Tuesday, December 21, 2010


I hate to be disappointed.

And I was this week. Deeply.

It really doesn't matter "why" or "who" or "when" or even "what". As I have thought about it I realize that I must be a disappointment to others--just because I am so aware of the offensive words I can say, the disapproving looks I can give, the promises I don't keep, the flaws in my voluntarily-offered judgmental skills, my inappropriate reactions...and the list goes on.

I can also argue in behalf of the "disappointers"--they love me, they are living their lives the way they think best, they are being straight-forward in their communication with me and they are not setting out to hurt me. For sure.

But...I am still disappointed.

I can mitigate those feelings of disappointment that seem overwhelming for the moment by remembering that even without trying I successfully manage to disappoint others, and to remember there is only one who does not disappoint us--the Lord Jesus Himself.

"And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out His love into our hearts..." and the context of Romans 5:5ff goes on to tell us that that "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us".

That is a powerful declaration about the certainty of what we hope for in Christ. While others may disappoint us, He will not.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


You ever just have the "doldrums"? Wikipedia defines this condition as "to be listless, despondent, inactive, stagnant, in a slump". Well, I am not "despondent", or "inactive"--but, perhaps, a bit "listless", somewhat "stagnant", and, for the moment, "in a slump".

I would expect you to react to that with some appropriate astonishment. "Come on, Pastor Dale, it's the Christmas season. This is our reason to be happy and joyous. After all, isn't this the resounding message of 'good news' for all men?"

You have a right to be incredulous. It is the season. It is the reason. It is the message.

But it happens. Commercialism shreiks its highest decibels. Christmas parties crowd the calendar. Fatigue reluctantly creeps in. Family we love seems too far away. CNN and Fox News remind us all is not well in the world.

And I get the doldrums.

So here is what I did earlier this afternoon to escape the "blahs". I Francis Chan's latest book, FORGOTTEN GOD. He quotes A.W. Tozer at the front of chapter one.

"We may as well face it; the whole level of spirituality among us is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the incentive to seek higher pleasures in the things of the Spirit is all but gone...(We) have imitated the world, sought popular favor, manufactured delights to substitute for the joy of the Lord and produced a cheap and synthetic power to substitute for the power of the Holy Ghost."

There it is, at least for me. I have allowed myself to get caught up--wrongly focused--on the world and its rituals and celebrations, and I have lost sight of the central thing--"the joy of the Lord" and "the power of the Holy Ghost"...significant components of the true message of Christmas.

I am between this transitional moment and a Board meeting. The doldrums are, for the moment, behind me, and I am looking intently at the focal point so easily forgotten--the core message of the gospel revealed in the One who came, died and rose again...for me.

Board meetings can be necessarily ponderous and even perfunctory. But not tonight. I am re-focused.

And the doldrums are gone...for the moment. If they return--and I am sure they will seek to haunt me again--I'll remember what I have forgotten.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Three weeks after.....

The elections in Haiti have taken place and there is anarchy in the streets. Iread s hort summary from the ECONOMIST yesterday, "Convinced that the government is trying to steal the election. demonstrators threw rubble, burned barricades and set fire to the ruling party's headquarters. Airlines cancelled flights to Haiit...to their welter of reasons--the exclusion of some political parties, a raging cholera epidemic, and the disenfranchisement of many on votng day--they can now add an electoral council that doesn't know how to count..."

I have been visiting with my friend, Gilbert, and inr esponse tot he crisis he wrote these words to me two days ago,

"By the way, the news is niot so good about the eleciton... we will continue to pray for peace. When it seem there is no hope, then God appears and provideds. I can't wait for that day. In the meantime, I am making lot of plans for my business of preaching the gospel..."

Join me in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters in Haiti stanidng faithful in the midst of physical, political and spiritual storms.


“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation…”, Isaiah 52:7; Romans 10:15

I read these words this morning as I opened my e-mail from Gilbert Jules, our wonderful pastor-friend in Haiti…

“Thanks for letting God use you in His kingdom. To Grace Fellowship Church we extend our thankfulness of the prayers, the financial support. We have a challenge to spread the word we have learned…”

I have had two days now to reflect on our week in Haiti. I have had surges of deep emotion—some inexpressible joy--when I remember the faces of young men with eyes wide open leaning forward to grasp the truths of Romans. Some have been waves of indescribable sadness, when I think of the young child whose fragile, now scarred body, was cradled during the earthquake by her parents who died protecting her—our ladies ministered to that sick young child in one of their four VBS outreaches.

Driving through the streets of Haiti’s capital city of Port au Prince, home of over 3 million people--1.5 million of them crowded into tiny horrible tents surrounded by the ravages of unemployment, illiteracy and now cholera—is a jarring experience.
Not just because the roads are pot-holed and sometimes covered with earthquake debris, but because it is impossible to believe that in the twenty-first century there are conditions like this—the worst in the western hemisphere.

Cradled between a majestic deep blue ocean and now green-tinted mountains, Port au Prince seems a place from another time…and then there are the cleanly--uniformed children, the beautiful back men and women with muscled bodies from little food and hard physical labor—who testify to the muted potential of Haiti’s future. An election on November 28th sadly portends further governmental ineptness and corruption and the certain short-sightedness of the efforts of men.

Why did we go to Haiti? What possible purpose could ten “rich” Americans have in a country so impoverished by tragedy? Logan, Desiree and Michel Carnell, Evelyn Temple, Martha Johnson, Breanna Cazaad, Ron Bertrand, Terry Throssel and Mike Stromberg joined me in declaring, “We have only beautiful feet to offer.”

Our goal as an extension of Grace Fellowship Church is to produce a sustainable ministry model in Haiti via our contacts through Gilbert. By that we mean to intentionally and systematically invest in ways that will provide for the training of Haitian pastors and leaders, as well as bring the gospel of hope to children and teenagers, so that when we leave to return to our places of comfort and security the Word of God will continue to bring comfort and security to a people shaken by

tragedy and devastated by the ravages of sin. To that end we ministered to 1300-1500 children in VBS outreaches in three villages and Port au Prince; some of those children placed their faith in Christ. Additionally, we taught and trained 125-130 pastors and church leaders in two different settings on how to study the Bible, using the book of Romans as a template. These pastors and leaders currently minister to congregations in Port au Prince and in the outlying areas. As a bonus, Terry and Mike helped rebuild two bridges that provide access to church and school sites, assuring continuing ministry in Desca and Ballenger, two needy villages.

Gilbert informed me in his letter that one of the pastors at the teaching sessions already had called him to hold a seminar for pastors in mid-January. He added, “So, I will hold a seminar on Romans. Don’t worry, I will do very well I know Logan will send me the outline to help me do a good job…” Before we left, an orphanage with 200 children took VBS materials from our team to go back and share with their children. So the work continues.

Beautiful feet. It’s all we have to offer. Beautiful because they carry the gospel. Able to go because many gave and others prayed. We share the joy together.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

surgery and its surprises

We are both healthy...neither my wife nor I have had major surgeries in our combined 127 years. I struggled with a broken ball and socket joint sustained as a fifteen year old football player and a painful bout with a stubborn kidney stone; Beverly, on the other hand, has never had surgery and only visited a hospital to deliver babies!

So our adventure Tuesday with Beverly's minor surgery contained a few surprises...

1. Hospital gowns are neither fashion statements nor are they designed to cover the whole body.

2. Nurses are persistent (but nice) people with a determination to secure the same information multiple times...name, type of surgery, date of birth...while checking your answers against the new bracelet on your wrist (not a fashion statement either).

3. Anesthesiologists are very concerned about what you have eaten within the last twenty-four hours and what makes you "break out". They are the ones entrusted with putting you to sleep...long enough, but not forever.

4. Doctors unexpectantly check in with you before surgery to determine if you are the same person they remember from the office appointment earlier and to make sure with the nurses that all of the appropriate liability forms have been signed...?

5. The recovery room is an interesting place to eavesdrop on other patients' conversations and to get more personal information than you really want to know about their medical history.

On the more serious side, here are a few surprises that I now view as blessings from this experience we shared together...

1. Husbands and wives really do need each other, and surgery--a time when one person seems more vulnerable than the other--with the presence of a loving mate is an incomparable source of comfort.

2. We value those who provide professional care for us when they have a "bedside manner" that communicates professionalism as well as kindness.

3. The closeness of a church family cannot be overestimated--cards, e-mails, flowers, food, pnone calls; all of these things, and more, assuring us of their prayers, helped make the process less formidable and frightening.

4. Our faith in God is often best exercised in times of crisis; though this surgery was a minor procedure, we were confronted for a moment with the mortality of man but the offsetting certainty of our eternal hope in Christ.

5. We are getting older, and surgery may/may not become a more common event, with or with not, greater significance. But we will manage--with one another's affirming love, good medical care, the support of our biological and church families, and our confident faith.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

surprise rewards

I received a phone call a couple of weeks ago from some old friends--people I pastored fifteen years ago in the Dallas area. They had plans to be in my neighborhood and wanted to stop by.

It was not hard to remember them. They were a stunning young couple and during the time I knew them, as young believers, were fervent in their desire to know the Word of God and to live out their faith uncompromisingly.

Twenty-five years later--and five children "richer"--they spent some time with us, after I had moved away fifteen earlier.

They have a wonderful family, obviously well-parented and spiritually sensitive. As we sat around the dinner table with them, we were impressed by the wisdom and gentleness of mom and dad as they listened and ministered to their children's needs (four with them from 5-17, a sophomore away at college). Nothing was rehearsed--you can tell with kids--but this was a reflection of how the family interacts together on a regular basis.

Dad and mom homeschool and travel with their children by car on educational trips, investing in them as they play together and learn together. They are connected to a large church that has provided them ongoing spiritual training and fellowship, as well as an opportunity for ministering with the gifts God has given them.

The joy for me is that they (a) wanted to see me, and (b) they wre grateful for the foundation that was laid for them in their early days of marriage. My years as their pastor included a difficult time of personal family crisis so it was uplifting to hear that even through those tumultous times, something good had come.

I am not in the ministry for material rewards, or, for the accolades of others. But there is something wonderfully affirming to know that some small thing we have done--however imperfectly--has been used by God for His glory. That for me is the highest reward of all!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


I lack ambition these days. The allurement of ocean waves, a grandchild's soccer game, the quiet of my trailer nestled in a forested-park, uninterrupted time with my wife--these things, and more, seductively beckon me away from my daily responsibilities.

I am trying to understand this season of my life. Much of my life I have been driven to get things done, to be considered productive and successful, to stay busy lest someone think I was shirking my responsibility, to go to bed exhausted at night confident I was burning myself out for a noble cause.

These days I am less concerned about how others appraise me because I have discovered most are too busy and preoccupied with their own lives to be measuring mine. Additionally, I realize that in spite of my misguided attempts to keep everyone convinced of my "sacrifrical service", I still manage to raise the ire of some by whose standard I could never do enough.

What I am left with is my calling--a call to serve God and His church. I am seeking to exchange my ambition for obedient, faithful and loving service, unbounded by time constraints and human accolades; on the contrary, my intentional desire (most of the time) is to please God.

In a strange way, it's my ambition.

And it keeps me going when ocean waves are played on my I-Phone, soccer games are enjoyed via scrambled videos, trailer trips involve a trip to the storage place to pack away things for next spring, and quiet alone time with my wife has to be scheduled.

I am headed home right now...at 3:30, instead of 5:00 p.m. Unscheduled surprise!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mark and Logan

Mark is one of our pastors at Grace and Logan is an ordained minister who is a vital part of our congregation. Both are young men (much younger than me) and are committed to serving the Lord in any way they can, with a particular goal of teaching pastors overseas how to study the Bible, so they, in turn, can etach others. Logan's organization, THAT NONE SHALL PERISH, has overseen groups from Grace to India, Pakistan, Haiti, Puapa New Guinea--as well as other countries--where Logan has served previously.

This morning it is 8:00 a.m. here in California and 8:00 p.m. in Moulton, Pakistan where Logan and Mark are speaking in an outdooor meeting to Pakistanis from the the surrounding area, including, potentially, many Muslims, some hostile to the faith. Last night our church had a prayer meeting with purposeful praying for their safety and, especially, clarity of sharing the message of the gospel.

They will spend a week in Hyderabad, India, training seventy pastors in how to study the Bible, using the book of Romans as a template. Logan with be joining me in Haiti November 15-22 to do the same with 150-200 Haitian pastors.

I am telling you this because we all can do what Mark and Logan are doing--in our own spehere of influence. It requires of each of us a hunger for the Word, a desire to learn it and live it so we can, then, effectively share it with others. The Great Commission calls us all to be disciple-makers (Matthew 28:19,20) as we are going into the world as ambassadors for Christ.

If you think of it...pray for Mark and Logan this week and next!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A celebration of the first five years...

I just returned from a quick trip to San Luis Obispo to celebrate Haaken Theule's fifth birthday! It was worth the 500 mile round trip in two days.

Am I serious?

Absolutely! Here are a few reasons why...

1. Haaken is one of my eleven grandchildren.

2. Haaken is one of the brightest five year old's I know and I would go just to have him tell me about his creative dreams.

3. Haaken has one brother and two sisters that I am crazy about, too.

4. Haaken loves farm animals--especially roosters. How uncomplicated can life be for a five year old?

5. Haaken is growing up too quickly for me...soon enough he will be a teenager, and I don't want to miss these years, even if my visits are infrequent.

I take my assignment as a grandfather seriously. In this season of my live as I near retirement age I am excited about some of my new responsibilities...and one of them is making all the birthday celebrations of my grandchildren.

Maybe not this year...but soon!

Friday, September 03, 2010

A date with destiny

The title of this blog may have a sense of triteness except for how accurately it applies to my personal life. Let me explain.

I am aware that I will retire from my full-time responsibilities as a senior pastor in the next few years and I continue to ask myself, "What will I do?" I am confident God has something in mind for me but am curious (sometimes anxious, I confess) about what the future may hold.

In June I traveled to Haiti and "hooked up" with Gilbert Jules and have returned to organize a team to return November 15-22 to train 150-200 pastors and to hold a series of VBS classes for 2,000 children. I see that trip as a "date with destiny" since I can see myself as we build a sustainable relationship with those churches, returning often to minister and to give continuing oversight.

Last week Grace was blessed with the ministry of John Frances from India. In the last twenty years he has established/built 92 churches in India--18 are waiting to be funded (13 now as our church provided funds for five to be built now!--and he has also established a seminary to train pastors. Two of our ministry team will travel September 20-October 4 to India to teach at the seminary and I have been invited to come and teach students as well. Another "date with destiny".

We read at men's prayer time this morning from Psalm 139 and verse 16 caught my attention, "All the days you ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." It is exciting to see that God has planned for my life and Ephesians 2:10 affirms this, "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do". How exciting it is to see how God is divinely orchestrating the steps of my life!

I believe we have an opportunity each day to discover what God has planned for us. The greatest joy is to join Him in His work!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Home again

We've been away from home part of the last five weeks, an unsual planned and unplanned time of separation from our church and home.

When we arrived home after a ten hour drive from San Diego last Sunday evening--late, because of unplanned stops--we were exhausted but ecstatic about 282 California Drive, our home for the last seven years.

When I arrived at the office Monday morning for a short check-up (it was during lunch and no one else was here), I immediately squeezed behind my crowded desk and into my well-worn chair, and breathed a sigh of contentedness--glad to be back in a familiar and welcome place.

As I have worked this week, in the midst of 100 degree weather and multiple work-related challenges more than once I have said, "I am glad I am home."

Last night Beverly and I went to church for the tenth in a twelve part series called "The Truth Project". Our attendance was low--there were 35-40 of us--because it was 105 degrees outside and this series requires a determined disciplined mindset. As we listened I looked aound the cool air-conditioned building that has been our church home for the last four years and thought once again, "I am glad I am home."

Home is often the familiar and comfortable place, the place that represents family and friends, the place that is marked by regimen and predictability. It is often a place, as well, ripe with both disappointment and happiness.

I am glad to be home again!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"...from everlasting to everlasting..."

On Saturday, July 31, Henrietta Van Boven changed her address and moved form earth to glory. We saw her just moments after she completed her earthly journey and we could tell she had moved on. She was no longer there. The essence of who she was had departed her earthly tent for an "eternal house in heaven not built by human hands", II Corinthians 5:1.

For some such thinking is summarily dismissed as "pie in the sky by and by" stuff; others see such convictions as a "crutch for the weak". And the list of pre-emptive reasons for avoiding such discussions reveal the short-sightedness of those who are earthbound.

I have been a minister for forty-three years and a Hospice chaplain for eighteen months. During that time I have performed over 500 funerals and watched a significsnt number of people--some very dear to me, like my mother-in-law, Henrietta-bid earth "farewell", often with a deep settled peace because of an active faith in God's promise of eternal life to those who believe in Him. After all, we are told "God has placed eternity in the heart of man", Ecclesiastes 3:11.. Why is it that we want to live forever? It is part of our DNA, instilled in us by the Creator of the Universe, the God who is the giver and taker of life.

Henrietta lived for nearly eighty-six years. She had 4 children, 10 grandchildren and 26 great-grandchildren. She and her husband were fortunate after working hard on the dairy they built and operated to retire early and to literally travel the world. Howard died seven years ago and Henrietta invited all of her family--fifty-two of them--to join her on a cruise two years ago...her gift to all of us.

As we reminisced during and following her memorial service, her gift to us was much more than a cruise--it was her love, her kindness and generosity, and most of all, her faith. Her faith held her in good stead and motivated a lifetime of faithful service at her church (of which she was a founding member) and at the Artesia Christian Home where she lived the last six years of ehr life, happily greeting and serving the residents there.

The massive stroke that took her life rendered her speechless. In her last few days we read scripture to her, sang to her and prayed with her. There were moments when it seemed she heard us--her eyes would open, her face would turn towards us, and it seemed to me she would have said, could she have spoken, "Don't grieve for me. I'm headed north, to a far better place. It's the last trip I'm going to take!"

In Psalm 103::15-17, David writes,
"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field, the wind blows over it and it is gpone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear Him and His righteousness with their children's children--with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts."

I believe in the hope of eternal life; it is accessed through the free gift of God who sent His Son, that truth recorded in words memorized by many of us, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.", John 3:16.

"Everlasting life"...it sounds too good to be true. It sounds like "pie in the sky by and by". But for those who have trusted in God and placed their hope in His Son, it is the stuff that makes the final trip home worthwhile.

Henrietta is there.

I suspect when my turn comes to head north, she'll be one of those waiting to welcome me home.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Pulled in a million different directions...

Do you ever feel like you're being pulled ina million directions full speed without alot of time to decide which direction to go? Someone summarized that dilemma as "the tyrany of the urgent", suggesting that the only direction to go is the one that demands and dominates because of the degree of severity...

But what if there is more than one urgent option? Then what...?

My world has felt like that this week and I have been determined to make good decisions in spite of the clamoring of different voices for help and assistance. Those voices have resounded with cries for food and gasoline, family counseling, marital arbitration, comfort due to loss, respite from suffering, financial assistance, work, spiritual direction...and the list goes on.

There is an aire of legitimacy about all of these. Some seem more poignant because there is a connective link with personal history; others seem almost futile because they are a redundant expression of a recurrent problem. In any case, people are hurting and seeking direction...? or not.

Some really just want help for the moment--a gas card, a scripture verse, a word of advice. Others are looking for something long term, i.e. where can I take my alcholic family member for treatment? Or, how do I process the fact my mother is dying of cancer?

For me I have found help in the acknowledgement of the truth of this verse, "My soul finds rest in God alone", Psalm 62:1. My privilege is the opportunity to be able to direct people to that source of rest and peace in Christ, "And the peace of God which apsses all understanding shall keep yours hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Philippians 4:7)

At the end of the day, in every situation--no matter how urgent the pull in one direction--the place of rest is in the truth of God's Word and the certainty of our hope in Him.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

My Heart for Haiti

On January 12th the world was shaken by a devastating earthquake that literally decimated Port au Prince and the surrounding areas. Television images of the earthquake's damage and destruction were hard to grasp, must less to grapple with the incredulous number of 300,000 left dead in the rubble of its damage.

Janaury 12th I was shaken by what I saw--to the core. I have seen other tragedies from a distance, and the havoc wrought by Hurricane Katrina I saw up close and personal on a work trip taken by six friends and myself to assist a missionary couple in rebuilding their home in the Ninth Ward.

I was glued to the televsion for the first four or five days, watching intermittently at work, and immersing myself in the tragedy each evening when I came home. Almost immediately I said to Beverly, my wife, "I have to go to Haiti". Every day I watched the news, read the local newspapers, researched the internet for updates until Haiti litrally disappeared from the news media; even when it was written about, it was a hidden nondescript piece relegated to an insignificant space on papper and screen.

But my heart did not change. Almost immediately I announced to our church that I wanted to take a work team to Haiti. Over forty expressed interest in going. Within weeks I contacted a group of men who donated funds for water purification tablets a missionary friend was taking to Haiti. We announced the collection of clothes for Haiti and over sixty large industrial bags were stored at the local thrift store. A committee was formulated to ask questions, i.e. "Who do we know in Haiti?" "What is the greatest need?" "Where would we stay if we went?" "Do we know anyone who speaks French or Creole?" "What difference could our small group make?"

On June 20-26 two men (Logan and Ron) joined me in a survey trip to Haiti, following up ona God-ordained lead through Michelle Lacourciere of Sirona Fuels/Sirona Cares, a ministry/corporation dedicated to producing eco-friendly fuels), linking us to Gilbert Jules, a pastor in Port au Prince. He ovesees a ministry called Ambassadors for Christ in Haiti and is responsible for four churches--one in Port au Prince and three in villages to the north--with schools at each site. Gilbert's wife, Legett, is a doctor, and she oversees medical clinics at each site as well.

We saw the city and its incredible need. Nearly 1,000,000 living in tents in a country with 75% illiteracy and 85% unemployment awaiting the devastating winds and rain of the hurricance season greeted us. Rubble and waste, though partially removed, remain a constant deterrent to transportation, construction...and hope.

And what can we do? I had been asking myself that question for the last six months--what small thing can we do that would make any difference in a country so devastated by disaster and ruin? Well, here's the best part. God matched us with a man with a vision--a man with a heart for his people. Gilbert's primary concerns were not the primitive, broken buildings that house his ministries; rather, his concern was for the spiritual needs of his people--especially the chidlren and the ten pastors he has been training to guide the people that are a part of his spehre of influence.

In November we will return to Haiti with a team with two objectives--the training of pastors in how to study and teach the Word of God more effectively (Gilbert thinks 100 may join us) , and ministry to 2,000 children through eight sessions of VBS at his four church sites.

I am still shaken. But now it is because I recognize the incredible open door God has placed before us to do our "small thing" in Haiti. It's been in my heart for six months. Now it is coming to fruition. Pray for us.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

prayer meeting

Seven joined us at our recent all-church prayer meeting for our unsaved loved ones. I was thankful for those who came and committed to the task of interceding for those we love who don't know Christ. I was encouraged as we prayed by the empathy we expressed to one another as we recounted the general needs of those we loved.

I was reminded of a song we used to sing when I was a teenager at church on prayer meeting nights...

"Someone is praying for you,
Someone is praying for you,
And when you think you're all alone and your heart would break in two,
Remember, someone is praying for you."

Though we were a handful, I believe our hearts were joined together in a special way and that our prayers together were honored by God.

Maybe you'd like to join us next time...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

awash in washington

We just returned from four of the most beautiful days in the state of Washingtton. My wife's brother and sister-in-law, now retired from the dairy business, have carved a beautiful home out of the side of a hill overlooking the Spokane Valley.

When I think of Washington, I think of green hills, beautiful evergreens...and rain. And I was not disappointed on either count. It was incredibly green and beautiful but it rained off and on the whole time we were there.

Noormally, I would havebeen disappointed because I love the clear blue skies and the glowing sun, especially in late spring, when it is still relatively cool. And, of course, since we were on a short vacation and I was looking forward to hiking and enjoying the outdoors. If I had known the extent of all of these weather variables before leaving I would have been "awash" with disappointment.

But Washington did not disappoint. Our hosts were terrific, our accommodations were five-star and the setting was heavenly. We walked every day, hiking through
verdant vegetation and enjoying breath-taking views. I am a fledgling photographer but was enamored with the ever-changing skies and spent alot of time endeavoring to get National Geographic-like pictures of the surroundings.

I have thought this week about how what we don't know before hand is sometimes a blessing. It potentially could pre-empt some wonderful experiences enjoyed, evenw itha ll the unexpected variables. I guess that is what adventure looks like.

For most of you, a few days in Washington hiking and taking pictures may seem pretty tame; for me it was a time of rest and refreshment. I have been revelling in its memories--and ongoing benefits--since my return to the now browning hills and escalating heat of summer in Amador County.

I know...quit complaining; who knows what adventure awaits us here this summer...?

Thursday, May 27, 2010

"Set a guard over my mouth..."

The Psalmist(Psalm 141) is praying for God's deliverance from evildoers (verse 9) and for his response to the pressures around him--including accepting the rebuke of a "righteous man" (verse 5)...not an easy thing to do.

But what gets my attention is verse 3, "Set a guard over my mouth, keep watch over the door of my lips".

I acknowledge in my life the need to be quiet, and to watch how I respond. There are multiple opportunities in a normal week to brag about how hard I work, to defend myself against the accusations of others, to cry out against someone who has hurt me, to complain about how I am being treated, etc.

But that is not my desire. I want to guard my mouth, watch my lips, and choose my words carefully.

And sometimes, choose to be quiet.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

surveys and questionnaires

I often ask myself when wondering how to fill a volunteer gap or how to plan ahead for an event, “What about a survey and/or a questionnaire? Do they work? Do they get read? Are they returned? Are they informative?” To all of the above the answer would be appear to be a resounding “no!” They are seldom returned. So we are not informed and they obviously don’t work. Whether they are even read or not cannot be determined due to my woeful lack of omniscience.

Recently, I included an “Is there any way I can serve…?” bulletin insert. Not one was returned. We ran it again a week later and I received seven out of the three hundred printed and place in the weekly bulletin. For five months off and on we have been trying to compile a church e-mailing list. To date about 25-30 of our 250-300 families have provided the information we requested.

It probably sounds like I’m griping…but I’m not. I am wondering aloud why people don’t want to respond to a survey or fill our a questionnaire? The government has to hire a legion of census takers each year to go door-to-door based on the fact a significant number will not fill them out. They will either protest “I forgot”, “I lost it”, or, “It’s really none of your business…”

I am not sure which of these best describes my dilemma as a pastor. All I have, I argue with myself, is a legitimate “need to know”. So, where do I go from here?

Joab, a commander in David’s army, responded to the Ammonites who seized some of David’s men shaving them, and cutting “off their garments in the middle of their buttocks…”, and thus humiliating them. David was angry, and the Ammonites sensing this, gathered a large army together, along with the Arammeans, hemming in David’s forces in front and behind. Joab said, “Be strong and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of God. The Lord will do what is good in His sight”. They won a great victory that day as the enemy fled before them—from both sides. Almost 50,000 were killed on that day! (Read I Chronicles 19) Not much strategy in those words, but a total reliance upon God.

“The Lord will do what is good in His sight”. I think that was a huge testament to Joab’s faith in the God who had proven Himself throughout Israel’s history. I am guessing I want to have better control of situations by seeking to fill in all the blanks, preparing for the exact circumstances, etc. That, in and of itself, is certainly not wrong, but it does reflect a tendency on my part to want to have better control of what is going on a round me. So a survey to fill the gaps or a questionnaire to help me prepare better gives me a better sense of what to expect…or not.

I have not sent out my last questionnaire nor have I inserted my last survey into a Sunday morning bulletin. But I am learning that God is in control, and though my information-gathering efforts may continue—with mixed results at best—in the end I must agree with Joab, “The Lord will do what is good in His sight”.

If you liked this devotional, please complete the following survey…just kidding!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

what can we be sure of?

I visited this afternoon with an elderly woman who was diagnosed 20 years ago with cancer. She has survived a number of surgeries with amazing resiliency and even though she is battling congestive heart failure, is still "alive and kicking"!

She told me the story of a young relative who was tragically killed in a work-related injury this week--not even forty years old. He was in good health and he and his wife were expecting their first child.

Of this seeming paradox, James writes,
"Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go do to this or that city'...why you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that...'" 4:13-16

It is a matter of quiet confidence to know that our days are numbered. "the length of our days is seventy years--or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass and we fly away". These words from the 90th Psalm really say we are uncertain about the length of our lives--but we know they will "quickly pass".

What is our response to this? Psalm 90:12 admonishes us "teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom". The MESSAGE paraphrases it this way, " Oh! Teach us to live well! Teach us to live wisely and well!"

In a recent sermon I heard from John MacArthur he observed, "I don't what to live one day longer than God intends...or die one day sooner!"

Whatever we think about life and the extent of our days, we need to live wisely and well, because we do not know what tomorrow may bring...or if tomorrow will come. Whether 80 or 40, we must be ready for the moment God calls us, with the confidence we are ready to meet Him because we have exercised faith in what Christ has done for us. "For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." Romans 6:23.

Friday, May 07, 2010

two buddies and breakfast

One of the things I value most in my life is my relationship with some long-time friends. I met with two of them for breakfast this morning and we spent most of the morning talking about our lives--mostly our stuff,and the fact that we had more than enough, and that we are committed to spending our lives wisely as we "round the final turn for home".

We have been influenced by the book, THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL, as well as our mutual concern for the spreading of the gospel to the spiritually and physically poor.

I had two eggs, hash browns, corn beef hash and an English muffin for breakfast, half of which I left on my plate. I have been thinking about the pure waste in that alone. Thankfully, one of my buddies paid for my breakfast...so my guilst is assuaged a little!

It is good to have two buddies like this--and a good breakfast in my belly. It reminds me how blessed I am...and how much more we can do with less stuff, a smaller breakfast, and a fully-committed heart for ministry!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Living in a state of perpetual forgiveness...

"Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God, for Christ's sake has forgiven you", Ephesians 4:32.

At a recent prayer meeting at our church a young woman prayed aloud that couples would learn to live with a forgiving spirit towards one another. What a great idea! And there is a scriptural basis for it--Ephesians 4:32, which states that Jesus lives in a perpetual state of forgiveness with us--knowing our sins and failures--and still loves us. We are instructed to treat one another similarly.

What's the problem in marriage? Why can't we "just get along?" A critical issue is unrealistic expectations and non-existent grace. I have spent hundreds of hours in marital counseling and when adultery and physical abuse are not the issues, more often than not, the point of contention is unresolved conflict, i.e. unkind words spoken, an angry exchange, a misunderstanding, an unkept promise, etc. These mushroom into a mountain of misery and a seemingly insurmountable obstacle when unaddressed over time.

What if we lived in a perpetual state of forgiveness with one another? The foundation for that would be acknowledging that is how Christ lives with us and what He calls us to do with one another. How would that work? I am offended, hurt, ignored--I say in my heart, "I can forgive him for that because I knwo he is not eprfect and I know that he loves me." And he responds, "I can't believe she responded that way; she must love me. No wonder I love her so much. I need to do better!" There is a contagious affect when we live this way.

For the skeptics out there who find this suggestion pollyannish and idealistic, let me confrim your worst suspicions. You are right! This flies in the face of conventional human wisdom and is humanly impossible.

It is only possible through the God who forgives us and enables us to forgive others as He has forgiven us. Isn't it worth a try?

Thursday, April 22, 2010


I am always surprised by how God works. I was gone for a week and scheduled one of our pastors to speak in my absence. I was startled by the news he had not preached due to some unavoidable circumstances, but, in fact, another staff pastor had spoken. I wondered what were the circumstances that could have prompted such a change. I later heard from several sources that the message was well-presented and a family visiting for the first time remarked to me that the sermon topic—a message on “Dealing with Depression”--- was just what she and her husband needed to hear.

I always marvel at how God works. When given a chance to be reflective, I have to ask myself, “Why are you surprised?” God has a sovereign way of dealing with matters that seen in retrospect astounds me. In my best planning and most deliberate efforts I cannot foresee what circumstances will eventuate and what kinds of things will need to take place to bring resolution in unplanned crisis and conflict.

I almost always—there’s that word again, “always”---fall prey to the temptation to sift through circumstances as they unfold and almost predictably allow myself to be carried away by the drama and a strong sense of a need to “fix “ what’s wrong. That is a recipe for disaster. First, of all, my best judgment pales in comparison to the wisdom of God. Secondly, painfully aware of my inadequate resources I am often overwhelmed in the moment by the magnitude of the need. All too often—not always--- thankfully”, I default to “fix it” mode and all the related worry and anxiety that accompany such frivolous work.

I am always reminded in the aftermath of such crises how God has to be my first point of reference. I need to literally resolve to seek the wisdom of His Word and rest in the power of prayer, affirming my total dependency upon a sovereign God who knows the end from the beginning.

In Luke 18:2ff Jesus told a parable about a woman who was in crisis and was seeking justice. She kept going to the judge—the appropriate source for resolution—without immediate results. In the end, however, justice was rendered. The opening verse of this passage reports that Jesus told this story to his disciples “to show them hat they should always pray and not give up”.

In the end—In God’s timing and in God’s way—He always acts, always in concert with His sovereign will and purpose. When something as simple as a speaker “crisis” prompting last-minute change occurs on a Sunday morning I can be confident God will “fix it”. That is His job, not mine. Why am I “always” surprised?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

living in the afterglow

It is fun to revel in the memories of a great basketball game. My wife is always surprised at the itensity of enthusiasm men can express when rehearsing an athletic context, not unlike the recent NCAA Men's basketball finals between Butler and Duke. Come on...what a game! Butler had two last second opportunities to create its own "Hoosiers II" story...but missed it by a hair, losing in the end by two points. That is worthy of lots of discussion and revisiting by my friends who love basketball as much as I do.

Of course, over a week has passed now and the lustre of that context has dimmed as the demands of everyday real life set in. There is nothing about that game, extraordinary as it was, that is life-changing for me. It was a pleasant, almost mystical, interruption in my daily life and gave me a few hours of real excitement and happiness.

It would be a tragedy to treat Resurrection Sunday the same way. Wow! What an exciting service! Great music! A full house at church! (Good food, too) And then we gather with friends and rehearse what we remember about the day, exchange our favorite memories of the day...and for a few days we live in the afterglow of its emotion and pathos.

I have determined to revisit my hope anchored in the resurrection daily, if necessary. I suppose for me it is easier than most. As a Hospice chaplain I am almost daily confronted with the dying. Into rooms of suffering, disease and death I enter with a message of hope pulsating within my heart--hope in Christ because He rose from the dead and promsied those who believe in Him, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." John 11:25,26.

This verse ends with these words--"Do you believe this?"

It's the question I leave with you. Living in the afterglow will last only as long as the emotion of the moment. But the long-term efficacy of the truth of the resurrection can resonate within our hearts daily when we have trusted in Christ for our salvation.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What is "good" about Good Friday?

Of all the semantical mysteries encountered by "wordmiths" who view this day in history from a secular vantage point, this has to be at the top of the list. How can Christians observe the brutal execution of their "founder" and call the remembrance of that of that bloodletting "Good Friday"?

Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

The "good" in Good Friday is impossible to see with eyes that have not been opened to the unbridled sinfuness of man, Jesus' atoning work on the cross for man's sins, and a loving God reaching out to fallen man. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were stioll sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.

On Good Friday (and countless other days as well) I will grieve the costliness of my salvation--what it cost the Father to send His Son to stand in my place--take my sin upon Himself, bear my punishment on the cross, suffering excruciating death to pay sin's penalty--for me.

But I will rejoice, as well. I am the grateful recipient of God's grace...and that is "good: for me...and for all who place their faith and trust in Christ's atoning work on the cross.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

chaise lounges

Last summer we bought two outdoor chaise lounges for our deck at a close-out sale from Smith-Hawkins. They were in boxes requiring assembly and they have been hibernating in our garage during the last six months , waiting for the emergence of spring.

We have been talking about assembling them and last night when I came home from work I considered the task I had talked about the previous day--but never got to. I was tired after a twelve hour day, and ready, following a great home-cooked dinner, to settle into my easy chair for an evening of senseless television.

But I thought about those two chaise lounges secure in their shipping boxes, unable to be employed in that state. The cost of releasing them would be the delayed gratification of my easy chair, but the reward of proceeding with their unveiling would be the immediate applause of my wife and the "sooner than later" utilization of them on our deck.

I opted for the garage and the assembly process, and spurred on by my wife's affirmation "Go, Dale!", I finished the task in an hour.

So what's the big deal? Two chaise lounges?

I made a decision to satisfy my wife and not gratify my own selfish desires> I determined to do something productive rather than mindless. and the benefit--though immediate at one level--will be enjoyed long term...if I followed the directions correctly.

Sometimes doing God's will is like assembling two chaise lounges--there are directions, there is opportunity, there is need. But there are also the competing elements of fatigue, minimal mechanical ability and hard work.

When I survey my life as a believer, and my service to God--sometimes I am impassioned by the opportunity and need, and congnizant of the directives of scripture. But arguing against this on the human side are my tiredness, the self- appraisal of my ability (or lack of it) and the demands of what is required.

I hopefully choose to do God's will--no matter what the competing reasons to do otherwise. Ignoring it--just assuming that if I leave the chaise lounges in the garage they will assemble themselves or someone else will come to do it--is not an acceptable option. Recognizing that the chaise lounges are mine to assemble (with clear directions) is the critical step to enjoying their benefits during the hot summer months when I want to relax in the afternoon sun.

By the way, the two chaise lounges still need some finishing touches. I have some work left to do. So...when will I take the next step?

I can hear my wife calling...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

dark clouds

Driving home from Sacramento on Monday, we headed up Highway 16 towards our turnoff to Sutter Creek and reluctantly traded the sunshine for black clouds that welcomed us with a somber darkness. The change in a moment of time and within the space of a few miles was stunning.

I awakened this morning, having experienced a great day on Wednesday of renewed hope and optimism, to a darkness that followed me most of the morning. I wondered aloud, "Where did that come from?" As I visited with a friend later I confessed that I was caught unaware by the menacing cloud that blanketed me with an overwhelming sense of sadness.

As I sit at my computer facing a full day yet with Hospice visits, premarital counseling and a board meeting, I am reminded how the enemy would seek to bring perpetual darkness to our lives. His desire is to make us creatures of our emotions and to manipulate us through feelings that vacillate from one season to another--from one moment to the next.

I have made a conscious decision today to celebrate my life, and my relationship with the One who said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life." John 8:12.

Thursday, March 04, 2010


Through the generosity of a friend I was provided a gym membership this year. Because he paid for it, I am doubly-motivated to utilze it, even though some days it is a real struggle to get out of bed at 5 a.m., and dirve the short distance it is from my home. it's that old refrain--"the spirit si willing but the flesh is weak"..and cold, and tired.

Today was one of thos mornings. Awake at 4:20 a.m., I had a quiet conversation with myself about a long fourteen hour day behind me and a twelve hour day ahead of me. I applauded myself for how well I had been doing and contemplated the reward of staying in bed and taking a break--something I have not done in the last eight week regimen (even on my vacation week in Dallas I walked..alot!)

Here's the good news. By 5:30 a.m. I was riding feverishly ona stationary bike t the gym and celebrating my will power that catapaulted me olut of bed and into my regimen of exercise. The goal for me s fitness. I am not seeking to become a Charles Atlas look-alike, nor am I competing with the guys who have the "I lift big bar bells" swagger about them. Some of the ladies bike faster than me and there are some older men who look stronger and certainly thinner.

But I want to be a fit grandpa--able to do all the things that I love to do into the last quarter of my life (I did not say that for effect...there is, hopefully, another quarter left!)

Fitness is a spiritual goal for me as well. Am I spiritually fit? Am I ingesting the Word of God as a part of my daily diet? Am I exercsing the principles of God's Word in my daily life? Am I "beefing up" my spiritual muscle by hiding God's Word in my heart?

Some mornings I am tempted to take a break--"I'll pray later" (I remember when the next crisis emerges), or, "I'll study when I get to the office" (and a day of unannounced appointments ravages my time), etc. When that happens with consistency over a period of time, spiritual malnutrition and weakness settle in.

Next appointment at the gym is Saturday mornng.

See you there...?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Reflections on prayer...

I was thinking about prayer as I prepared to write on my blog today after a few weeks away. Five instances come to my mind--(1) a church prayer meeting Wednesday, (2)devotions with my wife today (3) a men's prayer meeting this morning (4) prayer with a buddy yesterday afternoon and (5) a visit and prayer time with a friend who is dying. All of these were for me productive times of prayer for different reasons.

1. On Wednesday evening 40-50 met at the church for nearlt two hours for a schedulesd time of prayer and praise. This was not a large number-I always hope for more--but we have purposed as a body to pray more together corporately. It is always significant to me when we pray for one another. This is a group with whom I am confortable sharing my needs.

2. My daily devotions with Beverly are especially maningful to me these days. We have been reading a book together, "PRAYING FOR YOUR ADULT CHILDREN. With six children (and eleven grandchildren), this is a daily activity for us together. it is a comfort to me to release my family daily to God's love and care and to remind them that we are praying for them. This encoruages them, hopefully, to share their needs with us.

3. I met for prayer with eight othe men at 6:30 a.m. this morning--what a blessing! A core group of us have been doing this regularly for over a year now and we openinly share our concerns--one has prostate cancer, another needs more work, one has a grandson who just had a brain tumor removed, another needs to sell some property, another's brother needs Christ and is facing surgery, etc. I was especially moved by the prayer of one who is retired who prayed aloud,"Lord, use me when I leave this room..."

4. Yesterday afternoon a yong man--almost thirty years younger than me--stopped by the office, and we shared and prayed together. We have some experiences in common, though far apart in years, and we have a common desire to live our lives to the glory of God. He inspires me, and, hopefully, I encourage him when we pray together.

5. A friend is dying. He knows he has just a few months at best to live. He is in some pain and spends alot of time in bed. I am not sure about the depth of his relationship with Christ, but I know he is reaching out and I have a unique opportunity when we share together in prayer to direct him to Christ.

As I reflect on these times of prayer--a sampling of the opportuntities God provides each week--I am reminded what a vital dimension prayer is of my daily life, as I live out my faith and seek to minister to others. I often wonder aloud, "What would I do if I could not pray?"

Thank you, lord.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Dallas, here we come!

I will be gone for the next week visiting children and grandchildren in the Dallas area. They are just digging out of over a foot of snow--an unlikely phenomenon in their neck of the woods.

I am ready for this trip--I have not been to Dallas for a year, so I am anxious to see family. In preparation for the trip I took the day off and rested and, as a result, should be in rare form when we get off the plane! Usually, we run until we leave and then arrive exhausted, get caught up the first few days, and then it is time to go home...still exhasuted.

I love Jesus' invitation to come to Him and find "rest"; I am grateful to God for the rest He gives when we come to Him and yoke oursleves to His strength.

Dallas, here we come, rested and ready for the grandkids!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

62... and counting

I received over 100 reminders from well-wishers via Facebook about my 62nd birthday, in addition to a passel of cards from family and friends over a two week period. Another card trickled in yesterday. No one let me forget I am 62.

62 seems like a big number...only 8 short of the "threescore and ten" allotted to us from a scriptural vantage point.

62 means I am standing on the brink of qualifying to receive my social security benefits, should I opt for them early. I can also join AARP and receive discounts for everything from oragel to Grecian formula.

62 means it is 44 years since I graduated from high school and this year 40 years since I graduated from college... My glasses are bifocals and I have a special pair I wear when I am working on my computer. Thankfully, I still have all my teeth intact.

62, my wife tells me, is just a number...but it is a large number (that is my gut response). So...what's next for me as I round the final quarter (am I being too optimistic?) of my life? I can remember running the mile--four times around the track--and the last quarter was the lap I saved my energy for--that final burst as I crossed the finish line.

I have been leading a discussion group of about ten successful men from age 57-72. We have been using Bob Buford's book, HALF TIME, in which he suggests the final half of our life is often spent transitioning from the pursuit of success to seeking for significance. A companion book we are reading is Richard Stearns', THE HOLE IN OUR GOSPEL, in which he shares his life-changing experience in Uganda and his subsequent move from a well-paid position of a major corporation executive to President of World Vision. Both of these books remind those of us who are in this season of life to seriously ask the question, "How do I want to spend the rest of my days?"

At age 62 it is a question I have been asking for several years now as I consider retirement and repositioning myself for the final lap. God may keep me where I have been for the last fourteen years, or, He may have another adventure in mind. What I know is this--I want to spend my days investing in things of eternal value.

Psalm 62 closes with these meaningful words, "Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done." The reward I desire most is to hear Jesus say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant...come and share your master's happiness" Matthew 25:21 (NIV)

62 means it's time for a sustained burst around the final turn. May God help me to be faithful.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The State of the Union

I have not yet heard President Obama's speech to the nation, but I will listen to it. Before I do, however, let me register my concerns from my small corner of the world in Amador County.

1. The decisions made enlarging the parameters for abortion through the rescinding of legislation under former President Bush is heart-rending. More innocent babies will die and this flagrant violation of the sanctity of life buries our nation deeper in our overt rebellion against God.

2. The President's waffling on the "same sex" marriage issue, which has been soundly voted down by voters in every state where the subject has been presented for adoption, is an unsettling concern in the wake of his protestations of authentic Christian faith which are unequivocally anchored in a commitment to traditional marriage.

3. The decision to send more troops to Afghanistan I reluctantly applaud. None of us--even the most hawkish--welcome war. However, there are times when we are called to stand up for the safety and security of our country. Terroristic threats are real and valid; terrorism on a global scale has not diminished; it continues to accelerate at an alarming rate.

4. The attempts to launch a national health care program are laudable, though the process has been laughable. We need more affordable health care and we need to make it more available through cost effectiveness. To think we as a nation could strap the anticipated exorbitant costs on the back of middle Americans--who already are struggling in a depressed economy--is foolhardy and the recent election results in Massachusetts confirm that.

5. The concern for clean air is a genuine one. The recent Copenhagen Conference on the heels of the revelations that global warming adovcates had doctored the results of their failed research to make their case more acceptable only served to heighten the conflict of suspicions about the validity of scientific research--the "stronghold" of environmental protectionists. We need to protect our water and preserve clean air, but let's do it with integrity.

6. The federal "stimulus package" has served to do nothing but stimulate more sketicism about government programs and government handouts. CNN's recent expose about the few jobs created by the stimulus package has been eye-opening, even from a more liberal news mindset.

7. Unemployment figures are high but they inadequately reflect the total number of people who are unemployed, those who have given up looking for employment and others who are now woefully under-employed. The sugegstion that 20% may be a more accurate reflection of this group should be mind-boggling to us--1 out of 5!

8. The President has sought to replace hard-handed diplomacy with a kinder and more open dialogue with countries like Iran and North Korea. Though I don't think we should be deceived by the tone of their conversations, I do believe there is value in coming to the proverbial table to talk.

9. I am impressed that President Obama has admitted failure; in doing so, he has reminded us he is a human being, without any magical and messianic powers. Undoubtedly, there are many who thought otherwise and are now left to deal with the unhappy political vagaries of partisanship.

10. Former President Bush left office with a high disapproval rating and, though I voted for him, a high degree of personal disenchantment for me. President Obama has emerged from the "honeymoon" period of political life in the White House. His approval ratings have significantly dropped, and the former President's failures seem to have dimmed in the light of the present President's struggles.

It is not a surprise to me that the former President remarked recently in an interview, "I have not missed being in the public limelight". President Obama may rue the day he decided to run for office; it is my opinion he needs more time, and from those of us who find it easier to critique than contibute, more prayer. Who in their right mind would want to be President of the United states?!?

I am praying.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

"prayer warriors"...relics of the past

We are engaged in a heavy emphasis on prayer at Grace, culminating in a week of prayer this week and an all-church prayer meeting Wednesday evening. Less than 10% of our church family signed up for a prayer slot on the calendar and we moved the prayer service into the Fellowship Hall so we won't be dwarfed by the sanctuary. Interest and participation at things designed corporately for prayer are always the lowest attended events on the church calendar...unless we serve food, too.

I don't think Grace is an anomaly in the prayer world...not that this gives me any comfort. We either don't pray because we don't think it is important, or that it even works, or, maybe, it is just hard work.

In any case, it is almost mind-boggling that prayer seems to be a last resort, even for believers in view of what many families are facing. Heavy unemployment concerns and family crises have flooded my office in recent weeks. People are hurting, but not praying as you suspect they would, and that, perhaps, the God we pray to is often considered the cuprit--for bring the calamity on, or not intervening to keep it from happening.

A key passage from my sermon last week contains these words, "I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you...and His incomaprably great power for us who believe..." (Ephesians 1:18,19)

Many of our seniors are what I call "prayer warriors"; they can be counted on to say to me, "I am praying for you", and I know that they are. It could be argued that they have more time to pray--and they do--but they often tell me they have learned the power there is in prayer and that it is the greatest weapon they have against the ploys of the enemy. The tragedy is that they are dying off and I wonder who will take their place.

I believe them; more importantly, I believe the Word of God which calls us to prayer and invites us to "approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need". (Hebrews 4:16)

Sadly, I admit, I am not a "prayer warrior". But I am learning in these days that there is no substitute for prayer and that the proclamation that "Jesus Christ is the same eysterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8), means that the God who has faithfully met my needs in the past will meet them today...and tomorrow.

That should make me want to become a "prayer warrior"...