Cultivating Gratitude

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving.  In our worship services we have focused on being a grateful people.  In my message, I referred to the legend of five grains of corn, from the story of the Pilgrims’ ‘starving time’ and how that affected their celebration of the Thanksgiving feast in 1623.  William Bradford proclaimed at that feast in 1623 that beside every plate there would be five grains of corn.  That was the daily ration each pilgrim was allowed during the starving period. Continue reading


New Beginnings

Yesterday I was driving down a road near where I live and coming down the street heading toward me was a big yellow school bus.  It’s lights had begun to flash as it slowed to a stop.  I stopped too as the “Stop” sign was extended.  I noticed it pulled up right in front of a house where a mother, father and what looked to me to be a five-year-old son stood.  He had a brand new backpack on his back.  His shoes and his clothes looked new.   As he ran toward the bus and began walking up the steps, his mother snapped a quick picture.  The bus lights stopped flashing, the bus began to pull away and the mother and dad stood there in each other’s arms.  I think I saw a tear running down her cheek!

New beginnings are often hard.  Continue reading


The political conventions have begun.  The speakers complain that ‘those others’ won’t reach across the aisle and work together.  At the same time they begin to attack the other’s views.  Next week it will be the same song; second verse.   There will be no love lost in the coming election cycle.

I am struck with how much of a politicized culture we are immersed in.  In the faith community we speak of covenant relationships; forbearing one another.  Yet , some meanest fights I’ve ever witnessed have taken place in churches. {Granted they may not be the most brutal, but it seems like church fights go to a place of intentionally leaving deep emotional wounds.  As a pastor I recall trying to reach out to folks who were ‘un-churched’ but found that many of those we were reaching had been ‘de-churched.’  In my messages when I brought up the area of being hurt by a church it was as if a bolt of electricity shot through the room!  There was almost a physical change in about 60% of the people.   Continue reading

Exemplary Behavior

Aaron Collins

There have been a number of recent events involving shooters who kill one or more people in public outbursts with guns.  The speculation rages that maybe these events have the ability to stimulate others to similar acts.  This is especially true when events are highly publicized.  One theory is that the publicity is a reward in itself.  Everyone wants their fifteen seconds of fame, even if it results in being shot by the police or a lifetime in jail.  Another kind of logic suggests that someone who is on the edge sees the publicity and is pushed over the edge.  Anecdotally, it does seem that one violent event seems to spawn others.  We call them ‘copy-cat’ incidents. Continue reading

Remembering Chip

Several years ago our church started a new ‘contemporary’ service designed to reach out to newcomers.  We determined that folks who had never been to church were more likely to come to a neutral site instead of a sanctuary.   Fortunately there was a large room directly across the street from the church.  We negotiated with the owners to rent that facility every Sunday morning for our service.  The room was often rented out for Saturday parties and receptions.  Their custodial staff was not available late on Saturdays.  So the agreement we came to was that we would clean the facility before we used it.  We really did not have any idea of what we were getting in to. Each week a group of volunteers would arrive, often before the sun was up, to haul the needed equipment across the street, set up chairs and clean up.  It took 150 volunteers each month. Continue reading

Stuck in the Mud!

My youngest daughter drove a Jeep Wrangler when she was in high school.  What a fun car to drive!   One of our favorite activities was to go 4-wheeling.  Getting off the road and muddy or climbing or dropping off a steep hill made our blood pump a little harder.  I remember one particular afternoon when we were following a trail and came across a particularly muddy path.  There were two tire paths filled with muddy water where Jeeps before us had gone.  We ventured in.  About halfway through we encountered a large rock in the center of the paths.  It lifted the car so we could not get traction.  We were stuck!  We called it being high-centered.  But for the one rock everything was fine, but that one rock held us up. Continue reading

What are your ‘chips’?

Last week I read in Church Volunteer Central a story about how volunteers in churches need to feel value in what they do.  In the article a psychological experiment that had been conducted was applied.  They wrote:

A psychologist at Stanford University did a little research project. He hired a man as a logger. However, instead of asking him to chop wood, he told him to hit the same log over and over with the blunt end of the ax. He would even pay double the amount he would receive for actually chopping down trees. Sounds like a great deal, right?

Well, the man quit after just a few hours. As he left, he told the researcher, “I have to see chips fly. Otherwise, it’s no fun!” In other words, he needed to see the value in his work, that he was actually making a difference. Continue reading

Jesus and the Religious

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Guercino

Sunday I quoted a person I heard several years ago.  I struggle to remember who it was, but they said,  “If you’ve been a Christian for more than three years, read Jesus’ words to the Scribes and Pharisees with great care.  They’re written for you too.”  The point this speaker was trying to make (I think) is that the Bible is full of a description of what is a common problem, we come to God in a moment of clarity and then we seem to forget.  I like to think of the Pharisees as the elders or officers of the church of Jesus’ day.  That is a very analogous position.  They were the folks most excited about their faith.  Yet these are the very people who clashed most violently with Jesus.  That is a caution to you and me. Continue reading

Buying Happiness?

Marketing is an important part of modern companies.  I am aware of one company that completely abandoned manufacturing and became simply a marketing company.  People in other parts of the world now manufacture the items they used to produce.  This company buys the merchandise and focuses on marketing—telling people how much they need to buy these products.   They hire some very smart people so that they will be very effective in marketing.

A quote from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in December of 2008 came through my inbox this week.  It said:

“A consumer economy only works if consumption of goods provides only temporary pleasure. That is, if happiness is infinitely deferred, so that buyers continue to buy more and more goods and services. By definition, the consumer can never be satisfied, at rest or happy. Which means she will always feel lacking. The pursuit of this sort of happiness creates a vicious circle of growing anxiety and dissatisfaction.”–Tirdad Derakhshani Continue reading