Abraham Lincoln Quotes

"America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves." 

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt." 

"I am satisfied that when the Almighty wants me to do or not do any particular thing, He finds a way of letting me know it" 

"I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God."

"I desire to so conduct the affairs of this administration that if at the end, when I come to lay down the reins of power, I have lost every other friend on earth, I shall at least have one friend left, and that friend shall be down inside of me." 

"If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide." 

"If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won't amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference." 

"If you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a horse have? Four, calling a tail a leg does not make it a leg" 

"In all that people can individually do as well for themselves, government ought not to interfere." 

"No man has a good enough memory to be a successful liar."

"Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong."

"One is a majority if he is right."

"Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right"

"What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself."  

"Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally." 

"You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn." 

Don’t Let Your Misses Define You
by Jason Cruise

It happened incredibly fast. I was walking down a tree line by a cut corn field on the way to my stand when I saw a bruiser buck run a doe in heat over an incline in the field. I mean, he appeared out of nowhere. He stopped at 78 yards fully broadside just long enough for me to set off the sonic boom with my muzzleloader. He looked my way, then looked at her, and continued following her into the timber.

If misses were symphonies, in that moment, I’d have been a maestro. It was a beautiful tragedy.

As hunters we tend to remember the few times we missed instead of the many times we connected. Luke 22:54-62 details the story of Peter’s one big miss when he denied Jesus. I’ve always thought it ironic that, though he was arguably the strongest evangelistic preacher in the New Testament, most Christians remember Peter’s one bad day of denying Christ instead of remembering the amazing things he did in Christ’s name. I mean, I’ve never seen someone healed just from walking in my shadow (Acts 5:15); I’ve never walked on water (Matthew 14:22-36); and I’ve never watched thousands come to Christ in one single sermon (Acts 2:40-41). Peter not only saw those things, he did all those things.

Don’t let your misses define you. Jesus reinstated Peter to his ministry with just a few words (John 21:15-19), making Peter living proof that God’s grace can take a coward and turn him into a world changer.

Peter spoke from personal experience when he wrote, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

From: Brother Seamus - Music for your Spirit
Sent: Wednesday, January 1, 2020 3:55 PM
To: William Gibbons Jr
Subject: Re: Happy New Year

Happy New Year, Bill!

Great email, thanks.  Apart from the fascinating content, I love your writing style.

A book of short stories, essays or a novel on the horizon?  Maybe essays, a book of essays on Christianity?

All the best!


Seamus Byrne
SOL Productions
Quarantine Hill
Wicklow Town
Co. Wicklow
A67 X585

Mob: 00 353 86 054 9816
Web: www.brotherseamus.ie


From: William Gibbons Jr
Sent: Tuesday, January 14, 2020 11:31 AM
To: 'Brother Seamus - Music for your Spirit'
Subject: RE: on the horizon?

Hi Seamus,

Thank you for the compliment. Considering the newsletter I intended for last Thanksgiving looks like it will not be ready until Independence Day (July 4th), I sincerely doubt any of those things you mentioned are likely to come to pass. Truth be known, as “a photographer who writes,” I do not like the “writer” process all that much. Most of the time, my writing takes place when I feel a compulsion to make some notes during my prayer and Scripture reading time in the morning before I even get out of bed. I keep pads of paper, and pencils, in my nightstand just for that purpose. I started doing that back in the 80s, when I was writing a lot of poetry. The problem is, to share any of that means I have to type it into the computer (one finger typist). I did have a dictation program for a time but, after a Windows 10 update over a year ago, it just stopped working. I tried to find help online. It was too old for tech support, of course. I also remembered Windows 10 was supposed to have a built in dictation program, so I tried to set that up to no avail. Hours later, I decided, even as a one finger typist, I could type things in faster than all the time wasted trying to get modern electronics to assist me. Plus, when I had a functional program, I still needed to become an astute editor to catch the errors between what I said, and what the computer heard. 

Short emails, like this, or the Happy New Year email, tend to be composed straight into the computer. But, as I am typing, I am also seeing a large pile of tablet pages full of notes sitting next to the monitor, waiting for me to find the motivation to start typing them into the system . . . . 

. . . . I actually had more already typed into this email, but my computer totally locked up requiring me to unplug it to reboot the system, and this was all Outlook had auto-saved as a draft. It has been doing that quite often after the last big Windows 10 overhaul. I am not sure if it is related, or just the timing of a computer starting to show its age. 

Well, I suppose I should stop here and do something about the 42,034 photos, dating back to March 2018, waiting to be processed into their appropriate inventory folders and renumbered. Oh wait, this email is supposed to be about the writing stuff waiting for my attention, not all those pesky photographs.

Be well my friend. It is always a joy to hear from you. 

God’s peace,

Acts 5:29


I removed my email "General Notes," but here is a photograph of the newsletter notes next to the monitor:

What are the inventors saying about their own kids?

Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) shockingly described their low-tech parenting approach in a New York Times article describing the launch of the iPad :


“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves.

“They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

I’m sure I responded with a gasp and dumbfounded silence. I had imagined the Jobs’s household was like a nerd’s paradise: that the walls were giant touch screens, the dining table was made from tiles of iPads and that iPods were handed out to guests like chocolates on a pillow.

Nope, Mr. Jobs told me, not even close.

Similarly, in an interview with The Mirror, Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft) explained how they approach technology with their children:


“We often set a time after which there is no screen time and in their case that helps them get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

“You’re always looking at how it can be used in a great way – homework and staying in touch with friends – and also where it has gotten to excess.

“We don’t have cellphones at the table when we are having a meal, we didn’t give our kids cellphones until they were 14 and they complained other kids got them earlier.”

(quoted from https://yourgeardeconstructed.com/parents-internet-safety-security-screen-time-guide)

Greetings Friends!

Preparing believers to live their faith daily . . . . that is the part of the total mission statement of Immanuel Lutheran Church that the preparing team works on each month. 

1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a.  “You are not your own; you were bought at a price, so Glorify God with your body.” Who are you living for?  As Christians, we live for God, not ourselves. 

To live a Gospel-shaped life simply means we think of God more than we think of ourselves.  Simple, but not so easy.  We think about ourselves all the time; how we feel, our opinions and knowledge, what we want, what we look like, what WE think of others and what others think of US.  We don’t think about God more than ourselves.  If we did, what would that look like?  I listened to a sermon online this week.  Here is a story from it:  A woman at work made a mistake.  A big mistake. A costly mistake. Then, her boss went to his boss and basically took the blame for her mistake.  He said he didn’t train her right, he didn’t follow up as he should have, etc.  He put his job on the line.  He lost credibility, he lost social capital so to speak. The woman afterwards, pressed him to tell her why he would do that.  She said, “I’ve had people blame me before, even when it wasn’t my fault, but I’ve never had someone take the blame for me.”  After pressing him some more, he responded, “OK, I’m only going to say this once.  I’m a Christian.  My whole life is based on a man who took the blame for me.”  The woman immediately responded, “Where do you go to church?” 

Does our character, our attitude toward ourselves and others show that we live by Grace? Are we living for Jesus?  Grace by what Jesus did for us?  If we live a Gospel-shaped life, cultures will change. Living by grace is counter-cultural.  Paul said if you understand grace, costly grace, grace coming from a crucified Savior, then that grace teaches you to say no to ungodliness. Sin loses it attractive power. It’s not our willpower.  We would fail. Ungodliness just has no attraction, no passion, no power over us. It’s not just about seeing others through the eyes of God.  It is thinking about God more than ourselves. It is living for the Glory of God in everything we do, not just on Sunday mornings.  It’s not about I shoulda, I woulda, I coulda.  It’s about Jesus did. Our lives then are a response to the amazing Grace given to us through our Lord’s brutal crucifixion.  He bore our pain, he became our sin, he suffered death so that we can live for Him.  If we live for ourselves, we will never be satisfied.  Nothing on earth can satisfy us completely. Those of us older folks know this to be true.  So, living our faith daily means everyday in everything, living for Jesus. By doing so, we are Worshipping God. 

I don’t want to say make time for God everyday because that implies that we need to schedule God in and around us.  Instead, we want to schedule everything else in and around God.  The need is so deep because of what Jesus has done for us.  May our hearts burn with our desire to serve God every day in our work, in our homes, in our communities and in our church. 


Jeanie BD

Luke 10:41-42 (Martha and Mary)

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,”  the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

More from Pastor Chuck Foerster
(see also the In His Steps pages)

As I did on the In His Steps pages, I mostly left the text unaltered, keeping his capitalizing, and bold highlight, emphasis. I have also shared other items from the services which seemed to emphasize the message being shared.  


Homily for Christ the King, November 22nd, 2020

. . . . Today in our church calendar, we celebrate what is called “Christ the King” Sunday. We might expect the readings to give us something that sounds a little more regal and royal, a little pomp and circumstance. Something that sounds a bit more kingly. Our vision of what a king is supposed to look like and what a king is supposed to be.  Maybe a reading that has Jesus decked out in long flowing robes and a jeweled crown. Or even something from the old testament that compares Jesus with the great kings of old, something from Revelation that has Jesus with all his enemies as a footstool, or the heavens opening up and the almighty’s voice thundering from the clouds. But instead, Matthew gives us a KING of an entirely different variety. Instead of the KING in the purple robe with gold thread, Matthew gives us the homeless Jesus, the sick Jesus, the imprisoned and hungry Jesus, the Jesus sleeping on the park bench. We might think to ourselves, . . . This is our KING????

When we heard the text or read it, there may have been a strong inclination to see it as simply judgement; as punishment/reward for either something we did, or something we failed to do in regards to the least of these. Notice how the text never mentions faith or belief or doctrine or our confession or repentance; it gives no laundry list of how to earn salvation. It only points to how we treated the least of these as the final judgement. All the things that we have grown up with that we thought were needed to be faithful followers, are missing. 

However, these things are not mentioned, perhaps the text is pointing us to something else. Maybe Jesus is trying to tell us something we might not have realized up to this point; In our haste to make Jesus into this warm fuzzy, shepherding, comfortable, loving savior, we have missed the point of what he came to do. Perhaps the whole point of this Sunday and this particular scripture is that we have created an image of Christ that FITS OUR agenda; maybe it is the one with earthly power, supreme leader, whacking down those that we think need to be whacked. Aggressive and seeking his own WILL. Which Jesus have we placed on the thrones of our hearts?

We say that we long to SEE Jesus . . . but what if we have been looking in the wrong places? Because Matthew tells us that Jesus of the Gospel is found right in the middle of the least of these. He is to be found in the darkness of prison, in the pains of hunger, in the cold of nakedness, in the fear and loss of illness. If we struggle to look in those directions or look the other way because it is uncomfortable, we have missed an opportunity to see where Jesus dwells.

Maybe the point of the text today is that when we fail to see the least of these, we condemn ourselves to a private hell, . . . where Jesus is merely an image, a plastic figure stuck to the dashboard, a bumper sticker or a nice idea in the Bible, rather than a living breathing person who we can interact with every time we become vulnerable to another human being. When we fail to see Christ in one another, we live differently, not as deeply, more likely to choose sides based on our personal opinions, more likely to claim our RIGHTS rather than our responsibility. But what if . . . what if we could look into the face of that person and see the face of Christ. Would that change us? Would our hearts be transformed?

Next Sunday, we enter into Advent, a season of waiting, longing, and listening.  The darkness of winter is expected and as faithful followers, we will wait for the light and the first cries of a tiny baby. A child that changes how we speak of “KINGS”. A child that redefines power and authority. A child king that has come to GIVE himself away.  A KING on a donkey, a KING who washes his disciple’s feet, a KING who lays down his life for others.

So today, here and now, we are asked to see Jesus in places we would rather not look.  We are asked to remember that every encounter we have with “the least of these” is an actual encounter with Jesus.  It is not a metaphor. The person huddled beneath the blanket is our king. The person at the off ramp stop sign is our king. The person dressed up against the cold, ringing the bell outside of Meijer is our King. The person smelling of liquor or in need of a shower, is our King. May we become so aware of the presence of Jesus in our world that our eyes are wide open and we might be able to see our king. Amen. 


Homily for 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year B, Dec 6th, 2020

I love Advent . . . my favorite time of the year . . . a season of hopeful anticipation, of time of preparation for the most incredible event in all of history . . . a time of waiting and excitement . . . the king is coming . . . So today’s text might cause us to scratch our heads a bit; here comes this text about John the Baptist . . . at first glance, this text may seem totally out of place . . . totally disconnected from what we believe this season is all about.  Baptism and repentance? During Advent? Shouldn’t we be talking about Jesus birth and shepherds and mangers? 

The Gospel says that John appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance. So you see, there are two parts to what John is doing. The first part is that John is calling the people to repent. You might already know that the word “repent” means to turn around, it has to do with a change of heart. It means a renewal, a metamorphosis, in this case, a reorientation towards God. To repent is to be willing to go in a different direction, a radical change from the popular culture and status quo. 

And then there is the other part of what John was doing, baptizing.  John was not simply baptizing, but was baptizing in the river Jordan. The person to be baptized would enter the water on one side where John was, and after being baptized, exit the water on the other side. The river Jordan symbolized something for the Jewish people, the people that were coming to John. The Jordan was the river that the Israelites had to cross before they could enter into the Promised Land. It symbolized a dividing line between the wilderness that their ancestors had wandered and the land flowing with milk and honey. So crossing the Jordan was, for them, an image of entering into an entirely new life. A new beginning. A re-birth of sorts. 

For us, “Baptism" means both; a total immersion into something and a passing through. It means immersion into the life of Christ, the life of the church, the creeds, the confessions and the prayers. It also means a passing through, from the old life, the sinful self, the old Adam, to a new life, new birth in Christ. Baptism is where our journey into faith begins. It is our re-orientation to God. Baptism is the beginning of our future in Christ. 

So I guess Advent and baptism really do go hand in hand. 

Well you see, God has created us in such a way that we are Advent people . . . we are not only waiting for the coming of the Christ child, but we are preparing for what we are becoming . . . for God’s shaping us into what God will have us be. In other words, whether we know it or not, we are undergoing a spiritual transformation, a metamorphosis, a renewal. 

However, in this day and age, it may be easy to miss; this season may seem ordinary and the rush to arrive at Christmas, typical. Even in this year of pandemic and political chaos, our celebration of this life changing event, may not be all that unusual. As we struggle to give ourselves and our families some sense of normalcy, it would be natural for us to simply treat this season like all the years past, to hear the Christmas story as a wonderful tale from 2000 years ago. Most of us have heard it so many times. Certainly our culture often treats it as business as usual or a way to distract us from our tribulations and grief. But if we see Advent as merely “getting ready” and Christmas merely a remembrance of an historical event, they can easily become just another Advent, just another Christmas. 

The danger of seeing Advent only as a time to prepare for the  “remembrance” of Christmas is that we totally miss the message of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel: 

Turn your lives around and look! Re-focus. Be Ready. God not only came 2000 years ago, but God comes today! Ready or not, God comes. In the midst of the holiday rush. God comes. In the midst of our grumbling. In the midst of our grieving, in the midst of our celebrating, God comes. IN the midst of a pandemic and a country divided; God comes. In the midst of our not being ready . . . God comes.  Maybe, it is not supposed to be normal!  Maybe Advent and Christmas are God’s way of telling us nothing will ever be normal again. Because of what God has done in Christ, there is no more normal. 

Advent is the beginning of the future. It is the beginning of an incredible, hope filled, promise-kept future. As we look at what God has done by sending Christ into the world, we receive a glimpse of our new life, a new focus of what God has in mind for us, a future that is very different from the one that our culture has in mind. It is a future that offers real hope in hopeless situations. Where there was only death before, now there is life. It is a future that promises peace where only war has been known. It is a future that has Jesus Christ at its very center, where before worldly things were . . . and it begins NOW. As Christians, this season has us preparing for the arrival of a savior during Advent, and what we are saying by doing this is that we are turning our hearts and lives around, we are repenting of our old life and re-focusing our hearts towards God. We are once again reorienting our lives to Christ. 

This future is here. Not in its fullness, not as it one day will be . . . but make no mistake . . . it has arrived . . . in the form of a tiny baby. We are in the midst of that future. Advent calls us to SEE our place as people of Christ by pointing and preparing for the future that will be . . . by living in that future NOW. Today. 

As we journey forward in this Advent season, may we be reminded of the gift of our Baptism into this new future, may we turn and reorient our lives towards God and may we realize that even when we are not ready, God comes to us. Amen


From: cfoerster@immanuel-gl.org
Sent: Monday, December 7, 2020 10:55 AM
To: news at Immanuel
Subject: Monday Morning Thoughts

Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.  — Colossians 3:23

I know, Mondays (and other days) can be difficult to get moving. The struggle is real. 

Have you ever had those days where it feels like you are not making much of a difference in what you do. Perhaps because of the pandemic you have been working from home and it has begun to feel "normal" but not quite right. Perhaps things are so different at work it seems a struggle to accomplish what you did before. Maybe your motivation is lacking or your heart is not fully into it. But then you see the trash collector or the janitor and you see that they are still content to be working and they even seem joyful.

Perhaps following the advice of the writer of Colossians is a good place to start. If we struggle with motivation, it could be because our motivation is off kilter. Martin Luther once said that the Shoe Maker does not honor God by placing little crosses on his shoes, but rather by doing the best possible job he can and selling his shoes at a fair price, treating others with respect. I wonder if we were to perform our jobs as if we were working for Jesus might it have an impact on our work and how we feel about it? Certainly it makes one think about how we can honor God is every aspect of our lives, not just on Sunday.

I invite you to take a moment, right now; calm your mind, quiet your heart, breathe deeply of God's spirit . . . and imagine that God has given you your present task, no matter how challenging, and he has given you the talent, the strength and the ability to complete it. May you embrace this task as deeply as you embrace the one who has called you to it. 


Homily for Advent 4, Year B, December 20th, 2020

I don’t know about you, but whenever I heard the Song of Mary, The Magnificat, that we read for our first reading, it always seemed to be such a lovely poem or hymn, sung by a maiden in lovely colored flowing clothes, or perhaps that was just how the artists painted her or how history captured her. I never really preached a sermon on the Magnificat, at least not one that focused on how absolutely radical Mary’s song was.  For example, did you know that Mary’s song is longest set of words spoken by a woman, (a 13 year old girl no less) in the New Testament. And it is spoken in the presence of her kinfolk Elizabeth while her husband Zechariah, a temple high priest, endures his Holy Spirit imposed silence. Look at the Magnificat; Mary responds with joy at the news, even though her pregnancy during this point in history would be enough to get her stoned to death. The song is soaked in Jewish history, echoing the words and stories of Old Testament Matriarchs. The implications of the Magnificat are so subversive for powerful authorities that it has been banned by those authorities from being used in public, several times in history

Far from being just some flowery, demure song of a virgin, Mary’s words spell out a radical upheaval for those that unjustly rule and a dramatic reversal, lifting up those that are under the oppression of the powerful. Her prophetic words ring out across all time, what God was doing in the person of Jesus and what God is still bringing to fruition through the Holy Spirit. 

Mary’s proclamation regarding what God has accomplished, will accomplish, including the humble birth of a Messiah, is a radical change from the status quo. It points to God’s kingdom intentions and is so counter-cultural that it might even just topple our “silent night, holy night” perception of the birth of the Christ child, the one wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. I say this because it speaks of a drastic upheaval for our century, changes that we seldom think about or hear about during this season of all is calm, all is bright. 

Certainly, the underlying message of Christmas is all about Hope, and Peace and Joy and Love. But those things won’t happen without something changing, some things giving way for the radical way of the KINGDOM OF GOD. Remember those mountains and valleys that needed to be leveled? Those verses speak of  radical change to open the way for GOD’S way! Yes, God is love. Yes, Christ has come to demonstrate God’s LOVE for the entire world. By being born a human . . . so that he might die on the cross for all humans. This is what our faith tells us. 

We are a funny lot, aren’t we? We desire growth without change and change without conflict, but with the birth of Jesus, God gives us neither. Mary’s song makes that dangerously clear. Cast the mighty down from their thrones? Scattering the proud, lifting up the lowly? Fill the hungry, sent the rich away empty? Change and conflict abound!  No wonder this song has been called subversive; Mary speaks of an incredible hope being ushered in through her womb of God’s own son who has come to set the world as we know it ablaze! 

Looking at the bigger picture, the Magnificat and the implications of the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in Jesus Christ, should cause us to examine what it means to follow the Messiah. Like Mary’s song, our faith can no longer be considered passive. If we truly desire to live the proclamation of the Magnificat and the birth of Jesus out to its full extent, it will mean our faith is less of a Hallmark Christmas movie and more a declaration that God has come to overthrow and upend our comfortable Christianity so that what is proclaimed in Mary’s song will come to fruition. 

And in this year, in our present day, that proclamation can come through OUR ACTIONS, through OUR speech, Through OUR charity, Through our walk with Christ. 

Seen in this light, Faith is not some sweet invitation to self-realization; it is not some be all you can be proposition, but it is literally the practice of dying and rising of self so that GOD’S KINGDOM COMES, So THAT GOD’S WILL BE DONE ON EARTH AS IT IS IN HEAVEN! This is the faith that Mary exhibits and it is the same faith that we have been called to, that the Holy Spirit has poured out on us! 

Not a Have to, but rather that God’s love compels us to sing out from the mountaintop that God is doing something incredible . . . now it may not be all that comfortable for those who are already comfortable, but God’s ways are not our ways. With Mary we are hopeful, because God has come and is coming to change the world. Being so moved by God’s love, we are moved to proclaim with Mary, my soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in him.

Indeed, God has looked upon us and blessed us for all of time. May our Advent continue to be a reminder that God has come to bring about what is needed in our lives so that we might be ready to receive the Messiah and bear witness to God’s promises fulfilled in a tiny baby born in a barn. Amen. 


Homily for 2nd Sunday in Advent, Year B, December 5th, 2021

I love Advent . . . might even be my favorite church season . . . a season of hopeful anticipation, a time of preparation, of looking forward; like last week’s text said, stand up, lift up your heads, your redemption is drawing near. It is a time of waiting and excitement . . . the king is coming . . . and then smack dab in the midst of this excitement, in the midst of our anticipation, we have this text about John the Baptist, preaching a baptism of repentance . . . at first glance, discussing these two things may seem totally out of place . . . totally disconnected from the season we are in. Baptism and repentance? During Advent? Seems more of a Lent theme, doesn’t it? Why are we talking about Baptism and repentance now? What do these things have to do with Advent?

Our text says that John appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance. There are two parts to what John is doing. The first part is that John is calling the people to repent. You might already know that the word “repent” literally means to turn around, it has to do with a change of heart. It means a renewal, a metamorphosis, in this case, a reorientation towards God. To repent is to be open to go in a different direction, a radical change from the popular culture and status quo. It is a giving up of the worlds power for a divine power.

And then there is the other part of what John was doing, baptizing. And remember, whenever we are told location in the Bible, it is usually significant.  John was baptizing, but not simply baptizing, but was baptizing in the river Jordan. The person to be baptized would enter the water on one side where John was, and after being baptized, exit the water on the other side. The river Jordan symbolized something important for the Jewish people, the people that were coming to John. The Jordan was the river that the Israelites had to cross before they could enter into the Promised Land. It symbolized a dividing line between the wilderness, the place of chaos and danger and the exile, and the promised land flowing with milk and honey. So, crossing the Jordan was, for them, an image of entering into an entirely new life. A new beginning. A re-birth of sorts.

For us, “Baptism" means both a total immersion in something and a passing through. It means immersion into the life of the church, the creeds, the confessions and the prayers. It also means a passing through, from the old life, the sinful self, the old Adam, to a new life, new birth in Christ. Baptism is where our journey into faith begins. It is our re-orientation to God. Baptism is the beginning of our future in Christ. It is the covenant between us and God that leads to that radical transformation called repentance.

So what again, what is the connection to Advent? The coming of the Messiah?

I think it is appropriate that the scripture about the coming of Jesus comes not to all those powerful people listed at the beginning of the reading, but to John, wild eyed, wilderness dweller wearing not robes of purple, but rough clothing. The wilderness represents a specific theme in scripture; danger. And because of the danger, our human need. No Kroger or Speedway in the wilderness. The wilderness is a place that exposes our need for God. In the wilderness, we learn to trust and rely on God. It is a place where we are ultimately vulnerable and our “power” is laid aside. We wait and watch as if our lives depended on God showing up because they do. And if we are honest, how often are we stuck in that wilderness?

But you know the problem with this whole season and the readings? It is far too easy to fall into the trap of limiting what God has done to the pages of the Bible as some part of history. Its easy to lose focus and resign ourselves to hearing the Christmas story merely as a wonderful tale from 2000 years ago. Most of us have heard it so many times. I suppose this is one way to view Christmas and the Advent season leading up to it; as remembering Jesus birth, probably how most of our culture, even our Christian culture views it. However, seen in this way, seen as merely a remembrance, Advent and Christmas easily become a chore, a bother, no different than any other secular holiday, oh sure there is more work planning worship, the decorating of the sanctuary . . . but we can grow ho-hum about it, perhaps we get caught up in the consumerist mentality of how many more shopping days are left or we reject it outright because of what it has become for so many. 

The danger of seeing Advent only as a time to prepare for the  “remembrance” of Christmas is that we totally miss the message of John the Baptist in today’s Gospel: Turn your lives around and look! Re-focus. Be Ready. God not only came, 2000 years ago, but God comes today! Ready or not, God comes. In the midst of the holiday rush. God comes. In the midst of our grumbling. In the midst of our grieving, in the midst of the wilderness, in the midst of our celebrating, God comes. In the midst of our not being ready . . . God comes.  So, Advent is not really about remembering a historical event, but rather Advent is the beginning of the future. As we look back to the past, God sending Christ into the world, we receive a glimpse of our new life, a new focus of what God has in mind for us, a future that is very different from the one that our culture has in mind. It is a future that offers real hope in hopeless situations. A future that promises peace where only war has been known. It is a future that has Jesus Christ at its very center, where before worldly things were . . . and it begins NOW. As Christians, we are preparing for Christmas during Advent, and what we are saying is that we are turning our hearts and lives around, we are repenting of our old life and re-focusing our hearts towards God. We are once again reorienting our lives to Christ. 

This future is here. Not in its fullness, not as it one day will be . . . but make no mistake . . . it has arrived . . . in the form of a tiny baby. Advent calls us to SEE our place as people of Christ by pointing and preparing for the future that will be . . . by living in that future NOW. Today. 

As we journey forward in this Advent season, may we be reminded of the gift of our Baptism into this new future, may we turn and reorient our lives towards God and may we realize that even when we are not ready, God comes to us. Amen 


Monday Morning Thoughts
Feb 7, 2022 at 12:54 PM

Dear church family,

I've done it before: I wonder if you have too? I have observed someone who is well off financially or materially and I have said that they are "blessed." We've all done it haven't we? We pray for blessings on someone or remark that someone has been blessed and we say this because they are not struggling for any material good. They are able to live high on the hog as my dad has said before.

Have you ever seen the billboards for the Powerball/Jackpot big lotteries? Have you ever said to yourself, if I won that I would be set and have no worries and be happy all of my days . . . . Well, it turns out that there’s actually been quite a bit of psychological research done on lottery winners. These studies have found that winning the lottery will not make you happier. Winners say their happiness didn’t change as a result of winning the lottery, and they are as happy (or unhappy) after winning the lottery as they were before!

So why do you think we keep referring to the "well to do" as being blessed? When clearly the Bible states that it is the "poor who are blessed." (Luke 6:17-26) Are we so focused on the pursuit of the "bread that cannot nourish" that we are convinced that those that have an abundance of material goods/finances are the blessed ones? Conversely, do we see those that have not as "not blessed?" What do you think is happening here? How is it that we have taken a section of scripture and basically ignored it when it comes to what being blessed means?

I don't have any real solid answers to this question. But it sure does seem to be widespread, at least in our nation. We admire those that have power, money, fame and influence in our country, when it seems fairly clear that God states in scripture that those are the ones who will be sent away empty-handed. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

Pondering all these things this week. Perhaps I'll be looking for blessings in unlikely places and circumstances? Maybe I'll make a list of all the people I would call blessed and name a reason or two why I would say it. Might be an interesting experiment. I hope your week brings wonderful surprise blessings from God. Maybe they won't be what you expected?

Keeping you in my prayers,

Pastor Chuck


Homily for Pentecost 10, Year C, August 14th, 2022

It’s a safe bet to say that today’s Gospel text (Luke 12: 49-56) will probably never be read at a funeral or a wedding. Probably safe to say it won’t be used as a baptismal verse anytime soon either. By and large, we avoid conflict and division in our congregations at all costs, yet here Jesus is talking about bringing just that. We want peace and moreover call Jesus the prince of peace, yet Jesus says that’s not what he came to bring. With all the divisiveness in our world already, it would seem like this would be the last thing that we would want or that a loving God would bring. 

I think first we need to examine the context in which Jesus is talking. The disciples are being warned that if they follow Jesus they will face opposition, hardship, being jailed and beaten, and some being executed. He is reminding them again, that following him will be no walk among the flowers. It will mean sacrifice and for some the sacrifice of their lives. If the disciples want the peace that Jesus offers, they will have to struggle and strive to get there. It will not be an easy road. 

In our context, we live at relative ease when it comes to our faith. Oh, sure we can claim persecution, but more often it is simply our fear of not being popular that is our persecution. Truth be told, for the most part we follow the status quo, or our perspective of it. We live a Christian life of acceptance when it comes to that which we agree with and get miffed it anything threatens our privileged way of life. Even that word privilege raises the hackles on our neck. There is a tremendous gap between the sacrifice of those first disciples and our north American context of sacrifice. 

Throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus announces a new community — he calls it the kingdom of God — this kingdom is governed not by those in power, not by military might, not by the wealthy, not by human authority, but by a divine sense of justice and equity. It is a kingdom where all those in need are cared for, where forgiveness is the norm, where the poor are at the head of the line, where wealth is shared rather than hoarded, and where the weak and lonely are honored. It is a kingdom that comes when anyone has the nerve to look at the way things are and say, “this isn’t right,” but this type of kingdom peace, comes with a sword. It has an unavoidable effect: it divides people.  Those who benefit from the way things are will fight tooth and nail to oppose anyone who tries to change things.  And they will adamantly keep their blinders firmly in place to avoid having to see the reality of injustice. It seems to me that’s the kind of division Jesus was talking about. Those that are seeking kingdom justice and those that are content with the status quo. Jesus challenges us all to take off our blinders and at least see the injustice, the poverty, and the suffering that is so prevalent all around us. The first step toward doing something about it is to remove the blinders that keep us comfortable. To be able to “see the signs,” if you will, of where God’s kingdom needs to break through. 

This text is difficult. I considered preaching on something else. But as one of my preaching professors used to say, “if you are not agitating somebody, chances are you are preaching a message that is far too placid.” Because the scripture is meant to pry us off dead center. It is meant to show us the cost of following Jesus. 

If we could point to a cost of discipleship, a cost of following Jesus, it would probably start off with this passage, and then we could have an open, honest discussion about our faith walk. The disciples of Jesus had it rough and they knew full well about the persecution because of their commitment to Christ. Do we?  Notice Jesus is talking about what will happen; that is to say, what will happen if you are following Jesus. There will be those that oppose you. There will be those that call you foolish, there will be those that cast you out of their life. It might happen within families, it might happen with your friends, or neighbors. But sooner or later, if you are following Jesus, it is going to happen. 

Which makes me wonder; what if my faith in God never causes me to come into conflict with the world. What if it never causes me to question systemic systems that oppress. What if it never is a stumbling block to my acceptance of the status quo. What if the way I live out my faith allows me to keep my blinders right exactly where they are, thank you! . . . . Well, perhaps we are missing something in our faith walk. Perhaps we don’t quite understand what it means to be a disciple. Maybe we have misunderstood the calling of Jesus to be his disciples. 

For I am convinced that if our life is absent of some conflict with how the world is, we have watered down the scripture in our hearts to the point where it only comforts. If there is not some kind of tribulation because of our faith in Jesus Christ, perhaps we are too timid. If we are not experiencing some sort of consternation and struggle because of who we follow, maybe it is because we are lukewarm in our approach to the message of Jesus Christ and our calling as disciples. If we are to testify to our Lord and savior with our lives, it is going to mean that we may fall short in the popularity contest at work. If we are to bear bold witness to what God has done and how Jesus has come to save all people, we might lose a few “friends.”  

Jesus told the disciples on more than one occasion that following him would lead them to all sorts of trouble, persecution and hardship with the world. What makes us think it would be any different for us if we are following the same Jesus? 

But God is at work even in this timidity. The Holy Spirit working on us, building a sense of courage within us so that we might be real, authentic followers of Christ, in spite of the cost of discipleship. 

May we be given the strength to remove our blinders to see God’s kingdom unfolding and be able to proclaim the salvation of Jesus Christ in all we say and do. Amen. 


The above sermon was followed by the following "sermon hymn" which felt worth keeping here.

How Clear is our Vocation, Lord

How clear is our vocation, Lord,
when once we heed your call
to live according to your word
and daily learn, refreshed, restored,
that you are Lord of all,
and will not let us fall.

But if, forgetful, we should find
your yoke is hard to bear;
if worldly pressures fray the mind
and life itself cannot unwind
its tangled skein of care:
our inward life repair.

We marvel how your saints become
in hindrances more sure;
whose joyful virtues put to shame
the casual way we wear your name,
and by our faults obscure
your pow'r to cleanse and cure.

In what you give us, Lord, to do,
together or alone,
in old routines or ventures new,
may we not cease to look to you,
the cross you hung upon,
all you endeavored done.

(Text: Fred Pratt Green, 1903-2000)


Homily for Pentecost 22, Year C, August 28th, 2022

Context is everything. This isn’t the first time you have heard me say it. It is true, I believe in every situation where we are trying to communicate to one another. Like most scripture, the context of today’s Gospel is vitally important to our understanding of Biblical texts. This is especially true in the case of parables. Parables are meant to make a point and can be descriptive or prescriptive, but they always “travel alongside of the main message”. 

The context surrounding this dinner that Jesus is invited to is especially important. In the Ancient Mediterranean, male, urban culture, there was strong competition for status. It would have been reflected in seating arrangements, including in synagogues and at banquets. Normally a host would invite peers or people of somewhat lower social status. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish sources indicate that seating people according to rank was a Jewish custom as well as a Roman one….Status was currency.  Now, to refuse an invitation to such a meal without a good excuse would insult the host’s dignity and naturally, if one were invited, it was expected that the invitation would be reciprocated by the guest. We don’t have to look to far to see this play out in our own culture, maybe even at a wedding or at a dinner for V.I.P. guests, where the one seated closest to the host is considered somehow more deserving of honor than those seated farther away. 

The Gospel text in Luke describes such a scene. Jesus is invited for a Sabbath meal by a leader of the Pharisees.  Jesus watches as the guests scramble for places of honor around the table. These guests know the general pecking order, and they jostle and shove each other while vying for the best, most prestigious spots near the host. Standard practice in Jesus day. 

After observing this scenario for a while, Jesus calls them out with a parable. At first glance, Jesus’s parable sounds like some good advice for the culture of his day; don’t do something that might cause you embarrassment and dishonor, instead, use this tricky technique to make yourself look good and take a lower seat. That way, when the host invites you to a better seat, you can, with all the humility you can muster, make your way to the V.I.P. section. But rather than helping the elite avoid dishonor, I believe that Jesus is pointing out the difference between false modesty or scheming and the purpose of true humility. 

The next part of the text illustrates this perfectly, when Jesus instructs them to invite people to a banquet that have no way of repaying them and no way of bringing any kind of prestige to their lives. Instead, Jesus tells them, invite those that no one would ever invite to a fancy schmancy dinner party, in doing so, you reveal your true self. Of course, this advice would have gone over like a lead balloon, for in an honor/shame culture that Jesus is in, it brings no honor, fame or good fortune to follow this advice. It would do nothing to advance the person’s standing. It is the exact opposite of what they believed would be the proper etiquette. 

I think this is a major point of this text: Stop trying to increase your standing in the sight of human beings. This may be hard to hear, but I believe that on some level, we are all trying to portray this image of someone we are not in order that others will like us, accept us, think well of us. Maybe even in order that GOD will like us or bless us or we will find more favor with God. We have put on these masks because we mistakenly believe we can hide behind them and no one will see who we really are. As if God won’t see who we really are. But the truth is in the kingdom of God you do not need to cultivate a persona. You don’t have to be popular, or pretty or wealthy or a V.I.P.  It is ok to be blind, lame, crippled, not enough, sinful people, because in that recognition, in that seeing who we really are, we are humbled in order that we can truly become who God created us to be. 

Think about it; we are humbled by mistakes, by choices, by loss, by illness, and the big one, by death. It is God’s way of pointing out that you are not in control, you are not God, I am; and I see you for who you are and I love you as my beloved. The incredible blessing in being humble is that we finally realize our lives have been in God’s hands all along. We can give up our false sense of power and realize our weakness is ok. We can give up our jostling for the best seat and see that we have already been given the best spot. We don’t have to keep up with the Jones’ because we have already received everything by the grace of God. We can be fully known as one of God’s beloved, and we can begin to see others in that same light. 

Being humble allows us to deal with truth of our lives and the lives of those around us in love. Otherwise, our tendency would be to try to control or manipulate people, situations, even grace. Otherwise, our image of self might become a stumbling block.  Humbleness keeps us vulnerable and able to love as God loves. Humbleness steers us in the direction of a loving God that embraces us in spite of shortcomings, in spite of our lack of prestige, in spite of our low status. God welcomes us into the dinner hall!  

You, YES YOU, have been invited to banquet of the king! However, there is one caveat; To eat and drink with God is to live in tension with the pecking order that mostly defines our society, even our churches, and working against that status quo will be difficult and tiring.  But it's what we're called to do as followers — to humble ourselves and place our hope in a radically different kingdom. To embrace as we have been embraced, love as we have been loved, honor as we have been honored, forgive as we have been forgiven and share grace as it has been shared with us. 

The feast has been set in your honor, sisters and brothers, not because of who we are, but because of WHO GOD IS, not because of what we have done, but because of WHAT GOD HAS DONE through Jesus Christ. May we go into the banquet humble, with empty hands, ready to receive what God so generously pours out. Let us enter in to the banquet with the prayer that all may be fed with this life-giving meal. Amen. 


Monday Morning Thoughts
August 29th, 2022

Dear faith family,

I'm guessing you have heard the expression, "my cross to bear" or something similar. I imagine the saying comes from Jesus' instructions to would be disciples to take up their cross and follow Jesus. (found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke)

In our day and age, it seems like this has come to mean that we have a burden to bear in our lives, something difficult or weighing us down that we have been "given" to carry through life. This may look like it parallels Jesus carrying a cross on his journey towards his death and ultimately the salvation of the world. However, the full verse that we paraphrase is actually:

"And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." Mark 8:34

The key to this passage I believe is that Jesus tells the people that they need to deny themselves if they wish to be a follower. So, what does it mean to deny oneself? Do I need to sell all my stuff and give it to the poor? Should I be giving more money to the homeless? Do I deny myself by how I live, like not having any earthly pleasures? How is it that this is a prerequisite to following Jesus? One of the text studies on the Greek word that is translated "deny" in English defines it as to "lose sight of oneself and one's own interest."

So, denying oneself has to do with where we place our focus. Is our focus on God? On the cross? Or is it on our own interests. Elsewhere Jesus reminds us that we cannot serve two masters. Perhaps in asking us to deny ourselves before following, Jesus is asking us to refocus our lives on God and serve God as the master of our lives. By doing so, we are able to take up the cross of Christ, knowing that our burdens are being carried by Jesus who has walked this path before us.

Let us deny ourselves by realigning our focus; heart, mind and soul, on God and on following Jesus. May we find ways to lift high the cross and proclaim the overwhelming, never-ending love of God!

Blessings on your week. Pastor Chuck


Homily for Pentecost 13, Year C, Sept 4th, 2022

(Gospel Reading: Luke 14:25-33) One of my seminary professors tells a story about the baptism of the Gauls. It may not be historically factual, but it is a good story. 

The Gauls were warlike people who in ancient times inhabited what is now France and Belgium. They spoke a Celtic language and were Druidic by religion. By the time of the Christian era they had been conquered by the Roman Empire and were supposedly under its control. But the Gauls never did take too well to being conquered! 

A number of Christian missionaries ventured into Gallic territory and, over time, many of the Gauls became Christians. As the story goes, when a converted warrior was baptized in a river or stream, he would hold one arm high in the air as the missionary dunked him under the water! When the next battle or skirmish broke out, the warlike Gaul would proclaim 'This arm is not baptized!' grab up his club or sword or ax, and ride off to destroy his enemy in a most unchristian manner. 

In today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus is speaking to disciples and would be disciples. The first hyperbole, hating family, that Jesus uses would have been counter cultural to all of the listeners because the family unit was revered. In the first century, Jewish families were so central even to existence; quite often families engaged in the same livelihood for well-being of the entire family. To lose one member, could mean hardship for the others. Family was vitally important to survival. 

Jesus reference toward carrying the cross makes reference toward incredible sacrifice, his own, and the sacrifice the group of twelve would make in being followers. There was no comfortable, cushy path that lay ahead for the 12. This would be no rose-petal covered journey. Now, the next two illustrations Jesus uses are a bit more practical; naturally, no one uses their hard-earned resources, whether it is money or material or troops, until they know that the end result will be worth the cost. No one would set out to build something unless they knew they could afford to do so. The illustrations Jesus uses are meant to wake up his listeners so they understand that following this rabbi is not for the casual disciple or the weekend warrior. He means to make it clear that before you say the words “I will follow you”, you better know what you are in for.  It will mean renouncing other allegiances and placing God front and center of our entire lives. 

Essentially what this text does is it poses a really difficult question for modern day followers like us and wanna-be disciples. Are you willing to make the commitment that is required to be a Christian? Jesus wants us to count the cost of discipleship as well, which will mean an examination of just how important we believe our faith in Christ is? What are we willing to sacrifice? How has it changed our lives? How does following Jesus sustain, renew, restore and transform us? If we completely belong to God through baptism, is it reflected in how we live out our earthly existence? 

In the card game POKER, there is an expression when a player feels they have a good enough hand to beat all the other players. They are willing to bet every chip they have, every dime on this one hand. The expression is of course going ALL IN. Today’s text begs the question, as followers of the living Christ, as disciples of Jesus; ARE WE ALL IN? or have we tried to hold a part of our lives separate from that following? Are we ALL IN on Jesus? 

I am well aware of the gravity of the question that is put before you, the question that God asks through scripture. I know how very difficult it is to count the cost of discipleship and then surrender over our very lives to God. It is a daily struggle, a daily discerning of how to be most faithful. And I know how many times I have failed in that struggle. How many times have I failed to go ALL IN on Jesus. Following Jesus though is about sacrifice; it is about a level of focus that causes us to give our allegiance to nothing else, to have NO other gods before the Almighty God that we worship in Jesus Christ. 

 But the truth of our human condition is that we do not have what it takes, out of our own strength, resolve or determination, to see this sacrificial way of living through to the end. Ultimately, we do not have the wherewithal to follow Jesus as we should. The good news is that God, working through Jesus, the Good Shepherd, helps us to persevere in the life of discipleship; when our energy wanes for doing what is right or when our patience has reached the breaking point, when we just want to go our own way and do our own thing. This is when Jesus comes to us and nourishes us, tends to our wounds and brings healing. This is when we are dusted off, re-focused, set back on the path, so that we might once again, rise, take up the cross and follow Jesus. This is what makes the good news good. 

Thanks be to God, for the incredible, impossible to comprehend, gift of grace, for God’s love in Christ which has brought us this far along the way and the mercy which will sustain us and provide for us for the rest of the journey. Amen. 

Sermon Hymn “Will You Come and Follow Me”

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown, will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare, should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer pray'r in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the pris'ners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean, and do such as this unseen,
and admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the you you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?


Monday Morning Thoughts
March 6th, 2023

Dear faith family,

Looking ahead to the Gospel text for Sunday, March 12th, (John 4:5-42) we see Jesus breaking down human constructed social barriers to reveal the in-breaking of God's kingdom. Jesus approaches a Samaritan woman at a well and speaks to her which would have placed him in danger of breaking Jewish laws, at least two or three, depending on how you keep count.

As we read through scripture, we find this is not uncommon for Jesus to go against man-made barriers and breaking them down so that the good news can be shared. So it occurred to me, if we, the church, are the body of Christ on earth, then should we be the ones following the example that Jesus set? What walls and barriers to the Gospel are we breaking down? What conventions keep us from sharing the hope and grace that has been so richly given with others?

Lent is just such a time to examine these questions, a time when we take a closer look at our congregation and ourselves. It is a time to reflect on what we might be doing (or not doing) that creates a hurdle for folks to discover Jesus in our midst. When we read the text about the Samaritan woman at the well, we might assume this gospel simply urges us to stand with the marginalized, especially women. Yet while standing with marginalized women is a commendable action it can lead us, after doing so, to congratulate ourselves for being just like Jesus. A deeper look at this text calls us to the reality that Jesus doesn’t just stand with the other, Jesus stands with your other; your church’s other.

Who are our congregation's "Samaritans"? Perhaps they are homosexuals, evangelicals, conservatives, liberals, people of color, the poor, the rich, the dying, or single parents. Your church’s Samaritans could very well be the key to this text. Because, like it or not, when we draw lines between ourselves and other people, Jesus is always on the other side of that line.

Jesus is the living water, the water that if one drinks of it will never have thirst again. So communities and individuals who thirst for the living water would be following Jesus example if we look to who our own Samaritans might be. And when we find them we should perhaps not be surprised to also find Jesus; a Jesus we thought was all our own but who, in reality, is the living water who comes to us in the strange and the stranger.

May this week bring an encounter that reveals the grace and love of God in our midst.

Peace and blessings,

Pastor Chuck

Philip Yancey


As the statistics on illness and death due to COVID-19 keep rising, the economic statistics keep falling. In March the stock market lost more than $11 trillion in value, and has been yo-yoing ever since. While the more fortunate are mourning their dwindling retirement plans, the truly desperate have joined the 36 million Americans applying for unemployment benefits.  How will they pay the rent or feed their families?

While watching the news one day, I flashed back to another time of financial crisis, the Great Recession of 2008.  I had just written a book on prayer, and got an unexpected call from a New York journalist.  “Any advice on how a person should pray during a time like this?” he asked.  “Does prayer do any good in a financial crash?”  In the course of the conversation we came up with a three-stage approach to prayer. 

The first stage is simple, an instinctive cry for “Help!”  For someone who faces a job cut or health crisis, prayer offers a way to give voice to fear and anxiety.  I’ve learned to resist the tendency to edit my prayers so that they’ll sound sophisticated and mature.  I believe God wants us to come exactly as we are, no matter how childlike we may feel.  A God aware of every sparrow that falls surely knows the impact of scary financial times on frail human beings. 

Indeed, prayer provides the best possible place to take our fears. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you,” wrote the apostle Peter.  As a template for prayers in crisis times, I look at Jesus’ night of prayer in Gethsemane.  He threw himself on the ground three times, sweat falling from his body like drops of blood, and felt “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”  During that time of anguish, however, his prayer changed from “Take this cup from me…” to “…may your will be done.”  In the trial scenes that followed, Jesus was the calmest character present.  His season of prayer had relieved him of anxiety, reaffirmed his trust in a loving Father, and emboldened him to face the horror that awaited him. 

If I pray with the aim of listening as well as talking, I can enter into a second stage, that of meditation and reflection.  OK, my life savings has virtually disappeared.  What can I learn from this seeming catastrophe?  In the midst of the crisis, a Sunday School song ran through my mind: 

The wise man built his house upon the rock…
And the wise man’s house stood firm.

The foolish man built his house upon the sand…
Oh, the rains came down
And the floods came up…

A time of crisis presents a good opportunity to identify the foundation on which I construct my life.  If I place my ultimate trust in financial security, or in the government’s ability to solve my problems, I will surely watch the basement flood and the walls crumble.  As the song says, “And the foolish man’s house went splat!” 

A friend from Chicago, Bill Leslie, used to say that the Bible asks three main questions about money:
1) How did you get it?  (Legally and justly, or exploitatively?);
2) What are you doing with it?  (Indulging in needless luxuries, or helping the needy?);
3) What is it doing to you?  Some of Jesus’ most trenchant parables and sayings go straight to the heart of that last question. 

A financial crisis forces us to examine how money affects us.  Am I stuck with debts I accumulated by buying goods that were more luxuries than necessities?  Do I want to cling to the money I have when I know of people around me in dire need?  Jesus taught us to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” and we know that heaven will include no homeless, destitute, and starving people. 

As the stock market dove to uncharted depths, I couldn’t help thinking of private colleges, mission agencies, and other non-profits, which depend heavily on the largesse of donors.  The IRS has dramatically loosened the rules that limit charitable deductions for 2020, hoping to encourage more giving—am I giving serious attention to the urgent appeals that fill my mailbox this year? 

Which leads me to the third and most difficult stage of prayer in crisis times: I need God’s help in taking my eyes off my own problems in order to look with compassion on the truly desperate.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus described a kind of upside-down kingdom that elevates the poor, those who mourn, the justice-makers and peace-makers, and those who show mercy. 

The novel coronavirus has temporarily accomplished that societal reversal.  In airports, janitors who clean the banisters and wipe the seats of airplanes are now as crucial to safety as the pilots who fly the jets.  Each night, people in major cities honk horns, howl, or shout their appreciation for the health care workers who keep us alive.  We’ve learned we can get along without the sports industry that pays top athletes $10 million per year to chase a ball; meanwhile, harried parents of young children have new appreciation for the teachers who earn less than 1 percent of that amount.  Last month Time magazine put some of the real heroes on their cover: cafeteria workers who serve up food to needy children.  They could just as easily have profiled hospital orderlies or paramedics. 

The question is, will we use this crisis time to re-evaluate what kind of society we want, or will we return as soon as possible to a society that idolizes the wealthiest, the most coordinated, the smartest, the most beautiful, and the most entertaining?  A just, compassionate society builds on a more solid foundation.  The Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the Beatitudes, ends with Jesus’ analogy of the house on the rock: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.” 

In the days of a collapsing Roman empire, Christians stood out because they cared for the poor, because they stayed behind to nurse plague victims rather than flee afflicted villages, and because platoons of wet nurses would gather up the babies abandoned along the roadside by Romans in their most cruel form of birth control.  What a testimony it would be if Christians resolved to increase their giving in 2020 in order to build houses for the poor, combat other deadly diseases, and proclaim kingdom values to a celebrity-driven culture. 

Such a response defies all logic and common sense.  Unless, of course, we take seriously the moral of Jesus’ simple tale about building houses on a sure foundation. 

"Christians are not better than non-Christians; they are just better off. They are like two men on a plane, one who is wearing a parachute, and one who is not. Both men have to jump. The one who is wearing the parachute is not better than the other man, but he is certainly better off."

— Ray Comfort "Faith is for Weak People"


“Books will give you the basics. The Holy Spirit fills in the details. Trust the Spirit." — william


"All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today." — Native Proverb


"Christianity is being concerned about [others], not building a million-dollar church while people are starving right around the corner. Christ was a revolutionary person, out there where it was happening. That's what God is all about, and that's where I get my strength.”

 – Fannie Lou Hamer (civil rights activist)

Originally Intended End For This Newsletter

I was hoping this to be like the finale of a display of fireworks. A whole lot of everything all at once, but then it is done. I would like to shift my time to the backlog of my work. I am just now reviewing, numbering, and filing into my inventory photographs from over two years ago. As I write this, I have 42,743 of my images (files) in thirty-three folders waiting for processing. I still have poems, in file drawer folders, I wrote as far back as 1989 that never got typed up, or into a computer. Plus, other than newsletters and the previous year pictures of the week pages, I have created only one truly new item (Red Dawn Movie at Fitzgerald Park - Scrapbook Photos) in half a dozen years for my website. 

That is just the william's works piece of my puzzle. I also have 25,530 photos, and artwork images, in 414 temporary folders from the emails sent by you or others to me, and from the Internet, which I saved to process into permanent folders for use in my exercise slide shows. I have play lists in my computer (Windows Media Player) from our CDs that I select from each day I am exercising indoors on my treadmill, and Health Rider. I figured out it takes a slide show of 555 images to get me through my exercise routine without repeating any. I learned early on that if your exercise becomes too tedious and boring, it will not be long before you let things go, and are not exercising at all. 

Some years back I started revamping my exercise folders to hold less than 150 each (in varying amounts), so I could mix and match a fresh slide show every time by copying the alphabetical files into an empty folder until I reached 555. Adding new images also keeps things from becoming too mundane. A little side note about a good source of quality pictures if you have Windows 10 as an operating system. Microsoft regularly changes that first screen picture when you turn your computer on. For whatever reason, those are called lock images. They are hidden in your computer, and removed often as they add new ones. But they can be copied and saved if done as soon as they appear. I ran across how to find them, and rename to view them, in an article several years ago. I thought about including it here on the addendum page, but it is a mix of text and graphics. If interested, just email me and I will attach it to a reply. 

New images often need to be resized, cropped, touched up, and renamed so they are alphabetized in a way that provides a better mix when pulling from various folders. This takes quite a bit of spare time. Except for lock images I save whenever I first see them, usually it is later in the evening if I find time, since I see it as lower priority work, even though it is essential to my physical well being. A little more time devoted to this, however, would also help in the mental arena as well. When I originally started setting up folders in 2006 after my open heart surgery, I put 600 files in each folder figuring I would just need to pick one. Using those became boring because they always sequenced the same. I still have a lot of those early folders (214) which yet hold 27,142 images waiting to be broken down into smaller units, and re-alphabetized for a better mix. Until I get to them, they feel like a whole bunch of clutter on a "to do" list staring me in the face every time I go in to set up an exercise slide show. I find constant clutter to be highly stressful. 

When you add in the daily activities and work of living . . . . Scripture reading and morning prayer, making the bed, brushing your teeth, showering, fixing meals and cleaning up after, my cardiac exercise routines, finding time to get to the Center even just to water the plants, or change the sanctuary candle in the prayer room, etc, etc . . . . it becomes a daunting task to find the time to accomplish any backlog of non-routine work, let alone anything new. Then, when warm weather arrives it changes everything. Most of the time, I would enjoy being outside chopping wood to BBQ over rather than any of the other stuff except taking pictures. But, even photography gives me pause, because I am aware I will be adding to my backlog of images needing attention. So, writing has a lot of competition in my "to do list" world. 

None of this is meant to be complaining. I created my circumstances through my choices, just like everybody else does. The difficulty, of course, is the discernment of God's priorities in all of the constant flow of possible activities passing through our consciousness. That is why I would like to add newsletters to the list of things eliminated. They are hugely time consuming for me. I have to laugh, because as I write this, I have been thinking how much of that stuff I could be getting done if I were not spending so much time writing about it. I think I have become too much a Martha, and too little a Mary (see Luke 10:41-42 if you do not understand the reference). 

My best recollection is that I started writing in earnest when I was creating my poetry to help me through stressful, and challenging, times of mental and spiritual upheaval. It could feel obsessive and compulsive, but it did help. This had doctors originally looking at manic depression (referred to these days as bi-polar disease) as a possible diagnosis. They decided it was not. I saw it as an intense search for God, with the spiritual challenges often being expressed through the mental side roads, not vice versa. It has been an interesting journey, and writing definitely functioned as a coping tool. It still does in some fashion, as it allows me to release a lot of mental activity onto the paper. But writing has almost always felt like more of a burden than a joy. Especially so, when I transitioned to primarily prose from the shorter, more succinct, poetry.  

The End

(but you never know when you let God run the show)

The Left’s Message: You Cannot Be Christian

by Michael Brown - June 1, 2020 - Faith & Culture - Decision Magazine

It would be one thing if Samaritan’s Purse refused to treat a gay man. Or mocked a trans-identified individual. Or discriminated against a lesbian needing medical care. But none of that has happened.

Instead, this massive Christian humanitarian organization which serves each person alike is getting blasted by the Left for one reason only. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that employs Christian workers and believes in the historic teachings of the Bible.

The Crime of Being Christian

That alone is their crime. That alone is their fault. And for that unthinkable transgression, for that monstrous evil, for the crime of being Christian, they are protested by the Left.

It was bad enough that Franklin Graham’s evangelistic ministry in the U.K. was opposed because of his pro-Bible comments regarding sexuality and marriage. These days, that is the price for taking a stand for Biblical truth and opposing radical LGBTQ revisionism.

But it’s far worse when Graham’s humanitarian arm, Samaritan’s Purse, which selflessly serves the sick and hurting worldwide, is opposed because their statement of faith is Christian. What on earth has happened to our society?

As noted in National Review, “the volunteers for Samaritan’s Purse put themselves in harm’s way, acting as backstops for a municipal hospital system at risk of being overrun with coronavirus patients. The group’s evangelical Christian volunteers expose themselves to infection and disease at no charge to patients, treating the sick without regard to race, religion, sexual orientation or any of the other identity groups under putative ‘siege’ in the United States.”

Protesting a statement of faith

Yet on April 15, NBC News reported that “a group of LGBTQ activists stood several yards away from the Samaritan’s Purse field hospital on the East Meadow lawn and blasted city and state officials and Mount Sinai Hospital for partnering with the evangelical humanitarian relief organization treating overflow patients suffering from the coronavirus.”

“After all, if a Christian humanitarian organization can be protested during a pandemic for affirming Biblical values, what will happen to churches and ministries during times of health and prosperity?”

As expressed by Jay W. Walker, an activist with the Reclaim Pride Coalition, “How was this group ever considered to bring their hatred and their vitriol into our city at a time of crisis when our people are fighting a pandemic?”

It is true, NBC News noted, that “The hospital is staffed with Christian doctors and nurses experienced in treating infectious diseases.”

And these Christians donate their services to help strangers, putting their own lives at risk in a living demonstration of “love your neighbor as yourself.”

“But,” the report continues, “Samaritan’s Purse’s policies require most contractors and some full-time volunteers to sign a statement of faith that includes a declaration that ‘we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female.’”

In the Name of the Lord Jesus

Oh, the horror! Oh, the hatred! How dare this Christian organization, led by the son of the Reverend Billy Graham, uphold Biblical values. How dare they affirm marriage as it has been affirmed by the church and synagogue for two millennia. How dare they refuse to bow the knee at the altar of political correctness.

Writing in the New York Post on April 3, Bob McManus pointed out that Samaritan’s Purse makes its mission and message loud and clear: “Why did you come?” asks its website. “The answer is always the same: ‘We have come to help you in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.’”

And yet that is where the problem lies: They are Christians coming to serve in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Values of New York City

Somehow, Mayor Bill de Blasio was surprised to hear that Franklin Graham’s organization was actually Christian. And so he commented, “I said immediately to my team that we had to find out exactly what was happening. Was there going to be an approach that was truly consistent with the values [of] New York City?”

Ah yes, the values of New York City, the city that aborts more African-American babies than it sees born every year. By far. And the city that says: If you hold to Christian beliefs and values, you cannot serve our citizens. Not at your own expense. Not at the risk of your own lives. Not if you do it as Christians.

Better to let the COVID-19 victims pass away in their misery. We will not have true Christianity in our midst.

Time to Wake Up

That is how far we have fallen, and we dare not ignore the handwriting on the wall. After all, if a Christian humanitarian organization can be protested during a pandemic for affirming Biblical values, what will happen to churches and ministries during times of health and prosperity?

Fifteen years ago, I was mocked for saying that those who came out of the closet wanted to put us—Bible-believing Christians—in the closet.

That now seems like a lifetime ago. For those who are still slumbering, it is well past time to wake up.  ©2020 Michael Brown

Adapted by permission from an article originally published at Stream.org.

Michael L. Brown is the founder and president of Fire School of Ministry in Concord, North Carolina, and host of the daily syndicated radio show “The Line of Fire.” 


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