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!