual allies of both countries.

You have had your time in the "limelight" go back to Plains, and be the "great former President" for which you have a reputation.

Confessions....Here goes...

I do believe that good, honest confession is necessary in the life of every believer.

First, it helps us to actually face our life and give it an evaluation that we otherwise would prefer to avoid.

Second, we allow ourselves to dig "deep" and find all of those "things" that we have so masterfully hidden from everyone, except God.

Finally, confession reminds us that we are still mortals, living in a fallen world.


1) I have battled with very deep-rooted insecurities for most of my life. I'm always wondering if I am "good enough..."

2) I've learned how to have a healthy "love" for my person--without being arrogant or cocky. Of course, in doing so, you never ever believe the "press reports."

3) I'm pretty sure that I will never get married. I'm 46 years old now, and don't see "wedded bliss" in my future. And quite honestly, that doesn't BOTHER me as much as it bothers some of the people who "love me."

4) I've pretty much decided that the "Richter Scale of public opinion" is not the way to live life. I'm a "pleaser" for the most part--but there are some folk who will never be pleased. I've stopped trying to pacify them.

5) My brothers and sisters in the Lord are my "real family." I place a high value on the local church, and on the kingdom of God. These people are the only "real family" that I've known.

6) My biological relatives are the most dysfunctional people in the whole world....or at least, they once were.

7) I enjoy being alone (sometimes), and am rarely "lonely." I know the difference between the two concepts.

8) I hate housework...and I can't afford a maid.

9) I'm pretty easy to please, most of the time. I realized long ago that the universe doesn't revolve around me....or you either.

10) The most precious times in my adult life have been when I knew God was doing something very special for someone, and allowed me to be part of what He was doing. He gets all the credit.

How far does "Honor thy Father and Mother" go?

Here's something that continues to "stir around" in my small, 3lbs of gray matter:

WTTW-11 (The marvelous PBS station here in Chicago) aired a program last week entitled, "Caring for Your Parents." The main thrust of the documentary was what children often encounter when one or more parent(s) become incapable of caring for themselves. It was a tremendous look at four or five different family situations, and how these people handled the complexities of aging, incapacitated fathers and mothers.

My dilemma:

My parents abandoned me when I was a baby. To be completely honest, they abandoned each other, and later abandoned me. Neither parent ever "stepped up to the plate" and rendered the care that an infant/small child/youngster/teenager should have received.

Not at any point in life.

I've not seen nor heard from my biological father in almost 16 years (the last time being at his mother's funeral--my real caregiver until I left home for college). He was drunk at the funeral home viewing, and then almost drunk during the actual funeral service the following day. He has made no contact with me. I have no idea how to find him (not that I am,particularly itching to do so), and really don't know whether he is dead or alive. I'm pretty sure he is alive--or I would have already heard something from someone (at least I like to think that I would have been contacted). He divorced my stepmother (Marie, whom I absolutely adore), and basically abandoned his three children (my two half sisters, and half brother). The fundamental difference is that these three children were pretty much grown before the divorce happened. But that doesn't make it any less painful for them.

My two half-sisters (Cynthia and Sherry) feel the same way about him. He dropped out of their lives, and has had little if any contact with either of them. When he has "dropped in" he has been either intoxicated and completely embarrassing to both of them. I feel as they do: there's no love, no hate...but alot of indifference. It's not a matter of "forgiveness" either...that has already happened, and continues to happen as needed.

But what about that "3 a.m. call" (since that seems to be the ONLY TIME that "emergencies" can possibly happen, according to the current three Senators running for the White House) that says, "Mr Hoover, we have Bobby here, and we need someone to make some decisions..." I'm almost 700 miles away, and I'm not sure how I would/could/should respond.

What obligation do I, as a Christian who wants to be obedient to God's Word and will, have to this man, if I am contacted and told that he is completely incapacitated, and needs constant care?

Do I have any ethical, moral, or spiritual obligation to "care" for someone who abandoned me early in life, and has dropped out of my life (at his own convenience) ever since?

I really do want your opinions and ideas. Please share. I will be discussing my biological mother in a subsequent post.

Elianna Joy Brucato is here!

My "first" god-child is here: Miss Elianna Joy Brucato made her entrance last night around 6:20 p.m. She weighed in at 9 lbs, 7 ounces. I can hardly wait to go see her!

Her parents are precious friends of mine. Her dad, Mark Brucato, and I have been friends--very close friends for 7+ years now. Ruth--the wonderful, gorgeous, and exhausted mom of the bundle of love--is a marvelous, and terrific person in her own right. Hailing from Southern California, she met Mark when they were both students at the Moody Bible Institute here in Chicago. Ruth's parents have been missionaries in Africa for many years.

Andrew and Linda Brucato (Elianna's ecstatic paternal grandparents) are missionaries in the Bologna region of Italy. Mark, along with his three brothers, (Ben, Luke, Michael) grew up in Italy, and until a few years ago, were more 'at home' in the Mediterranean than they were here in the United States. After all, when you grow up in the "land of Pizza and Pasta" that seems to be a given.

Back in November of last year, Mark and Ruth asked me to be the "godparent" of this wonderful little girl. Just the fact that I would be asked was such an honor, and it brought warm tears to my eyes. Since I've never married and have no children of my own, this is the next best thing.

Now I am a "godparent"--and I'm soon as I see her, I'll give you all an update.

Think about these....

Here's some "gems" that I want to offer to my "vast readership"...LOL

1) It would be nice to have taxation without misrepresentation.

2) You can't spend yourself rich any more than you can "drink" yourself sober.

3) Summer is when kids slam the doors they left open all winter.

4) It's amazing how many things people turn on and off during the day--including other people.

5) He who gives in when he is wrong is wise. He who gives in when he is right is married.

6) Stickability is 95 percent of ability.

7) There aren't enough crutches in the world for all the lame excuses.

8) Dollars and sense do not always travel together.

9) The average man has probably thought twice about runing away from home: Once as a child, and the once as a husband.

10) " The gum-chewing student and the cud-chewing cow
Look quite alike, but they're different somehow.
What is the difference? I see it all now--
It's the intelligent look on the face of the cow!"

11) Ever notice how many people are "mistaken" at the top of their voice?

12) Poise is looking like an owl after behaving like a jackass.

13) If you can't stand solitude, then you probably bore others too!

14) A prune is a plum that has seen better days!

15) Middle age is when you begin to exchange emotions for symptoms!

16) Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side-effects.

17) A good sermon is one that goes over your head on Sunday--and then hits your neighbor!

18) The reason the Ten Commandments are "short and sweet" is that they were handed down "direct" and not through several committees.

19) If at first you succeed, try to hide your astonishment.

20) It doesn't make you an angel to be "always in the air" and "harping on something."

Forty Years Ago Today...

Doctor Martin Luther King Jr was brutally assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. This nation lost an important and vital voice for the "rights of all human beings". I was a small child, barely 6 years old, and remember hearing my grandmother talking about the news reports on the television of this horrible, horrible tragedy. It was senseless then, and it's still senseless today.

May God help us to learn the "real lessons" from Dr King's legacy.

Frank Howard: On to Glory!

Deacon Frank Howard--a man whom I've known, loved, and admired for more than 25 years, escaped the prison bars of his body this morning, and took his One-Way Flight to Heaven!

Brother Howard was a true original. He was one of the kindest, and most gracious men to ever live in Cleveland, TN. His wife, Elva Howard, was the Director of Women's Ministries for the Church of God of Prophecy for more than thirty years, and a powerful, powerful preacher/minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, the "stability" and "rock" in their home was her husband, and she gladly acknowledges his wonderful, wonderful leadership.

I am always at such a loss when one of these precious saints of God leaves this earth. These are people who are my heroes. They have been my heroes for the greater majority of my life. These are the true spiritual GIANTS--men and women who stand so tall in life....yet have lived and served with humility that is beyond description, and beyond imagination for so many of us. In a world where we have the "gimme, gimme, take, take" syndrome/disease sweeping the land, Frank Howard was completely immune to such selfish nonsense. He was a deacon in the Peerless Road Church for many, many years. He was as faithful to his local church as the sun is to come up in the morning, and the nightfall to fulfill it's assignment.

Frank Howard was a real pray-er. He prayed like a prophet, a warrior, and a child. This gentle saint of God knew how to "bombard" Heaven with his prayers, and how to believe God for the answers to all he petitioned. He knew how to praise his Lord. He knew how to live in the humility and kindness that seems all but forgotten in contemporary society.

His wonderful wife Elva, his precious children Kathy Creasy and Randy Howard, are his great legacy to this world who desperately needs "heroes worthy emulating."

Frank Howard was such a hero.

"Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." And this one was precious to God.