For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord…

This is the post excerpt.

The Prophet Jeremiah writes these words in chapter 29, verse 11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”  How does one discern God’s call in life?  Does the Lord call us once to a vocation of work, or, over and over issue many calls to serve Him through a variety of life’s opportunities?  How does one hear that “still small voice” of God who whispers to us His loving wisdom, and, provides us direction and purpose in life? Most often that call of God to hear, to receive and to follow has come to me through the invitations of others, and now from a brother pastor and good friend, Jeff, who has invited me in his stead, to serve his congregation for a summer at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in San Clemente, California. I am grateful to the President and Board of Trustees at Newberry College in their graciousness to allow me this time for renewal and reformation of spirit and inspiration of heart.  I am further grateful to Pastor Jeff and the good people of Our Savior’s Lutheran Church for their warm and loving welcome this past week. Of course my greatest thanks, and eternal joy goes out to my beloved Annie, who is always there for me wherever the Lord sends me.  God is so very present to me in the faces of His children, and the faith we share.  The sojourn of summer has begun…  I shall attempt to use this blog to give voice to joys, wonders, questions, and musings that come along as together we share the journey.


John Wayne and the Parable of the Weeds

I group up on movies and television filled with the work of many great actors and actresses.  One of my favorite characters was an actor named, John Wayne.  John Wayne wasn’t his real name of course, back then actors and actresses were given screen names if their given names didn’t seem attractive enough for the big screen image.  Wayne was tall, towering well past six feet, and had a commanding voice that spoke with a cadence that sounded authoritative, and yet compassionate when necessary.  He could play with equal authenticity, a cowboy rancher, or a U. S. Marine, Sailor, or commando.  I truly enjoyed watching his movies, and imagined with great immagination many a time, what it must have like to know him and to be him?  Recently, I had the opportunity to see a statue of him at an Orange County airport named in his honor, and it made me wonder; who was he, really?  Was anything I knew of him from the film venue actually true for him in his everyday life?  I don’t know. 

 While this question of wonder raced through my mind as I looked at the taller than life statue of my big-screen hero; I began to wonder about myself, my family and friends, co-workers and neighbors and others, who are we really?  Is the phrase, “what you see is what you get,” true most of the time, some of the time, always or never as we live and work and interact with one another?  How do others see us?  How does God see us?  Is our work persona different from our home persona, or our recreational persona, our church persona?  Ok, that’s enough of the persona word.  

I ask, because I am studying the Parable of the Weeds from Matthew 13:24-43.  The Lord says that the harvesters in the field should leave the weeds with the wheat lest they should accidentally pull up a wheat while removing the weeds.  The Lord tells the harvesters to wait until the end of the final growing season and then separate the wheat and the weeds.  I have discovered over the years that many good plants look just like the weeds that are trying to choke them out. It would be easy to wrongly displace the good plant when removing the weeds that surround them.  Never-the-less, I am told by real farmers that you must spray pre-emergent for weeds, remove those that grow during the growing season, and, remove the weeds that remain after the harvest.  The scripture is counter to the the way a smart farmer would behave, and that makes me wonder?  

I think it is because the wheat and the weeds look alike, and, the Lord refuses to lose even one of his own; wheat representing children of the Lord. The parable seems to imply that perhaps the harvesters, Angels, cannot tell wheat from weeds during the growing season, only the Lord knows; and He is saying that by the end time only He can judge what is good from the bad, only He can see what is in our hearts, and, only He knows us for who and whose we really are, no actors here, and that He is a God of reconciliation and redemption, not one of condemnation.  Perhaps we are all wheat and weeds simultaneously during the growing season?  

Indeed, I often lose myself in books and films allowing myself to imagine and to wonder what might be; allowing myself to be judge, jury and lawyer, or the good guy in the story, but the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the One who has known us from the beginning and is at work during the growing season to turn weeds into wheat so that at the end the harvest is simple.  

I Can, overpowers, I Can’t

In just another month I will return to my position as Campus Pastor at Newberry College in South Carolina.  One of the many things I enjoy about the fall semester is the start of football season and our fall sports.  Now to be sure; I am a fan of all our Newberry sports; attending these great events and cheering for our student-athletes is one of my greatest privileges as Campus Pastor.  The return of football is extra special because it signals the return of all of our students and faculty who have been dispersed to many locations for the summer, and now, come to our campus home for another year.  The collective excitement of our campus community begins with the return of football, all of our fall sports, and hundreds of new students, and, our faithful returning students.  The fall semester at college fills the air with the hope of what can be, the possibilities around every corner to learn and grow, the joys of making new friends, and the opportunities to dream big dreams.  The fall semester is a time when the words, “I can’t” disappear from our vocabulary.  

From the first day of football camp to the last play of the season, it is important for everyone concerned to hear, to believe, and to embody the concept that as a person and a team, I can, and We can.  Every year the team will wear T-shirts on campus that are printed with mottos like, “dream big” or, “I can, I will, I want to.”  These T-Shirts are daily reminders of a need to fill our hearts and minds with the belief that all of us have greatness within us, and, our journey in life is to discover that greatness, and, put it to work making this world a better place for ourselves and our neighbors.  

Every year, before school starts;  I like to read a poem by Edgar Guest, titled, “Can’t.”  This poem is such a delightful reminder of the power that one negative thought can produce in the human experience, and, why it is better to say, “Can” instead of, “Can’t.” 

Positive energy is like the wind that powers the sails that move the boat through the waves of the ocean. You will not see the wind, but the movement of the boat and billowing sails show with certainty that mastering the seven seas is possible and amazing.  The secret is to believe and then to put that positive belief into action.  What does the scripture say; ‘With God all things are possible.”  Mt. 19:26.   Football and another school year is almost here. Go Wolves!

America the Beautiful

My family of origin, and, my immediate loved ones have a long history of devotion to God and Country through military service, employment with the Red Cross, and, dedicated citizenship.  I think it safe to say we enjoy being one small family, part of the greater diversity of  families and individuals who call home, these great United States of America.   Of course, my namesake family are only citizens of the USA as far back as the 1600’s, when my ancestors arrived on the great shores of our eastern seaboard from the area surrounding what is now Wiesendagen, Switzerland.  Thank you to my elder daughter for her research into the family name.  Whatever possessed my family ancestors to embark on what must have been a long and treacherous journey taking months to complete in the 1600’s; I am grateful.  I love living here in the USA. 

My beloved and I, and our children, over the years, have visited many wonderful countries, met generous and welcoming people in ever place we came to see, enjoyed foods that were unbelievably good, and, saw art and architecture that we only barely imagined from history text books.  Every country we have visited made us better persons because we learned about the cultures where we were, spoke with the people about their homeland, and allowed ourselves to be immersed in the wonder of each place we visited.  We even lived in two other cultures for some years.  I love seeing new places, and meeting new people, and learning what it is we might have in common.  I love travel to other lands.

I’ve done nothing to deserve my citizenship in this land I call home; I was just born here, and that, through no merit or work of my own. However, since my birth: I have tried to appreciate the gift of my citizenship, and, because of my Christian upbringing and faith, to do so by serving God in the caring for my neighbor, participation in my community, and military service. This USA in which I am proud to call my home, is filled with people of every nation on this earth, a diversity of language, cultures, ideas and dreams.  We all hope for a better world for our children and their children.  I love to celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding bless us all today, tomorrow and everyday.  

If you look at the photo, a sea gull rests on top of the buoy while sea lions enjoy the base.  Sharing is caring!

Happy 4th of July!

I sing because I’m happy…

Psalm 98: 1, 4-6

Oh sing to the Lord a new song…

Make a Joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises!  Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody!  With trumpets and the sound of the horn make joyful noise before the King, the Lord!  

My beloved loves to sing, she is an alto.  Wherever we go, wherever we worship, my beloved will, if allowed, join any and all choirs that will say, “yes” to her offer to sing with them.   She is a joy all by herself and brings joy wherever she goes; she has a singer’s heart.  I love to sing, but, my voice only makes a “joyful noise” unto the Lord.  Never-the-less; I sing.  So, just 7 weeks ago we came to Southern California to serve as sabbatical relief for 12 weeks at the Joyful Music on the Hill, Lutheran Church.  My beloved immediately joined the choir who welcomed her with great smiles and open arms, even though, the choir season ended three weeks after we arrived.  We were and are welcomed wonderfully by the Church of the Heavenly Melody on the Hill, Lutheran Church.  I truly adore watching my beloved sing because she does so with her entire being; love, joy, and song break forth from her Faithful spirit with every note.  In a previous blog post I spoke of our magnificently talented music team who provides leadership, talent and structure to the marvelous voices of our choir.  Our church is blessed with music.  I really cannot wait to worship each week, the anticipation throughout the week builds by day.  Sundays at Joy of Life on the Hill, Lutheran Church are a day of absolute spiritual renewal.  

Recently, during visits with one of our church members; I learned the true meaning of faithfulness, the power of song, and, how to be living the Spirit of God’s gentleness.  This wonderful person has most likely never met a stranger, for she knows everyone by name almost instantly upon meeting them, and, has a way of becoming friends in a moment.  I believe her true ability to radiate the love of God is because she always has one of God’s hymns in her heart and on her tongue; and, when she sings even those who aren’t good singers [me] join in, and, feel the love of the Lord.  Music makes us soar as on eagle’s wings. Right now all I can hear is the refrain from a marvelous hymn; “His eye is on the Sparrow.”  Do you know it?  Lord, thank you for this day and the gift of your faithful people who teach us so much, and, may we sing a new song unto you with every fiber of our being, every day, in every way. Amen. 

I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

I wonder: does the Dolphin jump in and out of the water as his [her] way of singing praises unto the Lord? 

No Worries…

My partner in ministry at the Little Lutheran College in the Neighborhood is from Alabama but married to a man from Australia.  Needless to say, she has a distinctive lilt to her speech which leans towards the “Down Under” dialect.  After two years of partnering in campus ministry; I have adopted one of her phrases as my own, “No Worries.” 

Now to say in response to someone, “no worries” is different than responding, “no problem.”  You see, “no problem” usually means that there is, or, there was a problem between the two partners involved in the conversation, and, one of them has chosen to disregard the problem, thus, “no problem.”  On the other hand, if in conversation with someone the correct response is, “no worries,” then there is no problem, was no problem and all is well, no forgiveness or problem solving necessary.  “No Worries” then is a guilt free, problem free, “Good to go” response.  Nothing to carry over or hold onto between the two parties.  I prefer, “no worries.”  

Matthew chapter 6, verses 25-34 is a wonderful Biblical story of, “no worries” Jesus style.  The story begins, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”   Jesus tells his disciples that the birds of the air are taken care of by God, and the Lillies of the Valley are cared for by the Creator, and, how much more valuable are we who are made in the Imago Dei, the Image of God.  Jesus continues by reassuring his disciples that they, “should seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”  The moral of the story is in the final verse, the, “no worries” verse.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.  Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” In other words, today is not without troubles, but, we are equipped by our Creator to handle today’s issues with His help.  There is nothing today that God and I [we] cannot handle.  The Bible’s “no worries” chapter.  

Like the snail, determined but slow, not overwhelmed by the speed of the world, content to live life at his own pace.  Whenever I see one of these little creatures; I step over or around and greet him or her with a hearty, “keep the faith little one, and keep on moving.”  

Dear Lord, when I am overwhelmed with the speed of life, and, the tasks that seems insurmountable, remind me that you are with me, and, that together we can get the work done one task at a time.  Amen. 

Thank the Lord for music

Our (my beloved and I) summer of adventure and ministry in Southern California continues, blessed daily by the good people at the Loving Lutheran Church on the hill overlooking the Glory of God and the wonder of His creation; the Pacific Ocean.   One of those wonderful people is our unbelievably talented Contemporary Worship Leader/Pianist Accompanist; Rich.  Such titles do not do justice to the ministry that he, and, our Director of Music; Karen, and their music team bring to the worship experience at the Faithful Lutheran Church on the Hill.  Through Rich and Karen and the others; I am being introduced to music that inspires the soul and sets the heart free to worship in a spiritual renewal of faith and joy.  Let me say that I am by nature a traditionalist; I  love liturgy and hymnody provided through the ages.  However, this summer the Lord has seen fit to bring me across the country to learn and grow in my faith journey from the congregation and its leaders at Gracious Lutheran Church on the Hill.  In my joy I must share with you a song to which I have been exposed this past month that is changing my life; Death Was Arrested by North Point InsideOut.  This song has become a part of me like no other Christian hymn or song I know, and, if you knew me, you would understand the depth of what I am saying.  Just a taste of the words…

“Our savior displayed on a criminal’s cross.  Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost.  But Jesus arose with our freedom in hand. That’s when death was arrested and my life began.”  

I cannot remember a time when a worship song moves me to tears every time I hear it and sing it.  These are not tears of sorrow but absolute joy, Biblical, redeeming, salvific joy.  As I type this blog post I am singing within my very spirit; I cannot help it.  So I share the song with you in hope that you too will be blessed in its meaningful words and its music

Dearest Lord, on this beautiful day in which you have made for us and provide to us, may our hearts overflow with awe at your magnificent ongoing re-creation, for music with which we can praise you, and for life itself.  Bless us all in your amazing grace.  Amen

Thank you Family for letting me be Dad

The artist, Holly Dunn recorded a beautiful song years ago, titled, “Daddy’s Hands.” Whenever I listen to this song my heart remembers my father, who departed this world way too young.  Through the power of music to transform and inform, the song’s words don’t fully match the treasured memory I hold of my father, but, listening to her sing about her father [at least the one in the song] brings to mind the very best of the man, the relationship I had with my dad, and now, my family. 

Dad wasn’t perfect; he worked way too much believing that work translated to showing love for his family.  We knew he loved us.   Dad wasn’t particularly good at teaching me to fish, or camp, or build, or create, or repair things, but; he taught me that a man’s word is his bond, and, that marriage is a blessed gift of God for a lifetime.  Dad showed me the meaning of honor and integrity every day.  Dad served God and Country and family in WWII.  He never spoke to me of his war-time service and sacrifice.  When I joined the military decades ago, my dad said simply, “I’m proud of you.”  Seeds of my faith in God came from watching my father in prayer.  Jesus came that we might believe and in believing be able to speak to the Father in Heaven as “Abba.”  “Daddy.”  

And now I am a dad, and a grandfather.  My family says I work too much.  Come to think of it; I never taught my kids to fish, or to camp, or to build, or create, or repair.  Hmm?  I wonder?  

It’s Father’s Day this Sunday; a day for men, all who strive to faithfully give their very best, to serve their children lovingly and kindly, gently and generously, in the role of father to say, “thank you, and, God bless you,” to the ones who look to them for that guidance and hope, and, to be forever grateful to them and to God, that a son or a daughter would give the gift of calling them, Daddy.  

 Thank you Lord for giving me family so that I can try every day and with every breath, to be a loving husband, father, and grandfather in their hearts.  Amen