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June 2017

The Right Thing

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Maybe Spike Lee was on to something, painting a cinematic portrait of a collective of no-win ambiguities and then asking the rhetorical question, "What do we do?"

He left the answer for the name of the movie, "Do the right thing. "

" Blessed are they who observe justice,

who do righteousness at all times!"

- Psalm 106:3, ESV


We may not always know what the right thing is, but Jesus said that to seek God's kingdom and the intrinsic "rightness" of it would lead to blessing.

The psalmist knew the same reality.

Seek it and do it.


When it was time to make a choice, 
Oskar Schindler knew the right thing to do.

And he did it.


Tootsie Goes Astray - You must click the link to read the story! #hens

So, I am working at my desk in my home office and there is an awful racket at the front door. It sounds like one of the hens, but they have never ventured to the front before.
Yet, there at the door, looking lost, is Tootsie calling for help.
"Please answer, squawk, squawk, squawk."
Somehow, she had separated from her sister, Viola and wandered off her beaten path.
I escorted her, though she was somewhat resistant and agitated, back to the backyard. As soon as she recognized where she was, she calmed down.
Viola was located in the pen area, happily eating, drinking, and wondering what all the fuss was about.
They are now back to being inseparable and following each other around the yard eating seeds, leaves, and whatever they can steal from my garden.
We are all much happier now.

When You've Nothing to Say

Writers Block

What do you write, when you've nothing to say?

You write, "I've got nothing. That is all for this day."

Then you pause and you wait and you sit and you stare.

And you wonder aloud, "Is there anything there?"

And if not, after time, you just walk away.

After all, when you started, you had nothing to say.

But take note, in the process of just saying naught.

You took up the challenge against silence and fought.

You really said something, if only to muse

On the subject of nothing and that lit your fuse.

Put your hands on the keyboard and your eyes on the screen.

Whatever the outcome, you'll have said what you mean.

And it may surprise you when something pops out.

And you'll press the "Send" button with a smile and a shout!

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Three Probing Questions


Three questions

Jesus inserts a probe into the deep places of our hearts whenever he asks searching questions. Even the most practical interrogatives cause a pause that is sharp enough to penetrate our motives, thoughts, and fears.

He asks the questions we are ultimately asking ourselves but find difficult to face.

Luke 8 records three of them:

"Where is your faith?" (v 25) - What do you really believe? How profoundly do you believe it? How does what you believe drive you, define you, and shape you? Is your faith transferable between the changing circumstances of your life? Is it immune to revision when it is challenged or stretched by hardship? Just because the boat you are in is riding the storm and death is a possibility, does not mean that any enduring and ultimate truth has changed - only your questions. His remains the same: Where is your faith?

Jesus asked this question of his friends who were suffering through storms outside of themselves.

"What is your name?" (v 30) - Is it "Legion" because you are many and are tormented by discordant and destructive voices within your soul?  Do you know your name - your authentic name? Do you really know who you are - the 'you' you were meant to be, full of wonder, potential, and joyous grace?  Have you come to peace with yourself as one who is beloved of God and called to a life of purpose or are you living among the tombs, flailing and beating yourself without mercy?

Jesus asked this question of a man whose storms were within him, who had not known a moment of peace for years.

"Who touched me?" (v 45) - You cannot remain anonymous to Jesus. He wants you to hear the question and know that He knows that power has gone out of Him to you whenever you reach to touch the hem of His garment. Do you think He does not notice you, that He does not care, that you cannot reach Him? A woman whose body had failed her for a long, long time was desperate enough to hope for healing. Later a group of mourners would reach out for one last tidbit of hope for a little girl who had slipped into the grip of death. To the woman, He would say, "Your faith has made you well." To the little girl, He would say, "Little girl, arise."

Who touched me? That is the question of knowing of His knowledge. It is the question that opens our eyes to the reality that in our loneliest circumstances, we are never truly alone.

Some storms attack our bodies and ours alone and isolate us. Jesus see, hears, feels, and knows.

These are the questions that are posed to us today? In some ways, they are all about the first. If we know where our faith is, we can know who we are and that we have touched Him who has the power to still the storms or see us through.

By What Authority?

By what authority
“By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”

The church is part of a brand new order in God's Kingdom where human authority is not required to legitimize its message and deeds. It is neither required nor desired, recognized nor sought. It is a strange and wonderful movement where everything is turned upside down in order to land right side up. It scandalizes our notions of worthiness when the prostitutes and tax collectors enter before the religious folks who ask for authority and legitimacy from the world and honor from the religious institutions that title them. God, let us be the sons that do what you tell us to do and don't just talk about it and posture ourselves for position.

"And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.""

“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him."

(Matthew 21:23-32 ESV)

Are we there yet
Where are we?

We are right where we started.

We live in a world of ambiguity and confusion, a world of tension and hostility, and a world of lust and desire. We share a common humanity with every broken soul on this planet.

We are bearers of good news, prophets of repentance, messengers of grace, candles of light, purveyors of hope, and children of God. We are sent into the world to be different. Our spiritual forefathers took on the burden of strange and complex restrictions in order to be different, holy, and unique. Some wore identifying clothing. Many took marks upon the most personal anatomical features in order to be set apart.

The church, likewise, spiritually marked, is set apart. We do not fit in, but there is a place for all enter in and find a fit.

The covenant of walking with God in the community of His church is a hard and demanding one. It does not always fit the culture or make rational sense. The Head of the church invites you to come and learn of Him and to take His yoke upon you. He does not rush you or coerce you. He does not demean you malign you. But He will remake you and ...

If you choose to follow and continue to follow, He will ask of you some things that make you ask, "Why Lord?"

Where are we? Not where we used to be and, yet, exactly where we've always been - different, set apart, and called to holiness.

We are constantly being called back to the basic essence of scripture to seek God and His ways. We are constantly challenged to rethink our assumptions and reaffirm our core commitments. We are constantly provoked to peel away the layers of commentary and application of our religious culture and traditions and find God's instructions and revelations in a new world that is becoming newer and older every day.

Is this this or is it that?

We will always ask about this or that, but we must be grounded in something that is neither this nor that, but OTHER, Wholly Other!

We are always going back in order to start over.

Don't worry about it. It is the same God in a different setting.

Peace the Way We Work and Grow

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." - Matthew 5:9

That is what He said and what He meant. It may be more than an end of war, but that is part of it.

We are reaping what we have sown. The U.S. and Russia are now at peace with each other, but the weapons we invented and developed are now in the hands of terrorists and rogue nations.

That seems to be what we were making weapons for.

I love the longing expressed here by John Denver.

It is to that basic, intrinsic longing that the Prince of Peace speaks and to which we are called to speak and act as people of peace.





"... and they were all amazed at the greatness of God. " - Luke 9:44

It is not difficult to grasp how so much of this is un-graspable.
What rests in our hands is unclasp-able.
What lands upon our hearts is unfathomable.
But we see and hear and experience enough to to amazed ...
and out of that, to be engulfed in a sea of wonder where we ...
can sink ...
or swim ...
...and be carried along,
I choose amazement on the path to faith,
and faith on the path to wherever faith leads.

Forgiveness and Grace

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Two years ago, we were confronted with an outpouring of forgiveness as a church and community expressed their grief and grace over an unthinkable act of hatred, terrorism, racism, sin and violence. Twenty four months later, the lesson still calls us to reflection. We cannot tolerate these motives or the actions that they evoke. Where does forgiveness enter the equation?

Forgiveness is a scandal. Forgiveness is irrational. It is out of balance, disproportionate, beyond our capacity, humanly unjust, and controversial ... and very, very real, liberating, and healing. It is always premature and it is always timely.

God forgives you. He does not excuse you or your deeds. He forgives you. He does not force you to accept forgiveness, but He does not cease to offer it.

Society may not forgive. Rational people may not. History may not. The justice system may not. But God does and God's people do as they open the channel of giving and receiving it in their own hearts.

The magnitude of the offense is not nor ever is the issue. Your remorse is not the issue. Deterrence is not the issue. There is no issue. This is beyond issues.

The only issue is the issue of blood from the hands, feet, and side of Jesus.

"Father, forgive THEM..."

It cost God to forgive. It costs God to forgive. To maintain truth and justice while extending mercy can tear at the heart of humans and of God. To be angry and to sin not is tough. But bitterness and hatred are tougher and more toxic.

God invites and equips us to do the same as He does. We cannot demand it of others or of God for ourselves or anyone. But when He enables us to give it, we receive more than we give.

It also costs us to receive forgiveness because it implies that we know we need to receive it and makes us vulnerable at levels that evoke it from us. It strips us bare and hangs our lives on crosses.

Sometimes it may be too early to talk about it because one must process what it is that is being forgiven. Yet, here is the scandal. It was brought to bear upon us by the victims of a terrible atrocity recently and no one has the right to criticize them for it. What they did was because their primary identity was not their skin color that made them a target or their ideology or their victimology. They identified with the Forgiver.

A racist was confronted with a God who is no respecter of the arbitrary labels we assign to human being.

Those forgivers are first and foremost, children of God and, in forgiving, they declare that nothing can take that away from them. That is their dignity not their weakness.

I hear people marginalizing them, dismissing them, considering them weak, naive, or unsophisticated in understanding their own emotions. How condescending!

Argue the societal implications of forgiveness all you like. Discuss who is authorized to offer forgiveness. Theorize its repercussions. It does not matter.

The voices of those who cry out, however prematurely you think it is, speak of their character before God and much more, the GRACE and power of God in their lives. His love in them is stronger than hate and it is love that shall prevail.

Nothing in forgiveness negates justice. Nothing minimizes indignation. In fact it fires up indignation at anything and everything less than God's love at work in the world and His justice lifting up every man, woman, boy, and girl.

I can only forgive the Boston Bomber or the Butcher of Charleston, or ISIS for the minimal effects of their crimes on me. Those who have suffered most and more have more to forgive and so many have.their witness inspires me to forgive the petty little offenses I have suffered with such boisterous protest.

If God forgives those who create the most horrific, massive, and public crimes,m how about you and me?

Why would we leave such a gift on the table?

Stephen, in Acts, led his accusers through long bible study and recounting of the grace of God at work in history and the response of the crowd was ...

... to pick up rocks and throw them at him until he died.

His response ... "God, don't put this on their account ..."


God forgives you and it is irrationally scandalous.

What are you going to do about it?

Another thought on personal forgiveness is that it allows us to move beyond localizing evil in one or two people so that we can fight the insidious systemic evil that gives birth to the individuals who carry it out. It is a form of corporate repentance , confession , and seeking for God. It also puts the one forgiven on notice that they have done wrong and the only way to wholeness and redemption is presented in the message of mercy, grace, and repentance.

Again the question, "What are you going to do about it?"


Your Faith Has Not Failed

Strengthen Your Brothers

"“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”"

(Luke 22:31-34 ESV)

Are you perplexed with this progression? Maybe so. Satan made demands. Jesus prayed. He prayed that Simon's faith would not fail, but he knew that Simon himself would fail. So he prayed that when Simon turned again, not if but when, he would strengthen his brothers. Simon protested he would not fail. Jesus said he would. It did not altar the hope, the expectation, or the reality of Jesus' prayer. He would also turn. His faith would not fail. His faith did not fail.

You have had, are having, and will have failures ... but it does not mean that your faith has failed.

It is your faith ... and the accompanying prayers of Jesus that are seeing you through, bringing you back, and ...

... preparing you to strengthen your brothers and sisters.

Some Quotes by Dag Hammarskjöld

Dag Hammarskjöld was a great diplomat, writer, thinker, and Christian. Among the many things he said and wrote are these words:

It is easy to be nice, even to an enemy - from lack of character.

The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.

What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden, but this: I have only my own burden to bear.

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.

In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.

To forgive oneself? No, that doesn't work: we have to be forgiven. But we can only believe this is possible if we ourselves can forgive.
Your body must become familiar with its death -- in all its possible forms and degrees -- as a self-evident, imminent, and emotionally neutral step on the way towards the goal you have found worthy of your life.

Life yields only to the conqueror. Never accept what can be gained by giving in. You will be living off stolen goods, and your muscles will atrophy.

Praise those of your critics for whom nothing is up to standard.

Your cravings as a human animal do not become a prayer just because it is God whom you ask to attend to them.

It is easy to be nice, even to an enemy - from lack of character.

The only kind of dignity which is genuine is that which is not diminished by the indifference of others.

What makes loneliness an anguish is not that I have no one to share my burden, but this: I have only my own burden to bear.

Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.

In our era, the road to holiness necessarily passes through the world of action.

To forgive oneself? No, that doesn't work: we have to be forgiven. But we can only believe this is possible if we ourselves can forgive.
Your body must become familiar with its death -- in all its possible forms and degrees -- as a self-evident, imminent, and emotionally neutral step on the way towards the goal you have found worthy of your life.

Life yields only to the conqueror. Never accept what can be gained by giving in. You will be living off stolen goods, and your muscles will atrophy.

Praise those of your critics for whom nothing is up to standard.

Your cravings as a human animal do not become a prayer just because it is God whom you ask to attend to them.

Trespasser Strike

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I was returning from a conference at night last year on an Amtrak train.

Without warning the train came to a standstill about 15 miles from our destination station.

"We have had a trespasser strike," the conductor announced.

It is interesting how we word things.

Words can frame our thinking, smooth over the rough edges of reality, and divert our sympathies while dulling our revulsion to the mental vision of unspeakable tragedy.

We stopped on the edge of Fresno in lock down mode for about 2 hours.

Some poor soul apparently was hit by a train up ahead. The curious euphemism for it seemed to calm the sensibilities of the passengers but did not interject universal patience. They were being inconvenienced while the "proper authorities" investigated and scraped up the remnants of a shattered and splattered life.

Watching the various reactions and responses of my train mates was as curious as the nomenclature.

I got a cup of coffee. had things to do. I was sad for the tragedy, but I have lived too many days and seen too many horrible things to be swept away by the stress inside the train.

I went about my work and then, I needed to stretch. So I walked the isles talking with whoever would talk.

I came upon an elderly lady who had a positive countenance that emanated from her and infected those around her.

"What shall we do?"

"We could sing."

"What shall we sing?"

It does not matter who said what. I do not remember. I only know that this is how the conversation progressed until she suggested,  "Row, Row, Row, Your Boat," and I started - boisterously enthusiastically. I think her seat mate joined in. No one else did.

We smiled and laughed and I moved on.

Finally, the train moved on as well.

At the station, I waited  for my wonderful, tired, patient wife who had been alerted to come later than she had planned. By now it was midnight.

It  had been a great conference followed by lots of travel time to process.

I reflected in my notes that one thing will help your patience level when traveling: Drop your expectations of arriving on time. Build in leeway. You will be late part of the time.

I commented for the world to see on social media, "Chill, dudes and dudetes. The young man reading Vonnegut across the isle from me did."

I did too, this time.

Someone had died that night. The rest of us were simply inconvenienced.

Someone had seen in happen while running the train and could not avoid it.

We simply had to wait.

We are all trespassing in this world and we ask the owner of all the forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

While we wait for whatever is next and whenever it will be, we make the best of the time.

That's what I remember, one year, and three tweets later.



From earlier in the trip:


I Just Don't Fit In --- GOOD!

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Have you ever felt that you just don't fit anywhere?


Have you ever felt conflicted with all the nice people around you whose views you just cannot buy wholesale? GOOD!

Have you every felt that there is no one ideology that describes you? That is good too. Even with your friends and family, you just can't seem to get completely adjust.

Does it seem like you just don't completely belong here?

YOU DON'T --- but you are here!

And while you are here, you can make a difference. If you are a Jesus Follower, as I am, you tend to filter every notion, cliche, issue, and nuance through that one basic commitment and ...

... and you feel unsettled ... disturbed ... conflicted ...


Keep on keeping on, but don't get too adjusted to this world.

"And I don't want to get adjusted to this world, to this world
I've got a home so much better
And I'm gonna go there sooner or later
And I don't want to get adjusted to this world, to this world"

 Iris Dement


Fear or No Fear


Fear-no fear
Recently, author and pastor, Josh Hunt mused, "Two of the most common commands in the Bible: 'Fear the Lord' and 'Do not fear.'"

It prompted a meditation.

We are attracted toward fear. Fear takes our breath away. We stand on the precipice of a canyon and gaze with wonder and appreciation. There is a beauty-fear connection which is, I think, the fear of the Lord. We synthesize our attraction and aching for authentic fear with roller coasters and horror movies.

This attraction points to something real and intrinsic - the need to stand dumb-struck in the presence of Anselm's "that than which nothing greater can be thought." When we confront that fear and are overwhelmed by it, we see that it is enveloped in love and grace.

Then, that essential, intrinsic fear casts out all fears and renders us fearless.



Life Lessons and Tools from a Salesman

Dads tools

My grandfather was a master, finish carpenter.  His son, my father, was not. He dabbled and actually had some very fine projects like a room addition and an attic conversion. He liked the idea of using tools to make toys and other things, but  it never really got off the ground. However, he possessed many life tools and he used them in the  profession of selling and the larger profession of living.

I found these 5 lessons from of my father while wandering through tweets I posted nine years ago. They are tools, among others from him, that I have adopted for life and work.

1. Shake off your old baggage. Dad overcame a lifetime of cultural prejudice to see all people as equal. That takes integrity.

2. Show regard and honor for people. Dad taught respect. We don't give it because people earn it, but because of who we are and who God made them to be.

3. Shoulder your responsibility and sometimes that of others. Dad taught  me be to be honest, to work hard and to remember that customers are always right - no matter how wrong they are.

4. Shine through. Dad had this sentimental side that could not be hidden by his sometimes gruff exterior. You are what you are. Let it shine.

5. Shake hands and make friends before you try to sell anything. Dad was a salesman, could sell anything and sold many different things. He could talk to anyone. I thought he knew everyone. He almost did.  His customers were his friends.

Where Are You Going?


In Psalm 66:12, The psalmist decla image from
res that God let men ride over their heads, that they, his people, went through fire and water, and then,

"you brought us to a place of abundance."

The simple question today is not about where you are, but about where are you going.

What is your place of abundance? What is it like? How wonderful is it? What is it worth to you? What would you sacrifice or face to arrive there? How vivid is it to you in your heart and mind?

Your answer to those questions of faith will regulate your capacity to over focus on the present and dwell in the challenges of the moment.

"Some through the fire, some through the flood,
Some through great trials,
But all through the blood,

Some through great trials, but God gives a song
In the night season and all the day long."

Keep on keeping on!



Good Morning Tonight and Tomorrow


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I have missed you.

That is what happens when I go silent. I miss you.

When I am silent, it is difficult to hear you breath or listen or respond.

I thought about you and wished you today what I wish for you tomorrow.

I wish for you all a day filled with extraordinary, audacious, and joyful success.

May it be extraordinary because we were never called to be merely ordinary. We were called, fashioned and equipped to do the one job no one else in the world can do: be ourselves under God in a world that needs the uniqueness we have to offer.

May it be audacious because audacity is that which is invulnerable to fear or intimidation. May nothing intimidate you on your path to greatness today. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. May your critics on the highway to mediocrity simply confirm in your heart that you are going the opposite and right way.

May it be joyful because joy is the culmination of a life of grace, gratitude, and generosity. If you can discover the secret of abiding an d overflowing joy in the midst of all circumstances, you will be a success indeed.

All the best to you today, tomorrow, and always.

Morning Worship - June 18, 2017

Cov Together

Follow the Service with this Playlist 



Scripture – Genesis 18:1-15   New International Version (NIV) How Father Abraham became a father to all of us!

The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant.”

“Very well,” they answered, “do as you say.”

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah. “Quick,” he said, “get three seahs of the finest flour and knead it and bake some bread.”

Then he ran to the herd and selected a choice, tender calf and gave it to a servant, who hurried to prepare it. He then brought some curds and milk and the calf that had been prepared, and set these before them. While they ate, he stood near them under a tree.

“Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Responsive Reading – Psalm 116:1-2, 12-19    New International Version (NIV)

Leader -  I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;

    he heard my cry for mercy.

Because he turned his ear to me,

    I will call on him as long as I live.

 Congregation - What shall I return to the Lord

    for all his goodness to me?

 Leader - I will lift up the cup of salvation

    and call on the name of the Lord.

 Congregation - I will fulfill my vows to the Lord

    in the presence of all his people.

 Leader -  Precious in the sight of the Lord

    is the death of his faithful servants.

 Congregation -  Truly I am your servant, Lord;

    I serve you just as my mother did;

    you have freed me from my chains.

 Leader -  I will sacrifice a thank offering to you

    and call on the name of the Lord.

 Congregation - I will fulfill my vows to the Lord

    in the presence of all his people,

 Leader -   in the courts of the house of the Lord—

    in your midst, Jerusalem.

 Congregation - Praise the Lord.

Songs of Praise

Give Me Jesus

In the morning when I rise,

in the morning when I rise,

in the morning when I rise,

give me Jesus.


Give me Jesus,

give me Jesus,

you may have all this world;

give me Jesus.

Dark midnight was my cry,

dark midnight way my cry,

dark midnight was my cry,

give me Jesus. [Refrain]

Oh, when I come to die,

oh, when I come to die,

oh, when I come to die,

give me Jesus. [Refrain]         

Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,

Weak and wounded, sick and sore!

Jesus ready stands to save you,

Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus.

He will embrace me in His arms.

In the arms of my dear Savior,

Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye thirsty,

Come and welcome.

God's free bounty, glorify.

True belief and true repentance,

Every grace that brings you nigh.

I will arise and go to Jesus.

He will embrace me in His arms.

In the arms of my dear Savior,

Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,

Lost and ruined by the fall.

If you tarry till you're better,

You will never come at all.

I will arise and go to Jesus.

He will embrace me in His arms.

In the arms of my dear Savior,

Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

Let not conscience make you linger,

Nor of fitness, fondly dream.

All the fitness He requireth

Is to feel your need of Him.

I will arise and go to Jesus.

He will embrace me in His arms.

In the arms of my dear Savior,

Oh, there are ten thousand charms.

I, the Lord of Earth and Sky – Here I Am

Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if You lead me.

I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,

I have borne my people's pain.

I have wept for love of them, They turn away.

I will break their hearts of stone,

Give them hearts for love alone.

I will speak My word to them

Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if You lead me.

I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame

I will tend the poor and lame.

I will set a feast for them,

My hand will save

Finest bread I will provide,

Till their hearts be satisfied.

I will give My life to them,

Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I, Lord?

I have heard You calling in the night.

I will go Lord, if You lead me.

I will hold Your people in my heart

All for Jesus

All for Jesus! all for Jesus!

All my being's ransom'd pow'rs;

All my thoughts and words and doings,

All my days and all my hours.

All for Jesus! all for Jesus!

All my days and all my hours.

Let my hands perform his bidding;

Let my feet run in his ways;

Let my eyes see Jesus only;

Let my lips speak forth his praise.

All for Jesus! all for Jesus!

Let my lips speak forth his praise.

Since my eyes were fixed on Jesus,

I've lost sight of all beside,--

So enchained my spirit's vision,

Looking at the crucified.

All for Jesus! all for Jesus!

All for Jesus, crucified!

Oh, what wonder! how amazing!

Jesus, glorious King of kings,

Deigns to call me his beloved,

Lets me rest beneath his wings.

All for Jesus! all for Jesus!

Resting now beneath his wings.

Prayer Time 

Gospel Reading and Sermon - As adopted members of God's family, we have been enlisted in His "family business" as ministers of redemption.

Matthew 9:35-10:8, New International Version (NIV)

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”

Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

 Scripture and Sermon from Epistles – Pastor Tom

 Our Covenant Together – Step One – Personal Conversion

        Romans 5:1-8, New International Version (NIV)

 What Has Happened to Us in Conversion?


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…

 Our response to the gospel is to BELIEVE IT and to RECEIVE IT.

We have been EXTENDED GRACE.

 … through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

 Grace BEGINS WITH GOD – Who He is, what He does, and how He relates to us.  Grace is appropriated be use because God EXTENDS IT freely and generously..

 We have EXPERIENCED A BAPTISM OF HOPE through the Holy Spirit.

 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.


 We have ENTERED INTO CHRIST and His life.

 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

We ENTER INTO HIS DEATH for us and for our sins, fully identifying with Him. He did, for us, what we could not do for ourselves because of His love.  We ENTER INTO HIS LIFE and for the rest of our lives, He is our Lord.



Demands and Dread


I faced a recent day with a mixture of excitement and dread. The excitement of anticipation came from the developing reality that the day was pregnant with possibilities and packed with responsibilities that I often relish, opportunities for good and for exercise of my gifts.

The dread emerged for the same reasons and the gap between the two extremes was that there was no gap. All gaps had been filled. The day was packed tight. I had not allowed processing time, down time, or preparation time.

I entered that day as I had prepared to do and cranked up my body’s engine knowing that it would run until bedtime.

I am not sure that "dread" is such a bad word. It is like the fear of the Lord, the beginning of wisdom, the fear that dispels all other fears and depletes them of their power. This dread is in the knowledge that the day will be demanding, awesome, and somewhat unknown.

How do we make this DREAD work for us in meeting the demands of my life each day?

D - Dependence - Everything about a demanding day points toward our dependence on some positive things - God, our teammates, our preparation, our inner resources, our conviction that what we are doing is true to our calling and must be done.

R - Reflection - That is what I did after the day and as I made notes that became this blog entry. We need to start before the day really begins. We build it in upfront or we die. I am way too busy not to read scripture and pray every morning. There are far too many demands on my life for me to hit the ground running thoughtlessly or haphazardly.

E - Eagerness - I am truly eager to embrace these demands because they are part of the reason I am on this planet. I was born to do the things I will do today and tomorrow. My dread is really more about what will be left undone, the things I must postpone, and the nagging suspicion that I am not quite ready. Eagerness allows me to embrace the wonder of what God will do in spite of and sometimes, because of my inadequacies.

A - Acceptance – Once the day has begun, I have just a few minutes to wrap things at home up, grab a shower, and get out of the house. The clock does not lie. The calendar is accurate. The day is what it is and things are scheduled. At any time, God can change everything, but for now, I accept that it is what it is.

D - Do It! - It is time to begin. I can wimp out or step up. If I wimp out, it will not be the first time, but it will also not be the last. It will make it easier to quit next time and that is something I ought to truly dread.  Just do it. Take a deep breath and step into the day with both feet.

As I will find pockets of rest, moments of refreshment, and much energy for whatever is demanded. Whenever I am caught up in the middle of my calling, I am renewed.

Summer and Winter

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“Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.” – Psalm 74:17

“In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.”

Christina Rossetti’s words are ever familiar whether spoken, read, or sung. The first verse is as lovely and descriptive of winter as it is predictive of the truth of Epiphany and the coming of the Magi.

“Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away

When He comes to reign.
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.”

Heaven could not hold Him, nor can the cold of winter freeze out the warmth of His love.

At any given time, someone is wishing for a season past, a season to come.

Different hemispheres experience these things differently. Different souls experience the seasons of their lives differently.

Some very good people are in the winter of their lives as I revise this original Christmas message.

I wrote most of this in January one year. It is now June and it is safe to assume that most all of the Christmas decorations have now come down. While it is no longer Christmastide, in some places it is winter. In fact, in some places, it is apt to remember the words of C.S. Lewis commenting on the place where it was always winter and never Christmas.  Depending on your perspective, it is either bleak or whimsical.

What it is not, and never is, is forsaken. Though all the colors fade and the warmth of the earth is sucked up by the winds of bitter weather, God brings His own unique beauty to creation and His warming fire to our souls. He makes all seasons beautiful to remind us that He is God, He is present, and He cannot be contained.


Pick your favorite or both.


Tongues of fire descended ...

and something individual happened.

Lighting upon each ...dividing ...

They united all in one Spirit.

A paradoxical contradiction connected multiple languages,traditions, and customs

into curious Oneness.

What could not be achieved by ingenuity,invention, or inquisitive cogitations became

Obvious in a Divine Moment.

One Divine Moment of Descent.

One Holy Moment of Movement.

One Direct Intervention of Eternal Fire.


Welcome Holy Spirit!

We welcome You!

The Long Shadow


Long shadow girl in mexico
We all cast a shadow in our lives and we all provide snapshots of ourselves in the lives of the people we meet that last long past the moment in which they were engraved upon our hearts and minds.

I wonder where this little girl is now and if that face is still full of wonder and joy.

I wonder if she remembers this moment when someone wanted to capture that face and I wonder if she knows how many people have been inspired in their moments by her moment.

I will certainly never forget her.

Shaggy Dog Prayers

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Is it conceivable that God would be angry at our prayers? Irritated? Perturbed? Cynical?

The psalmist thought so and prayed, "O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people's prayers?" (Psalm 80:4 ESV)

Honor context, please and hear  a reminder that this prayer was not rejected. In fact, it was accepted into the canon.

Were they disingenuous? Were they rote? Were they self-righteous, self-absorbed, or self-centered?

Were they religious mumbo-jumbo with no life engagement?

Psalm 80, is gut-level, gut-wrenching, gut-spilling honesty. God likes that.

Three times, he cries (actually sings),

" Restore us, O LORD God of hosts!
Let your face shine, that we may be saved!"
(Psalm 80:19 ESV)

He also says, "Hey, we are your people, your prize, your statement to the world. This is all about you!" (Very loose paraphrase)

God does not turn away from real prayer, though His silence and delays may be disturbing. He longs for our honest engagement and for us to pour out our hearts that He might fill them.

Every forlorn and desperate psalm is an invitation for us to come to God in very honest prayer.

Answering Critics


Skunk wrestling
Should a person always answer his or her critics?

It is our impulse. We might feel that silence implies vacillation, lack of courage, or unwillingness to engage.

Perhaps, sometimes, it does. At other times, it merely indicates a feeling that all has been said and a confidence that one has considered all the arguments and others have had the same opportunity.

Our old seminary professor was facing a barrage of criticism at one point in the form of mass mailing campaigns. Asked if he would respond, he sort of yawned and said , "No. I don't think so. If you wrestle with a skunk, even if you win, you lose."



Keeping Up with IVA

Be reaL

Integrity, Vulnerability, and Authenticity - IVA

Are you real? You know the answer, but the clincher is how people perceive you. Do you come across as real? If not, you are paying a high price because your credibility account is overdrawn in the minds of people over whom you wish to exercise influence. People have built in radar censors for character. Three qualities will not only help you become real in the perception of others, but in reality, itself.

Integrity is what you are when no one is looking. It is how your values, attitudes, and behaviors are integrated in your life. It is an invisible inner quality that always, ultimately, manifests itself outwardly.

Vulnerability is your willingness to let other people examine your life and test the quality of your consistency. It is your willingness to risk rejection and pain because you are confident in the core values of your life.

Authenticity is the result of the first two. it is what makes you unique and real. It is what verifies your claims and makes you a credible person that anyone would desire to deal with. Write me anytime. I would love to be an encouragement to you.

Keep up the good work and keep the dream alive!



Be a Builder

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The wise woman builds her house,  but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. - Proverbs 14:1

Are you a builder or a destroyer?

Some of us are on life's demolition crew and others are on the construction team. In the arena of development of people, community, businesses, and great initiatives, it is far better to take our cues from the wise woman who built her house than from the foolish one who tore it down.

After all, it is the house in which we all must live.

Here are some characteristics of BUILDERS

B = They have a well defined Basis for Life (foundation). We must start with a solid foundation for our lives.

He whose walk is upright fears the LORD ,  but he whose ways are devious despises him. - Proverbs 14:2

U = They have developed an effective Use of Tools - Words are our tools for building life.

A fool's talk brings a rod to his back, but the lips of the wise protect them. -Proverbs 14:3

I = They understand the required Investment necessary to build something great- Wise builders invest wisely in their growth. The ox pulls the plow that grows the wheat that is placed in the manger which gives him strength to plow. 

Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest. Proverbs 14:4

L= There is a clear and decisive Line (the Plumb-line of Truth) that originates from above and is grounded in the soil of reality.  Truth is like good measurements in construction.

A truthful witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies.  - Proverbs 14:5

D = They cultivate a capacity for Discernment of Truth - Builders are never cynical. Destroyers most always are. Yet, builders are not gullible either.

The mocker seeks wisdom and finds none, but knowledge comes easily to the discerning. Proverbs 14:6

E = They Exercise Discretion in personal associations. Builders surround themselves with builders. 

Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips. - Proverbs 14:7

R = They take Responsibility - Builders take personal responsibility for correcting their mistakes. Builders have no time for pointing fingers or making excuses There is something to be built. 

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.    Fools mock at making amends for sin, but goodwill is found among the upright. - Proverbs 148-9




One Thing I Have Asked

To ask, to seek, to dwell, to gaze, to inquire.
Mix them up, stir them around, or take them in reverse.
You could do them all at once.
You could take them in order.
It is a simple "ask" that ushers in a progression beyond asking.
That which is sought is He who is sought.
It is not a package of gifts, but a giver of gifts.
One thing.
One thing.
I ask and seek to dwell ...
that I may gaze and inquire ...
... and from there?

Limitless possibilities.

" One thing have I asked of the LORD,
that will I seek after:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to inquire in his temple."

(Psalm 27:4 ESV)

Seeking Savior

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“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” – Luke 19:10

This simple word from the Master answers the criticism of stale religionists that He was spending too much time with sinners.

“Of course I am” is His implied reply.

“That is why I came!”

The news is good for sinners and bad for those who fancy themselves above such a call.

First, for the sinner, touched by God’s grace, it is the assurance that something better awaits our lives, that we are not beyond the reach of the gospel, and that we can change. The Lord is entirely ready to remove our defects of character when we are entirely ready to have Him do so. He comes to our table as the friend of sinners and waits for our agreement with Him in prayer and for our humility in the asking.

He is our friend, but He wants to make us His friends through conversion. He is patient and compassionate and understands the frailty of our faith and commitment. He does not demand a great eruption of energy or resolve from us, but the humble act of petition through surrender. If we will present our lives to Him where we are and as we are, He can work a miracle of grace. Are you ready to ask?

Second, it’s bad news if we are complacent and self-assured, if we feel we are better than everyone else, or if we sense no responsibility for bearing the cross of a witness. He has sent us as the Father sent Him.

That means that our hearts must beat as His beats – for broken, wounded, and flawed people. It also means that when He sits at our table, it is not because we are worthy; it is because we too are needy and He came to seek and to save us as well. Humbling thought, isn't it?

Through Many Dangers

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“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft… In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren …”  - 2 Corinthians 11:23, 26

Dangers, toils, snares – the old apostle had known them all – and it wasn’t even the end of his journey when he reported these things. All of them compound in the journey of life. Looking back over the years, we can compile lists of such challenges. They can all be and all have been obstacles to progress in our faith, but it is dangers that throw most folks off course.

Why are dangers so dangerous to our growth? Perhaps it is because we are programmed to resist risk and conditioned to seek safety in false assurances and straw houses built on sifting sand.

Christianity is a dangerous calling. Our certainties have to do with ultimate concerns. Temporal circumstances may be as volatile and the weather and as ferocious as wild animals. We come through dangers because we are willing to face them with faith.

Pity the man or woman who shies away from every God-given calling and challenge because it might not be temporally safe. Sad is the Christian who confesses faith but lives in fear. Pathetic is the disciple who practices pain-avoidance as a creed for life. Tragic is the believer who never crosses into the adventure of radical discipleship because it takes him or her out of some flimsy comfort zone.

Read Paul’s list and realize that he still had a large part of the journey left ahead of him – not to mention the martyr’s death that awaited him in Rome. But it was through these he had come and he was still “safe” in Jesus Christ.

What is dangerous for you today? What are your crippling fears? Perhaps they are nothing more than the fear of rejection or embarrassment. Give your fears to the Lord and don’t miss the adventure. You will regret it if you do.

Choose Life

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“… I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life that both thou and thy seed may live.” Deuteronomy 30:19

Whatever happened to the cross? To the Romans it was merely another two pieces of wood that could be used again until wear and tear rendered them useless for their grotesque purpose. To the believer, they represented an intersection of time and eternity, death and life, hope and despair. The two timbers are for us, the symbols of a crossroads in our lives – a place of choice.

Life is a choice. That is part of the message of the resurrection. That is the message of repentance. That is what makes the gospel good news. We can choose to reject sin, death, and hopelessness and embrace life. We can make a binding, decision to embrace the future that God has planned for us. There is no darkness so deep the light of the resurrection cannot disintegrate it, but we must choose.

It is like A-B-C.

  1. We must Acknowledge that we have not always chosen life. In fact we have chosen the opposite. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and we have chosen all three. We have chosen wages because we so full of pride as to believe that we must earn everything that is coming to us when in fact we can only deserve condemnation in our own efforts. We have chosen sin because the comforts of pleasure and the familiarity of our rebellion is less threatening that trusting God with everything. As a result, we have chosen death over life.
  1. We must Believe. We must believe that some other choice is possible; that the message of Christ’s death and resurrection is real and that it is for us. We must believe that repentance is an option and a mandate and that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” We choose a gift we cannot earn or deserve, a relationship where He is Savor and Lord, and as a result, we choose life.
  1. We must Confess. Start today. At the first opportunity, confess before men and women that Jesus Christ is the Lord of your life, that you have chosen life over death, significance over meaninglessness, and hope over despair. Don’t wait; do it now.

Are You Sick of Christians?


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I know that some of you are sick of Christians. 

The pot is being stirred and there is a lot of spillage. The church is struggling with its identity in a rapidly changing world. Everyone, inside and outside, has an opinion - maybe more than one. Sometimes we are fighting the world. Sometimes we are fighting each other. Sometimes we put our collective feet in our mouths.

Sometimes I get sick of Christians.

Sometimes I get sick of myself.

Some conversations do not bring out the best in me.

It is hard to hang out with people who have more answers than questions. We sometimes make definitions of who is what  and codify those statements with really long and specific lists.

Sometimes I find it easier to relate to non-Christians who don't claim to have all the answers than to my brothers who are sure that they do.

"Are you biblical, traditional, emergent, liberal, conservative, seeker-sensitive, or what? Careful. Consult the list of criteria before answering."

"Pick a category. Hurry!"

I take Jesus' words, "Seek and ye shall find" to point toward an ongoing process of seeking and finding and seeking some more and finding some more and never being settled and done.

So I come to most conversations with a mixture of dogmatism and ambiguity, a tentative confidence grounded in solid faith, but flexible from the ground up.

I get frustrated with friends who want to finish every conversation with a hard and fast pronouncement. I want to say, "That tree is still alive and subject to quite a bit of movement as it grows upward."

What I know is that as it grows upward, its roots sink deeper - and that is what accounts for my peace and confidence.

If we put most of our focus on the roots without ignoring what is seen, we can do whatever it is we do with the branches of the trees with the rest of our time and energy.

It is the root of things that matters most and I see a lot of attention being given to leaves and bark.

Jesus said He was the vine; we were the branches; God handled the pruning; and our task was to abide.

I suppose I need to let Him handle the outgrowths that keep annoying and embarrassing me with their vehement pronouncements against anyone with whom they disagree or that they see as a threat to God. God has a pretty good track record of being able to take care of Himself.

Thank God He ignores ridiculous prayers where we presume to know who should live or die.

Maybe He chuckles at our assumptions that we must desperately rescue civilization so that his Kingdom will not die from our neglect. It is not that we are not called to engage, transform, influence, and preserve culture. It is a matter of balance and of seeing the larger Kingdom picture which includes thousands of years of chaotic world history and a big world that stretches far beyond our Western orientation.

It is not just the really obnoxious and grotesque examples of mean-spirited distortions of Christianity, but the more subtle things that bother me.

Everyone seems to know where things need to be pruned and I see a potentially lopsided bush forming. Many  Christians are just so sure of themselves and what they have "found" in their brief forays into seeking territory.

"We ought to do this and not that. We should be doing such an so. Everyone should stand up for this and against that and we all need to pull together and stand against sin and this is the sin we should be focusing on and isn't it awful that some people don't see it quite the way we do and don't you know that it is us against them and what we need is courage and courage is doing what I say you ought to be doing and please don't question it. And we have to get back to the Bible and these are the verses on which we should focus and this is how it should be done and don't forget to use the right words and slogans and we are right and everyone else is wrong and on and on and on."

So thank God that as much as it seems one party or another is setting God's agenda, He has not relinquished that prerogative to us. It really does not matter what we decide in our back and forth and circular conversations. God will do what God pleases and will continue to make all the definitions.

And God will prune and feed the vine and lead His servants and correct them when necessary and even use us in the process whenever He can trust us to love the sinner like He does.

Yes. I get sick of Christians sometimes - just people with the same personality quirks they would have if they were not Christians - people just as ornery as I am ( or less so because I have a big dose of it).

We get ticked off and opinionated and harsh and then we crash from time to time and ask a lot of questions and then we come back to center - but all the while, our roots are planted in the strong bedrock of God's grace and truth.

I get ticked off and harsh when I perceive people are ticked off and harsh and I judge judgmental people and I am just as human as the rest.

Jesus said He would not feel like spitting us out unless we went lukewarm. He can steer us when we are moving. He can guide us when we are seeking. He can change us when we stay open to change. He can bend us and mold us, and break the resistance of our hearts and He does.

Does Jesus get sick of Christians? When we just don't get it? When we act the same as the folks He was calling to repentance but with Bible verses to justify our rigidity and graceless living?

Maybe, but He doesn't give up. Surprisingly, He loves us passionately and is infinitely patient with us. He uses our crude attempts at service. He includes us in His purpose whether or not we get it.

I have not given up on the church because Jesus has not given up on the church or on me.

The Vinedresser has not retired.

The church has no corner on the market for dogmatism, rigidity, or critical judgments. Humanity is a common "disease" and a common blessing as well.

If I am ever sick of Christians, it is because they are my family and families get on each others nerves from time to time. I really love Christians and other people as well, but Christians are, with all their peccadilloes, my people and God's people. We are called to be peculiar and even odd. We are thrown together with our personality issues and commanded to "work it out" with God's help and guidance. We have to struggle and grow in our capacity for relationship. We march to a different drum and, in doing so, we don't flaunt it or push our weight around. That is the plan anyway.

Sometimes it works very well.

If you have time, watch this.

If you don't have time, set aside some and watch.

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"That's the Deal."

image from s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.comThe Pain Now is Part of the Happiness Then

"The boy chose safety. The man chooses suffering."

I was thumbing through "Shadowlands," a novel by Leonore Fleischer based on William Nicholson's stage play recounting the romance and tragedy of C.S. Lewis and  Joy Gresham.

The author places Lewis at his desk at the close of the book, reflecting, writing - perhaps writing his journal which would become, "A Grief Observed."

""Why love if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore, only the life I've lived. Twice in that life, I've been given a choice, as a boy and as a man. The boy chose safety. The man chooses suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal.""

"Jack Lewis  put his pen down and smiled, thinking of Joy. He wished he had read her these words, but never mind. Jack had a feeling she had heard them; she was never far from him now."

It is not pleasant to consider choosing suffering, but safety is no option at the cost of love.

"That's the deal."


See also: Brian Sibley: Through the Shadowlands: The Love Story of C. S. Lewis and Joy Davidman



Trinity Sunday Worship

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Trinity Sunday remembering the Great Commission

Luca Rossetti da Orta, The Holy Trinity', fresco, 1738-9, St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea 

Welcome to worship online at the Fellowship of Joy at 4141 Ministries.

Scripture – Genesis 1:1-2:4a




This Is My Father’s World

This is my Father's world,

And to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father's world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas--

His hand the wonders wrought.


This is my Father's world:

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker's praise.

This is my Father's world:

He shines in all that's fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.


This is my Father's world:

O let me ne'er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong,

God is the Ruler yet.

This is my Father's world:

Why should my heart be sad?

The Lord is King: let the heavens ring!

God reigns; let earth be glad!

 Responsive Reading - Psalm 8

Leader -  O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

Congregation - Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger.

Leader - When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established;

Congregation - what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?

Leader -  Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.

Congregation -  You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet,

Leader -  all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,

Congregation - May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works--

Leader -   the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

Congregation O LORD, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!


Songs of Praise

How Majestic

Oh Lord, our Lord, how majestic is

Your Name in all the earth! (Repeat)

Oh Lord, we praise Your Name.

Oh Lord, we magnify Your Name,

Prince of Peace, Mighty God,

Oh Lord, God Almighty.

-          Michael W. Smith

He's Everything to Me

In the stars, His handiwork I see.

On the wind, He speaks with majesty.

Though He ruleth over land and sea,

What is that to me?

I will celebrate nativity,

For it has a place in history.

Though He came to set His people free,

What is that to me?

'Til by faith I met Him face to face

 And I felt the wonder of His grace

 Then I knew that He was more

 Than just a God who didn't care

 That lived away out there

 And now He walks beside me day by day

 Ever watching o'er me lest I stray

 Helping me to find that narrow way

 He's ev'rything to me

- Ralph Carmichael

Ten Thousand Reasons – Bless the Lord

Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul

Worship His holy name

Sing like never before, oh my soul

I’ll worship Your holy name

The sun comes up, it’s a new day dawning.

It’s time to sing Your song again.

Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me,

Let me be singing when the evening comes

Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul

Worship His holy name

Sing like never before, oh my soul

I’ll worship Your holy name

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger.

Your name is great and Your heart is kind.

For all Your goodness, I will keep on singing.

10, 000 Reasons for my heart to find.

Bless the Lord, oh my soul, oh my soul

Worship His holy name

Sing like never before, oh my soul

I’ll worship Your holy name

-          Jonas Myrin and Matt Redman

Prayer Time

Children’s Story


Offering - Find your own way of bringing your offering of your self and your resources to God today. We will be joining with you on our campus as we give through the ministry of 4141 Ministries.


Gospel Reading and Sermon


Matthew 28:16-20, New International Version (NIV)

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”


Scripture and Sermon from Epistles

             Living Under the Great Commission

           2 Corinthians 13:11-13, New International Version (NIV)

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings. 


  1. We should live as a fellowship of joy (Rejoice).
  2. We should live as a community of restoration (Strive for full restoration)
  3. We should develop an atmosphere and culture of encouragement (encourage one another).
  4. We should grow in like-mindedness (be of one mind). This indicates a common purpose and a share ethos (common culture of the community)
  5. We should live in peace (live in peace).
  6. We should live under the benediction of God (And the God of love and peace will be with you).
  7. We should greet one another as family.  (Greet one another with a holy kiss. All God’s people here send their greetings).




Oh, to Soar!

Creep or soar

“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” – Psalm 55:6

It was November 21, 1783 in Paris, France.  Physicist Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes fulfilled the dreams of generations when they became the first humans to fly. Rising to a height of 3000 feet, they drifted for 25 minutes before landing 5 miles from where they started in a hot air balloon.

For as long as human memory has been recorded, men and women have admired the great birds of the sky and wondered what it would be like to soar above the clouds.

Helen Keller said, “One cannot consent to creep when one has an impulse to soar.”

The psalmist mused about the possibility of soaring above the cares of life, above his circumstances, and above his limitations until he came to a place of rest and fulfillment.

Soon after the Paris flight, ballooning became a popular recreation. Yet still today, it is cause for amazement and imagination. To fly away and see our little worlds below from the vantage of eternity is a longing that God has placed in our hearts. To rise above our impossibilities is a God-shaped and God-sized dream.

Where places a longing, God plants the possibility and the power within us. He has not made us to be ordinary, sedentary, or earth-bound.

He has made us to soar.



What Are You Learning?

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"Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories." ~John Wilmot

Any parent, worth his or her salt, will readily admit to ignorance on any number of subjects, especially parenting. It can be frightening when we consider the consequence for our children and the perpetual admonition to them to pay attention to us. We step back from overhearing them being told to do so and remember how many parental lessons we missed, ignored, or discarded along the way. How much easier would life have been if we had been mentally and emotionally present in the parental school of wisdom?

Homer doesn't make things easier when he remarks, "It behooves a father to be blameless if he expects his child to be."

Perfection eludes us and the quest for perfection haunts, us, but grace equips us to take the risks involved in doing our best and letting go of the rest. We are hard put to find all the right words or address all the critical issues in parenting.

Robert Fulghum landed squarely on the truth when he said, "Don't worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you."

Our children are always watching. It is up to them whether they will listen. That is their responsibility and capacity, especially as they grow old. It is also ours, who have grown older, not to forsake the wisdom of the past as no longer relevant.

Solomon wisely said,

"Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching. They will be a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck. " -Proverbs 1:8-9 NIV

He then enters an extended teaching about the dangers or rejecting that teaching and pursuing a life of riotous activity without regard to ethics and morality.

The bottom line is that you are more attractive, effective, and fulfilled if you take the time to learn what is being taught. And our children have a better shot at life if we take the time to teach them. Furthermore, we have a better chance of teaching them well if we revisit what we have been taught and take it to heart.

As a rock song from the 60s put it, "and the beat goes on."


Making a Living or a Difference


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We choose how we will spend our time. It is a commodity that is not renewable, but with proper stewardship, it can be maximized.

It is ironic, but true, that our decisions about expenditures of time will determine the quality of that time and the effectiveness of our lives. We can give our time in service and reap rich rewards. We can hoard our time and lose it forever.

We can live every moment or bide the hours and days until some moment of good fortune. We can embrace our daily work with joy and a desire to be productive or we can put in our time and just make a living.

We can choose to make a living or make a difference.

When we choose to make a difference, we tiptoe in expectancy, skip with anticipation, and dance with joy through every moment of our days, knowing that we have once chance to pass through that moment and leave the world positively different because of our presence.

If you are "trapped" in a job, liberate yourself by making it your mission of the moment and your launch pad to greater things. Use your time before and after work to create options, but your time at work to bloom where you are planted and make a difference in the world.

You are unique and wonderful. There is only one like you. Only you can accomplish what you have been placed here to do. only you can be what you are called to be.



Safe Thus Far

He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. - Psalm 40:2

 Grace Has Brought Me Safe Thus Far

I tread cautiously on the subject of safety, for safety is an ultimate value, not a temporal one. It is often misunderstood as the absence of danger or trouble or even risk. That is not the characteristic of the Christian life. Rather, Christianity promises ultimate safety and the safety of ultimate things. He has brought us, by His grace, through dangers, toils, and snares. These we have experienced fully and yet, safely, unscathed spiritually by external circumstances and with the confidence that His grace will lead us home to eternal safety.

And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those that served themselves of them. - Ezekiel 34:27

There is a time and a place for safety without ‘playing it safe” throughout life. It is grace, God’s grace that brings us to the safe place for He Himself is the rock of safety for our lives. The struggles are present to teach us the source of our strength. The hardships train us to know that He is the LORD. We have come this far to realize that we must trust Him for our deliverance.

I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety. 

The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD.  

 - Proverbs 21:31 and  Psalm 4:8

While we look for false and temporal assurances, we miss the full impact of what peace, sleep, and safety in Him really are. When we trust in what we can control, we falter.

Grace has brought us safe thus far. Nothing else could. We neither earned it nor deserved it. It was simply grace, unmerited favor toward unworthy human beings whom He happens to love passionately and unconditionally.

What a blessing to be counted among them.

Just Show Up


Show up
Just showing up.

Maria Shriver said this about her father Sargent Shriver, "He showed us how to show up in other people's lives."

What a gift - to be able to show up in other people's lives ... positively ... to make a difference ... to be the very presence of God for them like a spigot through which God's grace and love flow to people.



Tiny Choices

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This is a full day - But what day isn't?
We fill it with something ... usually a choice.
Always a choice?
Many choices?
Tiny, miniscule choices ... autonomic, preconditioned choices ...
Choices we have ceased to monitor.
Pellets of purpose converging, coalescing, cascading ...
Becoming bigger and bigger choices until...
We think/believe/accept ...
a LIE ---
That we have no choice and that our days are filled by
forces outside ourselves (a partial truth is still a lie).
So ... here is the deal ...
I need to make some tiny choices right now ...
So ... see you later.



Set Not Your Heart on Them

We've lived long enough to know that power can be stripped bare and become as lowly as the fleeting breath of the ordinary soul.

Power, wealth, position, and prestige are rather frail. The ability to buy favor will fade. Riches do not last. Major companies, power-brokers of influence, and empires turn to dust daily and file papers declaring themselves bankrupt. Trust in the power to extort will disappoint. Vain hope will devastate. Riches will fail.

Set not you hearts on them.

" Those of low estate are but a breath;
those of high estate are a delusion;
in the balances they go up;
they are together lighter than a breath.
Put no trust in extortion;
set no vain hopes on robbery;
if riches increase, set not your heart on them."

(Psalm 62:9-10 ESV)

A Reflection on Worship from Psalm 50

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The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.  - Psalm 50:10

The call to worship that resounds throughout history is an evangelistic call. It is a summons to recognize that God is Sovereign over all things and that He is worthy of our worship. But that message also recognizes and publishes the truth that fallen man can bring no offering that God can accept except as he or she has been cleansed by the loving, gracious, and merciful redemptive act of God Himself in Jesus Christ. God's love compels the worshiper to propagate the message of grace. God's passion for the lost to come into a loving and worshiping whole-life relationship with Him is the driving force of the mission of Christ and of the early church.  He will not be contained in temples made with hands, but has chosen to make sanctuaries of the human heart and declare that reasonable worship extends beyond recitations and prostration to the presentation of our bodies as living sacrifices.

Then, when we come to sing, kneel, bow, shout, and lift our hands, it is a continuation of whole-life worship, which include discipleship, evangelism, and ministry to hurting humanity. When the benediction is pronounced, there is no cessation of worship - only continuance at an even deeper level because we have been equipped, inspired, and sent forth.

The evangel declares:  

"Come, let us worship the Lord, for He alone is worthy. Come before Him all you people of His making, whose souls are restless until they rest in Him. He has loved you with an everlasting love and calls you into relationship with Him. Hear the truth and receive the Spirit. Come freely and without reservation for the table has been set. Jesus Himself, God's Son, is your host. He has blotted out all your sins by His own sacrificial death. Come, all you who are poor and feeble, who have no offering to bring to the altar; the price has been paid, the offering made. Bring only your sins and your selves. Come and receive mercy and grace. Come with thanksgiving. Come with tears. Come with laughter. Come, consecrate your lives to His praise and glory. Come; find reconciliation with God and with one another. Come, come, come.”

And so, the worshiping community invites to the world, constantly, fervently, and passionately to the assembly of praise for God's own sake and for the sake of them whom He loves so profoundly. The Son of Man came, not to be honored, but to seek and to save that which was lost. And so, He is worthy of all honor. Having emptied Himself for the mission, He has a Name that is above every name. All will bow; all will declare His Lordship - but God has expressed a decided preference that all come by grace rather than by ultimate coercion. He would far rather invite than demand. He will employ every persuasive means that might somehow touch the hearts of men and women. He will move upon His servants to become all things to all men so that by all means, some might be saved.

Unsearchable Greatness

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"Unsearchable greatness" means that there is no laboratory big enough, or any laboratory conditions vast enough, constant enough, nor sophisticated enough to fully evaluate, calculate, nor designate the "science of God."

The variable extend beyond our grasp. The constants are deeper than our ability to name them. God is greater than creation and the laws of the spiritual realms where He designs all that flows through His logos of truth are in intricately simple and simply complex.

In Him is the unifying theory of everything for which men of learning aspire to know, but none can grasp. We shall know ... in a moment as we are enveloped by it and consumed and refined in it.

For now, we simply stand in awe and gratitude that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory.

"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable." - Psalm 145:3


"The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made." - Psalm 14:9

There is a manifestation of goodness and mercy that comes to all and seeps through the cracks of every nation, tongue, culture, and search for truth. It cannot be avoided. It is stronger than our misconceptions. It is more pervasive than the weeds in your backyard and sometimes just as welcome. Ours is to let it have its way in us, to shape us, to re-form us, and to transform us from within. Goodness is moving toward you and around you today, my friend, God's goodness. Mercy is over you. Look and live! 


Turning Feet


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I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. “ Psalm 119:59

What can turn you around?

There is divine meeting place between you and God and you have an appointment to meet Him there. It is in that place at His appointed time where you take a long look at yourself in the light of His truth and you either walk away or experience a turning of your feet.

When have you last thought on your ways?

Introspection is unavoidable when we come regularly, honestly, and earnestly to the scriptures and read them with an open, seeking heart. We will think on our ways as we compare God’s expectations with our own attitudes and behavior.

Conviction is inevitable for real a Bible reader which is why some of us become Bible avoiders.

But our feet may be going the wrong way and they need to be turned. They need correction and we need the Word of God to bring that about in us through the power of the Holy Spirit.

I worry very little about the spiritual progress of those who are totally immersed in the scriptures. It is the sword of the Spirit and it pierces the hearts of all who encounter the Lord there. Jesus relied on that Word to overcome His own temptation and He often applied it to the situations he encountered daily.

The psalmist found urgency in the scriptures. The moment of conviction became the moment of turning: “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” (Verse 60)

To him, the precepts of God provided the safety net for his life:  “At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments. I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts. The earth, O LORD, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.” (Verses 62-64)

There are those among us who have grown disgruntled, stubborn, and unbelieving – especially concerning the possibility of change in their own attitudes, habits, and lives. Friend, if you are among that company of defeated Christians, there is hope and that hope is found in God’s Word. Read it; take it to heart; and allow it to turn your feet.

Comforting Word

Comfort in affliction

“Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me.” Psalm 119:49-50

God’s Word brings us life and in the gift of life, we find great hope and comfort in the midst of affliction.

Affliction is common to our humanity. It bears down upon us. It burdens us. It discourages us. It tempts us to lose focus and concentrate on our circumstances rather than the hope that is in us.

Hope runs dry in affliction and we need an infusion of new hope. That hope is found in the Word of God and brings great comfort to our souls and life to our spirits.

We feel so dead under the load of suffering. We feel alone and dismayed.

Comfort is the opposite of aloneness. The comforted one knows that someone has come alongside us and is consoling us in that deep way that companionship affords. God speaks to us and His words are words of hope.

We know it is God so we can believe what He says.

How do we know it is God?

Familiarity is the answer.

Having met him frequently in the pages of scripture and at the altar of prayer, we have come to recognize His voice and when He speaks, we know it is His assurance that is consoling us. It is His promise that is quickening us and restoring us to life.

We hear His comforting word and we sing, “Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage. “ (Verse 54)

A Introduction to Smiling

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Are you a novice to the habit of smiling. I will suggest a beginning exercise that may help. Not only will you feel better, but it pays well too.

S - Stretch your cheeks as far as they can go to the left and the right.

M - Make yourself hold that position.

I - Inhale, but hold your facial position.

L - Lighten up your stance by tensing and relaxing your muscles.

E - Enjoy the giggle that is now turning from a chuckle to a cackle.

Practice this process until it comes naturally. Maintaining the habit will not be nearly as challenging as starting. Others will reinforce it by smiling back and you will feel like a million dollars.

he advantages to smiling are both documented and anecdotal. 

From Net Doctor.

From Lifehack.

From Fast Company: How Smiling Changes Your Brain.

From a research perspective, take a look at this paper: The Memory Promoting Effect of Smiling in Face Cognition.

Can it be that smiling makes us smarter too?