December 16, 2017

There Was Room in the Inn

Wallace Purling, a second grader who had trouble keeping up in the classroom, was chosen to be the innkeeper in the church Christmas Pageant. Wally was big for his age, so his refusal of lodging for Joseph and Mary would be convincing. Besides, he only had a few lines to learn.

On the night of the pageant, Joseph appeared, slowly guiding Mary to the door of the inn where Wally waited.

When he heard Joseph knocking, Wally opened the door and asked brusquely, “What do you want?”

“We seek lodging for the night,” Joseph answered.

“There is no room in the inn,” said Wally loudly.

“Sir, we are weary and my wife is heavy with child.”

Now Wally looked down at Mary, and there was an embarrassing pause until the prompter whispered his cue from the wings.

“No, be gone,” said Wally. 

As Joseph and Mary began to walk away, this Pageant suddenly took a turn that made it unlike any other.

“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally ad libbed. “You and Mary can have my room.”

A few people in church that evening thought the Christmas Pageant was ruined. Others considered it the best Christmas Pageant they had ever seen.

December 10, 2017

A New Look for A Christmas Pageant

The annual Trinity Church Christmas Pageant was always eagerly anticipated by the congregation and the children who were involved. Mrs. Andrews, the director for thirty years, knew precisely how the Pageant must be performed for it to be perfect.  

That’s why she suspected that an angel descending on a wire from the church balcony when the shepherds appeared on stage was not a good plan, but the idea was promoted by the pastor, and she couldn’t say no. 

A few days before the performance, the pastor tested his idea, and when he discovered the angel moved too slowly down the wire, he put several  hymnals inside the hollow cherub for extra weight. Unfortunately, he never took the time to test the heavier angel, and the night of the performance, it charged down the wire so fast, it nearly decapitated poor Joseph.

Then the time came for Mrs. Andrews to retire, and Sarah, young drama student from the local college took her place.

On the night of the Trinity Christmas Pageant under the new director, when Mary placed the baby Jesus in the manger, she was smiling from ear to ear, a look that replaced the pensive and sedate appearance Mrs Andrews had required for her Marys. Some people in the audience were surprised by Mary’s smile until they realized the mother of the Christ Child was displaying her genuine delight over her new born baby.

Then when the shepherds appeared, the children dressed as sheep who accompanied them wandered all over the sanctuary. Where were the disciplined sheep who followed Mrs. Andrews’ shepherds?

Some people in the congregation that night thought the Christmas Pageant was spoiled. Others thought Sarah’s new approach to the Christmas Story was perfect. Maybe it was even better than perfect. It was real.

October 6, 2017

The Las Vegas Massacre: Where Was God?

Sunday, October, 12017 was a dark day in American history planned and executed by the depraved Devil's puppet, Stephen Paddock. In the Las Vegas Massacre, the worst mass shooting in American History, Paddock killed fifty-eight people and wounded hundreds of others who were enjoying an open air concert. Undoubtedly, Paddock's loathsome act prompted some people to ask, “Why doesn’t God prevent human suffering?”

In her newest book, Does This Church Make Me Look Fat?, author Rhoda Janzen writes: 
“None of the world religions promises fewer problems for people of faith. In fact every major world religion observes that suffering is inevitable and constitutive. We suffer as part of the human condition. Think about it: If we didn't suffer, would we still be human?"  
God created us as free moral agents who are able to move toward him or away from him as we choose. Within each of us are the seeds of kindness or the seeds of violence.  For some few, the result is evil beyond our comprehension and belief.

In response to unimaginable tragedy, people also ask, "Where is God?”  The answer is apparent to people of faith. God is in the same place he's always been, ready and waiting to comfort and support us. In times of trouble, God is right where we need him, readily available to lift us up and touch the hearts of others who help us ease our pain.  

We gather strength from our faith in the Lord. Let us be bold in our witness and our belief that God can heal all wounds
  The Lord upholds all who are falling, And raises up all who are bowed down.
Psalm 145:14

September 20, 2017

We Can Learn from Our Pets

In her internet article, Animals Teach Us Spirituality, Dr. Mary Lou Randour suggests “ . . . animals can teach us about love: how to love, how to enjoy being loved, how loving itself is an activity which generates more love . . .”

Many years ago, I learned a similar concept summarized in the phrase, “God gave us dogs to teach us how to love each other.” Based on our experience with Strump, Frisky, Deacon, Bo and Cody, Nancy and I believe that is a wise observation. 

Recognizing how our dogs interact with us will help us to be better partners in any relationship. For example, our dogs love to show their affection for us. Our dogs constantly show their love for us and tenaciously seek demonstrations of our love for them.  Couples in a relationship may say, “I love you.” a dozen times a day, but demonstrations of love always speak louder than words.

Our dogs are forgiving creatures. If you accidentally hurt your pet, just tell him you’re sorry, and he’ll wag his tail and all is forgiven. In any relationship, there will be times when one partner will disappoint the other, and seeking forgiveness and forgiving are absolutely essential in a long and happy relationship.

Our dogs want to be with us. If we leave them alone for any length of time, when we return, they are quick to let us know how much they missed us. They are happy to see us, and they show it. On her high school photo that Nancy gave to me in our senior year, Nancy wrote, “I’m always happiest when I am with you.”  We still feel that way about each other after sixty-nine years in love.  We are still happiest when we are together. 

Dogs have other characteristics like commitment and faithfulness to be admired and emulated in any human relationship. So forget about reading any of the half million books on relationships available at Amazon.com. Just get a dog, or even two, and observe how they treat each other and you.


God made us in His image. Then he created dogs to teach us how to love each other.  

September 5, 2017

Closing the Door on Your Worries

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus asks the question, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?”

The fact is anxiety can reduce our life span considerably. It can cause ulcers, high blood pressure, strokes, asthma, angina, migraine headaches, indigestion, irritability, tremors, fatigue, insomnia, depression, diarrhea and a host of other symptoms.

Dr. William Osler, one of the most famous physicians of the 19th Century, was on an ocean liner during a drill when all the ship’s many compartments were sealed. If damage caused one compartment to leak, the watertight doors to other compartments would allow the ship to remain afloat. Osler suggests we learn to master our worries by sealing them in compartments.
“Touch a button and hear, at every level of your life, the iron doors shutting out the past - the dead yesterdays. Touch another and shut off, with a metal curtain, the future - the unborn tomorrows.  Then you are safe - safe for today!” 
I like Osler’s proposal for coping with worry and have used it often, but I also love to be reminded of God’s mercy and protection in the words of hymns of faith like Day by Day. Here are the words to the first verse of that great hymn:
Day by day, and with each passing moment,   Strength I find to meet my trials here; Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment,  I've no cause for worry or for fear. He, whose heart is kind beyond all measure, Gives unto each day what He deems best, Lovingly its part of pain and pleasure, Mingling toil with peace and rest.


July 28, 2017

Cell Phone Addiction

At a college night program in Sunbury, Pennsylvania in 1957,  a representative from Bell Telephone predicted that in the future  everyone would carry a small device which could fit in a pocket or a pocketbook. 

The device he described would enable people to call or receive calls from anywhere in the world. We were still doing dial up in 1957, so what we heard was the stuff of science fiction.   

The first thing I look for in the morning are my glasses, and the second is my cell phone. I check my messages and check the temperature. Most of the time each day, the cell phone is by my side ready to take or make calls or to  answer any question like “Who deflated the New England footballs?”  

I use my cell phone often, but I’m not obsessed with it. I was shocked to read a report that the average American looks at his/her cell phone 150 times each day. That means many people use it even more often. The cell phone is dominating their lives and that’s an obsession. That’s an addiction. 

In Chapter six of Deuteronomy, Moses said this about God’s commandments:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”  
The Law of Moses has been replaced.  The only thing tied to our heads today is a cell phone!

June 8, 2017

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

May 18, 2017

The Transforming Power of the Resurrection

Among the many books that defend Christianity and the Resurrection, few are equal to Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell, who was an agnostic before entering college where he set out to write a paper that would discredit those who believe in Jesus Christ.  

His plan was to sift through all the available historical evidence, collect his arguments, and ultimately, he believed he would prove that Jesus of Nazareth never existed. At the very least, he hoped to convince himself and others that if Jesus had lived, his bones were in some forgotten grave in Jerusalem.

But something happened along the way. The overwhelming evidence Josh McDowell studied convinced him that Jesus lived, died and was resurrected. 

One of the most compelling reasons to believe in the Christian faith is this: Following the crucifixion, the demoralized and terrified disciples huddled together in the Upper Room, fearful that they might also be arrested and executed. 

But after Jesus’ Resurrection, they were changed. Their panic and fear turned to joy, and with the power of the Holy Spirit upon them, that small band of followers created a church with over two billion members today.

Josh McDowell’s conversion is the story of change. And that is the story of the Resurrection as well. People are changed. Skeptics become believers, the fearful find confidence, love triumphs over hate, and  those who believe in the promises of Jesus conquer death.
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.

April 26, 2017

Landscapes from the Creator’s Hand

Years ago, my wife and I traveled to Bangor, Maine to visit Wayne Glick, the former President of Keuka College with whom I worked for many years.
During our visit,  Wayne and his wife, Barbara, drove us to Acadia National Park, one of the most visited parks in the United States .  .  .  and for good reason.

All the beauty that is Maine comes together in this popular park where the mountains meet the rolling surf of the Atlantic. 

As we stood together overlooking this pristine landscape, Wayne said, “This is where God goes to take a vacation.” And I answered, “And the Finger Lakes is where he spends the rest of the year.”

Anyone who lives in Upstate New York surely would agree that when it comes to natural beauty, the Creator has certainly blessed us abundantly. 
Yet some skeptics, some I know well, suggest that the wonders of this earth are merely happenings . . . bundles of molecules that in some mysterious way, just happen to come together.

For me the natural beauty of my home in the Finger Lakes is an ever constant reminder  and proof that This Is My Father’s World.


Blessings from Gpa Westerdahl

January 16, 2017

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