Archives for March 2007

Tale #3 – “The Hopkins Dump”


It happened one evening near Halloween in 1964 but it was no prank. It involved a task the men of our church were to do around 6 o’clock at the parsonage. We were to move a piano.

This was not just any piano. It was one of those monsters musicians call “an old upright.” The huge instrument had presided over the living room of the old Parmalee place near Hopkins, Michigan for many years. Jim Parmalee, the young adult son of the family had been called upon to move it, more than once, I understand. Later that evening Jim’s dad told me Jim hated to move the gargantuan beast. He had said, “This piano belongs on the Hopkins Dump.” The Parmalee family had loaned the house to the church as a parsonage which accounted for our presence there. My wife played it occasionally but I never attempted to move it. (Simpson’s my name, not Samson!)

Our church had just finished its new building. The plan was to donate the old instrument to the church for use until we could get one a little more suitable. On this particular prayer meeting night some of us had agreed to move it out and take it to the church in a truck and the others would gather at the church to move it in.

Chuck Davis, one of the young guys showed up with his red Chevrolet pick-up and backed up to the front porch, a big concrete affair. He dropped the tailgate and it looked like we had a fighting chance to wrestle the piano aboard. After a short planning session we were ready to gang up on the dark walnut finished and beautiful old instrument.

Shoulder to shoulder six or seven of us staggered and strained toward the front door with our greatly challenging burden. Mercifully we made it through the opening and onto the truck’s bed without incident. When we set it down the vehicle seemed to strain an objection as it absorbed the weight. No matter, it was in the truck and we were safe now.

The decision had been made that Chuck, one of the teenage boys and I, the pastor, were to accompany the piano to the church where we were to bring it in, dedicate it to the Lord’s work and hold prayer meeting in the lower level of the church. The other guys rolled away in their cars to meet us there.

As Chuck hooked the heavily- laden pick-up in gear he remarked, “Do you suppose we should tie it down?” Never one to give a bashful answer, I remarked, “Are you kidding? Where could it go, as heavy as it is?”

“Okay,” he said, “We’ll just take it easy.” And we did.

The trip called for about a three-mile run over a “tarmac” road which had its share of potholes. Chuck decided, instead, to enter the 131 Freeway at Hopkins and proceed north to the Wayland interchange and get off there, just yards from the church site. He eased the heavily-laden truck out of the yard and onto the road with our youth, Brian, riding between us on the seat.

The drive over the back road to the interstate was uneventful. The three of us laughed and joked as we made our way toward the Hopkins interchange. That particular junction was unlighted and as we approached the big highway, coming along the side road, we were presented with a gradual grade leading to the ramp. Chuck accelerated slightly to climb the grade but was moving ever so slowly. A slight left turn was necessary to finish the trip to the top of the ramp. Now for what we didn’t notice:

Just at the last turn to the left, the pavement was slightly concave with a small dip to the left. I don’t remember what Chuck and I were talking about but our conversation was rudely interrupted. In a split second the truck rocked violently to the left and just as quickly lurched upright again. At that moment, even with the windows rolled up, we were all aghast by the terrible sound we heard.

The shattering crash was followed immediately with numerous other sounds, both high and low, tinkling and rumbling. I looked at Chuck with a start. “What was that,? I muttered. Of course I knew what it was but I didn’t want to believe. He jumped the brakes and we all piled out of the truck in amazed disbelief.

On the pavement, to the left and scattered all around was “the piano.” No, not a piano but a twisted mess of broken walnut finish wood, wires, broken keys and other debris too smashed to recognize. What happened next is the most incredible part of the story. The three of us stood momentarily in the now hushed darkness and, together, broke out into uncontrollable laughter.

Suddenly our darkened and awful picture was brightened by approaching headlights. A car coming very tentatively up the same grade, driven by a middle-aged lady, moved slowly around our pile of ruin. As the lady passed she stuck her head out the window and called, “Do you need any help?” So help me, I could not come back to reality. I merely blurted out, in my frozen state of stupefaction, between rolls of laughter, “No, ma,am, we’re just working with our piano!” Giving the whole scene an incredulous look, she drove on.

We three stood in the darkness like transgressors presiding over the results of our sin. Together we sounded it out: “What do we do?” Then Chuck came to life: “Didn’t Jim Parmalee say it belonged on the Hopkins dump. Let’s take it there.” We looked at each other and then at our “piano.” I managed a grunt of agreement with Chuck and we slowly began “loading” it into the truck.

Loading went quickly what with the smallness of the largest pieces now that we had “broken down” the job. In only a few minutes we had finished and had arrived at the dump just a mile or so away. As we finished throwing off the debris, I reached down and retrieved a “morsel.”

Like three kids tardy to school we drove sheepishly into the church parking lot. The congregants, assembled on the front porch, were in no mood to look the other way at the empty truck.

“Where ya been?” and “Yer late!” Were the most common calls that reached our ears. But the ones that presented the worst challenge were: “Where’s the piano?” and the one my wife raised, “Oh, no!,” as she held her head.
Once inside, it became my “solemn” responsibility to explain. But, alas, the rolls of laughter again began to spill out. Giddiness took over and I could only stammer as I raised my solitary “souvenir,” an ivory from one key, and blurted out, “This is all we saved!”

No, I wasn’t fired, because, I think, nobody else could stop laughing either. I think that, secretly, everyone agreed with Jim.

The Regime Change in Iraq

The Regime Change in Iraq

Four years ago today Mr. George Bush, the president, started the war with Iraq. He had been saying he was going to do so for several previous months. One of the phrases he used to promise coming war was: “It’s time for a regime change in Iraq.”

As we start the fifth year in this war tomorrow, I feel compelled to ask the question, “Has it been worth it to change regimes in Iraq?” This morning on the nationwide television, Ms. Rice, Bush’s Secretary of State was asked this very question. After polite comments of sympathy to families who have lost their sons and daughters to regime change, she answered, “Yes, it was worth it.”

I write tonight with a single motive, to save my grandchildren from the clutches of Bush’s “regime change.” You see, we are no closer this minute to regime change than were we four years ago. If it be argued that “We are keeping the enemy from coming to the shores of America with his mass suicide and car bombings by having our youth die in Iraq,” I remind those who confuse the issue thusly, that those things had already happened here before we went into Iraq.

The reason for going to war was this regime change to “get rid of Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction.” As Mr. Bush said in his speech at the time, it was to bring “freedom” to the people of Iraq.

Well, where are we four years later? I will summarize:

1) A bad dictator is gone and now we have a government which exists only within the confines of a “Green Zone” of the heaviest of military protection the U.S. can offer. Open this fortress and the government wouldn’t last an hour!

2) “Freedom” has come and now it is so dangerous that most of the cultured and educated key people in Iraq have fled elsewhere or are trying desperately to do so. Almost two million have left the country as I write

3) Our American boys, and some brave women, are still in Iraq in numbers so great that our American military is now accepting convicted felons in a desperate attempt to fill its dwindling ranks. Rather than being “greeted as liberators,” as our irresponsible vice president put it four years ago, the vast majority of those “we liberated” want us to go home!

4) Now that “major combat operations have ended,” as President Bush put it, standing under a sign reading “Mission Accomplished” a few weeks into the war, we are losing an average of three soldiers or marines a day–still!

5) The oil that Iraq possesses, which was to be tapped into to “pay for the war” is in such short production that it is still below pre-war levels. “Who is paying for the war,” you ask. The answer is “No one!” That is, no one is paying yet. You see, the 437 billion dollars it has cost so far is borrowed money. My children’s children, and yours, will still be paying for it in the years that lie ahead since the war is being financed on credit. Mr. Bush has never made the war a part of his regular budget proposals!
6) Going into Afghanistan after the “9/11” attacks was justified. We had the moral and ethical high ground. We had been attacked and devastated. Going into Iraq was the opposite. We did, with our unprovoked attack upon Iraq, what Hussein had done in Kuwait. We made up a cock and bull story and came rumbling in with our tanks. At that moment we gave up not only the moral high ground, we gave up the divine right to wage rightful war. God has not, cannot and will not bless such trickery! This has been made all the more culpable by our president and his administration because Mr. Bush professes Christ as his personal Savior.

7) Finally, though there is much more that could be pointed out, the greatest cost is that to the poorer people of our country, for the most part, whose sons and daughters have borne the awful cost of this war in lives lost and tragically changed forever. As of today 3,218 coffins filled with their remains have made their way back home, where is it now illegal to film their arrival. More than 24,000 have been wounded. Thousands of these have lost limbs are burn victims, brain-injured, paralyzed, and on it goes. Thousands of others have an injury no one can see. It is called “post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Four years ago I stated, at the beginning of Bush’s shameful war, that “Saddam Hussein is not worth Jeremiah’s life.” Jeremiah is my brave grandson who fought from a tank in Baghdad in the assault Bush ordered him and thousands of others to make on April 19, 2003. Jeremiah has relived, apparently many times, his ordeal of killing young Iraqis under this president’s orders. Now he is suffering from PTSD. He has been granted at least partial disability benefits. He has been told this may change upward. Nope, I stick by what I said four years ago: “Hussein is not worth Jeremiah’s life.

I would like for someone, after carefully considering what I have said, to write and tell me one good permanent change that has taken place as a result of this war. You see, when we entered an immoral war, with made up excuses by which to convince the populace that it was okay, we took our country away from the blessing of God. We have paid heavily and we always will until the day we go back to the place we abandoned God’s blessing, repent, and try to do right. The regime of misery and woe in Iraq is still with us—four years later! God have mercy on us!

Tip #7 – Soft Ground

Two days ago I was talking to a tow truck driver about his volume of calls this time of year. He said, a common call he receives in early spring is from homeowners who get stuck in their own yards.

I had a keen interest in what he was saying because, at the time, I was one of his statistics. Let me tell you how it happened.

I had just picked up my wife from work and was approaching our driveway when I spotted a number of trash objects which had accumulated in our yard just beyond the drive. I casually pulled down to where they were lying and eased up beside them. After exiting the car and picking up the trash items, mostly paper things, I returned to the car and instead of backing away and onto the pavement, I decided to loop around and head back toward the garage. Mistake!!

My “co-pilot” remarked as I made my turn, “This might be soft here.” Her words were terribly prophetic! Immediately the car mired down in front. Our Buick has front-wheel drive and is somewhat heavy. After a couple of attempts to “rock the car out,” I quickly gave up.

I think Jane was somewhat surprised that I capitulated after so brief a struggle. Well, we have a tractor in the garage with chains on the wheels. Had I used it to pull us out the back yard would have been cut to ribbons with enough holes to bury all the neighborhood dogs. I decided that was out. Then too, rapidly shifting back and forth is tough on a modern automatic transmission; a bit of an expensive risk.

It looked like a good opportunity to apply Car and Driver Tip #3, “Winching Your Car Out.” But, alas, I was not on a lonely road in the middle of nowhere. I was “on display” about thirty feet from a busy street. My efforts would have brought in neighbor guys and others and we would all have been up to our ears in mud in short order.

Actually, I surprised myself even, at the ease with which I went into the house and called a towing service. When the wrecker arrived he pulled up adjacent to the car and unrolled his winch cable and quickly attached it to the back axle. He made it look surprisingly easy as he hooked the winch in gear and slowly “wound me out.”

As I handed him my credit card, it occurred to me that I could have done worse. I remarked to him: “The only thing more embarrassing than getting stuck in your yard would be to get stuck in your neighbor’s!” He agreed.

So, my driving tip today is simply this: always inspect, on foot, ground that might be soft before pulling into it. Especially avoid pulling the drive wheels over such ground unnecessarily.

Picking up those three pieces of trash cost fifty bucks. I could have walked for them a lot cheaper. And today, my back, feet and legs are sore from shoveling and tramping the holes back into shape for spring mowing. Watch those soft places!

A Moral Mandate


A Moral Mandate

Today, March 13th, Marine General, Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff found himself in a very difficult spot. He was responding to an inquiry about how the military’s policy of “Don’t ask don’t tell” regarding homosexual persons in the military was working.

In the course of his comments he gave a very clear presentation stating that military persons “who sleep with the spouses of other military persons” are immoral and implied that this worked to the determent of the military.

Following the same logic, he compared similar behavior between homosexual military persons and made clear the immorality of it.

Very soon a storm of protest began to arise. One spokesperson for the media I heard stated that General Pace had been called in by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, his boss, to explain. Apparently under fire, the general then declared these beliefs to be his own in order to appease those who “were offended.”

I bring this to my readers’ attention at this point because President George Bush was elected and reelected on a platform of personal declaration that he is “an evangelical Christian.” I invite each Christian reading this to keep his and her ear to the ground to see if Mr. Bush, as an evangelical Christian comes to the defense of his beleaguered and courageous general. I certainly pray that he does. What a perfect opportunity to let his Christian testimony shine.

One thing is absolutely clear, no evangelical believer who knows his Bible either would or could defend homosexual practice. That puts every Christian on the good general’s side. More power to him.