So here I sit on the day before Easter, thinking about what the disciples were doing on THAT Saturday some 2,000 years ago. I know there is an historical argument for what day of the week Jesus was actually crucified on – but that’s not the subject or point of this post. I’m simply putting myself in the place of that group of men (and women) and wondering what they were thinking.
The Gospels don’t give us much detail about what took place on that day. We do know historically it was the day of preparation between Israel’s weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbath that took place during Passover. What does that tell us… it means there were normal things they needed to do in the midst of their questions and grief. It also tells me during those times we wonder where God is or what He is up to – yes, even in the darkest of hours – life still goes on.
Christmas is my favorite time of the year. Yes, I know it is for many (or at least we say that) – but for me it really is. But even with all of the anticipation, I’m still a purist and want to wait for the season to arrive for things like not playing actual Christmas music or wanting to see Christmas commercials on TV until after the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And yes, it bugs me that the big stores put their Christmas stuff out before Halloween these days, when you used to wonder why you’d see it just before Thanksgiving! But this year I’ll have to admit that I was ready very early for the joy that comes with Christmas – and I broke a few of my rules when it came to those traditions. I’m chalking it up on such a long political season that just put such a damper on the country, added to working a ton of overtime to make things work. Whatever the reason, I was eager to experience that Christmas “magic” earlier than normal.
Even with my strictness about most things surrounding Christmas, one thing you’ll hear from me throughout the year is Christmas carols! Well, not me SINGING them, but WHISTLING them. There is just something fun about whistling a Christmas carol! I don’t know if its the variations in tempo or all the note changes, I’ve just always loved to whistle them and you’ll hear songs like Jingle Bells or Deck the Halls from me as much in the month of June as in December. But again, this year has been a different one… and it’s not just a tune to whistle that has gripped me – but a single phrase from the song O Holy Night that keeps ringing over and over not just in my head, but deep within my spirit.
Yesterday son # 3 celebrated his 18th birthday. An incredible milestone in any young man’s life, but for our family it was another beautiful reminder of the grace and mercy of God. You see, he drowned in a pool when he was 3 and shouldn’t be here today.
It was a Sunday evening and we were at a friend’s house having dinner. We had dinner out on the patio by the pool, and after dinner the boys all went for a swim. Josiah had enough of the pool and we had changed him into some warm clothes and he was lying in a hammock some distance from the pool. I went in to help fix a computer issue, and my wife was clearing dishes while our two older sons (elementary age at the time) were in the shallow end playing with our friend’s teenage son.
In the few minutes that the dishes were being brought in, Josiah saw a ball in the deep end that he wanted. He climbed out of the hammock and went reaching for that ball, and fell in. The boys in the shallow end were splashing around and didn’t see or hear him fall in. Tracy came back out carrying our youngest, just 8 months old at the time. Josiah wasn’t in the hammock. She asked the older boys where he was, they didn’t know. She started calling his name and looking for him, and that’s when she noticed what looked like a towel at the bottom of the pool. She told the teen boy to dive down and check that out. Seconds later he surfaced with Josiah’s lifeless body.
- Water, water, every where,
- And all the boards did shrink;
- Water, water, every where,
- Nor any drop to drink.
- - from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
- The words of this poem ran through my mind this morning as I looked out our back windows at the Bay. All you can see is the sun glistening off all of this water – people in boats fishing, sea birds diving for fish and sunning themselves on the docks, the bobbing of crab trap markers. But the water out there isn’t the problem – its the lack of water in here that is!
- Continue reading →
My wife and I pastored our own church for 6 years. It was a wonderful experience, full of many unforgettable memories – many of which surrounded holidays or special services that we held. One of my favorite times was an Easter service we held during one year at the movie theater. I didn’t like just doing the “normal” things churches do for holidays and wanted to reach out to people who might never come to the church itself, not even at Easter. This was when the movie “The Passion” had just come out, so we rented the largest theater at our local AMC and on Easter Sunday morning and opened it up for free to whomever wanted to come. Our worship team brought out all the instruments and we sang before the movie started, and at the end I summed up the Gospel message and invited people to respond. Many lives were touched that morning, and I’m so glad we decided to step out of the norm.
One of the simpler things we did for Easter that became something that church really loved, is what I am about to share with you. We didn’t have the size, the building, or the finances to put on some elaborate production… so I put together a telling of the Easter story from Peter’s perspective, using readings from Max Lucado and Dawson McAllister and a mixture of video clips and live songs that our worship team sung. It was simple, but powerful… and it had just as strong an impact as seeing “The Passion” did on the big screen. I’ve updated it a bit since then. Enjoy. Continue reading →
I think that the first I’d heard of The Hunger Games was in a FaceBook conversation between a high school teacher I know and some of her students. I love to read and have a heart for teens, so when I heard an outline of the story I knew I had to read it for myself. Of course, then I found out it isn’t just one book but three, and I was thrilled. There is nothing like a continuing story to wet the appetite of an avid reader. I remember years ago discovering a paperback book series about the Oregon Trail that numbered into 30 or 40 books… I think I bought the whole set at a used book store in town and I devoured a book every couple of days. Needless to say, if The Hunger Games story went on beyond the three books, I’d be one happy camper. So, when I found out that the books were being turned into movies as well, I got about as excited as any other fan of the series.
If you’re not familiar with the book, here is the story in a nutshell. It is written from the perspective of a sixteen-year-old girl named Katniss Everdeen who lives in one of the 13 “districts” in the country of Panem, which is what is left of North America after some future war. Everything is run by the Capitol, a highly advanced city that seems to hold complete power over the rest of the nation. The Hunger Games are an annual event in which one boy and one girl between the ages of 12 to 18 are selected through a lottery system from each of the districts to compete in a televised battle in which only one person can survive. The citizens of the Capitol find the most perverse pleasure in following what happens to the contestants from the comfort of their over-indulgent lives, and seem to love hearing the Gamekeeper’s creepy mantra, “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds ever be in your favor.” Think of it as “The Truman Show” meets “Survivor” meets “Lord of the Flies” – or the extreme end result of our cultural fascination with reality television. The story has families ripped apart, sacrifices being made, a disgust for the disconnected masses of the cultural elite, and a love story or two woven in between. Continue reading →
We have friends who recently moved from Spartanburg, South Carolina all the way to Seattle, Washington simply because it was something that they wanted to do. Yes, they prayed about it – they were even considering a couple of other places, one being “back home” to the Tampa Bay area – but in the end, Seattle seemed like the right place to go. Now that they’ve been there for several months, they are planning on moving to Los Angeles for at least a year to get involved with a large inner-city ministry there called The Dream Center and then see what God has for them next. We have other friends who we’ve been praying with, who have decided to leave a city they’ve been pastoring in for several years, and move “back home” to help strengthen the church they were raised up in. When I was talking with them the other day to see what their decision was, they had told me that they hadn’t heard what we would call a “God said”, but that it seemed like the right thing to do. But is it? Continue reading →
It all started a few months back with a conversation with a friend at church. He’d said that he’d never seen the “Lord of the Rings” movies, didn’t plan on seeing them, and really had no desire to see them. But I just knew that he’d appreciate the story if he would just take the time to watch even the first of the three movies. Now, this friend is newly married, and I know that his wife appreciates a good story – and she likes LOTR. So I convinced her to ask him as one of her Christmas presents, for them to come to our house and have dinner and watch the first of the movies (“Fellowship of the Ring”) with us. He relented. What else could he do, right?
Well, it’s taken a few months and having to re-do our plans at least once, but last night they arrived at 5:30pm with pizza in hand. My job was to pick up some orders of chips and queso from Chili’s on the way home – oh, and a large half-Coke-half-diet Coke for my wife. As I was leaving work around 4:50pm I called and asked if she could have our youngest son look for the movie in our collection so that if it wasn’t there I could pick it up somewhere on the way. Response back was that he was sure that it was on NetFlix so we had no worries.
Made it to Chili’s, picked up the order, and headed home – would be there by 5:20pm (early, which is amazing). I was literally five blocks from our street when I get a text from another of our sons: “Dad, I’m at so-and-so’s, can you pick me up so I won’t miss dinner?” I had just passed that friends house on my way from work to Chili’s – why couldn’t that text have come 15 minutes ago? Back into the heart of rush-hour traffic to get him, and then finally get back home 15 minutes late for our friends arrival. Thankfully my wife was already home. Continue reading →
I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s this year pretty much in bed. I woke up two days after Christmas with a bad bug and spent the next few days either in bed sleeping or in the bathroom being sick. The first time I can ever remember being sick like that was when I was in the third or fourth grade and we lived in New York. I just remember being so sick that I could barely get out of bed, and had to eventually end up sleeping on the thin box-spring or platform that are made for bunk beds. Three decades later and I can still remember how uncomfortable it was, and the delirium and strange dreams that always accompany these kinds of sicknesses. It seems like those dreams are the strangest when you lay their watching television, so this time at least I made sure it didn’t come on until the intensity of the bug had passed. Either way, it seemed like an almost prophetic way to end 2011.
“I am sick, discontented, and out of humor. Poor food, hard lodging, cold weather, fatigue, nasty clothes, nasty cookery, vomit half my time, smoked out my senses – the Devil’s in it; I can’t Endure it. Why are we sent here to starve and freeze? What sweet felicities have I left at home: a charming wife, pretty children, good beds, good food, good cookery – all agreeable, all harmonious. Here all confusion, smoke and cold, hunger and filthiness…” – Surgeon Albigence Waldo, Valley Forge, December 14, 1777 Continue reading →
In the last six years or so, I have had the opportunity to take part twice in a winter retreat of pastors from all over the greater New York City area. This retreat, organized by Concerts of Prayer Greater New York, brought together pastors from every denomination and was held in a quaint retreat center in the country located on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River. Being a history buff, I remember more than once sitting on a simple bench looking out over that cold, icy, winter river and thinking about what it was like for George Washington and his men to cross this same river near Trenton some 65 miles or so away. We are all taught in school of that famous crossing that Washington made on Christmas night, 1776, and how important the capturing of the city was for the war effort. What most never learn is that just a week later most of Washington’s troops were ready to give up and go home. As a matter of fact, up until that famous midnight crossing and defeating of the Hessian troops, that’s what a lot of the Continental soldiers had already done. Continue reading →