Tuesday, December 20, 2011

new years...

We have come through a busy Christmas season, and, hopefully, we have escaped without injury—too many credit card bills, family fatigue, and the post-seasonal “blues”.  For Beverly and I it has truly been a wonderful season with intentional time spent contemplating the true wonder of the season.  That coupled with my November ministry trip to Haiti, Thanksgiving a family trip to Dallas,  a gathering of the local Barrett family on Christmas Day, and a myriad of special church opportunities to worship and celebrate has made this a truly blessed season!

And now it’s on to a new year…with the same potential hazards—exhausting ourselves emotionally and physically in frantic pursuit of all that a new year offers   If that sounds vague let me suggest that there is value in intentionally evaluating meaningful goals in a new year.  Prioritizing what is important helps in that discipline—negotiable and non-negotiable demands on our schedules.  I am doing that again as the new year starts.  I reflected today on my personal goals when I first came to Amador County the second time fifteen plus years ago.  I was  impacted by my reading of Petersen’s THE CONTEMPLATIVE PASTOR; in his preface he asks, “ How can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule to make everything fit into place?”  He concluded that if no one asked him to do anything, he would do these three things as a pastor—pray, preach (“drenching” himself in the Word), and listen (it requires “unhurried leisure”).

I confess my years of ministry have not always reflected those three priorities to which I committed myself when I arrived to help birth Grace Fellowship Church.  But I believe they are still valid for me as a leader today, even in a time of personal transition.
1.       I want to practice what I say I believe about prayer.
2.       I want to preach (and teach) what I have discovered for myself to be true in God’s Word.
3.       I want to listen with “unhurried leisure” so I can better respond to the needs of others.

Petersen writes near the end of his book with regard to congregational expectations, “There are many other things to be done in this wrecked world and we are going to be doing at least some of these, but if we don’t know the foundational realities with which we are dealing—God, kingdom, gospel—we are going to end up living futile, fantasy lives.  Your task is to keep telling the basic story, representing the presence of the Spirit, insisting on the priority of God, speaking the biblical words of command, promise and invitation…”

Pray, preach and listen—these are priorities I affirm once again as I enter this season of transition with you.  It won’t be easy-my personal history reflects that.  But it is essential for me as I seek to pass the baton of pastoral leadership off to Pastor Mark and the other godly men with whom I am privileged to work.
What are your priorities?  How far away are they from the true landscape of your daily life?  Let’s seek God together and commit, with His divine enablement to a more intentional discipline in our lives of loving service to Him—that in the spirit of Romans 12:1, as an “act of spiritual worship”.  If we purpose to do that we may more readily escape the injuries of self-inflicted busy-ness and unfulfilled expectations.  Let’s hold each other to it!  Happy new year!

Monday, December 19, 2011

GRACE, PEACE AND HOPE...gifts that last

Someone walked into our home last night and looked bewilderedly at our tree. There are no gifts under our tree. They did not ask "why?" but I sensed they thought it strange. Maybe we are strange.

. 1. We told our family--no gifts for us. If you want to remember us, make a donation to "Dale's Fund for Haiti"--a fund to support pastors and teachers there.

 2. We don't need ANYTHING. Additionally, we may be moving in the years ahead and we have already accumulated more stuff than we care to move.

 3. For us, a Christmas card with a personal message is as valuable as anything we receive. It is nice to be remembered by our friends and family this way.

 One of our favorite Christmas activities is to sit on the couch and reread all of the Christmas cards and messages we receive. Most importantly, we are in receipt of the greatest gifts we can receive this side of heaven. I have had the privilege of teaching about those the last three weeks at Grace where I have the joy of teaching and preaching.

Grace, as revealed in John 1:14-18, is the gift revealed in the Incarnation of Jesus--God in the flesh--"full of grace and truth". What a blessing to know that because Jesus came to earth as a man--bearing our sins on the cross and paying the price for them, thus providing access to the Father--I now have forgiveness and am a child of God. That truly is a miracle of grace!

Peace is the result of Christ's work as well. Because He was the sacrifice for our sins, and because we stand by grace in His finished work in our behalf, we now have peace with God. Romans 5:1-11 details how that peace, the gift of God in Christ, allows us to live without the emptiness and hopelessness of our own pursuits.

Hope, then, is ours through the "encouragement of the Scriptures", the Word of God. In Romans 15:1-13, Paul concludes by saying, "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

I've received lots of cookies and candy--thanks to all our gourmet cooks at Grace. Other tokens of love and appreciation have been graciously extended to us. Soon enough the cookies and candy will be gone, and the festive Christmas tree in our living room brimming with colorful ornaments and bright lights will be packed away. What remains will be memories of a wonderful Christmas season to be sure--and the enduring matchless gifts of grace, peace and hope in Christ.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Christmas dinner to remember

Fifteen of us gathered together at a beautifully-decorated home of one of our church families last night. There we enjoyed a dinner "fit for a king"--creamed shrimp and cracker appetizers,fruity sherbet punch, honey-wonderful green salad, honey-glazed ham, cheesy potato casserole, carefully-baked carrots, perfectly-cooked asparagus, with a finishing delectable chocolate cake and/or a tantalizing homemade raspberry-blackberry cobbler! Does it get any better than that?



First of all, all of us work together,and we do that in the context of serving others together through our local church.

Furthermore, we all share life together. Some of us have vacationed together; others have traveled to foreign countries together to teach the Word. Still others have labored together as staff members through good and difficult times.

Finally, we all love one another--this in spite of differing opinions, changing relationships, personal crises and the inevitable seasons of life.

So...while the setting was spectacular and the food was indescribably delicious...what I will remember about last night was the people who sat next to me and across from me--people I will always love and never forget, because they have enriched my life.

Thanks to my special friends.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Time with a daughter

I love my children--all four of them--and two step-children who I happily consider my won, Additionally, I have three daughters-in-law and one son-in-law who are a special part of the extended family we call our own.

Occasionally--not nearly often enough--we get to spend time with our children. We were recently with two of our sons and eight of our grandchildren over Thanksgiving and we will be with one of my sons and a daughter and their families--including three grandchildren!--over New Years. These are special times for me, especially as I grow older and relish our times together.

Last week my youngest daughter who is single and a licensed therapist joined us for a few days, all the way from Nashville, Tennessee where she has lived for the last twelve years. Needless to say, I don't see her nearly enough so this visit was one I anticipated with excitement.

When i reflect upon our time I realize that we really didn't do anything spectacular---except spend quality time together. That included a morning walk, a trip down Main Street in Sutter Creek (worth coming to see for yourself!), dinner out at a local Mexican restaurant, a favorite place in El Dorado hills, a brunch at Andrae's (everyone in Amador County has sampled their exquisite homemade breads), and a quick stop on the way to the airport at Burger King(ugh!). We also drove to some familiar territory in Pine Grove where we once lived, attended church where I preached, and played cards (Shanghai, any one?) and sampled cheese and wine together.

A highlight was a Barrett reunion where all local family member joined us including Grandma, and pregnant cousin, Stephanie, who will become a mother again later this week. It was a special time of catching up with one another and sampling Beverly's exquisite snacks and Christmas cookies.

That sounds like alot of activity, but the centerpiece of it all was just being together. I loved reminiscing, talking about matters of personal significance, sharing our dreams for the future, listening to counsel from a loving daughter (remember, she's a therapist...and we asked her), and reaffirming the special place she has in my heart.

Daughters are special. They have a special niche in a father's heart and this past weekend my heart was warmed and enriched by time with my daughter. Hopefully, we'll do it again soon..

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thanksgiving reflections

We accomplished a couple of things this Thanksgiving holiday--we got away in our trailer (a favorite past time) and we spent time with eight of our grandchildren (a most favorite pursuit).

We discovered that deep-fried turkey is delicious (just have to figure out how to make gravy), that fourteen people squeezed together in a 32' x 8' trailer is manageable (especially if you like each other) and that even with rain, tight quarters and no television reception for the football games, it was still a memorable--if not the "best"--Thanksgiving celebration!

What made it so unforgettable? Let me list a few significant things.
1. It was not all about the food and furniture--it was more about being together.
2. It was not all about second helpings and desserts galore--it was more about being thankful we had enough to eat.
3. It was not all about the setting and regalia (or lack of it)--it was more about being with family and enjoying one another.

Having just returned from Haiti--an environment of extreme poverty--it was easy to be thankful. Even sleeping in my trailer and surrounded by the accoutrement's of camping life, I realized I am far better off than most of the world, a significant percentage of whom go to bed cold and hungry at night.

I will look back, I'm certain, at this Thanksgiving with fond memories--focused on how we we celebrated together what was really important. And with the hope that we will do it again...maybe next year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Off to Haiti

I leave Saturday for my third trip to Haiti. It seems a long time ago that I sat in front of my television screen and viewed the catastrophic damage of the earthquake and heard God say, "Go!"

I have never been disappointed. we have held VBS's for over 1000 children, conducted Bible training seminars for over 125 pastors, built a roof for a school/church servicing 500 children and have enjoyed our relationship cultivated by the passionate heart and hard work of Gilbert Jules.

This trip we will deliver finds for a well in one of the small towns, as well as go to teach over 200 pastors the book of Romans over a four day period, eight hours a day. It is a huge but exciting task. We also will talk about how we can reach out to the children of Haiti, the heart's desire of two women in our church family through a ministry they have dubbed "The Bridge".

I am accompanied by two wonderful brothers from our church and am anxious to see how we can be humble tools in the hands of a mighty God.

Pray for us!

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

prayer and fasting

There is a little verse in the New Testament that says "Some things come only by prayer and fasting". it is omitted from some of the later biblical translations which utilize earlier manuscripts where that phrase does not occur. Nonetheless, I am convinced that prayer coupled with fasting has potential significance for me--just as it did for the Israelites in the Old Testament--in seeking and knowing God's will.

I am at a time where I am truly anxious to know God's will; in fact, I have a pretty good idea of how He should work. When I read that aloud I realize how foolish it sounds. My tendency is to try to facilitate God's work by stepping in where only He belongs. It is the ultimate arrogance for me to presume I can "give God a hand".

The discipline of simply adhering to God's invitation and command--"Be still and know that I am God"--encourages me to trust Him. A possible translation of that familiar verse is "Cease from your strivings..." There is the sense that when we abandon the pursuit of our efforts to manage things, God can then manifest Himself as God in His presence and all of His power.

The discipline of fasting allows me to focus my attention on something other than indulging my own fleshy appetites while at the same time seeking after God's direction for my life. I don't fast very often, and it really is between God and me whether I fast at all. I am convinced, however, it is an appropriate way for me to "set my affections on things above" and to listen for God's voice.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


Change is difficult--sometimes brutally so-- and the older I get the more reluctant I am to make changes. I guess that's because there is a certain amount of comfort in how things are. We get accustomed to a daily regimen and as proverbial "creatures of habit" fall into the surmised security of routine.

Interestingly, the life of a minister is predictably unpredictable and offers unplanned interruptions every day that would seem to argue against any presumed routine or schedule but even that, with all of its nuances, becomes an expected part of the daily fare.

My life is about to change and the direction I am going is unclear though cast in the alluring backdrop of semi-retirement. There are a myriad of options to evaluate and as I consider these I have begun to feel the accompanying emotions of grief (leaving the familiar) and apprehension (facing the uncertain).

What I have decided to do each day--and especially this morning early at the office--
is to give each day to the Lord. That may have the misleading scent of super-spirituality, but it is the only way for me to navigate these waters. I offer myself to God, as Paul challenges us in Romans 12:1, and ask God to help me live in the moment. I don't want to be so focused on anticipated changes that i miss the opportunities before me today in the unpredictable schedule of a pastor's life.

Today there is sermon preparation, a small prayer gathering, preparation for a funeral, a meeting with a personal friend, and a basketload of administrative work typical of my mid-week regimen.

So for this day I find comfort in starting my day once again anchoring myself in the certainty of my confidence that God knows all about my future and because of that I can trust Him with the unique challenges that await me today.

In the meantime, the transitions I am contemplating are somewhere between what I know about today and what He knows about tomorrow; in any case, it's a comforting place for me this morning.

Friday, October 14, 2011

the morning after

The transition from vacation to the "real world" is always a challenging one. When Beverly and I get away by ourselves we live life at a more leisurely pace, enjoying hiking(Palm Desert area has lots of places to explore), playing games(we love "Rummy-Que"), eating out (inexpensively), and dreaming together about the future (as uncertain as it is). Since we will be "retiring" soon (I will still have to work part-time), it is fun to contemplate what God has planned for us next.

Things change when I we return home. The "morning after" there is unpacking, washing clothes (thankfully, Bev does that), reading mail, responding to e-mails, scheduling the week's work, responding to the work that is an unavoidable part of ministry. I returned to prepare for two funerals in addition to the regular regimen of pastoral life.

While we were on vacation, one of our extended family had a serious heart attack and almost died; thankfully, she was at the hospital when it occurred and after successfully inserting three stints, is home, doing well, and preparing to return to work. We were reminded again of the shortness of life, the uncertainty of tomorrow. James 4:14 asks us, "What is your life? You are a mist (vapor) that appears for a little while and then vanishes".

"The morning after" a vacation, when we have enjoyed a and restful week unlike our normal routine, jolts me back to reality. Sometimes that is accompanied by a sense of dread and a penchant for complaining. But I am asking God, four "mornings after" later to recognize the value and importance of each day--whether resting or working--and to heed Paul's admonition in Colossians 3:17, "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

Saturday, October 01, 2011

a sobering week

This week I experienced what happens in pastoral ministry sometimes--a proliferation of tragedy. A close friend lost his healthy wife to a sudden catastrophic stroke. Days later a young friend, diagnosed two weeks ago with glioblastoma (malignant tumor of the brain), died yesterday morning, his wife and son by his side. And, tragically, a depressed young man took his life leaving a wife and teenage daughter stunned and shattered

All of these were believers. All of these were members of a church I pastored. All of these were more than just congregants. They were my friends.

It is sobering to think of the shortness of life. It is sobering to be reminded of our own mortality. It is sobering to imagine eternity without God.

As a pastor and Hospice chaplain, death is a frequent occurrence in my daily regimen. The closeness of these three relationships makes their passing especially poignant and sobering for me.

I am thankful for the hope of the gospel, the promise of eternal life for those who put their faith in Christ's work of grace for us.

A sobering week...but a time to affirm my faith.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

computers and other vices

I live and die by the efficiency of my cumputer.

What a sad state of affairs! I think of all the years I wrote notes and made telephone calls and did just fine. But now, it is almost as if I am paralyzed if my computer is too slow, or fails to comply with my commands.

In recent days I have encountered several computer virsuses (they are unwelcome visitors), a confused e-mail system, and a server speed to slow to accommodate some work needed in developing a new website. Many have tried to help from an IT man from a large hospital network to a volunteer who knows much more than I do (nothing to brag about...he actually knows alot!), to a local professional who maintains all the city systems who threw his hands up in the air and confessed, "I don't know how to fix it!" (whatever it is...)

So I am now between the dilemma of pouring more money into diagnosing a problem that may be irreparable or buying a new computer. I have had this one for 5-6 years and it was the generous gift of a special friend. Until now, it has served me well.

So here's the deal about all of this "too much information about your computer" rambling. I recognize that I have been behaving poorly, even to the point today of apologizing to my secretary who must have wondered the last few days about the scowl etched upon my face. She assured me I had been kind but I think she was being generous. And then there's the sanctuary at home where i have wandered around oblivious to the nicities and daily graces of a beautiful home and a lovely wife. mired in self-pity and frustration.

I am happy to report today that I have emerged from my cocoon of inward contortion and confusion and have greeted the world with a resolute, "I can survive without my computer". And, there is so much more to life than reading my e-mail and having an engineered website.

I am ending this now because I am off to Staples to buy a new computer.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

15th Anniversary

In August, 1996 five families met with me to begin the story of what is now Grace Fellowship Church. Sunday, August 21st we celebrated our anniversary...with very little fanfare but alot of thanksgiving to God--best expressed in our congregational muscial affirmation of "Great is Thy faithfulness!"

Here are some things that stand out to me when I reflect upon our journey together...

1. We have had the strength of unity that has allowed us to walk through six different locations, a challenging building program, and a dramtically depressed economic climate in a county where unemployment is near 20%.

2. We have had a sense of purpose built around the unapologetic teaching of the Word of God. Sunday School classes, small group Bible studies, care groups and worship services all provide a venue for learning the truths of God's life-changing Word.

3. We have had a spirit of compassion for the people of our community and have welcomed opportunities to assist those in need. We support the Amador Pregnancy Center, On-A-Mission Thrift Store, the Food Bank, the local rest homes, and have recently installed Angel Food Ministry to assist in getting low cost quality food to needy families. We also provide counseling resources through our local church.

4. We have had a share in outreach to the global community with a heightened sense of our mission mandate to "make disicples of all nations", most recently in Haiti, India, Pakistan, Papau New Guinea, South America and Africa, Thailand, the Ukraine and Serbia.

5. We have had the supply of grace needed from God for every ministry and every opportunity made available to us. We have grown together into a body of believers whose commitment is to be here and abroad, "a church that cares".

"Great is they faithulness! Great is they faithfulness,
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand has provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me."

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

credit card and counseling

So I lost my credit card...could not find it. Looked for it, retraced my steps, called my friends, checked business establishments where I had been to see if I had left it. Result: lost credit card.

Some friends of mine getting ready to leave town for a few weeks desperately want me to counsel with a relative who is going through a dfficult time. I go to their house to try to make contact but he is not there. They leave and I promise I will try somehow to locate him while they are gone and to connect. Result: frustration.

How do these two stories relate?

Tuesday I am assuring my wife that I will find the credit card as soon as I can...and standing at the door--at the very same time--is this individual with whom I have committed to making contact--with my credit card in his hand! While trying to visit at this home last week, my credit card fell out, and he, having just found it, brought it to me.


Or, maybe that's just how God works. That's my conclusion. A lost credit card brought us together and I was able to give counsel and, hopefully, encouragement.

Isn't it cool how God works?!? Result: thankfulness.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

A day at the doctor's office...

My doctor is a personal friend and I value him in many ways. He is very patient with me because I have a natural dread of doctors and doctor's offices. I have introduced him before as my doctor and he has responded increduously, "I am?" That's because my visits are probably too infreqquent and I am not a very good patient.

Today was my doctor's appointment--time for my annual physical. I was to have gone last October for a checkup but waited until now to get in to see him. I was smotivated by my twin brother's recent recent physical challenges to get the blood work in, and to see the doctor...my friend.

He greeted me with a smile and shared the results of my lab reports--almost all improved and overall encouraging. I asked him about a minor ache and reported my at home blood pressure--since my office blood pressure spikes at the mere thought of seeing the doctor...my friend. Go figure.

He suggested a minor change in the plan of treatment and sent me home with a general "Well done." I have been watching my diet and exercsing--something all diabetics should do--and the results were rewarding.

I thought of Matthew's record of Jedsus' words, "The well don't need a doctor...it is the sick who need a doctor." I am convinced I need a doctor because I am prone to physical problems due to my genetics and general level of stress, notwithstanding my general self-care (though better now).

Jesus, the Great Physician, came for those who were spiritually sick and needy--I know that means me. When I follow His directions from the Word, and when I engage in the exercises of reading, praying and sharing, I can hear His gentle, "Well done". There have been times when His Word has exposed my spiriual ills and failures. Still, He always encourages me, and directs me in ways I can move forward in dealing with the illness of sin all of us have.

A day at the doctor's office turned out good for me this time. I want every day with Jesus to be the same experience. I want to hear Him say, "Well done, Dale..."

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Casey Anthony Escapes Man's Judgment...

I was stunned to read this morning that Casey Anthony had been declared "not guilty" of first degree murder and a number of other related charges concerning the tragic death of her daughter.

I have listened off and on to summaries of the court proceedings and the testimony offered by a variety of witnesses--some experts, family members, psychologists, etc.--and felt the evidence was compellingly one-sided towards Casey's conviction. Her pathological trail--one her lawyers admitted to--only seemed to seal her doom.

Closing arguments were drawn by the prosecution to present a case without a certain cause of death or Casey's DNA on the victim that required only "common sense" for determination of guilt or innocence. The defense, on the other hand, rehearsed the various poitns of key evidence, casting the shadow of doubt on their validity...I guess?

In the end, I suppose, the phrase "beyonds a reasonable doubt" probably trumped the day for Casey. As a result, we will probably never know who killed her daughter, or, whether or not Casey was complicit in the dastardly deed--accidentally, or, on purpose. For now she is "innocent" and has escaped the punishment of the judicial system, which, in its most serious expression, could have been death.

Here is one thing of which I am certain. Casey knows the truth. She must live with the truth. She must sleep with the truth. She will die with the truth inescapably in her mind.

And one day, she will--as all of us-- stand before The Eternal Judge. His judgment, should she be guilty, she will not escape. For He knows the truth. The Bible says, "It is appointed unto man, once to die, and then the judgment."

Friday, June 24, 2011

VBS, Haiti, Malawi, and India...hot places to be

It has been a week of VBS outreach in our local community; about 150 children have signed up and participated in our 100 degree weather, choosing the comfort of air conditioning, kid's tunes, creative crafts, outdoor games, and an emphasis on knowing Jesus, the "rock of all ages" (I'm the one buried beneath the avaanche of45-50 4-6 graders).

While that's been going on here, we have been actively-involved in prayer for "our own" Luke and Becka Voight, missionaries leaving for hot Malawi to work with children and youth. Lyzee, their eigthteen month-old daughter,has been sick this week and they board a plane for an twenty-two hour trip on Monday--we are praying for them!

On Tuesday, I met for prayer with Mike, Ron, Jeff, Curt, Jason, Jeff and Mark--six dedicated young men from Grace--leaving for a week of work in 100 degree weather in Haiti. They will join our faithful pastor-friend there, Gilbert Jules, in helping to construct a roof over a school-church setting for 400-500 adults and chidlren, in a small town near Port au Prince. It is hot, wet and another outbreak of cholera has erupted recently, but they go with our blessing and with excitement about providing a place for the Hatians to be taught and to worship God!

Pastor Mark, Logan and Tom left yesterday on a fifteen hour flight for India where they will be teaching in a Bible Seminary for a week. (By the way, it is supposed to be over a 100 degrees there as well!) John Frances has heped with the construction and development of over 100 churches in the northern area of India and oversees the seminary. He is a true man of God. A student at the seminary, Solomon George, was killed last week in a tragic train accident, leaving a wife and two daughters behind. He was in training to pastor one of the churches we helped construct in India and so we are grieving for his family and praying for the onoging ministry there.

These are all hot spots--VBS, Malawi, Haiti, India...hot spots where the gospel is being preached and received with gladness. What a joy it is to serve God in the comfort of air conditioning... or not!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

110 degrees and VBS

We've had a very cool spring and late-arriving summer...but it arrived with a vengeance--this week, blasting us with 100 plus degree weather...just in time for VBS!

My wife and I volunteeered to teach 4-6 graders and last Friday we were told to prepare for 15--Sunday evening for 31--Monday morning for 38--and by 2:00 p.m. yesterday (opening Monday) we had 46!!!

Dressed in blue jeans, wool socks, boots, handkerchief, long sleeved shirt, suspenders and a cowboy hat--borrowed froma friend--I tried to act the part of an 1850's miner searching for treasure. I lost about 3-4 pounds sweating from the excitement of it all, and was exhausted when I got home last night.

BUT...it was terrific! What a privilege to stand in front of forty-six 4-6 graders and identify for them certain true claims about Jesus--(1) Only Jesus is perfect (2) Only Jesus is God (3) Only Jesus can completely forgive sins (4) Only Jesus is the way to heaven. As we taught the children, these are rock-solid claims about Jesus that become a foundation for our faith. Of course, in recounting the search for gold nuggets in the California Gold Rush, we wanted the children to see greatest treasure to be discovered, is Jesus, our rock!

110 degrees and VBS...a marriage made in heaven! The church really was a "cool" place to be! Just ask the kids!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Ode to the ocean and grandchildren (not necessarily in that order)

I've returned from eight days at Pismo Beach, camped right near the ocean with all of its attendant morning fog and moisture. The sun peaked its head out for a short greeting most days--one day it was unsually bright and clear for eight hours!--enough to remind me why I love the ocean.

Though Pismo Beach is a typical beach town, Psimo Coastal Village where we camped with our rv is an incredible rv resort. Everything you need is at your fingertips--a store, an equipment rental center, a restaurant, a heated swimming pool, walking trails, easy access to the beach, etc. Though the camp sites are small, it is inordinately clean and more than tolerable because of the sound of the waves pounding the beach just over a nearby grassy berm.

The focal point of the trip was the graduation of our oldest granddaughter, Sage, from junior high school. It truly was the highlight of our week, though camping with grandkids was a close second. Sage was honored by her teachers for her excellent character; as they lauded her contribution as a student to the encouragement of other students, tears marked the faces of both grandma and grandpa, as well as her appropriately-proud dad who was sitting close by us.

Father's Day is Sunday. Congratulations to Tim, Chad, Jeff and TJ--my sons--who are all great dads. A critical part of their performance as dads is their unrelenting commitment to raising their chidlren in a Christian home with a solid biblical foundation. That, coupled with their unconditional love and faithful discipline, make me proud of not only them, but the product they are producing--our eleven wonderful grandchildren. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 describes how "impressing" our chidlren with the principles of God's Word in our daily life is a high priority for dads...and moms.

And, just as an postscript...thanks, dad (now gone for twenty-three years)--for being a faithful father to me. He loved the ocean, too!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

willing workers

All day today two-three men have been working in a small bathroom adjacent to our church offices. The local authorities have said that our office structure, an old house built in the 1870's, had to be brought up to building code for safety, A littany of small, painstaking tasks were identified and a small cadre of faithful men have been diligently tackling each one.

They are not being paid, and the tasks they are doing they have had to do, undo, and redo, due to the mercurial nature of local building inspectors.

But as I listen to them today, they are laughing, singing,visiting, verbalizing together the wonderful unity of men with a common purpose working together to serve the Lord in the most menial ways.

When I say "menial", it is not a form of deprecation; I admire these men. They are skilled laborers--an enginer, a school shop teacher, a mechanic. What may seem "menial" from a worldly point of view, is incredible craftsmanship to me as they figure out how to apply new standards to an old tired victorian house.

I am in my office, doing administrative work and trying to study. I am tired. The work I do everyone notices and even sometime applauds. The faithful work of these willing workers goes by largely unnoticed...except that I am confident God takes note and seesall that we do as workman to His glory and for His glory.

I appreciate the willing workers around me, who serve God behind the scenes. They make the work I do in the office seem menial, in comparison to theirs.

I am glad that God sees us all.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What does Harold Camping do now...?

In 1994 Harold Camping wrongly suggested he knew the time of Christ's return and we have just "survived" another Harold Camping "prophetic" prognostication about a May 21st return...same results. He is now correcting his data and assuring us that October 21st will be the date.

Notwithstanding the clear declaration of Jesus that no man knows the day or the hour of Christ's return, we now must deal with the mockery and ridicule of the entire Christian community that sadly are grouped together with Camping and his unhappy followers. One of his disciples acknowledged that he had given $141,000 of his money to help advertise the May 21st event and it is rumpored that ten million dollars was used by Camping's ministry/business to finance this travesty.

I rarely speak out against a fellow minister by name but it is hard to not wonder how many people will continue to be duped by someone posing as a minister of the gospel and misrperesenting the truth of that gospel. Have we not learned that the Word of God is true, that it can be trusted, and that men who disregard its truth will ultimately be exposed as imposters and false teachers.

No, Harold. The third time will not be the charm!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

usama bin laden's death and judgment

When I awakened this morning to engage in my ritualistic remote control calisthenics between CNN and FOX news, I watched about thirty minutes of uninterrupted news about bin laden's death--"What was it like inside the compound?" "Didn't the nearby Pakistani military govenment have some inkling that he was hiding there?" "Should we stay in Afghanistan now that bin laden is death?" "Did the villagers have and observations to share about the traffic around the compound?" "How were the Seals' forces trained for this covert assault?" etc.....

However, the most bizarre for me revolves around this question, supposedly to be resolved today--"Shall we release a photo of the dead usama bin laden?" Allegedly, a high level conference was being scheduled to make that determination.

As Bev and I watched FOXES' over-the-top coverage several thoughts emerged in my mind, and I am writing them down as I reflect on them (You may or may not be pleased I chose to record them...)

1. Is the picture for the benefit of Amricans seeking "closure"...sleeping better now that they knopw bin laden is dead?

2. Is the picture meant to be a vengeance release for the families of 9-11 who have been grieving the loss of loved ones in the attack and desiring some little bit of revenge to "ease their pain"?

3. Is the picture a way for our nation to move forward in "triumphal procession" with the body of bin laden on view for all the world to see?

4. Is the picture a way of visually making President Obama a "national hero"? Under the presidential watch of Clinton and Bush such a conquest never happened.

5. Is the picture a means of "finessing" the continuation of waterboarding as a means of securing information from political prisoners (it is alleged the information helpful in locating bin laden came from an informant who underwent the tortuous waterboarding)?

I am not certain of why this is such a hotly-debated issue. What I ponder this morning is the truth of Hebrews 9:27, "...man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment..."

The judgment for every unrepentant sinner--including me--is eternal death, "The wages of sin is death", Romans 3:23. Usama bin laden is dead and God's judgment awaits him, as it awaits any of us who reject Christ.

Bin Laden is dead; I don't need to see the picture of his corpse. I am simply reminded that life is short and how we live it has eternal consequences.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I have been writing my blog for several years and I often receive comments regarding it. Only eight have successfully responded on line and several have suggested it is difficult to access this site. Would you help me? If you read this blog, would you try to send a message acknowledging that you read it...the address is daleb@suttercreek.com for my blog. I am in the process of determining what changes to make in how/where to make it more accessible and your response will help!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here comes the sun...

I awakened this morning to something wonderful and beautiful...a tinge of blue sky. At 5:50 a.m. the sun was just beginning to lift its yellow head above the all-too familiar fluffy grey clouds, now almost gone.

By the time I had showered, watched a few minutes of dark news, and had encouraging morning devotions with my wife, I could hardly wait to venture outside to be greeted by what was now a vibrant blue sky.

It was then I knew I would have a good day...or, at least, I felt like having a good day.

The day is now sixteen hours old and I have been at my office for almost nine hours--all of them inside my office, only slightly exposed to the sun. I just talked to my wife who has been working in the yard and I asked, "Is it still sunny?" She reported happily that it was, and with renewed vigor I have purposed to finish this mid-afternoon reflection as quickly as possible so I can get home...to the sun.

So what's the big deal about the sun? After all, we live in "sunny California" except for the fact we have had 170% of normal rainfall this year accompanied by its formidable clouds and residual greyness. Blue skies and sunlit days have been infrequent.

I am not complaining or whining. I know we need the water after ten years of reported relative drought and reduced water in nearby lakes and reservoirs. And the lush green hills have been magnified exponentially because of the abundance of rain, providing a breath-taking backdrop for Amador County's real estate.

But, for me, the bright sun lifts my spirits. Blue sky lightens my mood. Spring is in the air. New growth is vibrant all around me.

The truth is...the sun was always there, even though it was obscured by grey sky and a cloudy overcast canopy. I just couldn't see it.

As a beliver my mood is often darkened when I can't see Jesus anywhere on the scene. I know He must be there--He promised to never leave me or forsake me--but His face is shrouded by the greyness of life's challenges and shielded from me by my own darkened faith.

I thankful for each glimpse of the Son, for those moments lighten my mood and lift my spirits even when I have spent nine hours in my office.

Here comes the sun...I am stepping out of my office into its late afternoon glow and already I feel better.

Friday, April 15, 2011

It is April 15th and I have spent the last two weeks working on a series for the resurrection season. The second part of my three part series on “Jesus, the Suffering Servant King”, has me literally marinating in the events surrounding Jesus’ death.

I wanted to catch a fresh glimpse of the passion of Christ; I have watched the film, “The Passion of Christ”, in past years and been deeply moved by the visual images portrayed. This year, however, I wanted to be contemplative, read the scriptural accounts in all of the gospels and imagine in my mind how it might have been. Additionally, I chose this year to research the work of several prominent doctors who discussed the mechanics of Jesus’ suffering and death so that I might have a deeper understanding of the physical pain he endured for me.

Beverly had minor foot surgery during this time and so part of my studying was done at home. I remarked to her on several occasions, “I can hardly do this because it is so painful”. Just to read about the horror of crucifixion was at times more than I could process.

But what struck me the most was a poignant memory from about twenty-two years ago when my father died suddenly of a heart attack. Due to a conflagration of events with nearby family members, no one from our family was with him when he died. For me, that was—and is-- the most sad memory I carry from his tragic premature death. My dad loved people, and he especially loved his family, and from his initial heart attack to the second one that took his life, we know from the doctors he was conscious, and we lament the fact that he was separated from his family. My father was a man of strong faith and I know in those moments he was comforted by the assurance and the presence of God.

But what strikes me as the greatest part of the passion of Christ was the absence of His Father as He died. The Garden of Gethsemane exposes us to the depths of His own anguish with His own words, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” in Matthew 27:38 and Luke’s observations of His praying there, “and being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground”, Luke 23:44.

The greatest witness to His suffering are the words that Matthew 27:46 and Mark15:34 record, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Two things capture my attention. (1) It is first time in the gospels the only time that Jesus fails to address His heavenly Father as “Father”. (2) In spite of the abandonment He feels in this moment, He still addresses His heavenly Father as “My God”.

The theological implications of this moment are spelled out in II Corinthians 5:21 when Paul observes, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” Comprehending what this means for me practically is overwhelming. I am sinful, deserving of death. Jesus was sinless, undeserving of death. Because of love---and in obedience to His Father-s will—Jesus willingly died in my place. He paid the price for my sin—a sinless sacrifice--and satisfied the wrath of a holy God who hates sin. Because of that singular act, I am saved from eternal death and ushered into the hope of eternal life.

It is no wonder that Paul writes in I Corinthians 6:19,20, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Missions Conference Extraordinaire

April 1-3 was a weekend I had been waiting for! Missions conference...a favorite time of the year for me. Advertise a missions conference in many places and attendance drops and regulars take a break. Missionaries on furlough (home from the field to rest and raise support) report small crowds and little offerings. Tight financial times and unmet church budgeted needs often mean missionaries go without why churches struggle to make the mortgage payment on their facilities.

Gilbert Jules, a missionary pastor and church builder from Port au Prince, Haiti; Dean and Heidi Selden, directors of Operation Uplift in Westcliffe, Colorado--a summer ministry outdoors that challenges high schoolers to authentic Christian living; and Luke and Becca Voight, headed under SIM to Malawi, Africa to minister to children and teens through soccer and the gospel--these were our special guests.

And special they were. In every way. In their passion. In their presentation. In the power of their lives--called and committed in service to God.

Our missions menu included someone prepping young people for God's call, a young couple heeding God's call, and a veteran missionary obeying God's call through service to Him. The whole gamut of missions was present and we were challenged to acknowledge God's blessings with thanksgiving and to observe God's purpose for us in stepping out in missionary service to Him--both here and abroad.

I felt waves of emotion all week. I am Luke and Becca's pastor; I have known Dean since he was three eyars old and I have had the privilege of working with Gilbert in Haiti. I have a special relationship with all of these missionaries and feel humble and blessed to serve along side them.

An old saying resonating in my ears this week--"If God calls you to be a missionary, don't stoop to eb a king".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

tragedy in aruba

We just spent seven wonderful days in Aruba with good friends enjoying white sandy beaches and snorkeling in crystal blue water. When we weren't exploring the beauty of the island, we enjoyed moonlit dinners on the beach and sleeping in the next morning (for us that would be 8 a.m...a true luxury!) All in all, it was a week to remember.

But not only for the fun and relaxation...but for the tragedy of a life ended suddenly and, from our limited point of view, prematurely.

My I-Phone carried the cryptic message on its face, ""Jeanette's dad died today..." Jeanette is my son Jeff's wonderful wife, and her dad, was Bob. Bob was fifty-eight years old and got sick one evening and fifteen hours later was gone. That quickly, without warning, the victim of a virulent infection that cut short his life. We loved Bob and Patty, Jeanette's parents, and almost always saw them on our visits to Dallas. We had something in common--Bob and Patty had pastored churches for many years, though Bob was now doing secular work--as well as our grandson, JJ, who Bob and Patty adored (he was their only grandchild).

"Trapped" in Aruba we could not get home to be with my son and his family and to share in Bob's funeral. It was a difficult time.

So how do we cope with such tragedies? How do we make sense of such a loss?

I am convinced after forty-five years as a pastor and also several years as a Hospice chaplain, there are no simple answers. Here are some things I do know.

1. God is sovereign and He knows the beginning from the end.

2. We are not insulated from traqedy in this world; Bob's death was a tragedy, but he had trusted in Christ for salvation so we are comforted to know that he is with the Lord.

3. God promises to give us grace and strength to walk through the "valley of the shadow of death"; He promises to not give us more than we can bear with his strength.

4. We may never know "why?" something happens, which presupposes a cause and effect relationship between who we are and what happens to us. We are told in the Bible that the "rain falls on the just and the unjust", so that our character does not determine whether or not we escape tragedy.

5. We are promised that God always has our ultimate good in mind, whatever the circumstances in life we experience, and, ultimately, God's purpose is to prepare us for eternity with Him.

Bob's death was a tragedy. Our being in Aruba unable to get to the States to be with our family seemed to us tragic as well. Patty, left without a husband; Jeanette without a father; JJ withour a grandpa--tragic losses, to be sure.

But I am comforted again--in the midst of tragedy--by the certainty of the promises of God's Word in Psalm 103:15-17,to which I have often turned and directed others for comfort.
"As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;
The wind blows over it, and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlastingf
the Lord's love is with those who fear Him..."

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"A Steadfast Heart"

I have been reading Psalm 108 the last few weeks and have been drawn to the words in verse 1 where David testifies, “My heart is steadfast…” The Hebrew derivation of the word “kun” for “steadfast” has the meaning of being established, firm, set in place and secure—and prepared.

In the context of this Psalm David looks at the potential confrontation with his enemy and makes several observations. (1) Have you rejected us, God? (2) Will you go with us to battle? His conclusion in verse 12 is this, “Give us aid against the enemy for the help of man is worthless. With God we will gain the victory and He will trample down our enemies…” (see verses 10,11)

Working backwards, David begins this Psalm by purposing to “sing and make music with all my (his) soul” because of God’s great love and faithfulness to him (see verses 1-4). He proceeds to recount God’s record of having declared His sovereign control over all in verses 6-9.

The other thing I have observed up close this week that has equally impacted me is the commitment of Luke and Becca Voight who are preparing to leave for Malawi in a few months. We recently invited them to our care group—Beverly and I had already enjoyed a lunch presentation with them—so we were hearing their heart for ministry a second time. I was impressed with the fact that they are leaving family behind (including two sets of grandparents to Lizee), choosing native village housing (without all of the amenities to which we are accustomed), going to learn a new language, and literally divesting themselves of all of their earthly goods via a garage sale before their departure—and all of this, as a matter if excited obedience to the call of God to serve Him in spreading the gospel.

How does that relate to David’s testimony “My heart is steadfast…”? What’s ion focus is my own occasional descent into worry and complaining. David is facing a huge challenge but he keeps a “steadfast heart” in the midst of anticipating what lays ahead. Luke and Becca, facing an uncertain future with less than ideal circumstances demonstrate a “steadfast heart”, fully confident of God’s call and His promised provision.

In the end David proclaims, “With God we will gain the victory…”, and contextually, we can assume, he means that in spite of the size of the enemy’s challenge. For Luke and Becca there is a fearlessness that is steeped in the knowledge of God’s promises and God’s provision, and nothing the enemy may set before them will deter them from their ministry.
My prayer is that God will give me a “steadfast heart”. These are troubling days—the trauma of the Middle East that already touches us, the terror of our country’s economic mess and the related social unrest. Here and abroad there is reason for concern…even fear.

Except for God—the God who led David to victory over the enemies, the God who goes before Luke and Becca in Malawi—and the God who we can trust to see us through the challenge of what is before us today. Lord, give us “steadfast hearts”.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


"Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our consciences, but shouts in our pain. It's His megaphone towards a deaf world", C.S.Lewis

Leprosy victims die ultimately not because of their leprosy--but because their nerve endings are no longer responsive to pain; as a result, a leper may step on glass, get an infection and never know it. My twin brother has diabetes and resultant neuropathy, resulting in no sensation in his left foot. A deep foot wound, of which he was unaware, resulted in a year-long infection and ultimate amputation of a toe. He could not feel the pain that would have signaled trouble.

We are experiencing pain as a nation. It is a good thing because it signals we must do something, or the resultant infection could spread disastrously and result in our decay and, ultimately, our demise.

*We are in pain because we have overspent on self-indulgent pursuits and are now reaping the whirlwind.

*We are in pain because we ignored an inflationary bubble that burst--just as we knew it would--and inundated us with reality.

*We are in pain because our moral license has produced a generation of dishonest politicians, greedy financiers and compromised public servants.

*We are in pain because the fragile peace held taut by dictators and despots is now being challenged and overturned with more frightening alternatives.

*We are in pain because we are bankrupt and the cost of financial restructure is more than we are willing to pay.

*We are in pain because we have mistaken material prosperity for personal happiness, and the benefits are as fleeting as yesterday's property values.

*We are in pain because we have foolishly exchanged our faith in God and our commitment to an meaningful work ethic for the alluring gods of governmental provision and subsidized pensions.

*We are in pain because we have mistaken the difference between "equalitarian" and egalitarian, and the lack of distinction has led to unbridled entitlements.

*We are in pain because we have allowed marriage--the basic unit of our societal structure--to be redefined by a bellicose minority, leaving in our trail an uncertain confused generation.

*We are in pain because we have ignored the dissonant shouts for substantive change and have substituted the temporary fix of cosmetic anesthetics.

We can walk away like the unsuspecting leper, and proceed as if there is no cause for pain...or we can heed the screaming pain of a body under viral attack, and act courageously, no matter what the cost. It might be ewcruciating...but it could be a matter of life or death.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blog update

Problem fixed. E-mail address is daleb@suttercreek.com. Hope to hear from you...don't give up on me because site has been down and not operational for comments. Anxious to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

My blog

My blog needs to be reconfigured so that people can respond--currently, there is a glitch that keeps responses form being posted. My apologies. I keep hearing about people who are looking sat the site but unable to log a comment. Work in progress.

Friday, February 04, 2011

an exercise in futility: undoing what's done

I voluntarily confronted a misunderstanding from my past this last week--a situation that I thought I had handled correctly but have since discovered was, for the other person, unresolved and an apparent source of bitterness.

It started with a facebook recognition on my part, and then a search for an address, and, ultimately, a letter written to "check in" and to see how we were now doing, many years later. What I received in return was an angry letter, filled with vitriol and bitterness, and laced with hurtful accusations about my handling of the situation in question. The party had pretty much decided to write me off as a Christian imposter, an untrustworthy friend, and a poor excuse for a pastor.

When things like this happen, it is difficult not to adopt a defensive posture and to, I think, carefully seek to evaluate the behavior in question. As I look back, there are things I would do differently now, but in the moment, I responded (I think) in an appropriate way. But that is clearly not the issue--I failed this person, fell short of their expectations, and have forfeited any kind of standing I might have had with them as a fellow believer, friend and pastor.

I responded to the letter apologetically, repeating my desire to so whatever I could to make the situation right. However, I fear the obvious--what was done cannot be undone. And it may be an exercise in futility to continue to try to pursue reconciliation.

Except that I must obey God.

Romans 12:16 tell us to "live in harmony with one another" and verse 18 adds, "If it is possible. as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

I feel compelled to do that, with no promise of my desired end of reconciliation, but, hopefully, with the confidence of an obedient heart.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

the advantages of getting older

I will turn 63 this month and move ever-closer to the generally-accepted birthday of retirement--65. I have been thinking reluctantly about what that will look like and am becoming convinced there are some serious advantages to getting older, in spite of the recurrent discordant echoes I hear of the "golden years" not being so golden...

*I seem to learn faster. The old saying--"Experience may be the best teacher but it is the msot expensive"--has merit to which I can attest. I have less time left to learn and so I am intentionally doing it more quickly, and less relucantly.

*I have new bifocals but, surprisingly, I see things better than I ever have. I look a little more deliberately and stop to focus with greater clarity on what's going on around me.

*I don't run like I used to but I walk more and find the process more exhilarating than the fast-paced exercise done on a track with a stop watch or on a treadmill with the televison blaring. The outdoors invigorates me no matter what my pace is.

*I don't enjoy the buffet line any more where I used to stuff myself until I was sick. I eat less...and do the once unthinkable--split a meal with my wife. I used to live to eat and now it's more about eating to live. (A double cheeseburger at In and Out Burger still hits the spot!)

*As a teenager I couldn't wait to get out of the house; now I treasure the times I drive the 60 miles to Stockton to visit my mother, now almost eighty-seven years old. I also have eleven grandchildren (and six children) who I can't see enough to satisfy my deepest desires.

Another advantage of getting older is a heightened appreciation of each day. With a hopefully-calculated more than two-thirds of my life lived, I recognize the value of a phone call to a family member, a quick getaway with my wife, a shared family vacation, an evening with special friends, an afternoon with a book in hand and the sound of the ocean in the background...

But the greatest benefit of all is founded on the fundamental hope I have about where this all ends--or begins--depending on your theology or philosophy of life. I called on an 87 uyear old man this morning as a part of my work as a Hospice chaplain, prayed with him (he was in a coma) and visited with his family. Just a few minutes ago I was told he had died. How quickly it ends...or begins. My faith is built on the conviction that God has made us for eternity, and because I have trusted in Him for salvation, the benefit of that is eternal life with him.

The advantages of getting older include all the above...and the promise--that eternity with a God who made us and loves us-- awaits us. I am 63...but better things are ahead!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A new year always makes me think of “new” things, i.e. what are some things we are looking forward to at Grace in 2011? This verse grabbed my attention this morning.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

The context of this psalm is David’s testimony of God’s rescue of him from difficult circumstances—“He lifted me out of the slimy pit , out of the mud and mire”—and his new found place as a result—“…he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand”.

But what I like best from the passage is the last part of verse 3 that suggests (a) others are watching him and (b) his response to God’s work will have an impact upon them—they will fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. Our response to adversity can be a catalyst for to others reaching out to God.

I want to sing a “new song” this year—one that will cause others to take a fresh look at a God who rescues us and puts us in a new place where we can stand confidently in Him. Here are some of the verses of the “new song” I hope we’ll sing together at Grace!

1. Verse 1
“Lord, we worship you and raise our voices gladly,
Instead of sitting quietly in church and Sunday looking sadly.”

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

2. Verse 2
"Lord, we bring our offerings and sacrificially seek to live,
Instead of grimacing with pain every time we give.

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

3. Verse 3
“Lord, we embrace with joy the gift you given us to share
Instead of seeing it a burdensome cross, too heavy for us to bear.”

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

4. Verse 4
“Lord, we open our eyes to respond to our brother in need
Instead of closing them to focus on our own foolish, selfish greed.”

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

5. Verse 5
“Lord, we welcome the opportunities you call for us to pray
Instead of neglecting them, allowing our hearts to stray.”

CHROUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

Thursday, January 06, 2011

new year notions

The word notion has several related definitions including (a) a general understanding; (b) vague or imperfect conception or idea of something; (c) an opinion, view or belief; a fanciful or foolish idea.

Here are some new year's notions. I will let you decide which categorical definition they fit best with of those above.

*I have this notion that "new" is a hopeful word, when, in fact, it may signal only the perpetuation of what already is in motion.

*I have a notion that a "year" is a long time, but my experience retrospectively is that is passes all too quickly.

*I have a notion that the celebration orchestrated at the beginning of a "new year", generally for many accompanied by anebriation and synthetically-induced euphoria, is a temporary mask for the anticipated pain of unresolved problems.

*I have this notion that "new year" is only a calendar moment, and contains no introduction of "newness" unless some determined force is put into operation.

*I have a notion that we have a natural inclination to long for something "new", and that the hope of that is somehow mystically nurtured by the movement from December 31st to January 1st.

*I have this notion that soon enough "new year's" resolutions--the expected January activity of those hopeful for change--are soon abandoned, some as early as January 2nd.

A new year is here. If "newness" is simply the expectation of another calendar movement, all things will probably remain pretty mucha s is...or worse.

But if a new year signals a fresh calendar coupled with new resolve, new disicpline, new energy--and for me as a believer in Christ, a new hope--then the climate for change may be more than just a foolish notion. It may actually result in something new and good.