Archive for category Personal

Sixth-Grade Football and Jimmy

Image may contain: shoesTomorrow will be the first physical birthday I have had when I can’t call my brother Jimmy. Today in heaven he is far better off than I am on earth. Bittersweet. Memories hit me strangely sometimes coming out of nowhere. This week it was a sixth grade memory. During recess the guys were playing touch football. Jimmy and I were smaller than the other guys and we were the “good students” so they did not give us much credence as athletes. But we played with them. For some strange reason they decided to let Jimmy be the quarterback of one team for awhile. I went out as a receiver. We were fast although the other guys didn’t know it. We had the ball around the 20-yard line. When the ball was hiked, I took off as fast as I could. Jimmy at QB launched it as far as he could. It was a perfect pass right to me. A young lad named Larry Brown, who would later play running back at our high school, caught me from behind just before I crossed the goal line. I think Jimmy and I changed some thoughts about us on that one play — the greatest passing play off all time, if you don’t mind me saying so!

Jimmy, Me, and Wasps

Jimmy and I were raised in the state of Alabama where I am convinced there are more wasps per square inch than anywhere on the planet. Somewhere along the way we picked up a phobia of wasps. The family always made fun of us about this particular phobia. But what I find intriguing is that Jimmy had the knack of being attacked by a wasp with me there while he was minding his own business and not bothering the wasp. I’ve never believed the story — “leave them alone and they will leave you alone.” No. They are all demon possessed! If there are any PETA people who think wasps are more important than people, you can stop reading now. Because in the stories below wasps are killed and I am not sad about it. Read the rest of this entry »

PRAYING FOR THE DEAD

It is a common practice in Roman Catholic tradition to pray for those who have departed from this life into the next. Of course, they have purgatory to contend with and attempt to shorten the experience of their loved ones in that place of purgatorial fire. But I do not pray for the dead. I do not pray for my twin brother Jimmy who recently passed away. Here is why:

1. The Bible does not teach praying for the dead. At this point we have to discuss which Bible — Catholic or Protestant. The only passage which teaches praying for the dead is from 2 Maccabees 12:45 in the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha was added to the Catholic Bible in the 1540s at the Council of Trent as part of the Counter-Reformation. They wanted to prove that the Church had authority over the Bible instead of the Bible having authority over the Church as the Reformers were teaching. However, it is the teaching of Jesus which helps. The Apocryphal books which were added to the Catholic Bible were all written before the time of Jesus. These books were available when Jesus was on earth in his earthly ministry in his first coming. But Jesus gave his stamp of approval on the Jewish Scriptures which constitute the Old Testament of the Protestant Bible. In Luke 11:51 Jesus uses the phrase “from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah.” Abel died in Genesis. Zechariah died in 2 Chronicles, the last book of the Old Testament in the Jewish order of the books. Jesus was saying the equivalent of our modern Christian “from Genesis to Revelation.” In this statement he affirms the Jewish Scriptures that he possessed WHICH DID NOT INCLUDE THE APOCRYPHA. He also affirmed the Jewish canon in other passages like Luke 24:27. In other words, Jesus put his stamp of approval on the Old Testament that is found in the Protestant Bible. So those who follow the teachings of the Apocrypha must answer the question why they have a different Old Testament than the one Jesus used. I want to have the same OT that Christ used. One of the consequences is that I have no biblical grounds for praying for the dead.

2. The Bible teaches that the eternal destiny of souls cannot be changed when one passes away. For a believer, “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:6-9; Phil. 1:21-23). Once a person dies, his fate is sealed (Luke 16:19-31). There are several other passages that could be discussed but the conclusion is the same. There is no teaching allowing for or commanding prayer for the dead. Such praying is of no consequence.

Sometimes I find myself asking God to give Jimmy a hug for me and tell him that I love him. That is a kind of praying for the dead, I guess. It is a natural human response in light of losing a loved one. God knows how frail we are and might actually answer such a prayer in the affirmative. I don’t know. But his eternal destiny is settled and my prayers could not improve his lot in any way. He has new personal friends now: Paul, Peter, the other apostles, Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, King David, and the rest of the Old Testament heroes of the faith. But most of all, Jimmy has been firmly embraced by God and Jesus. If I did pray for Jimmy, it would be but a thimble of water poured into the Pacific Ocean. Things are already settled. My brother Jimmy is in heaven awaiting the day when I cross over to meet him. Perhaps he is the one praying to God asking Him to watch over me.

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JIMMY’S 279

Jimmy and I loNo automatic alt text available.ved to go bowling. Mom and Dad bowled also.

Jimmy and I bowled for years in leagues from the 4th grade through college. In junior bowling Jimmy and I were on over 10 league championship teams. We also won the Alabama state doubles junior championship. We would not do well in team events or in singles. But when the doubles event came, Jimmy and I always seemed to come alive and do well.

One of my greatest bowling memories was of Jimmy’s greatest success in bowling. My highest game was 269. Jimmy bowled better — a 279. The highest score possible is 300 (12 strikes in a row for the whole game). Jimmy had the first 9 strikes in a row and was going for a perfect game. The crowds gathered around when he came up to bowl from about the 8th frame on. I was so nervous for him that I bowled a horrible 150 or so that game. For those who love bowling there is nothing like going for a 300. Jimmy got a 9-spare and strike in the 10th frame for his 279. I was so proud of him.

After coming to Christ, we bowled one year in a league. Then we quit league bowling. I go open bowling (not in a league) at lunch time every now and then at an alley near the Friends of Israel headquarters. But Jimmy and I went from very active (I bowled in three leagues at the same time in that last year) to stopping entirely. What changed? There is nothing wrong with bowling. It is a good sport and good for young people as sports go.

What changed was that Jimmy and I had become so involved in ministry at our local church after coming to faith in Christ. God began to move our hearts in a different direction. We did not have time to continue bowling as we had previously done. While I was proud of Jimmy’s 279, I was more thankful and proud for the man of God he became as he ministered the gospel to people’s hearts for the next four plus decades. God is good.

LITTLE LEAGUE TWINS

Jimmy and I played the usual three years of little league baseball through the YMCA in Huntsville when we were around 10 to 12 years old. We played at several different baseball fields, but the two most frequent (and my favorites) were the fenced in field by Jack’s hamburger place on Governors Drive — it was right across from the Winn Dixie grocery store where the two of us would eventually work — and the McCormick YM

CA field. Perhaps somewhat prophetic, the McCormick field was right across the street from West Huntsville Baptist Church where Jimmy and I would come to Christ a decade later. I used to look at the church during games and wonder what it was like to attend church in that building.

I have attached a faded photograph of our first little league team. I am second from the right on the front row wearing # 6 (the number of Jimmy and my favorite player Al Kaline, hall of fame right fielder for the Detroit Tigers). Jimmy is to my right without a hat and wearing his glove. There were highlights in our lives from all three years. My best year was year # 2 in my estimation. The first year, the coach found out I knew how to bunt which in the end I didn’t like. He put me as the lead off hitter in every game and he gave me the bunt signal every time I came up to bat the whole season–yes, the whole season!.. I wanted to hit singles, doubles, triples, and home runs! But the coach knew I could bunt and create havoc since most young boys did not yet field well. One time I bunted right through the second baseman’s legs out into short right field and ended up on third base after sliding into first, second, and third in a Bad News Bears kind of scene. I put it down in my record book as a triple when it was really safe on third because of two fielding errors.

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The third year of our little league careers was probably Jimmy’s best. We both made the all-star team and I became a pitcher. We most often played in the outfield or second-base/shortstop. This year was also highlighted by the fact that part way through the season, my Dad became the coach of the team.

But the real story I want to tell you comes from our second year, my best year hitting. We had a great fielding outfield — me in right, Jimmy in left, and Tim Robbins in center. Jimmy usually batted second while I batted third. In this one game in the field by Jack’s Hamburgers, I had three straight hits, the last one a foot from the top of the fence and off the wall — the closest to a home run I ever came. But we were behind in the last inning. The pitcher on the other team was angry because we started to come back so he became wild. He hit a couple of batters, one in the back of the neck. I was in the on deck circle while Jimmy was batting. I believe there was one out. Jimmy hit a double driving in some runs to make it 6 to 5. We were one run down. I was excited because I had three straight hits off of this guy. But as I walked up to the batter’s box, the coach called me back. I wondered what he was doing. Was he going to take me out after going 3 for 3 off of this pitcher? No, he just wanted to warn me — “this guy is wild and might hurt somebody, be careful!” All that did was make me passive. I took the first two pitches straight down the middle for strikes. The third pitch was also straight down the middle and I swung and missed weakly. The coach had talked me out of doing well. I left Jimmy standing on second base when I should have knocked him in to tie the game. The cleanup hitter on our team (John) hit a home run to win the game so all was not lost. Out of all our little league games this is the one I remember the most. Not exactly sure why. But it is another shared treasure I had with my dear brother Jimmy.

THE ANTI-GRAVITY MACHINE

Image may contain: table and indoorBeing raised in a pro-science, pro-technology family in an engineering, space town, it was natural for us to be involved in science fair projects. The most special one that we did was one that Jimmy and I did together in ninth grade when we were students at Westlawn Junior High School. It was an anti-gravity machine (pictures shown from a couple of years ago). We won an honorable mention in the science fair that year (Spring 1969). Mom and Dad were proud of Jimmy and me. The contraption still works after almost five decades! I took these pictures when Mom asked me about pictures of it.

The machine was Dad’s idea, probably taken from Popular Electronics magazine. Dad was an expert in electronics. He procured all the materials. I think we used a motor from an erector set to help us wind the coil to make the electromagnet. Jimmy and I took turns counting the winding of the coil to get to a 1000 revolutions. We soldered the components such as transistors and resistors on the electronics board following the schematic. We put the schematic on a poster board with explanation. The electronics board with control devices were placed in and on a chassis that is the base of the anti-gravity machine.

The idea of the machine was simple. There is a light shining on a photo cell. The photo cell is covered on the sides slightly by paper box material. Hanging above the chassis is the electromagnet. Below the magnet, we attempted to hang a metal ball of the world suspended in air. As the ball is hanging there it partly hides the light from the light source to the photo cell. But as the ball begins to fall slightly, more light goes on the photo cell which then increases power to the electromagnet above which pulls the metal earth upward. But as the earth is pulled upward it cuts off more light from the light on the photocell. This in turns tells the system to decrease the power of the electromagnet so that the ball begins to drop. The trick is to get it to a point of equilibrium where the metal ball of the world hangs in mid-air on nothing. Dials for height and stability

Image may contain: makeupare there to help with this task. Lighting in the room matters. Sometimes we could use a straw and blow on the metal ball and see the earth spin.I used this often as show and tell when I was working with young kids in the inner city sections of Scranton, Pennsylvania. I would talk about God’s creation of the world (Genesis 1) and how God hangs the earth on nothing (Job 26:7). It seems like just yesterday that Jimmy and I were in the game room of our house on Oster Drive winding the copper wire to make the coil for the anti-gravity machine. But I am sure that Jimmy is pleased that this joint venture of ours so long ago was used to teach Bible doctrine to children so they could know something about our great God to prepare them for the gospel message that we often gave.

MODEL ROCKETS IN ROCKET CITY

Jimmy and I grew up in Huntsville, Alabama whose nickname is Rocket City. It is the place where Werner von Braun and other scientists gathered to build the future of American rockets including weapons but also where the space program was a major component. It was the city where they had the Redstone rockets at Redstone Arsenal, an army base. It is where the Marshall Space Flight Center was located and where the gigantic Saturn booster rockets for the Apollo Space Program were built and test-fired. My Dad worked in the Apollo program and later in Skylab. Huntsville was a high tech science and engineering town to a large degree in the 1960s and early 1970s. Still is to some extent. My first engineering-related job was in Huntsville at Teledyne Brown Engineering where I worked on the Space Shuttle (back before they built it) and on missile defense systems.

Two related memories stand out for me. First, one day my Dad took Jimmy and me out to a hill a distance from the test stand where they test-fired the Saturn boosters. Sometimes when they test fired them, the entire city would shake like there was an earthquake. Dad wanted Jimmy and me to actually see a test-firing. He knew when it was scheduled. He worked in the blockhouse near the test stand. Counting down on the watch, we excitedly waited for the big moment. We were not disappointed. What power as the engine erupted! You would know that a young man’s mind and heart would be creatively pumped and juiced from seeing such a thing.

Second, I recall Jesse Arildsen, one of Jimmy and my best friends from high school. Jesse went to the Naval Academy (later to serve on submarines) and was home for Christmas break. I believe it was New Year’s Day. The three of us took a model rocket that Jimmy and I had put together, put an engine in it and set it up for launch at an open field at the University of Alabama in Huntsville where Jimmy and I attended college. Hooking it up to our car battery, we stood back in protective mode in case the rocket went awry and touched the wire to the battery. Off it went! Fairly high. The capsule came out with a parachute as it was supposed to as the rocket part fell to the ground. Then we gave chase across campus to follow the capsule and chute as the wind blew it. It landed on a second story walkway connecting two buildings. We had to get a security guard to let us in the building to go up and get it. But it was definitely an enormous success for Jimmy and me.

On another note, although Jimmy and I had not yet come to faith in Christ, our friend Jesse was pro-Jesus and attended a Baptist church in town. We gravitated to such friends and that no doubt helped influence us as we searched for peace with God during those days.

MUSTANGS, CHALLENGERS, AND CAR MEMORIES

The car that my brother Jimmy and I learned to drive on was my Dad’s 1966 silver blue Ford Mustang with a 289 engine. We loved that car.

However, we loved even more the 1972 Dodge Challenger which became the first car that Jimmy and I bought. Dad actually got the car, if I remember, but Jimmy and I togethImage may contain: car, sky and outdoorer made the payments during our college days. I think the car sold for $3250. A man had bought it and taken it back to the dealer after a month or so and then we got it. It was practically brand new. It was a tomato-red Challenger with a black vinyl roof and black interior (see picture). We had to put a Sears hang-on air conditioner in it. It was a true man’s car — a muscle car even though it only had a 318 engine which was the smallest they put in Challengers in those days.

A few years later, when Jimmy left to go to seminary, we could no longer share the Challenger so I paid Jimmy $1000 for his half of the car at that point. He bought a huge Pontiac Bonneville. On the day he married Eileen, I put shaving cream all over that Bonneville with messages, sardines on the engine block, a sympathy card under the windshield wiper, and clanking stuff tied to the back of the car. I remember my Mom not being happy with that bit of shenanigans.

I kept the Challenger for 22 years selling it just before I moved from Texas to Pennsylvania in 1994. I put two rebuilt engines in it along the way. It had well over 200,000 miles on it. I sold it to a Charismatic Prosperity Theology guy who drove up in front of my house in a $60,000 Jaguar. I asked him if he wanted to trade. He laughed as he said no. He let me sit in his Jaguar. It was like an F-16 cockpit to my mind. But as he drove off with my Challenger, I stood in the middle of the street and cried just a bit.

Looking back, that Challenger was one more thing that Jimmy and I shared for a few years. It was part of the partnership that God had given to the two of us. I have many pictures of that Challenger. Now, when I look at them, I will always think a little more about Jimmy.

ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE, PRAYER, AND JIMMY

In elementary school in Alabama, the boys at recess used to line up and choose sides — Alabama or Auburn. Most chose the Crimson Tide. In fact, it was our third grade teacher, Miss Sally Smith, that taught Jimmy and I to love the University of Alabama in all things, not just football.

We grew up in the days of Paul “Bear” Bryant and Bama fans expected us to challenge for a national championship every year much like they do with Nick Saban at the healm now. But the entire South is football crazy not just Alabama. Up north they love their football teams. Down south we “worship” our football teams. I have often said that down South during the Fall season, we have two revival meetings every weekend — one at church on Sundays and one at the football stadium on Saturdays. And there is a lot more prayer on Saturdays than on Sundays, believe you me.

Jimmy and I went to our first Alabama football game together along with Eileen (his future wife). That was Nov. 9, 1974 (my Dad’s birthday). At the famous Legion Field in Birmingham, we watched our Crimson Tide smother LSU 30-0 in an afternoon game. Jimmy and I had recently come to faith in Christ. The next game we went to together, Bama lost so I won’t talk about that much!

Growing up, we would shoot basketball free throws in our driveway with the car radio on, so we could hear the game on Saturdays. This was before all the games were televised.

One televised Bowl game of note was the Alabama vs Penn State game of 1979. Penn State was ranked number 1 and Alabama number 2 in the nation. Bama was ahead 14-7 with just a few minutes left and Penn State had the ball inside the one-yard line, 4th and goal (they had been stopped on 3rd and one). The running back for Penn State took the handoff on fourth down and tried to jump over the line into the end zone. The Alabama linebacker came up to meet him at the top of the pile and pushed him back in what is probably the most famous play in Alabama history. What you need to know is that Jimmy and I were sitting on the couch together watching this. Without even thinking about it, when the Alabama linebacker jumped up to meet the Penn State running back, both Jimmy and I jumped from the couch to the front of the TV to help push him back. We did not just watch Alabama games. We participated in them.

Another game I remember, Jimmy and I were listening on the radio (Oct 12, 1974). Alabama was playing Florida State before Bobby Bowden’s time. At that particular time, FSU had lost 16 straight games. But Alabama was down to its third string quarterback. Both Gary Rutledge and Richard Todd had been hurt and knocked out for this game. But everyone said Bear Bryant could be quarterback and Alabama would win easily. FSU took the kickoff to start the game and went 78 yards for a touchdown. At the beginning of the 4th quarter, it was still 7-0 FSU. Bama got a field goal early in the 4th to make it 7-3. FSU then took a safety on purpose with about a minute left because of punting out of the back of their own end zone. They did not want a blocked kick for a touchdown. Then they kicked to BAMA and a young man named Willie Shelby ran it a good ways back. A pass to Ozzie Newsome got it in closer. Bucky Berrey kicked a field goal with 33 seconds left to put Alabama ahead 8-7. What were Jimmy and I doing to participate? Like always, we were praying along with the Crimson Nation. Does God care about how football games go? I don’t know. But Jimmy and I prayed like He did!

I’ll miss talking to Jimmy about Alabama football. When I cross the threshold into God’s country, I may hear Jimmy say to me “Roll Tide.” I’ll say it back and I may even find some Auburn friends to hug — and give them an Alabama hoodie!

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BUTLER HIGH SCHOOL AND FRENCH CLASS

It is unfortunate that the high school that Jimmy and I attended closed down a couple of years ago. There were a lot of good memories and challenges during that time of our young lives.

Because we were identical twins and people had trouble telling us apart, we were often asked if we ever switched places — Jimmy would take my place and I would take his. Actually, we never really switched places although on the phone some times, I would pretend to be him and vice versa. Of course, when it came to dating girls we didn’t dare switch — that was something special you don’t mess with!

What we actually enjoyed doing was pretending that we had switched places. One day as a senior at Butler High School, a large high school in Huntsville, Alabama, I was in my French class with Mrs. Williams. Right next door in another French class was my brother Jimmy. Shortly after my class had started, Jimmy’s teacher (I don’t remember her name) came storming through the door of Mrs. Williams’ classroom. She said nothing to Mrs. Williams but came straight to my desk standing over me. She looked a bit miffed and said, “Are you Jimmy or are you Mike?” I just smiled and she stormed out.

I knew what Jimmy was up to. He was pretending to be me and giving the impression that we had switched places. He probably was intentionally slow to answer the role call in his class that day and made the teacher wonder.

I have heard of twins who were disgruntled and did not like the fact that they were twins. Jimmy and I never had a second of that feeling as far as I know. It was always special being the “big brother” by five minutes of my little twin brother and spending time with him. Although the Lord in my ministry sent me far away to minister to the Yankees up north while Jimmy stayed down South, distance is not really measured by geographical miles but by the nearness of the heart.