Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Piers, Sharon and Howie are back with the sixth season of Americ'a Got Talent". The first evening has been a lot of fun. For sheer chutzpah and entertainment, even the bad acts make the opening rounds of AGT more entertaining than American Idol (although this year's AI with its new format and stellar performers had me been hooked when it got to the finals.  It's no secret that America's got talent!  In honor of this, I will be periodically featuring some of  that talent from the past.  This is one of the classic routines - performed by the Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello and others. But my favorite version was done by the inimitable Lucille Ball.

Monday, May 30, 2011


Corey Patterson's walk-off home run Saturday
Catcher Jonathan LeCroy mobbed by teammates after the daring suicide squeeze
The walk off is a game-ending play whereby the home team captures a one-run win from the visiting team. We are all familiar with the baseball sagas in movies and on TV where the hero (usually aging and/or unlikely) slams one out of the park with a 3-2 count to win the game, capture the pennant, win the girl, and capture the audience's heart in one mighty swing. There were at least five walk-offs in Saturday's Major League contests. One was a home run in the 14th inning by Corey Patterson that gave the Toronto Blue Jays a 9-8 14th inning victory over the Chicago White Sox.  But even more intriguing and perhaps more memorable was a bases-loaded suicide squeeze bunt by Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan LeCroy that snatched scraped out a 3-2 victory by that team over the San Francisco Giants.  It's why I love baseball!

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer. People head for the shore and the mountains the weekend before, or plan major picnics or home improvement projects. In my home community of Landisville and neighboring Salunga there are miles of yard sales up and down Main Street and Harrisburg Pike and many of the side streets that feed off of that route. This year Dianne and I escaped it all to head to the Shenandoah Valley for a little alone time before the commencement of a summer that may be as busy as winter and spring has been.  But I hope all of us take some time today to pause and pray and thank those countless service persons - veterans and those who continue to be in harm's way that do battle to preserve a tenuous freedom on a planet where the forces of extremism and autocracy and political lunacy keep our world from knowing genuine peace. Without the sacrifice of these dedicated citizen soldiers, we would sleep less securely at night and would find that the predators of the world would be destroying human liberty.  Thank you for your sacrifices.

Joplin, Missouri remains in our attention, as it should. This is the deadliest season for tornadoes since 1950.  Even as they finish the efforts to local survivors or missing persons who are now quite possibly dead, the citizens of that devastated community (and others like it) must begin the difficult work of rebuilding their communities and their shattered lives.  We continue to be a nation rich in benevolence and compassion.  That has been tapped heavily in the past year by places like Haiiti and Japan.  May we extend the same intentional and continuous assistance to our fellow citizens here in the US, as well.  One less Major League baseball ticket or new electronic device or day of vacation or an evening out on the town would provide a lot of resources to help alleviate the suffering of  those folks, and give them a foundation for new hope.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


I make no secret that baseball is one of the simple pleasures of life, even when my beloved Detroit Tigers are on one of their Dr. Jekyl and Mr Hyde swings from hot baseball to embarrassing baseball. Part of what I appreciate, too, are players who are candid about their lives, their failings and how their faith anchors them and/or brings them healing. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers has just returned from the disabled list to once again generate the AL pennant winners powerful offense. But even more powerful is Josh's testimony.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Massive destruction at hospital in Joplin MO
There are as few things in all of nature as fearsome as a tornado.  Sunday evening as many as 116 people died in Joplin MO as half-mile-wide tornado blasted much of this Missouri town off the map and slammed straight into its hospital.It was the nation's deadliest single tornado in nearly 60 years and the second major tornado disaster in less than a month.National Weather Service Director Jack Hayes said the storm was given a preliminary label as an EF4 — the second-highest rating given to twisters. The rating is assigned to storms based on the damage they cause. Winds reached 190-198 miles per hour. At times, it was three-quarters of a mile wide.

A new friend of mine, Pastor Derrick serves the Way Fellowship in Kansas City.  This is a new church plant of the Western Regional Conference of the Churches of God, General Conference.  In many ways it is an atypical church for those of you expecting stained glass and steeples and preachers who look like--well preachers.  But being a congregation on mission for Jesus, it believes in responding to human need, following God's prompting and going where people need a hand of compassion.  Here is a YouTube video  Pastor Derrick made as they responded almost immediately to this disaster.

  Pastor Derrick has been on the road tirelessly and sacrificially, part of the quiet army of volunteers who work alongside the FEMA workers and disaster relief crews.  They are the extra hands and feet and heart that often fills in the gaps.  Pastor Derrick wrote on Facebook Wednesday: "This week I have cried, hit my knees, hugged, kissed, embraced, asked why, shook my head in disbelief, held tight to faith, fed people, clothed people, prayed with people and loved people! It has been a long time since I felt this close to God!"

Since the first century, Christians have been on the ground bringing relief and hope where there are people in deep need.  Despite the criticism heaped upon the institutional church, God's people who are the church keep moving ans serving.  Thank you Pastor Derrick.  Even if people in Joplin never become a part of your church or any church; you have fulfilled the command of God, bringing God's light into the darkness.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Harold Campling captured a whole lot of air time and captured a heap of ridicule by daring to declare that Christ would return and the world as we know it would end on May 21st.  I am wondering how the people in his operational center are answering the phone today. Whoever is on duty is deeply devoted or a masochist.  Triumphant atheists, frightened parents, angry followers probably have the phones pretty well tied up. There are probably a few less anchor men, however, camped outside his door.  We’ve now been here for more than 30 hours since his predicted “end time” (unless he got it wrong by a few hours) and my prescheduled post will only be read by those Left Behind.
The tragedy is that many of us truly believe that Christ will return some day, exactly as he said he would.  Not that we’re in a hurry to escape or that we could care less about the planet.  We are just so in love with Christ that we long to meet Him face-to-face in His time. Mr. Campling’s insistence on rooting his claim on some obscure interpretation of the “codes” found in the Bible add to the tragedy.  There is no hidden knowledge to be unearthed by the super-intelligent or spiritually-enlightened.  The first century Gnostics tried to steal authentic and life-transforming Christianity by claiming such secrets.  Later Dan Brown would disturb a whole lot of people’s faith and confuse many genuine seekers by writing fiction purported to be history, essentially proposing more mystery than the Bible ever claims.

So a whole lot of people will stop expecting His returning and ridicule those of honest faith who are trying to prepare themselves and our world for that event.  I wish Mr. Campling had not been so unwise.  (If you wish to read an excellent reflection on this whole matter, go to this link from Timothy Dalrymple.  He says it very well.

Now Mr. Obama, who has frequently criticized his predecessor for taking on the autocrats and dictators of the Arab World, is taking on Bashur-al Asaad. “It is time for you to go.” It is a message he has also sent to Khadaffi and one he apparently quietly sent to Mubarak.  Mr. Obama has the benefit of taking on these dictators at a time when revolution is afoot in the Arab world.  Unlike Mr. Bush, who was dealing with a situation where all of these regimes had thoroughly repressed dissent and the tyrant he was taking on was threatening not simply his people, but his neighbors around the world. I wonder why we seem to be applauding Mr. Obama when we felt it necessary to demonize Mr. Bush. Nonetheless, I think that we do need to start telling these autocrats to free their people. Unfortunately, there are darker and more freedom-despising forces in the Arab world waiting to take their place.  Geopolitics is never simple.

In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the School District has announced that it is eliminating 25% of its teaching positions. And if they cannot balance their budget, there may be more cuts. Many of these teachers will be in the elementary schools, precisely the age where student-teacher ratios are critical to laying foundations for an educated lifetime. This scenario is being repeated throughout the state.  Only where teachers have accepted voluntary wage freezes has this momentum slowed a bit.  The situation was created in part by a failed economic stimulus package that did not produce a better economy, but then withdrew its incentives precisely when the economy was slowing (and thus reducing tax revenues to support the schools). In Pennsylvania it was precipitated by newly elected Governor Tom Corbett’s huge cuts in education funding for short-term fiscal and political peace but driving another nail in the coffin of competitive excellence by tying the hands of public education.  The ensuing crisis has pitted senior citizen vs parents, fixed incomes against families struggling to work and yet see that their children are educated.  A fine mess we  are in.

But in the midst of this, some words of hope.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


 About 60 days ago I was made aware of Mr. Camping's "campaign" when accosted by some his tribe while walking through the City Market in Lancaster. Since then I dealt with several people confused, disturbed, and in some cases, fearful because of this.  Michael Kelly shares this post and portions of an article from Albert Mohler that I found most helpful.  Rather than write my own response, I felt you should hear theirs, - Steve

 Judgment Day: May 21?

Did you know that the world will end on May 21?
Harold Camping says it is. Albert Mohler has some good background on Camping’s latest claims (part of a larger pattern of false teaching), and closes his article with some helpful reminders:

First, Christ specifically admonished his disciples not to claim such knowledge. In Acts 1:7, Jesus said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” In Matthew 24:36, Christ taught similarly: “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.”

To state the case plainly, these two verses explicitly forbid Christians to claim the knowledge of such dates and times. Jesus clearly taught that the Father has not revealed such dates and timing, but has reserved that knowledge for himself. It is an act of incredible presumptuousness to claim that a human knows such a date, or has determined God’s timing by any means.

Second, the Bible does not contain hidden codes that we are to find and decipher. The Bible has been given to us in order that we might know the truth, and the truth is clearly revealed in its pages. We are not to look for hidden patterns of words, numbers, dates, or anything else. The Bible’s message is plain and requires no mathematical computation for its understanding. The claim that one has found a hidden code or system in the Bible is an insult to the Bible as the Word of God.

Third, Christians are indeed to be looking for Christ to return and seeking to be found faithful when Christ comes. We are not to draw a line in history and set a date, but we are to be about the Father’s business, sharing the Gospel and living faithful Christian lives. We are not to sit on rooftops like the Millerites, waiting for Christ’s return. We are to be busy doing what Christ has commanded us to do.

In Hebrews 9:28, we are taught that Christ will come a second time “to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.” That is the faithful Christian response to the New Testament teachings about Christ’s coming. The church is not to be arrogantly setting dates, but instead to be eagerly waiting for him. Of that we can be truly certain.

 For more from MICHAEL KELLY ....

Monday, May 16, 2011


I am a sucker for photos of classic cars and colorful flowers.  I came across a delightful blog called WEEKEND WANDERINGS.  WordPress calls it one the top photography blogs. These photos will tell you why. This blog is worth visiting over and over.

I’ve begun subscribing to a great blog called FORWARD PROGRESS.  Written by Michael Kelly, a Christian from Nashville, the blog is subtitled “Faith is putting one foot in front of the other.” This post under “Weekends are for Kids” reminded me of what I felt when my darling daughters were born.

Dear Little Girl:
You are four years old now. That’s hard for me to believe, but time marches on. Today I will get to see the same thing that has never failed to brighten my day and make my heart feel so full: your beautiful smile and your happy giggle.

I admit, Andi, it’s been interesting for me to learn about little girls with you. And I have learned a few things along these four years:

- Anything that has pink on it is acceptable in your world.
- Dresses are clearly better than pants, regardless of the weather outside.
- Dolls should be kissed good night in the same fashion as bigger little girls.
- Little girls are safe with daddy.

It is this last point, Andi, that I take very seriously because to the best of my knowledge, you really believe that. It means the world to me, and I will try like mad for the rest of my life to never give you cause to believe otherwise. At the same time, it is my hope that in this coming year you grow more and more to realize that real safety can only be found in the arms of God as your Father.

You have done so many things this year that I’m proud of, Andi. I love to hear you say the verses you’ve memorized, especially when you quote Psalm 1. I know some of the words are hard to say, but you keep trying. You have learned to brush your teeth each night and you know how to sort your allowance into “Give, Save, Need and Spend.” You continue to learn how to love and appreciate your brothers even when they play a little too rough.

I could not be happier to be your daddy. You are God’s gift to me and Mommy, and we are very fond of you. I pray for you this year to grow in your understanding that what you do is really a reflection of what’s going on in your heart and that you will begin to feel the Lord’s touch there, too, as you learn more and more what the gospel means.

Thank you for being you -

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


I am about to share another WEB SITINGS post, but I felt this one from Tammie Gitt should not wait.

I’ve been holding this post for awhile for no particular reason. Today, as the death of Osama bin Laden covers the news, it seems appropriate to post it in honor of the first responders of 9/11 and the first responders everyday who risk their lives to save ours. My deepest appreciation to you all.

My dad has had a scanner ever since I can remember. It’s tones and the voices of the dispatcher have become a strange sort of emergency soundtrack to my life. To be honest, I don’t notice it in any real, conscious manner anymore.

Unless the tones go off in the middle of the night when I’m knee-deep in insomnia once again.

Then I start to think of everyone else who’s awake now.

There’s the volunteer fireman who doesn’t have time to shake off sleep as he reaches for his coat and boots. He leans over to kiss his wife, who is stirring slightly at the sudden activity, and softly says, “Fire down near the Smith’s place. Be home soon. Love ya.”

She murmurs a response, but she’s wide awake by the time the door clicks in place behind him. House fires are dangerous. Walls can collapse. Ceilings can cave in. She stays in bed, but she doesn’t sleep.

The Red Cross volunteer isn’t sleeping either. She reaches in the refrigerator for a Diet Coke as she heads out the door. There’s no time to make coffee, but she’ll need the caffeine to get through the next few hours of caring for the family who is right now watching their home go up in smoke.

And then, there’s the Jones family. One minute they’re asleep in their beds. The next they hear the shrill shriek of the smoke alarm. They escape the house quickly, wearing only their pajamas. They run across the street where Mr. Jones pounds on the door and rings the bell in desperation.

The sudden noise wakes Mr. Smith from a deep sleep. He can tell by the urgent pounding that something’s terribly wrong. As he glances out the bay window on the way to the front door, he sees the glow in the sky and sprints to the door. Of course, you can use my phone. Let me find you some blankets. Here, Joe, take my coat. I can get a new one.

Seconds before and seconds after I hear those tones in the safety of my bed, dozens – maybe up to a hundred or more depending on the severity of the fire – lives turned upside down either temporarily or permanently. I breathe out a prayer for the safety of the firefighters and for the family.

And I thank God my only problem right now is a little lost sleep.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


The Christian Church has taken a lot of hits in recent years.  People in our culture tend to be suspicious even hostile towards Christianity as an organized religion.  With more and more people in our nation who have no significant Christian roots and with little or no contact with authentic disciples of Jesus Christ, the labels of 'judgmental" and "hypocritical" are easily and somewhat casually pinned on the Church.

The Vienna Presbyterian Church may force some persons to pause in their contempt and rethink what happens when people truly live as biblical Christians.  Several years ago a student ministry staffer was dismissed for sexual misconduct and later convicted for contributing to the delinquency of minors. This process began in 2005.  There were many painful conversations but little more substantive action by the church.  No significant help was provided for the students whose lives had been affected by the youth pastor.

In 2009 Vienna Presbyterian's elders began to look again at what went wrong.  In March of this year, the church's pastor acknowledged in a sermon that the leadership "became aware that we were not caring adequately for the victims of (youth director's) abuse."  The church had set up a ministry to help these persons, but as part of the process made the decision to acknowledge its failings, apologize to the victims, and publicly commit to their care.

Pastor Peter James spoke in a public worship gathering to the victims: "We, as church leaders, were part of the harm in failing to extend the compassion and mercy that you needed. Some of you felt uncared for, neglected and even blamed in this church, I am truly sorry ... I regret the harm this neglect has caused you."

Powerful words of Christian integrity. Words that declared the church was committed to be agents of truth and reconciliation and healing.  Words that those victims and our culture at large needed to hear.

They were also words that put them in direct conflict with their insurance carrier and the attorney hired to defend the church.  They were admonished to say nothing publicly nor put anything in writing to admit or apologize lest this be evidence that is used against them in a court of law. This is guidance given routinely by insurance companies in our judgmental and litigious climate.  It is counsel that many churches choose to follow so as not to endanger the future of their ministry because of significant, often crippling damages that may be awarded against them.  Insurance companies give this counsel to protect the assets of their shareholders. 

It is a tragedy that our litigious and adversarial judicial system coupled with the greed of so many creates such a conflict.  A church that chooses the route of forgiveness, reconciliation, and healing then becomes at risk to lose their insurance coverage and endanger other ministries. 

But Vienna Presbyterian Church decided that it is a greater tragedy to leave the victims uncared for and to avoid responsibility.  Again quoting Pastor James, "We won't hide behind lawyers ... Jesus said the truth will set us free."

The healing, life-transforming ministry of Jesus Christ is set free by their faith and their integrity.  Hopefully there won't be lawsuits (there haven't been to this point).  Hopefully there will be healing for the victims and for a society that needs to see the Body of Christ acting like Christ.  That is my prayer.

(quotes reported in USA Today 5-10-11)

Monday, May 9, 2011


I was relaxing in a hotel last Sunday evening, recuperating from a church retreat and getting ready for a denominational conference. I was watching the Phillies play the Marlins. (The Phillies had been giving me a lot more enjoyment lately than the Tigers). Then I began to hear the chants, "USA! USA!" Initially I was as confused as the players on the field until the ESPN baseball team announced the news that "Osama bin Laden" has been killed by US forces.  To be honest, I had basically stopped anticipating his death.  Like many White House reporters, I more anticipated news about Libya and Khadaffi.  My thought was not initially elation.  Instead, once again I felt grief for bin Laden's victims.  The persons who died in the attacks of September 11, 2001.  The soldiers who have died in pursuit of this champion of terror.  The list goes on far too long.  I agree with President Obama's decision not to release the photos.  They will inflame more than inform.  The families of his victims already have his face etched in their minds.  And the war against Islamic terror is by no means over.  As long as there are people who believe that people who do not live and worship as they do deserve to be exterminated, humanity will live with a terrible curse.  If anything, we need to be ready for retaliatory strikes. There certainly will be others to take up bin Laden's campaign of insanity in the name of his god.

One a different note, my 2000 Saturn, went home to be with Jesus Tuesday (I am being facetious, but the car is totaled.).  Some one decided his lack of right of way was not a deterrent to trying to drive through the space my wife was driving through.  157,000 miles--lots of great memories--still wonderful gas mileage--they are now history.  Out of personal sensitivity I did not post a picture of the dead Saturn.  Thankfully, very thankfully, my wife Dianne is unharmed.

Justin Verlander has had a yo-yo season so far.  Unable to keep the ball down, he has been clobbered in many an early inning.  Striking out people with the same relentless force as always, but giving up too many home run balls; Verlander was struggling.  So badly that I benched him on my fantasy baseball team.  O ye of little faith!  Saturday night, Justin pitched the second no-hitter of his career.  Few others have done so. There is joy in Tiger Town once again -- and on Home Lane.  Now will see if hope follows.  (By the way, I reinstated those Tiger pitchers.)

Just thought I'd finish out these reflections with some scenes from life.  These are wonderful graphic reminders that life matters.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Sunday, May 8, 2011


It's Sunday afternoon - Mother's Day to be exact. My lovely wife Dianne has a rotten cold and is cocooning. I had a rewarding but physically draining morning in worship with my people at the Church of God of Landisville bringing a message about "Balance."
So right now, I am just practicing a little afternoon whimsy, revisiting some moments of joy. Reading through another blog's archives I rediscovered an old video from one of my favorite groups as a teen, the Dave Clark Five. Enjoy with me ....

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


"You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it."- G.K. Chesterton

One of my favorite activities is called apologetics.  This is a technical term for "explaining the faith to those who do not yet share your faith."  It is a gratifying experience when someone's "intellectual light bulb" goes on and they say, "That makes sense."  Or even, "I need to give it some more thought." Although I try to offer proofs or evidences for what I believe, being as logical as I am able to be; truth is not a matter of overwhelming logic.  Reason is not the sole bridge to faith and understanding.

Finding truth also requires experience.  In fact, the accumulation and acceptance of information that leads to a faith commitment does not depend on clever argument or even the knowledge of the apologist.  Faith quite often is born from an encounter that defies logic, but is so powerful that a person is compelled to explore it more deeply.

In John 9 we read the story of a man who has been blind since birth who is healed by Jesus.  When the spiritual logicians/rationalists demand a detailed explanation of a reality that even they can see before them, the man simply replies, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"   (v 35)  These men considered Jesus to be a sinner, yet the man knew he had experienced the healing power of God.

This does not mean that having faith is irrational and devoid of a clear explanation.  Faith is not unreasonable.  But if you require indisputable answers before you place your faith in God; you may wait a long time.  The true "facts" of faith are best discerned by those who have made that step of faith that helps them see their world and their lives through eyes of faith.                                      

Monday, May 2, 2011


The last two weeks have seen some of the most violent and destructive spring weather in American history.  Huge tornadoes have taken more than 200 lives, portions of several towns in the South and the Midwest have been utterly destroyed.  It is a tragedy because of its randomness and suddenness equally life altering as tsunamis and earthquakes.  The people of Alabama and the Carolinas need the same compassion and help from their neighbors as others.  I hope that the bright spring sunshine and a news cycle doesn’t cause us to forget neighbors in need for whom this spring has not been welcome.

The Major League baseball season has begun and is it full of surprises!  The Cleveland Indians at 19-8 have the best record in baseball.  They are followed closely by the Kansas City Royals.  Perennial powerhouses like the Red Sox and Twins are wallowing near the bottom of their divisions.  Roy Halladay continues his mastery of National League hitters and Evan Longoria and Josh Hamilton are already on the disabled list.  Looks grim for the Texas Rangers getting back to the Series.  I love baseball, and although my Tigers are trying to demonstrate a new level of pitching staff insanity; I love seeing  teams like the Indians and Royals start to emerge (and the Royals gave up their ace,  Zack Grienke in a trade and he's already on the disabled list).

You have to be almost from another universe not to be aware that Andrew and Kate were united in marriage Friday morning in London.  Countless people I know  reported on Facebook, in conversations over coffee at local breakfast spots, even at a retreat I was at Friday night in the mountains reported that they had “been to London” for the royal wedding.  I did not make the trip.  In fact, I confess that I do not really connect with the fascination with the event.  Is it just one further expression of our obsession with celebrities?  Is it an escape into a fairy tale world from daily drudgery?  Is it part of the American fascination for “The Big Event?”  In any case, back to Monday morning.

Donald Trump for President?  Please spare us four years of political arrogance and a sixties hair-do !!!!
Next thing you know Obama will bump what's his name for Oprah (or maybe Oprah will bump Obama).
It's enough to make me vote for Sarah Palin....and that would take a lot.