Sunday, November 15, 2015

To Live By Faith

With desperate and hungry people camped all over the church lawn, Jesus turns, then and now, to his followers and speaks what is either a cruel joke or lavish divine humor: "They need not go away; you give them something to eat" (M.t 14:16). The disciples, fully aware that their own resources are not up to the magnitude of the need (Mt 14:17) nonetheless trust that the jest is a divine one and obey Jesus.  Thomas G. Long
Jesus' words "You give them something to eat," are a "divine jest." They are a daily dare. He's saying "I dare you to take me at my word. And see what happens. "
A few years ago, a few New Hope folks began helping out with the "Supper on Saturday" meal distribution. It's a wonderful program that brings together people from the local Methodist mega-church as well as others from other churches in trying to meet the needs of the poor among us all. After that experience, we reasoned that if some were taking 6 meals for two people, then perhaps the need was greater than just on Saturday. We were already cooking meals for anyone who came on Wednesday night, so what's a little more?
You see the picture of the shelves above? That's our pantry for the meals. It looked pretty low when that picture was taken, and it's been lower. But for 4 years, we have cooked, packed, and delivered anywhere from eighty to one-hundred twenty meals every Wednesday night. We've never missed a Wednesday, regardless of weather or holidays.
It's been part of the "daily dare" that is the walk of faith at New Hope.
During the last six years, our church has weathered severe financial hardship, coming out of debt, and dealing with the lack of resources in a way that turned a challenge into a "see what happens" chance to truly see what God can do with our faith. Our treasurer and I on many occasions have shared a private laugh over what our bank balance was, what our obligations were, and how somehow, someway, God always, always, always got us through. One week I shared that we had $1.21 in the bank during a Wednesday night prayer meeting, and my beloved church family burst out in applause. "Look what God did tonight with $1.21" one man said. "We delivered 120 meals" for less than what you could find in the couch cushions."
Now we've done what we could. I've returned to bivocational status, working as a teacher to cut overhead. We're notoriously frugal as a church when it comes to spending on things. But I believe we are notoriously generous when it comes to spending on helping people - wherever they may be. And right now I sense God beginning to move us to do more.
Friend, we're just normal people. There are a lot of ways we could improve. But I don't think we can improve on the call of Jesus to come along and see what He can do with folks who don't have much, but are willing to see what He can do with it.
Shameless plug: If you want to be a part of a church that hasn't forgotten why we're here, and tries very hard to do as much as we can, for as many as we can - come join us at New Hope.  Oh and bring some green beans - we could use them for this week's meal. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Read This

Do just the opposite of what the world calls you to do. Dive deep into a community of people who call themselves a church. Expose your best and worst sides to them. Experience their worst and their best. Love them anyway as they love you. Don't go looking for the "best" this or that. Don't go seeking to have your "needs" met. Find an imperfect place filled with imperfect people and spend the rest of your life trying to meet their needs and the needs of the souls God puts into your path.

And if you're in one of those places right now...

treasure it.

Thank God for it.

You may very well find a place that requires far less of you and presents you with that just right music, just right messages, and just right people to share it with.

But in doing so you are walking away from the HEART of what it means to be a Christian. All those passages like "the last will be first" or "take up your cross daily."

It shouldn't be easy.

It should cost you something of your comfortable life.


Dive deep.


This post is dedicated to the most real, most raw experience of "church" I have ever known, my beloved New Hope Baptist Church in Valparaiso. You guys are heroes to me and an inspiration every moment you come to mind.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The hardest kind of love

Our friends Larry and JoAnn have a dog that is nearing the point of death as I write this and it's tearing them up. His furry friend has been a part of their lives for many years and today he's not responding to them or interested in food or water. Death seems near.

Those of us who are loved by dogs go into each new relationship knowing that we almost certainly will not only have the joy of receiving the love of a new friend, but that we will also have the deep sorrow of our parting. For this very reason, many people choose to never have another dog - the bitter pain of losing one is just too much to bear.

Choosing to be there as they pass, whether naturally or with a vet's help, is one of the most gut-wrenching things I've ever experienced. One of our dogs was tragically taken from us in a freak accident, but the very last movement she made was to wag her tag one last time as I reached her fallen form.

With another furry friend, Bunny and Sean eased her passage by talking to her and petting her, though their tears were falling, until she left.

And Sean and I were there when our big friend Henley the Great Dane was eased into the next life to spare him the agony of the bone cancer that had riddled his leg. With the possibility of his next step causing an agonizing fracture, we laid on the floor by him as the drugs did their work. I have never loved a dog as much as Henley, and we only had him for 7 years.

Freddie the mini schnauzer has been with JoAnn and Larry for more than 15.

So if you read this, pray for those who love enough to walk the last mile with their friends.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Considering the cost

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Many years ago, there was a ridiculously young couple who had their first child. He was a healthy boy, and he was named David Adam. I was working a pretty dead end, high effort low reward job, and Bunny was doing the same. We were doing our best to provide for our family, but we thought it took everything both of us could earn to make it. So we looked for someone who could keep Adam, and after looking, talking to people, and choosing a woman who was a stay home mom herself, Bunny went back to work.

It wasn't very long until the day that Bunny picked up our baby boy on the way home from work and our treasure had a scratch on him that he couldn't have made. His nanny's explanation wasn't one at all. That night, we looked at our income, then we looked at our son, and Bunny went to work the next day and quit.

The cost was so high that we couldn't pay it.

A few years later, I still wasn't getting anywhere at that dead end job. I was always interested in electronics so I started an electronic technician course. Four days a week I would leave work and go directly to my class and get home after 10:30. About half way through the course, Adam started asking where daddy was all the time. I quit.

The cost was so high, that we couldn't pay it.

On this night sixteen years ago, Bunny, Sean and I spent our first night in Valparaiso. It was also the first night we were ever apart as a family, since our oldest son Adam decided to stay in Macon, and we decided not to force him to come. Out of all the decisions we have ever made, it is this one that carries with it the deepest regrets.

There are many moments, many events that we have been through since we have been here that I remember through my grin as I remember them. And there have been times when we've been wounded that we work to not remember, believing that the salve of grace and forgiveness would heal. And it has, though there remain the faint outline of scars.

We'll bear that cost..

Looking back, we have literally chosen to forgo what the world would call a comfortable life again and again because for Bunny and me, to not do so would have been to turn our backs on the things that matter most to us - our God and our family.

And we would do it again, considering the cost.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

A New Operating System

You're reading the very first devotional I have ever written using the Windows 10 operating system. For the less geeky among us, the operating system (Windows, OSX, Linux) is what makes the computer more than a collection of interesting electronic parts. Valuable those parts may be, but unless some program tells them how to live and how to live together - they're just parts.

I'm kind of liking it. Sure there are some things that I am having to learn, and some things that were in Windows 7 that I'll have to do without, but life is lived forward and I want to be sure that this guy stays up to date and ready for the next challenge.

Well, I'm sitting here thinking that there are some real parallels to what happens when a person begins their journey with Jesus. When they allow God to work within their lives, they receive a new "operating system." Then God uses them to bless other people and to tell everyone who will listen that what He's offering can't be bought for any price, He's already paid that through Jesus. But that in order to use the new operating system, you have to choose to change.

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life— your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life— and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. 2 Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2 (MSG)

Changed from the inside out. That's how God works within us to change the way we think and make us what we were created to be.

Think about it. Maybe it's time to change your operating system.

Grace and peace to you,


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Can you laminate love?

I've been sitting here reading a laminated card that someone put together to explain how a person can be saved (or begin a relationship with God.) They've listed several steps one would need to take and quoted verses from the Bible as proof texts for each.

My feeling right now is, their intent was to cordon off what they believe and then by giving it to me, to help me gain an understanding of just how those beliefs align with ours.

But I keep thinking about the love God has given in Jesus and wonder... can you really laminate love?

The laminated pieces I've collected over the years contained things like prayers, or obituaries. In those cases, sure, you could laminate the piece, because it was all it would ever be.

But the love of God?


18 And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. 19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully.
Eph 3:18-19 (NLT)


Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade;
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor would the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

I think that covers it for me.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Here below find the words of John Baillie as written in his "A Diary of Private Prayer." The language may be archaic at times, but as I read it, I found myself wondering how many of we Christians today would be willing to submit ourselves daily to such a ruthless self-examination of the practice of our faith in Jesus. All I could say after I read this was "Lord have mercy on me, a sinner."

O merciful Father, who dost look down upon the weaknesses of Thy human children more in pity than in anger, and more in love than in pity, let me know in Thy holy presence inquire into the secrets of my heart.
Have I today done anything to fulfill the purpose for which Thou didst cause me to be born?
Have I accepted such opportunities of service as Thou in Thy wisdom hast set before my feet?
Have I performed without omission the plain duties of the day?
         Give me grace to answer honestly, O God.
Have I today done anything to tarnish my Christian ideal of manhood?
Have I been lazy in body or languid in spirit?
Have I wrongfully indulged my bodily appetites?
Have I kept my imagination pure and healthy?
Have I been scrupulously honorable in all my business dealings?
Have I been transparently sincere in all I have professed to be, to feel, or to do?
          Give me grace to answer honestly, O God.
Have I tried today to see myself as others see me?
Have I made more excuses for myself than I have been willing to make for others?
Have I, in my own home, been a peacemaker or have I stirred up strife?
Have I, while professing noble sentiments for great causes and distant objects, failed even in common charity and courtesy toward those nearest to me?
         Give me grace to answer honestly, O God.
O Thou, whose infinite love, made manifest in Jesus Christ, alone has the power to destroy the empire of evil in my soul, grant that with each day that passes I may more and more be delivered from my besetting sins.