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!

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Headed to the ocean Monday and Tuesday, a belated anniversary time. Bev and I love the ocean, though I love it more than she does.

I'll come back with some fresh thoughts next week. The ocean does that for me...refurbishes me emotionally and intellectually.

Friday, June 10, 2005

are you there?

My stepson, Tim, said to me recently that he liked my blogging but was anxious to see people respond to it so I could know who was reading and benefit from some feedback. He suggested I include some questions, a really good idea!

Alot of my friends and church family say, "Really enjoy reading your blog", but never write anything that lets me know they "stopped by". I think some have expressed reluctance to put their thoughts on a computer for others to evaluate.

I am content, personally, just to use this as an avenue of communciating my daily thoughts and observations about life. But it would be great to get some feedback. are some questions.

1. What do you think?
2. Are you still reading the blog?
3. Any suggestions?

Maybe that will get you started.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Bev and I celebrated our eighth anniversary yesterday. Well, we didn't really celebrate--it was a work day-- but we will "officially" celebrate after church on Sunday with a short trip to the ocean, reminiscent of our honeymoon destination.

Wedding anniversaries are special days. Someone I know is celebrating their 65th in July, and and some other friends recently celebrated their 50th. Anniversaries commemorating our faitfhul commitment to our wedding vows--"for better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health...until death parts us"--are noteworthy in a time when wedding vows seem to be more reflective of "as long as we love each other", "as long as we are happy", or, "until I find a better deal".

Beverly is God's gift to me and I celebrate her "until death parts us".

Tuesday, June 07, 2005


At the recent pastor's conference I attended at Moody Bible Institute, Gary Haugen was one of the keynote speakers. He was the director of the United Nations genocide investigation in Rwanda (for more information about this tragedy see the movie, HOTEL RWANDA) and is currently president of International Justice Mission In Washington, D.C., a corporation he founded.

Psalm 10 is the scriptural foundation for his thought-provoking book( as it was for his challenging message) and he calls Christians to action in defense of the oppressed.

Read it...and maybe you will become uncomfortable like I am with my small-world view and my comfortable corner of the world!

Monday, June 06, 2005


Nehemiah's reforms for the children of Israel conclude with these words in chapter 10, "We will not neglect the house of our God". Verses 32-39 are a summary of what those kinds of responsibilities involve, including the service of the priests, the offering of sacrifices and the storage of food for God's servants.

As a pastor I am well-cared for by my congregation. We have for a congregation fo about 500-600 two full-time staff members and three part-time staff. Each them would testify that the congregation is doing its best to address their needs in ministry.

It is interesting to me that these verses are a part of the road to spiritual recovery and revival for God's people in Nehemiah's day. They have been enslaved, freed to return to Jerusalem, have rebuilt the temple and the city's walls, have retruned to the Word, confessed their sins, and now, spiritual reforms addressed in chapter 10 are being put into practice. And the one which gets the most attention? Care for the house of God and its ministers.

I am not using this to garner more support for our staff; rather, it sems to me the excellent care of our staff is reflective of the heart of our people, who are committed, it seems, to "not neglect the house of our God".

I am humbled and grateful.

Sunday, June 05, 2005






Saturday, June 04, 2005


My father once said, "He who chops the wood is twice-warmed".

Forty-plus of our church family gathered on our twenty-three acres for a work day, preparing for our first of four services we call "church on the grounds".

It's not much fun, as far as work goes. Weedeating, mowing, deadheading roses, cleaning the Victorian (church office complex), manicuring the grounds, setting up chairs, taking things to the dump, etc.

But we didn't advertise it as fun. We said it was a work day.

And people came, worked hard...and had fun.

When we sit together tomorrow under the blue sky and on chairs on neatly-maincured grounds, there will be at least forty of us warmed in more ways than one.

Friday, June 03, 2005

out of the pits into the palace

Genesis 37-50 recounts the story of Joseph. It is the story of transformation and growth through crisis.

Joseph, the spoiled son of Jacob--hated by his brothers for his father's overt favortism--is victimized and thrown into a pit to be sold into slavery (crisis #1). He ends up in the home of the captain of the guard where he is honored by God and elevated to control of the household--only to be unsuccessfully seduced by Potipahr's wife. She "sets him up" and he is thrown into prison (crisis #2).

He flourishes there as well and is put in charge of the prison where he interprets the dreams of some of the inmates, but when one is released with the promise to tell Pharaoh of his plight, he forgets (crisis #3). Finally, when Pharaoh has a dream, the former inmate remembers Joseph and Joseph comes to interpret Pharaoh's dream and for doing so, he is elevated to a position of second-in-command, and moves to the palace.

The prophesied famine revealed in Pharaoh's dream comes to pass and Joseph's brothers appear before him for food (crisis #4). Here is his chance to get even; instead, he feeds them and calls for his father. He and his father are reunited, and later, his father dies and his brothers, thinking Joseph's favor to them is only because of their dad, are fearful about what Joseph will now do to them (crisis #5).

The fitting climax is revealed in Genesis 50:20 where Joseph observes, "What you intended for evil, God intended for good." Joseph has grown through crises from a spoiled and arrogant teenager to a faithful and humble servant of God. dispersing the same grace given to him by God in the midst of crises, to his family.

God moves Joseph from the "pits" into a palace, and uses him for the good of a nation.

We would like to skip the "pits", but if we do, we may miss a palace God has in mind for us.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

steel and design

It is simply amazing to stand on our 22,000 square foot slab and now to look up and to see a massive red steel structure taking form. Our contractor is a fussy guy, and he is precise in every measurement, the placement of every pre-designed piece of steel. I commented to him today on the genius of the engineer who designs the steel structure, taking into account load stress, connective roof hips and tying together various sections of the building with interlocking steel.

Of course, in today's vernacular where intelligent design is dismissed as an emotional explanation for creation, it occurred to me that no one would suspect that our steel building just happened--that various pieces of steel merged together in the aftermath of a random explosion bringing together the coincidental product of chance--a perfectly fitted framework.

As I look across our beautiful twenty-three acres and all of the beautifully-scultured hills in green covered with multi-colored wildflowers, and gaze up at an icy-blue sky, I have two choices...intelligent design.. or not?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


Sometime going away for an extended period of time--I was gone nine days on my recent trip--is bittersweet. It is wonderful being gone from the rigors of routine and responsibility but it is challenging to come home to...a full desk.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Moody Pastor's Confrence in Chicago. The weather was marginal but everything else was just what I needed--personal time with my wife, great messages from excellent speakers, stirring worship with 1499 other pastors, helpful workshops, and time for reflection. My heart was full.

I was so moved by my time at the conference that I found myself reluctant to leave...even though I was headed to Dallas for time with my four children and three grandchildren who are in that general vicinity. But the time with family was beyond description and I found my heart full of love and thankfulness to God for the family with which He has blessed me.

So I found myself reluctant to leave Owen, Camilla and JJ, my three grandchildren.

But my heart was anxious to be home and back on the job with the people God has called me to serve.

Until I saw my full desk--full at home and at my office--with mail, phone messages, e-mails to answer, appointments to schedule, visits to make. And just for a heart sank.

Now, after over four hours at the office ( I came in about 6:15 a.m.) and four unscheduled visits, WAY BEHIND the schedule I foolishly made, I confess my heart and desk are both full. I have been reminded that this is the ministry God made me for, and I would not have it any other way.

Full speed ahead!