Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Happy new year...?

The wish for a "happy new year" seems trite, and unrealistic, doesn't it? Happiness seems such a mercurial thing--here one day, and gone tomorrow.

As I reflect upon the past year, it was not "happy". I mean, it had its moments--two new grandchildren, camping in our trailer, nights at the movies with Bev, Mexican Train with our friends, working in the yard, trips to see our kids and grandkids, etc.

But it had its no so "happy" moments--the challenge of a difficult church building program, the loss of some special friends, the painful illnesses of loved ones, the breakup of some marriages, "getting-older" problems, etc.

So the wish for a "happy new year", though well-intentioned--must be tempered with realism. I am convinced that God never promised us this kind of happiness. What God did promise us is found in these words from Romans 14:17, "For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit..."

May God grant you a joyful new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

the most wonderful time of the year

The song says "It's the most wonderful time of the year..." referring to the Christmas season. I concur!

Here's why...

1. The true focus is Christ's coming to earth to bring salvation. What could be more meaningful than that?

2. The special music of the season echoes forth sentiments of hope and family. I can embrace these afresh.

3. The seasonal beauty of Christmas lights and decorations against a dark night's backdrop is stunning. I love just looking.

4. The unparalleled love of family is distinctively heart-warming. I can't wait for our special holiday gatherings.

5. Theincredible privilege of giving helps me to see the needs of those much less fortunate than I. What could be more rewarding than sharing with someone else?

It is the most wonderful time of the year!

Friday, December 16, 2005

the marketplace

A young man told me today of his work-related stress.

It was not so much the job, but environmental. He has a Christian family-- small children and a wonderful wife--and loves his church family.

But every week he drives a significant distance to work to an environment where he feels like a stranger, an alien.

He would really like to find a job where he was in full-time vocational Christian service. He has a heart for serving people, and loves being around his Christian brothers.

But the marketplace is hard. It takes discipline to stay focused on God. It is challenging to look for opportunities to share his faith. And there are days when he goes home and says, "I dropped the ball today...I missed an opportunity".

From the safe confines of my pastoral office--insulated from the rest of the world--I reminded him that his sphere of influence IS his ministry and his children ARE his first priority. A positrion of vocational Christian service may await him, but until then, he is where God has placed him, and that, with purpose.

The marketplace comes to me. I generally am in my office studying or counseling, visiting at a hospital or in a home, ministering at the church. At that level I feel I have it easier than most. There are only isolated circumstances in which i feel I am a stranger, an alien.

So the real issue in focus here for my young friend is the old "in" the world but not "of" the world enigma and how that translates into his daily life.

My prayer is that he will make the marketplace a ministry center, a place where his life touched and changed by the grace of God, indelibly impacts the lives of those around him.

And, that when he goes home to his family, he will see his ministry to them as a spiritual leader, a high calling.

He may not be able to totally escape the enironmental stress, but, hopefully, his sense of divine placement and purpose will ennoble his day.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well was there for water--to quench her thirst, assist in her family cooking, wash the clothes-- perform the daily functions accompanied by water.

She probably wasn't expecting an offer of "living water" when she met Jesus that day.

She expected to come back--day after day--to replenish her supply, with the knowledge that such water would never truly satisfy her deepest, innermost needs.

Needs that five husbands and now, a "boy friend" had never managed to meet as well.

But Jesus made her an offer she couldn't refuse--he told her if she drank His water she would never thirst again.

I am not sure she truly understood the significance of that offer but she said, "Give me some of that to drink!"

Jesus would tell her that He was exactly whom she was looking for--"I am He!"--and she would tell others of her discovery (see John 4).

Try the "living water". It satisfies the deepest needs of your heart.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


I have had very little success trying to find traditional Christmas carols on the radio. I was excited about the prospect of attending a special musical function as a large church which does a Christmas "spectacular" each year. At last, Christmas carols...

Alas...no Christmas carols! Lots of good contemporary Christmas songs--which I enjoyed, too--but none of the traditional Christmas music I wait each year to hear.

I have been digging out my old Christmas cd's and playing them over and over again. As I write, the strains of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" serenade me from a cd entitled "Peaceful Christmas".

I love all of the Christmas music, but am lobbying for hearing the traditional Christmas carols!

A traditional "Merry Christmas!" to you...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The plight of "Tookie" Williams

The real tragedy for "Tookie" is that his death really resolves nothing.

One of the relatives of his murdered victims has said, "It will bring closure to it.."

The protesting placard reads, "Practice what U preach...Thou shalt not kill".

"Tookie" was found guilty of four murders during his time as a member of the Cripps' gang that he formed, a gang known for its violence and brutality. In his later years of incarceration he co-wrote several children's books against gangs, and sought to spread his anti-gang message.

Governor Schwarzenegger noted in his denial of clemency, "Williams protests that he had no reason to apologize for these murders because he did not commit them...without an apology for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption."

What, then, are we left with?
the loss of four innocent lives
the suffering and anger of the victims' families
the death of a murderer
the justice of our criminal system

Is anything learned? Is anything if value salvaged by an act of capital punishment?

I will let others debate the issue although I believe that capital punishment is NOT the State's decision, but a decision by the criminal to "do his thing" and "take his chances", whatever the motivating circumstances.

The court has said he is guilty. The law insists he must die.

And so he did.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Ken Riffe

Ken was my father's friend. My dad would be 83 years old if he were still alive (he died seventeen years ago) and Ken was 86. He died Monday.

Ken was one of the kindest men I have known. He was a man whoa lways smiled, and never complained. He was the janitor at the church and school, and more recently, my brother's "right arm" man is doing the mundane chores that are part of maintaining a church facility.

Ken found out he had terminal cancer about a month ago. He ended up having surgery and being bed-ridden because of the cancer lodging in his spine. He was in alot of pain in his final days.

I got to see him a few days before Thanksgiving. I realized how valuable people like Ken are to a pastor. They are the supportive ones behind the scenes who do the "little things" that make our job easier. Ken was that to both my dad and now my brother.

Ken was my friend, too, and I what I will remember was our embrace before I left him and his smile as we left the room. I will miss him.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

old cars

We have a 1995 Volkswagon Jetta that is a car my wife desired for a long time. It belonged to her son and she always told him, "When you get ready to get rid of it, I want it."" That exciting date arrived several months ago.

Now Chad reminded us it was an older car even though he took great care of it (and warned us that we probably didn't want to buy it). It looks "brand new", BUT it has had a series of repairs and necessary improvements since we got it.
New tires, New belts, New hoses, New radio,
New mats, New door trim
The latest news is that something is wrong with the axle and so it is at the mechanic's once again.
We have been asking the question, "How much more do we want to put into it?" but we always remember we don't have a car payment and once this is done, there isn't that much left that can go wrong...We hope.
I was thinking that when God got ahold me I was pretty run down and "messed up" even though I probably looked deceptively "okay" on the outside. I am certain that God has wondered aloud sometime since He purchased me, "How much more do I want to invest in him?" I don't want to seem silly or frivilous, but it is pretty amazing that God is still committed to me.
I think I will keep the Jetta. As the owner I remain committed to its upkeep and maintenance. It will probably need brakes and something else down the road but I am in for the long run...
So is God's committment to me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I suppose there is always a moment when I am with my children and grandchildren that I think, "I do NOT want to go back to the real world...it's more fun here with them!" It is inwardly "tearful" for me when I say "good-bye" because I am never certain how long it will be before we get to see each other again.

It was fun to listen to six year old JJ read second grade books, and to wrestle with Milla while she giggled uncontrollably. And it was wonderful to hold none month-old Owen for the second time and to see those big eyes acknowledge me as another admirer...and to hope they won't grow up too much more before my next vsiit.

I loved being with my children--Jeff, Jen and Greg--and Jeanette and TJ, who I love like my own kids. They pampered me and spoiled me for four days...and I felt proud, because when I look at them, I see something good...something good in spite of me.

But I have returned...to a full desk, a busy church, and, most of all, to the woman I love. I miss my Texas family already, but I have returned to the place I belong.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005


I lived in Dallas for fourteen years and when I moved to California to assume a new pastoral position, I left three of my four children there. One now has moved to Nashville, Tennessee and the other three remain in the dallas area...along with three grandchildren.

I love to go back to Dallas. It isn't the weather, nor is the beauty of Texas that beckons me.

Jeff, Jeanette, JJ, Tj, Jennifer, Milla and Owen are the main attractions.

I will only be there for four days, and those four days will be jammed-packed with family gatherings (my favorite), one-on-one time with the grandchildren, and a time to catch up with my children who I adore...and miss terribly. Of course, I will miss Andrea, who lives ten hours further east.

I get to see my Dallas family about twice a year. It is not near enough for me and so I always go with mixed emotions. It will be wonderful to be there--JJ will treat me as if am the best thing since Spiderman, and Milla will "wow" me with her new vocabulary (I've heard "smidgetts" of her conversations via telephone). And Owen, now nine months old, will get acquainted with me for the second time since he was born. That should be an adventure!

It is painful to leave. Usually, it takes me a few hours on the plane ride home to transition to the idea of being separated for another six months. But I manage--I have to--and look forward to the next encounter, offset by phone calls, e-mails, pictures and occasonal pieces of "art" that help to shorten the distance between visits.

I look forward to my Dallas visits.

I will tell you more after my return December 5th. Hope you had a happy thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

THANKSGIVING...do I need a holiday to remember?

I guess the question I have been mulling over in my mind the last few weeks as we head into the Thanksgiving regimen--special church service, "thanks" notes to my special friends and family, preparation for THE day and THE meal...etc, is...

Do I need a holiday to remember to be thankful?

Well, the honest answer is I do need occasional prodding. I am haunted by the story of the lepers (Luke 17) who are miraculously healed by Jesus and only one--ONLY ONE--returns to thank Jesus. His response? "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return to give praise to God except for this foreigner (he was a Samaritan)?"

What really gets me is the only thankful one was the one you would have least expected to give thanks to God--a Samaritan, hated by the Jews. He was estranged from his Jewish neighbors, excluded because of his heritage as well as his disease. Still, he finds his way back to Jesus to give thanks, while the nine others--perhaps feeling"entitled" to healing because of their ancestry--forget to do so.

I hope I don't feel entitled, or, expect that I should be well-fed, have a nice home, drive a car, have televisions and computers in my home, own more than five pair of shoes, etc., because I am American, or, because I try to live a good moral life.

I have what I have because God has been good to me. Not because of who I am or what I have done. If that were the case, I'd still be a leper.

That's why I was thankful two weeks ago...long before the holiday season reminded me to have a grateful heart.

Friday, November 18, 2005


*Multiple myeloma, five kids under the age of twelve
*Liver cancer, three small boys
*Life-threatening hematoma, senior citizen
*Widowed lady, no children or family
*Crumbling business, broken marriage
*Alcoholism, fractured family
*Infidelity, divorce, grief
Is there any hope? And, if there is...how is it communicated? How is it translated into its life-transforming potential?
In each of these situations in which I am involved at some level I am overwhelmed at the crisis of need. I feel painfully inadequate to address these incredibly challenging circumstances. I have wept myself at the level of pain encountered in each. And I have wondered in my position as a pastor what I can "bring to the table" that will offer hope.
I stand firmly-grounded in my faith, with these truths in tact.
1. God is not surprised by these crises for He knows all things, even the final outcome, Revelation 21:6.
2. There is nothing new about these circumstances and God provides "a way of escape to bear it", I Corinthians 10:13.
3. God's grace is sufficient for each situation and each person involved, II Corinthians 12:9.
4. The final outcome is uncertain, but God's purposes will be accomplished, Romans 8:28.
5. Therefore, I can rest in Him, Matthew 11:28.
I am not suggesting that we merely recite these truths and assume that we have installed some magical formula that will bring an end to our doubts and fears; rather, I am acknowledging
that pain is a part of the human circumstance--some of it even self-inflicted--but that the message of hope is available to everyone of us in Christ, who offers us His love, His strength, His grace, His time, and His rest.
That's my reason for hope.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Veteran's Day..and Thanksgiving

On Sunday, November 20th we will have a late celebration of Veteran's Day, an intetional oversight. We are combining it with a special Thanksgiving service.

Our focus will be on Mike oram and Steve Hauser, two young men from our church family, who returned safely froma tour of duty in Iraq. We sent them off with our prayerful blessing, wrote to them while they were overseas and, now, we are celebrating their return to us.

We can do that without politicizing an unpopular war. Personally, I am grieved by the 2,000 plus men and women who have lost their lives there. I am saddened at the slow pace of political reform and anxious for the escalating costs of "running a war".

On the other hand, I am grateful that we still have young men and women who consider it a privilege to "fight" for their country and who place their lives at great personal risk in the line of battle. Historically, this has achieved for us a country with unparalleled freedoms and blessings enjoyed nowhere else in the world.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving it will be a joy to honor these two soldiers--and to remember the countless others in our congregations and others--who served their country well.

For me, Veteran's Day and Thanksgiving go together.

Friday, November 11, 2005


I am leaving for a retreat this weekend and was going through my closet trying to determine what I should pack. I am going to be at Lake Tahoe...it's going to be cold...and we are in an informal environment...but I have to speak...and Bev hates that shirt...?

I guess I do spend time thinking about what kind of appearance I make, whether it's preparing for the office, preaching on Sunday...and, yes, even packing for a retreat!

I just got this picture from my daughter of my grandchildren on Halloween eve all dressed up to go "trick or treating". I thought to myself, "They are so cute, even if they didn't have a costume people would want to give them candy."

I think when I am "dressing up" I am concerned about how I will be perceived, and wondering whether I will be accepted, whatever the occasion may be.

For me, that stems from an age-old presumption that I am not good enough just the way I am. And so, much of my life I have have had to fight the temptation to create an image that I think will be more acceptable, than if it were just the real me.

Anyway, I settled on some jeans and sweat shirts and a favorite sweater...that Bev doesn't like.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


I met with someone this week who has been isolated from the church for a period of time. His feelings were deeply wounded and the path to restoration has been a difficult one. He had withdrawn from his place of ministry at Grace.

He cited several things that had helped him--things that had recently been written to him framed with love and compassion, the overt expressions of unconditional love from his peers, and some things in his own life he was dealing with.

His question to me was "Is there still a place for me?"

Oh, the beauty of restoration!

And, yes...there is a place.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Proposition 73

I am saddened this morning to note that Propostion 73--a directive to demand parents be notfied of a teenager's decision to have an abortion-- was defeated in California.

At a recent local Pregnancy Center banquet we were reminded that abortion is murder, and that our ignorance of the issue, "What is the unborn?", has resulted in the ruthless slaughter of thousands of innocent children within the womb of their mothers.

Our confusion about the value of life has resulted in a movement at the other end of the life continuum to heightened discussions about euthanasia, assisted suicide--when we deem life to be painful to be endured or too burdensome to be maintained.

Proposition 73 simply said that an adolescent girl should speak to her parents before she seeks an abortion and secure their consent. Not a big deal when she needs their consent to get an aspirin at school...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

a three-stranded cord

Ecclesiastes 4:12 simply says, "A strand of three cords is not easily broken..."

As I head for Couples' retreat at Zephyr Cove in Lake Tahoe later this week, I think of the significance of that truth in my marriage to Beverly. we are held together by our love and commitment one to another. but the key ingredient is our mutual love for God and our recognition that we are complete in Him (Colossians 2:9,10).

It is easy to seek to find our completeness in anothe r person and often we find an enormous amount of satisfaction in that special relationship. But such relationships are subject to the attrition of human behavior, the unwelcome entrance of crisis and tragedy, the failure to keep our promises.

And we discover that we are not enough for each other...alone.

When Christ enters the picture, and we are truly married to Him, we find a copmpletion and satisfaction that cannot be rivaled...and cannot be broken.

I can't wait to get to Couples Retreat and spend some quality time with my wife. But we both know what is the proverbial glue that holds us together.

Friday, November 04, 2005

young families

I have the privilge of watching young families grow in the Lord. Nothing is more encouraging to me in ministry than observing that firsthand.

I have a standing appointment with a young man who meets with me each. Sometimes his wife and family accompany him to our time together, always a rich experience for me. We share together, dream together, pray together. And I am always the richer for it.

Young men like this man give me hope for God's church tomorrow. I see a a young man committed to God, passionate about using his gifts and successfully and faithfully leading his family to God.

I see a young woman, aspiring to honor God and her husband, caring for her children--seeking God's will for the ministry of their family in the body of Christ. Is it any wonder that I am excited?

Young families...they are foundational for the future of the church when people old like me have passed on.

I am encouraged today!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


God's calendar is different than ours. God's reckoning of time is different than ours.

I have been "wrestling" with that reality in recent days.

*Why is it taking so long to complete our building? Every week we are faced with a new challenge that delays construction, invites more cost, and pushes the date back for occupation.

*Why does cancer come to a young life and decimate it, with little children potentially left motherless? It is hideous even with older people, but when it is someone young, it is even more confounding.

*How long must someone suffer--an alcoholic son, a potentially devastating financial crisis, a recurring need for chemotherapy?

I have no answers that are satisfactory in the sense that they bring resolution and and intellectual satisfaction. Even as I write those words--"intellectual satisfaction"--they seem arrogant and faithless.

So what do I do? I turn to the Word of God.

"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen".

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Pastor Henry Church was my predecessor in Northern California at a small church in Amador County. He was loved by everyone in the community and was the prototype country preacher. He knew everyone, visited everyone, loved everyone.

He loved horses and the outdoors. Amador County afforded him the luxury of a rural setting but his heart always longed for his native Arkansas. In the final years of his life he moved there...until a horseback-riding accident nearly killed him. He ended up in Arizona, and just a week before he died, back home in Amador County.

I was honored to have a part in his memorial service. His son, Henry, Jr., a missionary in Africa, shared a reflective eulogy about his father and punctuated all the things we knew about him as friends and parishioners, as a son. What we saw in public, he was at home.

We will miss Henry.

Friday, October 28, 2005


President Bush's recent nominee for the Supreme Court withdrew her name this week, much to the apparent delight of both liberal and conservative political pundits.

I was reflecting upon the process since and thinking about the intense scrutiny candidates are subjected to--and, perhaps, rightly so. The office of supreme court justice is a high and lofty one and we are entitled to know what a potential justice may be thinking about key issues. I guess.

It just seems as if no one can survive such intense examination, doesn't it? They are labeled and pronounced "guilty" of whatever seems contradictory to the subjective opinions of those who feel it is their duty to make such judgments.

But, then, we are all public people to varying degrees. We have our spheres of influence--some greater than others--and people are watching us and making their own judgments about us.

Jesus said that "all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another", John 13:35. By this very statement He assures us people will be watching us and our conduct in terms of our interpersonal relationships will have much to say about the legtimacy of our faith and service to God.

We may not be public officials but as believers we are public witnesses to our faith in Christ. People will make their own pronouncements about us, but if they are going to discern the valdity of our relationship to God it will be because of how we treat one another within the body of Christ.

Thursday, October 27, 2005


Our daughter-in-law, Julie, recently shared with us the news of her sister's liver cancer. Valerie is only thirty-seven years old and has three children, ages 1,4 and 6. Her husband, Chris, has physical problems as well so this is a real crisis time for this young family. I would like to ask all of my church family and blog readers to join in prayer for Valerie who is undergoing tests at UCLA Medical Center, awaiting a final diagnosis and treatment plan.

So many issues are stirred when we think about all the factors here that make us want to ask "why?" Our true comfort and strength come from the knowledge that God is sovereign--He is not surprised by what is happening in the McCrea household. The passage of comfort and direction for me during these days as we think of Valerie, are the words of the Psalmist who writes,
"His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse,
nor His delight in the legs of a man;
the Lord delights in those who fear Him,
who put their hope in His unfailing love."

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

turn lane plans take a turn

If you have followed my blog site you read recently of the huge relief at the securing of our turn lane permit for our new facilites.

Yesterday we received word that the approval had been rescinded. GROAN.

However, the reason for the change is that we are going to be required to do LESS work and to SAVE money on the anticipated $250,000 project. PRAISE THE LORD! (I think...)

I am still working through this development in my mind because of all the time factors and the re-education of our congregation regarding this miexed blessing.

The bottom line for me today is acknowledging that this is God's thing--not mine--and I must trust Him

PRAISE THE LORD! (I am sure!)

Thursday, October 20, 2005


JJ (my grandson) called me a few weeks ago to tell me about the three goals he scored in a soccer game. He left the message and then I had to call him back and get his version of the story, followed by his father's (my son) colorful adaptation of what really happened.

I was sooooo proud. That athletic ability comes through the genes, grandfather-father-son. It was amazing to picture JJ running down the field full speed and defytly weaving his way through defenders to score. I mean, I could remember the days when Jeff, his father, made six interceptions in one football game. Like I said, it runs in the family!

Seriously, I hope I can pass something else on to my children and grandchildren. We can argue about the athletic skills and wonder about grandpa's vivid imagination and inflated evaluation of his own skills. But what a grandfather really wants to see in his progeny is a strong faith in God, a character molded by God's Word.

I can't pass that through the genes. But I can try--however imperfectly--to be an example...to Jeff and to JJ.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


we have been gone for over a week on a much-needed vacation break. we rested and hiked and rested and biked and rested...and so we are rested!

we were in some beautiful country and enjoyed the beauty of God's creative work.

we were with some wonderful people and exulted in the fellowship of family and friends. i even held my newest grandson, haaken, which was a special treat (not to mention playing with sage, eden and zeke).

but...we are home... and there is nothing like being home, i have decided.

yes, it is back to the rigors of work.

yes, it is eyeing all the household tasks to be addressed.

yes, it was 27 phone messages and 542 e-mails.

yes, it was sorting through piles of mail and magazines and old newspapers (i should have cancelled for the week!)

yes, it was the news of two friends who had died, a funeral to prepare, a list of those in serious need.

yes! yes! yes! yes! yes!

yes...it is my life--my wonderful life--a life to which God has called me.

i am glad to be home!

Thursday, October 06, 2005


The good news today is that we have final approval for a turn lane from Cal Trans. Praise the Lord (PTL)!

This has been a process of unparalleled frustration. the process looks something like this.

1. We want a turn lane.

2. We don't want a turn lane.

3. A turn lane could cost $750,000.

3. You need a turn lane.

4. You don't need a turn lane.

5. You need a turn lane.

6. A turn lane will cost $250,000.

7. The Bank of Stockton will lend us the money.

8. Let's build a turn lane.

9. Here are the plans from the engineer for the turn lane.

10. Here are the revised plans back from Cal Trans for the turn lane (repeat #9 and #10 five times)

11. Today...the turn lane plans and drawing are approved.

12. We will have a turn lane when our contractor can work us, probably work to begin in six weeks.

Turns out we won't need the turn lane for another 3-4 months so the timing is fine. We have prayed for this issue for over three years so today is a day of praising the Lord at Grace Fellowship Church!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


restless spirit
frantically flailing in my soul
subdued without notice
traumatized muscles
awkwardly arching against my skin
relaxed without effort
fractured emotions
silently screaming beneath the surface
quiet without reason
mindless thoughts
ruthlessly running over my solitude
exit withour fanfare
i am at rest

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


I passed my treadmill test on Monday. It was interesting how I discovered I had passed. After about 12 minutes on the treadmill at ever escalating speeds and angles, I was told, "You have answered all the questions we have; would you like to stop now?"

The doctor, my personal friend, then proceeded to tell me all the things a treadmill may not show, i.e. other sources of heart trauma, hidden blockages, etc. I was feeling very tense and afraid as he rehearsed all of the other possible scenarios and concluding inwardly, "I must have failed the test..."

When he was all done, I asked, "Well, did I pass the test?"

"Oh, did I forget to tell you? Yes, your treadmill was normal; you passed the test!"

When we come before God each day, He isn't there to discuss all the possible results of our sinful makeup and human nature, frigthtening as those are. Instead, He is there to say, "you passed the test...you have trusted in my Son."

That's the good news of the gospel. Stay on the treadmill, if you must, but I choose to get off and simply embrace the fact that in Christ I have passed the test!

I feel pretty good about my treadmill results. It is good to know my heart is in good shape.

Is yours?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


I am sure you agree with me that Milla--full name, Camilla--is beautiful! She is identical in her appearance to her mother, my oldest daughter, Jennifer. When I saw this picture it was as if I had been taken back in time thirty years ago to when Jennifer was just a little girl (I am in trouble...I revealed her age). It is almost as if I am looking at a facsimile of the same person!

In my Christian life my desire is to be like Jesus--so that when others look at me, they will see Christ. That is a lofty ambition--one I have certainly not achieved-- but it is a compelling motivation to resemble my heavenly Father, and in so doing, attract others to Him.

When I see Milla, there are a myriad of happy memories she incites of times spent with Jennifer when she was a little girl.

Is there anything about what God is making me through his mercy and grace that would draw others to Christ? Is there any resemblance to my heavenly Father? It is my prayer.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Grandpa Again

Ten grandchildren makes one proud!

Haaken Case Theule was born on September 8th to Tim and Susie Theule, their fourth child. Beverly, my wife, was able to be with them when the baby was born. It was an exicitng time since the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and he had to be rushed to ICU...but he is home and doing fine!

We are rejoicing in the miracle of life. Though I was not present at the scene, I never cease to be amazed at the gift of life, and as Beverly detailed it for me, I could sense the awe and wonder at God's creative power.

We have ten of those precious "grandbaby gifts"--Sage, Eden, Ezekiel and Haaken Theule; Kyle, Julianne and Nathaniel Theule; JJ Barrett, and Camilla and Owen Vlach. I thought they needed some blogsite notoriety!

It is fun to be grandpa again!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Filling in...

My regular secretary is gone today. Pity her substitute. She has to read my handwriting!

Every Monday I generally make a list of some of the missing families and we send bulletins to those who were gone. This can generally be as many as 100 families and my scribbled list has to be discerned by some poor soul.

Mr regular secretary has learned to decipher my scrawl. For that she is grossly underpaid. The volunteer substitutes are doubly-penalized--we don't pay them...and they have to read my handwriting. I always shudder when I think of the subsitute's task--and even though I try harder to be legible--it is oftena futile exercise.

I was thinking about the Hebrews' passage that tells us Jesus is our faithful High Priest. In that position He is never absent, but always present. There is no subsititute standing in His place while He is on sabbatical. He is always there. He already knows my heart, knows my life...he knows how to read me.

It is a good thing no one is filling in when I come to Christ with a plate full of failures and blunders. He knows me, and remarkably, still loves me.

So do my secretaries...I think.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

ATT: Blogsite readers

Let me know if you are reading this blogsite. Dale

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

the building

Please join us for prayer as we construct our building at Grace Fellowship Church.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Ever wanted to do something, you couldn't find a way to do...even though you knew it needed to be done?

I guess that best describes my condition today. I really want to do something for the hurricane victims, but I can't figure out how to do it. As I watched the people milling about in the Astrodome, I thought, "I could go and be a counselor...offer encouragement, share the Word of God". I saw several men walking around with the words VOLUNTEER MINISTER on the back of their clothing, and I thought, "That could be me!"

That's where I am today; in fact, it's where I have been for the last week as I watch the grueling tale of a city under water unfold, and listen to the platiff cries for help.

I am frustrated. I can't go now because I am needed here. I have responsibilities, ministry to faithfully perform to the people I have been called to serve.

I will go, I hope, soon enough to offer some fleshed-out love and service in the next few months (work team planned!). In the meantime, I will do what God has called me to do...here.

And I can pray...HERE...NOW.

Monday, September 05, 2005

a work trip

Stay tuned for an update on our plans to send a work team to the New Orleans area when the dust clears and the water recedes....about twelve volunteered to join me on a work team projected for the Thanksgiving holidays. Of course, everything we plan will be dictated by the conditions and ability to get into the area at that time.

Our goal at Grace Fellowship is to designate our charitable gifts at this time for a very specific project. We are in communication with Desire Street Ministries to determine what is the best direction for our funding at this time. For more information, visit "Desire Street Ministries" on line and look for "Hurricane Update".

September 11th will be our first love offering for the victims of Hurricance Katrina. Gifts can also be mailed to Grace Fellowship Church, Box 850, Jackson, California 95642 and marked "disaster relief".

Sunday, September 04, 2005


My wife and I have been deeply-moved by the continuing saga of the New Orleans tragedy. We have friends there and a ministry we support so our hearts have been touched in multiple ways.

Tragedies like this can be forgotten easily because (a) we are geographically distant and (b) we have tendency simply to emotionally detach in time and to "move on".

Bev and I have resolved two things.

1. We will not exchange Christmas presents this year (except gfifts for the grandchildren). We realize we have everything we need--and then some. Instead, we are going to earmark what we would have spent for gifts for Desire Street Ministries.

2. I am going to try to orchestrate a work team response of men to go to New Orleans at the "right time" (Thanksgiving week is my goal) to assist Desire Street Ministries in a meaningful project that will help restore their outreach in the city.

If you're interested in going with me, contact me at the church office (209-223-1971) or right here on my blog site.

Let's resolve to do something together.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Someone told me today that they were considering some changes. The context for those, he expressed, was a brush with mortality that got him thinking.

What he is contemplating doing is getting rid of alot of his "stuff", downsizing to something much smaller, freeing himself from debt...so he can do the really important things in life.

I am there, too. I am a little younger, but daily reminders of the shortness of life cause me to ask, "What really matters?" It is a discipline for me because I find it easy to get caught up in "stuff".

I know better. People like the fellow I spoke to this morning are helpful reminders.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Desire Street Ministry

Tucked into the Ninth Quarter of New Orleans is an inner city outreach ministry called Desire Street. A school and a chuch reach out to needy teens in the area providing them with hope for a future beyond the streets of poverty and despair.

Sean and Emily and Aaron and Kristen are two special young couples who have joined the ministry team at Desire Street, teaching and working at the school and opening their homes--located in the heart of the inner city--to needy teenagers and their families.

These are top-quality young people who could work anywhere else; in fact, Emily is a student at LSU studying for her nursing degree and Aaron teaches art at Tulane Unviersity, in addition to his work at Desire Street. Sean coaches and teachers and Kristen is a part of the administrative team at the school.

Here's the tragedy. Along with thousands of others, Sean and Emily and Aaron and Kristen have houses under water in New Orleans, thanks to Hurricane Katrina. Desire Street Ministries is flooded as well, and the prospect for any of these buildings--and thousands of others--being suitable again for living or business looks decidedly bleak.

When you pray tonight, give thanks to God for the safety of the roof over your head and dry ground to walk on.

And pray for Sean and Emily, Aaron and Kristen, Desire Street Ministries...and thousands of others impacted by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

a wedding and a funeral

A wedding and a funeral today...

How are they different?
1. One is a time of happiness, the other one of sadness.

2. One is a time for celebrating, another is a time for grieving.

3. One is a time of anticipation, the other a time of closure.

How are they the same?
1. They both bring people together.

2. They both provide opportunity to ask for God's help.

3. The both inaugurate new life.

That last one may catch your breath. We understand that a wedding ushers in new life for a husband and a wife as they begin their journey together. That's a given.

But a funeral? A funeral may be perceived as an ending. But it is truly a beginning, for the believer who has the hope of eternal life. "For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

I hope you have trusted Christ for salvation and have begun your new life together--a life that is forever.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Professional baseball managers talk about the dreaded "dog days of summer". They are the days during the season when they carry a limited 24 man roster and they must exhaust their player resources during the long and hot summer months...when the baseball season is in full "swing", and players are getting tired.

After September 1st, I believe, managers are given the option of an expanded roster by calling up players from the minor leagues to share the playing time, relieve the veterans, and diminish some of the pressure. Everyone looks forward to this time in the season!

The "dog days of summer" would appear to be an oxymoron. Summer? Time for vacation, increased family outings, relaxation and change of pace. Right?

Wrong. Many of you would silently admit you are glad the "dog days of summer" are about over. Kids back in school, weather cooling down, ready to step back into the regular routine.

It has been a long summer for me. The construction of our new facilities has been a monumental challenge. The daily life issues I confront as a pastor have been of dramatic intensity the last three months. There seems to have been little break from the hot blast of "summer sun".

I look forward to the fall. I love the changing colors, the cool breeze, the transition back to a more regular schedule. I know, too, the Lord willing, our church facilities will be completed in the next several months...and we really need them to do our growing ministry at Grace.

I was thinking, though...in May, I couldn't wait for summer!

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I like lunch for all the obvious reasons. Here's a few of them.

1. I don't eat breakfast...usually.

2. By noon, I need a break from the sedentary position at my desk.

3. There is no food on site. I have checked.

4. My secretary reminds me it is lunch time.

5. My wife will ask me when I get home if I ate lunch.

6. By 2 or 3 in the afternoon my stomach will remind me.

7. I get to eat with a friend.

I have several standing appointments--actually "sitting" is more appropriate for what we do--for lunch. All morning today I looked forward to lunch with my friend.

I was not disappointed. He chose the place, he paid the bill (it was his turn), and I came back to the office...filled up with Chinese food and reminded of the value of lunch with a friend.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Ruth and Vern would have celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary tomorrow. He has been with the Lord for several years now, so she decided to join him today about 4:30 p.m. What a celebration!

Ruth was the quiet and supportive wife of Vern, a wonderful singer and vital part of Grace Fellowship Church. He was a member of the Board of Elders and a stabilizing element as we watched our church grow.

She was the one with the beautiful smile, the sophisticated grace, and loving devotion to her husband. When he passed away, a huge part of her died. She tried to live alone--it was difficult--and ultimately moved to a retirement center near her son and grandchildren.

Recently, she had been very ill, but surprised everyone with her physical resiliency. She had pneumonia and in her weakened respiratory condition, couldn't fight any longer.

She went home...to a joyous reunion with her Lord and Savior. I am confident Vern was there to greet her! Happy anniversary.

Monday, August 22, 2005


None of us like criticism. I am no exception. I was criticized yesterday.

I have tried over the years to ask myself a few questions when I hear personal criticism.

1. Who is criticising me? Is this person generally critical? Do they really know me? Would I value their opinion if it were positive?

2. Have I heard this criticism before from others? If there is a pattern of repetition regarding the criticism I am hearing maybe I need to take a closer look at myself.

3. Was the tone of the criticism reflective of a desire to help, shape, mold, and not just an opportunity for venting anger and hostility? If I suspect the motive is good, I handle criticism better, even if I don't agree with it.

I am reminded of this helpful scripture passage. "Each one should test his own actions..." Galatrians 6:4a . If we do that against the standard of God's Word and our understanding of His expectation of us, we have set a high standard for ourselves, one we cannot meet without His enabling grace.

We will not live life free from criticism, nor can we please everyone. We must seek to please God. "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful...it is the Lord who judges me..." II Corinthians 4:2-4.

Friday, August 19, 2005

blood drawn

I had blood drawn today. My longsuffering doctor, a personal friend and a member of my church (who is probably thoroughly frustrated with me), ordered these tests a mere four months ago.

What prompted these tests was an incident four months ago that reoccurred four weeks ago. Nothing serious, I am sure, but it certainly got my attention.

I have asked myself why I am so wary of blood tests? I have deduced the following.

1. I may find out something I don't want to know.

2. It may require lifestyle changes.

3. I may have to take medication (something I hate) because of family medical history and natural propensities (I have been avoiding that).

The bottom line is logic that sounds like this: if I don't have the tests, I won't know the truth about my physical condition and, therefore, I can pretend everything is okay.

Yes, I know that is foolish.

So, I got my blood drawn today.

Facing the truth about ourselves is a difficult process. Avoiding it does not make the truth any less certain. Furthermore, it prolongs the inevitable moment of confrontation, and then, perhaps, at a time when it may be too late.

Is it time to take a closer look at the words of the hymnwriter who gives us hope for our condition, whatever it may prove to be?

"There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Imannuel's veins.
And sinners plunged beneath that stream
Lose all their guilty stains."

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Part 2 of my series on the family concerns the Ephesians 6:1-4 passage and its companion passage in Colossians 3:20,21. The question that has gripped me is "How do we as parents "provoke", "exasperate", "discourage" our children?

It isn't that the idea is novel to me, or that I am so arrogant as to presume this does not include me. It just really gets my attention, especially the Colossians 3:21 verse that suggests we can cause them "to lose heart".

How do you see your behavior in how you treat your children affecting them, especially on an emotional level? Would you share some examples with me, even if they confirm the fact you aren't a perfect parent?

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Sometimes we have to be broken before we are useful to God.

1. The alabaster vessel had to be broken before its fragrance could be shared, see Matthew 26:7.

2. Jesus said that if a corn of wheat did not first fall into the ground and die, it could not produce, see John 12:24. We know that the seed must first break up before it can initiate further growth.

A man shared with me how God literally has broken him up through recent tragedy and pressure in his life, but acknowledged at the same time, how God was molding and shaping his life, and (from my point of view) making him even more productive than he was.

Have you been broken? It is painful. I know firsthand.

Jesus' death was the epitomized expression of one literally being broken--wounded for our transgressions, brusied for our iniquities--and bringing hope and new life to those of us who walk in the shadow of His cross.

May others see us as broken vessels, being made fit for the Master's use.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

TRYING TO FIX A PROBLEM...that another person doesn't think needs fixing

I am a "fixer" by nature. It is frustrating when I see a problem I can't fix.

The older I get, and the longer I serve as a counselor, the more I realize I really can't fix anything. Sometimes God may use me as a tool to do the repair work that is His to begin with.

A real obstacle to fixing something is agreeing that it needs to be fixed. I was recently in a meeting where someone whose need seemed apparent to everyone else, had no perception that he had a need at all. In fact, he was indignant at the idea.

So, there are a few "fix it" lessons for the day!

1. It's hard to "fix" someome when they don't think they need "fixing".

2. Even if they acknolwedge they need a "fix", we are not the "fixers". Only God can bring the needed mending.

3. Therefore, my job, when dealing with broken people, is to direct them to their only true source of help, Jesus Christ, the Great Physician (the Great "Fixer")!

Sunday, August 14, 2005


It was my first message of a three part series on the family today. I have spent much of the last two weeks preparing for the day, with my wife's question from a week ago resonating in my mind, "Are you going to say anything new?"

The answer is "no". For awhile it was, "I'll try", though muffled within me.

My studies took me down several paths including reading statistical data from George Barna about the deteriorating family, reading a colleciton of magazine articles about the family in crisis, and reviewing several recent books on the family, including John MacArthur's, The Fulfilled Family. There was also the review of every New Testament passage that referred to the family as well as a search through the Proverbs for "tidbits" of truth regarding the family. A study of the early chapters of Genesis reminded me that marriage was God's idea to begin with.

Where I ended up "camping" was in Ephesians 5:22-33, a pretty standard reference for talking about the relationship between husbands and wives, and how they are to mirror Christ's relationship to His church. Nothing revolutionary. Nothing clever. Nothing new.

But something true...God's unassailable truth for twenty-first century believers trying to figure out to make marriage work.

Husbands and wives are potentially a picture of Christ's love relationship with believers. His love is characterized in these verses as having the components of sacrificial giving and unconditional care. Such love inspires us to submit to His headship and to repsect His leadership and ministry to us, His church.

Husbands and wives, two thousand years later, are called to the same standard of love for one another.

It's not new, but it works.

The world is watching.

Friday, August 12, 2005


It has been a difficult week to blog...too much mental clutter to clearly think about something worth writing.

staff meeting...board meeting...membership classes...sermon preparation...hospital visitation....late night counseling...administration work....afternoon counseling...crisis intervention...wedding planning...telephone responses...staff retreat preparation...building concerns....conflict resolution...disgruntled member...worship arrangements...thrift store management...jail release...care group...mentoring...family abuse concerns...senior citizen illnesses...etc.

Oh, yes, and somewhere in between...prayer and personal Bible study...and time with my wife...I think.

I am not whining or complaining. Maybe your week looks alot the same. The agenda items are just different.

So as I blog tonight, I am reminded that my relationship with God--its cultivation and enjoyment--are my first priority. And my time with my wife and family is next. Blogging can wait...and it did.

Just cleaning up the clutter...

Monday, August 08, 2005

finding a church home

My stepson and his family have just moved from Carlsbad to San Ramon due to a job transfer. They loved their church family there and now are faced with the task of finding a new church where they can worship and serve the Lord together.

How do you select a new church home? What are some of the most important factors for consideration?

Tell me, as a pastor, what you are looking for when you go searching for a church?

I will be anxious to read your responses.

Friday, August 05, 2005


I am certain every minister has had those moments--mostly on Monday mornings--where he has asked himself, "Why am I doing this?" That question could be the response to poor attendance, a bad offering, an unkind editorial remark about his preaching, a complaint about his ministry in general...

When you have a congregation of 500-600 people, each with their own unique personalities, differing opinions, and distinctive theological ideas, it is almost arrogant to assume that everyone will be supportive, agreeable, and enthusiastically devoted to helping you build the church!

And, then, there's the "me" factor. I am well aware of my shortcomings--and there are those who have made it their job to remind me--and I know that I could very easily alienate someone without trying, offend someone with what I say, and generally be unappealing to someone who has a whole other idea of what a minister and ministry ought to look like.

I am learning this.

Every once in awhile, something happens that helps mute the disappointment of unmet expectations. Someone comes into my office and says...

"I just gave my life to the Lord about seven months ago.
I want to be baptized.
I can't wait to come to Sunday School and church to hear the Word of God.
I am trying to teach my children what I am learning and how to apply the things we learn each Sunday to our everyday life.
My boss has commented to me about the change in my life.
I am more conscious about how I treat the people around me; I see it as my ministry.
Thanks, Pastor."
That's why I am doing this. "Forgive me, Lord, when I complain."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

life-giving water

Flowers growing out of a water pond seem almost misplaced. How did they get there? Where are there roots? How do they sustain life without apparent soil to connect with?

Well, they are in water...duh...

If you pulled them out of the water they would die pretty quickly.

But they are "resting" in life-giving water!

Plant me by the water, Lord, or in the water if you choose. Help me to be "like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:3

Monday, August 01, 2005

body life

Ray Stedman wrote a book in the seventies called BODY LIFE. It greatly impacted my ministry as a young pastor in a small but growing inner-city church. We often in a chuch service prayed for one another, passed an offering plate to minister to someone's financial need, volunteered to care for someone in distress by connecting the needy with someone who had available resources. Those services are still poignantly stamped on my memory.

Last night we imported that idea into a communion and prayer service on our church property building site, underneath an outdoor covering in an area where we generally have picnics and outdoor services.

We made a large circle--about 50-60 came--and then sang worship songs, shared personal testimonies, prayed for one another's needs as a body, and took communion. It was warm--probably 100 degrees--but those of us who determined to come were richly blessed.

The life of the body where we weep and rejoice with one another (I Corinthians 12:26), when we carry one another's burdens in fulfillment of Christ's law (Galatians 6:1ff) and where we affrim that our completeness and satisfaction are in Christ alone (Colossians 2:9,10) are the essence of what it means to be part of the family of God.

We will do it again.

Thursday, July 28, 2005


Two people I am praying for each day are at the "sunset" of their lives. For neither of them is there any fear of the future...but a calm peace about the promise of tomorrow in God's Word,
"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him." I Corinthians 2:9

Someone else I visited today is about to be released from jail; another is about to return home from a rehabilitation center. For them, a new day awaits them..a day of hope and renewed opportunity. God's Word promises, "...in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us..." Romans 8:37.

So whether riding into the sunset of life, or facing the sunrise of a brand new day, what shapes the landscape of our future is the content of our relationship with God.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


We have a beautiful pond on our church property filled with goldfish and situated just outside my office. Today as I walked outside following a meeting I noticed that the pond was almost empty.

The pond's plastered finish is old and has several cracks in it so we keep water flowing into it to counteract the slow drainage. Much to my chagrin I could see the pond had no incoming water and the surrounding flowers, that depend on the allied drip system, were dry and parched from the extreme heat as well.

I found out someone had turned off the water system because of some noise the system was making, probably due to air in the lines. Unfortunately, they forgot to turn it back on and we almost had scorched roses and fried gold fish!

When nothing is coming in...and much is going out...we can be left parched and dry, even empty. We need the continual inflow of God's mercy and grace--His power and provision--to keep functioning in a way that honors Him.

The water is on, the pond is filling, and the flowers are showing renewed color and life.

So am I today, because I have been in God's Word (His word is in me) and filled afresh with his presence as we communed together this morning in prayer. I have been encouraged by the supportive input of a Christian brother and energized by the many things God is doing at Grace.

Don't cut off the flow!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

praying together

A recent survey suggested that the number one reason people come to church is to pray.

I have wondered about that survey. The most difficult service to get people to attend--at least at Grace Fellowship where I pastor--is a prayer service. Specially-scheduled corporate times of prayer are not well-attended.

I am assuming that the corporate prayer that accompanies the regular Sunday worship experience--one that fits into the already-established program--is what is being alluded to in this survey. "So you are at church on Sunday...what's the most important thing you do there?" "Pray".

Recently at Grace I have felt a reinvigorated sense of the importance and effectiveness of corporate prayer. Maybe that is in direct proportion to our elevated sense of need. In any case, we are praying more in the context of our worship service with a heightened level of participation.

Next Sunday, July 31st, I will be preaching on th subject, "A Den of Robbers or a House of Prayer?" It is a part of my continuing personal examination of the purpose and primacy of prayer in the life of the body of Christ.

Why do you come to church? Will I see you there?

Friday, July 22, 2005


I get to participate in a wedding today and tomorrow.

I am always reminded when I do weddings of the incredible idea that God says our marriages are to mirror Christ's relationship to the church--His agape love for those who have been born into His family by believing and trusting in His sacrificial work on the Cross.

I try to remind couples of this responsibility as believers...in counseling, and even at the wedding ceremony when this truth is one to be emphasized.

Today I am reminded again to be a husband who loves his wife as Christ loves me.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

65 years and counting

Henry and Velma Church have done something extraordinary. They have been married for sixty-five years!

Henry has survived almost as many years as a minister, a horseback-riding accident a few years ago that nearly killed him, and a recent bout with cancer.

We honored him today and there were many memories shared by a large group of former parisioners and friends. I asked one couple attending if they had celebrated their 65th anniversary yet. Their response? Eight years ago...now married seventy-three years.

I went looking for a card and couldn't find any that drew attention to sixty-five years of marriage. But, then, Henry and Velma are a rare find!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


In Matthew 9 Jesus tells his disciples that "the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few". In the next chapter He sends out the twelve.

Sometimes as I look at the needs around us in Amador County--the smallest county in California--I am overwhelmed. I survey the needs in our own church body--just an average size congregation--and I wonder how we can minister to each need. There seems to be a huge gap between need and resources.

And then I am reminded of missionaries we support around the world who are crying for help because they are understaffed, often in places where people are begging to hear the good news of the gospel.

At Grace Fellowship we need children's workers (we have grown rapidly), men to "man" our ministries to other men, people to assist in the sound booth, someone to coordinate new ministries to young couples and college age (two other rapidly growing areas) . We need someone to babysit for a care group twice a week, someone to do some repair work at the church offices, and the list goes on.

I am convinced there are enough laborers here for the tasks. I see them every Sunday, people with giftedness who have yet to find their place of ministry and service.

This whole passage is set up, I think, by these words about Jesus. "When He saw the crowds He had compassion on them..." That was the motivation behind all the things He did as He preached the gospel and healed the sick.

We have to catch that compassion to even see the multitudes, to even care about the needs.

Have you seen the need? Does it matter to you? Are you willing to step forward and be a "worker" in a "plentiful" harvest? Let us know.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

flowers in the desert

Would you expect to find flowers in the midst of desert-like land? Late rains made that happen in southern California in late spring. It's not what you would expect to see.

I'm looking for flowers in the middle of the desert...why look there? I have learned that when life seems dry and monotonous, when my emotions are arrid and empty, God can change the texture of everything with the rain of His blessing.

I am celebrating the color of my life, even though the days have been unbearably hot, and unsufferably dry. Just a drop of God's goodness, mercy and grace brings beauty in the midst of it all.

Monday, July 18, 2005


We have enjoyed the past two weeks with family. Tim and Suzie, along with our grandchildren Sage, Eden and "Zeke", were here last week and the week before that, Jeff, Jeanette and our grandson, JJ, spent ten days with us.

Camilla ("Milla) and Owen (above) are our grandchildren via TJ and Jennifer, my daughter. TJ and Jen celebrate an anniversary this week and I thanked TJ in a note for his gift to our family--a great husband to Jen, and a "donor" of two wonderful grandchildren to us!

In just a few weeks I will begin sharing a series at Grace entitled, "Scriptural Foundations for a Strong Family". As childrens and teens head back to school in August and September, I am reminded of the enormous responsibility we have as parents and grandparents. Proverbs 4:23 is the verse that grabs my attention, "Above all else, guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life." We may subconsiciously focus on behaviors in attempting to mold and shape our children's lives, but the emphasis must be on the "heart", an inclusive reference in the Bible to the intellect, emotions and will. All of life flows from these.

There is much speculation about who ought to do the molding and shaping--schools, churches, parents (think of it...) --and even the suggestion that children should be able to "free-form" their own lives with little or no adult "interference".

"Train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it", writes Solomon (Proverbs 22:6). I am thankful for my family--for godly parents and scriptural values that have been forever passed on to me as their legacy. Godly grandparents were a meaningful part of that process as well.

It is true my parents were not perfect and I probably inherited some of their unique qualities. But they saw their responsibility to prepare me for life, and, thankfully, did it well. I wandered away from those principles for awhile, but today I find myself comfortable and content with the values they taught and modeled for me. They are timeless, for they are built upon the foundation of God's Word.

As I look at my grandchildren's pictures scattered throughout the house and in my office, I pray for them; in fact, Beverly and I daily pray for our children and grandchildren by name. Our prayer is that our family will know the life that is described in God's Word as "abundant life" (John 10:10). We enjoy it today because of grandparents and parents who pointed the way for us.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Waterworld...and grandkids

We escaped to Waterworld yesterday and what a welcome relief from the heat. There were several highlights for me.

1. Sage
2. Eden
3. "Zeke"

Oh, by the way, these are three of my grandchildren...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

It's hot!

We have had a relatively cool summer with weather in the mid-eighties...until recently. Just the last two weeks the temperature has been perching perilously close to the 100 degree mark. And that's hot, no matter whether it's dry heat or wet heat (like Texas, where the humidity makes it feel like 110 degrees).

When it gets hot, I notice several things happen to me.
1. My energy level drops.
2. I look for a cooler place.
3. I generally deliberately decrease my activity level.

It makes sense to observe all of the above because we need to rehydrate, find a cool place (if possible) and see if we can't back off our pace for awhile.

What happens when life "heats up", when there is an accelerated sense of the urgent and demanding...when trouble comes?

Here's what often happens to me.
1. I get excited and flush with misdirected emotion and energy.
2. I descend deeper into the fire.
3. I subconsciously increase my activity level trying to put out the fire.

What would happen when it "heats up" if I responded like I do to the warmer weather.
1. Take a break and evaluate what's happening.
2. Get away from the "fire" and change perspective.
3. Deliberately cease from my "fanning the flames" and look to God for help.

"For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in his dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of the tabernacle and set me high upon a rock." Psalm 27:5

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

marriage betrayal

The violation of a marriage through infidelity is a a painful reality for many people who try to stay together in the aftermath of the discovery.

A young man wants to believe that his wife will be faithful once again but images of what has happened are hard for him to process.

Ayoung woman wants to believe her husband's promises of future faithfulness but she has heard them before.

Is there any hope for repair?

Yes. I am reminded of several examples that I have witnessed firsthand where both parties determined to confess their sin to one another, offer forgiveness, and operate in an intentional environment of rebuilt trust. It was an intellectual exercise to begin with--with emotions trailing far behind--but each day of affirmation of purpose and corroborating behavior, brought new strength, new hope, and ultimate healing.

God is the healer of those who have been betrayed. He is the advocate of those who are hurt and without hope. He is the reason we can own our sin and find forgiveness, and a new beginning.

Don;t give up!

Monday, July 11, 2005


What makes a "great" Sunday? I guess it is a purely subjective question and so I am blogging from my pespective as a pastor.

*Great worship--we really sang on Sunday and there was a spirit of rejoicing, especially in the second service.

*Great fellowship--there are some Sundays where it seems we are really in tune with one another. There is great sharing and nobody seems to want to leave...just like this Sunday.

*Great teaching--Pastor Mark did a terrific job of teaching our adult Sunday School lesson from Titus 1. (Many of you are missing out on this rich time of instruction).

*Great listening--as I preached Sunday it was inspiring to see our people paying attention to the Word of God, listening, taking notes, and even responding.

*Great expectations--I heard people saying, "I can't wait until next week!"

What makes any Sunday great is the sense that God is present with us. Thanks, Lord, for meeting with us!

Friday, July 08, 2005

Can we ever feel safe again?

With the death total in London over fifty this morning, I shudder at the idea of finding a safe place to live. People will think twice before boarding a bus, riding BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), or entering a subway for the next few months because once again we feel strangely vulnerable.

With the daily grisly reports of suicide bombings in Iraq it is easy to become anesthesized to the
frightening propsect of not knowing what threat lurks in the shadows for American soldiers and Iraqui citizens. Because we have servicemen there who we know personally, we can't forget the ubiquitous danger they face. I read the list of men killed in service each time it is printed looking reluctantly for the name of someone I might have known.

And it is not that long ago that we were scrambling in the aftermath of 9-11 (say that, and everyone knows what you are talking about) to find our own safe places--disdaining air travel, and, then, when we finally rediscovered our penchant for travel, struggling through checkpoints with shoes in hand and luggage opened...something that we now accept as routine.

Solomon writes in Proverbs 18:10, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe." Such words at first glance seem trite to the skeptic, and absurd to the cynic. For me, these words are comfort, though, I confess, I never stood in the debris of the Twin Towers and I have never been a military policeman, like my friend Mike, in Iraq.

But I have sat with a mother whose son was dying with an incurable disease. I have watched an elderly man release his cancer-ridden wife to eternity. I am working with a young man who has five children and is battling multiple myaloma. I recently helped a mother of teens enter a rehabiliation center for addiction that was threatening her life.

Alll of those things are scary. They are places we all may visit sooner or later that are unfamiliar, and surely make us feel unsafe. Part of our fear is that of the unknown and its corollary anticipations that render us powerless and vulnerable.

I have discovered that my faith in God, while not erasing my proclivity for fear of the unknown, provides me with a steady confidence and certainty that whatever comes my way, God will give me the grace to get through it. I also have what some critically may deride as a benign peace that comes from affirming that God has a plan for my life, that my days are numbered, that He will be faithful to the promises of His Word to me.

I run to the tower of strength I find in His name. And, for the moment, I feel safe.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


As I come to the conclusion of preaching from Nehemiah for the last seven months, I am disappointed...so disappointed in the Israelites. WHY? Bcause God's mercy and grace have allowed their return to their land, the rebuilding of the temple and the city walls...and they have returned to God's Word, asked His forgiveness, agreed to a new covenant to be faithful to the Law, repopulated the city of Jerusalem...and chapter 13 tells us they are back to doing the things that got them into the trouble in the first place!

Come on, Israelites!

I am reminded of Paul's letter to the church at Corinth where he tells them that the Israelites were given us as examples "to keep us from setting our hearts on evil as they did",
I Corinthians 10:6. Apparently, God knew that we needed this example today.

So how are we doing?

Come on, Dale!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

flag over fallujah

I missed our "service on the grounds" July 3rd as I spoke at the Silver Lake Chapel. It is a beautiful setting for a church service, but, I confess. thought about our own services.

Mike Oram is a marine from Grace serving in Iraq. Last week he sent a special package to his wife, Martha. It was a tattered American flag that had flown over some military buildings in Fallujah. Mike sent it so we could use it for the Pledge of Allegiance, a part of our July 3rd service.

Just two years year ago, Mike carried an American flag in full military dress down the aisle of our outdoor service and led us in our salute to the American flag. "...one nation under God indivisible with liberty and justice for all..."

Whatever our political sentiments, the flag which flew over Fallujah reminds us of the cost of freedom, the commitment of American men and women over the ages to secure and perserve such freedom.

Thanks, Mike, and to others like you (our own Steve Hauser), who serve our country!

Saturday, July 02, 2005


It is one of the best-kept secrets in Amador County. Off of Highway 49 on Electra Road just south of Jackson--that's my favorite part. I drive there, park my car and either run, walk, or drive to a special place where I can reflect upon the beauty of God's handiwork and consider the work before me for the day.

Today I didn't take any work and simply drove with my son, daughter-in-law and grandson, JJ, to a special spot where we could see the river and, in a "fit" of courage, experience its icy-cold refreshment.

It's what I needed today, after a heated two weeks of activity and responsibility.

I love the Mokelumne River. Now that I have told you about it, it's no longer the county's "best-kept secret".

Friday, July 01, 2005

Do you want to get well?

"Do you want to get well?"

Jesus asked a lame man that "silly" question one time. He had positioned himself in a place for healing--it should have been obvious--but Jesus still asked the question.

It is possible to be spiritually, emotionally, psychologically or physically ill--and to find an awkward kind of "comfort" in that position. We may like the attention, dislike the effort required to change what has become the norm, even resist the mystery and challenge of what could be.

Somewhere in the process of illness we have to address the question, "Do I want to get well?"

If the answer is a determined "yes", then we can submit to the process of healing--whatever it may be--acknowledging that healing often takes time. It may even be painful, requiring discipline, dependence upon others, accountability, medication, self-empyting, etc.

In any case, it will require partnership with God and an acknowledgement of His Word. Here's His promise, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness throughh our knowledge of Him..." II Peter 1:3.

But we have to want to get well!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Someone called my home just a few minutes ago to tell me there was a fire movng near our property. She said fire trucks were already on site and suggested maybe we should water the ground around our office complex.

I am here having just surveyed the potential damage. The fire appears to be about one-half mile away and, at least for the moment, burning under control.

How do you put out a fire when it gets near you? when it begins to touch what is near and dear to you?

Overhead are helicopters carrying loads of water and firetrucks pointing pressure hoses at the bellowing flames.

And here am I, with 100 feet of hose and a squirt of water, trying to defend a 4000 square office space against a potentially ravaging fire.

I sat with someone in a hospital room last night for several hours. Her life is literally being devastated by the flames of addiction and anger.

What I have to offer on my own is a "squirt" of worldly advice and counsel. But overhead and around me are specially-outfitted firetrucks and load-carrying helicopters of fresh water that can truly bring hope and relief from the fire of a hot wind or smoldering embers .

It is the divine counsel of God--and the storehouse of His riches--that speaks hope and relief in the midst of our tests and trials.

Bring on the helicopters!

Monday, June 27, 2005

between two worlds

My new friend, Aaron, is an artist. I met him last week as he attended a mutual friend's wedding and stayed at our home with his wife.

He teaches art at an inner city school called Desire Street, located in the heart of New Orlean's most diverse and desperate communities. The Desire Street philosophy is to literally "snatch" 7th-12th graders from the streets and insert them into a new environment and to show them what thier lives can become with God's help and an education.

Aaron has a heart for inner-city kids and a theology background, and this talent to teach and paint.

Two days a week he will teach art at Tulane University,a well-respected insitution of learning attended by the other "end" of the economic strata.

He will literally be living in two worlds.

Here's what Aaron takes with him. God inhabits both worlds. And the architect of the universe--the Master designer of creation--can use Aaron's penchant for painting and translate it into something in both environments that can have an impact.

I was drawn to Aaron and his wife because they are passionate about this adventure.

Tell me something about the adventure to which God has called you.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

red iron

Red iron is almost totally up, showing the internal structure and framework of our new facility. It is awe-inspiring to stand in the middle of what will be the sanctuary and look at the thirty foot span and dream what red iron will ultimately become.

A sanctuary.

I have been watching the construction process, the care and meticulous attention given to placement of every beam and the arduous process of lifting every piece into place.

When the final project is complete by year's end and all the red iron has been pretty much covered with drywall I won't forget what's underneath the surface.

What people see is on the outside and it can cover up what is on the inside. I am glad that my life in Christ has been forged with red iron on the inside, and I have been fitted with a foundation and structure that can withstand any storm.

May my life be a sanctuary.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


Rumors are insidious because they generally are untrue and more often than not are designed to be hurtful.

I heard such a rumor "credited" to me this week and was saddened by the thought of it. I attempted to get to the source and to correct the information that was harmfully being disseminated. I also apologized feeling that perhaps I should be more careful so that not even the hint of what was interpreted could have been imagined. I know my heart was right and that I would never intentionally say something unkind about another brother.

Our tongues get us into trouble.

James 3 reminds us of the fire of an unruly tongue and tells us that only God can tame it.

"Lord, keep my tongue under your control."

Monday, June 20, 2005

a quilt and some plants

Bev and I had two tasks on our day off today--hang a quilt and plant some plants in a new section of our garden (actually, it's my garden, she has her "own" section).

Both of these tasks are the result of two visits last week--one made to me, and one Bev and I made together. Someone came to my office carrying a beautiful homemade quilt inscribed on the back for me. I was moved to tears as she handed it to me.

Bev and I visited a senior citizen last week and as we said "good-bye" to her daughter she gave us a guided tour of her pond and gardens. She offered us "starts" of about ten different plants, which we gratefully received, carried home and kept alive until today when we could plant them.

When I walk down my hall now I see this beautiful quilt of an American flag with the words
"One nation under God". When I step off my deck and look over my garden I see a small plot planted with Barbara's "starts" and I know in a couple of weeks they will be vibrant with color.

A quilt and some plants--daily reminders of special people who share their life...and their stuff with me. I am a blessed man.

Sunday, June 19, 2005


The Genesis 22:1-14 account of Abraham's requested sacrifice of his son, Isaac, is a gut-wrenching one. Especially, if as fathers we try to switch places with Abraham.

The undiscussed element of this story, known for its illustration of Abraham's obedience and faith, is Isacc's role. A teenager, he could have at any time eluded his father. When he saw there was no sacrifice, when it came time to be bound for the sacrifice--he could have simply over-powered his 100-plus old father and run.

But he didn't. Why?

I believe that Abraham's trust in God's provision and his faith in God's promise (see Hebrews 11:17-19) was contagious; in other words, Isaac "caught it". When Abraham said, "God will provide" (Jehovah Jireh), he was really saying in strict Hebrews, "God will see to it". That consummate expression of faith in God made Isaac willing to travel with his father, to allow himself to be bound, to (perhaps) climb up on the offering and lay in position while his father stood obediently poised with a knife.

Some things are better "caught" than "taught". Isaac observed his father's steadfast faith and "went on together with him" (see the text).

Now that's the legacy of a true father.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


My father died almost eighteen years ago. June 10th would have been his eighty-third birthday.

He was a pastor who loved people. Much of his ministry life he was bi-vocational, working as a painter and expert wall-paperer, a sales agent for AAA--doing all he could to provide for us. He found the Lord when my twin brother and I were six weeks old and after a night of excessive drinking. His testimony always affected me because he tearfully-talked about going forward at the altar call to appease his wife on their anniversary. He found the Lord...she didn't, until several weeks later, but both of their lives were transformed.

My father never ceased to be amazed at God's grace--to save him, to call him to preach the gospel. I preached his funeral sermon and I remember choosing these words as his final reward, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant..."

My dad never pastored a big church, never had alot of notoriety, never had alot of money.

But he had alot of love, and that love touched hundreds of people who are literally scattered around the world serving the Lord, some as missionaries and ministers of the gospel.

I am a product of his love and faithfulness to God. I honor him once again on this Father's Day.

Friday, June 17, 2005


It rained yesterday and a little today. The newspaper said the average temperature for this time of the year is 90. Today it was 66. Go figure.

My plants are confused. My lawn is saturated. My rose petals are pummeled. All is askew.

I guess I could ask, "Are we being punished?" After all, Amador County is no haven from sin and its folly. The last year we have been debating about whether or not to have another casino in the neighborhood. We have our "fair share" of drugs and its attendent evils. Our local newspaper and its editors recently lamblasted a man who came into town with a vehicle boarded with an advertisement stating what the Bible says about homosexuality. Just a few miles away in Lodi authorities uncovered a terrorist link. We are up in the mountains, tucked away from civilization, but sin has found us.

None of us equate the unseasonal weather with God's judgment. We just know some years it rains more than others.

When we encounter difficulties in life--when we are feeling innundated by hardship, confused, saturated and pummeled--we may be tempted to ask, "Is God punishing me?"

No, even though the proliferation of trouble may seem unseasonable (when is trouble something we plan for on the calendar?), we can know there are just times in our lives that are more difficult than others. Because we are all sinners, it might be easy to see a "cause and effect" relationship between our failure and the storms we are weathering.

The best thing to do when it is raining is to recognize that things are growing.

May it be true of our lives in the midst of trouble and difficulties.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

a visit with the dying

The visit I made this afternoon was to an eighty-nine year old woman whose liver is enveloped by cancer. She has moved home with her daughter and son-in-law. I went to visit her today because I wanted to see her before God takes her home.

I am not sure what I expected to find. Some things were as they always are with her. She was impeccably dressed, her hair was styled as if she had just left the salon and her makeup was perfect. As usual. I have never seen her look any differently...even in the hospital.

She was seated in her chair with a welcoming smile. When I reached over to hug her, it was immediately apparent she was glad to see us. I felt better.

We talked about how she was feeling--much better now--and what she was doing--I am waiting to die. There was no sound of anger or regret or fear. She was merely verbalizing the obvious, and letting us know it was okay.

Simply put, she is ready to go. Her mind is sharp, her memory fine. She is surrounded by her wonderful family who loves her, with minor pain controlled by advil, and now has only time to reflect upon God's faithfulness and to look forward to heaven.

She may have days--perhaps a few months-- but it probably won't be long.

She is dying...dying to be with the Lord.

I can't wait to see her again next week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I learned about Leonard before he ever started attending Grace Felllowship. In our small community news travels fast and his traumatic illness that left him near death was the subject of prayer even at our local congregation.

I met him several years later when he and his wife started attending Grace. Unfortunately, much of the time since he has wrestled with a number of illnesses culminating in his death yesterday morning.

The last time I saw Leonard in the hospital he said to me, "I just want to go home. I am tired." A couple of weeks later he was at the church for the first time in several months. I saw him come in the back door--I encouraged him to do that so he could make an easy exit if he got to feeling bad--and I raced back to greet him and to tell him how glad I was to see him. He smiled and hugged me back.

That is the last time I saw him. He left before the service was over.

Leonard is with with the Lord. We rejoice!

See you in heaven, Leonard!