Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Brady Valen Theule arrived yesterday evening at about 6 p.m.,--all 8 lbs 3 oz. 20 plus inches of him. Blue eyes and blonde hair...he's a keeper! Chad and Julie, our son and daughter-in-law, are the proud parents and Kyle, Julianne and Nate are the siblings who will be fighting over/with him in the days ahead!

For Beverly and me, it is grandchild #11! And we are the "proudest of the proud" of all of our grandchildren--Sage, Eden, Zeke, Haaken, Kyle, Julianne, Nate, JJ, Milla, Owen...and now, Brady!

I am already wondering when I will get to see him and hold him. Grandma Bev will be heading to San Luis Obispo next week to take her turn at providing care and support for Julie. I will be here...working...appropriately jealous...and waiting for my turn.

Eleven grandchildren is an overwhelming number to me, in terms of the future. Thankfully, all of these grandchildren are being nurtured by godly parents so they are getting a foundation that will hold them steady for the challenges that lay ahead, and prepare them for life.

As a grandpa, I am always wondering what our investment as grandparents might be. We see our grandchildren sporadically throughout the year--three are in Texas!--but our communication is more frequent as we check on school, sports, birthdays, etc.

Every morning Beverly and I pray for each grandchild by name, asking for God's protection and provision for them as their still young lives are being shaped and formed.

That number just increased by one...#11.

Brady, we prayed for you this morning!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

prayer time

In just a few minutes about 6-10 of us will gather in my office for prayer--we meet Wednesdays at noon. I always look forward to this time as we pray for the needs of our church family and community.

Our church is medium-sized; about 650-750 call Grace Fellowship "home" and on an average Sunday about 400 attend. We participate well in most things but we struggle with corporate prayer settings.

We are busy and a rural community so travel distance no doubt enters into the mix of reasons few come to pray. We have lots of older folks who have slowed the pace of their lives and a growing number of young families where children and work are factors in traveling to a corporate prayer site.

But it really makes no difference what the day, hour, occasion for prayer--we seldom come with the same interest that accompanies our scheduled potlucks, church worship services, and other special events. Smallest crowds always characterize our prayer meetings.

I want to be careful to draw too many unfair judgmental conclusions about all of this. In my forty years of ministry I remember accelerated interest in prayer following the 9-11 tragedy, the anticipation of the Y2K "crisis and events similar that reflected a state of fear and anxiousness about the future. Then getting a crowd to pray was much easier.

Prayer time is not about numbers, I admit. But I would love the day we scheduled a prayer meeting and had to get extra chairs.

Until then, I need to be faithful in prayer, and in calling our church to times of corporate prayer. The results are not for me to measure.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"I press on..."

We recently arrived at 3:12-16 in our study of Philippians, an incredibly important piece of scripture for me.

And for all of us.

At least for those of us who are continuing on in our journey to truly know Christ--in His power and in His suffering. Paul says some things here that are non-negotiable to me as I examine my own progress.

1. I have not arrived, nor will I, at my final destination until God calls me home. To assume any stance or posture of satisfaction and/or complacency is to battle the potentially lethal enemy of spiritual arrogance.

2. I have not already "been made perfect". Not that this should be a newsflash to anyone who knows me. I am not yet wholly mature, sanctified, completed, done. This divine work, thankfully, is ongoing.

3. I need a singular purpose--"this one thing I do"--to keep myself moving forward. The "goal" of spiritual maturity and the ultimate "prize" of eternal life are supreme motivators in the race I am running.

4. I cannot move forward if I am buckled over by past failures or basking in past accomplishments. Those have to be forgotten and cast aside. God has forgiven and forgotten the sins of my past. And my accomplishments are of no value in assessing the status of my relationship today with Him.

5. I reach ahead into the future with every disciplined fiber of my being committed to the task of finishing the race well, enabled and sustained by God's strength.

The wonderful picture of what God has done keeps me going. He has "taken hold" of me. He has "called me heavenward in Christ". I am daily grateful for God's pursuit of me and His plan and preparations for me to spend eternity with him. That makes the race worth finishing!

A friend of mine decided today to discontinue any kind of treatment for the cancer recently diagnosed, choosing instead some quality final days. Another friend, much older, has stopped eating and declared, "I am ready to go home". Both of these have run the race well and are ready for the "prize" awaiting them.

As for me, "I press on...". I am sometimes discouraged by my failures, and wonder why God even puts up with me. At other times I feel so overwhelmed by what God has called me to do, that I feel like stepping aisde and handing the baton to someone else.

But more often than not, I am buoyed by the picture of an athlete "straining" towards the finish line. singularly focused on the "prize", and I say to myself ,"I press on!"

Friday, February 08, 2008

an uncertain process...choosing a president

I mailed in my absentee ballot a few weeks early in antiicpation of the California primary. I worked through a myriad of depressing emotions, including (a) are there any good choices? (b) is this one a viable candidate? (c) what difference does it make...?

Here's my real problem. I take this whole process all too seriously. I read the newspapers, watch the television debates, sort through the internet "pundits" and try to see if I can make an informed decision.

I also pray alot about this. I encourage my friends to pray and sound the alarm of concern as loudlyas I can, and as often as they will let me, for my church, my family and my friends.

How much power a president has is really a subject for discussion. Some would argue that he current edition has usurped his powers (closer examination would reveal that as a presidential malady)...and the very fact that he can, makes his position one of considerable influence and power.

He is also monitored by a zealous congress and a watchdog Supreme Court. He is subject to the capriciousness of a predisposed press and the scrutiny of a deeply-divided American public. His popularity--should he ever enjoy it--is illusory and temporary at best.

The selection of a president--even if we get the one we want--signals nothing of certain change. The whims of the governing process are so financed and forged by lobbying interests that predicting the course of action under any elected offical is not worth betting the house on.

Here's where I am left...not fatalistically or even with a sense of determined resignation. Romans 13:1 simply states, "...FOR THERE IS NO AUTHORITY EXCEPT THAT WHICH GOD HAS ESTABLISHED."

God's soveriegn role in this while process is the only thing of which i am certain. He will not be surprised if Obama, Clinton or McCain shows up in the White House. He will not panic that we have elected an African American, a woman or a war hero.

We can be certain that He will be prepared to continue unfolding his divine plan for a lost world..and so we can rest in that confidence, whatever the process or political party in power.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

How much do I want to know Christ?

The words of Paul inPhilippians 3:10,11 got my attention last week. "I want to know the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, somehow to attain to the resurrection of the dead".

At a cursory glance, as a believer, it would seem almost blasphemous to say anything less than "I want to know Christ" but Paul takes it to a whole new dimension employing the practical and personal elements of knowing something--practical in the sense of experiencing what we say we know and putting it into practice, and personal, in the sense of deeply connecting with someone and knowing them intimately.

Paul further defines what he means by suggesting that to know Christ means we know the power of His resurrection, something decribed in Ephesians 1 as the "same power that raised Jesus from the dead". It i easy to stand in line and await the infusion of that power into our lives as believers, defined in II Peter 1 as "divine power that gives us everything we need for life and goldiness..." This is what God promsies a believer who is walking with Him.

Signing up for the second part of the "knowing Christ" program may be more tenuous and make us pause to reconsider--"the fellowship of sharing in His suffering". The apostles counted it a privilge to suffer for Christ and Paul suggests in II Corinthians that God's strength operates at peak efficiency when we sense our weakness. The promise, "My grace is sufficient for you", can take us through the veil of suffering and brings us to spiritua growth and maturity on the other side.

Knowing Christ is a combination of the power and the pain we experience in our daily walk with Christ. If we want to participate in the fullness of Christ, we can only do so when we willingly submit to both. I do want to know Christ.

Friday, February 01, 2008


It is a sobering thought to consider your life is--generously speaking--75% over. As I celebrated my sixtieth birthday this week, surrounded by an avalanche of well-wishers and "doom-sayers", I have reminded myself this is a significant time in my life.


1. I want to finish well. There is nothing maudlin about thinking about being on the final quarter of a mile track. I can remember what is was like to run that final quarter--fatigued and worn from the first three--and hoping to sprint to the finish line. I never sprinted, but I could usually find some "extra oomph" to finish the race upright!

2. I want to live as if to prepare myself for heaven. I don't want to sneak in by the "skin of my teeth". I want to celerate my hope in Christ and say with Paul, "To me to live is Christ and to die is gain!" I have watched some of older saints of our church cross into eternity and I want to make a triumphant entrance as well by the grace of God.

3. I want to spend myself investing my resources in what really matters--my children and grandchildren, my friends--and in my sphere of ministry, seeking to reach those who don't know Christ, and strengthening those who are following him.

I couldn't even blow out my own birthday candles because I had a cold and sore throat (read earlier blog), not a great way to enter my seventh decade. But I was surrounded by my friends and my sixtieth birthday was something I truly celebrated!