Saturday, April 30, 2005


I was asked to pray an invocation for a graduation for a teenager from our church. He is home-schooled and it was presented as an informal gathering of his buddies--I was there with about six of his buddies from church--eating Chinese food together.

I wore one of my better shorts, a polo shirt and some "dressy" sandals (now there's an oxymoron) and arrived early with his buddies.

The family met us in formal wear, the subject of the celebration had a suit and tie (I was unaware he owned one) and everyone else was dressed in a way that made me want to find a corner to hide--not stand ceremoniously before the crowd, as I was asked to do.

Ever feel like that...under-dressed? conspicuously out of place? Not a pleasant feeling, even though the host covered for me nicely.

I know one thing. I don't want to feel that way when God calls me. Not enough oil in my lamp (Matthew 25), or like the wedding guest in Matthew 22, of whom it was asked, "How did you get in here without wedding clothes?"

The man was specechless, scripture records, and literally thrown out.

They let me stay, even let me give my speech.

But one day it will matter what clothes I am wearing...Paul says, "Clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ", Romans 13:14.

So remember to be dressed properly for that day, clothed with "compassion, kindness, humility. gentleness and patience", Colossians 3:12.

Friday, April 29, 2005


I have been preaching through nehemiah on Sunday mornings and now, four months and six chapters into the book, the task of rebuilding the walls is complete. Interestingly, our own construction process in the corresponding amount of time has result in the laying of our foundation and the beginning work on the steel structure of our new facilities.

At this point in Nehemiah the story changes direction. One might expect an effusive celebration of the completion of the rebuilding of the walls in only fifty-two days--and that under duress--but, instead, Nehemiah continues the rest of the task God has given him. Back in 2:5 Nehemiah's request--attributed as God's idea--to "rebuild" the city utilizes a word for "build" that means more than physical construction. It implies even the building and development of a community.

In chapter 7-10 Nehemiah begins to address the true spiritual needs of the people, in order that they will not become so enamored with the completion of a significant physical task, that they forget the sin that brought them to this place of God's judgment and the grace that now allows them now to truly "rebuild".

Spiritual rebuilding of broken-down lives does not mean simply relocation and resolution, and other overt changes. For change to be genuine and enduring it must address the root causes of that which brought the "breaking down". That is almost always an issue of the heart.

Nehemiah, under God's direction, sees that.

So must we.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

National Secretary's Day

Marlene has been my secretary for the last four years and she is worthy of any honor we could give to her. We will settle for lunch out today with the staff and a small gift.

Thanks, Marlene...

...for reading my handwriting and not complaining
...for treating everyone on the telephone as if they were special
...for guarding my time when I don't
...for bringing me lunch when I forget to eat
...for doing the things we can't find anyone else to do
...for seeing your work as a ministry

What would we do without you?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


A week ago old friends e-mailed me they would be in our vicinity and asked if they could stop by. Several days later we made tentative arrangements and they just left an hour ago.

I am reflecting upon how easy it was to reconnect after not seeing them for nine years. and then briefly, at my son's wedding. What is the proverbial glue that has kept us "close" even though geographically distant and mostly "out of touch"?

It is shared history.

*We laughed and wept together over our children's adventures and failures.
*We encouraged each other during their unemployment crisis and my family tragedy.
*We worshipped at the same church together.
*We spent time in each other's home, doing what friends do.
*We ministered together, doing hospital visitation and other church-related outreach.

Even though we have a relationship that looks different today, we reconnected instantly. My mind was flooded with multiple memories as we reminisced together.

We are still friends...old friends.

Monday, April 25, 2005


A number of Amador County churches met last night for an evangelistic outreach featuring the testiumony of Stephen Lunguu, whose autobiography graphically details his incredible life story (see OUT OF THE BLACK SHADOWS). I had read his story and was excited about hearing him speak.

About 500 from our county representing about seven churches joined in for the quickly-planned event--we had about a two month preparation period--and though the publicity was done well given the time parameters, threatening weather and other factors kept the crowd smaller than anticipated.

An afternoon with the youth and Lunguu preceded the "main" event and a number of teens responded to the invitation to receive Christ. The later service included music from a local worship team which was excellent, and a visiting black male ensemble who sang with enthusiasm. Lunguu's testimony was a humble and grateful tribute to God's grace and faithfulness and I was deeply-moved as I listened to him parallel the story of blind Bartimaus from Mark 10 with his own discovery of Christ. A number came forward at the conclusion of the service to seek Christ.

Just a few observations.

1. I know our county well and even though this was billed as an evangelistic outreach I saw mostly people from the Christian community.

2. Music at combined church events in our county seem to always be of the same genre, and not necessarily reflective of their different styles of worship. Although I generally enjoyed the worship, many chose not to participate.

3. Community church events like this have value, I think, but I am wondering what is the best venue for getting us together? A National Day of Prayer breakfast is scheduled in May and we will meet as a church community once again.

Let me know your feelings about the Lunguu meeting and future events like this.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Retired or Refired?

We begin a short six week Sunday School session and I am teaching an adult class about retirement, i.e. what does the Bibole have to say about it?

It should be a short class, because the Bible has nothing much to say about retirement. In fact, the evolution of elders in the New Testament is directly linked to the role of the elderly in the Old Testament where old age was linked with wisdom coupled with knowledge and experience, and old people were honored with responsibility.

Grace Fellowship has a huge resource in its demigraphics of senior citizens and we value them. Many of them are seasoned in their faith and well-equipped to minister in a variety of ways. We hope to set them "on fire" in the next six weeks.

Here's our list of topics.

1. What Does the Bible Say about Retirement? April 24

2. Does "Older" Mean "Smolder?" May 1

3. Grandparenting 101, May 8

4. The Relationship Between Wisdom and Work, May 15

5. A Catalog of Tips for the Still "Young and Restless", May 22

6. What Can Make the Golden Years Glitter...Not Bitter, May 29

Getting there myself, Pastor Dale

Thursday, April 21, 2005

I missed an appointment

I was pretty embarassed today when my secretary tracked me down and asked "Did you forget your 3 p.m. appointment?" "With whom?", I asked incredulously. She named the party and sickening moment of realization crept over my mind. It was an appointment I made Sunday morning and forgot to transfer to my computer calendar.

When I called the party they were understandably disappointed. I apologized but my words seemed hollow, even to me. When I asked if we could reschedule, their response was less than enthusiastic.

I was suddenly struck with the realization why I so desperately need grace (as if I need a reminder). In spite of how well-intentioned I may be, I drop the ball, and the results of that embarass me, and sometimes hurt others.

Theprize for me is that several hours later the "offended party" called back and apologized to me for being rude (they really weren't), and rescheduled.

I am blessed daily by God's grace. Someone else's grace extended to me is a bonus!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


I have been going to the same barber for the last eight years. It is a matter of comfort and convenience because he knows best how to obscure my thinning hair. I learned a month ago he is moving away and, alas, I had to find someone new to undertake the task of shielding my baldness.

And so this morning, armed with information that someone in my congregation is a new hair stylist, I called her and asked, "Do you have a spot for me in your schedule?" She cheerfully assured me she would see me at 4:00 p.m. and so I approached the "dreaded" time with a corresponding amount of apprehension.

Well, she was delightful. I had not seen her for some time and so we got re-acquainted and, in the meantime, she did a masterful job of preserving my shameful pride.

We dread change and often approach it with uncertainty and dread. We are comfortable with the way things are. And, then, the change comes and with it, new opportunities, new challenges, even new friends.

I came home, anxious to hear my wife's response. She didn't disappoint me. She said, "Your hair looks short.. (help!) ...but it looks really good!" I have scheduled an appointment three weeks from now for another haircut. Same place. I don't want to change hair stylists now!

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"I am afraid..."

Facing serious surgery and rehearsing the anesthesiologist's words, "You could die", he simply said, "Pastor, I am afraid."

I remembered my very routine surgery of a year ago when I was dealing with a painful kidney stone (I wished I could die...for a minute), and the cursory warnings of the anesthesiologist then, "It isn't likely, but you could die." And I thought to myself (I didn't want to be unspiritual and mouth it aloud), "I am afraid."

Pastor Ward Willoughby, one of our staff pastors, pointed out in a staff devotional today that in the 56th Psalm the writer says two things about fear.

1. "When I am afriad, I will trust in you..." verse 3

2. "In God I trust; I will not be afraid." verse 11

It is comforting to know that when we are afraid we can trust in God. But it may be even more compelling to think about the determination to trust in God and thus dismantle fear's hold. Paul tells young Timothy that God has not given us a "spirit of fear" (KJV) but of "love and peace and a sound mind".

The writer of the book of Hebrews assures us that Jesus through His death destroyed "him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil", to "free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." Hebrews 2:14,15.

The anesthesiologist has the directed responsibility to say to every man who faces surgery under his purview, "You could die". And it is so--a neglible amount statistically die under anesthesia.

Yes, there is inevitably an inescapable moment of fear when we enter new territory, face the unseen, consider eternity. But if we have trusted in God, and believe that He has conquered death's hold, we have nothing to fear.

I prayed for my friend today that God would give him the "peace of God" that is beyond human comprehension and is a garrison against the enemy's determined attack to hold us in the grip of fear. (see Philippians 4:7). May his surgery go well.

Monday, April 18, 2005


We ariived in Sacramento about 10:30 p.m. Saturday and were home in bed by 1:00 a.m. Sunday, or, 4 a.m. cruise time, since we flew back from Ft. Laurderdale, Florida. Then I was up at 6:00 a.m. with three speaking services on Sunday, lunch with friends, an examination of our completed church foundation (PTL!) and home by 3 p.m. yesterday. Wow! In spite of all that I feel refreshed and excited to be home this morning.

I merely mention all of those things to tell you that this is part of my real world, and I love it! Yes, cruising was fantastic--Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. Martens, Bahamas--all beautiful. On board highlights like basketball, swimming, jacuzzi, walking track, miniature golf, live music, excellent stage productions, on-board shopping, food (and more food!)--not to mention being royally spoiled with room service, cabin cleanup, a balcony view of the ocean-- were just a part of the daily fare. Special for me was the opportunity to be with Bev's mother (the provider of our trip--thanks, mom) and her siblings and their mates, eight of us all together.

But life is not a cruise, as I suggested to our church family on Sunday. Any attempt to "market" the gospel as a trip insulated from the everyday real world challenges--hard work, physical challenges, financial responsibilities, relationship struggles, etc.--is non-scriptural. In Sunday School I spoke from John 17 wjhere Jesus prays to His Father, forecasting the struggles we as believers would face, asking God to "protect us", but vowing to send us into the world--a world, Jesus says, will hate us.

And so Sunday I was reminded of what the real world is like. Someone is facing open-heart surgery and he is 85; another's mother is dying. A board member is afflicted with so much chronic back pain he couldn't make it to church. A young man told me he needed money because his family is going through an unemloyment crisis. An alcoholic sits outside our church and asks for money each Sunday. Sadly, but surely, this is the real world.

And so with my feet on terra firma (I was a little shakey transitioning from the cruise deck), I re-enter the real world with a commitment that this is the life to which God has called me...and I welcome it.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

GOING AWAY...I think

Because of the generosity of my wife's mom, we are leaving today for a week away on a cruise. I should be excited but I am having mixed emotions as we pack this morning.

So much is in the air--a friend's business in trouble, a marriage headed for divorce, a building with concrete about to be poured, a church outreach struggling with personnel concerns, a friend facing surgery, an community-wide evangelistic emphasis in the planning stages, and some potentially-troubling family news--and I am going on vacation!

Bev and I have laughed before and said, "Every time we plan to go away, crisis comes!" And it is no different this time.

So what's my problem?

Do I think I should be insulated from trouble? Does this look different than the usual spectrum of concerns in a normal pastoral day? Do I think I am indispensable and that things will flounder while I am gone? Do I think God can't manage without me?

Well, the right answer to all of those questions shouold be a resounding "no". But I have this issue of pride and a selfishly-marred understanding of my role as a pastor. After thirty-seven years I should know better.

We have a great team on staff at Grace and a caring body of believers. More importantly, this is God's work, and He is in control.

So I am going away, but the good news is, God is staying!

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Staff meetings and other meetings

Tuesdays are a busy day for me. Usually at 6 a.m. I head off to a men's Bible study with 5-6 of my favorite people. At 7:30 I have a weekly building meeting with my faithful crew and at 9:00-12:00 I havea variety of meetings with staff personnel--Dan Simpson, Mark Johnson, Ward Willoughby, John Magsayo.

I love these meetings. I never dread them. Keith Kerr, Paul Wesseler, John Walsh, Steve Krieshok, Steve Wigelsworth, Rick Floyd--these are my early Bible study buddies. We are a doctor, a pharmacist, a high school English teacher, a salesman, a building ciontractor, an insurance company owner...and me, a usually tired pastor. In fact, I missed today. But I don't have to lead the discussion; I just get to be with my friends, and almost always, I leave refreshed.

Our building crew--Dan Simpson, Mike Stromberg and Bob Allen--meet with our contractor to review what is going on with the construction of our new facility. Sometimes it is pretty serious, and occasionally even frustrating, but we have developed a mutual respect for one another and it is always for me a productive time.

Our staff meetings are times of dreaming, planning, reflecting, trouble-shooting, praying, seeking counsel from one another. They recently have included a devotional from Pastor Ward who sets the tone with his wisdom and insight from the Word. I have a weekly agenda but we leave the door open to talk about the things that are often on our hearts as we seek to minister to the needs of a growing family.

About 5-6 hours later I am usually finished. But I am generally not tired. Today I am refreshed and encouraged. We have dreamed together, planned together, prayed together, and God has been with us. And I am glad we all met!

Sunday, April 03, 2005


I don't usually blog before church on Sunday morning but withthe the time time change I "sprang ahead" and have rekindled energy as I review my sermon notes for today.

Nehemiah 4:4-23, my text for today, seems appropos for every day, any Sunday. The children of Israel are undertake the daunting task of rebuilding the walls of the city of Jerusalem and the enemy is sniping at them. Every level of opposition increases in intensity and by this time in their task their lives have been threatened. How do they respond? That is the focal point of this passage.

They pray--but that does not stop the enemy's attacks; in fact, they accelerate. We presume, sometimes, that prayer removes the opposition. Often, the opposite is true. So why do we pray? This passage is written in the spirit of Jesus' words to His disciples when He say "Watch and pray". We gird ourselves with the armor of God (Ephesians 6), just as the Israelites arm themselves, so that even while they are doing their work, they are ready at any moment to do battle.

We must pray, to be sure. But we must guard our hearts against satan's unrelenting determination to foil our plans and diminish our faith. Philippians 4:1-13 is built around the instruction to not be anxious but to pray, The result of that, we are told, is that we will have peace, and that peace functions as a garrision of the soul against the enemy.

Watch and pray!

Saturday, April 02, 2005

a movie maybe

Last night we saw a movie that jolted me, THE UPSIDE OF ANGER. I am reluctant to recommend the movie because it had an R rating (we don't go to R movies) and some sexual innuendo that was, as usual, unnecessary. But the story, mostly dark, is a study of the impact of anger and resentment and its effects on the lives of those consumed by it. It illustrates the scriptural warning about the defilement of the "root of bitterness" and left me thinking...