Becoming a Total Drunk Lately!

Yes, I’m on the way to decline. In the past several weeks, I have almost doubled my entire lifetime consumption of alcohol. It’s sadly true. (Of course, you probably used more water to brush your teeth this morning than all I’ve ever swallowed of the stuff!)

Incident #1 – While in Texas I visited a church that had communion. Before I realized what was going down around me, down went a cup of real wine instead of the evangelically-approved Welch’s Grape Juice. Dreadful stuff! Oh my!

Incident #2 – I was with my dear friend Jim Warner at a dinner on the evening of his 40th-year celebration of being released from 5.5 years of incarceration in a North Vietnamese prisoner camp. He bought a bottle of champagne for a toast “to freedom.” Without doubt, the occasion was bigger than my scruples, so, I lifted the glass and participated in the worthy honor of the moment. Oh my! Is that what is meant by something being very “dry?”

Incident #3 – I won a six-pack of beer in a bet with a friend. I was at a political convention where a person was making a floor speech. The guy next to me remarked that this young man was the same who had spoken at the previous convention and made a terrible fool of himself. Knowing for a fact that he was not, I said that “no” it was a different person. My friend, being convinced that he was correct said, “I’ll bet you a case of beer on it!”  I knew I would not lose, so I took the bet!  At a break, we verified with the speaker that indeed I was correct and that he was not the foolish fellow of some months before. I had forgotten about the bet until my friend brought me a six-pack of “ginger beer.”  More dreadful stuff.

Explanation #1 – Lots of people presume that my anti-alcohol stance is due to some experience of trauma from a drunken family – not at all … I cannot name a relative that I know who ever drank anything. If my distaste is from childhood, it is actually from a Philadelphia Phillies baseball game. While descending the stairs at the old Connie Mack stadium to get a hot dog when I was about maybe 8-9 years old, a Philadelphia drunk turned the corner and threw a whole cup of beer onto me. I was wearing a wool sweater, and oh my, did it ever stink for hours! I was nearly literally nauseated to the point of barfing from the smell. Ever since then, I can smell the slightest whiff of alcohol at a great distance in the same way that sharks are able to smell blood in water. I’m not proud of this talent. But that experience totally sickened me to any curiosity about imbibing.

Explanation #2 – I hate the predominance of alcohol in our culture. The ill effects are daily in the news as roots of multiple tragedies. Though I know this is nothing new – dating back to Noah’s family at least – it seems to me so very unnecessary. So, my summary line remains, “Though I grant the freedom of conscience for the Christian to consume, I completely dispute the wisdom, and I submit the highest virtue is abstinence” …. Well, at least relatively so. If you disagree with me … oh well, we probably agree together on a greater number of issues.

Curiosities about Writing and Blogging

Most of my blog writing energies have lately gone into my other sites for which I contribute quite a lot of material. There are few people who write more than I do, and even my mega-writing associate pastor – who can throw words on a page faster than anyone I’ve ever known – has found that his many writing demands have doomed his own personal blog in recent months.

I like writing so much that I could almost enjoy doing it simply for my own enjoyment – a sort of journaling that likely no other person will ever read. There is some measure of this that I do in the realms of spiritual disciplines and in the act of the organization of personal thoughts and even frustrations and anger (dare I confide?). Yet when one puts something out there for the world to see, one hopes there are some people who indeed read it and find it either enjoyable or informative.

For those who have never done this sort of thing, there are ways of seeing how many people actually look at what you post. I am almost always surprised by some of what I observe in blog statistics – either high or low numbers … as well as people who sign up to regularly get blog posts. Particularly with this blog that often features theologically evangelical themes, many of those who register when I have a post that is simply something humorous in my world, must really wonder what in the world they are reading when I go gospel on them.

My Civil War blog ( actually has grown to have a fairly large following and is picked up and repeated in a variety of other places. My Orioles network blog is probably read by several hundred people whenever I write something.

But the biggest chunk of writing currently is going toward supplemental resources for our Sunday teaching series – daily posts that go along with the weekly theme and a Scripture reading program. There were 40 of them with a recently ended series ( and there are going to be a total of 30 with the newly-initiated series ( On the one hand, I am very blessed and encouraged by people near and far who read them and have made comment to me that it has enriched them – like hearing this week from a guy who is a pitching coach in the Orioles organization and is reading them from Florida. But on the other hand, though many more people in the church are involved this time than previously, still it would appear that a significant percentage of folks simply have no interest in giving time to such a supplemental resource. I am truly baffled by that. I think this has some illustration about horses and water and what they will or won’t drink – if you know what I’m getting at.

Though not the biggest thing, one thought that encourages me to write on is that perhaps grandkids (or beyond), who I will likely never really know, may someday in curiosity read what this old guy had to say, and maybe they’ll be helped by something. I would certainly love to read what ancestors wrote about anything … but maybe as with liking to write, this too is an area where I am entirely out of step with the rest of the world.

OK… that’s enough introspection for a while.

Living and Dying Things

Sometimes I just have to brag about my family. Our clothes washer just plain stopped working last week – like, nothing! It would not turn on. So, this is intolerable, since Caleb does more laundry than … well … ah … we never got to have a girl, as you know. But, his clothing has to not only be clean, it has to smell a certain way – like it does when he has gotten laundry back from Scott’s house, where Mrs. Long has chosen the world’s best fabric softener (which for the record is Downey). Anyhow … back to the broken machine. As you all also know, I have no patience with broken devices, machines, tractors, autos, etc. So, my wife researches it online, finds the components to fix it, has them expedited to the house, tears apart the electronics and replaces the circuitry to fix the dumb thing! I admit that I thought it was quite impressive.IMG_0244[1]

Since I’m naming guilty people in this post, I’ll name my fellow marathon-running buddy of the past – Bill Seiple – with whom I ran about 10,000 miles. You get to really know someone when you do that, especially when you are oxygen-depleted and you begin to talk about stuff you’d likely not say if you were in your right mind. We were both pretty amazed that we married well. He always said it was a man’s duty to marry up and improve his genetics. Well, he sure did that with Didi (as you New Jersey people can testify). And the truth is that I’ve done the same with Diana. She is pretty amazing with what she can do – like fix computers and washing machines, run businesses and deal with the IRS.

IMG_0246[1]OK, I’ve had the same clock for decades. It is the one that was sitting on the nightstand when I was a student at Dallas Theological Seminary. In those days, I worked evenings at United Parcel Service and would get home very late at night. Dallas Seminary was not a place for the faint-hearted when it came to academics, and the assignments had piled up on me. One evening, I knew I had hours of work ahead of me to finish a paper for the next morning. I also knew I’d be depressed if I was aware what time it really was, so, I set the alarm for the necessary time to get up, and I turned the clock around so that I could not see what time I would actually go to bed. After a number of hours of finishing the paper (on a typewriter!) I took a shower, got in bed, pulled up the covers, and at that instant the alarm rang. Well, that was quite an insult, and in that instant I smashed the snooze with a full-fisted ka-bamb! Somehow the clock survived… until yesterday. I guess the thought of facing another change to daylight savings time was more than it could endure in its dotage.

<Hold the presses!>  Late breaking story – I went to get a picture of it, and it is working again! This proves MY view of broken things – that may well have worked for the washer. If you give it enough time, it will fix itself! So, for example, with the car – just turn up the radio, and eventually the screechy noise will go away.DSC_0135 (1024x665)

And finally, there is Lucifer. I wrote about this on Facebook yesterday. He is my one surviving rooster. I’m not sure what happened to the other one; he just kinda disappeared recently. But my guess now is that he and Lucifer – who is a Black Jersey Giant breed – had a big fight. And though the other one was dominant all along, Lucifer had his day. NOW, Lucifer has decided that I am the next one who needs to be eliminated. He has decided to attack me whenever I’m not looking. Well, this really irritates me to be quite honest. I’m there bringing he and his 25 girls food and water, and HE is going to attack ME while I’m doing it!?!  So, we had quite a fight yesterday. I had a plastic milk jug in my hand when he made a rush at me – winging through the air with claws and spurs flying. He hit me pretty good a couple of times, but on most attacks I whacked him across the face with the jug – like 20-25 times before he finally gave up. I think I won the fight, but I was exhausted from it. If this keeps up, he is going to get to meet his father the Devil.

So, nothing lasts forever; but at our house, things are given a shot to last as long as they can.

Enough Brisket BBQ For A While!

So … 4 days in Texas, 4 BBQ dinners! First was Dickey’s in Richardson with my niece and her husband on Saturday night; next was Spring Creek Barbeque in Dallas with the Texas family for Sunday lunch; yesterday was a welcome luncheon of the same at the host church for my conference; and finally tonight at Rudy’s Barbeque in Austin with two of my pals – Guy Kneebone from Urbana (yes, from Maryland), and Joel Sutton from Minneapolis.

Here are some pictures from tonight. The place has a lot of interesting signs and hangings on the wall (very Texan-like), and they had a ribs-eating contest while we were there (though we did not participate).








Bro Time in TX

Over the years as a pastor I have gone to many pastoral conferences and seminars. Earlier in my career I found many of them to be helpful and interesting, but as time went by, this was less true. It seemed that the practical truths and benefits were more difficult to find and hidden within a sea of miscellaneous ideas that were either unrelated to my church situation or were things we had been doing for years.IMG_0221[1]

The national organization of our denomination – The Evangelical Free Church of America – has national conferences that are extremely good. There are many break-out sessions of great value. But I’ve never found anything as helpful and practically beneficial as an affinity group that has been put together also by the EFCA – called Team 500. It is for lead pastors of churches with 500-1,000 people in their ministry (there is another group called “The K Club” which is for churches of over 1,000 people).

Over the past eight years, I have attended this on six occasions. As I write this, I am sitting in the session this year at First Evangelical Free Church of Austin, Texas. Right now they are talking about church governance and how to change structures … as they are mostly talking about changing in a direction like we already have and have possessed from the beginning. So I can listen and write at the same time!


The 3rd guy from the left is J.J. Plasencio – the bass player from Sixpence None the Richer – who is the worship leader at the host church here in Austin.

But there are so many topics over these years that I have found to be helpful, and that is true again this year. But beyond that, this is the best group of guys I’ve ever known in ministry; I love these men and we are warriors in the conflict at the same time and in the same sorts of battles with all of the similar issues that we confront in this age and culture. One of the guys here and I think so much alike and have had so many of the same experiences, that I began to wonder if we were separated at birth. I knew he was of a similar age, so I asked him exactly when he was born … and it turns out that I am one day older than him!

Duckie Always Has It Worse

So if you think you are having a bad stretch of life, let me tell you about our family friend “Duckie.” This is the favorite stuffed animal toy of both of my grandchildren. Yes, there should be a special place in heaven for all favorite stuffed toys of preschoolers.IMG_0154[1]

So here we are in Arizona for a “vacation” week. So far, of our travelling group of 10 people, the only one to not be more than just a bit sick is the mother of my daughter-in-law … who is a cancer patient on regular chemo treatments. Whatever the rest of us had, chemo destroyed apparently.

The most ill of us all have been the grandkids. And poor Duckie – he has been barfed upon, tossed twice into the toilet, had soup and food spilled all over him, and been stepped upon and thrown across the room. He is also regularly carried from place to place by people holding onto his beak! Along the way he has as well made several trips to the “hospital” by being sent through the laundry to clean up the last disaster.

Yep, it’s a Buchman vacation. So typical. I’ve even blogged about it in the past. We have had a couple of nice vacations over the years. The reason those stand out in my mind is because we have more commonly had TOTAL DISASTERS for vacation trips. You know how (I would think) the common experience for people on vacation is to wish it could continue and they don’t have to go home? Well, most of our vacations have been the sort that you are counting the days until you can get home again.

What makes them bad? Well, a couple of times it has been vehicle failures. A few times the accommodations were, well, less than what the pictures portrayed.  Many times it has been horrendous weather conditions like a solid week of heavy rain while camping somewhere (people in a canoe literally paddling through the campground). Sometimes it has been, like this trip, sickness that makes for … well … unhappy campers.

One of those experiences actually happened about 22 years ago in the area where we now live – about 3-4 years before we moved to Western Maryland (of course, not knowing we would ever do something like that). I remember we stayed at a large hotel alongside 81 in Martinsburg for an evening. Several of the kids (we had four at the time) were not feeling well – especially Jesse who was just a baby. The room looked like a war zone when we departed. We went to Antietam that day, hoping none of the rest would get it that bad. I remember parking in the area on the south side of the cornfield, and in the time it took for me to turn off the car and walk around to un-belt someone, two of them had thrown up! We just cleaned it up and drove for home.

So, it all makes for memories, right? Well, there are all sorts of memories. I think my vacation memories could use some shock therapy. But no matter how bad it gets, Duckie has it worse!

Skulls Everywhere

So here I am in Tucson, sorta attending a gemstones show – the largest in the world, with literally thousands of vendors – along with my bead store business family relatives. I’m here for the family part of it, the warmth part of it, the leave Washington County on something other than a school bus of teenagers part of it … more than the gemstones experience. It is a lot of walking and standing, so on this first day, I did a half day and went back to the hotel to deal with my swollen knee and to write stuff like this!

IMG_0114It really is quite a sight to see crystals and gemstones from literally all over the world … and in all sizes – from the seed bead size of a sesame seed, to crystals actually bigger than a human. There are fossils and meteorites and every shape and size of both raw and polished stones.

But one thing that quite amazed me was the popularity of skulls. You can buy carved stone skulls in every size from beads to larger than life – and you can get them in just about every type of gemstone or color. Dozens upon dozens of vendors were selling them – many of them also wearing clothing with skull prints of varied sorts.IMG_0080

But why? Why skulls? It is a trending item even in the fashion world.

I did some research to find some answers. There were a lot of hits on sites that were asking and seeking to answer the same question. There is no definitive simple answer.

Regarding popular fashion, one writer said, “What happened to make them so immensely popular in fashion? Alexander McQueen happened! The fashion designer created a line of silk skull scarves and the rest is history. Skulls continue to hold a position on the fashion radar, making bold statements everywhere. They have been trending on the streets in various forms.”

Among others seeking to give an explanation to the trend were these suggestions:  “Because it makes you look hardcore and edgy … it is part of Emo and Goth cultures, hence it is everywhere … there is an obsession with death – like ‘The Walking Dead’  … the punk rock chic look is in … it makes you look badass and that is cool … lol, it’s just popular, no one knows why.”

A more thoughtful writer questioned it in a way that has gone through my mind, “But what’s it all about? Down through history, skull iconography has been used in campaigns by invading and dominating forces to instill fear into their enemies, from the Romans, to Vikings, Cannibals, to Pirates, to the Nazis, even to Bikers and Metalheads in the latter half of the 20th century. All fairly antisocial types! So why is the fashion world trying to associate with this?

I think it is a subconscious expression of a worldview by a generation who sees the world as dark and hopeless. There is a sense of meaninglessness in modern world with moral malaise, expressed often by a pervasive sense of despair – that there is a vacuum of answers to the meaning of life. I read where one young woman who was buying some skull fashions lamented about how the world is so full of violence and injustice that “you can’t just go around wearing rainbows and happy stuff.”

That is sad, if indeed this last suggestion is the reason … and I think it had some merit and validity. The generation is yet to be found that can find happiness and contentment in life apart from a vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Without that, there is that God-shaped vacuum spoken about by Pascal. This is a timeless truth about the human condition.


We Are Not Ranking Well These Days!

Two somewhat similar religious/church studies have come to my attention in the past week, and our area and the state of Maryland does not score well in either.

bible-cities-square-220x220The first is a Barna Research Group look at how the Bible is viewed in 96 geographical areas of the country – around major cities. It ranks the most and least “Bible-minded” cities by examining how people in those urban areas view the Scriptures. The research asked about how much people use the Bible, as well as how much they value its authority – thereby reflecting the overall openness or resistance to God’s Word.

Cities and urban areas in the top 10 were:  Knoxville, TN (52% of the population is Bible-minded), Shreveport, LA (52%), Chattanooga, TN (52%), Birmingham, AL (50%), Jackson, MS (50%), Springfield, MO (49%), Charlotte, NC (48%), Lynchburg, VA (48%), Huntsville-Decatur, AL (48%), and Charleston, WV (47%).

At the bottom of the list were Providence, RI (9%), Albany, NY (10%), Burlington, VT (16%), Portland, ME (16%), Hartford, CT (16%), Boston, MA (16%), San Francisco, CA (16%), Phoenix, AZ (17%), Buffalo, NY (18%), New York, NY (18%), Cedar Rapids, IA (18%), and Las Vegas, NV (18%).

So where was Hagerstown? Well, we were grouped as “Washington D.C./Hagerstown” and ranked 63rd at 25% … not so great. I guess it can be argued that the District dragged us down!

The other listing that caught my eye was written in an article called 493 Churches to Watch in 2013. This was actually a compilation of 22 lists of U.S. churches since 2004 that have been chronicled as the largest, fastest-growing, and best known for influence, innovation, or church planting. I am sorry to report that Tri-State Fellowship did not make the list. However, nothing remotely close to us made the list either; and there were only a handful of Maryland churches – mostly ethnic congregations – from the Baltimore and D.C. area in Md.  Probably the closest to Hagerstown of any church on the list is McLean Bible Church in Virginia.

This is not the easiest area in which to minister, but there sure are a lot of people to reach out to with the truth!

A Terrible Indignity

Today I have suffered an incredible and terrible indignity. Horrible!

I went to a pastors luncheon meeting at the local Golden Corral. Being a buffet, you pay as you enter and then find your seat. As I sat down and looked at the receipt, I could not believe what I saw!  It said: “senior lunch discount.”GoldenCorral_logo

What?  Just what was the girl at the cash register thinking?  I happened to see a sign that said discounts for age 60 and over upon notification. So why would I get it? Why would the befuddled visually-challenged young woman behind the register give me this discount without even asking?  Even though I had a birthday last week, I am FAR from 60 years old!

So, why do restaurants offer these discounts to older people? I think it is because they think that older folks are shriveling up and wasting away … that they can’t eat nearly so much.

So, my mission was clear. I decided they needed to be punished for their disrespectful indignity. There was one thing to do – eat in such a fashion that they wished I’d never shown up!

Goal accomplished! So take THAT Golden Corral! And train your young women to have better eyes for youth and vigor!

I looked at the stock market prices today – expecting to see a severe drop in Golden Corral values … but it is actually a private company … a poorer private company.


Thinking Soberly

Oh no … with that title, here comes a Randy Buchman rant on the evils of alcohol. Not this time, though most of you know what I think about that!

Today is a takeoff on this Scripture from Romans 12:3 …

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

I’d like to think that I could throw a fastball like my favorite guys at Camden Yards, and I made 10s of thousands of throws growing up to do it … but could never make it into the high 80s.  I’d like to think I could run like Frank Shorter, but I couldn’t even run at my best the number of miles he ran in a week when in a rest mode. I’d like to think I’m a legit Civil War scholar like the guys whose books I read, but honestly, they’ve forgotten more than I’ve learned.

Apparently we have increasingly encouraged a new generation of Americans to such an extent that they think they are rather significantly special and gifted.

A 47-year study of 9 million young adults has revealed that more than ever, college students are more likely to view themselves as especially gifted and talented – even in the face of declining statistical analyses to support the contention. Those who self identify as particularly gifted has risen 30% in the past 30 years. Much blame for this is placed upon the abilities of technology – through such as Facebook and Twitter – to make oneself the center of one’s world, replete with huge numbers of “friends” and “followers”.

And I suppose this result is the fruit of participation trophies in youth sports, granted to kids for simply being on the team and finishing the season, whether they won anything or not. This is the fruit of grade inflation and re-centered SAT standards. It is the end result of the self-esteem movement.

But what’s wrong with self-esteem? Well, understood correctly, nothing … for it is actually a proper and healthy view of self in the universe. That is, if one sees oneself for what he is in Christ, and only because of God’s grace.

That passage quoted above from Romans goes on to say that we have each been given gifts for the service of others – that we might give what is beneficial to others, even as we receive where we lack. And in Christ, one is – to quote Anchorman – “kind of a big deal.” A person in Christ is royalty (1 Peter 2:9) and an ambassador of the King of Kings (2 Corinthians 5:21). But not because of what we have done, but because of Christ’s work and God’s grace in opening our eyes to this truth.

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whichthe world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. – Galatians 6:14