August 16th, 2007

The Reverend and the Biker

Well howdy there, good friends. It is I, the Bertman, returning.

I had a truly wonderful two week vacation, involving zero travel and a lot of time in my backyard. I rested. I floated in my pool, watched several Yankee games front to back, read two novels, learned to make a mean Mojito and ate several things which were not good for me. I prayed. I worshipped. I played with my kids.

All in all it was maybe the most restful vacation I’ve ever had. Thank you God!!

Jumping back into the fray this week was good though. Felt good to be back in the saddle, although it took me a good long time to un-bury myself from all the junk mail.

Wednesday brought with it one of the most surreal and wonderful experiences I’ve ever had as a pastor. I took a call Monday, requesting me to do a funeral. A 50-something year old biker who I had never met. His wife had come to True North a couple of times and I was the closest thing they had to a family pastor.

I agreed.

When I got to the funeral parlor Wednesday morning, the place was PACKED. And I was the only one in the room wearing a suit. It was leather and denim and black boots across the board. It was maybe the first time in my life I ever felt over dressed.

After I was done speaking I opened the floor to anyone who might want to say a few words. Several of the guys stood up talked about the good times they had had at a place called The Maples, and how they were all going to ride out there after the funeral to celebrate and to remember Joe.

When it came time for me to close in prayer, I gave the usual benediction, but kept my hand raised a moment longer and said “And all you bikers – I don’t know what The Maples is, but you guys behave yourselves (scattered laughter), and may the Lord bless you and keep you safe on your bikes.”

They must have appreciated it because right there, while I was still standing up front, people started shouting out that I had to come with them. This was more than a little bit wierd and I was sure they were just being polite. Polite bikers.

They were serious though. A bunch of them continued to ask me about going after we all stepped outside. So, I looked at my watch and said “what the heck?” How often does a pastor get invited to hang out with a bunch of bikers?!

So, I ran a few errands and made a few calls and pointed myself toward Manorville. When I arrived at The Maples the lot was already filled with bikes. It’s a huge house with a small bar area in the front, and an outdoor bar and HUGE deck in the back, leading down to a really big lawn with a tent with tables, catered food and a small pond. Honestly, one of the coolest spots I’ve ever seen.

And it was wall to wall bikers. When I walked back there, still wearing my suit, it was way beyond sticking out like a sore thumb. But the reaction I got was incredible. They were AMAZED that I came out. They all figured I would say I was coming, then just not show up.

I spent an amazing three hours getting to know people who have probably never talked to a pastor in their life. And they welcomed me in like family. I don’t even have words for it. It was without a doubt the coolest funeral I’ve ever done, and the most welcomed I’ve ever felt like a bunch of strangers.

I don’t ride. But bikers are my kinda people. They were rough around the edges, but they were loving, kind, generous and honest. I told them all they were welcome at True North anytime. I don’t know if we’ll see any Harley’s in the lot this week, but man, it would really make my day if we did.

Before I left, two big guys came up and put their arms around my shoulder. They pointed towards the house and informed me that they had a working tattoo machine inside and gave me a not-so-subtle hint that maybe I should get my first tatt.

I managed to escape the day ink-free, but I gotta say, I really thought about it. Maybe next time. And maybe I’m somehow supposed to become a pastor who ministers to bikers.

I guess we’ll see!

Thanks for reading, gang. And if you’re ever out near Manorville, do stop by the ‘Mapes.

Peace, out.


July 26th, 2007

The Porch and the Furnace

The Porch and the Furnace

MP3 File

July 11th, 2007


Greetings faithful readers.

This week’s entry is dedicated to all you music lovers out there.

For the uninitiated among you, I want to take this opportunity to offer a shameless plug for and total endoresment of a crazy little outfit called Vicio.

Never heard of ‘em? You need to get in the loop. They rocketh. It’s groovy and edgy and really really good music.

I am in no way swayed in this assessment by the fact that 2 members of the band play on True North’s worship teams. I am definitely NOT being bribed with boxes of cigars and steak dinners and european chocolates to say nice things about them here on The Right Thing.

No, no dear friends. That would be the wrong thing. And I am a man integrity. And character. Yes indeedy.

Now if somehow a box of cigars and some european chocolates and a steak dinner were to come my way as a way of saying ‘thank you, kind sir’ for this endorsement, that would be another matter altogether.

And while you all ponder whether or not I’m kidding about all that, why not take a quick stroll over to Vicio’s myspace page, where you can sample some goodness all for yourself.

And if you like what you hear, come on down to the church this Saturday night. There are three bands playing here and Vicio’s one of ‘em. Show starts at 6. Doors at 5:30. Bring your dancin’ shoes and $8.00 which you do not plan to go home with.

It will definitely be the right thing. Looking forward to seeing you there.



July 5th, 2007


The most amazing display of firepower I’ve ever seen did not come from a fireworks show.

Now don’t get me wrong, dear readers – I love me some fireworks. I really dig explosions. I’ve never really thought of myself as having a very wide ‘pyro’ streak, but my little brother and I used to look forward to the 4th the way most kids look forward to Christmas. It was HUGE in our family.

My dad and all his friends would pool hundreds of dollars and stockpile a vast assortment of incindiary devices. Back in the 80′s this stuff seemed a lot more accessible. Anyway, it was never short of breathtaking.

One year one of the dads had had one beer too many and ended up dropping a 4 inch mortar down a 6 inch tube. For all you fireworks newbies out there – let’s just say that’s…. bad. Very bad. Instead of firing upwards, the mortar just pinged around inside the tube and eventually exploded. The ground shook, several car alarms went off, food and drinks were thrown into the air and everyone ducked for cover as small, flaming red, white and blue charges peppered my front lawn.

When the smoke cleared my brother and our friends and I ran around stomping out all the little fires, high-fiving each other while the grownups cursed and picked themselves up. We still talk about how it was one of the coolest things we’ve ever seen.

But the greatest display of firepower I’ve ever seen wasn’t from fireworks. It was from lightning.

When I was in grammar school, I was walking past my 2nd floor bedroom window when lightning stuck a tree not 30 feet from our house. I saw the shaft of light hit the tree and the blast knocked me down. I still remember the sound of the debris hitting the house over the ringing in my ears, and how the air smelt of smoke and ozone.

God’s fireworks.

That tree shattered. It just exploded. It would be many years before I traced that lightning bolt back up to its Source, but I knew then that I was fascinated.

God still sends lightning sometimes. Not just the tree-shattering, little-kid scaring, thrill-you-to-the-bone kind, but also the life-changing, heart-altering, soul-saving kind. That kinda lightning’s been happening a lot lately. And it is no less thrilling when old ways shatter and new things are born.

I hope you all had a happy 4th. And next time you go out in the rain, don’t forget your lightning rod.

Talk to you soon.