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.