Category Archives: Life



The Barna Group surveyed thousands of professing Christians to try to answer the question:  “Are Christians more like Jesus or more like the Pharisees?” (Barna Group. April 30th).  A series of twenty questions were asked in order to make the assessment.  The questions were to see how the actions and attitudes of Christians towards others reflect Jesus or the Pharisees.

‘One of the common critiques leveled at present-day Christianity is that it’s a religion full of hypocritical people” is the opening line of their published study.

Most people will not be surprised to note that whereas only 14% of Christians reflect the attitudes and actions of Jesus Christ, 51% reflect those of the Pharisees.  It would appear that not much has changed since Jesus’ day.

Self-righteousness persists, especially in attitudes toward the sins of others.  Looking down on others for their sins naturally makes people feel better about their own shortcomings.

Hopefully, the survey will give believers something to think about, but it’s doubtful people will move away from their comfort spot.  After all, these attitudes existed amongst the Pharisees two thousand years ago.  Only a small minority tried to be different and truly follow Christ.




“The doctor’s news is not good.  Americans are in poorer health and are dying sooner than the rest of the industrialized world.  Call it the ‘mortality gap’.  The facts are disquieting.  A 2011 study of 17 industrialized countries – 13 in western Europe, plus the US, Australia, Japan and Canada – found that American men, whose life expectancy is 75.6 years, ranked last, and US women, at 80.7 years, ranked 16th.  Worse, this gap has been widening for the past three decades” (“Facing the mortality gap,” AARP Bulletin, March 2013).

The study found that this was the case in all socio-economic groupings.

What’s the problem?

“Although the United States spends nearly twice as much on health care as other countries, Americans eat too much, rely on cars too much and get medical care that is often inaccessible and unaffordable….while Americans drink and smoke less than their peers, they eat more  calories per person, use seat belts less, are more prone to gun violence and have higher rates of drug abuse.”

Thanks to AARP for pointing all this out!

Everybody has to decide what they can do to improve their own situation, to increase their own life expectancy.  But there are two things we can all do – we can eat less and use the car less.  I’ve been trying to do both.  You can save money, too.

We are fortunate in that many stores are within a mile and a half from our house, so I can walk to them all.  I do this with our 16-month-old grandson, who just loves going out with Grandpa.  His stroller has room underneath for a just a few grocery items, so I have to limit purchases.  There’s only room for the essentials, which saves money and improves health right there.  It’s also impossible to buy ice cream as it will melt before I get home.

Aubren weighs about 27 pounds, so pushing him (and groceries after shopping), adds to the exercise value of the walk itself.  He will not let me slow down, so I keep up a fairly vigorous pace.

This also saves me gas.

If you don’t live near a store or don’t have a grandchild to take with you, you could get the same effect by driving to a central point, parking the car and then walking to other stores from there.  The fact that you can only carry so much is also good – it cuts down on how much you spend and encourages you to go out and walk more often!  You might also consider cycling to stores, using a backpack for purchases.  Again, it will limit purchases, save money on gas and give you exercise.

As you feel the benefit of walking with the resultant weight loss, you will be less inclined to eat too much.  Yesterday, I decided to join our two local granddaughters at their school for lunch.  I asked their Dad what I could take other than fast food, which is quite expensive.  He suggested M&M’s, so I stopped at a dollar store to get some.  While there, I looked for something I could eat while they ate their school lunch.  The only healthy item they had in the store was a small packet of dried fruit, which I bought for a dollar.  That was my lunch.

Until recently, I would have been inclined to stop at McDonald’s and buy the girls chicken nuggets and fries, and a burger for myself!  That’s about $10.  I spent a quarter of that at the $ Store.  Not being able to go through a drive-thru also helps cut down on those calories.

There are many things each of us can do to eat less and walk more.  One of the biggest differences between the US and England, where I grew up, is that we walked everywhere, whereas most Americans seem to walk nowhere.

I remember listening to Alastair Cooke, the famed British broadcaster and late presenter of “Masterpiece Theatre.”  He was talking about when he first came to America, back in 1929.  He was invited over to an apartment for a social evening.  After dinner, he stood up and asked the others to go for an evening walk, which had been his family’s habit in England.  The reaction was amusing, with others at the dinner party offering to call him a cab or wondering if he was unwell and needed some air, or maybe needed to go to the store to buy some cigarettes.  Concern was also expressed that if he went for a walk, the police might arrest him for suspicious behavior.

But the idea of walking was totally alien to them all.

I’m pleased to say that has changed.  I do see people walking.  In some cases, this is to save gas.  But it’s catching on.  It’s now socially acceptable to walk.  More and more people are doing it.

Who knows?  If we all walk more and eat less, maybe we will come out on top the next time a comparison is made of life expectancy in western countries.  When we spend more than twice as much on healthcare as any other western nation, we really ought to come out on top every time!


Master Aubren
Master Aubren

Our thirteen-month-old grandson sometimes makes me think of the Granthams in Downton Abbey!

Lord and Lady Grantham are central characters of the highly successful British drama.  They own and live in Downton Abbey, a fictional stately home in Yorkshire.  (The actual home is Highclere Castle, close to London.)

Lord and Lady Grantham have many servants, as was common a hundred years ago – in fact, right up until World War II (the series has now reached the 1920’s) and the advent of socialism.  In those days, over three million people in the UK were “in service.”  Today, the number is less than 100,000 with roughly three million unemployed!  (Actually, that’s not accurate any more, but it was some years ago.)  Don’t think it was any different in the United States – most middle class families had a servant or two a century ago.  Noah Webster defined a family as a husband and wife, their children and servants living under one roof.

Anyway, the Granthams order their servants to do this, that and the other and they do.

Far more fearsome is the Dowager Countess of Grantham, the widowed mother of Lord Grantham, who remembers being at Balmoral in 1860, when Queen Victoria was the hostess.  The Dowager Countess is played by the irascible Maggie Smith, who is now 78.  I think all would agree that Maggie steals the show.

So why does our grandson remind me of the Dowager Countess?

The reason is that, in Aubren’s mind, everybody else is his servant.  He commands and expects an immediate response, just like the Countess.

When the weather is nice, I take him out for a walk.  When he’s ready, he gives me a commanding look that says, as would the Dowager Countess, “You can get my carriage ready now, Rhodes.”  The usual response is “Yes, my lady!”  You can no more refuse Aubren than you can the Dowager Countess.

Once he’s in the carriage and we are out walking, I can’t stop to look at anything or talk to anybody.  He insists on constant movement.  He makes no allowance for the fact that I’m not into constant movement any more!

If the sun, a rare sight nowadays, gets in his eyes, he lets me know right away that he needs me to adjust his stroller so that he isn’t blinded.

He also lets me know when he needs his diaper changed, his nose wiped or a drink!

Like the Dowager, he gives no thought to me, or my needs!  In his mind, my sole reason for existence is to serve him.

It reminds me of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 20:27,  “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave!”

In the family context, the father, as the biblical head of the family, is the chief servant.  His sole reason for existence is to serve his family.  Grandfathers are no different – I’m still a father, but now also a grandfather.  So now I have three or four times as many people to serve, just within the family.  Aubren is demanding, but, when I next visit Indianapolis and the sun is shining, I will be walking his twin boy cousins, Ethan and Evan, who will no doubt be the same.  Leeson, Aubren’s younger brother, is also inclining towards being rather imperious.

Grandchildren can be very demanding, but, I have to tell you, I love it.  I enjoy being a servant, just as the servants in Downton Abbey seem to enjoy their lives.  Like them, I know my place in the great scheme of things.

And there is one glaring difference between Aubren and the Dowager Countess – Aubren is cute!



Would you believe I fell asleep in church yesterday?

I used to give sermons about people like that!

It was a long day – we were gone for a full twelve hours, after an exhausting weekend.

The day in question was Monday, April 1st, a biblical holy day called the Last Day of Unleavened Bread.  By tradition, our church has two services that day, each lasting about 90 minutes.

Normally, it’s just my wife and I who go, but this time we were visiting our daughter, son- in-law, and their four young children, including two twin boys who are only just over 6 months old.   We also took our son’s two girls, who are the same age as my daughter’s (6 and 7) who we had brought down with us from home.  That’s six children in all – more than we are used to at any one time.

Added to this was the fact that my wife Diane was sick and stayed home.

It was after lunch, during the second service that I dozed off.   I awoke after, maybe, twenty minutes, to find my daughter and son-in-law had left the sanctuary with the two little boys and I had been left with the girls – who, at the precise moment of my re-awakening, were not exactly on their best behavior!  There was too much movement and way too much noise.  Fortunately, we were sitting near the back, so very few people were disturbed.

But I won’t fall asleep again.  Well . . . not until the next time.  I’m getting old!

Grandparenting – nothing like it!!

Paris and Brookklyn
Paris and Brooklyn
Leeson, 3 months
Leeson, 3 months
Alyssa and Elena
Twins Ethan and Evan
Twins Evan and Ethan

Until Sunday, our 13-month-old grandson, Aubren, squealed with delight whenever Grandpa came home.  But not any more.

Aubren has discovered girls!

The girls in question are his cousins, Paris and Brooklyn, who are 7 and 6 (almost 8 and 7) respectively.  Our son drops them off and I drive them to school.   When they return just after 4, we hear the same squeals of delight as the girls entertain him until their dad gets back to take them home.  As any man knows, girls can be a distraction.   From the moment they arrive, these two girls distract him constantly.  He only has eyes for them.

It’s lovely to see them together.

There’s a fourth one, too.  Aubren has a younger brother who is only three months old, called Leeson.  Leeson isn’t quite as active yet but he enjoys watching the other three from the comfort of his “Einstein chair.”  When the girls are around, there’s always a smile on his face.

From this Sunday, four grows to eight as we are traveling down to visit our daughter and son-in-law in Indianapolis for a few days.  They have four children themselves, including twin boys born in September, just six months ago.  The boys are called Ethan and Evan.  Their older girls, Alyssa and Elena, are 8 (today) and 6 and are very good at watching their brothers.

Eight young children under one roof is a daunting prospect.  It’s quite likely I will invite my son-in-law, Mike, to join me for a drink one evening, somewhere, anywhere, away from the house!  Make that two evenings!

No, I’m sure it will be a great joy to see them all having fun together and especially to see the girls taking care of their younger brothers and cousins.

Grandparenting really is the best time of life.  It’s so good we should have done it first!

Having grandchildren takes your mind off all the ailments that afflict us as we age, all the disappointments and set-backs.  When you have to change a poopie diaper, it takes your mind off everything else!

But it’s also good to see the world anew, through the eyes of youngsters who have just entered it.  Everything is a wonder to them.  When I take Aubren for a walk in his stroller, he looks around at the world around him, taking it all in.   He’s especially fascinated with trees.  But also dogs.  He loves dogs.

Seeing the world through a child’s eyes, you see everything new.  It’s like living your life all over again.  I now have a deeper understanding of what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 18:3 — “And he said, Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  It’s spiritually beneficial to spend time with your grandchildren.   Each day we should try to learn something new.  We need to be teachable just like little children.

By the time most people are grandparents they have come to realize the importance of relationships over material things.  The desire is simply to be involved in the lives of our grandchildren, to leave a legacy that will last for generations.

I still remember my grandparents.  I was very fond of them and deeply appreciative of the time they spent with me.  Not then, of course.  When I was a child I didn’t think about it, but now I do and I love them more dearly as I get older.   I look forward to seeing them again in the resurrection.

Meanwhile, I’m not too worried about Aubren’s fascination with girls.  He will soon realize that only Grandpa can afford to buy him ice cream!


Snow flake

Yesterday was the first day of Spring – and it snowed all day.

That’s Michigan for you.

When I first moved here over 22 years ago, I was told, “If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes and it will change!”   But it didn’t change yesterday, or today – it’s still snowing.

In America we still use Fahrenheit to list temperatures.   Our local weatherman yesterday told us that the difference between the temperature yesterday and the temp on the same day last year was an incredible 50 degrees!

Perhaps its time to move . . .

But the news is often dominated by climactic disaster seemingly everywhere else, except mid-Michigan where we live.  A few miles south of us was hit by a bad snowstorm a few days ago, while we escaped.   “Up north” is often hit, while its quite mild here.

Other states get tornadoes, hurricanes and struggle with drought, none of which have bothered us here (though we have had disasters in other parts of the state).

Lansing, the capital of Michigan, seems protected from those extremes.

So I think we will stay – and watch the news highlighting disasters everywhere else!


It’s now been two years since we got rid of cable!

We haven’t missed it a bit – though visitors sometimes do.

Cable was costing us about $75 a month.  That was just for the regular channels, no premium channels like HBO or Showtime.

We had 200 plus channels.

I grew up in England with just two channels .  Neither of those started broadcasting until 5pm each day, except for weekends when they came on at about 2pm.  Both were in black and white (yes, we did have sound!).

Frankly, there was more to watch on those two channels than there is now on the 200!!!

Dropping cable was a part of our strategy to simplify our lives — to de-stress.   With less to watch, we figured we would watch less.

However, we were surprised to find when we put up a really good roof antenna, that  we could actually pick up 38 channels.   Some of these are duplicates (we get NBC, ABC and CBS from Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo as well as Lansing).  But, even so, we had some real surprises once we got fully connected.

THIS is a 24-hour-a-day movie channel with a couple of old TV shows and some children’s programs in the morning.   Although most of the movies are not worth the time, there are a couple each week that we enjoy watching.    Another channel, ANTENNA TV, offers movies through the night and mornings, with old television sitcoms filling up the remainder of the time.  I’m not interested in most of them, but it’s good to know it’s there, if I ever get nostalgic for the 50’s.

ME-TV  (ME = Memorable Entertainment) is 24/7 of old television programs from the 50’s through the 70’s.   RETRO TV is another.

We also have six religious channels, some of which show old shows and movies.

In addition, there’s CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX – which all provide modern entertainment that’s not worth watching.   I do, however, watch the news on one of these.

PBS is our favorite.   We get three PBS channels from MSU (Michigan State University).

Weekdays from 6 to 6 is non-stop quality children’s programming.   At 6pm every weekday we have 30 minutes of world news from the BBC, the only program I try not to miss.  Other quality news programs follow, then documentaries.

The other two channels are WORLD (24 hours of documentaries with a few news programs) and CREATE (arts, travel, gardening, etc).   All three come in clear on our television set – and they are free (though they like a donation).

Additionally, there’s QUBO, a 24/7 children’s channel.  There are also pop and country music channels.

So, next time your cable provider raises the charges, look into disconnecting cable and getting an antenna.  Our local “Antenna Men” say business is booming as people realize they can have more than they need without paying anything per month.

An added bonus is that life really does become more simple, when there is less to choose from, and you don’t have a backlog of recorded shows you would like to watch.