Archive for category Personal


My hero as I was growing up was Al Kaline, the Hall of Fame right-fielder for the Detroit Tigers. He passed away yesterday at 85. I want to present a tribute to him today.

I stood in line for one hour at a baseball card show in Arlington, Texas around thirty years ago to get Al Kaline’s autograph on the picture I have here. The autograph is somewhat faded now but you can see a bit of it. While I was in the long line waiting to get my turn, I was mulling over what to say to my boyhood hero. When I got up there and handed him my picture to sign, I said, “I don’t care what they say about Mickey Mantle; from 1955 to 1966 you were the best!” He seemed surprised. Then Kaline said, “Oh no. Mickey was pretty good.” Kaline was known for his humility and he demonstrated it in that moment quite naturally.

From the time I was around 6 months old until around 3 or so, I lived in Detroit. I was born in 1953, the year that Kaline came up to play for the Tigers as an 18-year old. My Dad adopted Kaline as his favorite player and passed him on down to his two boys.

We grew up in Alabama. My twin brother Jimmy and I may have been the only two boys in the state listening to WJR Detroit at night in the summer time. We were trying to get the Tigers’ game on the radio. On a cloudy day, it would come in fairly strong. One night as I was dozing off to sleep, my brother Jimmy (we shared a bedroom) was listening to the game on a transistor radio with an earpiece. He suddenly got excited and blurted out to me: “Kaline just hit a two-run homerun to win the game!” We would always run out to get the local newspaper when it came in the afternoon so we could see the boxscore so we knew how Kaline did the day or night before (we didn’t have round the clock news like we do now).

One of the highlights of my teenage years was when our family drove to Detroit in the summer of 1970 for Al Kaline Day at Tiger Stadium. It was a Sunday game but we also went to the Saturday night game as well. Late in the game, Kaline hit a homerun into the upper deck in left field to tie the game against the Minnesota Twins. Even my Dad got up out of his seat! It was a special moment for a teenage boy’s soul.

My twin brother and I always shared our love for Kaline. At Al Kaline Day they had someone sing a song: “Thanks for the Memories.” Today I say to his family, my prayers are with you. And I say “Thanks for the Memories.” Al Kaline will be missed.

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Remembering the Summer of 1974

As summer was beginning in 1974, my twin brother Jimmy and I at the age of 20 began a quest, a search to find God. We had listened for many years to Billy Graham on television and were attracted to the message but did not fully understand it. We began to visit different kinds of churches in 1974. I remember one church where the people were nice but the invitation was not like Billy Graham’s invitations to receive Christ. They asked everyone in the church to go forward and put your hand on the back of the person in front of you and then they had a prayer. Nothing was clear. I remember asking God if this was enough. Had I done enough? I found out that was the wrong question. It is not what I have done. It is what Christ has done that counts. We simply receive what he has done by faith.

Jimmy and I quickly started to attend the West Huntsville Baptist Church where there was great music and good biblical preaching. On the way home we had many interesting talks. Often we would discuss what faith was all about. What did it mean to have faith? What did it mean to believe? Our understanding was growing. But we were beginning to understand that belief was not just intellectually understanding or accepting that God existed or that Jesus was a real historical person who lived in Israel in the first century. We were beginning to see that faith was trusting in God, trusting in Christ and what He has done to take away our sin. The final light dawned on August 18, 1974 when together we trusted Christ in this way to be our Savior. As a result, our lives have counted in a major way since then because of God’s ongoing work in us.

It is two years ago today that we lost Jimmy to cancer. Jimmy’s life and message continue and his impact is still great. I will always treasure those talks we had about eternal things, faith, and salvation. i will treasure even more the memory of coming to Christ together as twins in the Lord.

Sailors and the Handiwork of God

Recently, someone gave me a free copy of an old book on submarines.  The author was a leading United States Navy man in the War in the Atlantic starting in 1942 when the German submarines were at the height of their successes against British and American shipping.  I found  a tremendous little section that I was not expecting about the reason that most sailors believe in God.  I thought it was worth sharing here.

“Sailors are supposed to be notoriously superstitious and to believe in all sort of omens religiously. When you get down to brass tacks, these so-called superstitions are fundamentally religious in nature.  They are an admission that man doesn’t run this Universe to suit himself and that his plans are subject to veto by a Higher Power.  Sailors instinctively understand this and believe in God because they have a better chance than men who stay ashore to observe and think about the handiwork of God.

They see the daily miracles of sunrise and sunset and understand the Power that regulates them better than the scientists do.  The scientists can “explain” the whole thing in terms of Newton’s Laws and show you that there is no miracle to it at all, the sun can’t help rising and setting.  But sailors who know nothing about Newton’s Laws are wiser than the scholars who expound laws which sailors can’t understand.  They go beyond the mathematics of the sunrise and see in it the hand of the One Who created these laws of mathematics as well as everything else. Read the rest of this entry »

Sixth-Grade Football and Jimmy

Image may contain: shoesTomorrow will be the first physical birthday I have had when I can’t call my twin 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 of 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 »


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 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.


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.


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.


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.