Category Archives: True story

Too Much Information: “Second Opinion”

Note: Some readers may find the following true story amusing (one of those stories where you cup your hand over your mouth as you quietly chuckle under your breath) . I witnessed this in a church in North America.

Children in front of churchWe have a children’s sermon, a short message especially geared to the children, although presented to the entire congregation. We call the children up front and various members of our congregation take turns and often use an object lesson to illustrate their point.

An older retired minister in our church volunteered to take a turn. In his late eighties, he is very much loved and esteemed by our small congregation. He and his wife have such an earnest servant’s heart and willingness to serve wherever needed. He had used children’s messages in a previous pastorate so we looked forward to his message.

333He showed the children a card with three 3’s on it (333) and asked what they saw. Next he turned the card so that it appeared to be 3 M’s and shared a short point on “Meandering”. As I recall he then turned it so that it formed 3 E’s, then turned it once again so that it formed 3 W’s, each time suggesting a new meaning and a Scriptural principle.  So far so good.

Then he inexplicably told a joke that his brother had shared with him over the phone and this is where it got very interesting.

Most of us preachers know what it’s like to have an illustrative story or  joke  that we really want to tell and we will try somehow to fit it into a message. We may at times develop a spiritual point that relates to the story so that we can use it. (Not the best sort of sermon prep but I confess to doing it on more than one occasion.) In the case of our daily encouragement ministry, stories from our life often find their way into a message, but that is a different format, similar to a blog.

He proceeded to tell this story to the children and the entire congregation:

His brother had called to tell him he had a prostate exam. During the exam the doctor used two fingers.  His brother said after the exam,  “Doctor, I felt two fingers instead of one. Usually you use one finger.  Why did you use two instead?”   The doctor replied, “I used two just in case you wanted a second opinion.”

Now, for the life of me I’m not sure what he was trying to illustrate that related to his message, perhaps that’s because the TMI illustration overpowered the principle he was trying to teach. I’m afraid the adults will remember the children’s sermon and its illustration much longer than they will remember the adult sermon that day!  I also don’t know whether the parents might have had some questions when they got home.

We have had some funny moments in church but I didn’t think we would ever top the prayer request from early in our ministry but this experience may very well be just as memorable.


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“Do You See What I See?”

About ten years ago I recall a minister’s Christmas party we had in New England where we were encouraged to share humorous or touching Christmas experiences. The funniest experience and one that many of my male friends can identify with happened this way:

A fellow pastor shared that one year he was leading a Christmas Eve Service.  It was a  solemn part of the service and he was singing, “Do you see what I see?” in his powerful and very earnest baritone voice.  As he was singing he tried to make eye contact with the people but noticed many of them with their heads down and others were trying to cover their uncontrollable smiles.  Some were actually laughing out loud in a quiet sort of way. What was possibly so funny about this serious song during a time of worship?  Inside his heart he was a bit miffed by their disrespect.

After he took his seat in the pew he quickly realized that he had failed to properly close (zip up) up a particular item on his trousers. The question he repeated often throughout the song “Do you see what I see?” seemed to bring recurrent attention to the all too visible problem!

No Quarreling on the Sabbath!

Just about every Thanksgiving I share with a school or church group the history of the pilgrims who came from England to the new world in 1620.  This year I spoke on how the pilgrims acknowledged the Sabbath Day.  

Many rules and regulations were imposed upon them for what they were allowed to do or restricted from doing from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday evening. Some of these rules I read from the old English which requires readers to listen carefully for the New English equivalent. One rule I mentioned was that married couples weren’t allowed to quarrel on the Sabbath. In fact Bradford recorded one couple being fined 40 shekels for doing so.   After I finished my talk Stephen walked down to the fellowship hall with others who were preparing to enjoy a meal together.

Two men approached him and asked, “What did she mean when she said that ‘married couples weren’t allowed to crawl on the Sabbath?'”  With a twinkle in his eye one of the men said, “I’m pretty sure I know what that would mean but just want to make sure.”  

Well, they approached me next and asked the same thing.  When I clarified the word “crawl” to be “quarrel” they had a good laugh as they realized crawl was not a euphemism for marital relations but in fact I was speaking of a couple who were arguing on Sunday.

However based upon our study “marital relations” were indeed also forbidden on the Sabbath!

“An Unusual Prayer Request”

  Fred and Wanda

Fred and Wanda were a dear older couple in the little country church we pastored in southern Missouri when we first got married in 1976. Fred had lost his right arm in an oil well accident many years earlier and his thumb on his left hand in a different accident, but he had learned to compensate and was a real blessing in helping us to renovate the little parsonage we lived in. In fact he did construction for a living.  It was an inspiration to watch him use a hammer and drive a nail with speed and strength with only four fingers and the stump of a severed arm.   

But our favorite memory of Fred was a prayer request. It was the custom in that little country church to ask the congregation what they wanted to pray about and various needs would be expressed.

One Sunday evening Fred requested prayer for a friend, “Pray for my friend Jim. He had a hysterectomy and is in a whole lot of pain.”  Wanda, who was sitting beside him went right along with him, nodding in agreement and weeping.  I suppressed a laugh as I noted the other older folks in the church didn’t see the problem with such a request.  I am not sure how I actually prayed that night but managed to get through it.

(We never tried to correct him or clarify but I think he meant another type of ectomy.)

Dog receives ordination

Enoch

MY DOG ENOCH

“How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psalms 104:24). “But ask the animals, and they will teach you” (Job 12:7).

My first dog Suzy, whom I had since childhood, died shortly after we got married.*  My wife Brooksyne and I had both had dogs growing up and we wanted another dog. Neighbors in the rural area of southern Missouri we lived in had a litter of mixed breed pups they were trying to find good homes for and were giving away. We figured we were a good home. The puppies were weaned and ready to go. The mother was a Chow and looked like a bear. We don’t know what breed the father was. We picked out a cute male from the litter and being spiritually minded Bible School students named him Enoch. Why shouldn’t our dog walk with God.

Pet friendsAt the same time we got Enoch we got a kitten that we named Coon (because he looked like a Raccoon). Enoch and Coon became fast friends and didn’t seem to know that dogs were supposed to hate cats and vice versa. They chased each other around the grounds and had a wonderful pet childhood together. On the hot summer days we didn’t have a screen door on the little country church we pastored and they had a problem staying outside while we had a church service. But those dear country folks just smiled when they came in.

First petsEnoch loved to ride in the back of our old blue Datsun pickup on the wheelwell with his head hanging out facing the wind. We just couldn’t get him to stay down. One time we were heading down a country highway about 45 miles per hour and heard a loud thump. Looking in the rearview mirror we saw a ball of fur tumbling down the highway. We stopped and thought that this would be the end for Enoch, but as soon as he stopped rolling he got up and ran toward us with a look as if to say, “That was fun, let’s do it again!” However Enoch never fell out of a pickup again, although he did continue to ride up on the wheelwell.

When Enoch was about a year old we moved from Missouri to Pennsylvania to plant a church in St. Marys. We moved in a big U-Haul truck and towed the Datsun behind us. Because we didn’t fancy that long of a trip with Enoch, who was by now a big dog, in the cab with us, we placed him in the cab of the Datsun. Once when we stopped a trucker came and told us of the funniest sight. It seems Enoch was riding in the cab with his paws up on the steering wheel so he appeared to be driving!

When we got to Pennsylvania we rented an apartment on a busy street in town with houses all around us. Enoch was home sick for the good farm life of Missouri. Shortly after we moved Coon ran off and Enoch was forlorn. He spent hour after hour lying in the back of the truck. Once I had done some work on the truck and failed to chock the wheels. The truck slowly started to roll back toward our apartment and just before it crashed into the back porch Enoch jumped out. He never would spend time in that truck again!

About a year after moving to Pennsylvania we bought a mobile home and had it placed on a lot near the beautiful Pennsylvania woods. Enoch was revived! We went on long hikes into the woods. Enoch would always run ahead of us and turn around as if to say “Are you coming or not?” We were near lots of wildlife and periodically had deer and black bear in our yard. A couple of times Enoch got in a tussle with a porcupine and my, did he yelp out when I pulled out the quills!

One of our concerns when we got Enoch was that Chows were known to be very protective of their owners and not very friendly to outsiders. We liked to have a lot of people around and didn’t want Enoch to be a detriment. He never was. He loved everybody and I suspect wouldn’t have been much help as a watchdog! During that phase of our lives we kept many foster children and I reckon to this day most still remember Enoch.

Enoch was always glad to see us. Any time we would be gone for more than a short time he would run out to greet us when we returned. He always acted like he hadn’t seen us for days. That’s a great feeling isn’t it? I don’t recall him ever being in a bad mood or grumpy. However deep in sleep he might be, if I indicated I was going for a walk he would get up and shake himself and be ready to go! There are times we had to discipline him and it sure seemed that he had shame and knew he was in trouble. But regardless of how severe the punishment he always got over it real quick. Dogs just seem incapable of holding a grudge.

Enoch's ordination certficateEnoch’s most remarkable achievement is that he was an ordained minister. Yup, he had his own fancy certificate to prove it. He got it through the mail with some denomination I never heard of out in California. They offered free ordinations. Now for the sake of honesty I must divulge that I did help him a bit with the paperwork. Enoch couldn’t spell very well and that was before they had spell check. He was seven years old at the time and I did convert that to dog years or 49 on the application. In a couple of weeks he got his very own certificate of ordination and even began to get mail addressed to Rev. Enoch Weber. He could have been a doctor through the same outfit but that cost $25.00 and I just couldn’t stand him having more titles than I had.

Enoch was never neutered but didn’t appear to have much interest in the ladies. He was able to roam free but we never had a problem with him running off for romance. That is until late in his life when he was about 9 years old (that’s 63 in dog years). He had a dalliance with a beagle up the road. We found out later that he was a father. Some people we knew got one of the puppies and we were thus able to see Enoch’s offspring for some time after Enoch died.

Enoch had a habit of laying under our car in the shade. This was no problem since he would always immediately get up when we came out of the house to go somewhere. But when he got old he was arthritic and deaf. Once when Brooksyne went somewhere he didn’t move and his legs were injured seriously. We took him to the vet but his condition, along with his age at the time (about 70 dog years), was just too much and the vet send him home to die. We tried to keep him a while longer but he was pathetic. He was unable to walk but would still try to painfully drag his back legs and follow us around. Maggots were beginning to eat at him from the inside out. But I was mired in inaction regarding what I knew needed done.

A couple of compassionate neighbors saw my plight and volunteered to take care of it for me. They placed Enoch on a wheelbarrow and went back into those woods Enoch loved so much. They took a shovel, which I told them was unnecessary, but they insisted. They said if he were their dog that they’d want him buried. A few minutes later I heard the loud report of a deer rifle and knew that my dog Enoch was gone.

I know writing about my dog may seem unspiritual to some but I have been blessed by these creatures created by God and as Job observed they do teach lessons. And I sure hope you’ve had some good pets!

* I’ve also written a story about my first dog Suzy.