Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Driving to My Psychotic Episode

Oh, NO!!

It's been two whole MONTHS since my last blog?

That's SHAMEFUL!! How could this HAPPEN?

Actually, I know how this happened.

As a pastor, I am called to (and love to) visit patients in various hospitals, especially before and after surgeries, until they're released.

This is usually kind of fun.

I enjoy driving, and the peace which comes from rolling through open Indiana countryside on a summer day. This leads to the visit, which makes my friend happier, especially when they've been laying in a hospital bed for 39 hours with nothing but cable television and the occasional injection to amuse them.

But something has gone horribly wrong.

There is a national conspiracy against pastors.

Don't try to convince me otherwise. I know.

The plan is to discourage the spread of the gospel by planting hospitals farther and farther from wherever the patient actually lives. This is an attempt to discourage pastors from visiting them.

Yes. It's true.

Everyone from the president down will deny it.

But I know.

 I'm one of the few who know.

I used to drive to Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne (about 45 minutes) and Parkview Hospital (about an hour) to visit people. I drove there a lot. I used to joke that I came so much I was going to hang my pictures on their walls.

THEN they began sending people to sparkling new hospitals beyond Fort Wayne, such as Parkview North (which is a city by itself--they ought to call it Hospital City) and DuPont Hospital. Driving to these feels like going to the other side of the planet!

I mean, just getting there takes an hour and twenty minutes!

And, as if that wasn't enough, I now have several people who--through no fault of their own, have been sent to Indianapolis!

Do you know how far Indianapolis is from here? It's two and a half hours one way, including the tedious ordeal through Kokomo! And Kokomo has the world's record number of stop lights on a state highway!

But it gets worse! Kokomo has now added--and I can hardly say it--road construction!

A multitude of stop lights and road construction!

Can you say, "Nervous breakdown?"

You may occasionally see a stopped car by the side of the highway in Kokomo. Do not, I repeat, do NOT stop to help the driver. He could be having a psychotic episode through driving stress. He could attempt to take your life. And given the frenzy this kind of driving produces, he just might succeed.

I'm telling you, a trip to an Indy hospital is a LONG TRIP! Don't be fooled by those who say they can make it in two hours. Ohhhh, no. If they can, they're either leaving at 2 am or they're driving at 78 miles per hour like most other drivers going South to Indy.

Of course, all of this takes a toll on me.

No matter how pleasant the visit with my friend in the hospital has been, I return from Indy shaking and sweating. My legs are stiff and I walk like a zombie. My eyes dart left and right because of kamikaze lane changes. I am slightly sick from the garbage I've had to eat while I traveled. My face is pale and my breath rancid.

I actually had to replace my car because its minimalist seats could not contend with this kind of high-intensity travel.

So this is why I have been lax with my blog. And parenting. Also time with the Lord, exercise, home maintenance, actually speaking with my wife on any real level, and last but not least, sermon preparation.

Things sould be getting better. They really sould.

Except another good friend has just been admitted to I.U. Methodist. 

In Indy.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going off to the corner for my psychotic episode.

I earned it, I deserve it, and I'm gonna have it.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Preachers Get Fat

Well, it's Friday, time to enter another blog.

I have been having trouble keeping this blog up, even though I love it, because of my schedule, and my esteemed (and often bratty) daughter Laura said I should make it a scheduled instead of a random thing.

And because my esteemed daughter Laura is often right (NOT ALWAYS right--do you hear me Laura?) I have decided to do this.

What? The blog? YES! I'm getting right to that!

So, what have I been thinking about lately?

Keeping awake (and therefore alive) while driving!

As a pastor, I give a listening ear to a lot of people, some of which are not so close to church anymore. So I must call upon the valiant Silver Bullet (my beloved Saturn S1 Coupe--see earlier blogs for photos).

I'm trying really hard to keep the Silver Bullet in good running condition for this reason. I recently had the oil changed again (4,869 miles sure goes by fast) and tires rotated. This means the car doesn't roll down the highway wanting to fade right like a defective grocery cart anymore. I did get used to that, but it sure is nice when it rolls straight! What luxury!

(And people think they need a $18,000 car to be happy! Sheeesh!)

Anyway, the ol' Silver Bullet is going a lot to New Castle and also Indianapolis lately. And this means miles.

What can one do to keep awake all those miles--driving across a pre-Spring Indiana that looks more like a nuclear test site than a land with budding trees and greening grass?

I've tried several strategies to keep awake.

I realized that keeping awake was important last summer when I was driving home from Lutheran Hospital along the ever-entertaining Highway 114. (When I say, "ever-entertaining", think of the bowling tournaments I used to have to watch on television with my father. Could anything be sadder than watching a bowling tournament)?

I was driving along on this warm day on this featureless highway and my eyes were getting heavy. I tried "shaking off" sleep by swinging my head left and right violently (I saw someone do that on an episode of "Battlestar Gallactica" once). It didn't work.

(By the way, if you see someone driving toward you swinging their head right and left violently, it doesn't necessarily mean they're having a seizure or are demon possessed. They could be shaking off sleep).

And as I drove along, my eyes getting heavier and heavier...suddenly I snapped awake just as my Saturn left the pavement, flew just a little bit and slammed down into the front yard of some people I happen to know. Apparently I had drifted across the opposite lane of traffic and jumped a very shallow ditch into their yard..

Realizing where I was, I kept the car moving through their yard and into their driveway. There I stopped, threw up, soiled my underwear, sobbed hysterically and thanked God for his mercy.

Actually, I only did that last one, but I felt like doing all the rest!

So, the problem remains--how to keep awake while driving.

The following are some of my solutions--maybe they'll help you--and the one that works for me:
  • Shaking my head violently right and left (as stated above). That works, but only if you're marginally tired (and who's just marginally tired anymore? We're WAY tired!)
  •  Playing Christian radio. Okay, that works for awhile. The problem is, I don't like the proficiency of steel guitar in a lot of songs. That may be okay in larger cars with better speakers, but the largest speakers in my Saturn are in the door by my feet, and all I get is a lot of "WAAAA-WAAA-WAAA" and some very mumbled lyrics. I like softer music that doesn't put me on the edge of a nervous collapse. Michael Card and Twila Paris, where are you?
  • Playing rock and roll. When I'm tired enough, I have tried this, but the "WAAA-WAAA-WAAA" is even worse, and the lyrics much dumber.
  • Playing preaching discs or getting a radio sermon. That works when the preacher is young or good enough--but usually you get a whole lot of "why I'm preaching this sermon," and not much actual sermon.
  • Douse yourself with caffeine. I haven't tried any of the energy drinks yet (I don't want to dump 5,000 calories in my system when all I'm doing is micro-adjusting a steering wheel). But I do drink Pepsi, McDonald's coffee drinks, Starbuck's coffee drinks, anyone else's coffee drinks, green tea, raspberry tea, and after a while it just loses its effectiveness. And drinking all those fluids insures that I will be stopping for a bathroom, and of course another Pepsi! Besides that, when I finally do get home, the caffeine keeps me awake half the night with my eyeballs rolling in my skull.
  • Last, and the only thing that really works, is eating. It seems that, as long as I'm chewing, I can keep awake.
I tried this last method on several of my recent trips, and it always works. The problem is, I'll soon weigh 450 pounds, have to buy all new pants and tilt the Saturn suspension permanently down on the left. And fast food isn't that good. And I got a hunk of cartilage in my last stick of beef jerky. And the car gets filled with food trash. And all the exercising in the world doesn't help me.

But at least I'm awake--and alive.

Now you know why preachers get fat.

Friday, March 29, 2013


WARNING: The following isn't an Easter message. So if you're wanting one, check out crosswalk.com and you'll be satisfied.
I walked into a Christian bookstore recently--I've been haunting this bookstore for years.
It's funny how so many Christians never look into Christian bookstores. There's really neat stuff in there. I remember one of the first times I went into one. I saw these sale tapes...but that's another story.
So, I was in this Christians bookstore and about to leave, and on my way to the door I met this other pastor who was entering.
I knew he was a pastor.
He was dressed like a pastor (a lot of black), we was overweight like a pastor (food is love in America) and he had graying hair like a pastor (I'll be there in about three weeks).
We pastors can pick each other out.
As I was walking out he saw me and looked surprised (I don't know why...maybe he was deep in thought like a pastor).
And when he got over his surprise me immediately pulled a long, sad face.
That's right! Instead of saying hello, he put the corners of his mouth down to look sad and reverent, and walked right by.
...and I wanted to turn around and say, "PLEEEEEEZE STOP!!"
I wonder why so many of us Christians have trouble having fun. Too many of us have been trained that way from childhood. We never questioned it. Long, grim faces are supposed to mean service to Christ.
Christians say, "I don't go to movies. I never watched 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' or 'The Hobbit' or 'True Grit.'"

Or--and I've heard this a lot--"I don't watch TV...except the news and sometimes a sports game."
And I want to say, "PLEEEEEEEEZE!"
Christians say, "I don't get flavored coffee. I wouldn't spend money on that. Black coffee is good enough for me."
If you really love plain, black coffee, OK!
(To me, black coffee is for camping trips and Armageddon).
Otherwise-- "PLEEEEEEEEEZE!"
"I never read novels or nonfiction. Only the Bible and Christian books."
Really? Then how are you going to engage the culture and talk to people outside our little tight church circle? How will you connect?
Because you can't just walk up to people and present the gospel. You have to be friends first. And if you can't connect with a single thing they do in their spare time...how's that gonna happen?
Steve Brown wrote something I loved in his book, "What Was I Thinking," (take your last dollar and buy it, especially if you're a pastor).
He said, "Contrary to a lot of Christian drivel, just because you like something doesn't mean it's sin. And if you don't like something, that doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you.
 "One of the great dangers for Christians and for the world is that we are far, far too religious. We go to religious movies, we read religious books, we associate with religious people, we eat religious cookies, and we wear religious underwear that is far too tight. Our problem is that we spend too much time in church and far to little time in 'the world.'"
I like Christians who laugh. I like Christians who giggle in church. I like Christians who love to watch "The Amazing Race" on TV to see who wins the race around the world (like me). I like Christians who like "Duck Dynasty" (I don't have cable, but I'll catch it on Netflix or Hulu).
Later, I saw another pastor. He was elderly, at least 70. He was either Lutheran or a Catholic priest, because he had the black suit and shirt with the little white collar (I always kinda liked that).
I was walking out of a convenience store with a green tea, and he was walking in. He immediately gave me this big, genuine smile, stepped back and held the door wide for me.
I could tell that elderly guy knows how to laugh.  
I want to be like him when I grow up.

Nehemiah 8:10 "...for the joy of the Lord is your strength."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Going to Prison

I went to prison yesterday.

No, not for me--thank you very much!

I was going to see a friend who has accepted Christ...but then had to pay for a crime.

That's tough.

It was a looong drive to the prison.

When I entered the main building, it was like walking into another world. Almost 15 people were already waiting on institutional chairs to visit inmates. Behind the counter were two uniformed officers. It must have been shift change, because new corrections officers, men and women, were leaving their belongings in airline-style bins and being patted down and going through the familiar airline-style metal detectors.

They all looked very tough. There wasn't a lot of smiling going on.

The building was made of stone blocks, inside and out. The doors were steel.

There was quite a lot of steel.

As I waited in this line to be passed for a visit, I started talking to the woman who was ahead of me. She said, "The guy you want to visit is probably in 'L' building. When they pass you, all you have to do is walk outside, go around this building on the sidewalk, and walk over there."

Oh good, I thought. I like to walk.

When I finally arrived at the counter, I had my driver's licence and my friend's D.O.C. (Department of Corrections) number ready. The officer patted me down (always a little nervy when they get to one place!) and told me where to go.

Outside, I decided to drive part way (the officer said drive) but then parked at a farther place so I could walk the rest of the way.

As I said, I like to walk.

I managed about 50 steps before two officers drove up in a Ford van.

A prison van.

There's something about having officers drive up to me when I'm already on prison grounds that makes me nervous.

I mean, if they decided to nab me, I'd be already here, for cryin' out loud. I mean, it would be a whole 50 yards to a barred room with no mints on the pillow.

"Don't look guilty, don't look guilty," I told myself.

I smiled, looking innocent.

(And let me tell you, having been a confirmed nerd through high school and college, I can look really innocent!)

The officer was gray-haired and looked really tough. Everyone looked tough there.

"Where are you headed?" he said.

Translation: "You better not be doing what you're already doing."

I began to hear the theme song of the "Cops" show in my head.

"Bad boy bad boy, whatcha gonna do, whatcha gonna do when they come for you..."

Looking even more innocent, I said, "I'm just walking back to 'L' building over there."

I pointed to 'L' building, as if they didn't already know where it was.

"...whatcha gonna do when they COME FOR YOUUUUU?"

The officer, not impressed by my obvious innocence, said, "Don't you have a car?"

Translation: "You'd BETTER have come here in a car."

Further Translation: "Because nobody strolls around out here--and if you DON'T have a car you're going behind that razor-wire fence."

"Oh yes," I said, desperately radiating innocence, "My car's right over there."

I pointed helpfully at my car, pouring out innocence and simplicity of mind (the second isn't that hard for me).

The officer said, "Well, you can drive around that road there and park in front of 'L' building."

Translation: "You BETTER get in that CAR and park in front of  'L' building!"

"OK," I said, simply and innocently.

They drove on (whew!) and I walked back to my car and drove directly to 'L' building. I did not pass "go." I did not collect $200.

Then I went through those doors, and was presented with a problem.

In front of me were steel doors with a glass window. Beyond them was a counter with an officer, and some inmates. The huge room was full of inmates. To my right side was another metal detector, and beyond it a second steel door with a glass window. Inside were lot of inmates and visitors seated at tables.

In my head I heard the game show host: "So, Mr. Beutler, what shall it be? Door number one or door number two?"

Being wise beyond my simplicity, I thought, "Well, you always have to go to a counter, and if I just go into the visiting room I'll probably be rebuked fiercely."

So I walked through the doors to the counter.

And was greeted by the shocked stares of about 15 inmates.

Translation of multiple shocked stares: "What the [bleep] are you DOING?"

I smiled desperately...and innocently. I was doing a lot of smiling that day.

The officer, who looked really really tough and had a voice like sandpaper, said, "What do you want?"

Translation: "What the [bleep] are you DOING?"

(So, it wasn't door number one after all. Game show host: "Sorry, Mr. Beutler, you get nothing!")

Head hanging in despair (I was past nervous by then), I said, "I'm here to see this person."

Sandpaper voice officer: "Well, I'm gonna turn you around and send you back through those doors. You're not supposed to be in here."

Translation:  "You stupid mammal, don't you see there's inmates in here?"

Finally they sent my friend into the visiting room. (Door number two).

The good thing was, my friend was way past glad to see me, and we talked and prayed together--and the most important part, he was smiling when we parted.

Conclusion: Jesus said to visit those in prison (Check out Matthew 25:34-40). And even though it's not easy, you'll find that if you do it once, you'll do it again and again. And if you have a chance, and actually do it, you'll change some one's life.

Because it's far worse for an inmate than a visitor. And they need us.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Preacher's Horrible Deed

Last Sunday I did something I thought I would never do.

No, I didn't hit anybody in the mouth.

I didn't get drunk and wreck my car.

I didn't access computer porn and drool on my shirt.

But it's almost as bad.

I went to church Sunday, ready to preach my sermon...and realized I'd forgotten my Bible.

Yes! And me a preacher!

As I left the house, I saw it sitting there on the bedspread and I grabbed a bunch of other stuff and walked out without it. Fourteen years of full-time ministry--then it happened.

I have shame.

To make things worse, the "alternate Bible" on my desk was a study Bible and the print was microscopic! Was I actually able to read this stuff once?

So, using "The Microscopic Bible", I preached, lost my place several times and couldn't find it (always fun when 100 people are watching in complete silence) and staggered through the sermon.

So when I began work this week, I got a bee in my bonnet and bought [insert drum roll here]  a "LARGE PRINT BIBLE."

As the elderly Indian friend of The Outlaw Josey Wales said, "Old age is creeping up on me."

But it's not really that bad. If you compare the print size in "large print Bibles" with that of an ordinary hard-cover book, you'll find they're pretty much the same. It's just that "large print" in a book with as much material and notes as a Bible is different than "large print" in a novel.

So I'm not really getting old, see?

There's something really neat about buying a new Bible. To steal from another movie, "I love the smell of a new Bible in the morning. It smells like...victory!" That's the Vietnam cavalry officer in "Apocalypse Now"--I always liked that quote. But he really said, "the smell of napalm"--which is not so cute.

Why victory?

Because when you actually read your Bible (instead of honorably storing it on shelf) you get to know Jesus.

And when you get to know Jesus, you realize he's actually a real person, a real man with (gasp!) a personality!

And when you get to know the man Jesus, you find out you like him.

Then you find out that you love him.

Then you find that, somehow, he has become the most important person in your life--even more important than your family!

And when you love Jesus, he loves you back--BIG TIME!

And when Jesus becomes that important, you suddenly realize you'll do anything for him.

And then the adventure begins!

Read your Bible. Start in Matthew, read a bit a day right through Revelation. Then start in Matthew again. Get into the Old Testament, especially Psalms and Proverbs, after reading in the new.

Don't read the Bible like a novel, or you'll start in Genesis and die somewhere in Leviticus--without ever reading about Jesus. Trust me on this.

Read it.

And Jesus will change--your--life!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Be Nice

I was at Taco Bell the other day (I'm bad at planning ahead for lunch). Since it was after the noon rush, the restaurant was almost empty.

Two men were at the counter ahead of me.

As I entered, the young woman at the counter was just handing a man his order and said, "We didn't have [this certain kind of bread] so I gave you [this similar type of bread], I hope that's okay."

The man looked at her, took the sack and walked out.


The second man walked up to her and she said, "Hi, how are you today?"

This man said, "I want [one of those and one of those]." I don't remember what he ordered.

No "Hello."

No "I'm fine, how are you?"

Just "I want."

I didn't see him get his order, but I doubt if he had time for a "Thank you."

So I, the third customer (in my imaginary role as Helper of Women in Distress) walked up and said, "Hi [calling her by name from her Taco Bell name tag] How are you today? Could I please have a......"

I made sure to thank her with a smile when I got my food.

I wonder, sometimes, how store clerks and restaurant help can even do it. I've heard a few talk about how hard it is to work with people now--the complaining, even yelling, the lack of general politeness.

And the funny thing is, it hardly takes a few seconds to smile and offer a store person a friendly comment. Let me tell you, if you want to make friends really fast, start joking around with the employees at your favorite restaurant.

Be nice.

You might help someone who is feeling pretty worthless. 

"This is my commandment. Love one another."  --Jesus Christ.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

In Protest of Excessive Pillowing

Upon reading this post, some might call me petty.

This may be true, but in fairness, married males are somewhat timid when speaking about home furnishings. Not only are we aware that all our sense of taste is in our mouths, we have a kind of, "You take the house and I'll take the barn/workshop/basement man-cave" kind of attitude.

But now I feel I must speak in representation of males who are lurking in miserable silence.

Somebody has to say something!

I'm talking about excessive pillowing.

"What's that," you ask?

It's the current trend of placing huge, overstuffed decorative pillows all over couches and chairs (not to mention stylish bedspreads) which make it hard to even sit upright on said couches and chairs.

Now we men know it is incorrect to hurl pillows on the floor. We have been taught so. There is no room to place them on end tables or other chairs, which are themselves over-pillowed.

If we scoot the pillows between us and our wives who sit on the other end of the couch, that's another kind of misery. I have no desire to look at my lovely wife from the nose up because there is a pile of three huge pillows between us.

As an example--here is a photo of me sitting comfortably upright on the couch, with remote in hand. Notice the huge, stuffed pillow discarded on the right:

Here is another photo of myself with remote, now unable to sit upright (or even appear to be awake) with a huge stuffed pillow behind me:

YES, I was AWAKE...the camera just caught me with my eyes closed!

Now I ask you, wives, which husband would you rather look at? Need I say more?

I beg you, women of the world! Lose the big, fashionable pillows!!

Make them into pet beds!

Throw them into the back of your husband's car so he can crank the seat back and take a "power nap" (when you're browsing at Hobby Lobby).

Tie them tightly together, hang them from the ceiling and practice self-defense moves on them.

Just lose them!

Men all over America will be grateful.

Thank you for your time.