Tuesday, December 25, 2018



I was up early today.  5:55 to be exact.  Lately that has been "sleeping in" for me.  Spending this particular Christmas at home of my daughter Christi and her husband Tim in northern Kentucky. A little after six, I heard the first stirrings of my grandson Jake, a 5th grader, who will have the responsibility of waking everyone "when it's time."

Long ago our family began a Christmas tradition that I have discovered is now part of the Christmas tradition in all the families my adult children have established.  Before we open the presents, my wife Dianne will read to us from the Nativity account in Luke 2.  Then we will thank God for the incredible (and most costly) gift we have ever received--the gift of his Son, our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.

And then, we will open what this year appears to be a "ton" of Christmas presents (the evidence you can see under their Christmas tree).

Last night we kept another tradition, attending a Christmas Eve Service together.  Not returning to a church that had been our family church forever (my family church closed almost a decade ago) nor in a small church steeped merely in nostalgia, but this year in a large mega-church quite different than where we would normally gather but in a place but with a group that shared our deep-rooted believe that the Birth of that Bethlehem Baby brought hope, eternal living hope to our world.

My adult children have added to their family traditions - interactive Advent calendars that they use to teach their children and variations on "elf on the shelf" that break the routine of ordinary days by adding little adventures to their day.

Like many others who still value "family" or have families to value, we will intersperse the days with phone calls to loved ones.  Those calls used to go to parents and grandparents of our families, but that category is down to one set.  Dianne and I are now the grandparents, so our calls go out to children and siblings spread across the land.  Still, this tradition persists in our lives reminding us of connections formed first in the birth canal and shaped by shared lives.

Tradition sometimes gets a bum rap in our ever-changing culture.  It's given the labels of progress-impeding or relevance-ignoring. Sometimes, tradition is indeed an justification for not being open to the new thing that God is doing in our lives or in our world.  But tradition can also be the anchor that keeps us from shallowly accepting the newest fad which will soon disappear and then struggling to find a new anchor as the rip tides of our this present age send us careening into dangerous waters.

As a Christian I reminded that tradition can also keep us connecting to something deeper.  A faith that is ancient, that was conceived in the mind of God at the foundation of the world.  Not the empty ritual practiced by so many but the vibrant faith that comes from a religion rooted a relationship that sustains us in all seasons and all decades.  Not the faith that worships the forms but the one that serves the Person, who is the living God,

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it ... The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." – John 1.1-5,9-14

I pray that each of you are blessed by and keep those traditions that provide a richness rooted not in the passing, but in the eternal.


Thought these would bring laughter after all the presents and unwrapped.  - Steve

Sunday, December 23, 2018



My devotions this morning were from John, chapter 1.  It is sometimes referred to as John's "Nativity Story."  In that chapter speaking of Jesus' arrival in the flesh, John writes:

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1.4-5 ESV

Sadly this Advent and Christmas I have found myself reflecting too often on the dark times in which we live.  Our economy is not in good shape, the homelessness problem unabated,, the worship of guns and the random or terroristic violence in our streets has grown.  

The government is now in a shut-down.  The President has dismissed or chased away any advisors who disagree with him or would offer a counter way of looking at the world.  The political atmosphere in our country is beginning to resemble the Watergate days of my college years. Both major parties seem more intent in cultivating the ideological extremes on both ends of the spectrum rather than find a middle way that is best for all.  

Russia and other powers that have long been the enemies of democracy are once again ascending in influence and power.  People are fleeing the crime-ridden nations in which they live but are being rejected and feared by a nation that fears they will impact the places where they seek asylum.  

Oxycodone and other drugs have invaded the homes of the Middle Class.  The Church is viewed with increasing suspicion because of the child abuse coverups in a portion of the churches in our land.  Trade wars being fought in the name of our workers are hurting the workers in many industries and on farms.  Secularity has taken deep root in the worldview of our culture while evangelicalism has been badly diluted by the so-called "self-identified evangelicals" so pursued by the politicians and media.

It is a depressing list.  Yet I could name anecdotally hundreds of stories of ordinary people and local church communities and neighborhoods rallying in their small way to combat the darkness that has descended upon their individual communities  

But I know that they alone will not be enough.

What the world needs is the One who is "the light of men. The light that shines in the darkness" The Light which the darkness CANNOT overcome.  More than keeping Christ in Christmas, we need to
keep Christ in our hearts transforming into people of light.  We need this to be going on daily.  And we need to be inviting and assisting people to let this light into their hearts,

It will not be enough for our politicians and leaders and schools and government and communities and churches to become more "enlightened."  The growing belief that there is "fake news" allows us to hold onto darkness and that darkness will always find a welcome home in a heart that is not occupied by Jesus.

Now, more than ever, the world needs Jesus.

Friday, December 21, 2018



I confess.  Dianne and I went a little crazy this Christmas.  Our adult children and their families live in four different cities in the Midwest and we live in Pennsylvania.  The combination of work, small and school age children, busy lives, and now two adult grandchildren made it impossible for us to gather together for Christmas.  (Most years we can only get two of those families together anyway).  Since I have just finished a transition interim pastorate, we actually had the freedom to take two weeks and visit them all in their homes.  

We also had a little more money than usual at this time and the thought of watching them open their presents, Kohl's availability and bonus bucks, and my wife's newfound love of on-line shopping meant that we had a completely full trunk when we headed west--full of presents. (We actually had to stack our suitcases on the back seat). The scene on this post is just some of the aftermath of what will actually be four " Christmases" by the time we are finished December 26th.

But part of it was also a commitment I made to the Lord to be a person who practiced generosity.  So much of the time, our sometimes tight finances had caused to hold back when God was prompting me to go the second mile.  And also to understand how little people experience generosity that those
"unexpected" acts of generosity often are an incredible encouragement to people who feel unnoticed, unappreciated, and uncared for.

Waitpersons have had tips above the 20% (why quibble about the 50 cents that rounds the tip to the next dollar?)  Generosity has led me to listen to what people need at this time and understanding that I am part of the provision.

"You will be enriched in every way for all generosity, which produces thanksgiving to God through us." - 2 Corinthians 9:11"  This is a promise that has reinforced what God was speaking into my heart.  In our generosity, God produces thanksgiving in its recipients.  Hopefully, that thanksgiving will remind them that God cares because one of God's people care.  Generosity is rooted in God's blessing to us and that generosity allows us--no encourages us to be the blessing we are blessed to be



Friday, December 14, 2018


Back with the Facebook Prophets.  I suspect they are speaking the Word the Lord in contemporary terms to us today. - Steve

Monday, December 10, 2018



Sitting in my warm office on a very cold Monday afternoon.  My office is located in a very large church but in an area which during the weekdays sees little traffic.  So it's also very quiet.  I arrived at work around seven this morning. Except for a brief lunch of tomato soup and an Ann Hillerman mystery, I have been working non-stop.  Working so diligently and productively that most of my "to do" list is done.

Until recently, not many of my days reached this point.  Like so many other Americans and religious professionals, I always seem to be working on something.  And when you reach the end of the day's work, there is sometimes a difficult existential moment when you wonder whether or not you should go in search of more work to do.  You certainly don't want to be guilty of becoming "lazy."

I have met a lot of undisciplined people, but not a ton of lazy ones.  I meet a whole lot of driven people, pursuing agendas that will never be accomplished, seeking to possess more and more things which will be obsolete or reduced to clutter far too quickly.  Often we use this driven spirit to avoid reflecting on what really matters or "pursuing" it.

What's the "it?"  A relationship with the Living God, a connection with the One who sees us as more valuable than we see ourselves.  The One who says, "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest."  The One for whom the holiday we are about to celebrate gets it its name - Jesus Christ.

He's the One who warns us, "And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?"  

Is your life too busy or are you too driven to cultivate that relationship?  For your sake and the sake of those who you influence or provide for, I hope that's not true.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Reflecting on the last words of George Herbert Walker Bush
A man I had come to greatly respect, former President George H. W. Bush passed away Friday, November 30, 2018 at age 94. In his eulogy of his father, son George W. Bush, also a former president, reported that in his final conversation with his father, he told him that he had been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him.
The elder Bush responded, “I love you, too.” Those were his last words.
Dan Rockwell noted in his blog, “I notice that the younger Bush didn’t say, “You were a wonderful President.”
Clearly his son and many of us considered the elder Bush to be a great president; in fact, what may be the last of a breed of men in that office whose strong faith was reflected clearly and consistently in his love of his wife, his family, his friends, his nation—and the world beyond the boundaries of his country.
The elder Bush’s pastor spoke on the essential expressions of the Christian faith, “Love of God and love of neighbor.” For those of us who genuinely follow Jesus Christ, they are not words to be idly spoken and they are words for which Almighty God will one day call us to accountability.
Paul told us that without love, none of our actions, no matter how popular or even beneficial, mean nothing. Political agendas, economic goals, pursuit of national security, preservation of “our” way of life will mean nothing when we stand before the Judge of All the Universe. Maybe it’s time—no, IT IS TIME for our nation to return to living by those two great LOVE commandments.
When my former President and brother in the faith, stood before God last Friday, I have no doubt that the Lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Welcome into you reward.”
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