In Appreciation For Faithful Men…

In Appreciation For Faithful Men who Entrusted to Me What they Had Been Taught

This morning I was looking through a few old pictures on Facebook.  It’s funny what one will find in looking back.  Old memories flood my mind like a tidal wave, reminding me of long-forgotten joys, oft-remembered pain and much appreciated people whose presence in my life have left an indelible mark.

One particular photo has elicited in me a spirit of incalculable gratitude.  In this picture, taken the occasion of my ordination to pastoral ministry over 7 years ago, I’m surrounded by three pastors – faithful men who took particular interest in passing to me what they had learned through years of following Jesus and serving his church.

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What Time is It?

What Time Is It?

“Daddy, what time is it?”  With little concept of the reality of time, my youngest daughter asks this question on many nights.  “It’s 9pm” is the equivalent to “it’s 7pm” to her.  It’s simply an answer from her daddy in which a meaningless number is attached.  But when I say, “It’s bedtime,” she knows it’s time to spring into action – brush teeth, get dressed, read a book, sing songs, say prayers, and go to sleep.  Without my specific reminder of just what time it is, I don’t know if my youngest child would ever go to sleep.

I wonder how many people walk around with no idea of just what time it is.  Oh, we know the time on our smartphone and the date on our Google calendar, but do we really know what time it is, and does it spring us into action?

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Presence is Better than Presents

Presence is Better than Presents

“Did you get the presents for my birthday yet?”  Even before, “Hello” or “Good Morning,” this is the question with which my youngest child greeted me moments after springing from her bed earlier this week.  Never missing an opportunity to meet audacious questions with silly answers, my response was, “You always have my presence!”  “Dad!” she replied in confused tone, “You know what I mean!”  After a few minutes of circular exchange, I said simply, “Sweetheart, presence is always better than presents.” 

For the record, of course we got presents for our child’s birthday, but as I’ve reflected on this playful conversation this week, I’m struck by how often I have the heart of a soon-to-be six-year-old child, as I think about and communicate with God in prayer. 

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Warm Welcome for Wary People

Warm Welcome for Wary People

“Welcome!”  This is the greeting we received today, as we walked our youngest child into her kindergarten classroom to meet her teacher for the first time.  As we looked around the room at parents and children, we were impressed by the warm welcome given to wary students, as they entered this strange room ready to embark on the beginning of many years of first days of school.  From the name tags on the tables, to the personalized cubbies, to the packets left for each child, everything in the classroom communicated, “Welcome!  We’ve been expecting you, and we’re glad you’re here.”  By the time we left, our daughter felt so comfortable and welcomed, she gave her teacher a giant hug, joyfully declaring, “See you Tuesday!”

All of us know the feeling of walking into unfamiliar territory for the first time.  Whether it’s a new classroom, job, city or neighborhood, we have all experienced the wary feeling of being a stranger, wondering if we will be accepted, welcomed and embraced.  This is especially true in the local church, where relationships among members are tight and where the language and culture may be unfamiliar.  This is why those who belong to a church must make intentional steps to communicate, “Welcome! We’ve been expecting you, and we’re glad you’re here.”  But where does this begin?

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5 years – 5 Prayers of Thanksgiving for Calvary PCA

5 Years – 5 Prayers of Thanksgiving for Calvary PCA

When I first stepped into the pulpit at Calvary five-years ago this week, I could not possibly have imagined the joys, sorrows, challenges and triumphs that lie ahead.

I could not have known that my family would live in three homes, that one of my children would be enrolled in three schools in as many years, or the extent to which we would be loved by a congregation seeking and praying for God’s renewing grace in their midst.  I could not have known the names or faces that would come and go, making an indelible mark on our family and church by bringing joy through friendship and sorrow through loss.  I could not have known who would make a midnight phone call, seeking comfort in the midst of crisis, or who would pull me aside after church to express their delight at the news of a new job, new life, new relationship, or new opportunity.

I knew that pastoral ministry was a beautiful, difficult calling, but the details of what we would face together in the coming years were a mystery, just as what lies ahead for us in the future is unknown to all but God.

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Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table (Part 2): Tasting Community

Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table (Part 2): Tasting Community

My family enjoys a good buffet.  There’s enough food to feed the hungriest parent and plenty of options to satisfy the pickiest child.  However, my wife and I have discovered one major drawback to our trips the local buffet – we may show up together, but we rarely eat together.

With three children ages 5, 9, and 11, we find ourselves taking shifts to the buffet line.  My wife takes one child through the line, and I’ll take another, while our oldest child works her way through on her own.  Once our two youngest children have their food, I will typically stay with the children at the table, while my wife gets her food.  Once she returns, I’m ready to take round 1 through the buffet line.  Finally!  I sit down and grab my fork to eat, and then I hear a voice next to me, “Daddy, I’m ready for seconds.”

Welcome to the buffet – where we all get what we want, but scarcely enjoy it together!  This illustrates why increasingly, we prefer a “family meal” at home or in a sit-down restaurant to the everyone’s-pleased-but-not-together experience of the local buffet.  We miss the joy of tasting, not only our food, but the community we have together.

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Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Moving from the Buffet Line to the King’s Table: Savoring Mercy

Where do you want to go to eat?  This question in my home typically elicits one of three answers.  If it’s not my children’s favorite fast food joint or a place serving breakfast all day, it’s almost always their favorite buffet – known affectionately in our home as the hog trough.  Why?  Because buffets are full of choices – unending choices, sure to please the pickiest eater.  Of course, the enticing, all-you-can-eat dessert station, complete with cotton candy, might have something to do with their palate’s restaurant of choice.

Our lives are often a lot like that buffet.  Every week includes a series of choices – some that fill us well and others that feel good for a moment, but leave us empty, like the cotton candy in the dessert line.  But in any case, we make the choice – from the places we shop, to the sports we play, to the videos we stream on the device we choose to carry into the restaurant we choose to patron, to the church activities in which we engage.  Life’s options often feel like a line at the local buffet.  In fact, for many of us, the Christian life has become a series of trips to the buffet line.

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Hurry Up and Wait!

Hurry Up and Wait!

Nearly every morning, one of my children waits by the door.  Backpack slung around their shoulders, left hand on the doorknob and eager anticipation written on their face.  “Dad, can I go yet?  I don’t want to miss the bus!”  “Not yet,”  is often my reply 5-10 minutes before it’s time to leave.  “Isn’t there something you can do while you wait?

This familiar exchange reminds me that unlike their father, this young child has mastered the art of being early, which means the opportunity to learn the art of “hurry up and wait!”

Life, in many ways, is a series of waitings – filled with regular opportunities to hurry up and wait.  We wait to graduate from school.  We wait to hear back from a prospective employer about a new job.  We wait for the day we can finally afford that house, that car, that vacation.   We wait to meet the love of our life.  We wait for the birth of a child.  We wait by the bed of a sick or dying loved one.    We wait for that diagnosis to discover the cause of our symptoms.  We wait for reconciliation.  We wait by the phone for a call that may never come.  The question for us is not will we have to wait, but instead, what will we do in our waiting?

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10 Pastoral Prayers for 2018

10 Pastoral Prayers for 2018

As we move into a new year of ministry together, I am keenly aware of our need for God’s work in our midst.  I am also conscious of my tendency to pray small prayers, asking God to do things that feel safe and manageable.

However, as I read the Bible, and particularly the prayers of God’s people, I am struck by the humanly impossible petitions and promises contained within its pages.  God’s promises to His people are not attainable through human effort or intellect, and the prayers of Scripture often ask God to do what only an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving and gracious God can do.

To that end, I have found myself praying prayers for Calvary Presbyterian Church that only God could answer and that are clearly beyond my grasp.  I invite you to do the same.  Below are 10 specific ways in which I am praying for the people of Calvary in 2018:

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What is the Purpose of a Gift?

What is the purpose of a gift?  In recent days, I have been thinking about this question, as my children excitedly complete their Amazon wish lists with a number of items they hope to receive as gifts this year.  As I scroll through their list, I’m not sure there is enough hours in a year to play all the video games they’ve saved, enough space to fit all the stuffed animals my daughter has marked, or enough bins to hold the variety of Legos they want to add to their collection.  As I look around our home, interspersed with long-neglected toys, clothes that still include the tags, and books collecting dust, I cannot help but wonder – how long it will take for this year’s gifts to join them in the dustbin of obsolescence.

Both giving and receiving gifts is a special experience, but the reality is, once the initial excitement wears off, gifts often fail to live up to the purpose for which they were given in the first place.  This is a picture of what can happen in the local church.

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