Play ball, hang up the skates, and put away the basketball

Yup, I know it’s Throwback Thursday and I’ve already re-published a post from the past, but today is also Opening Day, so let’s shout out a loud…

Play ball!!!

Yes, today is Opening Day for Major League Baseball as the San Diego Padres begin a four-game homestand at Petco Park against their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants. This is a special year for the Padres as they will be celebrating their 50th season. Over the last decade, the Opening Day hopes of realistic Padres fans centered around a .500 season finish, but with the acquisition of 3rd base slugger, Manny Machado (photo left), on February 19th, the team and the fans are beginning to set their sights higher. But let’s not get carried away. Although the Padres have the best farm system in the Majors, it will take some time for the young blue chippers to mature. Look for the Padres to start competing for the NL West next season. But this year we can all cheer the slugging “El Ministro de Defensa”!

Below are the Padres’ expected Opening Day starters:

  • C – Austin Hedges or Francisco Mejia
  • 1B – Eric Hosmer
  • 2B – Ian Kinsler
  • 3B – Manny Machado
  • SS – Fernando Tatis, Jr. – a 20-year-old, blue chipper who has improbably been promoted from Double-A straight to the Majors based upon his outstanding Spring Training
  • LF – Wil Meyers
  • CF – Manuel Margot or Franchy Cordero
  • RF – Hunter Renfroe or Franmil Reyes
  • P – Eric Lauer

While the season ends for another team…

I had no interest in ice hockey for fifty-three years, although the sport is very popular here in Rochester. However, nine years ago on a whim I started following the Rochester Institute of Technology (my alma mater) Men’s Hockey Team. It’s the only Division I college team in Rochester and home games are broadcast on cable TV. This past season, Coach Wayne Wilson led the club to 15-14-4 overall and 13-11-4 Atlantic Conference records, certainly not a great year, but good enough for the #5 seed in the conference’s postseason tournament. Two weekends ago, the Tigers took the postseason quarterfinal series 2 games to 1 against #4 seed, Sacred Heart (Argh, what a name!). However, this past Friday night in the semi-finals, RIT lost to #6 seed, Niagara, 1-0, in overtime. Season over. Shout-out to graduating seniors, Abbot Girduckis, Mark Logan, Christian Short, Gabe Valenzuela, and Erik Brown (photo right), RIT’s all-time leading scorer at the Division I level.

…while this team limps to the finish line.

The hapless New York Knicks are at the tail-end of their season with a 14-60 record and 8 games left to play. The Knicks have a very good chance of beating the franchise record of least amount of wins in a season; 17. With tons of cap space after jettisoning Porzingis and Hardaway, can the lowly Knicks lure free agents, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, in the offseason?

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UPDATE: “Jesus Saves” billboard changed to advertisement for fish fry in time for Lent

Back on February 21st, I posted about the mammoth “Jesus Saves” billboard (photo left) that sat along Route 490, the busiest interstate highway in Greater Rochester, New York. See the post here.

While I was driving to work two weeks ago, I noticed that the billboard had been changed. What new advertisement had gone up in place of “Jesus Saves”? I’ll give you a clue: Rochester has a large Catholic population and Lent began last week. That’s right, a new billboard went up advertising local fast-food restaurant chain, Bill Grays, and its self-proclaimed “Rochester’s Best Fish Fry” (photo right).

Fish fries on Fridays are hugely popular here in Rochester because of the large Catholic population. Prior to 1966, Catholics were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays throughout the entire year under threat of soul-damning mortal sin. But after 1966, the obligatory abstention was lifted by the U.S. Catholic bishops EXCEPT for Fridays during Lent. For more historical background, see my post on the subject here.

Isn’t it quite ironic that a billboard proclaiming that “Jesus Saves” with a reference to John 3:16 is followed by an advertisement seeking to profit off of Catholic legalism? It reminds me of how the simple Gospel of the early church was gradually institutionalized into sacramental ritualism and legalism.

Postscript: I had taken the photo of the “Jesus Saves” billboard one-handed with my iPhone through the windshield as I was driving my car at 60 mph. Very dumb. For the photo of the Bill Gray’s fish fry billboard, I exited the expressway, drove through the city neighborhood to as close to the billboard as possible, parked the car and took the photo. Much safer that way and much better quality.

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A photo of Bill Gray’s fish fry plate, which includes a piece of fried haddock, french fries, a roll, and cole slaw for $13.69. Haddock ain’t cheap, folks.

Weekend Roundup Update – Bad faith: Rochester diocese reneges on victim compensation process

I don’t normally publish posts on Sundays, but this news update is important.

Back in June of 2018, the Catholic diocese of Rochester, N.Y. (I live in a suburb of Rochester) had retained retired judge, Robert Lunn, to review the claims of victims of childhood sexual abuse by priests and recommend cash settlements if warranted. It was stated that Lunn’s deliberations would be independent of diocesan interference. To date, Justice Lunn has reviewed and deemed as credible the claims of six victims, recommending the diocese pay out cash settlements ranging from $75,000 to $125,000.

According to the news story below, the Rochester diocese has now requested that the process be changed mid-stream. The diocese has asked to meet with Lunn to review each additional claim prior to an assessment and settlement recommendation.

I propose that, with the recent passing of state legislation that expands recourse for victims of childhood sexual abuse, the diocese anticipates a larger-than-expected number of claims and, with bankruptcy a real possibility, is seeking to limit its exposure.

This change certainly does not reflect well on the diocese, but as the article states, victims can reject the diocese’s process altogether and sue the church in civil court.

Discord in diocese’s settlement program for sex abuse survivors
https://13wham.com/news/local/exclusive-discord-in-dioceses-settlement-program-for-sex-abuse-survivors

Tens of thousands of Rochesterian commuters are confronted by “Jesus Saves” billboard every day.

I took the above enlarged photo with my iPhone through the windshield of my car as I was driving home from work last week. I was driving around 60 mph at the time and took the photo with one hand. Definitely don’t try this at home! Forgive the poor quality.  Yes, I even photoshopped it as best I could.

Okay, so what about that “Jesus Saves” billboard in the photo?

Rochester, New York sits smack dab in the middle of the anti-Bible Belt. Ninety-five percent of the people here are either Roman Catholics, mainline (modernist) “Protestants,” or atheists/agnostics. We certainly don’t see a lot of “Jesus Saves” signs around here.

The huge “Jesus Saves” billboard sits aside Route 490 eastbound near the city center. It’s been there for a couple of months. Route 490 is the major east-west expressway in our county. Average daily traffic (ADT) on 490 at this location is about 100,000 cars per day. That’s A LOT of people reading “Jesus Saves” each day.

The Lord uses many people and things to draw souls to Him. I pray He uses this billboard on 490 to get people thinking about salvation in Christ. The smaller print on the billboard references John 3:16 and says it’s sponsored by The Shepherds Fold Church in Scottsville, New York. I checked the church’s website and I see it’s Pentecostal and teaches the prosperity gospel. Argh! Definitely not a church I would recommend. But I do pray the Lord uses the mammoth sign to get passing motorists to think about Him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

Postscript: I remember before I accepted Jesus that I used to scoff at any “Jesus Saves” signs that I saw. My buddies and I would always be tempted to append “…Green Stamps” to any “Jesus Saves” signs or posters we encountered. If you’re younger than, say, fifty, I’m confident you have no idea what S&H Green Stamps were.

…What? Say it ain’t so! My very last bottle of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce!

There’s a little bit of a back story to this tragic news.

Back in the early-1980s, we were living in our first house, which was located in the Greater Rochester suburb of Henrietta, New York. The town was notoriously known for its strip malls (and strip clubs) and very haphazard and underregulated zoning. On the corner of Calkins Road and West Henrietta Road was Al’s Meadows Motel, one of those flea-bitten establishments from a previous era that begged every passerby to wonder who would actually choose to spend a night there of their own accord? On the same property was the Al’s Meadows Lounge and Grill, an old-school bar and burger joint. The best thing you could say about the establishment was that it was “unpretentious.” Oh, yeah, and there was the chicken wing sauce!

A friend from work who lived close by and I were taking some night classes together back then, and several times on the way home we stopped at Al’s for chicken wings. The wings themself were nothing to write home about. They were actually on the small side and regularly overcooked, but the sauce was absolutely delicious with a noticeable tang of celery salt and unlike any wing sauce I had ever tasted (my mouth is watering as I type). The lounge/restaurant also sold the sauce in bottles and I became a regular customer. It was especially good on any kind of chicken and on Zweigles white hot dogs (see here). Our two boys grew up on the sauce and the youngest one, especially, took a shine to it.

The years went by and we eventually moved out of Henrietta. Maybe about twelve years ago, Al’s Meadows Motel and the adjoining lounge/restaurant were torn down and to make way for a gas station. However, Al’s sons owned the Southtown Beverages Drive-Thru business, which was a bit farther north on West Henrietta Road, and they carried on the Meadows Lounge and Grill legacy by bottling and selling Papa Al’s Hot Sauce. Year after year, I made the trek back to Henrietta to buy a couple of bottles of the hot sauce.

This past October, our youngest son came up from Texas for our family trip to the Big Apple and of course he took a solo drive to Southtown Beverages to buy a couple of bottles of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce to take back home with him. But when he returned to our house, he broke the bad news: Southtown had stopped making the sauce because of low demand. Argh! If I had known, I would have stocked up.

So here I am in the photo above with my very last bottle of Papa Al’s Hot Sauce. Ach! When it’s gone, I’m going to rinse out the bottle and display it on the mantle down in my man cave as another reminder that this world has its temporal pleasures, but it’s all passing away.

 

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The former Al’s Meadows Motel and Meadows Lounge and Grill were located at 4200 West Henrietta Road, Rochester, NY. The proprietor was Alphonse “Papa Al” Alaimo.

Just in time for summer – New England Clam Dip!

Yes, blogging friends, summer is here, and I’m thrilled to be able to once again pass along the recipe for that summertime culinary delight, delicious New England Clam Dip! Break out the wavy potato chips and enjoy!

excatholic4christ

Thank you, Lord, for delicious food, all in moderation of course!

An accoutrement staple of backyard summer dining is potato chips and dip. One of my family’s favorite chip dips used to be a New England clam dip manufactured by a local cheese company named “Heluva Good” of all things. For some reason, Heluva Good stopped making its clam dip in the early aughts (2000s). Some said it was because of new FDA regulations.

My hankering for clam dip grew and grew until I finally started searching online for a clam dip recipe that was similar to Heluva Good’s. I found the one below several years ago. It’s a pretty close facsimile and very easy to make. Any time we serve it to guests they always rave about it. I could eat a whole bowl of clam dip with wavy chips in a single sitting all by myself, but my…

View original post 209 more words

Rochester, N.Y. may be just a shadow of its former self, but we still have the best hot dogs in the U.S.A.!

Some cities are known nation-wide for their distinctive food items; Buffalo has its chicken wings, Philadelphia has its cheese steak sandwich, Boston its baked beans, New Orleans its jambalaya, etc., etc.

Here in humble Rochester, New York, the former “World’s Imaging Center,” we’re noted for two culinary delights; the world famous Garbage Plate, which I previously posted about here, and Zweigle’s hot dogs.

Hot dogs? Yup, Rochester is known throughout the nation for having the very best hot dog; Zweigle’s pop-open, red and white hot dogs.

C. Wilhelm and Josephine Zweigle opened their Rochester butcher shop in 1880. The company they founded eventually cornered the local hot dog market. Although Zweigle’s also offers hots without natural casing (i.e., “skinless”), it’s pop-open variety are the best-selling. The company makes both red and white hots, with the cured reds having a more traditional, smoked flavor and the uncured whites having a milder flavor (they were originally inspired by German Weisswurst). The quintessential whites were first introduced by the company in 1925. See the Wiki article here.

Rochester may be the only city in the U.S. where a customer ordering a generic “hot dog” at a food stand will be asked with a tinge of annoyance whether they want a red or white, thanks to Zweigle’s. I preferred the traditional reds growing up, but the older I’ve gotten, the more I crave the milder whites. A Zweigle’s pop-open white with some chopped onion and Rochester meat hot sauce. Wow! My mouth is watering as I type.

But whether it’s a red or a white, a perfectly-spiced, Zweigle’s pop-open hot cooked on the grill is delicious beyond description. Keep your surf and turf, prime rib and lobster tail dinner and give me a grilled Zweigle’s dog every time.

We’re so spoiled up here in Rochester when it comes to hot dogs that we won’t even eat one unless it’s a Zweigle’s. Rochesterians who move out-of-state because of the sky-high taxes and lack of jobs are notorious for asking their relatives and friends to ship them a box of Zweigle’s. But you can order some for yourself to be shipped anywhere in the U.S. from Calabresella’s New York Style Deli (see here).

https://zweigles.com/

Three for Thursday: Chick-fil-A, Hybels, and revision of book list

Chick-fil-A in Rochester

For months, the media here in Rochester, N.Y. was buzzing about the opening of the area’s first Chick-fil-A restaurant and today is the big day! The fast-food franchise heightened the buzz by offering fifty-two Chick-fil-A dinners spread out over one year to the first 100 customers. People began lining up yesterday despite the light sprinkles and chilly, forty-degree temperatures. The restaurant benevolently opened their doors to the “queuers” during the day yesterday, but required that they stay outside all last night (photo above). When the restaurant finally opened its doors this morning at 6:30 a.m., the 100 weary folks received their digital card pre-loaded with one year’s worth (52) of meals. Chick-fil-A will be doing extremely brisk business until Rochesterians get a chance to satisfy their curiosity. A few thoughts:

  • Chick-fil-A, was founded by Southern Baptist, S. Truett Cathy, in Hapeville, Georgia in 1946 and has grown to over 2200 locations. The restaurants are very unusual in that they are closed on Sundays, reflecting the religious convictions of Cathy. The company became embroiled in controversy in 2011 and 2012 when corporate officers publicly supported opposition to proposed same-sex marriage legislation. In 2012, the company reversed its position and decided not to actively oppose same-sex marriage.
  • The fact that the opening of a fast food franchise was such a HUGE media sensation in our town speaks about the otherwise very dismal economic conditions here in Western New York, where a remarkably long list of businesses have either shut down or migrated to the South over the last thirty years.
  • It’s amazing that 100 adults would camp in line in the elements for over 24 hours for a chance at 52 chicken sandwiches. Jesus Christ offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with Almighty God, but most people – lost and blinded souls – could not care less.

Bill Hybels

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I heard on the news yesterday that Bill Hybels just resigned as influential pastor of the Chicago-area Willow Creek Community megachurch after allegations of sexual misconduct were brought forward by multiple women. Hybels, along with Rick Warren (and with input from marketing guru, Peter Drucker), pioneered the “seeker sensitive,” church-growth movement beginning way back in the 1980s. The idea was to attract unbelievers to church service by turning it into an entertainment experience. Doctrinal teaching was toned WAY down in favor of Christian rock music, light shows, and feel-good sermons. I’m all for keeping up with the times in some respects, otherwise we’d all be driving buggies to church like the Amish, but as we saw with Hybels and Warren, sometimes the push to be “culturally relevant” leads to becoming spiritually irrelevant and even spiritually dangerous. Spurred on by the #Me Too movement, many women across the nation are now coming forward with allegations of abuse. Prior to his resignation, Hybels claimed the allegations against him were “flat-out lies.”


Book titles linked to reviews

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At the suggestion of brother blogger, Slim Jim, I’ve revised my long list of books which compare Roman Catholicism with Scripture by hyperlinking book titles to the reviews that I’ve written over the past three years. If you go to the “Books” tab (see here), you’ll find that 97 of the 346 titles are in bold face. If you click on those 97 titles, you’ll be directed to my corresponding review. Thanks for the suggestion, Jimmy!

Update: How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city

Way back in September, I posted the story far below about the arrest of a local pastor, Paul B., on charges of forcibly touching three women who were attending his church. My wife and I were members of the church in question for eight years back in the 80s and early 90s when Paul’s father was pastor. But we could see signs of spiritual unhealthiness at that church twenty-seven years ago, which precipitated our leaving. These charges against Paul stemmed from abuses in 2016 and 2017, but there had also been allegations of abuse in 2013 and 2014.

What has happened since the arrest in September? Our justice system does not work quickly and sometimes that is by design. Paul appeared in town court with his lawyer on October 26th, November 27th, January 18th, and February 26th and each time the trial was postponed. But on Paul’s next court date, this past Wednesday, March 14th, the town prosecutor announced that a plea deal had been struck. Paul pleaded guilty to only one of the four counts of sexual abuse and in exchange he will be sentenced in two months to one year of probation and will be permanently registered as a sex offender. What? Probation? Not even one week in jail? My, some people have to spend a month in jail for much less than Paul’s “offense.”

Once again the local media focused on the news of Paul’s guilty plea and his upcoming sentencing and once again the Gospel witness in our town received a black eye, not to mention all of the emotional pain suffered by the victims of this serial abuser and the deep betrayal felt by the church’s members.

Former Henrietta pastor pleads guilty to sexual abuse (article from local newspaper)

Former Henrietta pastor pleads guilty to sexual abuse (video from local television news)

A few things came to mind after the news of Paul’s guilty plea:

  • Some people are just not fit for ministry. Nepotism got Paul his initial position on staff at the church despite admitted scandalous conduct, which caused a split. Spirit-filled members sensed the danger, but Paul’s father steamrolled all opposition.
  • Paul became pastor of the church in 2011 after his father had suffered a small stroke. He obviously had to study the Bible frequently in order to preach all of those sermons he delivered in the six years prior to his arrest. But what was his private prayer life like? No Christian is perfect, but how could a man walk closely with the Lord in daily prayer and also regularly prey on victims? Was Paul even saved? We all need to stay close to the Lord in daily prayerful communion and we need to regularly lift up our pastors in prayer. There’s no doubt that Satan especially targets pastors.
  • I can’t tell a church I am not a member of how to operate, but the new pastor that’s now in place should ask for the resignation of every deacon who unequivocally supported Paul from 2011 to 2017 in the face of many allegations of impropriety. I was an outsider, but even I could see the flashing warning signs regarding Paul’s lifestyle. Many church boards are comprised of “yes men.”
  • If you are a member of a church in which the pastor exerts unhealthy control over the membership and there appears to be no oversight regarding the pastor, find a spiritually healthy church.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8

via How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city

How a “church” became a dark stain on the Gospel witness in my city

Today, I am reminded that 1) our sin will find us out [Numbers 32:23] and 2) we must trust in the Lord and not in any man [Psalm 118:8-9].

This is a very disturbing story and some may be offended that I’m posting about it, but these types of toxic situations exist precisely because Christians would rather bury their heads in the sand than shine a light on sin. I’m going to give a short introduction to this post and I apologize to those who are already familiar with that part of the story.

Shortly after my wife and I accepted Christ in 1983, we began attending an independent Bible Baptist church in the area. I was looking for a Gospel-preaching church that was close to us and I picked that particular one based on an advertisement in the Yellow Pages (remember those?). We stayed at that church for eight years and became heavily involved. The pastor of the church, Joe B., was a karate black-belt tough guy and preached in an “in your face” style, which was quite a novelty and initially very appealing. I was used to limp-wristed priests when I was a Catholic and this was a refreshing change. But after awhile, the pastor’s very heavy-handed, macho-man style began to grate on me. It got to a point where just about every sermon made my skin scrawl. We finally left the church and I was so disgusted with churchianity that I walked away from the Lord for a very long period. Not smart. I had been trusting in man rather than the Lord. If I had been walking closely with the Lord, I would have just asked Him to lead us to a good church right away. But even as messed up as I was, I still felt sorry for those who remained behind at that church and voluntarily submitted to the spiritual and emotional bullying.

I’ve kept an eye on our old church from a distance over the years and it’s had its share of problems, most of them self-induced. One of the pastor’s sons, Paul B., followed in his father’s footsteps and attended his dad’s Bible college alma mater, but got involved in some sinful behaviors and activities that became known to the church’s membership back home. After he returned to Rochester, his father hired him as the young adults pastor, prompting some members to transfer to a Baptist church on the other side of town. In 2011, after his father had a temporarily debilitating stroke, Paul was promoted to pastor.

Paul not only continued his father’s “in your face” style of preaching and pastoring but he took it even further. He quickly established mixed martial arts (MMA) training and competition fighting as one of the church’s main “ministries.” Illustrations of mythological warriors with bulging muscles and menacing swords, evidently meant to symbolize aggressive, militant Christianity, saturated the church’s web site and social media. Paul swaggered around town in sleeveless t-shirts, exposing his bulked-up musculature, while his equally hard-training wife competed in Mrs. New York State competitions and regularly posted revealing modeling photos of herself in skimpy bikinis on her Twitter and Facebook accounts. This unconventional pastor couple were obviously very proud of their hard-earned, chiseled physiques and wanted everyone to know it. But in 2014, the county police department interviewed three individuals who claimed Paul had either sexually abused them or had attempted to. Some of the accusations described situations involving both the pastor and his wife. These allegations were splashed across the internet. The police concluded their investigation saying there wasn’t enough evidence to prosecute. Pastor emeritus, Joe, now fully recovered from his stroke, lobbied the church “leadership” and membership on behalf of his beleaguered son. The executive pastor and deacon board of the church fully supported Paul.

Earlier this summer, one of the Paul’s previous victims had posted on her blog that he had been “fired” (news reports say he resigned) from the church because of new allegations of abuse. I checked the church’s website and, sure enough, any and all signs of him had been erased and Joe, now age 68, had resumed pastoring duties. A week ago, the local television news and newspaper ran stories saying Paul had been arrested after two new individuals had contacted the police with claims that he had sexually abused them. Two days later, a third person also pressed charges. Paul is scheduled to appear in court today for his arraignment. The signed testimonies of the victims were released this morning and they all tell a similar story; Paul had used the MMA and workout “ministries” to connect with the women and lure them into his home where the abuse took place.

Last week, after an update on the scandal had aired on the local television news, my wife turned to me and asked, “Why did you get us involved in that church in the first place?” Boy, did that hurt. I was a baby Christian when we began attending that church, with little discernment and no basis of comparison.

I hesitated in writing this post for several obvious reasons, but the Lord kept bringing it to the forefront. There are some men who are not genuinely called to pastor churches, but do so anyway. They do more harm to the Gospel than good. This particular church has become the laughingstock/snakepit of the Greater Rochester area, with the very heavy media coverage of this scandal. All of it reflects very poorly on the entire Gospel witness in this area, not to mention the people, adults and children, who have been abused at this church over the years, both physically and emotionally. No church is perfect, but this church was on a downward spiral from Day #1. If your pastor is a megalomaniac and there is little or no pastoral oversight, you should leave immediately and ask the Lord to lead you to a God-honoring fellowship.

Former pastor accused of using hot tub to target women
http://13wham.com/news/local/former-pastor-accused-of-using-hot-tub-to-target-women

See my posts from last year regarding the abuse at this church here and here.