Thursday, July 10, 2014

Update on Haiti

Several exciting things are happening in Haiti and they reflect the burgeoning needs we confront as we work there.

*Our Marriage Seminar in February brought 400 pastors and wives to consider what a godly marriage looked like.  One pastor's wife commented, "My husband came home and apologized for the way he had been treating me and promised to change."

*In February we were challenged by a small orhpanage housed in tents and have since, due to the vision of Nancy Stevens, begun to raise funds for a building where 25 of these children are currently staying under the direction of Mrs. Dorcely.

*In May we ministered to 350 pastors in Port au Prince and Les Cayes utilizing the text books our support team helped to purchase--"Basic Bible Doctrine.  This is a critical class in helping our pastors understand the fundamentals of the faith as revealed in the Word.

*In July a group of 19 from Grace Fellowship Church including nine teens will travel to Haiti to hold Vacation Bible School classes for over 1000 children; additionally, Wendy Chadwick, director of The Bridge, will spend time evaluating a program that currently matches 46 students form the school at Carrefourpoy with church families.

*In August, a seminar training teachers will be offered in Port au Prince as well as a teaching class on the book of Acts.  Doug and Nancy Stevens are spearheading this effort.

*In November Logan Carnell and I will return to finish the second half of Basic Bible Doctrine; after this, only one class remains for our students to complete--Homiletics--in May, 2015, prior to graduation.

It's a huge challenge to meet the needs of our Haitian brothers and sisters.  Our primary focus remains training pastors to lead and guide their congregations to the true help and hope we find in Christ.  For more information, contact me at

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

winning and losing and losing

I am an SF Giant's fan.  A fair weather fan, I guess.

They have lost 10 of their last 13  and most of those to lower echelon teams.  I am tired of watching them; in fact, my patience grows thin as I watch them either not pitch or not hit or both.

They started the season with a  soft whimper that crescendoed to a loud roar.  I loved watching them and applauded their better-than-expected fortunes that watched them climb to a 42-21 record, the best in the majors.  Since then, reality has set in.

And I don't want to watch any more.

I wonder as I sit and mope in my office/bedroom as they are losing badly again to a bad team, how it would be if God was a fair weather fan of mine--if He only showed up to applaud my occasional victories and disappeared at my recurrent defeats.

God is a more than fair weather fan of mine.  He is my advocate, my counselor, my Great Physician, my constant friend.

He's not like me.

Maybe I will figure it out.  Until then I'm in my office.

Friday, April 11, 2014

once a pastor, always a pastor

I have been retired from the pastoral ministry for over a year now.  It ha s been a much more difficult transition than I envisioned.  I have been engaging in some self-talk (I suppose people wonder why I am talking to myself...) and asking, "Why?"  "Isn't this what you wanted?"  "Isn't this how you felt God was directing your life path?"  The answer to both of those questions is a resounding "yes".  I would add without hesitation that not for a moment have I ever felt I made the wrong decision.

Still, it has been difficult.  And I guess, in the final analysis, after forty-six years of being a pastor, it is "painfully" true--once a pastor, always a pastor.  I think it's mostly the things I miss, like...

Preaching and teaching--I prayed, prepared and looked forward to the task of sharing the Word of God every Sunday morning and nothing gave me a greater sense of fulfillment than standing in the pulpit--fearful though the responsibility was--and proclaiming the truth of God's Word.

Staff meetings--I loved the guys (and ladies) I worked with.  We were a team and each of them contributed something special to my life.  Having just shared in a memorial service for our former pastor to senior adults, i was reminded of how many good times of fellowship and deep friendship we as a staff shared together.

Work days--I enjoyed working shoulder-to-shoulder with the men of the church.  There is something about getting your hands dirty and breaking a sweat that creates a bond with your brothers-in-Christ. We spent a lot of hours together building a facility and maintaining the grounds, and I personally enjoyed that.

Crisis visitation and counseling--I was drawn to the "fellowship of suffering", recognizing that deep attachments are formed in the valley of suffering and even death.  It was in those times of coming alongside those in need with the comfort and counsel of the Word that I felt the presence of God most real.

Worship and music--I loved our music and every Sunday morning Beverly and I came early for a sneak preview of the music for the morning.  It was always a special time for both of us and we were doubly-blessed, because we heard it several times.  There was a comfort zone with out worship leader and our worship teams that I miss.

Yes, there are some things I don't miss--I am glad I am not in charge, that I don't have to make key decisions, that I can go home at night and be truly done with my work, and that my phone rings less.

But I miss the pastoral ministry that gave me such joy for so many years.

Before anyone feels sorry for me, let me assure you that we attend a great church pastored by my stepson.  He's even let me preach, and recently, I concluded a ten part series on "Commitment: The VOW Factor in Marriage" for an adult SS elective.  I am doing referral pastoral counseling for the church pastors and enjoying a Growth Group in which we participate.  I have had some mentoring opportunities as well, so we remain committed to ministry.

And sometimes, even for a moment, I still feel like a pastor.

Thursday, March 20, 2014


I awakened today to an unexplained sense of uneasiness.  Where did it come from?  Why did it assault me in the early uncomplicated hours of the morning?  Why did it leave me feeling nauseous and almost, for a moment, panicky?

It is several hours later and a sense of calm has come over me.  I have been reflective in between counseling appointments and have made several observations about my morning demeanor.

1.  I am uneasy because I am worried.  I am worried about things over which I have zero control.  How foolish is that?

2.  I am uneasy because I have two close friends in critical physical condition and
 I am fearful for them.  Both are believers and both are at peace with God.  What is this "third party" fearfulness?

3.  I am uneasy because I am stuck with how to deal with some issues of personal discipline that are haunting me.  Why did I eat so many late night snacks...again?  What about my blood sugar numbers do I need to remember when I am careless?

4.  I am uneasy because I don't like some emotional hurts I am still harboring.  It pains me to see me unable--unwilling--to release hurt and disappointment to the Lord when generally I have done this more easily.  What's the point in not releasing these?  How am I helped by continuing to rehearse them?

5.  I am uneasy because my car is all of a sudden costing me a significant amount of money. More today after already spending big bucks this week.  I have the money, so why am I groaning after eight years of owning this car and never before having to spend any money except for basic maintenance?

I can figure this all out in my head, but my flesh clamors for my emotional engagement in these areas, no matter how counter-productive it may be.

I bowed my head this morning and prayed.  "God, you know my needs, you know me.  You know my heart is to trust you even when my flesh lags behind.  I give my uneasiness to you and ask for your peace this moment.  Thank you, Lord."

I am ready for another counseling appointment.  They may have issues of uneasiness to process as well.  I know the answer...

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Missions and me

We attended our first missionary conference at our new church home this last week.  The emphasis was on understanding the Islamic faith and identifying effective ways for sharing our faith.  We enjoyed the opportunities we had to listen to stories from faithful missionaries to Muslims around the world.

For the first time in a long time I was not the pastor in charge of promoting the conference; I was a participant, a layman, a listener.  It was a new place for me to be in many ways.  The challenge as a pastor was to try to figure out how the message of missions could be translated to lay people in such a  way that they would be more than spectators.  I never felt that we accomplished that as well as I would have liked.

What I remembered today was this--a burden for the lost is something God places in our hearts.  John tells us that as believers it is impossible to see our brother in need and NOT respond...IF the love of  Christ dwells within us.  See I John 3:16,17.  Although the context  is physical needs, it is impossible to not make the connection to spiritual needs.  

Missions conferences can help us visualize the plight of people around the world in a dramatic way--but only a life indwelt by the Holy Spirit can respond with Christ-like love for the plight of those who desperately need Him.

Such love motivates action.  My question from the conference--"What am I doing to fulfill God's commission to help carry the gospel to the world?"

I am thinking about it; what about you?

Thursday, February 20, 2014


I recently completed Calvin Miller's book, THE VANISHING EVANGELICAL.  Miller died before the book was published and it was his last salvo directed at a  church he grieved as being in its death throes.

The book is not light reading.  Miller seems a lot caustic in his criticism of the mega church movement and what he calls the emergence of "jumbotron".  He is not unfairly judgmental, but his wide-sweeping condemnation is painful when applied to many popular televangelists and authors who have "contributed" to the current evangelical movement.

Miller suggests that the mega church movement has been caught up in the corporate lifestyle and philosophy of "doing business" and though its goal of reaching more with the gospel may be valid, the "stripped down" version contrived to make the gospel more marketable has diminished the evangelical movement and its potential for impact on our culture.

Enough's a good read and a call to us as individuals to think about what God has called us to individually as believers and collectively, as His body--the church.  

Here's how I was affected by what I read...

1.  I attend a church of about 1000-1200 pastored by my stepson.  The church is growing and getting ready to move to three services.  How can they (we) guard against the temptation to accommodate a growing number by re-shaping the message?  Fortunately, I can attest to the rigid determined stance of my pastor against the "dumbing down" of the gospel.

2.  I am a retired pastor and I am continually asking God what my role is in this season of my life.  I am an evangelical--and I am committed to affirming the essential elements of the gospel creed while at the same time looking for opportunities to share it with others.  I am looking right now for someone to disciple.

Read the book.  Don't be discouraged.  Resist the temptation to be absorbed by our culture and another unwitting member of the vanishing evangelical crowd.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

A "day off"

Tomorrow I have a "day off".

Currently, there is nothing on my calendar and Bev and I have determined that nothing shall invade or "corrupt" our coveted "day off".

A "day off" is new jargon in my new world.  In my former work place there was an expectation that I would take time off but more often than not, being a self-confessed "workaholic", I worked even on my "day off". It became a joke around the house about which phone call I would answer and which "emergency" I would respond to.  It was not the church's fault; it was all on me.

With my semi-retired status I am discovering the joy of a "day off" but acknowledging, as well, the opportunity to answer three questions relevant to my stewardship of this gift-- How can I glorify God? How can I serve my wife?  How can I enjoy myself?

I am not sure about tomorrow's agenda--Bev says we can't have one--but I am confident this gift from God will be used wisely and we will return to the regimen of life with renewed energy and purpose.

Take a "day off"...and enjoy it!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

My sphere of influence

I keep thinking about the people I rub shoulders with every day.
  Do they know Christ?
  What's going on in their lives?
  Can I say something that will make a difference in their day?
  How can I show Christ to them?
  Am I willing to be involved in a relationship with them if that is required?

Being semi-retired, my life looks a lot different.  There is this new thing called "discretionary time".  Don't get me wrong.  The common disclaimer--"I'm busier now than I was when I was working full-time" has crossed my mind more than once.

But only for a moment.  The reality is I no longer work every day and my sixty hour work weeks look more like twenty hour weeks.  That's a lot more time for which to be accountable as I see it.

Not that I need to account for every minute, nor do I need to fill every moment with activity and responsibility.  But I do get to make choices about the use of my time that are new and exciting for me.

So back to the opening paragraph.  These are the questions I've been grappling with now that I am no longer a senior pastor with a reimbursed job description--as it were--that provided a platform for me to do the Lord's work.

I am also being influenced by a book on Discipleship by Jim Putman and the intentionality of it.  God called me to be a disciple and to make disciples, and that calling has not changed as I have moved from clergy (that's a high brow word) to the laity.

Following Bible study today to men approached me about meeting with them individually for coffee. I think God may be opening the doors of opportunity for me once again.

How about your sphere of influence?  Dare to ask the important questions...

Thursday, January 16, 2014


For seventeen years Amador County was my home...and a good one, at that.

I had a great fulfilling job, a wonderful group of friends, a beautiful home, family nearby...and the beauty of the surrounding area--from the towering mountains and snow of Lake Tahoe to the vineyards and rolling hills of the Shenandoah Valley.

I have missed my home and all of the memories associated with it.

But recently I have begun to feel at home in San Luis Obispo County.  There are a lot of reasons for that, including, two sons (and their wives), eight grandchildren, the Pacific Ocean, Grace SLO Church, and the general beauty of the area, even though the hills are brown--not green--due to the drought we are experiencing.

I am also slowly building my counseling business, and, recently, began teaching a SS Marriage Seminar and attending a church growth group.  I am getting involved at church and beginning to meet the wonderful people of our new church family.

And, we are making friends; we have discovered that is a challenging process because we have special friendships that we have made in Amador County that we will always hold close to our hearts and treasure--and those friendships may be enough.  But God is leading new people into our lives as well.

We are thankful.

We attended Grace Fellowship Church a few weeks ago and were warmly-received.  We saw my family over the holidays and celebrated the Christmas season together.  We "oohed" and "awed" at the residual fall colors still present in Amador County (the seasons are less conspicuous on the Central Coast).  And I felt a little sad when we headed home.

But I knew...I was heading home.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Pain and Suffering

Three factors, seemingly unrelated, have converged in my life and are giving me pause to reflect at the outset of this new year.

1.  I have been reading WALKING WITH GOD THROUGH PAIN AND SUFFERING by Tim Keller, one of my favorite authors.  His sensitive and scholarly approach to a  difficult subject have challenged me to carefully rethink how I deal with those I counsel who are experiencing suffering.

2.  Some friends gave Beverly and me two cds with the testimony of Darlene Rose--"I Will Never Leave Thee"--a former missionary who suffered greatly and is now with the Lord.  Her words of courage and confidence literally "blew me away".  I can't think of any other words to accurately describe my response as I listened intently driving home from Northern California after Christmas.

3.  My dear friend, Joel, was diagnosed two days ago with a large brain tumor, probably malignant, and he faces surgery and chemo in the upcoming days.  Joel is married and has two young sons--he is about forty and just beginning a new ministry--and now he is facing, perhaps, the greatest challenge of his young life.  His trust in God is unshaken and we are believing God for His strength, grace and healing in the days ahead.

Pain and suffering are everywhere I look.  In my own life I have had comparatively little of either but in what I have experienced God's grace has been more than enough to get through. The "bonus" is that there are some lessons I have learned in those times that have been life-changing.  I am not sure I would have learned them any other way.

I recommend the book, and I encourage listening to Darlene's vibrant testimony.  I ask you, as well, to join with me in prayer for Joel and his family as they journey through these difficult days.  Most of all, if you're going through a  time of pain and suffering, my prayer is that you will remember--as God is reminding me--that His Son suffered for us, that He understands our suffering.  I pray, too, that you will discover His promised grace and help.  Hebrews 4:16.