Read TruthInConviction at

Monday, June 29, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

He’s sentenced to 150 years in prison.

Jesus said that the love of money is the root of all evil. Madoff surely loved money as his god. Therefore, fill in the blanks.

His soul is black as any hell pit. He has breathed the demons’ cravings and shared that with his wife and sons. The lengths are limitless to which the Devil will go to dupe the spiritually void worldly crews.

After the first lie, the second becomes easier. After the second, the third slips in quite without fanfare. And from then on out, it’s lie as lifestyle. In Madoff’s pit, lies were tied to money.

However, there are countless others “out there” who are slipping down the same pit; it’s just that their money take is not the lump sum of Madoff’s. They won’t make the news either. Nevertheless, their god is money.

Jesus said that one cannot serve money and God. Jesus knew the parasitic suck-blood creature money can become.

As a child my Christian parents taught us children to tithe. We were told that the Bible states that God’s ownership of our first tenth of any income is to be given back to Him. If we keep it for self, we are stealing from God.

God was quite displeased with Israel for centuries upon centuries. Part of that displeasure was their stealing the tithe for self. Malachi 3:10 accents this in particular.

I have looked back over my life to realize that my parents’ instruction concerning the tithe put money in the biblical perspective. I gave God His tithe. He instructed me in frugality concerning the other nine-tenths. He also gave me peace of mind regarding money. I really did not worry about finances when I was faithful to God’s way of dealing with my money.

Having pastored for half a century, I have watched people struggle with the tithe. Some have obeyed God’s Word. Others have rationalized it away. For the former, they have lived out the divine peace. For the latter, they have slipped further and further away from God’s way.

Preaching on the tithe has gone out of style in today’s preaching-lite messages that tickle. Yet that does not scissor it out of the Bible. No matter the current culture’s spiritual excellence or lack of, God’s holy writ remains intact.

I think of one fellow whose god became his house. He had once been totally surrendered to God’s Scripture. However, over time, I noticed him struggle with full commitment. When he was on the lean side, he was on the shaky side of soul. When he was on the full side, he enjoyed God’s smile.

Finally, his house and its improvements got the hold of his soul. It seemed harmless to him. But I saw the signs early on. It is very difficult however to warn parishioners in such circumstances. They tend to rail back, lash out.

Eventually, the material took over the spiritual. Today he is empty and wandering in spirit.

How many others have come to his sorry state of affairs? Only God knows.

If Madoff had been taught the biblical perspective regarding money, he could have latched onto it, making it a safe lifestyle under heaven.

However, as the world now knows, Madoff never even came close.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

It’s there.

I walked into a huge church in Texas. The parking lot was packed to the gills. Young adults were heading toward the doors of the sanctuary, Bibles in hand.

I was visiting my mother for my home is in Maine. What a breath of fresh air it was to spend a Sunday in Denton. It was far different than the Rock Gardens of God — New England.

I got up early, drove to various churches, parked the car and entered one sanctuary after another. I did not have the time to stay in every church for every worship length; but I stayed long enough to pick up the bulletin and get the feel of the environs.

It was awesome. Sunday is actually like a special day in Denton — God’s holy day. There are citizens there who truly turn off the labor of six days in order to focus on God Almighty. They gather under various denominational labels, but they gather nevertheless.

This particular church where I stayed the longest was filling up. I was taken in by all the young adults — some as couples, others as obvious singles, filing in to take their seats. They looked happy. They were clean cut. They were reverent yet sociable, smiling at one another, embracing a friend, waving a greeting. It was a family meeting, I concluded — a very large, welcomed family meeting. We were all one big clan — at least as long as we were together in the sanctuary with Bible in hand.

The pastor was casually dressed, as were most of the parishioners. In fact, I think I could easily pick out the tourists who chose that church for that Sunday’s worship. They were dressed more formally, like back home. But the regulars were seated in their casual nice selves. Texas weather lends itself to that anyhow.

The singing was from the heart. The announcements were few. The special music was not outlandish but stirring for the soul. The freedom in the air was invigorating. It did not take work to worship; it was a spirit pleasure. “No wonder they build such large parking lots attached to these churches. The people never give up. They keep coming back — not only on Sundays but for special events on weekdays,” I noted.

I wanted to call my friends back in Maine, inviting them to come on along. But then I noted not many empty seats. Practically every seat in the large auditorium was filled. Yes, there were senior citizens there. They were not forgotten. And they fit right in with the younger set. Boys and girls were actually seated alongside their parents. I truthfully witnessed whole families sitting alongside one another! Wonders never cease in some locales.

With that I remembered reading of other worship experiences like this peppered around America. They are there. They are active. They are alive.

Then it was that I put aside the frightening newspaper headlines that had been screeching at me all week long. Thankfully I turned off Dan Rather and Peter Jennings in my head. With that, I realized that there is a tremendous underground of truth at work in this country. That Sunday morning I had become a part of it and didn’t want to leave. It was wonderful.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

President George Washington wrote a prayer addressed to “O most glorious God, in Jesus Christ” and ended it with this: “Let me live according to those holy rules which thou hast this day prescribed in Thy Holy Word. Direct me to the true object, Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Bless O Lord all the people of this land.”

President Thomas Jefferson: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis — a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath? Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”

President James Madison: “Religion is the basis and foundation of government. We have staked the whole future of American civilization not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

President Andrew Jackson: “I nightly offer up my prayers to the throne of grace for the health and safety of you all, and that we ought all to rely with confidence on the promise of our dear Redeemer, and give Him our hearts. This is all He requires and all that we can do, and if we sincerely do this, we are sure of salvation through His atonement.”

Patrick Henry: “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, property, and freedom of worship here.”

President Abraham Lincoln: “The ways of God are mysterious and profound beyond all comprehension. ‘Who by searching can find Him out?’ God only knows the issue of this business. He has destroyed nations from the map of history for their sins. Nevertheless, my hopes prevail generally above my fears for our Republic. The times are dark, the spirits of ruin are abroad in all their power, and the mercy of God alone can save us.”

President Grover Cleveland: “All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ results in the purist patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship.”

President Woodrow Wilson: “America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of the Holy Scriptures.”

President Dwight Eisenhower: “Without God, there could be no American form of government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Begin is the first — the most basic — expression of Americanism. Thus, the founding fathers of America saw it, and thus With God’s help, it will continue to be.”

Further, America’s start was God-grounded. Children went to school to learn their three R’s: reading, writing and arithmetic. Embossing that learning was the Christian faith.

For instance, read from “The NEW ENGLAND PRIMER IMPROVED, For the More Easy Attaining of English, Adorned with Cuts, To Which Is Added ‘The Assembly of the Divines’ CATHECISM (Albany, Whiting, Backus and Whiting) And Sold Retail At Their Store.”

That is what reads on the front cover of The NEW ENGLAND PRIMER IMPROVED.

On Page One of that Primer was the following:

A Divine Song of Praise to God, for a Child
By the Rev. Dr. Watts.

How glorious is our heav’nly King
Who reigns above the sky!
How shall a child presume to sing
His dreaded Majesty?

How great His power is, none can tell,
Nor think how large His grace,
Nor men below, nor saints that dwell
On high before His face,

Nor angels that stand round the Lord,
Can search His secret will;
But they perform His heav’nly Word
And sing His praises still.

Then let me join his holy train,
And my first off’rings bring,
Th’ Eternal God will not disdain
To hear an infant sing.

My heart resolves, my tongue obeys,
And angels shall rejoice,
To hear their Mighty Maker’s praise
Sound from a feeble voice.

The content of instruction in colonial schools was primarily Christian.

Here is an alphabetic listing of statements containing religious and moral maxims that the student was required to memorize:

A: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his Mother”

B: “Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble therewith”

C: “Come into Christ all ye that labor and are heavy handed and He will give you rest”

The alphabet guide to spelling was followed by this statement: “Now the child being entered in his letters and spelling, let him learn, these and such sentences by heart, whereby he will be both instructed in his duty and encouraged in his learning:

Q: What is the end of man?

A: Man’s chief end is to Glorify God and to enjoy him forever

Q: What rule hath God given to direct us

A: The word of God, which is contained in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.

Genuine allegiance to this nation has to be based on a biblical conviction. That is the loyalty that has enlivened Americans since the start.

Belief in the biblical God has brought to the country’s fore the most committed citizenry known to the planet. It is that faith base that provides the oil for the nation’s machinery. Generation after generation has willingly prayed for this nation, sacrificed for its existence, and treasured its freedoms.

Those prayers continue from the souls of both old and young. This is not a “graying nation,” that is, a Republic supported chiefly by the older persons. There are countless numbers of young Americans who believe in God, pray for the United States and believe that its destiny is governed by a divine wisdom and mercy.

True patriotism is not atheism based. It is not buttressed with a secular agnosticism. True patriotism that lasts and goes deeply to the heart has its endurable foundation when resting on trust in the God of all history.

Atheism believes there is nothing but the material. Therefore, how can such “faith” sustain a penetrating patriotism toward America? A matter-based philosophy is fundamentally a self-centered existence; therefore, though it may mouth patriotism, it is only patriotic when serving the self’s existence.

Agnosticism has no base certainty therefore it is just as bankrupt regarding genuine patriotism as atheism.

The biblical believer as citizen of this remarkable country yearns daily for a God-fearing populace. That believer intercedes for this nation, its leaders, its future. That believer researches Scripture for divine wisdom in how to better serve America.

Numberless organizations and committees are now operating for the good of America’s citizens solely on the drive of a biblical faith. How many do-gooder conclaves reach out daily to the needy, homeless, hungry and forsaken because of serving the God of Scripture? They compose a commendable list.

What is so encouraging is that all of this dates back to our founding patriots. They read the Bible. They prayed to the Lord of the Word. They worshiped that God. They taught their children the precepts of that Word. They molded the laws and institutions of America on the biblical ethic. They dreamed of this country’s future years being blessed by the God of holy writ.

What a heritage the present-day patriot has. What a treasure we have alongside us to counsel our decisions in this complicated time.

Yes, America’s true patriotism is God-based for it is totally reliant on His provisions for our liberties to continue.

For more, read from the NEW ENGLAND PRIMER at


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

He murdered a fellow. Would I visit him in prison?

I lived in Walpole, Massachusetts at the time. So being near the famous Walpole Prison was a given. Being a pastor was also a given. Therefore, the call came for me to make a visit to a man incarcerated for killing another.

Now those living in Walpole eventually got tired of being known as the New England village with the prison. So the name was conveniently changed. It moved from Walpole Prison to Cedar Junction. All in a name change!

That day I was on my way to, not Walpole Prison, but Cedar Junction. Just rolling the two words over my tongue made the drive more pleasant — "Cedar Junction." Sounds inviting, doesn’t it?

I had on a new jacket. At least it was new to me. Our church had a free clothing center. So the night before at prayer meeting, Mary Lou said to me, "Pastor, I was going through the clothing that just came in. There’s a really sharp jacket in there I think would fit you."

Sure enough. I tried it. It fit. And it was no shabby piece of thread. Actually, I pictured some rather well to do fellow casting off his attractive jacket for simply another new buy. I got the good part — his jacket leftover — and a clever fabric at that.

Dressed up in my "new" jacket, and off to Cedar Junction, my morning was falling right in line.

When getting to the prison, I knew the rules, having visited numerous prisoners prior. So I shed my jacket, putting it on a hook in the long hallway. Then, giving up my watch and keys and other basic objects, I walked through the metal detector. Fine.

With that, I joined the rather large crowd that had gathered that day. Lots of visitors. The inmates were no doubt eyeing the visiting room in their heads, wondering if they’d get a caller.

I spent some time with Mike, a new person in my book. Of course, I learned a long time ago not to get into detail as to why an individual is in prison. That’s just not courteous. But I never found it difficult finding a myriad of other subjects. Therefore, the time went by quite interestingly — at least for me. And I believe it was for him as well.

After our time together, I once more walked with the others out into the hallway. Now we were on our way to freedom — home or wherever. Anywhere but inside the prison house. Not a very happy environs. Not, for sure.

I noted the woman guard ushering everyone to the exit door but me. Quickly, as if a master sergeant, she pointed her index finger in my direction. With crisp orders she chirped: "Sit over there."

I did. Believe me, I always did what I was told when walking toward the prison, entering the prison, in the prison, and exiting the prison. Yes, even in the parking lot one walked circumspectly. There were armed guards in towers perched skyhiked. So, a word to the wise. . .

Anyhow, I sat pronto on a little bench in the hallway while the female in uniform left me. She strutted to the other end of the narrow confines and then disappeared.

What were they holding me for? Everyone else had disappeared, like water down the drain.
Just me, the good pastor of Walpole, sat there in solo.

In a few minutes, the henchwoman opened the far end door. She peered at me as if I were a worm near ground cover. "Come here." With that, I rose to my feet, walked toward her uniformed authority, and waited for the crime read.

Yet she did not say a word. Instead, she pointed me to a window with a shade. The shade flew up. Another guard — male — sat on the other side of that pane. He had not a smile upon his countenance. Not a one. He stared at me. He called through the speaker system into that narrow hallway.

"Do you know what we found in your jacket?" he bellowed.


I felt like a naughty urchin at the principal’s office. My knees buckled. My face flushed. My palms turned glassy with sweat. And my heart, young at that time, was leaping out for parking lot freedom.

"Look here." He pointed to a piece of paper on his desk. There in the middle of the paper was a mound of something.

"What’s that?" I asked politely.

"Weed. We found weed in your jacket. You can’t bring weed into a prison. Don’t you know that??"

I could have keeled over and said my final prayers. Weed? The pastor with weed? I figured he didn’t mean dandelions or wild grass.

"I can tell you what happened, sir!"

So with that I proceeded to tell him that I was a pastor at the church in the village, had overseen prayer meeting the night before when Mary Lou told me there was a nice jacket in the free clothing center that she thought would fit me. I tried it on. It fit. I figured that if going to the prison that morning I could try on my new jacket, I’d do just that. And that’s how the jacket came to be on my back, then on the prison hook, and now in his office.

In other words, I had never felt in the jacket pockets. Never. I did not know then there was weed in one of those pockets. Evidently the prior owner was not only some chic chap but also into drugs of a sort or two or whatever. But as for the good pastor, nix.

Would the grouch guard however believe that cock and bull story or what? Yet it was the gospel truth. I knew it. God knew it. But would he buy it? Prayer meeting? Clothing center? Mary Lou? Pastor? New-to-me threads? Nary a pocket felt?

He turned away from me. I stood all alone in the narrow hallway, not even the female guard there to stare me down. He lifted his phone. I could not hear a word. He shut off the system. Who was he calling? He didn’t know my district super. He did not know how to reach my wife. He had no contact related to me in the whole wide world. Who was he talking to?

In what seemed to be an eternity plus some, he put down the phone, opened up a shoot in the wall, shoved my jacket in it, then pushed it through to my sweaty palms.

"I just talked to my superior," he bellowed.

I thought: "And yes, I’ve been talking to my Superior, too."

"He says you can have your jacket and get out of here. If this ever happens again we’re taking you to court." (Several days later I got a letter on prison letterhead from the "superior" stating same. They meant biz).

I grabbed the jacket. Went through several more mechanical doors. And flew for my car. Turned on the ignition and got out of that parking lot as fast as a driver could muster considering armed guards positioned in cages in the sky.

Now there’s an old-time hymn that I’ve sung since a kid. I sang it — car windows wide open — all the way home. It goes like this: "Glorious freedom, wonderful freedom. No more in chains of sin I repine! Jesus, the glorious Emancipator, Now and forever, He shall be mine."

Ask me if I believe in miracles. The answer? I do.

For more:

Sunday, June 28, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Do you want Canadian socialized so-called health care? Not.

I have friends in Canada who are still waiting for their medical help. They have been put on lists. They have to wait for the list to shorten so that they can supposedly get some help.

I know one woman who waited 4 years for a pacemaker. Fortunately, she did not die in the waiting.

I know a man who went to a large city hospital for help regarding his lower spine pain. The doctor who met with him treated him “as a piece of meat,” to quote this friend.

I told this man to get in touch with Lahey Clinic in Burlington Massachusetts. He was reluctant for he did not understand our health care in the United States.

His pain persisted. I persisted. His wife persisted.

Finally, he called Lahey. He was given the red carpet treatment over the phone. When he finally drove to Lahey with his wife, he met with the doctor. The red carpet treatment continued. He was welcomed as a first-rate human being who needed first-class health care.

The doctor gave the friend the doctor’s card, urging him to phone the doctor when he made his final decision. “I have 7 surgeons ready to perform the operation you need,” the doctor told him.

Eventually, the pain got so severe that my friend arranged with Lahey for surgery.

Today he is fine. He walks without pain. He works without pain. He is not confined to a wheelchair as he was headed prior to Lahey. He even got a return on his initial money pay-down.

There are those in the US who want government to decide on our health care. That means giving up our option to choose our own. The government voices say that we will still have the health care option in our pockets.

I don’t believe that.

All Americans must fight to keep our health care plans, our health care options, to prohibit government from telling us what health care we will have.

Fight government intrusion on our health care plans.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

The good God said one day, "I want to give my children a very special gift. It will help them, refresh them, make them happy, lift their burdens and give them a new turn on life."

So the good God set about to craft it. He was thinking of His children's good. He always is.

Even when the good God set before His children a commandment or two, it was always for their good. They did not always get that message. Nevertheless, when they did get that truth, they were set free.

So it was with this very special gift from the good God.

"I want them to put down their weights. I want them to unwind. I want them to go run in the meadows, jump across streams, forget their toil. I want them to be holy, yes, but I want them to understand more than anything else how such holiness unfolds happiness."

This good God timed His gift so that it would keep returning over and over again, never stopping, as long as earth spun upon its axis. How good of the
good God! How pouring-out in His fatherly love for The Precious.

"This gift will long be remembered. Oh, how it makes my own heart glad to offer this present to my redeemed ones.

"Those who have rejected me cannot understand the worth of this gift. But surely my own dear ones will treasure it, hold it delicately and never neglect it. Oh, how it makes my own heart glad!"

How grateful would be the children of the good God. They had such an insightful Parent--looking out for their every benefit.

"I want even their children to inherit this gift. I want all generations to revel in its joy and gladness. How I want the whole world to receive this present. But I know that the whole world will not take to its value.

"Therefore, I must count on my children. I simply must. They surely will hold this jewel to their hearts. Yes, they will will it to THEIR offspring. And so its meaning will bead itself down through centuries of laughter and thanksgiving."

With this, the good God planned it. Is it not always more blessed to give than to receive? So it is with the One who wrote that postulate into being's fabric. HE was almost beside Himself with such holy hilarity.

Recall how you, parents, prepare those dazzling prizes for your own children? You ponder. You purchase. You wrap. You tie the bows. Then you can hardly wait for The Moment!

So it was with the good God.

"This will calm their nerves in rest. My gift will bind their wounds. This present will return them to my love, to worship me fully, to adore my holiness, to share my gift with other redeemed sons and daughters. This gift will draw their families closer. This gift will show to the world that these offspring are different because of their beauty."

The good God, being Creator of His children, knew truly what they needed to make it through each rough-and-tumble week. He knew that they would need to drop everything--hear His music, paint the sky, romp the fields and take in lazy hills. How they would need it!

With that gift, they would enter the very holy of holies, lay their eyes upon His mercy seat, cleanse their souls afresh in shekinah glory, marvel at the cherubim's wings. They would light their lives from golden lampstands, nourish at the shewbread table and mix their thanksgivings with incense from His sanctified altar.

So it was that His smile filled up the all of heaven. Then it was that that smile dipped down to planet earth as the good God lifted high His holy gift for every angel to see!

Think of it: to be the child of such a benevolent Father! So sad for those who cared not for the Father, those twisted in their trenches, vagabonds of their own shriveled spheres, crippling through.

Yet to be the graced child of such a sensitive One! What utter security when leaning upon His sure shoulder.

This Father actually meant for His birthed to pace life in peace. Knowing that His planet had fallen into unbelievable tension, the good God gifted His children with His own unique respite from staccatoed stress.

That very special--holy--gift!

Ah, now was The Moment. Offer it, then, good God. Your offspring of mercy are waiting anxiously. They will surely take hold of it in cascading praise--forever!

As eternity held its breath and nary an angel whispered a sigh, into the hands of His own He gently laid that shining treasure--His Day of Rest.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Yes, they do.

Have counseled for 45 years. Have been around the block. Have listened to and observed first-hand women beating up on their men. Not nice. Not fair. Not good.

Yet for the man to squeal on the abusive female is anathema. It just can't be done. He's then a wimp, liar or psycho-imaginary. Nevertheless, the facts are that both genders, being severely damaged due to our spiritually fallen sphere, beat up on one another.

But unfortunately for both genders the common opinion is that men beat up
on women and that women don't beat up on men. Not.

Why is this unrealistic appraisal unfair to women? Because anything that is not true is unfair to us all. Only when the truth about women beating up on men is recognized can such females hopefully get help and the next generation of females be knowledgeable enough not to repeat same.

Women pound their fists into men. If the man strikes back, cops are called. Man is hauled off.

Women break objects over men's heads. If the man retaliates in like kind, cops are called. Man is hauled off.

Some women, not ready for body-to-body combat, come up to the man's chest--screaming, ranting--baiting him to take the first swing. If he doesn't, she wins. He's a coward. It he does swing, cops are called. The man is hauled off.

But there are other means by which women beat up on men.

For example, one of many includes verbal beating. It is daily fare in too many men's lives. Sadly, it can be repeated over such a long time frame that it becomes a neurotic way of life for both male and female.

One of the most advantageous places for female verbal beating to take
place is in a vehicle. As the car is moving, she has him pinned in a jail on wheels. Then she lets loose with whatever while he is at the wheel, baiting him with whatever, tempting him to either drive off the road in anger or strike at her in the passenger seat so as to put both lives in danger.

Further, she gambles that she can go and on and on, especially when the two are on a long trip, knowing that there is little chance of him making a U-turn for peace and quiet back home.

Verbal beating also occurs conveniently in the house when no one else is present and the windows are tightly closed. She then rants and raves, once again baiting the male to retaliate.

Verbal beating can take place in public, too. This is the malicious females' most advantageous geography for she concludes that the male will not give up his civil image before others by striking back either verbally or bodily. So she goes at it--and for the big win. Her verbal beating may be subtle or blunt, short or long, loud or soft--or a mix of the aforementioned, but it is verbal beating just the same.

In my counseling, I have found that verbal beating has been more common than the physical, though the latter cannot be discounted for it does occur--and can be exceptionally fierce. However, the big-loud mouth attack is too common. In that, the woman refuses to shut up. She cruelly persists in taunting and badgering. She flails her arms, stomps her feet, and then dares the man to respond with like barbarism. These situations are countless.

The vicious illogic behind this verbal meanness is quite simple: women conclude that since they can't win with body thrusts they will win with tongue sabers. So they go for it--and go for it--and go for it.

Over time, if the male succumbs passively--exhausted--to such mouth battering, the woman concludes that she can build quite an arsenal for numerous occasions; with that, a lifetime can be wasted in combat as the male loses his self-respect, self-esteem and any standing of worth within clan or larger community.

If you are the beaten-up male, what are some solutions?

 Call the battering woman on a reality check. Tell her that her beating--whatever the mode--won't work any more. If she thinks you are fooling, get a restraining order.

 Make an appointment for counseling. See that she goes to it, listens and follows through--also that she does not recreate "reality" to the counselor so as to make her come out the charmer.

 Shutdown. Refuse to communicate on any level until she quits her abuse. No sex. No physical contact of any kind. No talk. Only business matters exchanged such as relating to family schedules, bills, etc.

 Inform others in the clan of what you are going through. Go public to any helpful degree. Tell others that you are no longer going to tolerate the injustices leveled against you. They need to know the facts. If there are those who are suspicious of your data, too bad. Stay with what you know is truth.

 Pray that God will show you the power to live out tough love. He will do that. A woman who beats on a man obviously needs help. Tough love then works from the motive of wanting that woman to seek help.

Tough love is not leveled from selfishness; it is acted out to aid another. Therefore, instead of enabling the woman by submitting to her abuse, exhibit tough love to seek her healing. But remember: no one can force any other person to do anything--especially change. Tough love from you; final choice from her.

Moreover, levelheaded mothers and fathers talk this matter out with their older teens and young adult children in order for the next generation to be super wise concerning the dark side of relationships. If both mother and father understand that women mistreating men is just as destructive as vice versa, then they will explain this to their offspring.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Until Norman Vincent Peale hung up his hat for good, he was always trying to change his world for God. Why? Because when he was young he thought himself to be a loser. Then God showed him how to be a winner with life. Once he got hold of those principles, he could not help but try to get out the message--even after so-called retirement age.

“I’m so constructed that age makes no difference. If I get aches and pains at my age, I talk to them. I say, ‘Get with it!’ If you think about age, it’ll get you.” He made this pronouncement when 89.

“I tell everybody to do what I did: Find another career when you’re 65. If you retire and go to Florida and play golf all morning and all afternoon, you’re going to deteriorate.”

Artist Pablo Picasso was still drawing at 90.

Actress Jessica Tandy won an Academy Award at 80 for her performance in “Driving Miss Daisy.”

Environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas was still at it when l00. She is applauded for saving the Everglades.

People who know how to get the juice out of every fruit refuse to retire from life. They may move into another job at retirement age, but they surely do not give up on fulfillment.

My father-in-law moved from Nova Scotia to Connecticut at so-called retirement age. Did he quit altogether? No, he simply transferred his skills from village grocery and lumber mill owner to working in a woolen mill.

In her retirement years, my mother worked as a secretary for the president of a company in Texas.

When Constance Daniels was 91, she organized a clothing and household distribution center in Milwaukee’s downtown.

Lena Genser, at 83, finished high school, then went on to get her college degree as well. At 90, she took up computer programming.

Marian Janes retired from her government position, then became secretary to a college dean of students, followed by church secretary for her neighborhood congregation. Today she spends her time running errands for students and professors. “I am glad I live so near the campus,” she explained.

There is always something you can do if you look around hard enough. God will also lead if you ask Him.

I remember a gentleman telling me that his time was up. He was particularly discouraged with his lot in life. I pointed out to him a job opportunity half-way across the country. I wondered if he would be game. He was. Within a short time, he was gone. Happily, I heard that he realized he got hold of another lease on life.

Mae Anthony’s husband died. She was left alone in her big country home. What would she do with her loneliness? She looked out at a village of 500. They passed by her home every day. The road in front of her property was the ONLY road.

Taking stock of her commodious closed-in front porch, she imagined shelves covered with gifts. It did not take long for her to open a shop. Tucked into every space were the most attractive cups and saucers, birthday and anniversary presents, baby cups and toys, greeting cards.

For years, she increased her friendship circle with that shop. Not only did she make a few sales, more importantly, she broke up her monotony. I have been in her shop and I know the delight which furnished it. One not only bought something, he also spent too much time amiably chatting with the little woman who ran the place.

Porter Collins lived on a busy thoroughfare outside Hartford, Connecticut. A large lawn graced the front of his comfortable home.

Porter was the kind of person who was always sharing something with someone. Therefore, he concluded that he too would build a small gift shop by the road. I knew that he put up that structure not so much to make a little money but to make a host of new friends. He was particularly successful with his friendships!

Edison retired from full-time pastoring. He and wife, Golda, moved south to get away from snowy winters. However, Edison could not get the preacher out of his system. It was not long until he was back on staff assisting the senior pastor, delivering sermons once a month and visiting the shut-ins.

Cynthia came upon a degree of ill health. She moved into a senior citizens’ apartment complex. Yet she had to help people. That was her nature. Therefore, she let it be known that if children had to be picked up for appointments and their parents were not available, she would be chauffeur--without charge. “Call me. I’ve got an open schedule. I’m glad to be of help!” How the world could use more people like that woman.

If you can still move, keep going. If you can still think, crank up the mind. If you can still pray, come before the Lord. He will keep your life filled with His goodness. It usually happens when you reach out beyond yourself.

It helps to get rid of the cobwebs which incorrect thinking has put into our heads. These spider spinnings need to be brushed away--quickly. One might refer to them as myths; in their place we need the truth about growing older.

For instance, there is an untruth going around that retirement age was set at 65 because job output is poor after that age.

The truth is that there is absolutely no relationship between the two. When German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck established the initial social security system in the late l800s, his primary aim was to stop the spread of socialism by making benefits available to workers. He chose 65 as that age to start the pension payments because few of his countrymen lived much past 65 then. Other countries later used that age already set by Germany.

Another untruth is that age brings serious health difficulties.

Reality is that scores of people revel in good health in their later years. Seeing and hearing may dim and the body reflexes may get a bit sluggish. Yet many other problems given to aging are not related to that bracket at all. Proper diet and exercise help prevent or stop conditions such as osteoporosis and high blood pressure.

Did you ever hear someone recite that memory becomes poorer as one gets older?

The truth is that in their 70s, most persons experience a small smidgen of difficulty in remembering recent happenings. Yet other types of memory--facts, skills, knowledge--are not dented by the years.

What about mental alertness declining with age?

Individuals who keep their minds active do not discover a decline in intellectual prowess unless they suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.

Winning in retirement years begins with each dawn. Say to yourself: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm ll8:24).

Believe this: “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

If God is the author of life, the last age bracket here on His earth should be brimming with the Lord’s bounty. The believer is soon to be welcomed home eternally. God is waiting for that child of grace.

Consequently, with such expectancy, the last chapters should be exciting. No wonder those who truly experience their faith are bright and beautiful with the divine presence.

Leo was that kind of fellow. He had gone through a lot of disappointment with his children. He had come upon ill health in older years. Yet when you talked with him, you would never have known any of this.

His face shined. His voice was even radiant. One could tell that this man had won! And he was still winning every day he woke up.

His wife, Betty, said, “Leo is one of the most remarkable persons I have ever met.” And she got to live with him!

Betty, a nutritionist, was an outstanding personality herself. She had worked for years in a retirement complex dining facility.

When it came to retire, she took in the lavish banquet, commendations and presents. But it was not long till the residents saw her back on site.

“I can’t stay away from this place. There are too many fond memories and friends here!”

So--without pay--she returned time and again to lift the spirits of her pals.

Probably her most obvious gift to those about her was her hearty laugh. When she laughed, the whole world turned merrier. She’s another one who should be cloned to make this place a more pleasant place to live.

Friday, June 26, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

You’ve been beaten up and left for dead. Who did it? The very churchly dancers you had thought you could trust.

They hugged you. They prayed over you. They sent you memos and left messages on your phone machine. They sent you Christmas greetings with nice sayings scribed all over them.

Then they flashed the name “Brutus.” His knife went squarely to your heart. Your blood spilt into the alley as they sauntered away, never looking back, chuckling under their breath that the premeditated deed was done—finally.

When you entered seminary, you never dreamt that such treachery was “out there.” You thought that those in authority over you were to be believed and admired, leaned upon for opening your heart in counseling and camaraderie. And so you told them everything in trust.

You never thought that those wearing ecclesiastical titles of holiness and service actually could be in league with the devil—plotting, lying, waiting for your innocent moment to wipe you out.

Nor did your spouse. If anyone trusted the stalkers it was your spouse. She believed in them all the way, looking into their faces with such childlike admiration.

So did your children. After all, they were taught manners.

But now you all are much smarter than you once were. And bloodier.

So then how do you “get over it”?

You allow yourself to be human with all the emotions stirring about within you—anger, hatred, madness, anguish, disappointment, feelings of revenge, wanting to settle the score, nightmares of getting even.

You are not in your perfect heavenly body yet. You are still very much damaged due to our first parents’ disobedience. A part of all that is having a host of emotions on the dark side. Realize that and so deal with that—in time and patiently.

Go easy on yourself. Bring your tattered self to the good Lord who has been treated unbelievably shabbily over and over and over and over again. If there is anyone who surely can empathize with your state, it is He. After all, till the close of this earth’s stay, God always will be weeping over those who promised to follow, yet reneged. It is His sorry lot.

Dump your weary self at His feet. Cry. Wail. Stomp your feet. Rant and rave. Let go. Only when you do all that can you eventually “get over it.”

I know. I have been there. The memories are horrible. They sting to the depths. Yet I can witness that time is the gift of grace that heals wisely. God has seen to it that the clock keeps ticking and with each tick is the new tissue.

In time, God will put all that madness behind you so that you actually will talk about the horror without raging. Yet that only occurs after time—and with each of us the timing is different, naturally.

Nevertheless, be assured that God will take care of you “getting over it.” He will see to it in His own masterful way.

And when you do “get over it,” you will discover a new ministry. It will be that of caring for others in like suffering, genuinely comforting them along the way, saying to them “I know exactly what you are going through for I have traveled that very same journey.”

In that will be a new joy you had not come upon before. Truly.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

When I first went into the ministry, I carried with me the 'layman's view.' That is, I trusted everyone--especially the clergy. And more particularly those who had risen above local clergy to some 'higher position' within the system.

As years passed--and it took some years to pass--that notion started to wear down a bit. Then it kept wearing down more so. Then finally truth broke through so as to lead me to conclude that sometimes 'church' is more politics than gospel, than truth, than Jesus-sharing.

Oh, boy, is it ever!

Now go all the way back--way back--to the first century. It was the same then. Only then it was not so much the church as it was the temple. Now I ask you for a quick answer: Which held sway at the temple: politics or truth? You got it: politics.

In fact, it was religious politics that killed Jesus. Roman politics merely provided the means to see through the crucifixion ached for by the temple crew.

Go back even further than all that. Flip over history's pages into the Old Testament. Now which held more sway: the primitive politics of the local yen or the prophet's preaching of truth? You got it: primitive politics. That's when the local heathen--sacrificing their animals in the name of Jehovah but neglecting their obedience to the divine--hatcheted the prophets for pressing the truth.

Now let's come down through church history to scan the events' tops of things. What about the medieval period when the Holy Roman Empire held power? If you dared to step out of line of the Roman church politic, heaven help you.

It became worse as time moved on into the sixteenth century. Ask Martin all about that one! It was he who bucked the system in order to press for the truth. And we all know what anguish he had to put up with, fortunate indeed that he did not end his earthly stay tied to a pyre for a torch blow.

And then what followed the Reformation is more of the same: step out of line--whether Catholic or Protestant--and you might find yourself burnt alive. Many did.

Now today, they don't burn you alive, they cut you up into little pieces for the ecclesiastical power plays of the 'church'.

It has happened to far too many good people out there in the gospel work. Some are laymen conveniently fed to the political tables for carnal consumption. But far more innocent, pure clergy have been offered up as the sacrifice for political maneuvering within the 'church'.

I know. I was one of those offered up.

The higher-up over my particular station heard a tale told once at a Christmas clergy / spouses dinner. The tale was that I had said that it was time to get rid of the higher-up-one. It was a lie. I never said that. But the higher-up-one believed that. From that moment on, he held it against me, he plotted for my demise. I never dreamt of what was going on.

In time--and it took a few years for him to see his plot through--he left the scene. Another higher-up came into power play. That higher-up one had told me that I was to agree with him to charge an exorbitant amount for a young couple to cough up in order to use his church for their wedding. I could not agree to the outrageous amount demanded. He never forgot it. He set his sights on ousting me, if ever he could.

Well, because he followed the previous higher-up, he now had the power to see through the killing. In the meantime, there were some in my congregation who called the higher-up on the phone, complaining about nonsense things in the church. (Ever had any of those creatures hanging around the holy altars of worship where you hold forth?)

Those phone calls were the ammunition the higher-up ached for in order to bring down the curtain on my ministry. He waited. He schemed. He did his homework in dirty fashion behind the ecclesiastical curtains till the time was ripe.

Then on one Sunday evening, the higher-up and his henchmen showed up at my residence to deliver the sword's shining blade. It took but a brief time to see through the execution.

From that, the truly Higher-Up-One saw through a deliverance from the churchly politics in order for me to continue the genuine gospel work of the true church.

Yet through it all, I came to experience (more than I had ever wanted to know) of what it is true, oh, so awfully true: the church sometimes is more politics than truth.

If only the young, green ones could get hold of that postulate when first walking into that first pastorate. But it can never be. They would not believe it. They are not seasoned yet. Try to tell them and you are labeled the troublemaker, the old fogy, the neurotic senile

So those of us who have traveled the journey are left to watch and pray. In time, more are fed to the political slaughter. Yet, once again, such challenges the truly Higher-Up-One to get hold of another bloody mess from which to resurrect a wiser servant.

God be with you if you have ever trekked this painful path. God be near you with a few understanding, TRUSTWORTHY friends who can genuinely empathize with you, intercede for you, carry your burdens for you, and help you through to another daylight of gospel rest.

Believe me, in time, you will come upon that gospel rest--personally and deeply. And for that, you will never ever be the same.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

When the church beats you up—the superiors you trusted, the laity you gave your blood to, the poor folk you had in for dinner, the church boards you worked with, the fellow clergy you shared do-nuts with, the elders you had believed in—you cry out that God’s left town?

How many times in life do you sit yourself down and say, "Nothing fair is happening. Maybe even logical, compassionate, overseeing God forgot to punch in today."

Oh really?

Go figure, as the teens say today. Go figure what happened with Joe seated in Egypt's jailhouse cell. Nothing was going on. Nothing. Rats ran across the floor. Water gathered flies in the corner bowl. But God had failed to punch in.

Go figure what was going on with Job seated on an ash heap. Nothing was moving but his squirrely wife who wound his ear drums up tight. "Curse God and die!" Nice woman. Really one sweety pie of a gal. In other words, from all appearances, nothing at all was happening in that man's life but the worst of times.

Go figure with Dan being led to the den. Hands tied with rope. Burly soldiers tossing him about the footpath. An empire breathing down his slender throat. And lions salivating all over the cave floor. Obviously, God had forgotten to punch in.

Go figure with Noah and Mom Noah and three sons with daughters-in-law. Nothing really was happening but more sweat pounded into a backyard boat. And for what? For a "rain" that had never been? For "drops from above" that were mere fiction? Noah had ringing in his ears night and day due to the clamor of neighbors' pans clanging ridicule till dawn. Evidently God
had forgotten to punch in.

Go figure with Paul, stoned and left for dead. For doing what? For preaching love, joy and peace. For showing a village how to find their ways to heaven. For befriending Jews and Gentiles alike for Jesus' sake. The end of it all was a ministry of stones pounded into his flesh. God—why don't you remember to show up for work when Paul needs you?

Go figure with you—vacuum, nobody loves you, nothing is going right, friends have betrayed you, enemies are screwing up their ammunition fire for another round, skies are loaded with rain clouds, and a dentist appointment stares you in the face for l o'clock this afternoon!

You poured out your loving energies to your congregation. You put the church ahead of your family. You dove in where angels feared to tread. You lived on a shoestring while your peers were flew off the corporate charts.

For all that, you got the hatchet.

Do you not believe that when nothing works right, God is? Have you committed yourself to blind faith in His doings, whether you can understand them or not, whether you feel anything religious or not, whether anyone else cares about your mission or not?

Do you not reckon that the journey can be a lonely one? The way of the cross? The pilgrimage of an alien here below?

Then look back particularly on one who—go figure—had all the reasons to conclude that Father had forgotten to clock in on that particular Thursday night, moving into Friday's bloodletting as well.

There He hung—messed up, unsightly, belly bellowing to the Calvary winds, flies buzzing about his crusted brow, arms sagging beneath nails punched into his skin, an army of cowardly disciples hiding out in nighttime's shelters. Nothing was going on. Nothing.

Go figure.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Believe me. There really is life after being slaughtered by the religious regime.

There surely is. God sees to it for his faithful servants. Check the Scriptures to discover past survivors' worth before the eternal throne.

When ministering within a denomination, we can become so engrossed in the work that we conclude--unrealistically--that that space is the prime, if perhaps the only, space.

Not so.

The world "out there" existed before your denomination and it surely would continue to exist even if your denomination were dissolved tonight. Yes yes yes.

Now that ample time has passed since no longer being attached to my previous denomination, I have had plenty of new days to discover fresh venues. They were not always come upon immediately nor without pain. But they were come upon.

Further, when looking back on the denominational entanglements, the obligations, the wasted time in endless meetings and sessions, the countless memos and phone calls and letters and such having passed through the mail and cyberspace, I now see how I have been set free free free!

At the time of severing ties, I did not have the emotion to come upon freedom's sense. There were too many other feelings vying for my attention.

But time--that divine gift for healing--has opened up such a new awareness of soul release. No more this and that from the "church heads." No more bowing and scraping. No more tolerating the religious politicos. No more answering to persons' egos who considered themselves into some sort of power. No more no more no more.

Instead, in the place of all that bureaucratic oppression has come sweet freedom. Sweet sweet freedom.

Freedom to serve Jesus directly. Freedom to work for the kingdom without wasting time in others' agendas. Freedom to preach and teach without impingement from the ecclesiastical system.

Freedom to consider myself-in-Jesus as an entity not having to answer to some denominational profile. Freedom to spread my wings in witness, new friendship building, and seeing through creative ministerial challenges.

There is truly life after leaving "the previous."

Others? Have others experienced this same fresh opportunity for individuality before the Father? Of course.

Start and finish your appraisal of the aforementioned by going again to the Gospels. There stands Jesus--an integral part of His Jewish faith but very much separate from that establishment.

He worshiped in the temple but was not subject to the temple clique. He said His prayers, but frequently on the hilltop. He ministered, but with no obligation whatsoever to the chief priests and scribes. He taught, but without any reporting in to Jerusalem's religious elite. He healed, but
with no checking in with the religious rubric of the higher echelon.

Jesus ministered, not through the system, but in spite of the system. Jesus ministered, not by way of the establishment, but directly by the Father's nudging.

No wonder Jesus could say to His own: "I set you free--indeed." His freedom was self-experienced; then it was related to His own. It was a personal thing with Jesus. He daily lived out His own liberation from the Jewish powers-that-be. His freedom was in being a love slave to Father only. In that also was His pastoral exhilaration.

Likewise, in that is our exhilaration. There is that legitimate high which comes from having daily direct ministerial contact with the One upon the eternal throne.

After all, such is our Protestant championing rally cry, is it not? Then let us who have been set free from the system live out to the full our heritage.

In so doing, we will be in league--surely so, more than we had ever thought possible--with the Savior Himself.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

I stood at the kitchen window and looked out into the backyard to find my boy there. I had been reading in the living room, but l5 minutes had gone by with no tremors, so I thought it wise to check to see if my tyke was still in the land of good behavior.

He was.

He maneuvered his plastic, red wheelbarrow around the yard. First he filled it with dirt from the fence side. Then he emptied it by the back steps. Then that same dirt was loaded again and taken near the sandbox. All the while, he kept talking to himself. I am sure he was talking over some grand details of construction. That is just the way he is.

My four-year-old looks like he should be in first grade. He does not take after me, for I am his father by adoption.

One of these days, he will have delight in looking down on my weary head. Yet adopted or not, he is my boy--completely, l00 percent--maybe even more so, if that is possible.

You see, I have two wonderful daughters, but I have only one son.

He trots about in his red running shorts and tank top. One would think he ruled the earth. He has lined up on the back steps an empty, plastic pancake syrup bottle and an empty soft drink bottle, both of which he sneaked out of the kitchen. I dare not touch either of them, for somehow they both fit into that construction job.

We returned last week from vacationing on Cape Cod, but my boy did not get his tan from the beach. He is multiracial, and so those smooth, brown limbs come from birth. How handsomely he gestures to his willing subjects lined up by the woodpile. His world is thus far safe from any knowledge of a nuclear age, creeping world starvation, prejudice, inflation, murder and rape.

I left the kitchen window and went back to the living room, wondering what the future holds for that moldable clay.

In a flash, he will be asking for the keys to the car, choosing his own clothes, testing the ropes of parental discipline, wrestling with his own urges for independence, questioning the standards of his father, questing into the realms of the invisible.

I have but a bit of time.

Now it’s a wheelbarrow with a bowl of loose dirt. Soon it will be the motorcycle.

Now it is the confines of the backyard fence. Soon it will be the world.
Now it is the afternoon nap, still enforceable. Soon it will be arguing over night curfews.

I am determined to take advantage of this day to get to know my boy better. I will not allow this hour to be thrown away. At least I have this opportunity to balance fatherly discipline with love.

The battle for the buck will not come between my boy and me. Nor will rat race mania. Not even all those meetings at the church building. Ah, no.
Well, here it comes--another interruption. He stands now beside this typewriter with a balloon in his hand. But this one just burst and now there are tears.

How can I write an article and take care of a balloon burial at the same time?
Easy. My boy comes first. The typewriter will not up and away, but one of these days my boy will do just that.

But right now he is here with me, viewing the remains of a blue balloon.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


J. Grant Swank Jr.

"Sing, daddy!"

This command came from my four-year-old daughter as she descended the stairs to the living room from our family room.

Then we lived in a large house with rooms that were sprawled out. In the mind of a child, the whole complex must have appeared a bit mystifying. But more—the interweaving of the stairs, halls, and nooks must have seemed to be filled with ghosts.

Now, when this tyke of mine decided to traverse an unlighted part of our home, she would call out, "Sing, Daddy!" In that way, she could hear my voice while she was walking through the dark. Somehow that brought her comfort so as to dispel the fears that otherwise could have lurked around each corner.

To any logical adult, a father's melody would not have thrust through the meanest foe; nevertheless, to a trusting child, Daddy's song brought the strength needed to make it through. Each time Heidi instructed me to wind up with music, I was reminded of how frequently I do the same thing.

I am a child of God.

There are times when I am forced by life to go into dark corners that I simply do not want to scout out. However, having no other choice but to proceed, I cry out, "Sing, Daddy!"

And He does.

However, there have been times when in my independent streak I have charged forth without thinking things through or asking for help. Those impulsive moves have driven me further and further into my own oblivion. Yet all the while I was sure that I was making the reasonable choice. On and on and on. . .my move, my way, my logic. It was a blueprint that wore well. It was a pattern that had all the points already figured out. It was so fail-safe.

Ever been there?

There was a move I knew was right for all of us. It was just the geography best for the family. We would be near kin and yet open to fresh adventures. What a challenging assignment for the gospel work! All seemed to add up to be heaven's will. Variables had come in line to reveal the divine plan.

Ever been there?

But no. It all unraveled before our eyes. Zap. Done. Back to square one. Not easy. But fact.. There was no wrestling with the obvious. What thought to be heaven's move was nothing more than our misperceptions mixed with wishful weavings.
Has this happened more than once? Yes. And you?

So when crippled at the end of the jaunt, I have counseled my inner heart to be wiser next time so as to ask Father to sing. That is humbling. It is also being patient with a scope beyond me. It is yielding to the One. It is learning the Way of Submission, not a popular take in an egocentric, headstrong era.

"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. . .Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:4,6)

When I sincerely permit Father to sing, my fears are eased so that I know I'm not journeying alone. The sound of His voice makes all the difference in the world.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

“I’m sorry, Bud.”

And then he’d stop mid-sentence. He had forgotten where he was in the sentence.

I was phoning from the East Coast. He was seated in the health care unit of Good Samaritan Village, Denton, TX.

“That’s okay, Dad. I understand. It’s not easy. But it doesn’t really matter. It’s okay. We’ll keep talking and when you forget what you were about to say, I’ll fill in for you.”

It was such a debilitating experience. My Dad was an orator. He presented seminars to personnel in the US Department of Agriculture. He taught music in public schools. He delivered sermons as a lay preacher. He taught Sunday school classes. He spoke to college groups.

Now he forgot where he was in mid-sentence. Not once. Not twice. But over and over again. Short-term memory loss.

So I picked up on another topic of conversation. He grabbed hold of it. Then he’d stop mid-sentence. “I’m sorry, Bud. This is not easy for you.”

“It’s okay, Dad. It’s enough to hear your voice. Don’t worry about whether or not you can recall what you wanted to say.”

That’s the way it was call after call.

He was in his own room at the unit. He looked out his window to see things that weren’t there.

“You know I have hallucinations,” he told me one morning.

“You do?”

“Yes, I see animals out there under the trees but I know that they are not there. It’s the medication. And sometimes I think. . .”

Another sentence left incomplete.

My mother lived in their lovely apartment in the independent living segment of the Village. She spent most of her days however in Dad’s health care room.

One day she confided in me something that she would not want the world to hear. But it was time to share it with the oldest child.

“You know, they call these the Golden Years. Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t find them very golden right about now.”

I was glad she said that for I knew it to be true. There were matters Mom would tend to for Dad that were heavy and burdensome. She herself was in her 80s. It was not easy caring for the spouse when she herself was the other elder spouse.

I went on telling Dad about what was going on in our home. What we were up to. Where we were going. He responded with a smile. I could see it over the phone. I knew he was smiling. I could picture his kind face shining back at me.

And then the conversation would come to an end. It was hard to close out. But it was hard continuing on, too. Those broken sentences.. Those apologies. Those realities of what truly was going on in an educated, talented, committed man’s life.

He was genuinely the best Dad I could have ever had. I grew up in the best home my parents could have ever provided for us. We had the finest.

What I am so thankful for is that when I talked with Dad, I actually told him all that.

“Dad, you gave us your best. You and Mom gave us your best every time. Not every child can say that. But I can say that and mean that.

“Dad, I love you.”

Now it’s been some years since we talked over the phone.

One of those days, the phone rang for me. But it was not Dad. It was Mom. She related that Dad slipped away to be with Jesus in the morning.

I will tell you the honest-to-God truth. I was elated. I was so happy. I was so filled with joy that I cried and I cried and I cried some more. And I’m not one who cries much.

I cried because I knew that Dad would have no more incomplete sentences. That was all over and out. Never again. And for that I was grateful for my wonderful father who walked through The Door.

Since then I have often thought of those conversations. Oh yes, I have reminisced about so many scenes from childhood on up to the present: picnics, vacations, family dinners, birthdays, moving from Maryland to Illinois to Texas and on and on..

But when it comes to the incomplete sentences, I put it on hold. I remember especially his courage with a smile shining all the way across the miles.

“It’s the aging process,” he would chuckle. And there was always a chuckle when he said that. “It’s the aging process.” It was fact. But Dad lifted that up above fact to make it something to take realize.

I’m just so glad that before he left us, I told him up front that I loved him.. I am so very glad I did.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009



J. Grant Swank, Jr.

One may not think that we could look to Peter for a sermon on Father's Day. But that is exactly what I propose to do. Yes, this Peter who once betrayed Jesus has now become stalwart, courageous and holy before God. We find these qualities especially in Acts 5.

You recall the incident: Ananias and Sapphira, husband and wife, have lied to the Holy Spirit by keeping back funds from property sales for themselves rather than give the moneys to the work of the Early Church. Spiritual father Peter then is directed by heaven to discipline the two in hopes of warning other adherents not to repeat the same deceit.

In verse 3 alone, there are evidences of Peter's spiritual fatherhood. It is this Peter who is now fathering the Early Church through some difficult times. The particular focus is on Ananias and Sapphira, two who tried to hoodwink God and the church community.

From verse 3, we see that Peter as a spiritual father is the MOUTHPIECE OF GOD. Peter speaks the truth of heaven when he confronts Ananias in a lie. Peter's discipline of Ananias is clear, clean and easily understood. Peter speaks in simple language.

Peter is not attempting to be unkind to the spiritual child Ananias. Peter instead is expressing tough love, that is, trying to bring a man to his senses, to his conscience, away from his conniving self into an honest self under heaven.

Satanic fathers have no idea as to how to be mouthpieces for God for they have no knowledge of God. Instead, fathers of the lie compromise, speak with forked-tongue, deliver blurred messages and engage in double-talk. They are self-serving and worldly. No wonder disciples of deceit find their dwellings where satanic fathers live for it is most comfortable there when one is blind to the truth.

From verse 3, we see that Peter as a spiritual father is the DIVINE QUESTIONER in that his paternalism acts itself out with a question rather than a declarative statement: "Ananias, why have you done such and such?"

This is a rhetorical question for Peter already knows the answer. He is asking the question in order to prick Ananias' soul. Compare God using the same type of communication style in Eden after Adam and Eve sinned. God asked: "What have you done? Where are you hiding?" and so on. Once again, God asks not because He does not know the answers but to prick the consciences of our first parents.

Spiritual father Peter is seeking to prod, to poke, to stir up a sense of morality in Ananias. He is going to demand accountability from the fellow. Peter is confronting Ananias with this kind of questioning in order finally to be redemptive. Can spiritual father Peter catch hold of Ananias' soul for honesty before it is too late?

Satanic fathers know nothing of such motives. Instead, there are no poking-about questionings, no calling to accountability, for all is OK and anything goes. This is under the guise of not being judgmental--a most popular cliché in our time when everyone writes his own religion.

Further, in verse 3, we note spiritual father Peter not afraid to acknowledge the reality of SATAN. He uses the word itself. He speaks of the Devil in his opening question to Ananias.


Because a spiritual father will always maintain a keen perception of right and wrong, heaven and hell, truth and the lie, mercy and judgment. Therefore, Satan cannot be dismissed, treated as if he does not exist.

Compare John the Baptist.. When he confronted Herod sleeping with a woman not his wife, John went to the heart of right versus wrong. Compare Jesus when confronting the hypocrites. He went to the heart of truth by declaring to them that they were the offspring of the father of lies.

Satanic fathers have no inclinations to speak of the Devil. Such talk is considered harsh, unchristian, uncivilized, unkind, discourteous. It is rude and unloving, brash and forward, cutting.

Therefore, satanic fathers are sweet-tongued, deceitful in their over-concern with "manners," and in so being, dupe their disciples with a veneer of respectability which is damning.

Also, Peter, the spiritual father, comes through in verse 3 as MARRIED TO THE HOLY SPIRIT for Peter loves, adores and serves nothing other than Holy Spirit's pure truth. Note how Peter speaks in the same sentence of the Devil and the Holy Spirit, one in contrast to the other, one in contest with the other.

Peter defends the Holy Spirit against Ananias' "mush religion," his pretense, his counterfeit piety. Peter will not tolerate the misuse of holy matters, the play acting of "holy" when all along the deed is of hell.

Satanic fathers use Holy Spirit-talk of love and goodness and kindness as a cloak for their shenanigans. They delight in speaking of light and hope, but it is with the motive of tricking their disciples in never coming to the actual truth. Such paternalism is therefore hypocrisy at its zenith. It is a most popular form of religion void of God.

Moreover, spiritual father Peter in verse 3 ADDRESSES THE PERSON by speaking his name: "Ananias." Peter is not asking a question of the mob. He is positing a question to an individual. He is looking into the eyes of one person.

Christianity is always an individualized religion. It is a "by name" religion. Therefore, Christian ministry is always directed to a person's conscience. A good father always knows his offspring by name, singling each out for attention.

That means that no one can hide from the eye of the Father God. And the spiritual fathers for the Father God are under especial commission to see through that same vision. They must see persons individually--in need of personal attention, redemption.

The Gospels reveal Jesus as the particularizing prophet. He singled people out. Individuals meant everything to Him. "For God so loved the world. . ." True. But that world then reduced itself by the incarnation addressing the world by individual circumstances, names and places.

Satanic fathers know nothing of the individual. They play act that they do, but they don't. Instead, they care not for persons but instead care for their own popularities. That is why they delight in speaking to the masses. In that, they themselves can lose their own consciences in irrelevancies. All becomes blurred in the ministry of the satanic father. All becomes a mist rather than a particularization.

Lastly, spiritual father Peter shoots STRAIGHT ARROWS. He says quite factually and compassionately to Ananias: "Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit." No garble. No side-stepping. No diplomatic bridges which would compromise tough love. It is right there on the line--"Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit."

The word "lie" is an unpopular term in any age. It must not be spoken outloud, especially when addressed to an individual. No. That is being unfeeling, barbaric, rough-edged. It is not Christ-like. A Christian would not speak that way to another person. Of course not.

But spiritual father Peter did. And he did so because the Holy Spirit told him to speak that way. And because Peter was married to the Holy Spirit rather than popularity, Peter obeyed.

Why would God have a spiritual father address a spiritual offspring in such terms? In order to cut through to truth. God is Truth. God cannot tolerate skirting the issues.

Satanic fathers shoot crooked arrows for they are into game playing, protecting their own turf, waiting in the wings for applause, entertaining being entertained. And so they confuse their hearers and play up to their disciples and tickle ears. They in turn cover up truth with the lie. In that, they reveal Satan as their pater.

In every age, in every place, God calls forth spiritual fathers who are given over completely to TRUTH.

By being filled with divine honesty, these heavenly messengers are sent forth to care lovingly for their children in hopes of directing them finally to glory.

May their tribe increase in this compromising time. May their courage rise with the threats to their standings. May the Spirit of heaven inspire them onward, regardless of the cost.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Yes, a son-in-law can be a tremendous boon, if dad recognizes the gift. Do not take him for granted.

Any relationship worth its salt takes work. Then work at bonding with your son-in-law.

Here are some practical pointers:


We’re all human. Your son-in-law is included in that grouping. So, though you want perfection for your daughter’s husband, you won’t find it. You’re not perfect, dad, in case you hadn’t noticed.

So when it comes to the new gent woven into your clan, look for the human element in him. You won’t have to look far. But when you find it, weigh the minors and the majors. If there are minor flaws, then cut the fellow some slack. Somebody cut you slack back there a few years ago. Recall?

By cutting him some slack, you give the young man some time in order to do what you hopefully did—mature with the years. No one can be older than what he is; therefore, fast-pacers included, we all need time in which to find our better selves.


But, you say, “I don’t know how to write a note.”

Then make it short but make it, nevertheless. Three sentences will do when put on a blank card and handed to your son-in-law.

The other day I recalled how fortunate I am to have two terrific men known to me as my very own sons-in-law. Therefore, I wrote them each a note and enclosed a small money gift.

The smiles on their faces were more than payment to me for the simple gesture of putting on paper what those gentlemen mean to our family—and particularly to me—the father-in-law.

In addition, the notes did favors for my daughters. Anything that the dad-in-law does that is positive related to the son-in-law will serve well the daughter. So if you want to do something really nice for your favorite “little girl now grown into womanhood,” do something really nice for her husband.


Open your ears when your son-in-law has something to say, and particularly when he doesn’t have anything to say.

Men don’t talk that much, so they say. But a lot of men defy that postulate. Nevertheless, it doesn’t finally matter. Whether that son-in-law is verbose or clammed-up, listen up.

Listen to him when he says something, no matter whether you consider it important or not.

Listen to him when he just sits there staring out into space. Non-verbal communication is indeed communication.

When two people can run on at the mouth endlessly, that is quite a bit of bonding. In addition, when two people can sit quietly with nothing to say with the tongue, that is quite a bit of bonding, too.

So, in either case, learn how to keep your mouth shut long enough to listen up to what your son-in-law has to say—in one form or another.


Sometimes there are those in the clan who say cutting things about your son-in-law. This can happen especially when there is jealousy from other men. Or it can occur when women decide it is time to discover the flaws in the males of the family.

Unless it is importantly deserved, don’t foster “bad mouthing” your son-in-law. When someone starts to complain about him, griping about this-or-that trait, speak up as his advocate.

You will always win on the side of defending the son-in-law when you know that he is just as human as the rest of the clan, when you know he’s in the right, and when you know that what is said is just plain petty. Being his advocate will return to you in goodness.


I watched my son-in-law constructing his own home. I couldn’t do the things that he does. I don’t know how.

His father is deceased—died years ago in a car accident. So he has no biological dad to pat him on the back. The job? It’s mine. And am I ever pleased to know that it is mine.

So the other day as I watched him climbing to the top of the roof for one pounding-nails job or another, I waited till he climbed back down to tell him what a fantastic job he was doing—money saving wise, pounding nails wise, design wise, and all the other facets of construction that are Greek to me.

The look on his face was well worth my stumbling compliments. We all need praise. We are nurtured by it. And your son-in-law is no different.

I had an aunt who used to think that to praise a relative was to make that one proud. So we never got an ounce of praise from her. But we learned that when she was talking to others outside the family, she bragged us up all the time. She simply had a notion that speaking praise face-to-face could ruin a good life.

She was so wrong. Don’t go the route of my aunt; go the route of learning how to praise sincerely and you will feed another’s soul for growth.


Men don’t remember birthdays, usually. Now there is a postulate that’s just not accurate. No one has made a firm study of that. Yet it is a well-publicized hypothesis.

Nevertheless, whether it is true or not, you be the one to remember your son-in-law’s birthday with a phone call or card or gift or whatever. Just remember.


An impromptu phone call to your son-in-law at the close of a workday is a good thing. Try it.

He may not like the phone. Many men don’t, so they say. And if your son-in-law is one of those, then fall right in step with short talks. But a short talk—“How’s things? What’s new? Just wondered how you two are doing’” goes a long, long way to keep the bonding bound.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

Not too long ago I heard the preacher tell the congregation all that a father is to be. He made us priest and king and prophet and disciple and companion. Then there were all those scriptures to support his tally. It was neatly outlined. The delivery was impressive, too.

The only thing is that when he neared the end, I felt like David strapped down with Saul's armor. I couldn't get up from the pew. Whew!

I glanced around to see other fathers in a similar mindset. They, like I, were trying not to show it. Throughout the concluding hymn we men were wondering how we could bring it off. How do we match up to be "The Perfect Father"?

I know I'm supposed to take the children to church regularly and teach them the Bible, the ways of prayer, and the salvation path early in life. I know also that it is probably more important for me to live the truth than talk about it.

But what formula applies when spit-spats seem to increase within the family and the halo slips a bit off center?

It is in those moments that I grapple with the priestly, prophetic, and kingly hats, only to find them slipping off my brow. And then I glance to right and left, hoping the world isn't watching. After all, as a Christian father, am I not to live out the perfect example?

I must confess that I'm not always up to it, whether the church is glaring at me or not. And the longer I live, the more I reason that few others are always up to it either. It has taken some time, however, to actually accept that as fact.

I guess the attractive pictures on religious magazines, the ones with a handsome man surrounded by beautiful offspring and that gorgeous woman for a wife really did brainwash this naive mind.

At times, I would gaze at those perfect families seated on the sofa with the thick Bible positioned in the center and ask if they ever dropped French fries--catsup and all--on their laps. No, that could never happen to that family!

Nor could that lovely wife ever argue with that handsome husband with the large smile and dimpled chin. How could it ever be with such sweetness abounding?

I have seen those same perfect families walk into church. On some Sundays, especially in spring, with the buds just starting to bloom and the birds tweeting in the trees, I can see them still. They slide down the center aisle to take their places, with hymnals held high.

So, it really happens, I think.

But enough years have gone by that I know neat dads and perfect families don't always come in such attractive packages. With that, I heave a sigh and recoup.

You see, being a good father isn't a matter of appearances. It's not even whether or not you could jump into that slick magazine cover with the perfect family.

When you stand before your Maker, He won't ask you to smile or show off your family. Instead, you must be able to face Him honestly and say, "I did my best--even in the worst of times."

The other evening, I had a tussle with my seven-year old son. We were not seeing eye-to-eye on a matter. It was time for him to get ready for bed, and I felt as if the evening had been rather botched up. I didn't like the feeling at all.

After he climbed into his pajamas and then curled up under the blanket, I sat on the edge of his bed and started to pray, as I usually do. It was hard to find the right words, but I made a stab at it.

Should I turn the prayer into a mini lecture, trying to get in one last punch? Don't the pros tell us that during sleep the brain keeps on absorbing the last thoughts that are planted on the mind? Well, this would be my chance!

Or should I turn tender and love the little fellow to pieces? Would that be copping out? Or would it be wisdom?

His face was turned away from me. He was wondering as well what approach Dad would take! After all, this was not the first time the day's endings had wound down to this.

Then I caught his big, brown eyes turn a bit more to size up my expression. With that, I wilted. After all, he knew he had done wrong earlier. But there was the look of hope in his face.

Could there be mercy in the court?

I closed my eyes to pray, Dear Lord, thank You for my boy. You know how much I love him. He means the world to me. Now we thank You for this night's sleep. Be near us all. And may tomorrow be a good day. In Jesus' name, Amen.

He swung his body around toward me and hugged me tightly around the neck. His eyes were closed tight. There was no more reason to glance in wonder.

"Daddy, do you love me even when I am bad?" he asked in my ear.

"Yes," I answered. "I always love you."

So, with that he said one of the most encouraging statements known to mankind. It isn't novel or new. Yet it's powerful, that's for sure.

"You're the best daddy in the world."

It was then that I promised myself something. Yes, there's still much room for improvement as far as my being a father is concerned. And yes, I've goofed from time to time.

Yet that night I told my memory to hold on to one thing as the years kept passing by. It was the innocent testimony of a little boy to a father who was sincerely trying.

"You're the best daddy in the world."

Don't forget it, I said to myself as I turned out the light.

Don't ever forget it.

Monday, June 15, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

If you’re a Christian today, you’re a part of the spreading disease oozing around the planet. It’s just as natural as breathing — the spread of the dreaded disease by being a Jesus follower.

Further, if you’re a Christian pastor true to biblical data, you’re all the more a disease spreader. You are in fact at the top of the hated list for extermination.

So it is that Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) goes after especially the biblical preachers. Of course, liberal Democrats can get into pulpit after pulpit and give forth with their misinterpretations of Scripture. They yuck yuck. Grin as if on Sesame Street. Give forth with an Amen or two or three. Quote Scripture out of context. That’s all okay. After all, they’re applauded enthusiastically by those black folk. Why, that’s American. That’s down-home cozy. That’s just being neighborly.

But let a biblical orator give forth with scriptural revelation and the AU is on the church steps following the benediction. It can be that swift. Somebody gets hold of the sermon and the pastor is blackballed. It’s nuts. It’s demonic. It’s simply more of the intrusion of evil upon our lives, encroaching upon the sacred environs more and more.

Amy Fagan reports for the The Washington Times that “a fight is erupting. . .between conservative churches and liberal watchdog groups that are going to the IRS and accusing ministers of violating the law if they speak out about political issues and candidates.”

Of course what was especially interesting this past election time frame was that so many of the political issues were not so much political at the core. They were spiritual from alpha to omega. And they continue to be.

That’s the case with killing womb babies and endorsing sodomy as a legitimate lifestyle. That’s the case with euthanasia as well as writing one’s own religion, e.g., desecrating Communion by defying biblical teachings while partaking of the elements. And so the beat goes on: politics and religion — two hot categories shooting off the charts.

So why should not the biblical pastors give forth? It’s their mandate from the divine. They are the prophets in the land. They must speak out regarding morality and ethics, particularly when so many politicians and apostate clergy today are championing immorality and the unethical. To be silent is to become party to evil, being the cowards of the wimp brigade.

Of course the biblical preacher is going to craft a sermon dealing with present tense sin in public life. He’s going to explain to his congregation God’s stark truth. It is the fight of righteousness against demonic activity. It’s as old as God exposing the snake in the Garden. Do the liberals really think they are going to stop the parade of truth in America — around the world, actually?

Therefore, they may seek to jail the pastors, fine them, embarrass them and whatever, but all the more truth tellers will remain wedded to their mission — broadcasting the divine revelation at all costs. That’s what genuine Christian ministry is all about — not accommodating or compromising or baptizing worldliness as Christian lifestyle. It’s preaching “Thus saith the Lord. . .” and then letting the preaching chips fall where they may.

It has become so severe a situation that Rep. Walter B. Jones of North Carolina (Republican) is introducing a bill to “allow all religious leaders to speak out on politics and even endorse candidates from the pulpit if they choose.”

It’s about time. Three cheers and a sanctuary full of prayers for Rep. Jones.


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

When are liberals going to discover conscience? Don’t they get it?

A levelheaded individual has convictions that are reasonably down-to-earth. Fuzz won’t cut it. Nor does braggadocio nor money-alone nor egocentricity nor strut-and-sway nor prance-and-preen. Nor does being-on-Hollywood’s-side. Nor does ad infinitum weeping and wailing at how dumb conservatives are.

So liberals are losing big time in an era of logical-practicality-is-a-must.

The same goes, not only for politics, but religion. Theological liberals have one main line: “We’re not conservatives.”

That means: “We’re not Billy Graham.” Or “We’re not evangelicals.” Or “We’re not Bible-carriers.” Or “We’re not virgin birth holders.” Or “We’re not personal religion enthusiasts.” Or “We’re not Jesus cheerleaders.” Or “We’re not morality advocates.” Or “We’re not absolutes defenders.” Or “We’re not clear-with-convictions citizens.” And on and on.

Liberalism—theological and political—is basically a postulate of “knots” ("nots"), though liberalism’s p.r. puts out just the opposite. However, once thinker figures out that the liberal line is honestly understood when flipping its “logic coin” to reveal the liberal lie, then thinker gets to liberal reality.

For instance. . .

Liberals say they are pro-choice when actually they are pro-murder.

Liberals say they are for open dialogue when actually they are tolerant only of liberal diatribes.

Liberals say they are for first amendment rights when actually they are for killing off religious faith.

Liberals say they are for separation of church and state when actually they are for gagging the church.

Liberals say they are for inclusive language when actually they are for championing radical feminism.

Liberals say they are for female clergy when actually they are for every pulpit to be womaned by radical feminism.

Liberals say they are for ethical this-n-that when actually they are for amoral rule.

Liberals say they are for sex education when actually they are for a sexually active

Liberals say they are for safe sex when actually they are for sexual amorality.

Liberals say they are for the family when actually they are for family-as-relativists-define-it.

BUT. . .

When conservatives say they’re for life, they’re for life, not murder.

When they say they honor honest dialogue, they enter courteously into intelligent exchange.

When they say they’re for separation of church and state, they mean they’re in favor of no state-run denomination.

When they say they’re for first amendment rights, they mean they’re for free
religious expression.

When they say they’re for family, they mean they honor God-given absolutes for marriage and home.

When they say they’re for sex education, they mean abstinence as the baseline.

In other words, theological and political liberals don’t really mean what they say; they are masters at double-speak.

When theological and political conservatives speak, they really mean what they say. Why? Because conservatism is based on conscience—plain and simple—a conscience formed by eternal absolutes.

So that brings us back to Hartpootlian’s wailing comment. He speaks truth, even as a wide-eyed but sad Democrat.

In other words, when a double-edged tongue lets loose, flip it over to find a lie. However, when a single-focused tongue lets loose, believe what you hear.

With that, single-focused tongues end up on the right side, for both earth and eternity.