Archive for July, 2007

It’s better to dig in than quit

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

The whole world is going to hell….

You may hear that daily.

You may think that when you pick up a newspaper or watch the news — with the stories of child molesters, of twisted murders, of heartless corporate cutbacks and the war in the Middle East.

There even was an alligator in Summit Lake! What’s next? An attack of terrorist penguins?

In the last week, sports page headlines dealt with baseball and steroids, football and dogfighting, basketball and an official who is accused of manipulating point spreads.

This is in the part of the paper that’s supposed to entertain us! It makes scanning a medical journal dealing with gout seem like light reading on a pleasant subject.

Most of the stories contain some truth, and the world is even weirder and scarier than is reported. But don’t believe everything is just “going to hell in a handbasket.”

TIMEOUT: A quick Internet search revealed that no one is sure of the source of that phrase, which I’ve been hearing for years. It has been around since the early 1900s. But in 1629, someone did find a reference to “going to heaven in a wheelbarrow.”

SIDEBAR: Sounds like you can get to hell faster in a handbasket than to heaven in a wheelbarrow. I’m sure there’s a sermon in there somewhere. Just don’t ask me to find it.

ADVICE: Don’t hang around with people who keep insisting the world is hell. The older I get, the less I want to hear people who dwell on this. I do believe the world is an uglier place than it was when I was a kid, and most adults would say the same.

People who claim the world is going to hell — be it by handbasket or a pickup with bad brakes — tend to be self-righteous and have checked out of trying to do anything about it.

Sometimes, you find these people in churches. They can “tsk, tsk.” They can frown. They can make you feel small with their moral superiority as they quotes verses such as the one about “wars and rumors of war” to indicate the end is near.

They expect the worst for everyone and everything, and with that attitude, they are destined to discover it. They sometimes have the sense of history of a gnat, forgetting that the Black Plague wiped out more than 20 million people in Europe — at least a third of the population. That was in the 1300s.

In the middle 1800s, we had slavery and lynchings in this country. We had a Civil War that divided us as a country and left 618,000 dead — and at least twice that many maimed and wounded.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying everything today is better. These are scary times, and it is harder for kids today because of all the violence, porn and a generally self-absorbed society that can create spoiled, bratty adults.

CONFESSION: I can act like a spoiled, bratty adult when the line at the store is stuck, or when I just don’t get my way. How dare you put up orange barrels and shut down traffic on my road!

So what’s the point?

This is our world, and we are stuck with it. In John Chapter 17, Jesus prays for his disciples: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

THE POINT: We don’t have to buy into everything that the world is selling.

I’d rather be around people who are digging in to help people than listening to those who would write us all off as hopeless hedonists.

In his weekly e-mail, Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life author) wrote: “Work with those who want to work. (Too many leaders) spend all their time trying to corral the lazy and the apathetic.”

I’ll add the grumpy, bitter and spiritually stuck to that list.

It’s wiser to bring a few people into a wheelbarrow that is headed up than drag everyone down into a handbasket of depression with an attitude.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at


Who is your water supplier?

The NRDC reported that a five-year supply of bottled water cost over $1,000.00 compared with $1.65 for the same amount of tap water. Not to mention the environmental impact of the many discarded plastic water bottles that are not recycled.

 Let me think about that for a minute.  $1000.00 bucks for bottled, $1.65 for tap water.  Makes that tap water sound pretty yummy to me. 

 For those of you who live in communities where the drinking water source is wells (as is Tecumseh, MI) you know that the taste of the water can vary from season to season and day to day and frankly there are some days where the water just plain stinks.

How many of us growing up exclusively drank from “public drinking fountains” where everyone and anyone puts their grubby germ hands on the handle, much less putting your filthy mouth on the spigot?  Communities all over the US routinely compete in water tasting competitions to see which water system operators provide the “best tasting” water.  Some of the best water I have tasted is in Algonac, MI.  They are located right on the St. Clair river that gets its water from Lake Huron.  The water if fed through giant membrane filters and is so cool, clear and refreshing.  Here we pull our water from the ground, filter and add chemicals to it to make it safe to drink.  No wonder there are days it does not taste so good.  It is almost an art form to put just enough chemical into the water to make it safe yet not too much to make it taste like bleach!

But I will tell you that city water is safe to drink.  If the operators fail to do their job and let unclean water get to your spigot they go to jail!

It is amazing to me that the best purifier of water is nature itself.  It only takes a few cubic feet of dirt to completely purify water.  How many of us are on well systems that are never been tested since they were dug?

Life’s easier amid Peace with the Parents

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

A friend is middle-aged. Her mom is well past middle-aged. They went through a period of not talking… or something.

The flash point happened in church; a couple of silly things were said. Then it degenerated into a “What did you mean by THAT?” debate. Soon, mom and daughter were not in the mood to sing Kumbaya.

When the tempers simmered, silence broke out. For days.

It didn’t sound like a big deal to me, and I suggested the daughter apologize.

“What for?” she said.

“She is your mother,” I said. “She’s older, and the last thing either of you needs is this tension going on. Just make peace, and don’t worry about who is right or wrong.”

We talked about how the Bible says we are to apologize for whatever we did wrong, rather than trying to figure out how much of the problem is our fault. When we do that — keep score — we always win. We may have been wrong, but not as much as the other person — and besides, they started it.

Finally, they talked, and all is well, at least for now.

I thought about that when I heard Sean Covey interviewed on the radio, and he mentioned that one of the most important decisions teenagers can make is to get along with their parents. He was talking about his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens. Yes, he’s the son of Stephen Covey, best-selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Is it a great idea for teens to respect their parents and live in some semblance of peace at home?

Don’t need a Ph.D. in psychology to figure that out.

But it never ends. At least not until our parents die, or we die. And if you happen to believe in heaven, then you may have all of eternity to work out some of the relationship dynamics.

For some parents/children, that prospect may inspire everyone just to live a little longer here on Earth.

Here’s the disclaimer: I’m not talking about sick, abusive, insane parent/children relationships. You can forgive a parent or a child, but there may be safety reasons to avoid reconciliation.

But for most of us, we do have to decide to get along with our parents, no matter if we are 15 or 55. I know of some 70-year-olds who are taking care of parents in their 90s. In some cases, they have been arguing about the same things for 60 years — such as how to dust the house or wash the dishes.

Several years ago, my brother and I had several conversations, and suddenly I realized that he believed our father liked me best. And I was convinced that for years, our father preferred him.

That probably means our dad did it right.

Both of us were over 40 and talking about this, and our father had died.

Another friend didn’t like the way her mother treated some little kids in her care “because Mom didn’t let me get away with that stuff like she does now.”

That was 40 years ago, but so often, we feel reduced to little kids around our parents — especially when we are sucked deep into the swamp of sibling rivalry.

“Honor your father and mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord has given you” is Exodus 20:12, the fifth commandment. I believe “living long in the land the Lord has given you” means that life is easier when we are at peace with our parents — which often takes effort and honor.

Part of honoring is letting go. It’s knowing that if you’ll argue when talking politics, don’t talk politics. You and your dad are not about to settle the Iraq war anyway.

It’s that often no one is better at annoying you than someone in your family — maybe because they’ve had more practice. Of course, they may say the same about us.

It also is accepting that they may not be the parents you wanted… and realizing that you may not have turned out to be the son or daughter that they dreamed of… and we can still get along anyway.

Finally, it’s deciding that every day I will respect them, even if today I don’t feel it. I’m going to pray my way through it, making nice. That really is where honor and love come together.

Ecclesiac Community?

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

When I mentioned to some people that I was going to try to write something about Pope Benedict’s comments about the church, a few winced.

One said, “Good luck. You’ll need it.”

Others correctly said to be prepared to get hammered from both sides — those who like the pope and Catholics, and those who don’t.

Finally, the obvious question is, “Who is Pluto to have to say anything about the pope?”

Good question.

I’m just a sportswriter who has been writing about faith since 2001. And I’m not seminary-trained, just schooled from eight years of weekly jail ministry. So my opinion is just that — my opinion.

My opinion begins with, “The pope IS Roman Catholic.”

So it should not be a shock that the pope considers his church to be the one true church.

He is the head of the Catholic Church.

In the document called Dominus Iesus released Tuesday, the pope basically said the Roman Catholic Church is the one true church.

He called the Orthodox churches “wounded,” partly because they don’t consider the pope to be the final authority.

As for other Christian churches, he wrote, “Despite the fact that this teaching has created no little distress… it nevertheless is difficult to see how the title `church’ could be (used).”

While adding that “elements of truth” are found in other churches, he referred to them as “ecclesiac communities.”

It was reported that the pope seemed to be saying only Catholics could have salvation and go to heaven. Not true, as he wrote, “The spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them (other churches) as instruments of salvation — whose value derives from the fullness of grace and truth that comes from the Catholic Church.”

Once again, the Pope IS a Roman Catholic.

He is speaking to Catholics, and he’s reaffirming his belief that the Catholic Church is at the center of Christianity. He wrote, “they (Protestants) do not accept the theological notion of the church in the Catholic sense.”

In other words, he’s saying that other churches that aren’t Catholic are just that — not Catholic.

This does not come as a shocking news bulletin.

Time for a story.

I recently vacationed in northern Michigan near a town of 1,800. In the two-stoplight hamlet, there are nine churches — five of them Lutheran.

I’ve been to some Southern town about that size, and the breakdown was the same, only it was five Baptist churches out of the total of nine.

Battles over doctrine didn’t just show up with the advent of the iPod.

Churches split, denominations splinter, people disagree.

What some people believe is church, others may consider “ecclesiac communities,” or something along those lines.

In some church settings, a sideways look can lead to a fracture causing six families to storm out the door and join another church — or they may start their own.

Right now, you can be certain that some Catholics don’t agree with everything the pope just said. They will continue to be good Catholics, and they’ll also get along great with their friends in other churches.

Most Protestants who heard what the pope said really won’t care when it comes to interacting with their Catholic friends. They know there’s far more in common than what keeps us apart.

That’s why I love faith in action such as food kitchens, helping the handicapped, jail ministry, rest home ministry, etc. There are no great theological debates because the problems in front of the volunteers are so pressing, there isn’t time for them.

I’ve seen Catholics and Protestants and some major skeptics join hands for prayer, then get down to doing God’s work — helping those who are hurting.

That is the church in action, no matter what you may want to call it.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at

nuff said…


Soldiers pray before heading into battle in Baghdad on July 7, 2007.   It was a Reuter news photo that seemed to appear just for an instant on Yahoo then disappeared after I downloaded a copy of it.   Should we not gather and pray before we head into battle?

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