Thursday, December 29, 2016


It was the middle of a weekday afternoon, so I won’t blame what I witnessed on some holiday office party gone awry.    And it wasn’t raining or snowing at the time, so weather wasn’t a factor.  And based on the driver’s defiance, this incident seemed not to be the result of any medical emergency.

So, I’m not exactly sure what led to it, but there he was – trying to exit from the Merritt Parkway using the entrance ramp!

In other words, he was going the wrong way.  Despite all the big red and white signs warning him against proceeding in that deadly direction.  Despite all the drivers heading towards him with their headlights flashing and their horns a-honking and their arms flailing outside of their hastily opened windows. 

If this guy had a death wish, it looked like it was about to come true.  I say that because he didn’t immediately pull over to the shoulder.  Nor did he just stop his car and stop the madness.  He just kept driving, right into the oncoming traffic.

It was as if he considered it to be his own Merritt!

I won’t tell you how this scary scene ended, in part, because I got outta there as quickly as possible, and in part, because his errant car was just a “vehicle” for a metaphor.

Here’s the direction I’m headed with this…

There are millions of people in this country who believe that America is headed in the wrong direction.  And for good reason.  You see, over the last 18-24 months, we’ve been force-fed a steady diet of negative news about our economy, our infrastructure, our schools, our health care system, our tax codes, our immigration policy, our trade policy, and our criminal justice system.  Candidates of every ilk were unabashedly vocal this past election cycle about the downward direction in which the U.S. is seemingly headed. 

But it’s not just politics, is it?

I attended the 2016 General, Jurisdictional, AND Annual Conferences of my beloved United Methodist Church, and I heard the same thing over and over and over again - from laity and clergy, from conservatives and progressives: the church is headed in the wrong direction. 

Of course, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we might admit that this feeling of wrong-directionness is not limited to just a national thing, or even a denominational thing.  It’s also a personal thing.

Ask yourself…How is my marriage?  Is it headed in the right direction?  How is my weight?   Is that headed in the right direction?  How is my career path, or my spiritual journey, or my relationship with my parents/siblings/kids?  Are all of these things headed in the right direction? 

If not, then I have one word for you – JANUARY!

Now, I realize that January can seem like the Nazareth of months (“Can anything good come out of January?”), but if we use it responsibly, it can be an amazing once-in-a-yeartime opportunity to turn things around and start heading in the right direction.   

When our calendars reset to triple zero this weekend, we can, relying on the strength and grace of God, resolve to restore our less-than-perfect relationships with our spouses, partners, parents, children, siblings, etc.  And we can resolve to be more intentional about eating healthier, or exercising more, or drinking less.  And we can resolve to get off the parkway and onto our knees as we surrender our keys and our lives to God, through any number of spiritual disciplines. 

Or we can continue to head in the wrong direction for yet another year, relying on our own “merit”. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016


Dear Virginia,

If you are looking to read a blog about your favorite Disney movie of all time, you will be sorely disappointed.  But get used to it, young lady.  Your long life will likely be full of disappointments.  One after another after another.

Even and especially at Christmas.

If you don’t believe me, Virginia, just ask the pastor of a United Methodist church near where I grew up on Long Island.  On Friday, he learned that the oil burner that heats the sanctuary of his landmark church burned out.  Fried.  Kaput.

After just 5 years! 

Admittedly, I don’t know much about mechanical stuff, sweetheart, but I DO know that those things are supposed to last 2 or 3 or even 4 times longer than that.  Whose fault is it that this thing broke, I can’t say for sure.  Maybe there was a fatal flaw in the original design, and the manufacturer should be blamed.  Maybe it was installed improperly by the local company that hooked it up in the first place, and they should be sued.   Maybe it wasn’t maintained well by the congregation. 

Don’t know.  Don’t care.  All the finger pointing in the world isn’t gonna warm the sanctuary on Christmas Eve. 

Now, if you’re thinking that the church should just go to Oil Burners ‘R’ Us down at the mall, and get a brand new one, think again.  This poor church hasn’t even finished paying off the loan for the last one! 

But to be brutally and perfectly honest, Virginia, the church MIGHT have  enough money to buy a new oil burner if they weren’t so busy giving their stuff away.  

You see, this historic church goes out of their way to provide food and clothing for 200+ people in need every single week. In addition to that, they are  always sponsoring dinners, welcoming the poor and treating them as family and guests they gather around the table.

In fact, this Christmas they were planning on serving up to 500 people who might not otherwise have a family meal for the holiday. And every single child who shows up at this very special church dinner, was going to be given a toy.  For FREE!

That is, until the boiler broke last week.   But with no money and no heat, and no prospects to get either in the foreseeable future, I guess the church will have to cancel Christmas this year – unless…

Some area businessfolk heard about the church’s plight and offered to donate enough portable heaters to keep the sanctuary reasonably seasonable on Christmas Eve.  Someone else started a GoFundMe page, which has raised more than $8,000 in just 3 days. 

Moreover, when word got out, another $10,000 was raised from generous members and townspeople and local businesses, all of whom got caught up in the spirit of the season.  And just yesterday, the Catholic church in town showed up at this Methodist church and said they had been praying to God, asking who they should bless with a special Christmas present. 

Believe it or not, God told the Catholics to bless the Methodists, with a check for $2,000.

Yes, Virginia, the sanctuary may be a little chilly at their Christmas Eve service tonight, but I believe that the United Methodist Church and the rest of the beloved community in Patchogue is on fire!