Sunday, May 22, 2005

vacation plans

I leave for a pastor's conference in Chicago on Monday and then later on Thursday head to Dallas to see my four children and three grandchildren who live in that part of the country. Needless to say, I am excited about the trip to Dallas, and looking forward to some days of spiritual refreshment in Chicago.

I won't be blogging, but I will be back to brag on my grandchildren!

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Men's Retreat--postscript

Forty men gathered together at an overnight retreat and we all left, I think, wishing we could have stayed longer. There was beautiful weather, great food, and an exquisite setting in the greener-than-usual camp area. The camp is nestled between large pines and cedars and encases a beautiful stream, energized by our huge slowly-melting snowpack.

But all of that is secondary to the challenging teaching, wonderful worship, special prayer times, and rich fellowship--something our men seldom get to do together.

I am not so sure that we aren't like men everywhere--busy, distracted and feeling guilty about our undeveloped spiritual leadership skills.

This environment needs to be revisited more often. Separated from our work world and family responsibility just for a night and a day, we get to be transparent with one another and we discover we are all men struggling at some level but truly seeking to grow. We are encouraged by one another, held accountable by our church brothers, and, for the moment, catapulted to renewed hope for spiritual growth.

We called it a Men's Retreat...away from what we are used to doing and, perhaps, being. What it really might better be described as is a Men's Refueling...helping us gear up for the daily battles of life.

I know I feel renewed and encouraged. Hope my buddies do too.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Only occasionally do I meet someone with true spiritual passion.

Today we visited for the second time.

He has a good job and a great family. But he wants something more... his heart is pounding with desire to share the gospel.

Already at work he is looking for creative ways to share his faith. He is trying to discover his ministry within his immediate sphere of influence.

Who knows what God will do with such an impassioned heart...I am anxious to see.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

the gift of encouragement

Someone called me yesterday just to tell me they were praying for me...and then proceeded to pray for me over the telephone.

I cannot express how meaningful those few moments in the middle of a hectic day were to me. It did not lift the burden of responsibility that was almost overwhelming. It did not change the landscape of my day.

What it did do was this. it encouraged me. It gave me just what I needed to work through the challenges before me and to emerge from them with a sense of accomplishment.

I owe it to that phone call.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Men's Retreat

We have a finely-tuned women's ministry at Grace Fellowship.

We also have a group of men at Grace who are active in ministry and Bible studies...but we have this problem of getting organized and getting together for special "men only" events.

We are busy, I know, and some of us are over-committed already. But our annual men's retreat is an overnight opportunity to get together with men juggling schedules and priorities--seeking to be men "after God's own heart"--and to encourage one another.

This weekend's theme is "Extreme Makeover: Soul Edition"(courtesy of Pastor Mark). It's not too late to sign up--we leave Friday arounf 6:00 p.m. and return Saturday around 2:00 p.m. It is located at Camp Golden Valley, just a few miles out of Volcano. Grab a sleeping bag, your Bible and a notebook, and join us. Contact the church office at 209-223-1971 so we can add your name to the list.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Nehemiah 8 presents the continuing saga of the rebuilding and healing of the children of Israel. Our familiarity with the story might cause us to conclude that once the walls of the city were restored, Israel celebrated.

It was not so. Even though the accomplishment of this task was enormous--and even miraculous (the enemy was bewildered and afraid at what he saw)--it was not the end of the story.

The children called for Ezra to read the "Book of the Law of Moses"--the Word. They did this, apparently, after consulting with one another because they came to this conclusion with "as one man".

Note these elements of their response to the reading of the Word.

1. They listened attentively. They stood from daybreak until noon listening to the Word of God.

2. Ezra, reading from a prominent place where all could hear him, praised the Lord, the "great God", in essence acknowledging the author of the Word, or, affirming its divine origin.

3. The people responded by saying "Amen! Amen!", a Hebrew word that can be translated "Surely!" or "Truth", or even, "So be it."

4. Ultimately, they "bowed down and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground", an expresssion of their humble submission to His divine authority.

5. They would later weep; the text records "for all the people had been weeping as they lsitened to the words of the Lord". They undoubtedly saw their own sinfulness and God's mercy and grace.

Nehemiah, Ezra and the Levites would alll tell the children of Israel not to mourn or weep because "this day is sacred to our Lord." It was sacred indeed as God's people returned to His Word.

And then they celebrated. God commanded it and , and they obeyed and "from the days of Joshua son of Nun until that day (1,000 years). the Israelites had not celebrated it like this. And their joy was very great."

When we ask, as the Israelites did, "Give us the Word", God rejoices--it is a sacred day-- and we can begin to truly celebrate His healing mercy and grace.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Sunday is such a big day that I like to reserve Saturdays for myself. Usually yard work is high on the priority list (it helps me relax), maybe a walk and some contemplative reading on my deck.

Today is not such a Saturday. I speak at a Teacher Training Seminar this morning, have a meeting with a member of our Board of Deacons, participate in a birthday party for a close friend, and then attend a Choraliers Concert in which some of our church people perform. I should be done about 10 p.m. tonight.

Which is not how I like to spend my Saturdays.

I realized this morning that my Saturday is like most people's Sunday. It is the day they want to sleep in, rest, go for a drive, take a what they want to do.

But on Sundays they get up, head for Sunday School and church and worship the Lord.

I decided not to complain about my Saturdays.

Friday, May 13, 2005

A messy situation

Messy situations are daily for most of us, aren't they? They are the kind where things happen--often, over which we have little or no control--and leave us asking questions like, "How did I get to this point?" and "How do I get out of this?"

Rehearshing the history of how we arrived at a "mess" may or may not be productive. I am convinced that we just cannot see some things coming. We may have prayed for God's direction--felt confident we had it--moved ahead, and then experienced "all hell break loose".

What I am left with is the idea that messes are a necessary part of life and God allows them and doesn't cause them to evaporate with a holy "Be gone!" but, instead, looks to see how we will respond.

If we respond by leaning wholly upon God, there is much potential good to be gained, I have learned. When I am angry and rebellious against God for His failure to intervene, things usually get messier.

I have been in the middle of a mess this week, but as the week grinds to a halt, I sense that God is doing something good in me. No, the situation has not gone away. In fact, it remains.

But so does God. That gives me hope for tomorrow...and future messes.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Sometimes I eat too much and pay the price for it later. I have learned, however, the foolishness of such momentary pleasure and can't remember the last time over-indulging cost me a stomachache.

Sometimes I worry too much and my stomach churns within me. I should have learned by now that worry is counter-productive and should have rested in the scriptural mandate from Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God."

A situation happened this morning that left me with a stomachache.

I worried...instead of praying.

Do you think I will ever learn?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

57 AND 37

I am 57 and Mark is 37. We are twenty years apart, but not so far apart, I guess.

I ate lunch with Mark today and took note of the following.
1. We both like Chinese food.
2. We both look at our watches.
3. We both are thinking about the future.

I am Mark's "mentor", or, at least, that should be my function as an "older" to a "younger" pastor. Mark and I work together at Grace, and he is a friend as well as a fellow-laborer.

We talked alot about issues confronting us today in the midst of a building program and the ongoing challenges of a growing church. Much of that is management-related, heightened by a concern for putting the right people resources in place to meet the burgeoning needs.

We also mused about the future together. That looks different for a man voluntarily facing reduced responsibility or retirement within the next 5-10 years, and a man looking to the productive middle-age years of life.

What is similar, however, is our love for God's work and our mutual commitment to the body of Grace. What will that look like in five years?

At 57 and 37 we are not so far apart.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Mother's Day Memories

I went Saturday to visit my mom in Stockton on the occasion of my niece's son's third birthday. I was feeling sick but I wanted to go for her sake, and I wanted to see my mom.

I sat by my mom for the two hours I was there and I found myslef looking at her, usually when her head was turned to the side. I was flooded with memories...but the one thing that struck me was how beautiful she still is after eighty-one years of life.

She is pretty by any standards but my mother is a beautiful woman in so many other ways. She and I struggled in our relationship together when I was a rebellious teenager. I made life very difficult for her-- almost single-handedly-- but our relationship survived those years and now I feel very close to her. Very proud of her. Very thankful for her.

My mother's beauty is that her love for God over the sixty years she has been a Christian has molded and shaped her life. She has lityerally spent her life for others--whether her children or the members of her church family, who my father pastored until his death. She remains the one who writes cards and letters to college students, missionaries around the world, to the sick and needy. She is the one who visits the shutins, stops by the hospital, makes the encouraging phone call. At Christmas time there are literally hundreds of cards that come to her as a testimony to her life of loving service.

It's what makes her truly beautiful.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I wanted to preach a Mother's Day sermon that was something other than the traditinal Proverbs 31, as amazing as that text is.

I was drawn to I Peter 3:3-6 where he suggests Sarah as a model--"like are daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear."

I studied the life of Sarah this week, sandwiched between the overwhelming story of Abraam, the Fathe of the Hebrew nation. What emerges for me is a flawed but fiaithful model of motherhood.

I addressed four areas--her beauty...bane or benefit; her faith...fact or fiction; her struggles...saint and sinner; her ministry...mate and mother.

For all of our mothers, happy Mother's Day!

(Our sermons are available on tape from our church office, Box 850, Jackson California 95642)

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The National Day of Prayer

We will join the other churches of our community at a breakfast this morning to pray for our country. It seems to me that this is something we can all agree about, regardless of our denominational ties (or lack of them) and political preferences. Our country needs prayer.

My assignment is to lead in prayer for President Bush and his administration and I read Romans 13 this morning again remembering that governmental authorities are "God's servants."

That depiction is troublesome when we consider some of the leaders of the recent past, apart from what we may believe about the sovereignty of God. With President Bush and his avowed profession of faith, it is easier for me personally to see him as a servant of God, and to continue, as we have been doing, to pray for him.

Pray for our president today.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


I have been rubbing my itching eyes all morning. I know it is not helpful to do that; in fact, it makes my eyes worse. They get puffy and swollen and it looks like I just had a good cry.

It is the pollens in the air and any kind of dust that effects me this way. I prepare for it in April but rains have delayed ir regionally here for me in May.

Some things are beyond my control. I can't work with blinders and I can't go around with a mask over my mouth since my eyes and mouth are vital to my study and work.

What do I do? Just endure it, moan and groan, rub my eyes, and carry on.

There are alot of things in life that we probably can't change. It may even be in areas that nag at us and make us uncomfortable. But they are written into the fabric of our lives.

We can rub our eyes and feel bad for a moment--even moan and groan--but the problems will still be there. I have exhausted my resources trying to find an antidote for my annual battle without success. It is pretty much out of my control.

So this morning I am trying to prepare for my sermon and fighting allergies. My temptation is to "chuck it" and sit in a corner until my eyes stop itching.

I have, however, decided that my allergies aren't leaving--my discomfort is here to stay--and so I am refocusing my itchy eyes on the task before me. It is wasted energy to lament what I cannot change, and to cease to be productive.

On to my sermon preparation.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Second chances

The San Francsico Giants are my team...I think. They drive my crazy.

Like last night. They went ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks 6-1 behind their ace pitcher, Jason Schmidt. I turned the game off, relaxed and confident. When I checked in later it was 7-7 and I was beside myself.

They regained the lead in the top of the eighth 8-7 and I breathed a sigh of relief but the first batter up in Arizona's half of the inning hit a game-tying home run.

That was enough for me...until I got into bed, grabbed the headphones to hear the Giants had grabbed the lead, 9-8. I listened to an agonizing tenth inning with bases loaded and when the Giants finally eaked out the victory, I blurted out, "Yes!"

When you blow a 6-1 lead, and then an 8-7 lead, you don't deserve to win, do you? I mean, how many chances should you get?

Someone has benignly suggested that "God is the God of second chances". Everyone else may tune you out and say, "He doesn't deserve another chance to win." But not God!

I listened to a young woman tell me of three failed marriages but God's continuing grace. She talked of some of the pain she is still experiencing but we agreed that God's grace, extended to her in spite of blown opportunities again and again, was truly incredible.

I know the same to be true for me. I have blown it--surrendered the lead--but God has been faithful to bring me the victory when I have joined my heart to His.