Monday, December 7, 2009

Chirstmas Past

The following was played on CBS in 1966. It isn't flashy. It isn't loud or obnoxious. It is a simple, yet eloquent tribute to the season. As you watch the video, think whether or not any network would ever show anything like this today.

What has changed? Certainly not the importance of the season. What has changed has been the willingness for those who believe to take a stand. Jesus is still the reason for the season and if the rest of the world refuses to acknowledge it, I for one, will do my part to let people know where I stand. Merry CHRISTmas!

Monday, November 30, 2009


Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent--the Sunday that specifically looks at hope. But what is hope? Christian hope is not the same as how many people use the word. They say, "I hope it doesn't rain," or "I hope I pass this test." That is not the hope we are talking about. Christian hope is so much more.

On Thanksgiving Day we offered a free dinner to anyone and everyone that wanted to sit down with us. Rich or poor, saint or sinner. We prepared enough food for at least 100 people. Fifty people showed up. Some people would look at that as a failure on our part. I don't. We knew the Lord had something in store for the food that was provided. It was our hope in the Lord that led us to fix the amount of food we did. So what happened? Well, our refrigerator gave out and we were forced to find a place to store the food overnight. Our local Fire department generously provided the space. Then on the next day we took the food to Manna House (a place in Newton that provides meals for those who need them every day. When our members showed up with the food they found out that the Mann House's refrigerator had gone crazy during the night and frozen all the food that they were going to use for the meal that day. As the food was brought in to them--turkey, ham, veggies, and deserts--they felt it was a gift from God (and it was!) Instead of being in dire straights as to what to do, God provided food for the hungry through our abundance.

Now, some would say that it was just a coincidence that our refrigerator died and the Manna House's refrigerator went crazy, but I know better. God is in control and made sure that the food would be used for His blessings to be shared (though it would have been nice not to have to kill our refrigerator to accomplish His will!) The hope we have in God's provision for us and for others was greatly rewarded. THAT is the hope that we have--not simply a wish for something--but a knowledge that God is in control and will work His will in and through us if we just let Him.

Let the true hope of God shine through YOU this Crhistmas!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Never Forget

Today, the news is about the USS New York, the ship whose bow was constructed with 7.5 tons from steel from the Twin Towers. the ship's motto is "Never Forget." I agree that we must never forget the tragedy of 9-11-2001. But to be honest, I believe that there is something much more important that we must never forget--the fact that the Son of God gave His life for each of us.

Jesus, God incarnate, came to earth with the sole purpose of redeeming the lost. His mission was carried out and completed when he was willing to sacrifice himself for us on the cross and rose again on the third day. Forty days later, Jesus gave us a mission to carry out, a mission that remains unfinished--to seek and save the lost.

As Christians we come around the Lord's Table to remember what God has done for us. It is time for us to take that memory and let it prompt us to the service the Lord calls each of us to complete. "Never Forget" should be each Christian's motto as well. we must never forget what God has done for us AND what God commands us to do!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Learning to Co-exist

Well, it's official, Calvin will be staying with Kizzy and me for a while. It is just too much for Amy to give him the time he needs and do 30+ hours of Field education while a full time student. I am not sure how she can do it without Calvin!

Kizzy and Calvin are learning to co-exist. It isn't as easy as it was a few weeks ago. Calvin is a little bigger, bolder, and ornery! Kizzy is constantly making sure that Calvin is not "taking her stuff" while at the same time trying to take Calvin's stuff! And it isn't just Kizzy, Calvin is doing the same. As for me, I am adjusting to the extra care that Calvin needs and trying to get him on "my" schedule. It is an adjustment for all of us.

It is very similar to when new people come and get involved in the local church. The people who have been around the longest feel threatened by new people and the new people sometimes feel threatened by the "old guard." Just as Kizzy and Calvin need to continue to learn how to live together in peace and harmony, congregations have to learn to live together. This is the fusion that I often talk about. New ideas may come with new people and they need to be given a chance to be put into practice while making sure the "tried and true" is not abandoned in the process.

One of the biggest problems for Calvin and Kizzy is the food situation. Kizzy wants to eat the puppy food and Calvin wants to eat the puppy food AND Kizzy's food! In the church we need to make sure that those who are older in the faith don't get upset that the "newbies" are getting a special diet. Those who are new need the spiritual food that is good for them and those older in the faith new to move on to stronger spiritual food. It is simply the only way for us to do the work that God calls us to do.

So, let us all begin to work together to see the kingdom grow and set aside petty squabbles for the sake of the lost!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I was less than graceful last night and fell, scraping my hands, knees and badly spraining my right ankle. Today, I am unable to get around very well. I am very limited in my activities and it has gotten me to thinking more about those people that have limited mobility. I chose not to eat last night (not like missing a meal will kill me!) because I simply didn't want to endure the pain that would be involved in standing long enough to fix a meal.

How many seniors or others miss one or meals a day simply because it is either too hard or too painful to fix the meal? I really don't know the answer to that question, but I know that I am motivated to find out those in our community that need this help and to get them that help. No one should go hungry because they simply can't fix a meal.

Pray for those in YOUR community that are having similar problems and then DO SOMETHING to help them!

Monday, October 19, 2009


We are living in turbulent times. Hope is being promised from everyone from the president to infomercials. The problem is, the hope they promise is not a lasting hope. As Christians, we have a hope that is eternal. Hope that comes from the assurances in God's Word. In Jeremiah 29:11, God promises us a hope and a future. In Romans 15:13 we are told, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe in him, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." It is the power of the Holy Spirit that will allow us to abound in hope.

So, are you hopeful or hopeless? That answer seems to me to be in whether or not you believe God's Word. Let us believe and have HOPE!

Friday, October 16, 2009


Wow, yesterday it snowed all day. The good news is that the ground was warm enough that it didn't stick. Kizzy and Calvin really didn't like the white stuff falling from the sky, so yesterday was very interesting. They are going to have to learn to get used to it, because I am fairly sure that there will be much more snow before spring arrives.

It is a lot like us. There are things that we have to deal with "for a season" that we can't avoid. Whether it is an illness, a loss of a job, or something else, there will be things that we can't avoid. How we deal with them says a lot about us and our relationship with God. Do we cry and moan, or do we praise God in the tough times? Mercy Me has a song that talks about this:
I can count a million times
People asking me how I
Can praise You with all that
I've gone through
The question just amazes me
Can circumstances possibly
Change who I forever am in You

Maybe since my life was changed
Long before these rainy days
It's never really ever crossed my mind
To turn my back on you, oh Lord
My only shelter from the storm
But instead I draw closer through these times
So I pray

Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings
You glory And I know there'll
be days When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to
praise You Jesus, bring the rain

I am yours regardless of the clouds that may
loom above because you are much greater than
my pain you who made a way for me suffering
your destiny so tell me whats a little rain

So, if you are dealing with pain, disappointment or frustration, remember who is in control and praise God and bring on the rain!

Friday, October 9, 2009


Over the last few weeks I have attended a Rural Ministry Conference at Columbia Theological Seminary and the Indian Summer pastor's retreat. Both were informative and interesting. At the RMC I was able to meet with 11 other men and women who serve rural congregations at various locations as far north as Ontario and as far west as Texas. I found that we all face very similar circumstances.

At the Indian Summer Retreat the focus was on time. As one who focuses more on "chrono" than "kairos" this was a great opportunity to practice "kairos." Kairos is more about the event than the time the event takes. One of the big things I will take from this year's Indian Summer is the necessity for promoting Kairos opportunities for my congregation.

How about you? are you so wrapped up in watching the clock that you miss the bigger opportunities? Let us all determine to allow ourselves the time to be open to the kairos moments that the Lord provides!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Yesterday was my birthday. Birthdays are a good time to reflect on what you have accomplished in the past and what you hope to accomplish in the future. I am blessed to have a wonderful wife and kids. I am also blessed to have the opportunity to serve the Lord in one of the most beautiful places on earth!

As I look back, I realize that I have made a lot of mistakes, but I have also done a lot of good. I wish I could have done more, but obviously that isn't possible. As I look to the future, I am excited about the fact that Amy will be completing her time at PTS and will be shortly after that finishing her time at Rutgers. I can't wait to have a counselor I really know to refer people to!

I have been richly blessed in my life, and I trust that as you rely on the Lord in your life, you too, will be richly blessed!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Matt Ziesel's Touchdown Run

Matt Ziesel's Touchdown Run was something unexpected and special.

The Maryville Spoofhounds could have shut out the St. Joseph Cardinals 46-0 in last week's game. Instead, they let the other team score a touchdown.
They did nothing to stop freshman running back Matt Ziesel from running more than 60 yards to put the Cardinals on the scoreboard. Cardinals Coach Dan McCamey asked the Spoofhounds for their cooperation because Ziesel, 15, has Down syndrome and spent the entire season on the bench -- begging the coach to let him get some action on the field.

Hats off to both teams for showing classy levels of sportsmanship and compassion. The rival high schools are about 42 miles apart. Both are north of Kansas City near the Missouri/Kansas border.

The Cardinals still lost the game but won a lot more. (This info is from a Tom Henderson post).

Sportsmanship is getting harder to find every season and I believe that this is the type of story that deserves more attention. I agree with Mister Henderson, Hats off to both teams. wouldn't it wonderful is Christians treated the weaker brother or sister with the same type of compassion? Don't you think it is time to find out? I do!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fall Is Here!

Well, maybe not officially, but the weather has definitely gotten a chill to it! Football games are being played, school has started, so I think we can call it fall. With fall comes new beginnings. Sunday School starts back as well as choir and Bible studies. I love the weather and the excitement of the new beginnings.

This fall has an additional new beginning. Rebecca (my middle step-daughter) is getting married! We have be frantically planning and preparing for the big event. The excitement begins today when Amy's parents get to town and ends on the 26th with the wedding.

My prayer for Rebecca and Jason are that they are half as happy in their marriage together as I am with Amy. Amy is truly the most wonderful wife in the world and makes me a better man and pastor.

So, fall is here with all of the excitement that it brings. Get out there and enjoy it!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Puppy Sitting

Well, it has been a while since I last posted. I have been puppy sitting Amy's puppy while she was finishing her Exegesis Ordination Exam. I found out how spoiled I was with Kizzy. She is a dream to take care of--Calvin--not so much! Young puppies need constant attention. They are always tying to get into something! Even as they are being trainied, mistakes happen. The one up side is that they are so darn cute!

One of the things I learned while I was taking care of Calvin was how much help Kizzy was with the process. many times, when Calvin was "stepping out of line" Kizzy would jump in and take care of it! Kizzy knows the ropes and therefore she was doing her best to help Calvin as he adjusted to life in the Florence household.

That is a picture of the church. While the pastor has a lot to do in training young Christians, it is important for all members to do their part in "training" young Christians. That is done mainly through example and sometimes by simply talking to the new person. Now I don't mean that we are to "force" young Christians into any type of mold, but I do mean that there are times that they need to be instructed on what is the right way to act and to the right way to interact.

If the Church had a few more Kizzy's working in her midst, I believe it would be a better, happier place! If you are a mature Christian, make it your goal to mentor a new person ASAP! Mentoring is not just good for the one being mentored, it is good for the mentor as well. So, look around and get busy!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sad Times

Well, Amy left to go back to Princeton yesterday. As sad as I am, I think Kizzy may be having a harder time adjusting. Every time we come back to the house she runs around and looks for Amy and Calvin. When has done her search, she comes over and looks at me with these "what have I done to deserve this" eyes.

I wonder if that is how God feels when He visits our church services and looks for His children and can't find them there? He looks all over the building to be sure and then is sad because His children choose to be off doing other things rather than worshiping Him.

What do we have to do that is more important that worship? Oh, we can blame sports or family or whatever, but the bottom line is that worship is no longer a priority for many of God's children. We can blame society for this, but the fact is, we STILL have a choice. Will we honor God or will we let the world take us away from worship? It is our choice. For God's sake, make the right one!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Scary Times

Kizzy left the yard yesterday to chase something up the hill. Amy called her but she didn't come back. Amy then yelled for me to come out and help. I didn't know where she was, so all I could do was call for her. As I called and waited (getting a bit worried) I finally saw her come running back from around the building next door. You can only imagine my joy and relief.

I believe that is a bit like God who calls us to him and is overjoyed when we respond! Think of the parables of the Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son. All these relate the joy in something that was lost being found.

God loves you and wants you to come running to Him (just as Kizzy came running to me) when He calls. If you haven't responded to His call, don't you think it is time to drop everything and come running? I do!

Monday, August 17, 2009


Summer has officially arrived in Stillwater. It is too hot to think in my office! I am trying to work on my next "Basic Training" sermon. It was going to be about God the Father and maybe the Holy Spirit (Jesus was yesterday). Now I think I may preach about Hell! I am pretty sure that my office is nearly hot enough to qualify today.

Ok, Ok, enough whining. We have had a relatively mild summer so I really shouldn't complain, but sometimes I complain anyway. We are never happy. If it is cold we wish it was hot; if it is hot we wish it was cold. It is time I remembered what Paul said--to be CONTENT in whatever circumstance I find myself in.

Contentment can be elusive. We think, "If I just had this or that, I would be content." Then we get this or that and we think, If I just had this other thing, then I'd be content." The truth of the matter is that contentment is not about things, but about how we appreciate the things we already have. I'm blessed. I have a great wife. I live in a wonderful town. I also get to see the beauty of nature every day. Why should I not be content? Because I am a fallen human and until I learn to to completely trust God in ALL things I will never be content.

Well, I have made my decision. I am going to be content! I have all that God wants me to have and nothing that He doesn't want me to have. Who could ask for more? Not me! Count your blessings and have a God blessed day!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Truck

Well, the truck God provided (though the generosity of an elder at SPC) is now good to go. New tires, new brakes, new spark plugs and wires plus a few other things and it passed inspection with flying colors!

I have already used it to get the bicycles up from Princeton and I am sure it will come in handy often for other jobs like that. It is amazing how God works for us and how we often overlook His guiding Hand in our lives. As I said in an earlier post, I was not happy to make a "useless" trip into New York to look at a truck that ended up being sold while we were on the way to see it, but it WAS God directing the path. I now have a serviceable truck for less than half the money I was planning to spend.

How many times do we get mad at God because He doesn't answer our prayers the way we expect Him to? We don't have a clue was is best for us and He does. Therefore, don't let your preconceived notions of how God should answer our prayers get in the way of our thankfullness when He does answer them (just not the way we expected!)

Kepp on praying and keep on trusting God to give you the right answer!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Julie & Julia

Yesterday I went with Amy to see the Movie Julie& Julia. I really enjoyed the film. One of the interesting parts for me was how Julie's attitude changed as she gained confidence in preparing the recipes from Julia Child's cookbook.

I reminds me of how we, as Christians, can gain confidence by reading and DOING what the Word of God tells us to do. We start out with the "easy" things and move on to the more difficult ones. Just as Julie worked her way up to the final recipe, we work our way up to the final test. God has something for all of us to accomplish--we simply have to be open and aware of His leading.

So, get out God's cookbook (the Bible) and start trying out the recipes!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Life Is In The Blood

Leviticus 17:11; 14 and Deuteronomy 12:23 reminds us that the life of the creature is in the blood. That is why I am so proud of Amy today. She is headed to Princeton (about a 4 hour round trip) to give blood at PTS. She signed up to do this a while back and probably didn't realize that she would be in Stillwater when the time came to donate, but that isn't going to stop her!

Giving blood is a great way to help others in need. But there is a Blood that is much more important to the world that we need to share--the Blood of Christ. It is His blood that cleanses us from all unrighteousness. If Christians were half as concerned about sharing the news of the blood of Christ as they are about giving their own blood, we would see a major shift in this world. It is Christ's Blood that will heal the nations.

Don't get me wrong, I really think we should all donate blood (and in my case I am also lined up to be an organ donor), but I think that we should take that same steadfast approach to sharing the "Good News" to those around us of the Blood that saves.

We live is turbulent times. Right is taught as wrong and wrong is taught as right. It is high time we began to not just "know" the right things to do, but to actually "do" them! One of those right things to do is to let Jesus shine through us and to share the Message of God's love demonstrated by the willingness of Jesus shed blood. As James tells us, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says!"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

And Then There Were Three

Somehow, in the space of three months, we have gone from a dog-less household to a household with three dogs! Yesterday, the final (and I mean it!) addition to the family was a 14 week old Papillon (Butterfly dog) puppy. This is "Amy's" dog. Calvin (the puppy) has been trying to adapt to a house with two bigger dogs. His way of "adapting" has been to growl and bark at them! He doesn't seem to understand that if they wanted to, they could easily have him for dinner!

That is sort of how we treat problems in our lives. We growl and act tough when we really ought to instead take the time to figure out the new situation and come to a peaceful solution. We get sick and we blame God. We get laid off and we blame God. We have troubles and we blame God. Isn't about time we instead began to praise God? Life is tough and in this economy it is going to get tougher. It is time to praise God for the blessings we do have and move on.

I am not saying that we need to ignore any troubles, but I am saying that we need to address them in a POSITIVE way and look at them as opportunities rather than problems. I was looking for a truck and when it seemed like everything was going all wrong (and every truck) I went to see suddenly became unavailable, it now looks as though I may be getting a truck (that needs some work) for free! God listened to my grumbling (though all the time He was telling me to be patient--I HATE this patience thing!) and when I was willing to wait on Him the solution was VERY evident.

So, make a vow today to quit grumbling and start praising--I have!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Learning From Kizzy

For those of you who don't know Kizzy, she is my Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix dog. She has done a lot for me over the last few months. I walk more and therefore have lost a little weight. She has helped me pick up after myself better (so to be out of her reach). But now she is teaching me something new.

Kizzy is a picky eater (not at all our other dog Sig who is a walking Garbage Disposal!). So picky in fact that at times she will get sick at her stomach and (is there a delicate way to say this?) "spew" bile. It is a nasty thing to clean up and the only reason it happens is because she hasn't eaten (so I was informed by our vet). I have learned what she will eat in the morning and we are beginning to solve the problem. She gets something she likes best in the morning and her regular food after we are sure that her tummy is OK.

So what has she taught me? That even though we Christians need to eat from the Bread of Life on a regular basis, many don't. They are becoming spiritually sick simply from lack of the spiritual practice of Bible study. They don't like the "hard stuff" and only want the the "soft food" of the Word. Because so many are rejecting the harder truths, I now realize that I have to give "baby food" first and then as they get accustomed to that, I can move on to the harder stuff. We have become so lax in Bible study as the body of believers that what was once considered "general knowledge" is in no way general knowledge.

I am preaching this summer on "Basic Training." Starting with the basic truths of God's Word so that later we can deal with the tougher truths of God's Word. I believe that this is the only way for any congregation to grow. When EVERYONE is on the same page. So, the basic stuff for now, but watch out the tough stuff is coming!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Vacation and HIPPA

Well, I am on week 2 of my vacation. This will be the first time since November of 2003 that I haven't preached for 2 weeks in a row. It feels strange. I get up in the morning feeling like I should be working on my sermon and realize that there is no sermon to prepare. The mental rest has been nice, but not without "controversy."

When Amy and I got back from Wilmington on Tuesday evening, there was a message from the Emergency Room from Monday afternoon that I had a parishioner that wanted me there. They didn't give a name, so I called the hospital and they were unable to help me find out who it was. The next morning I called the hospital Chaplain to get some help in finding who it was. He was in a meeting and told me he would get back to me when he was free (after 2:45 PM). In the meantime, I received a phone call from a fellow pastor that let me know who the patient was. So I called the hospital and asked for a room number. I was referred to the Head Nurse who simply told me to "call the family" if I wanted any information. So I went to the hospital. I was wearing my hospital badge when I arrived and asked for the information about the room number. They told me "he was discharged from the ER on Monday."

I felt that was good news. So I went home and called his daughter. When I asked her how her dad was doing, she tearfully told me, "He passed on Monday." You can imagine how I felt. Had I known that he had died, I certainly would have handled the situation much differently. As it was, it was nearly 48 hours before the family received ANY pastoral care. I realize that hospitals have rules that they must follow, but this family had the hospital try to contact me and when I was able to get back to them, they basically hid the information that was so vital for me. How hard would have it been to tell me he had died, rather that he had been "discharged."

Anyway, I am really upset about the way I was told only half the truth of the situation and feel that it is high time that hospitals everywhere realize that the spiritual care that a pastor brings (especially in this type of a situation) HAS to be respected. The family needs it, expects it, and deserves it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vacation, Diners, and Dinners

Amy and I went down to Wilmington Delaware for a couple of days to rest and go to a Cubbie game in Philly. We showed up for the game, but the Cubs didn't! They were destroyed 10-1! On the way home we decided to stop at a diner to eat. Well, it was less than the best! This was the same day we tried a hot dog place at lunch that was also sub-par. The adventure was nice, even if the food wasn't.

Life is like that. We try new things. Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised. Sometimes we are disappointed. We move on. Dwelling on the bad keeps us from enjoying the present! We still have time to try some more new places (and we will) so let us hope we have better luck.

Anyway, I hope that everyone keeps a sense of adventure in their lives and is never afraid to try something new. Get out there and try something new today!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Harry Potter

Amy and I went to see the new Harry Potter movie on Wednesday. I won't ruin the movie by giving out any spoilers, but just say this. It was my least favorite so far. However, the day had other ups and downs as well. The Presbytery of Newton sent me an Entertainment Book (thank you!) and we used it to try out a new place to eat. It was NOT a place we will likely go back to! But, after the movie, we used another coupon to go to a ice cream parlor in Newton that was FABULOUS! Amy had a S'mores sundae and I had the best Chocolate malt EVER!

We often get into a rut of where we go, what we do, and where we eat. Having this book is a way for us to try new places and new things and to do them at a discount. I look forward to more adventures over the next few weeks before Amy has to head back to Princeton for her senior year.

So, my encouragement to everyone who reads this is to try something or somewhere new. It may be less than spectacular (like our lunch) or it may be wonderful (like our dessert). You never know until you try!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Everyone needs a vacation! Amy and I originally planned a trip up into Canada, but since I didn't get my passport, that was unable to happen. Now we are planning various "day trips" (though some of them are actually overnight trips!) The fact is, just getting up and realizing that there is nothing that HAS to be done is a vacation in itself.

In America, we tend toward "busy-ness." Taking the time to relax and "do nothing" is a way for us to recharge ourselves for the busy-ness of everyday life. Taking the dogs to the dog park and then to PetSmart for a bath (after Kizzy decided that laying in a mud puddle was a VERY fun thing to do!) is cathartic.

I tend toward busy-ness and therefore I need this time of relaxation more that I realize. I even thought about not taking the time to write this post, but as I sat here I realized that I wanted to take the time to reflect on the value of rest. I used to live by the mantra "better to burn out than rust out!" but I now know that it is better to take care of myself in such a way that I do neither.

So, take a vacation--even if it is just to simply take the time to do nothing. You deserve it and you NEED it!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Slow Leak

Well, I went to look at a truck yesterday, but the A/C wasn't working. I talked to the dealer who simply replied, "It must have a slow leak. Just get it filled and it should last the summer." NOT what I wanted to hear! I liked the truck originally, but after driving it and finding the A/C problem (as well as another possible engine problem) I decided to pass on this truck.

However, the trip was not a total loss as it gave me some insight into some people's lives. Many people have a "slow leak" in their spiritual lives. They are OK for a while, then the power slowly slips out of them. Why? I believe that it is because of a faulty prayer life. We are called to be a people of prayer. Without this continual communication with God, we slowly lose our spiritual fervor. In his book, "Prayer, the Key to Revival", Paul Cho (who at the writing of this book in 1984 pastored a congregation of over 800,000 in Korea) says that if he didn't spend at least an hour a day in prayer (at the beginning of his day) there would be no way for him to do all that was required of him. Why? Without prayer he would be working on his strength alone. With prayer, he has the vast resources of God on his side.

I realize that none of us will probably ever be the pastor of a congregation nearly that large, but the concept still remains--what ever we do, we can do it better with God's resources at our disposal. God is waiting patiently for us to come into communion with Him and to truly seek to do His will. It doesn't matter if you are a pastor or an auto mechanic. Whatever you do, you will be stronger if you spend time alone with God each day.

It is time for God's people to get rid of any slow leaks in their spiritual lives and get busy praying! Prayer is not only the key to revival, it is the key to keeping any revival going! So, instead of getting an occasional recharge, let us all strive to keep our spiritual tanks full with daily communion with our Father in prayer!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

When Is A Car Not A Car?

The answer to the question is, when it's a truck! Amy and I realized that this fall we are going to need another vehicle (since Amy won't be able to Rachel to TCNJ). We began thinking about the next car we would need--a car for Amy so that Rachel could use the black Camry. As we began the search, we originally were looking for a car for Amy. Now that has changed. We are looking for a truck for me.

The longer I live in Sussex county, the more I see the need for a truck. I have already had to borrow a truck from a church member a few times. I also wanted to get some dirt for my garden and wasn't able to (since I really didn't want to put it in the truck of my Camry!)

I never really thought of myself as a "truck person" but it seems that I am becoming one. I also never though of myself as an early riser, but since moving here, I am usually at the church between 6 and 6:30 in the morning and I love it! I can accomplish so much more in the quiet that the early morning brings. I also have a chance to spend time with God without any interruptions!

So, today Amy and I are heading over to Quakertown, PA to look at a truck. Will it be the one we get? I don't know, but I do know that if it is, I will truly feel like I have made the complete change over into a "country" preacher!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Vacation Plans

Well, after this week, I have a couple of weeks of vacation and we still aren't sure where we are going or what we will be doing. I'd like to say that we are doing this in response to the book of James and realizing that our life is just a vapor and we shouldn't worry about tomorrow, but that wouldn't be true! We originally planned a trip up into Canada, but I don't have a passport yet, so that has been scrapped.

For so many years, our "vacations" were simply time to visit family or "tied" in to business trips. This year we have plenty of freedom (if not plenty of money!) but we are not sure what we will do. One thing is sure, we will find a place to relax. Amy needs and deserves it (and I think I can use it too!)

So, while I work on a sermon this week and the various other responsibilities that go along with ministry, I will be praying for the Holy Spirit to give me a little insight on where we are going on vacation! Yes, I believe that God cares about my vacation and is willing to help me figure it out. However, if the Lord is prompting you to give me a little help, don't quench the Spirit! Fill me in!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Well, today marks my first anniversary as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Stillwater. It has been an eventful year. Growth is happening (slowly) and more important than the actual number of people coming is that there has been growth in spiritual maturity! We continue to "get to know" each other and love each other. Not that there hasn't been a few "bumps" in the road, but that is to be expected. I look forward to a long and prosperous time here in Stillwater (with God's help!)

Tomorrow is another anniversary. Tomorrow marks 13 years since my beloved Amy and I shared our vows and began our walk together as man and wife. These have been the happiest 13 years of my life. Many changes have happened in this 13 years. We have left Oklahoma (Amy's home for most of her life), the kids have graduated from high school (and 2 of them from college with the third now a senior), Amy has gotten her Associate's Degree, her Bachelor's Degree and is now in Seminary, I graduated from Seminary, my youngest son has graduated from high school and gotten his Associate's Degree, I have graduated from Seminary and gone back to my first calling as a full time Pastor. And we now have 2 dogs! Wow! All that in 13 years! I look forward to the next 13 years and the rest of our lives together!

Anniversaries are times for celebration. but in reality, EVERY day is a day to celebrate what God has so richly blessed us with. Take time TODAY to tell the people you love that you love them and to do something special for them. Remember, they are a gift from God for YOU.

May God call to remembrance today those in your life that mean so much to you and may you let them know you love them!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Living Out Our Christian Walk

In chapter 25 of Matthew Jesus talks about judging at the last day. He describes it as the way a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left."Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." (Matthew 25: 31-46 NIV)

This challenges me every time I read it. Why? because the difference between the sheep and the goats is so evident. The difference is in what they DID and DIDN'T DO. We are given opportunities to serve Jesus every day and often we let that opportunity slip away because we are too worried about other THINGS and not about PEOPLE. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. But he also fed the hungry, healed the sick and gave comfort to those in need.

You have an opportunity to do something for Jesus TODAY. What are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pretty Cool

Yesterday I was pondering what to preach this coming Sunday. I had 3 sermon ideas running through my mind. The one that I planned to preach when I did my planning and outlining during my study leave and two others. It just so happens that my youth group lesson last night dealt with one of the other two topics. After I had finished the youth group lesson, one of my kids said, "you should preach about that sometime!" I guess I really didn't need a better "sign from God" as to which of the three seermons I am going to prepare and preach!

How often does God gives us these little "clues" and we simply miss them because we are to self-absorbed? And I don't just mean preachers. How many times does the Lord reveal to you something you should be doing through the interaction we have with others and we simply miss it?

The Holy Spirit is alive and well and we need to pay attention! As you go through this week, make sure that you are open to the leading of the Spirit. It will make all the difference!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why am I a Pastor?

Why am I a pastor? The simple answer is that God has called me to be a pastor. But there is so much more to it than that. I first felt God's call to ministry back in 1975. At that time I was a 15 year old high school student. I had every intention of spending the rest of my life serving God in the Youth Ministry.

I went to Bible College and graduated with a double major in Bible and Christian Education. I had served two churches while in school as a week-end Youth Minister and after graduation began working full-time as a Youth Minister. I loved the youth ministry and was blessed by God with the ability to grow the youth groups at every place I served. Unfortunately, I was too immature to see that I was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. It was all about ME. I felt that I was the reason that everything was going so well. I was a great Youth Minister. I this and I that. I had a BIG "I" problem and didn't even realize it!

The Lord was able to use me for years (even though I had the "I" problem) until I finally was totally lost in the ministry. I worked hard. I put in way too many hours. I had to, because results were what gave me "worth" in my eyes. I finally lost my first marriage because of this "I" problem.

I have to admit, when my first marriage ended, I was convinced that I would never be a Pastor again. I moved to Oklahoma and began attending a Presbyterian Church. While attending this congregation, I was invited to and attended a "Cursillo" weekend. It was here that I experienced God's grace for the first time. I had taught and preached about grace. I knew (intellectually) what grace was. But it was here that I truly experienced grace.

My life changed. I became content to be the best "member" that I could be. I taught Sunday School with my wife. I became a Deacon and later an Elder in that congregation. Still, I never really thought I would be a pastor again.

God is great and He has a wonderful sense of humor. God led me first to Sterling College and the Lay Academy with my wife. She will tell you that I only went on her behalf and not because I felt I needed to go. She was right. That IS how I felt! I had spent 20 plus years in ministry, why should I have to do this to be able to preach in a Presbyterian church? Well, God was beginning a long process of healing with me, that's why!

God arranged for a new job for me in New Jersey and had that job pay for my cross country move. Then within 9 months, I was forced to choose between my integrity and my job. There was really never a choice. I didn't realize it at the time, but God was simply getting me close to Princeton Theological Seminary so that I could attend there!

I was given the opportunity to serve a small congregation while I was in Seminary (actually I started there about a year before I entered Seminary and continued serving there for a year after I graduated). I enjoyed my work outside of the ministry to a certain extent, but it was when I began to pastor again that I realized that the call from God back in 1975 was still valid. I tried to do other things, but God kept pushing me back into the ministry!

I now realize how shallow I was in my first go round in the ministry. It was all about me and not all about God. God has allowed me to grow into the minister that he requires and has blessed me with a wonderful wife who both supports me and my ministry. In fact, she is preparing herself for a specialized ministry of her own in Pastoral Counseling. I look forward to the day when I can refer my counseling load over to her!

So, why am I a Pastor? Because God has called me to be one and I want to do my best for Him. Results are no longer my concern. Faithfulness is! So, if you are called to be a pastor, don't fight it, but if you are not called, don't do it! God has called each of us to ministry whether it is as a car mechanic, Walmart greeter, or Pastor. Just make sure you know which one you are called to be!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Why Do Bad Things happen to Good People?

This is probably the most asked question by "seekers" and "young" Christians. Well, even seasoned veteran Christians may ask that same question! There are several reasons why these things happen and none of them are "that God just doesn't care!"

The first thing we need to realize that none of us are "good." We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. How do I know? The Bible says so. So, the first thing we need to realize is that no matter how good we think we are, we are not good! That being said, let us look at the reasons that bad things happen to "good" people. First, personal sin. It may not be your own personal sin that does you in, it could be that of someone else (a drunk driver hits and injures or kills an innocent person.) The second is corporate sin (think of the Tower of Babel.) The third is Satanic influences. Satan is alive and well and seeking to discourage and dishearten the people of the world (especially those of us who claim Jesus as our Savior.) The final reason that bad things happen is to allow for God's providence. When we are discouraged or disheartened, we are more open to God's leading. In fact, in Luke 13 Jesus tells his listeners that the bad things that had happened recently were a wake up call for everyone to repent!

We live in a fallen world. We will be subject to bad things happening as long as we dwell here. The Good News is that when we finish the race, we will live eternally with nothing but good happening! So, don't be discouraged if you are going through bad times (and if you aren't, just wait, you will!) God is in control and the best is yet to come!

Monday, June 15, 2009

To Robe or Not To Robe

To robe or not to robe, that is the question! While many people feel that the robe (for the clergy) is a sign of office, respect, and dignity, I feel that it is a poor theological statement to wear one! I'll tell you why in a moment, but first, rest assured that even though I don't feel that wearing a robe is in line with my theological beliefs, I do wear a robe at times. For special occasions (such as funerals, weddings, baptisms, and communion) I don the robe (howbeit reluctantly.)

So, why do I have a problem with the robe? I feel that Scripture clearly states that ALL Christians are in the priesthood. If we are all priests, then why should only the preacher be wearing a robe? Shouldn't we all be wearing one? Seriously, I feel very strongly about the message that wearing a robe portrays. Just because I have a fancy diploma does not make me special! I see too many people equate the robe with some kind of "special" power! I am not a super Christian, I have the same struggles that every other Christian has. We are in the same boat!

Anyway, I quit my rant against robes this way--if being "all things to all people" means that I must sometime go against my theological standards (against wearing a robe) so be it. I don't like it, and I probably never will, but I do want to be the Pastor that my congregation expects.

If you have a good theological reason for wearing a robe, I loved to hear it. Let it not be said I am not willing to listen!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Rain and Weeds

Well, we have had plenty of rain here in Stillwater for the last few weeks and the weeds are sure loving it! My garden is beginning to look like a jungle! I wish my vegetable plants grew half as fast as the weeds. It seems the more weeds I pull out of the garden, the more room there is for even more weeds.

Our lives are like that. Weeds come into our lives much easier than the fruit of the Spirit. If we truly want to see the fruit grow, we must not just take care of the weeds, but we must cultivate the fruit as well. Just as my tomato plants need fertilizer, pest control, and a way to keep the deer from eating them, so our Christan walk needs Bible study, prayer, and putting what we learn into practice in order for our fruit to grow.

Let us determine to spend as much time working on our spiritual fruit as we do our physical garden this year!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Well, this morning I got to the office just before the latest round of thunderstorms rolled in. I am glad that Sig (Rachel's dog) is in Princeton since he is very afraid of storms! As I write this, I am wondering whether or not I will finish before th power goes out (it often does here).

I reminds me of how many people live their lives. When the storms of life come, they try to hide from them (like Sig) or they let the "power" go out in their lives. Storms come to every life and how we handle them says as much about how we look at God as they do about us. If we are afraid of the storms of life we are very much like the disciples as they were rowing their boat across the Sea of Galilee. They were afraid because they felt that Jesus didn't care (after all he was sleeping!) If you remember the story, the disciples woke Jesus in their fear. His response? "Where is your faith?"

So, I ask you the same question today. In the storms of life, "Where is your faith?" Jesus is able to calm the storm if you simply trust Him. Are you willing?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Married 62 Years and Still Having Fun!

If this video doesn't make you smile, nothing will! Isn't it wonderful for a couple to still have fun together after so many years of marriage!

I think that every couple needs to learn from this couple. No, you don't need to run out and take piano lessons (unless you just want to), but you do need to do things together. watch a movie. Go for ice cream. Laugh. Have fun.

Amy and I will celebrate 13 years of marriage in July. She has always been and will always be my best friend. I look forward to all the things we do together and miss being able to do them when we are apart. Never take your spouse for granted. Love them and play with them often!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Amazing Grace

This video is about 9 minutes long, but well worth watching!

God's grace IS amazing. It changed the heart of a slave ship captain into the author of this great hymn. It can still do amazing things today. what are you willing to let the Lord do through you?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sharing (or not sharing!)

Today I decided to buy the dogs a treat, so I bought them each a soup bone (with the marrow). I large one for Sig and a smaller one for Kizzy. For a while everything was dandy. Each dog took his/her bone away and began to contentedly gnaw on it. After about 20 minutes or so, Kizzy had the marrow gone and was tired of the bone. Sig worked on his for 45 minutes (and then took the next 15 minutes to "hide" it.)

Then the trouble started. Kizzy (who was tired of bones) decided that if Sig was done with his, she should try it out. So, into Sig's crate and out with the bone! I saw what she was doing and took it away and put it back in the crate. Sig then decided that his bone was not safe, so he took it and "buried" it in front of the couch. Kizzy saw it and went for it. Sig saw her and went to stop her when Kizzy growled and sent Sig running! Again, I told Kizzy, that this was Sig's bone and put it back in his crate.

Later on, I was talking to Rachel on the phone when I heard Sig crunching on a bone. I looked and yep, it was Kizzy's! If fact, Sig had "hidden" his bone in Kizzy's crate when he decided to take hers!

Isn't that a lot like people? They never seem to be content with what they have...someone elses looks better. It doesn't matter if it is a car, a house, or a job. We tend not to be content. We need to remember what Paul told us in Phillipians 4:11-12,
"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want."
So, with the economy in a slide, isn't it about time to be content with what we have? I think so!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Two dogs = 3 times the work!

Amy has left Sig (and Eddie) with me while she attends a retreat at Holy Cross Monastery. You would think that adding one dog to the mix would be no big deal. You would be so very wrong! Kizzy wants to eat Sig's food. Sig wants to eat Kizzy's food. Kizzy wants to take a long walk. Sig wants to get his "business" done and go back in! I am doing my best to adjust, but I have to admit I am glad that I don't have Bible Study and a Sunday School lesson to prepare for this week!

I am beginning to understand why women who have a second child seem to have an astronomical increase in stress. It seems that in dogs (and babies) one plus one is definitely much more than two!

On a separate note, the healing service went well on Sunday. No one threw away their crutches and no blind people regained their sight, but many came forward to recieve prayer and a special blessing. How God will act in each of these people's lives is yet to be determined, but whatever the case may be, to God be the glory, great things He3 has done!

I figure if Paul had to live with a "thorn in the flesh" and Paul was unable to heal Timothy's tummy problems, it is OK for me to claim the same promise given to Paul--My grace is suffiecient for you. May the God who heals be with you and give you rest!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What do you Light first?

If you are in a dark room with a candle, a wood stove and a gas lamp. You only have one match, so what do you light first? The answer, of course, is the match! Many times we have puzzles in life that seem to test us. We are trying so hard to find the "right" answer that we forget the obvious!

If you are struggling with any problem right now, where do you need to turn? To God! The simplest answer is also the right answer. People all over are searching for the answers in self-help books, seminars, and other various ways, but the simple fact is that God is the answer.

Are you sick? Pray. Are you frustrated? Pray. Are you happy? Pray! Don't get so caught up in the minutia that you forget God!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Today begins an exciting few weeks for me. Sean (my youngest son) and a friend of his will be coming to Stillwater to visit for almost a week (then they will head further East as they explore the country). Then, on June 2nd, Rachel will get back in New Jersey and will have her Gran and Grand Dad with her! I look forward to getting to spend some time with the family.

We live in a day and age where most people move away from where they grew up (like me!) and families are becoming more and more spread out. While it is great to have families visit, it also reinforces the changes in our society. No longer are families of several generations living together in the same town (or even in the same state!) I believe this change (though I understand the reason for it) has hurt the family. Grandparents are no longer close to act as a "buffer" at times of strife. Kids are no longer close enough to help with elder care. While I understand the reasons for the change, I can't help but wish I was born fifty to seventy-five years earlier!

Because of this change, I believe it is high time the church began to "step in the gap." We should be able to find the family feeling and family help in our churches for those families that no longer live close together. After all, we ARE a family! I, for one. am going to do my best to make sure I act like a good father/son/sibling in this family we call church. How about you?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Maranatha Gardens

My mother-in -law wrote in a recent blog about the Victory Gardens that were planted during the second World War. It got me to thinking that the concept (especially in these troubled economic times) is still a sound one. Planting a garden to help us with our food budgets is one way to get through these tough times (that is if I can keep the deer out of my garden!)

But I think we can (and should) take it further. Let's plant Maranatha Gardens. Maranatha is the Greek word for "our Lord has come." We can plant a few extra plants so that we can share the bounty with those people who are struggling. Wouldn't it be a wonderful witness come this fall to have a table set out in front of the church with the vegtables available for thiose in need? Now I am not trying to run the fruit and vegatable stands out of business, but I do think that it is a visable way that we can share with our communities some of the blessings that the Lord has provided us.

I challenged my congregation on Sunday to do this. While I certainly have no idea how many will actually participate in the project, I can assure you that I will do my best to provide all the jalapeno and habenero peppers that we need! OK, I have other thinks planted as well and will share them as well!

So, go get you hands dirty and make a difference in your community!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Bearing Your Cross

I am paying today for my work yesterday. One of the Members of the congregation and I are making a 14 foot cross out of ironwood to put outside of the church. It is heavy, and awkward to work with. After we got the pieces prepared, I started sanding the cross before the final assembly. Unfortunately for me, the skids I had under the pieces were a little to short for me to work comfortably and today my back is hurting! When the job is completed, the pain will be worth it.

Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him. It may be heavy and it may cause you some pain at times, but in the end it will be worth it! What are you doing for Jesus today that takes some effort? Isn't working for Jesus worth a little discomfort?

We have grown complacent in our service. We want all the blessings without any of the work. The world is full of people who need Jesus and we are satisfied to sit back and let someone else to the work! It is time for us to use our minds and muscles for Jesus! Remember, we are Jesus hands and feet. It is up to each of us to our part if we expect to see change happen.

So...what are you going to do TODAY for Jesus?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Inspiration From Music

Those who know me, know that I like to listen to "Praise Music." This morning, I decided to listen to some "old-time Gospel" instead. I like Gospel music, I just sometimes forget that I do! One song that I was listening to is called "Keep on the Sunny Side." The message is an important one for all of us:
There's a dark & a troubled side of life
There's a bright, there's a sunny side, too
Tho' we meet with the darkness and strife
The sunny side we also may view

[chorus:] Keep on the sunny side, always on the sunny side,
Keep on the sunny side of life
It will help us ev'ry day, it will brighten all the way
If we'll keep on the sunny side of life

The storm and its fury broke today,
Crushing hopes that we cherish so dear;
Clouds and storms will, in time, pass away
The sun again will shine bright and clear.
Let us greet with the song of hope each day
Tho' the moment be cloudy or fair
Let us trust in our Savior away
Who keepeth everyone in His care
We all have troubles and days that seem to be too hard to bear. That is when we need to "keep on the sunny side of life!" Remember, "greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world!"

Another way to look at it is from my desk calendar today--God promised a safe landing, not smooth sailing." Let us all do our best to find off the things that try to bring us down. There will be dark days, but always do you best to "keep on the sunny side of life!"

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Kizzy is beginning to do much better with the "stay" command. When I am alone at the church, I can leave the office door open and make a trip to the other office, or to the "facilities" and she will be waiting for me (near the door, but still inside!) However, should I give her the "stay" command, go to do an errand in the building and someone happens to come to the church, all bets are off! She loves people and that (in her mind) still overrules the "stay" directive that I gave her!

Isn't that a lot like us? God gives us plain rules to follow and tells us to "stay away from trouble" (that would be my paraphrase of 1 Thessalonians 5:22). Yet, we find the sin so enticing that we just want to try to "stay at the door" looking out, but then something happens and we rush right out of the door! Kizzy is learning (with the help of positive reinforcement in the form of praise, hugs, and of course dehydrated chicken chips!

God is there to praise us when we stay "out of trouble" and to one day give us that hug (I don't know about the dehydrated chicken chips, but I think I'll pass on those!). All we have to do is follow the outline given to us in Philippians 4:4-8 (especially verse 8):
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

So, what do you say? Isn't about time we did our best to stay away from evil and think on the positive things? I do!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

To Tweet or Not To Tweet

Twitter seems to be all the rage. 140 characters to tell the world what you are currently doing. I'm torn between the novelty of it and the absurdity of it! Do people really need to know that I am drinking coffee and reading the paper (and do they really care!)

I know that I tend to be on the side of new technology, but I just don't know. Are we getting to the point where will never even bother to pick up the phone and call someone we care about?

I see some interesting possibilities on the other hand for the church, but only with the people who are willing to embrace the technology. What if all the shut-ins were able to "tweet" that they are OK? It would be a way to make sure everyone was accounted for in pastoral care. But is that really pastoral care? People need people, not just 140 character messages. Tweeting is fine, but when was the last time a phone, PDA, or computer gave you a hug?

I guess all I am trying to say is this. The decision to "tweet" or not to "tweet" is a personal decision based on how you look at the world. For me, I'm still undecided as to whether to embrace the technology (and find a way to make it work in ministry) or just to say, enough is enough!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Daffoldil Principle

The story of "The Daffodil Principle" originally appeared in Jaroldeen Edwards' book Celebration!

Several times my daughter had telephoned to say, "Mother, you must come to see the daffodils before they are over." I wanted to go, but it was a two-hour drive from Laguna to Lake Arrowhead. "I will come next Tuesday", I promised a little reluctantly on her third call.

Next Tuesday dawned cold and rainy. Still, I had promised, and reluctantly I drove there. When I finally walked into Carolyn's house, I was welcomed by the joyful sounds of happy children. I delightedly hugged and greeted my grandchildren. "Forget the daffodils, Carolyn! The road is invisible in these clouds and fog, and there is nothing in the world except you and these children that I want to see badly enough to drive another inch!"

My daughter smiled calmly and said, "We drive in this all the time, Mother." "Well, you won't get me back on the road until it clears, and then I'm heading for home!" I assured her. "But first we're going to see the daffodils. It's just a few blocks," Carolyn said. "I'll drive. I'm used to this." "Carolyn," I said sternly, "Please turn around." "It's all right, Mother, I promise. You will never forgive yourself if you miss this experience."

After about twenty minutes, we turned onto a small gravel road and I saw a small church. On the far side of the church, I saw a hand lettered sign with an arrow that read, "Daffodil Garden." We got out of the car, each took a child's hand, and I followed Carolyn down the path. Then, as we turned a corner, I looked up and gasped. Before me lay the most glorious sight.

It looked as though someone had taken a great vat of gold and poured it over the mountain peak and its surrounding slopes. The flowers were planted in majestic, swirling patterns, great ribbons and swaths of deep orange, creamy white, lemon yellow, salmon pink, saffron and butter yellow. Each different-colored variety was planted in large groups so that it swirled and flowed like its own river with its own unique hue. There were five acres of flowers.

"Who did this?" I asked Carolyn. "Just one woman," Carolyn answered. "She lives on the property. That's her home." Carolyn pointed to a well-kept A-frame house, small and modestly sitting in the midst of all that glory. We walked up to the house. On the patio, we saw a poster. "Answers to the Questions I Know You Are Asking", was the headline. The first answer was a simple one. "50,000 bulbs," it read.
The second answer was, "One at a time, by one woman. Two hands, two feet, and one brain." The third answer was, "Began in 1958."

For me, that moment was a life-changing experience. I thought of this woman whom I had never met, who, more than forty years before, had begun, one bulb at a time, to bring her vision of beauty and joy to an obscure mountaintop. Planting one bulb at a time, year after year, this unknown woman had forever changed the world in which she lived. One day at a time, she had created something of extraordinary magnificence, beauty, and inspiration. The principle her daffodil garden taught is one of the greatest principles of celebration.

That is, learning to move toward our goals and desires one step at a time, often just one baby-step at a time and learning to love the doing, learning to use the accumulation of time. When we multiply tiny pieces of time with small increments of daily effort, we too will find we can accomplish magnificent things. We can change the world. It makes me sad in a way," I admitted to Carolyn. "What might I have accomplished if I had thought of a wonderful goal thirty five or forty years ago and had worked away at it 'one bulb at a time' through all those years?” “Just think what I might have been able to achieve!" My daughter summed up the message of the day in her usual direct way. "Start tomorrow," she said.

She was right. It's so pointless to think of the lost hours of yesterdays. The way to make learning a lesson of celebration instead of a cause for regret is to only ask, "How can I put this to use today?"

Use the Daffodil Principle. Stop waiting.....

-Until your car or home is paid off
-Until you get a new car or home
-Until your kids leave the house
-Until you go back to school
-Until you finish school
-Until you clean the house
-Until you organize the garage
-Until you clean off your desk
-Until you lose 10 lbs.
-Until you gain 10 lbs.
-Until you get married
-Until you get a divorce
-Until you have kids
-Until the kids go to school
-Until you retire
-Until summer
-Until spring
-Until winter
-Until fall
-Until you die...
There is no better time than right now to be get busy for God! Our work for God is a journey, not a destination. So work like you don't need money. Love like you've never been hurt, and dance like no one's watching!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

"Made with Real Langostino Lobster"

Long John Silver's is offering lobster bites with "real LANGOSTINO lobster. The problem is that langostino lobster is not really lobster at all! According to Wikipedia:
Langostino is a Spanish word with different meanings in different areas. In America, it is commonly used in the restaurant trade to refer to the meat of the squat lobster, which is neither a true lobster nor a prawn. It is more closely related to porcelain crabs and hermit crabs. Crustaceans labeled as langostino are no more than 3 inches (7.6 centimetres) long, and weigh no more than 7 ounces (198 grams). Langostinos are not langoustes (spiny lobsters) despite a similar name (in Spanish, Lobster is called Langosta.) Also, Langostinos are sometimes confused with langoustines (Norway lobster), which is a true lobster common in European cuisine.

People are rushing in to LJS's to get a great price on 'lobster," but in reality, they are more like Crawdad bites! Most people simply hear the word lobster and think, "What a great deal!" To be honest, I haven't tried them (and they may be delicious) but I just hate the "deception" in the advertising.

It is a lot like people who claim to be "Christian" but don't bear any of the fruit of the Spirit. They claim the name, but are they really "Christian?" I am not trying to judge anyone in particular here. I am simply saying that it is time for those Christians who truly "walk the walk" to stand up and be recognized. Matthew 7 tells us that we will be recognized by our fruit. Maybe we can be recognized by our crustacean, too! Let us be lobsters and not langostino lobsters!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ministry of Excellence

In Malachi 1, it is recorded how the people of Israel were guilty of bringing damaged gifts to the Lord. In the Old Testament, offering sacrifices was part of worship & God had given strict guidelines regarding the animals that could be offered in sacrifice. One of the most important guidelines was that the sacrificial animal must be unblemished, with no physical ailments & no defects. The problem is that these are precisely the kind of animals that the typical Israelite family would want to keep for themselves. As an Israelite, there would exist in your life a tension & a temptation to keep the best members of the flock for yourself & to bring the second-best to the Lord as a sacrificial offering. Unfortunately, the Israelites on many occasions gave in to that temptation. God was not fooled, & we see His anger displayed Malachi 1.

It is clear that God does not settle for second best.I believe that excellence honors God and inspires people. I see three truths about excellence in ministry:
A. The message which God is trying to get across here--to the Israelites & to us--is that bringing our acceptable sacrifices & offerings to Him is not optional. Excellence in ministry is essential because it is a reflection of what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.
It is very possible that some people are reluctant to bring God "their best" because they feel their best isn't good enough. Someone has said, "The closest to perfection a person ever comes is when he fills out a job application form." But the truth is, God is not looking for perfection in our ministry, He is looking for us to give Him the absolute best that we have to offer.
There's one more fact which we can't lose sight of. We must not lose sight of the fact that, when we decide whether or not we'll give God our best, that decision affects people. People who may or may not have the opportunity to make a decision for Jesus Christ, depending on whether or not you give God "the best" of your time & energy. Missionaries who may or may not have funding to spread the gospel in a new area, children in our own community who may or may not realize that there is hope in life despite a torn home life--all of these situations depend directly on our decisions each day whether we'll give God our "best" or whether we'll give him our "leftovers." What will you give to the Lord today?

(my thanks to Donald L. Howard for this look at Malachi 1)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Improper Use of Fusion

As this video (courtesy of BluefishTV) shows, there is most definitely a WRONG way to fuse your life and faith! Learning to be aware of those in our community that need our help is an important aspect of living out our faith. Helping the wrong people keeps us from being able to help the right people!

James tells us that when we see our brother (or sister) in need and fail to help them, we sin. We have a responsibility to share with those in need. Of course we want to share the gospel, but if the person is hungry or homeless, getting them help with their physical needs first allows us to live out our faith before we actually share that faith with them.

So, is there something you need to do? Is there someone in need (that you know of?) Now is the time to live out our faith and not just talk about it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Do You Want On Your Tombstone?

If your family or friends could write the one thing they remember most about you on your tombstone, what would it say? Some people's might say, “He made a lot of money” Or maybe, “She knew how to have a good time.” Or someone else's might say, “He had the best-kept yard in the neighborhood.” What will yours say? For what will you be remembered? Here are some sayings from actual tombstones:
1. “Here lies Anne Mann. Who lived an old maid, but died an old Mann.”
2. “Beneath this sod, a lump of clay lays Arabella Young; who on the 21st of May began to hold her tongue.”
3. “The children of Israel wanted bread, the Lord sent them Manna. Old Clark Wallace wanted a wife, the devil sent him Anna.”
4. Here lies Johnny Yeast- ‘Forgive me for not rising.’
5. “Here lies Butch, we planted him raw. He was quick on the trigger but slow on the draw.”
6. “Under the sod and under the trees, lies the body of Jonathan Peas. He’s not there, there’s only the pod. Peas shelled out and went to God.”

These are all pretty funny but when we think about it seriously, what will your tombstone say? The reality is that it is that how we live our lives is how we will be remembered. We need to live our lives in such a way that when people remember us, they remember how we loved and served God. After all, that is what is really important. Being famous is nice, being rich is nice (at least I think it would be!), and being well-liked is nice. There is nothing wrong with being famous, rich, or well-liked, but those are not the things we need to be remembered for. Worldly things will all pass away and only the treasures we have stored up in heaven will matter.

We are in a time of economic distress and people are worried--about their jobs, their homes, and their security. I am not saying we shouldn't be concerned with taking care of ourselves and our families. What I am saying is that if we put first things first (storing up treasures in heaven) the rest will take of itself. God loves us and knows what we need before we even ask. God knows the very number of the hairs on our heads. Don't you think it is time we started trusting him to take care of our current situations and live simply and contentedly in His care? I know, easier said than done, but we need to work at it!

Monday, April 20, 2009

How Good and Pleasant

Psalm 133:1 "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" While I was in Princeton last week, my wife shared an experience of hers with our dogs. For those who don't know, three weeks ago I adopted a 18 month old Australian Shepherd mix and 2 weeks ago, Amy and Rachel adopted a 6-8 year old German Shepherd mix. These two had only visited with each other briefly (since I am in Stillwater and Amy is still finishing seminary in Princeton) and they really didn't get along very well! Amy decided to take both dogs with her to deliver Rachel to school (I guess she is a glutton for punishment!) However, the dogs were content to ride together in the back seat and no fighting occurred! Of course, this made Amy VERY happy!

As happy as Amy was when the dogs got along, just imagine how happy God is when his children get along! It is good and pleasant when we live in unity. Now living in unity doesn't mean that we have to agree with everything that the other person believes in, but it does mean that at times "we agree to disagree." The Evangelical Presbyterian Church states it this way, "In Essentials, Unity; in Non-essentials, Liberty; in All Things, Love." If it is not essential, we need to let love reign.

The big problem I see is that many people disagree on what is "essential." For me the essentials are easy enough to decipher. If the Word of God says it, it is essential. If it something that the Bible doesn't speak to specifically, then what does the Bible say that relates to the situation? Again, it comes down to your view of Scripture. I believe the Word of God is true (All of it) therefore Scripture allows me to state with certainty what is essential. Those who do not have this same view of Scripture will have a problem determining what is essential. All I can say to them is, "Good luck!" Without the absolutes of Scripture, unity will always be hard to come by.

So, let us do our best to make our Father happy--let us strive to live together in unity!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Different View

I am not preaching today. This is the first Sunday since July and only the second Sunday in nearly 2 years that I haven't been behind the pulpit! I have to admit, it really is weird for me. The good news is that I get to hear my best friend preach.

Amy will be preaching at her Field Ed. church this morning and Rachel and I will be there to give our support. I know that she will do great and I am looking forward to it!

Preach it, Amy!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Almost Done!

If all goes well today, I will finish up my sermon planning through Easter of 2010! There is a great sense of accomplishment (and relief) at having come this far. I know that there will be changes to my current plan, but that is OK , too.

I will be preaching 11 weeks on Nehemiah, and 6 weeks on "ordinary people" (like Tabitha, Asa, and Stephen). There will of course be a Mother's Day and Father's Day sermon (though that really isn't very Reformed!) There is also the normal Advent sermons dealing with hope, peace, joy and love.

So, what is on tap for the rest of the year? I suggest you come to SPC some Sunday and find out!

May God bless your week with as much accomplishment as He has blessed mine!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Working on Sermons

I am currently in Princeton working on my sermons for the rest of the year (and beyond!) Preparing sermon ideas this far in advance is somewhat of a tightrope walk. I have to do my best to allow the Spirit to work in determining what I should preach while keeping word my own prejudice as to what "I" want to say to the congregation at bay. Preaching the Word of God is not all about saying what I think they need to hear, but allowing the Spirit to lead me to what they need to hear. Like all preachers, I have favorite Bible stories and favorite books I like to preach from.

I actually thought this would be an easier process. I have a great place to study, one of the best library's in the world at my fingertips, and the time to use both. It isn't that easy! Advent will come, Lent, Palm Sunday, and Easter will come--those are times that it is "easier" to determine the direction of my preaching. But what about the rest of the year? How do I "know" what to preach? I simply have to trust the Spirit's guidance and then be willing "down the road" to change the direction I am going if the Spirit leads me in a different direction!

I have to admit, it would be easier to "make up my own mind" and then get busy writing outlines, but that is simply not the "right" way to do it. I will have many sermons outlined before I leave Princeton, and I trust that most of them will be preached in the next year, BUT, if the Spirit leads me in a different direction when I get back to Stillwater, rest assured that I will listen!

So, how is it going? I am in the middle of a series on the book of Nehemiah right now and when I finish that, it will be up to the Spirit to show we where to go next! It is exciting, challenging, and just a bit scary, but I know that this will be a great week!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Study Leave

Just an update. I am in Princeton this week working on outlining my sermons until Easter of 2010! I may find something that is post-worthy while I am doing this, and if so, I will post it. If not, rest assured that everything is OK and that I will begin posting new things next week!
God bless you this week!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Judas, Another Look

Judas Iscariot, a name that is tied to betrayal. But is there more to Judas than just a money hungry man willing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver? I'd like to take a another look at Judas today as we continue our Lenten Journey.

Judas was one of the twelve that Jesus picked to be his "elite" disciples. He was trusted with the money (though one would think that Mathew/Levi as a tax collector would have had plenty of experience handling money.) He was with Jesus for His entire ministry, but in the end, he betrays Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. It just doesn't make sense to me that he would betray Jesus for money.

I believe that there is an alternate way of looking at Judas. While this in no way lessens the betrayal, it may shed more light on what was going on in his mind that lead him to betray Jesus. I believe that Judas was a Zealot. The Zealots were a group that were actively trying to overthrow the Roman government. If Judas didn't understand the kingdom as Jesus preached it (and I think the betrayal proves that!) then he might have simply been trying to force Jesus hand. If Judas saw the Messiah as one who would come with military power to re-establish the physical kingdom of David for Jews, then his betrayal was actually Judas' attempt to move the process along.

The scenario would go this way in Judas' mind. I betray Jesus, they come to arrest him, Jesus acts with power to destroy the Roman oppressors and presto! the new kingdom is established. Now, I have no way of knowing what was going on in Judas' mind, but I would like to think that after spending three years with Jesus, he wouldn't simply betray him for the money. I would like to think that the money was a "bonus" he felt that they would be getting for the treasury of the new kingdom.

Of course, we know that Judas was wrong, wrong in thinking that Jesus kingdom was an earthly one, and wrong to betray Jesus. But, if we look at his motives in a different light, maybe, just maybe, we can see Judas actions a little differently. What do you think?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Amy!

Today is Amy's birthday! Which one? You will have to ask her, because I'll never tell. God has a way of bringing people into our lives at just the right moment and Amy is one of those people for me. I am a better person because of her. I feel for her the same way I did when I said my marriage vows to her back in the summer of 1996. Here they are (in case you were not able to make it to the ceremony!):
Amy, I believe that as God created Eve just for Adam, He created you, just for me. I was lost without you and needed a helper...God sent you to me. I love you, and I have always loved you. I loved you before I even knew your name, when all I knew was that God had someone for me. I will always love you.

As the first song I ever played for you said, "I am your man, Now and Forever." I promise to listen to you, to learn from you, and to look out for your needs. I promise to hold you close and tell you of my love for you. More imporatntly, I promise to SHOW you my love. I promise to be there in the good times and the bad, the happy and the sad; when you are healthy and when you are sick. I promise to do my best to protect you from all harm.

Amy, my love, I vow to give you all that I am, and all I ever hope to be. Now and Forever, I'll be your man.

On your birthday, Amy, I once again put this vow out for the world to see. I love you and I am so happy that we get to grow old together!

Monday, April 6, 2009

The End of Christian America

In this week's Newsweek magazine, there is an article entitled, "The End of Christian America." It notes, "The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades." While this is not surprising, it is something to think about.

In the past, everyone considered America a Christian nation and was proud of it. Today, that seems to be changing. The numbers seem to tell me that those people who identified themselves as Christians (but never went to church, never lived the life of a Christian, and never really did anything that would set them apart as a Christian) are no longer identifying themselves as "Christian." I don't see that as a bad thing. Instead, I think it is time for those of us who truly live out the Christian walk should do so and be proud of it!

With the subtraction of those who identified themselves as Christians (but probably really were not in the strictest sense) that leaves the rest of us to show our neighbors (and the world) what a "real" Christian looks like. I believe that it is time for all Christians to live their lives as Jesus called us to live them--in humble service to others. If we do that, the world will take notice. It only took a handful of committed men and women to turn the world "upside down" nearly 2000 years ago. Don't you think God can help us do that same thing again? If God is God (and He is) then of course He can help us make a difference in the world. It is simply time for ALL Christians to stop petty bickering and fighting among themselves and to start fighting the right battle! Satan is alive and well and it is high time we stopped helping him out.

As we go through this Holy Week, let us all make a new commitment to God. Let us truly decide that "His will be done" and let our will fall to the wayside. What may sound radical in today's society was common for the first century Christians. Let go of all of your selfish motives and let God take control of your life--you'll be glad you did (and so will those in our world that need to see the love of God!)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Of Good & Bad, Ups & Downs

Well, the last couple of days have had their share of swings for me! On a positive note, Kizzy has finally realized that there is more to a walk, than just a walk. On the other hand,she loves the rain so she tends to take her time "taking care of business" when I would like to get out of the rain.

On a doubly sad note, the baptisms that were schedule for Sunday have had to be postponed. The mother/grandmother/great-grandmother of the ones to be baptized died suddenly today. So, instead of baptisms on Sunday, it is a funeral (OK, service of the Resurrection) on Monday.

On a positive note, I will be going to Princeton on Tuesday to celebrate Amy's birthday with her. I originally was scheduled to lead a Lenten lesson that night, but now the other preacher is doing it (to prepare for Maundy Thursday.)

I guess what I am saying is that life is normal! We all have ups and downs, good and bad happening to us at all times. It is how we deal with the situations that makes all the difference. As we move into Holy Week, this is an important thing to remember. Jesus had to deal with ups and downs as well--from the Triumphal Entry to the Crucifixion in less than a week! Just as Jesus deal with the good and the bad situations in order to fulfill all righteousness, let us all strive to do the same!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's Day

Well, be careful today as there will be people trying to "get" you for April Fools Day. I know, because I used to be one of those people! I am doing my best not to do that anymore. What some people think is fun, can be hurtful to others and so, I promise to do my best not to be one of "those" people.

Thinking of fools, the Bible tells us that the fool says there is no God. Guess what? With that definition, we have a lot of fools out there. Just because I have never been to Egypt doesn't mean there is no Sphinx. Just because I have never seen an atom doesn't mean that are no such things as atoms. I have never seen God with my eyes, but I have seen what God has done in my life and in the lives of others. God is at work today through His Word and His people.

I've heard a joke that today is the atheist's holiday, but rather than be mean, I think it is time to love those who do not know God in order to reach them for God. That means loving the people that I would normally not be associated with. Until we learn to love those who are the most unlovable, we will never be able to accomplish the things that the Lord has intended us to accomplish.

Be on the lookout today for those who would try and trick you, but more importantly, be on the lookout for an opportunity to love the unlovely, to help the helpless, and to serve God in doing so!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

My Happiness

This was one of my Mom's favorite songs. If you didn't listen to it (or missed the words) here are the lyrics:
Evening shadows make me blue
When each weary day is through
How I long to be with you -- my happiness
Every day I reminisce
Dreaming of your tender kiss
Always thinking how I miss -- my happiness
A million years it seems
Have gone by since we shared our dreams
But I'll hold you again,
There'll be no blue memories then
Whether skies are gray or blue
Any place on earth will do
Just as long as I'm with you -- my happiness
Whether skies are gray or blue
Any place on earth will do
Just as long as I'm with you -- my happiness

Though this isn't a "religious" song, I see an application for us as Christians. If we truly see Jesus (or any aspect of the triune God) as "our happiness" then any place on earth will be fine for us--just as long as we are with God. We all have good times and bad times. The good news is that God is there at ALL times! The true question is, do you really want Him there? Is God your "Happiness?" or is God the one who is "out to spoil your fun?"

When we get to the place where God is truly "our Happiness" the Joy that will come stays regardless of our present circumstances (important in today's volatile climate.) So, how about you? Is God your happiness, or are you looking for that joy somewhere else? Here is a secret. No matter where you look, true happiness will never be found apart from God!

Monday, March 30, 2009

New Habits

It is amazing how many new habits I have developed in the few days that I have had Kizzy. I now exercise several times a day (because Kizzy needs to walk for her exercise). I now make sure all the dishes are in the dishwasher (not the sink!) and the counter is cleaned off. These are things that most people do anyway, but I always found an excuse (I'm too busy, I'll do it later) and now these excuses have to go away.

I now keep the floor clean of clutter (no more setting the newspaper on the floor to be thrown away the next time I head to the trash can). I am not sure who is being trained more, me or Kizzy!

None-the-less, the early morning and late evening walks are becoming something that both of us look forward to having. It is also nice to have a bit of company (though sometimes she wants to be more company that I am used to having).

The bottom line is this, Kizzy is making me a better person. If that is true of a dog, don't you think that it is important that as Christian our presence makes people better? Who we are and how we act must make a difference in those we come into contact, or we aren't being what we should be! Let us all learn a lesson from my interaction with Kizzy--brighten the little piece of the world where you are and make it a better place!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

New Family Member

Well, tomorrow I will get a new family member! Kizzy will join the family. She is an 18 month old dog of undetermined pedigree (though they think she may have some Australian Shepherd in her).
Kizzy will get to see the rest of the family on Saturday when Amy and Rachel come up to see her. Right now, the big question is whether or not she will stay in Stillwater, or move to Princeton after I spend the week after Easter there!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I Make Crosses

Over the last couple of weeks, I have learned another of the hazards of growing older. It seems that my skin is getting thinner! I have been making crosses in my workshop. I am making them from oak that was giving to me by a couple of members (the wood actually came from trees on their farms that they harvested and cut into boards). This oak is not completely finished--it is a bit rough. It seems that every time I work with it, I end up knocking off a little piece of skin. It isn't all that painful, just irritating.

So, now when I work with the wood I have to wear gloves. It isn't that I have anything against gloves, it is just that I miss the feel of the wood in my hands. There is something therapeutic about working with wood. I make the crosses to give to people when I visit with them in the hospital or when they are having a spiritual crisis (or sometimes just to say I am praying for you). As I work on them (with praise music playing in the background) I pray for those who will receive them. It therefore becomes an extension of my ministry.

Some people might think it strange for a preacher to spend hours in a workshop making crosses when I could buy a cross without the time spent or the blood lost, but it is more than just a "prayer cross" that I am making. When I spend the time to make them, I am literally giving a piece of myself to everyone who receives a cross.

What is it that you can do for others? My mother-in-law gives a part of herself when she makes and embroiders the blankets that our congregation ties for prayer blankets. The people who receive them may never see her, but she is there. I had an aunt in a small town in Kentucky that would make banana bread from the bananas the store in town could no longer sell. Both the woman who gave her the bananas (for free) and my aunt had a special ministry in providing these delicious breads to the people of the area. So, again I ask, what can you do for others?

As we continue our Lenten journey, let us all take time to figure out just what we can do to make someone else's life better. Be it banana bread, a cross, or simply a phone call to check in on someone that you haven't seen for a while. It is the right think to do, and you'll feel better for having done it!