Saturday, April 25, 2015



Lots of feedback, especially from Facebook--so let's have some more fun. -STEVE

Tuesday, April 21, 2015



Many of you know that I collect church signs.  Not literally--Dianne says there's no more room in the house and where I presently live there is no lawn.  Nonetheless, ENJOY!!!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Sandi Patti provides the music for this reminder of our Resurrection hope. - STEVE

Saturday, April 18, 2015


To bless you as you prepare for worship tomorrow. - STEVE

Thursday, April 16, 2015


Not blogging today, but I was rereading a guest post from two years ago by my good friend and fellow baseball lover, Jim Stanley.  Thought you should enjoy it as well.  Jim is now a Chicagoland Episcopal priest and a man I was privileged to help disciple.  He was, however, already a baseball man before me. - STEVE

by Jim Stanley

   I'm a pretty loyal fan. Some friends consider me a diehard. A few offer sympathy to my wife as baseball season rolls around. They know I love my Chicago White Sox. And on those rare occasions when my first baseball love -- the Pittsburgh Pirates -- are playing the Cubs, you will inevitably find me watching WGN or Chicago Sports Net. I am the one guy cheering for Pittsburgh. The last dozen or so years, that's been like cheering for the lightly armed Belgians against Hitler's mighty war machine. Or like rooting for me, Jim Stanley, as I try to guard Michael Jordan or LeBron James in a game of one-on-one. But I remain loyal. I love the Pirates and I have since I was about three or four. It helped to grow up in Pittsburgh when they were actually good.

  And it was there, in that horrendously boring soup-bowl of a stadium, where I preached my first sermon. I don't recall the date. Must have been 1974 or 75. Dad had purchased three tickets to see the Pirates play the San Francisco Giants. We got to our seats and they were occupied. The usher looked at our tickets, then studied the squatter's tickets. Our tickets were valid. Their tickets were valid. We each had a right to them and they got there first. And then the usher made the foolish mistake of using a phrase my Father simply could not -- would not -- tolerate. "Sorry sir, but you're going to have to..."
Dad was a remarkably patient man when dealing with strangers and people in the service industry. But the phrase "you're going to have to" was just one he would not accept. (I am the same way!) He emphatically informed the usher that he wasn't going to have to do anything. Except maybe speak to someone in charge. And so down to the Pirate offices we went, deep in the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium. There, my father politely but very firmly stated his case. A rain check would not suffice. Whatever potentate Dad dealt with took pity on us and gave us other seats. Better seats. Right on the third base line, within earshot of the Giants' dugout and third base!

  As a Pirate fan, I would have preferred first base. But beggars can't be choosers. Besides, I reasoned, the Buccos would have plenty of runners on third for me to cheer on. And cheer, I did. Eight or nine years old, maybe ten, I screamed my melon off the whole game. My poor sister, about 23 or 24 at the time, must have been mortified. Particularly when I informed the Pirate third baseman, Richie Hebner, that my sister was single. Yes, I admit it. I was ready to pimp my sister out for a chance to meet Willie Stargell. (Richie smiled at her, I swear it. But nothing ever came of it.)

  Dad might have been embarassed or self-conscious. But I remember, years later, he told me "a stadium is one place where a kid ought to be able to scream at the top of his lungs." I have tried to remember that when I now get annoyed at ball games!

  As the game wore on, I noticed something that angered me. Pirate fans -- people with the caps and the jerseys and the big, foam fingers -- were boo'ing certain Pirate players. Richie Zisk and Al Oliver, to be specific. That made no sense to me. If the guy's in a slump, and they both were, wouldn't it be logical to cheer for them all the more? "He's a bum!" "Send him back to the minors!" It was sermon time. And I preached a two-parter at the top of my little lungs.

   The first time, (I can't remember which of the two was up. We'll say it was Zisk.) I stood up on my seat, turned around to the fans in our section and gave them what-for. I told them that REAL fans never boo their own team or their own players. TRUE fans cheer even harder when someone's having a hard time. And then, I prophesied. (An eight year old televangelist. Who knew?) "Just you watch", I said. "Just you wait! Zisk is gonna hit a homer." The other fans were amused. But hardly receptive.

  Guess what?

  Yep. Out of the park.

  As Zisk rounded third, I was screaming loud enough to wake the dead and scare away the walking undead. And fans around me were patting me on the back, saying, "Nice call, kid." "Way to go." Meanwhile, a surly-looking older man in a San Francisco Giants uniform stuck his head out of the dugout and looked into the stands.

  A couple innings later, it was Al Oliver's turn up. And, as he too was slumping, Al got treated to a chorus of raspberries and catcalls. "The guy's a retread!" "Whiffer!" I went straight into what I call "Moses coming down from Mount Sinai" mode. If had been more familiar with Biblical syntax, I might well have thundered, "You are a stiff-necked and rebellious people!" Instead, I repeated my earlier sermon about loyalty and fandom. This was Pittsburgh, after all. City of champions. Once again, I predicted a round-tripper. And yes, Mr. Oliver delivered a towering homerun. It was one that wound up making the difference in the game. I am certain I have never yelled quite so loudly since.
This time, the fans were buying beers for my Dad. Offering, anyway. They were talking about hoisting me on their shoulders and getting me season tickets. (I thought that was a swell idea. Dad seemed to feel attending school should take precedence.)

  And then, that crabby-looking old man from the Giants dugout climbed out of the dugout and scanned the crowd again. He looked, and looked, and finally...he identified me. (It wasn't hard.)
Now, I don't know about you. But I have always wondered if the players on the field can hear the fans. Particularly those of us in the first few rows. You never really know from watching on television. Evidently, they hear quite well. The "old man" was the Giants third base coach. I don't remember his name, sorry to say. But I remember his steely stare. He pointed at me. "Hey kid! Yeah, you! Get over here!!!" I wasn't terrified. I knew my Dad (to say nothing of an army of now-quite-happy Pirate fans) had my back.

  Dad gave me the nod and I padded down a couple steps to the rail. The coach handed me a baseball, one that (I was certain!) had just been fouled into the dugout by none other than the great Willie Stargell. He looked at me, smiled broadly, and said, "Here kid. Now SHUT UP. You're killin' us!" He winked at my Dad and went back into the dugout. I still have the ball. (And sorry, but I didn't shut up. Though I am sure you're hardly surprised.)

  For years, I remembered the story because it made me smile. A big shot noticed me, a little kid. And he gave me something special. But as I have aged, something else has become real to me about the story. I've been in more than my share of slumps. Like Al Oliver. Or Richie Zisk. Nothing has picked me up more, given me greater strength or helped me back onto the field like those of you who are in my cheering section. Especially those of you who cheer loudest when I am slumping most profoundly.

  I hope I cheer for you, too. At least as loudly as for Al Oliver and Richie Zisk. Because I know it. I just know it in my bones. You're going to knock one out of the park. I believe in you. And if you ever need a reminder, you know where to find me. I'm the kid in the Pirate jersey, who smells of peanuts and is yelling at the top of his lungs.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015



These days I am working as an Intentional Interim Pastor for a small, but lovely congregation in Newport PA.  It's located in a region of mountains and rivers that form the terrain of the northern part of central Pennsylvania.  They are not rugged mountains but clearly different n from the rolling hills of southcentral Pennsylvania.  Travel across the area often requires traveling through gaps and along circuitous roads rerouted by large croppings of rocks.  And the streets of my town sometimes require 4-wheel drive to climb on those snowy days when the township has not yet sent their plows to that area.

And this winter it snowed--about every three days--from an inch to inches.  It got cold and remained that way.  The trees were adorned with white blankets almost constantly and the Juniata River was quite often frozen or nearly so.  Schools had to cancel, or at the very least engage in two hour delays until the roads were clear and safe.  We even had to cancel church one day because of the 23 below wind chill.  

We were ready for it to end.  More than ready.

And then just before Easter, 15 days after spring officially began--the warm arrived, the crocuses bloomed, gentle breezes greeted the morning.  We went from heavy jackets to T-shirts.  It was wonderful.

Spring often has that affect on us.  After the bleakness and depression of the dark months, it restores us.  It rewards our hope

Hope is one of the most critically important dimensions of human life.  When hope dies, we die. The psalmist David spoke this truth. "Sustain me, my God, according to your promise, and I will live; do not let my hopes be dashed." - Psalm 119:116.

But as long as there is hope, we can keep on keeping on through the even the worst of situations.  In fact, as Christians, this hope is at the core of the message we proclaim.  "... and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us." - Romans 5:4.

That is the core of the gospel we proclaim, a gospel rooted in what we have just celebrated at Easter--the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  " Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,..." 1 Peter 1.3

I rejoice that I have a faith that is grounded in hope.

Friday, April 10, 2015


PC Walker writes a blog RAGAMUFFIN PC whose perceptive thoughts give me great encouragement. Here's a particularly helpful recent post. - STEVE

We are truly in dark times right now. This I understand and am not naive to. But alas there are some ways I do not find myself reacting with the larger population when I see the realities of our world playing out. There are a couple things I keep hold of in my heart and mind.

1. I do not place my faith, trust, or confidence (or lack thereof) in what I see on the news or in the world.
2. I have to clamor for more of the important dependence of life instead of living in fear of what I see outside.

First, truth is not anchored in my feelings or my circumstances. I believe truth is anchored in God’s Word, and I will align all my confidence there. The Christian life is one of faith lead by Scripture (Jn. 15:7). In all parts of life it is critical that I have the Word of God and always ask, “God, what are YOU saying?” My ears need to be far more in tune to His voice than to the world around us (Ps. 28:1-2, 7). I am not moved by what I see, I am moved by what God says (2 Cor. 5:7). So is it does not matter what I see on the news; I do not pray what I see on the news, I pray what God says.

Secondly, a German philosopher said, “the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man.” In times that are truly dark, I am more frustrated by own and others’ dependency on what they see outside themselves. My level of worry reveals the emptiness of my heart; it reveals how little I trust God. AW Tozer wrote, “Is it not a strange thing that in an hour when mature saints are so desperately needed vast numbers of believers should revert to spiritual childhood…?” We are in a dark time, yes, but I fear more for the faint of heart Christians with eyes dimmed.

We have come to be affected far more by what we see around us, and this is because we have not spent inordinately more time taking care of our inner lives. We ought to be clamoring to hear from God far more than we hear from FOXNews and facebook posts.

We cannot, and I do not propose here, we avoid reality by sticking our heads in the sand like an ostrich, but we also cannot run around like another bird with its head cut off. As my pastor, Banning said, “We are so impressed by darkness, we have all the statistics about it. My prayer life is not based on statistics.”

Monday, April 6, 2015



As I begin writing this post, the 2015 Major League Baseball season is about to begin.  The St. Louis Cardinals are squaring off against the Chicago Cubs within the confines of storied Wrigley Field. The Cards are perennial participants in the National League playoffs and have won 11 World Series, most recently in 2011.  The Cubs by contrast last appeared in the Series in 1945 losing to the Detroit Tigers. They last won in 1908 again against the Tigers.

The addition of a new manager with a solid World Series pedigree, Joe Maddon and one of baseball's superstar pitchers, John Lester; hopes are high for the Cubs and should be.  They have the weight of Back the Future 2 already engraving a place in baseball history for the Cubbies.

Frankly, I suspect that what was fantasy in the BTTF2 will be reality.  My friends Jeff Boylan and Jim Stanley will be among the happiest of campers on the planet.

The baseball fan within me--regular and fantasy (my DR STEVE'S SLUGGERS are poised to win the Bases Loaded Fantasy League--is just happy that the season is finally here.

Sunday, April 5, 2015



This morning, around the world, millions and millions of people went to a place of worship to affirm and celebrate the most significant event in human history.  Just shy of 2000 years ago, a zealous rabbi bent on snuffing out the Christian movement; but whose life had been utterly changed by an encounter on the road to Damascus, wrote these words to a church planted in the midst of community suffering from moral chaos.  And into a world where death held mastery over all things.

" For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born ... And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied." - 1 Corinthians 15.3-8, 17-19

There is no greater fear on this planet than that of death.  Cryogenics can only slow it, the best medicine in the world cannot eradicate it, people are driven to all kinds of extremes to deny it, terrorists hold it over the globe as a fearsome threat, and the average person would rather not even talk about it.

Yet death is an often grim and inevitably inescapable reality - touching the lives of the rich and powerful and the least and the last.  Death is the ultimate price paid in a fallen world for trying to life where man is his own God, the captain of his fate and master of his soul.  Our sin simply multiplies it and fuels it.  And in a world where God is already out of sight and of mind to much of the population, it carries the finality of ultimate separation from God.

But God would not let that state remain.  His compassion for and love of the people He created was too great.  He needed to give us away back from our relentless sinfulness and free of us from death's clutches.  For His desire was for His people to thrive in this life without fear or blame, and dwell with Him in inexpressible joy in the next.

I love the words of this Easter hymn, "Death could not keep its prey, Jesus,my Savior.  He tore the bars away. Jesus' my Lord."  He entered the grave as we must, but emerged from it three days later to be the first fruit of our living hope. 

Because we still live in the presence of sin, we still live with death--but it no longer has the last word.  For Christians who celebrate Easter believe in another historic event yet to be experienced. It is called The Second Coming of the Lord, when He shall put an end history as we know it and shall place everything once again under God's loving and just authority.

This is illustrated in a true story by missionary writer, Gregory Fisher:

 "What will he say when he shouts?" The question took me by surprise. I had already found that West African Bible College students can ask some of the most penetrating questions about minute details of Scripture."Reverend, I Thess. 4:16 says that Christ will descend from heaven with a loud command. I would like to know what that command will be." 

I wanted to leave the question unanswered, to tell him that we must not go past what Scripture has revealed, but my mind wandered to an encounter I had earlier in the day with a refugee from the Liberian civil war. The man, a high school principal, told me how he was apprehended by a two-man death squad. After several hours of terror, as the men described how they would torture and kill him, he narrowly escaped. After hiding in the bush for two days, he was able to find his family and escape to a neighboring country. The escape cost him dearly: two of his children lost their lives. The stark cruelty unleashed on an unsuspecting, undeserving population had touched me deeply. I also saw flashbacks of the beggars that I pass each morning on my way to the office. Every day I see how poverty destroys dignity, robs men of the best of what it means to be human, and sometimes substitutes the worst of what it means to be an animal. I am haunted by the vacant eyes of people who have lost all hope.

"Reverend, you have not given me an answer. What will he say?" The question hadn’t gone away.

"Enough’" I said. "He will shout, ’Enough’ when he returns." 

A look of surprise opened the face of the student. "What do you mean, ’Enough’?" 

"Enough suffering. Enough starvation. Enough terror. Enough death. Enough indignity. Enough lives trapped in hopelessness. Enough sickness and disease. Enough time. Enough"

This is why I celebrate Easter.