Thanks! Veterans Day 2007

Vetrans_pic Hey Thanks!!!  This weekend is Veteran's Day.  Not only do we get to honor our veterans, but we get a day off!

Church was a lot of fun today, with special guest artists Maeve, who just seem to get better and better.  They sold all of the CDs they brought of their new project, produced by Nico Boesten. They were telling me today that their newest offering to come out in the beginning of 2008 is a Charlie Peacock project, so that should be a LOT of fun.

We talked about work today and towards the end we had all of our veterans stand up. And we had a LOT Of them between the four services! We had people from every branch of the armed forces. The coolest thing was the spontaneous applause, which really couldn't be stopped. It went on and on! It was so encouraging to be able to say thanks and honor those that have served us. So although we already said it once, I'd like to say it again. Thanks!!!  And thanks again!

Jerry Falwell Dies

FalwellI learned a lot from Jerry Falwell.

At one time I found him an embarrassment, but the guy changed his viewpoints and his life along the way...

He used to be known as a bigot. A designation he earned.

I remember being in a hotel room watching the cable news channels the night Ellen Degeners 'came out.' The announcement said there was going to be an interview with Chastity (Cher's daughter) Ellen and Jerry Falwell. I remember thinking, "This is going to be a blood bath!"

Ellen came out swinging and Falwell told her, "Ellen I really love you and Jesus loves you. Jesus loves all homosexuals, but the Bible says what it says and I need to stick with that, but you need to know I really do love you!"

I kept thinking, "This is Falwell, the guy that is known for being so harsh and bigoted?"  I thought of John, the Son of Thunder being transformed.

By the end of the interview Elllen was eating out of his hand.  It was amazing!

Falwell has made a lifestyle out of getting himself in trouble, but he also has a way of getting himself out. Many times by simply changing.  It's pretty rare for public personalties to admit they are wrong and to change their postions radically. Yet Falwell did it. Pretty courageous and pretty risky.

I doubt if I lived in Lynchburg if I would go to Thomas Road Baptist Church, the church Falwell started when he was 22.  His expressions of worship just don't do it for me. But things have changed in the Lynchburg institutions he started too. DC-Talk, one of the original Christian hip-hop groups comprised of black and white members was formed at Liberty University. Not bad for a guy that was once known as a bigot! Today his university is a center for modern Christian music performences. And this from a guy that used to think rock music in any form was evil. People can change. And they do.

He also made some crazy remark about the Tele-Tubbies.  I can't defend that one. But I do think they are weird!

I hope I too can grow. I thank God for Jerry Falwell and that God let some of his growth be public.  It makes me think maybe there is still hope for me!  Maybe.

Here's a great comment on Jon Trott's blog about Falwell. 


Gonna Change My Way of Thinking

Doanlad_miller_2 Several months ago I gave a book to all of our elders by Donald Miller called "To Own a Dragon: Reflections of Growing Up Without a Father."  It was unlike anything I'd read before. I got extra copies to give to other guys in the church as well. I got two reactions: (1) WoW!  (2) "What was I supposed to get out of that?" Well, Donald Miller had a huge impact on me and he has really helped me to love people more. And we all could use some more of that!

My sister posted these new assumptions by Donald Miller. You can read them on her blog by clicking here, or you can read them right here. She posted them first, so due credit to her at www.rejoycing.blogspot.com Cool name for a blog huh? re-Joycing?  Her name is Joyce!! So here are Donald Miller's "Shift Points."  I'm certain at least a few will speak to you as they spoke to me.  Enjoy your changed life!


Thirteen Paradigm Shifts We Encountered Doing Christian ministry in a Pagan Environment     by Donald Miller

1. Other People Exist:
Simply coming to the understanding that the world does not revolve around “me” but that everybody is having an experience, created by God, loved by God, and that we needed to repent of showing partiality.

2. Nobody will listen to you unless they know you like them:
We began to understand that people, subconsciously, merit a
religious or philosophical idea not on logical conclusions, but on whether or not the idea creates a “good person”…the definition of a good person being whether or not a person is kind to them, tolerant and understanding, able to listen without arguing and so on.

3. Nobody will listen to God unless they know God loves them:
We came to believe there was usually a hidden pain behind
hostility, that many people have been hurt by the church, or people or perspectives they believed to represent God. Many times it's as simple as an interview they saw on CNN, but an apology and kindness went a long way in helping people understand God was loving.

4. Other people have morality and values:
We came to understand that Christians do not own morality, that everybody lives by a moral code, not always informed by an ancient text, and yet it is there. Calling people or even thinking of them as immoral was, then, inappropriate. In fact, we often found that people who did not know Christ lived a morality close to his heart in many areas we had ignored, ie; community, tolerance, social justice, fairness and equality, freedom, beauty and so on.

5. Find common ground:
Often the morality of others overlapped Christian morality, and we came to understand that in these cases, we would focus on the overlapping issues. We came to see this as kindness, just as though we were on a date or making friends, we did not focus on what we didn’t have in common, but rather on mutual feelings about life. We would not say or do anything to combat people unless they knew we loved them, and this takes a great deal of time.

6. Define terms in their language:
We were careful about Christian sayings and phrases that might be offensive: Crusade, sin, immorality….we came to understand that concepts were more sacred than terms.

7. Telling somebody about the gospel is about them, not us:
We were careful not to try to “build our organization” and respected peoples freedom and space. Sharing the gospel became an exercise in friendship, rather than an attempt to grow a machine. Often, people feel used if they feel they are being recruited. The gospel, we learned, is really about them, their feelings about God and truth, about sin, about life.

8. Don’t let spreading the gospel feel any different than telling somebody about a love in your life, about your children or a great memory:
We realized that in telling somebody about Jesus, we were telling them about somebody we have come to love and need, and about something that had happened to us, an encounter. This keeps us from sounding preachy, and allows us to share part of ourselves in a friendship.

9. Include Lost People in Your Community:
Our organization was not exclusive. We invited non-believers into the community if they wanted to be invited. We were careful not to not be ourselves with them, but they were certainly invited and enjoyed being a part of the group. We explained terms that we used, what we believed, but other than that, continued as normal.

10. Apologize for what you represent:
We discovered that many people have been offended or hurt by what they perceive Christianity to be. We allowed ourselves to stand in the place of “Christianity” and apologize whenever necessary.

11. Be authentic:
We discovered the need to be as honest about our lives as possible. We did not feel the need to sell Jesus, as much as share what He has done in our broken lives. We had no problem sharing our doubts and fears about faith, along with our commitment and appreciation for what God had done.

12. Pray for the Salvation of others:
We discovered the need to pray for others. This would insure God was working in peoples lives, as we asked Him to. We discovered the work of evangelism is something God lets us watch, but very little of it is what we manipulate. We repented of not believing evangelism was a spiritual exchange between a lost person and God, rather than believing it was a series of ideas we were supposed to convince others of.

13. Ask people if they would like to know Christ:
We decided to initiate, whenever the relationship called for it. We were not afraid to ask people if they would like to know God.


Visit Donald Miller's website by clicking here


Abraham Lincoln:A Study in Failure (or Perseverence)

LincolnabrahamAbraham Lincoln has an amazing legacy from his involvement in ending slavery in the USA, to being on the penny, to having a load of schools named after him, to having Martin Luther King preach his famous, "I Have A Dream Sermon" from the steps of the memorial named after him. But my favorites are Lincoln's failures. Or his perseverance, depending on which side you are looking at it from. In honor of his holiday, enjoy the timeline of his failures and some quotes by him on perseverance.

* 1832 Lost job Defeated for state legislature 
* 1833 Failed in business 
* 1835 Sweetheart died   
* 1836 Had nervous breakdown
* 1838 Defeated for Speaker
* 1843 Defeated for nomination for Congress   
* 1848 Lost renomination 
* 1849 Rejected for land officer
* 1854 Defeated for U.S. Senate 
* 1856 Defeated for nomination for Vice President   
* 1858 Again defeated for U.S. Senate   
* 1860 Elected President 

Here are some famous Lincoln quotes on hanging in there!

"You can not fail in any laudable object, unless you allow your mind to be improperly directed."
--From the July 10, 1848 Letter to William H. Herndon

"If you are resolutely determined to make a lawyer of yourself, the thing is more than half done already."
--From the November 5, 1855 Letter to Isham Reavis

"The fight must go on. The cause of civil liberty must not be surrendered at the end of one, or even one hundred defeats."
--From the November 19, 1858 Letter to Henry Asbury

"I know not how to aid you, save in the assurance of one of mature age, and much severe experience, that you can not fail, if you resolutely determine, that you will not."
--From the July 22, 1860 Letter to George Latham

"Your good mother tells me you are feeling very badly in your new situation. Allow me to assure you it is a perfect certainty that you will, very soon, feel better -- quite happy -- if you only stick to the resolution you have taken to procure a military education.... On the contrary, if you falter, and give up, you will lose the power of keeping any resolution, and will regret it all your life."
--From the June 28, 1862 Letter to Quintin Campbell

"I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me..."
--From the June 28, 1862 Letter to William Seward

"I am a patient man -- always willing to forgive on the Christian terms of repentance; and also to give ample time for repentance. Still I must save this government if possible. What I cannot do, of course I will not do; but it may as well be understood, once for all, that I shall not surrender this game leaving any available card unplayed."
--From the July 26, 1862 Letter to Reveredy Johnson

"I shall not do more than I can, and I shall do all I can to save the government, which is my sworn duty as well as my personal inclination. I shall do nothing in malice. What I deal with is too vast for malicious dealing."
--From the July 28, 1862 Letter to Cuthbert Bullitt

"The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise -- with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disentrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."
--From the December 1, 1862 Message to Congress

"We accepted this war for an object, a worthy object, and the war will end when that object is attained. Under God, I hope it never will until that time."
--From the June 16, 1864 Speech in Philadelphia

"I have seen your despatch expressing your unwillingness to break your hold where you are. Neither am I willing. Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible."
--The August 17, 1864 Telegram to General Grant

"Again I admonish you not to be turned from your stern purpose of defending your beloved country and its free institutions by any arguments urged by ambitious and designing men, but stand fast to the Union and the old flag."
--From the August 31, 1864 Speech to the 148th Ohio Regiment

Source: Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, edited by Roy P. Basler.

The Return of Civility

Reagan_and_gob A few things came up for me personally as we've been going through the Book of First Peter in the Bible.  One of the big ones has been submitting to government and showing proper respect.  Over the last decade or so, it seems to me, respect has been becoming unfashionable.  First Peter chapter 2 tells us to respect authority. Yea but.....  what if that authority is somebody you didn't vote for or somebody that goes against your values?  Ummmm.. you mean like Caesar Nero?  The Christians suffered immensely under Nero, yet they showed respect and honor.

Something happened to me the week that Ronald Reagan died.  The Networks and the News Channels kept showing pictures of him with Mikhail Gorbachev. One of the commentators caught me off guard with a strange phrase, "Reagan didn't make his enemies adversaries."  I found that so puzzling. What in the world does that mean?  I think it means that you can have an enemy, but you don't have to be condescending, rude, undignified or be a jerk about it. You can have an enemy, respect your enemy and maintain your dignity.  When it came to Reagan's positions on Sovietism, the Berlin Wall and freedom of speech he would not flinch or back down. But you always got the feeling he liked Mikhail Gorbachev as a person.  If he didn't like him then he was the king of polite and decorum. I sense it was a combination of both. When Ronald Reagan died, some of the key people Nancy Reagan wanted to be around were Mikhail and Raisa Gorbachev.  WoW!

Bush_and_clinton_portrait_1 Something happened shortly after Reagan's death that got me thinking even deeper about these issues of dignity, respect, in short civility.  It was "The Unveiling of the Clinton Portrait at the White House." I happened to catch the whole thing as I was waiting for an appointment to show up at a restaurant.  George W. Bush was unveiling the portrait and said some very nice things about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Very nice. He called Bill & Hillary great a mom and dad. Said they were great role models. Said they were dedicated public servants liked by the people. The kind words went on and on.  It is really worth reading the speech.  Click here to read it on the White House page.

When Bill Clinton rose to the podium, he said, "I want to thank the president for his kind words towards Hillary and I." I kept thinking to myself, that this was some of the Reagan, "don't let your enemies become adversaries" action spilling out.  We don't have to agree to be respectful.  We don't have to agree in order to be kind and civil.

I was brought up to respect authority, not that I always did, but I was taught and I agree that you treat ALL authority with respect. I fear that we as Americans might be losing our civility. If we are, we stand to lose the very soul of our nation. Our dignity. 

I'm trying to live out Peter's words, 1 Peter 2:17 "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king."

If George W. Bush and the Clintons can be respectful towards one another than I can be respectful towards all of them. If Reagan and Gorgachev can be respectful towards one another, then I can be respectful to my town officials.

I've been noticing for some years that Christian apologists and now Christian pastors and ministers (as well as Christians in the marketplce) seem to have little problem calling people names, making fun of them (in a condensending manner) and coming up with derogatory terms for people that are in positions that derserve respect by virute of the office. What's happening to us?  We're becoming worldly and taking our cues from news commentators that are part entertainers / part news analysts.  We're the representatives of Christ on earth. Not only did Reagan win the battle, but won the friendship. Living by biblical values has incredible power, regardless of who practices them. Shouldn't Christian spokes-people be at least as polite as George W. Bush is to Bill Clinton?

The dictionary defines civility as "Courteous behavior; politeness. A courteous act or utterance."

I'm advocating for a bit more civility and respect in our society. Let it begin with me.  What say ye?  Jesus assures us that the peacemakers are still blessed.


Martin Luther King Day 2007

Martin_luther_kingI can't say that the assassination of Martin Luther King had much of an impact on me when it happened. I was 13 in 1968, and frankly I was pretty much out of touch with it all.  When I was in college some of my instructors were huge Martin Luther King fans and had us read his material. I was stunned.  Not only by the material, but by his life.  Prior to being a spokesperson for the Civil Rights Movement King was a pastor. In 1954 he took the pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. King was amazing in every way.  King was prepared for what life had for him before it happened. He did the hard work. He overcame his obstacles, he educated himself. His overcame the temptation to hate. When destiny came calling he was ready!

I taught a preaching class a few years ago and I used King's famous August 28, 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. as an example of one of the finest speeches in history. Not only is it -in my opinion- one of the most inspiring speeches in American history, it very well may be the best constructed speech ever. Most people have never heard it or read it in its entirety. Do yourself a favor, become part of American history, become part of the solution, be inspired to true American ideals built upon the foundation of the Word of God. Make yourself familiar with King's speech this year. His speech and life changed a nation and it still has the power to change our lives and thinking 44 years later! The text of the speech is included below, as well as the audio and a download at the bottom of the page. Listen Here:

The text of "I Have a Dream" Martin Luther King's, August 28, 1963 speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. is included below


I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by a sign stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day -- this will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim's pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Download martin_luther_king_speech.pdf

Al: Man of the Year

Friday morning I was eating breakfast with Al Serino in a San Diego hotel when Steven Slosberg called my cell phone. Al and I were at a conference upgrading our skills and credentials to do disaster relief more effectively. Steve Slosberg has always been pleasant with me, but I discovered it wasn't really me he wanted to talk to (although he did ask me a few questions) but he wanted to talk to Al.  It was a kick to come home Sunday after church and read the column (reproduced below, with appropriate links) where Slosberg names him as his "Man of the Year."  I definitely agree with Slosberg that Al needs to get rid of that "Jesus Is a Red Sox Fan" tee shirt. Time for a new chapter on that one. Here's the article.  I added the picture of Al overseeing teams in a field kitchen in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi right after Katrina hit. Enjoy!


A Standup Guy Deserves to Take a Bow       by Steven Slosberg (The New London Day)

Al_in_bsl_kitchen_1 Tis the season for honoring people of the year, and I've found my man living out by Oxoboxo Lake in Oakdale, though he's been spending much of his time in the muck and ruin of the post-Katrina wasteland along the Gulf Coast.

If Al Serino were to accede to this conceit, and take a bow, he'd call it a blessing. In any event, he's out in San Diego just now, working to get his ministry certified and federally recognized as a disaster relief organization.

He'll tell you that his church, Calvary Chapel in Uncasville, where he is outreach pastor, and his Willing Hearts, Helping Hands ministry, do this hammer-banging and human-kindness intervention all the time, be it orphan support in Central America, dispensing food and water at Ground Zero after Sept. 11, or, where I got to know him, raising houses from the barren slabs and ashes in Mississippi towns essentially blown off the map by the water, winds and tornados otherwise known as Hurricane Katrina.

Albert J. Serino, who is 58, has the organizational qualities, the big-laugh temperament and the hands-on confidence. He can corral groups of volunteers, many of them hapless but earnest college students on spring or winter break, and keep them healthy and fed as they labor to do good. That he is a Massachusetts-bred Red Sox loyalist, the kind who offers no quarter, does not diminish — well, maybe a tad — his leadership gifts or innate worthiness.

Before moving to this region 15 years or so ago, Serino worked in management for General Electric and then as a consultant to troubled businesses looking for a turnaround. Here, he was a vice president for the former United Nuclear Corp. in Montville. His first wife, the mother of his two daughters, was killed in an auto accident when the children were young. Serino married again, and divorced, and lives today with his third wife, Amy, whom he married seven years ago. They moved to a circa 1930s cottage at Oxoboxo Lake three years ago, and restored it. They were in Niantic before that.

All of his work, Serino will tell you, is in praise of Jesus. Raised a Catholic, he was born again at age 40. His work, irrefutably, is inspired. After Katrina struck the Gulf Coast at the end of August 2005, Serino, in discussions with Calvary Chapel's senior pastor, Joe Paskewich, began organizing relief teams through the Willing Hearts, Helping Hands ministry, which the church created for such emergency efforts.

The volunteers started in a month or so later, housed, with other volunteer groups, on cots and in sleeping bags, and on the rare mattress, in the dank basement of a Baptist church in the Mississippi hamlet of Diamondhead, about a 45-minute drive from New Orleans. For the next year, Serino would spend at least two weeks every month in Mississippi, specifically in the Gulf towns of Waveland and Bay St. Louis, leading crews in the mucking out of vanquished homes, and then the rehabbing of those that were salvageable and the complete rebuilding of others.

Serino's church team solicited donations, tried to get big-box hardware stores to supply materials (the best he was offered, he says, was a 50-percent discount) and kept recruiting more volunteers. In the end more than 80 houses were cleaned out and made livable again by the Calvary Chapel crews, and, among those, 14 were built anew.

When I visited the Mississippi sites with a Calvary group in late March, I saw other decencies in Serino, such as offering a bed in the church to an itinerant plumber from New London, who'd overcome his troubles here and made his way south after the hurricane. He volunteered at housing sites in the evenings in exchange for his bed and meals. Serino knew him from here and trusted him. That meant as much to the plumber as shelter.

I won't badger you to take a bow, Al, for all that you and your crews did this year. But, please, at least change that wretched Red Sox T-shirt.

To read the article onliine or to hear Steven Slosberg read this article by click here.

Slosberg_s_c_1  This is the opinion of Steven Slosberg.

September 11th Stories of Faith, Hope and Love: "Al Braca on the 105th Floor of Tower One"

Al_braca_2 Sometimes Al Braca hated his job, but he loved God and he loved his family.  An elder in his church, Calvary Chapel Four Winds, in New Jersey, Al was a vibrant witness to his co-workers. So much so that it earned him the nickname the "Rev."  He was a vice president for Cantor Fitzgerald, a firm whose offices were above where the first plane hit the Twin Towers.  Of the 700 employees on the floor that day none survived.

His wife Jean, in sharing his story at the Festival of Life meeting (more on that in a few days) told everyone gathered that many days Al hated going to work. That many people made fun of his faith, did cruel things like leave profane screen savers on his computer and often times generally disrespected him for his faith.  Yet all knew that Al really cared for them, that he loved them and that he loved God. A survivor of the first Trade Center terrorist attack in 1993, Al then helped a woman with asthma get to safety. When employees would fall into hards times in their lives, their relationships, their marriages or when they ran into difficulty, they often came to Al who prayed for them and with them.

After the first plane hit, several Cantor Fitzgerald employees called their loved ones and said their goodbyes.  Al's family did not get a call that day.  But many of the employees told their families they were OK, they were praying with a man named Al.  It turns out, and the story has been confirmed through multiple sources, that Al was leading a prayer meeting and sharing Christ with as many as fifty people in a circle. These were people that Al had prayed for regularly for years without much success.  Now they were praying together in their last moments in the Name of Jesus. 

It turns out that in the midst of the chaos Al did try and call home, but was unable to get through. He did get through to a MCI operator, who he asked to tell his family that he loved them.  It took a month before his family ever got that message.

Al was a dedicated man with is priorities in order. His son Chris said of him, "The last thing my dad did involved the two things most important to him - God and his family. He loved to lead people to Christ. That takes away a lot of the hurt and the pain."

We feel for the Braca family and we learn from the example of a life well lived. Up until the moment of his death, Al was loving his family, serving his co-workers and trusting God!

Click here for the Al Braca page on Legacy.com