December 30, 2014

Christmas Triumphs Again

Those who contend there is no war on Christmas are wrong. One small segment of society attacks Christmas every year, but it’s a campaign the secularists can never win. 

During the 2014 Christmas season, we experienced the usual absurd, sometimes silly attacks on Christmas trees, Christmas cookies, candy canes, wreaths and garlands, Santa and Secret Santa, stars, bells, snowmen and snow women, the colors red and green and sentences beginning with ’Twas or ’Tis. Remarkably, some few believe these are symbols that remind people of the birth of Jesus. 

The power that exists in the Spirit of Christmas is so irresistible and so compelling that no attacks can disrupt, retard or stop it. As in the past, the energy and vitality that was Christmas 2014 was everywhere, unavoidable and all-pervasive.

Christmas will always be with us, and one reason is because the simple message, Love Came Down at Christmas, tugs at the hearts of all but the most spiritually barren.

God’s annual invitation to return to love is so simple and so appealing, it will never be vanquished. Those who accept the message, accept God.
“. . .and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”                                                                                                                                                    Luke 1:33

December 17, 2014

Forgiveness: A Gift at Christmas

Louis Zamperini began life in Southern California as a troublemaker whose path took a U-turn when he found new challenges in high school and college (USC) where he broke state and world records in long distance racing. At 19, he represented the USA in the 1936 Olympics.

In 1941, Zamperini volunteered for the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier on a B-24 that went down over the Pacific. Fortunately, he was rescued but not until he had drifted on a small raft for forty-seven days. Unfortunately, he was rescued by the Japanese who tortured and abused him in POW camps for two years. 

After the war, Zamperini struggled to adjust to civilian life. Driven by revenge, he drank heavily and partied constantly with friends and celebrities who considered him a war hero.

Inspired by a Billy Graham Crusade in 1949, he turned his life around a second time, overcame his anxieties and became an inspirational speaker.  Ultimately, he returned to Japan and personally forgave the men who abused him during the war

The story of this extraordinary American legend is told in Laura Hillenbrand’s book, Unbroken, which has been adapted for an inspirational movie by the same name opening Christmas Day 2014.

How appropriate that Zamperini’s story of mercy and forgiveness is released on Christmas Day when we celebrate the birth of Jesus who taught us to “forgive those who trespass against us.”  As we celebrate the Christmas Season, let us consider a gift of forgiveness, a holy and sacred gift that will ultimately be more meaningful than anything else we might give.

December 11, 2014

Decorate Yourself for Christmas

On a recent Sunday in Advent, 2014, Judy White-Wunder, pastor of the Bluff Point Methodist Church, suggested the members of our congregation remember to decorate themselves for Christmas. Here are a few   suggestions for responding to Judy's novel idea:

We should begin with our mouths. Christmas calls for a generous, radiant smile that revealing the bliss we experience from the Good News that Jesus Christ is born. And let us decorate our lips with a cheerful, “Merry Christmas” to everyone we meet.

Beautify our ears with the sacred music of the Christmas Season, and let our eyes shine like brilliant stars, radiant as the star that led the wise men to the birthplace of our Savior.

Embellish our hands with gifts for loved ones and those less fortunate than ourselves and deliver them with “happy feet” and a spirited  bounce in our step reflecting Christmas jubilation.

Finally, let us decorate our hearts with abundant praise and thanksgiving for a compassionate and generous God who gave us his Son to teach us “to love another” as he loved us.

December 1, 2014

A Very Special Gold Star Kid

Myles Eckert was nine years old in February of 2014 when he found a $20 bill in the parking lot of the Cracker Barrel Restaurant in Maumee, Ohio. His first impulse was to buy a video game, but then he saw a soldier enter the restaurant.

Myles was only five weeks old when his father was killed in Iraq during his second tour of duty. As a memorial to his dad, Myles wrote the following note and gave his $20 bill to another soldier who had just entered the restaurant:
Dear Soldier,
My dad was a soldier. He's in heaven now. I found this 20 dollars in the parking lot when we got here. We like to pay it forward in my family. It's your lucky day!
Thank you for your service.                                                                                                                              Myles Eckert, a gold star kid. 
When the story aired on CBS News, people from all over the country sent Myles $20. All their gifts were redirected to the Snowball Express, a charity serving Gold Star Kids, the children of those men and women who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.

By May of 2014, Myles’ $20 amounted to $317,770!

During this Christmas Season, as we celebrate God’s gift to all mankind, may Myles Eckert’s largess encourage each of us to give to others in a spirit of love, compassion and goodwill.

November 24, 2014

Forgive Yourself

My latest discovery on the New Books shelf at  the Penn Yan Library is 100 of 
the Worst Ideas in History by Michael Smith and Eric Kasum. In the authors’ own words, their book explores the “priceless, multifaceted jewels of misjudgment.”

One example is the deal John Pemberton made to sell the formula for a dark, sugary syrup that he claimed would cure a host of physical problems. Today, that sweet sticky syrup is the flavoring agent for Coca-Cola, the top-selling product in the history of the world. Pemberton never got a penny from the mega profits.

I wonder if John Pemberton ever forgave himself for denying himself and his family the pleasure of all the “stuff” he might have purchased with the profits of Coca-Cola sales of more than $20 million a day?  

Most people know how important it is to forgive others for our sins against them, but are we prepared to forgive ourselves for our errors, our sins and our “jewels of misjudgment?” 

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul tells us to “forgive one another.” Scholars suggest the Greek root word for “one another” refers not only to others but to ourselves!  

Are you carrying a grudge toward yourself for any reason? If so, you are turning your back on a gift God gave to you through Jesus’ death on the cross. That gift is forgiveness. Isn’t it time you showed yourself some compassion by accepting this most precious gift? 
Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  
                                                                                              Colossians 3:13 

November 15, 2014

Stress and the Power of the Holy Spirit

In the theater production of The Oldest Living Graduate, old Colonel Kincaid is sitting in his wheelchair remembering his life as a young cowboy. He reflects on nights under the stars, the good taste of ranch food, his children and the wife he loved.

As he sadly reflects on his life, he says, ”I let it all slip by. I let it all slip by.”

How often do we let life slip by as we deal with stress like the demands of our job, failing health, loneliness, financial problems, rejection or difficulties in a relationship. These are just a few of the frustrations  that can overwhelm us and make our life miserable.  

In the Fourteenth Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus informs his disciples:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—“
The advocate to which Jesus refers is our soul/spirit, breathed on us by the Creator of the Universe. If you follow Christ and if you are aware of the Holy Spirit within you, you will find the strength to cope with the stresses of life.   You will also find the confidence to overcome adversity and the power to live without fear.
“… the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”                                                                
                             2nd Timothy 1:7    

November 6, 2014

The True Self

Nancy and I have a granddaughter who is expecting her first child in early December, and we are enjoying following our great-grandson’s growth and development since he was the size of a pea.

Recently, I wondered if our new great-grandson has a soul yet. Most people of faith believe our soul leaves our mortal body when we die, but when does it enter our body?

My research suggests there are many answers to that question including that ensoulment happens at conception, forty to 120 days after conception, when an embryo moves, at birth, at  age fourteen or the first time a child says, “Amen!”

I believe that this spark of divine creation which is the purest part of ourselves enters our bodies sometime between conception and birth. And during that miraculous time when mother and child are bonding, our eternal identity is created. It is our True Self and what makes us genuinely unique.  It is also our link to where we came from.

Furthermore, I believe that during our lifetime, if we discover that link to our Creator which is available in Jesus Christ, it can lead to the peace and security which is always present in our True Self.
"If you really know me, you will know my Father as well."
                                                                    John 14:7

October 30, 2014

The Apostle Paul and the Washington Redskins

Growing up in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, back in the Forties I was a Washington Redskins fan. From 1940 through 1945, the Skins won four NFL East Division Championships, and I rarely missed listening to each game on the radio on a Sunday afternoon. 

On October 27, 2014, the Redskins played the Dallas Cowboys who had only lost one game by that date. Prior to the game, everyone of the pundits picked the Cowboys to win, but through determination, perseverance and passion for the game, the Washington Redskins won.

Two thousand years ago, the apostle Paul was not familiar with any sport remotely similar to modern American football, but his letters reveal a general knowledge of the popular athletic events of his day like running, boxing and wrestling. As a result he often used a sports metaphor to remind church members that a Christian life also requires training, discipline and strength of purpose.

In addition, St. Paul told his readers that the prize for athletes is a perishable garland of green leaves, but the prize for faithful Christians will never die! In a letter to his close friend, Timothy, the aging apostle Paul commented on the prize he anticipated as a result of a life devoted to the Lord.  
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. 
                                                                                          2 Timothy 4:7-8

October 21, 2014

The Ladder of Life

Nancy’s mother, Grace Weaver Ogden, told her long ago, “You should always have something to look forward to.”  Another way Mother Ogden might have said that is, “You should always look for the next step on the ladder of life.”

In the early stages of our lives, we climb a ladder to create a personal identity, give context to our being and establish those traits and characteristics that make us unique. It is a journey we all make, and there is no reason to apologize for it. It’s called waking to life, and it involves creating a home and family, working, exploring and experiencing being alive.

For moral guidance on our journey, The Ten Commandments have served the faithful throughout the world for over thirty-four centuries. What some people may not remember is that Jesus gave us a new commandment. In the Gospel of John, we read:
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so  you must love one another. 
Learning to love God and one another as God loves us is, perhaps, the greatest life lesson we’ll ever learn, and it ultimately leads to a spiritual awakening, humility, inner peace and joy.

October 9, 2014

Jesus’ Promise

In the Gospel according to John, we read Jesus’ promise: 
"I am the resurrection and I am life. If a man has faith in me, even though he die, he shall come to life; and no one who is alive and has faith will ever die.”
I remembered that promise recently when Nancy and I attended  a memorial service for our friend, Virginia Marks. Everything we know about Gini suggests she lived a virtuous life and she believed in Jesus. Her children loved and admired her. She was a good wife to her husband, Charlie, and she was a faithful and active member of the Penn Yan United Methodist Church.

In his first letter to the Church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul writes:
“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
I remembered that Bible verse when Nancy and I watched Heaven Is for Real, a movie based on Pastor Todd Burpo’s book about his four-year-old son, Colton, who had emergency surgery in 2003. In the months that followed the operation, Colton began describing his experiences in heaven where he met people about whom he could not possibly have known.

Those of us who believe in the promises of Jesus; those of us who listen to and enjoy the thrushes’ song; those of us who love and appreciate the beauty of God’s natural world; those of us who take time to smell the roses are enjoying a momentary glimpse of greater things to come in a place Jesus called paradise.

October 2, 2014

Prayer in Schools: 1944 to 2014

The year was 1944. World War II was raging, and students in schools throughout the country were collecting tins cans for recycling to produce armaments for our nation’s defense.

In January of that year, the six, seventh and eighth grade students at Lincoln School in Gettysburg Pennsylvania collected 28,903 tin cans to win Adams County School Honors for collecting the most cans. Melvin Sease topped individual collectors with a total of 2,724 cans.

In a formal presentation service in March, Sease was given the honor of accepting the Tin Can Salvage Flag in behalf of all students.

The program was held in the school auditorium and Judge W. C. Sheely, the master of ceremonies, introduced the speaker, Dr. A. R. Wentz, president of the Gettysburg Theological Seminary. 

The program was opened with the reading of the Bible followed by the reciting of the Lord’s Prayer, the salute to the flag and the singing of “Come Thou, Almighty King.”

It’s been fifty-two years (1962) since the U.S. Supreme Court first ruled that government-endorsed prayer in public schools is unconstitutional. Over the years since 1962, the vacuum that decision created has been filled by what is known as “limited public forums”… faith based student clubs who share their message now with clubs for atheists, humanists, agnostics, Wiccans and Satanists.

Our pubic schools have gone from reading the Bible and prayer to clubs for followers of Satan in sixty-two years. My how times have changed! 

September 24, 2014

Evidence of God’s Presence

The legend of the Cherokee Indian youth’s rite of passage tells of a boy who is blindfolded by his father and left alone overnight in the forest. The lad sits on a stump all night and is told not to remove the blindfold until the sun rises.  

The boy is terrified by the night sounds, but the only way he can be considered a man is to sit without showing fear or distress. When morning comes, the youth removes his blindfold and discovers that his father is sitting nearby prepared to protect him from all harm.

The story of the Rite of Passage suggests that like the Cherokee father, God may not be seen, but that doesn’t mean He is not present.

Recently, I had an echocardiogram, and as I watched on the monitor and heard the sound of my heart pumping, I marveled at the evidence of a Creator within me. My embryo was only three weeks old and smaller than a bean when my heart spontaneously began to beat and circulate the blood within me.

Evidence of God’s presence is there for everyone to feel in a human heart which begins beating spontaneously when an embryo is even smaller than a bean and only three weeks old. I estimate this perfect pump in my eighty-three year old body has been beating more that 3 trillion times nourishing and cleaning the 100 trillion cells within me.

The miraculous human heart, inspired by our Creator, is more than sufficient evidence of the existence of God.

September 19, 2014

Faith and Works

A man fell in a deep pit, and he couldn’t climb out. Here are the reactions from people who passed by the pit: 
An EPA agent asked the man if he had a permit to dig the pit.
An IRS agent asked the man if he was paying taxes on the pit.
An optimist told the man, “Things could be worse.”
A pessimist told the man, “Things will get worse.”
A “fire and brimstone” preacher said, “You deserve the pit.”
A psychiatrist said, “Tell me about your childhood.”
A mathematician calculated the depth of the pit.

A reporter took notes to write a story about the the pit.
Everyone who found the man in the pit had an opinion about his plight, but none of them did anything about his dilemma, until . . . Jesus found the man in the deep pit and rescued him.

In a letter considered to be a how-to book on Christian living, James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”

Most Christians have the belief part down.  The question is, “Have they broken a sweat doing something about it?”

September 11, 2014

Jesus: Simply A Good Man and a Moral Teacher?

People who do not believe that Jesus was the Son of God will often suggest that He was simply a good man and a moral teacher. Those who take that position would obviously agree that honesty is one characteristic of a good man.

Jesus claimed to be God. Was he lying? If so, He was not a good man. If He wasn’t lying, His claim must be true or He was deranged.

Moral people are truthful. Jesus claimed he could forgive our sins. Was that a lie?  If not, His claim must be true or He was insane.

Was Jesus a lunatic? Jesus spoke some of the most profound words ever recorded, and in those words people have found strength and comfort for two thousand years. No logical person can possibly conclude that Jesus was insane.

If Jesus was not a liar and if He was not insane, the only alternative is that He was the Christ, the Son of God…. as He claimed.

C. S. Lewis, a professor at Cambridge University and a former agnostic, said this:
“You can shut Him (Jesus) up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a daemon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

September 4, 2014

Following Jesus

After a delicious seafood lunch at a restaurant in the port town of Beaufort, North Carolina, Nancy and I sat by the docks where the fishing boats come and go.

Nearby, two fishermen were cleaning their day’s catch of blues, flounder and mullet. As we observed this scene, a third man approached the fishermen 

“Can I help you?” said one of the fishermen. The stranger smiled and said, “Pete and Andy, come with me. I’ve been looking for you. I have an important job for you to do.”

The fishermen obviously didn’t know the stranger, so we were stunned when they washed their hands, put their knives away and walked off with him.

Perhaps this familiar Bible story in a 21st Century setting will help the reader  appreciate what a courageous and bold act it was for Peter and Andrew to walk into an uncertain future as Jesus’ disciples.

It still takes courage to follow Jesus. Discipleship requires a desire to do the will of God and belief that Jesus is the Messiah.

What is the will of God? The 8th Century prophet Micah answered that question with this simple statement: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”  

August 28, 2014

Prisoners of a Wired World?

When my Dad was a young man in the early 1920’s, he built a crystal radio receiver, a simple, inexpensive device that became a major force in introducing radio to the public.

Since Dad made his crystal set over ninety years ago, technology has created so many gadgets to communicate with others that some believe we may have become prisoners of a Wired World. The technology that was supposed to free up time for relaxing activity has made life more hectic and frantic.

Alan Lightman, author of A Sense of the Mysterious suggests that at times, “we have a sense of being trapped in a world we cannot control.”  Lightman adds that technology has caused him to lose, “something of his inner self.”

Inner peace has little to do with technology and the stuff we gather around us. It does not come from a world in constant motion where we are  always on our computers or smart phones texting, emailing, Googling or Twittering.

Christians believe that inner peace comes from faith in a sovereign God and a trusting relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. That faith offers believers joy and peace of mind and soul. 

August 22, 2014


Many years ago when I was a college admissions officer, our staff considered an application from a prospective student whose credentials suggested he could not be successful at our institution. We voted to reject him.

For some reason, the student’s file ended up in the wrong place, and he received a letter offering him admission to our college which he accepted.

Obviously, the student had a virtue we did not recognize, because four years later he graduated!

In many cases, success in college is determined by a student’s resolve, tenacity and commitment, characteristics which cannot be measured by tests.

Perseverance often defines how successful we are in any human endeavor. God has endowed each of us with varying abilities, but we are never limited in the desire and effort to accomplish our goals in whatever we choose to do.

As a wise wrestling coach told me a long time ago, “The determination to win is the better part of winning.” 

August 15, 2014

Bless Me, Indeed

Imagine you have just finished unloading your car for your daughter who has officially moved into the freshman dorm at the college which will be her home for the next year.

Just before you are ready to leave for your trip home, your daughter takes your hand, and says, “There’s just one more thing before you go. Will you please give me your blessing?”

What parent wouldn’t be thrilled to receive such a request?

In his best seller, The Prayer of Jabez, author Bruce Wilkinson directs the readers’ attention to the Old Testament book of 1st Chronicles.  

There, among a long, boring list of unpronounceable names like Hahahashtari and Mahalalela a pearl is revealed, the Prayer of Jabez:
O, that you would bless me and enlarge my boundaries! Let your hand be with me and keep me from harm . . .
Jesus said, "If you being flawed know how to bless your children, how much more your heavenly Father wishes to bless you.” How pleasing it must be to our Father in Heaven when we ask for his blessing.

August 8, 2014

Not Yet, Not Yet

At the end of the movie Gladiator, the murdered body of the hero Maximus is carried from the Roman Colosseum. In the last scene, the General’s friend, Juba says goodbye to his fellow Gladiator with these words, “Now we are free. I will see you again. But not yet, not yet.”

“Not yet, not yet.” Many of us think or speak that phrase often. We have a fleeting thought of visiting a friend who is a shut-in, but we’re involved in a good book at the moment and we think, “Not yet, not yet.”

We recognize it’s not healthy to carry those extra pounds, and we know we ought to begin exercising and dieting, but “Not yet, not yet.”

We have held a grudge far too long, but the person who offended us isn’t suffering. We are. We know we should forgive him, but, “Not yet, not yet.”

Something within us tells us we should find a church where there will be others who can help us bear our burdens, a congregation where people reach out in a spirit of love to the hungry, the poor and the homeless, but “Not yet, not yet.”

We are confident we should do many things we aren’t doing, but we delay because we are weak or we lack motivation.  But St. Paul said:  “God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is powerful, loving, and self-controlled.” 

Some will call on that God-given power to act!  Others will say, “Not yet, not yet.”

August 1, 2014

Who or What is Satan?

Satan is mentioned well over 100 times in the Bible, so who or what is he?

Baptists believe in the literal reality and actual personality of Satan.
Catholics believe Satan is a fallen angel.
Lutherans believe Satan is the “Prince of Demons.”

It doesn’t really matter if Satan is a person, a fallen angel or the “Prince of Demons,” but it is important to acknowledge that Satan is a powerful adversary that tempts us to sin. This evil energy can also suck the joy out of our lives and leave us a quivering blob of cowardice and uncertainty.

Because of humanity's sinful nature, everyone, at some point, deals with temptations. Fortunately, we are never alone in our struggles with temptation, because standing between us and Satan’s schemes is the ultimate power of our Redeemer, our Protector, our Deliverer, Jesus Christ

In a recent meditation at our Bluff Point United Methodist Church, Pastor Judy White reminded us “God is for us all the time.”  Judy made that promise based on this paraphrased testimony by Paul in his letter to the church at Rome:

“There is nothing in death or life —- nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The next time you are tempted to give in to Satan, remember God’s love is there providing the strength and courage you need to resist. 

"When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a  standard against him" (Isaiah 59:19).

July 24, 2014

Lay Down your Burdens

 A psychologist, teaching stress management, picked up a glass of water, and asked her students, “How heavy is this glass of water?” The answers ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz. 

Then the professor announced,  “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem, but if I hold it for a day, my arm will be in pain. The weight of the glass doesn't change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”

She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like the glass of water. Think about them briefly and nothing happens. Dwell on them day after day, and in time, you will feel incapable of doing anything else.”

The professor made her point, but I like to imagine that when the teacher finished the lesson, a student made this offer, “When you reach the point when you are in pain, I will hold your burden.”

In the Gospel of Matthew, we learn of Jesus’ invitation to hold our burdens:  
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
Lyrics in a song by Kelly Willard are about accepting Jesus’ invitation:
“I cast all my cares upon You, I lay all of my burdens down at Your feet,
And any time I don't know what to do I will cast all my cares upon You.”

July 16, 2014

The Vinedresser

His given name was Cleon, but everyone called him Bud, Bud Niver. 

Bud passed away in early July of 2014, and I knew him as one of those rare people who never spoke ill of others, and I never heard others demean him. Some few may have called him stubborn, but if being faithful to his principles and to God made him uncompromising, I consider that a good quality

Bud was a man of the earth, a vineyardist most of his adult life. He was passionate about his grape bearing vines, and that devotion and respect  translated into a love of all nature. It’s no accident that Bud’s property overlooked one of the most majestic views in all the Fingerl Lakes of Upstate New York. Certainly, Bud believed the land he loved, and the vines he cared for were blessed by God. 

People thought Bud was a quiet man. I prefer to think of him as thoughtful, yet when called upon to offer an opinion, he spoke with conviction, knowledge and experience. That experience included defending his country in WWII as a gunner’s mate on the USS Battleship Idaho supporting Marines on Iwo Jima and other islands in the South Pacific.

In the 15th Chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus describes himself as a Vine, and God is the Vinegrower. The branches are all those who claim to be followers of Christ who, without the Vine or the Vinegrower cannot stand and be fruitful. 

Bud Niver took great pride and pleasure in his vineyards. He loved the Vinegrower, and he was a faithful servant of the Vine.  Surely, this fruitful branch, this follower of Christ, this man of God and the earth will be  welcomed to his Eternal Home

July 9, 2014

God Sent Me

One of my favorite stories is about a college philosophy professor who announced to his class, “There is no God.” To prove his declaration, he said. “If there is a God, let him strike me down here as I stand.”

The room was hushed for the next ten minutes as the professor defiantly stood believing that he had nothing to fear.

Then a former Army Ranger with four tours in Afghanistan rose from the back of the class, walked up to the professor and with one blow knocked him to the floor. As he looked down at the pathetic figure on the floor, the former Ranger said, “God was busy. He sent me!”

On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Risen Christ  asked Peter three times if the disciple loved him, and each time, when Peter reaffirmed his love, Jesus instructed his supporter and advocate to, “feed my sheep.” 

Books are written that define ministry, but no definition of service is clearer than Jesus’ command to Peter, and through Peter to each one of us.

We all have different talents and experiences, but each one of us is an instrument in the hands of God, and we are all called to be his strong arm in a world of needs

“Feed his sheep.”

July 3, 2014

One Nation, Under God

Dr. James Kennedy, popular American pastor and Christian radio personality, once remarked that the United States is “the only country in the world whose founders recognized their dependence upon God and their responsibility toward the Creator.”

Proof of Kennedy’s observation is in the Declaration of Independence for within that document, signed by this country’s founders, are five references to God - two in the first paragraph, one in the middle and two in the last.

Each time we celebrate Independence Day, and each time we repeat the words “one nation, under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, or read the phrase, “in God we trust” on our currency we reaffirm our nation’s covenant with God.

Those who oppose our country’s partnership with God are responsible for banishing religion from our schools and most areas of public life. They point to the First Amendment which they insist guarantees the “separation of church and state.” 

The fact is the first amendment never mentions separation. It never mentions the church, and it never mentions the state. In simple and direct language, it prohibits laws establishing a religion or impeding the free exercise of religion.

On Independence Day 2014 let us recognize that God has blessed this great country of ours, and let us be true to the dream of those men of faith who founded this great nation, under God!

June 25, 2014

Reunion Memories

Our 65th reunion of the Class of 1949 at Gettysburg High School is over, and everyone who attended is basking in the glow of happy memories.

Unfortunately, almost half our classmates are no longer with us and unable to share those memories. They were our friends, our teammates, our confidants, our inspiration, our dance partners and in some cases our sweethearts, and they touched our lives in many ways.

We are all products of both our genes and our environment, and I am proud to declare that those classmates and teachers who touched my life at Gettysburg High School contributed significantly to the person I am today.

Of course, I also believe that our personality and character are also influenced by our relationship with and our trust in our Creator.

In a poem by Regina Wiecek titled Learning to Trust, the author says: 
Help me to trust
When my world falls apart.
Guide me through darkness
When night is upon me,
And I will press on
With joy in my heart.
All of our classmates have experienced trauma in their long lives, heartaches like: the death of a loved one, a debilitating illness, financial problems or loneliness. For those of faith when their world fell apart, they turned to the Lord to guide them through the shadows.

It is my impression that those of our classmates who have pressed on with joy in their hearts despite the pain and sorrow they may have suffered, they are the happiest and most optimistic about their future.  

June 9, 2014

Remembering Friends

Nancy and I are returning to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania this week to celebrate our 65th reunion with the members of the Class of 1949 at Gettysburg High School. It is a time to reminisce and remember fondly the days of our youth.

As I looked over the list of deceased classmates, I could not help but reflect on how they touched our lives.  We learned with them. We competed with them. We sang with them. We danced with them. We cheered with them. We laughed with them.

They were our best friends and confidants. They shared our joys, our thrills and our successes. They came to our aid when we were lost and confused.

They touched our lives in so many ways, and they helped to make our high school experience memorable and fulfilling. They will remain forever joy entries in our memory banks.

During our Reunion, we will formally remember the ties which bind us to our classmates as we participate in a Ritual of Remembrance which begins with this invocation adapted from Gates of Prayer, a Reformed Judaism Prayerbook:
Gracious God of all Comfort, we remember now our dear classmates who fought the good fight, kept the faith and have gone on ahead of us.
The Ritual will conclude with this promise:
As long as we live, we will remember them, and in remembering, they too shall live.

May 31, 2014

Now There Are Eight Wonders

In a recent Parable, I wrote about a teacher who asked his students to prepare a list of what they considered the Seven Wonders of the World. 

One creative student prepared a list which was quite unexpected and included the following: to see, to hear, to touch, to taste, to feel, to laugh, to love. Using the student’s list, I created examples of what I consider to be “wonders” of my world.

Several family members wrote to me after I posted the Parable with their own list of “wonders.” Here are eight of their contributions with their examples:
  1. To Sleep: On a featherbed and dream
  2. To Wake: To a thrush’s song
  3. To Smell: The aroma of cinnamon buns baking 
  4. To Relive: A happy moment with a loved on
  5. To Watch: The changing flame of a camp fire
  6. To Breath: Salt air on an ocean beach
  7. To Believe: In giving with no expectations of reward
  8. To Trust: In the goodness of God

As with the original list, these commonplace, uncomplicated emotions and experiences are the “wonders” that fill our lives with happy moments.

May your life be filled with such wonders!

May 22, 2014

Seven Wonders of the World

A teacher asked his students to prepare a list of what each one thought were the current Seven Wonders of the World. Most students listed famous landmarks like the Great Pyramids or the Great Wall of China. 

One student, thinking outside the box, created a list the teacher never expected.  Here is the student’s list in italics followed by my list of examples of “wonders:”  
To see . . . a baby walk for the first time
To hear . . . a song that reminds me of falling in love
To touch . . . the heart of a loved one  
To taste . . . a simple dish that reminds me of my youth
To feel . . . an emotion that makes me cry
To laugh . . . at a Carol Burnett comedy sketch
To love . . .  life, my family and my Savior
Simple and ordinary things in our lives are rarely considered “wonders,” yet each one contributes to the joy of living. 

What are the “wonders” in your life that give you joy?