Friday, April 3, 2015


On Good Friday we pause to reflect on the price of suffering and death that Jesus Christ endured to pay for our sins.  In Luke 9:23 Jesus said to his disciples a statement that directly impacts anyone who calls themselves a "follower" of Christ.  "Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23).  To this day, courageous people around the world continue take up their cross--to suffer and sometimes even die for their faith in Jesus Christ.  Today, let us keep in prayer the families of the 140 Christian college students who were killed for their faith this week in Kenya, as well as all those around the world who are suffering for their faith.  We should observe that one of the remarkable things about the Christian faith is that we are not called to kill but rather lay down our lives for following Christ.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


In 1977 I was spending a perfect summer day at a friend’s house in my native Western Pennsylvania.  Emancipated from the responsibilities of high school, my attention had turned to the next adventure of my life, the beginning of college.  My friend’s mother had prepared a delicious meal that I’m sure included potatoes, cabbage and lots of butter.  While eating that day I remember chattering with my friend that I couldn’t wait for the summer to pass and for my freshman year of college to begin. 

On that hot and muggy day my friend’s mother interrupted our conversation with an observation that stopped me in my tracks and forever changed the way I view my life.  She said...“Last year you said you couldn’t wait to be sixteen—couldn’t wait to get your driver’s license. And then you couldn’t wait for your high school graduation.  Now you can’t seem to wait for summer to be gone so you can go to college.”  She concluded her short but profound statement with “Quit wishing your life away.”

A few years have passed since that conversation but those words have influenced every day since then.  I am not waiting for my situation to change in order to be happy.  Why?  Because happiness is a choice.  You are as happy as you choose to be.  In fact, you are as happy as you choose to be right now.  It’s not based on circumstance or other people.  It’s based on your choosing the right attitude for today about today.

Many of us are living temporary lives.  We eat temporary food on disposable plates.  We live in temporary housing on a six month lease. We can’t even commit to furniture.  The symbol of our culture should be the futon…inexpensive and easily moved.  Our friends ask us to commit to an event for Friday night and we won’t because there may be something better, like the proverbial blue light special event that just might come along. 

We fall into the “when and then” trap….when I graduate, then I’ll be happy and really start living my life.  When I get married and have kids, then I’ll be happy.  When my kids leave home, then I’ll be happy.  When I get a certain job, then I’ll be happy, When my income reaches a certain level, then I’ll be happy.  All of those may be worthwhile goals but if we’re not careful, we’ll spend our lives living in limbo, waiting to live, waiting to laugh, waiting to love. 

Stop waiting for tomorrow. Stop living in limbo. Consume and enjoy every moment of this day like a plate of stuffed cabbage and mashed potatoes.  Today counts.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

You can't do this from the couch. Get up...Today Counts!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Grown-up School Supplies

This time of year you cannot escape the flurry of activity taking place at the local discount stores. Where there was once red, white and blue paper plates and plastic cutlery, the sale aisle is filled with glue, notebooks, markers, and packs of number two pencils with the little rubber erasers on the ends.

All those packs of paper and protractors remind me of back-to-school when I was a boy. I would have brightly colored folders, books with crisp pages and brand new, spotless clothes. Pencils, with their pristine erasers, having just been sharpened, stood ready to tackle anything the teachers could dish out. With summer passing into memory, and a new school year looming ahead, there was a brief moment of time each fall that held a golden opportunity, a chance to start over. I could make new friends, impress the teachers with my hard work, be a totally different kid if I wanted. Oh, the possibilities… Anything I could anticipate now, as an adult, pales in comparison to the breathless expectancy of those few days before school started.

I remember trying so hard to keep all the new stuff neat and clean at the beginning of the year. This lasted about a week. Mistakes were made, pages torn, clothes got dirty. My fresh start settled into a comfortable routine filled with the realities of everyday life. School became an exercise in wrestling with words and problems. And a lot of erasing.

You know, the guy who invented the eraser had the human race pretty much figured out.

A little back-story: Prior to the invention of the rubber eraser, people used bread to remove written mistakes. Bread. Try it sometime and you'll realize that it doesn't work very well. So, tired of huge, crumb-filled smudges on his papers, an enterprising fellow decided to put a rubber eraser on the end of a wooden pencil.

He knew that people make mistakes. Mistakes are a part of what makes us human. Everyone, at some time or another circles b and then realizes it should be c, or puts the wrong word in 23 Across, or writes a story with the cart before the horse. But the eraser is proof that there is an opportunity to change what is not correct, to take an idea and improve on it, to erase what has been written and start over.

What defines us as people isn't that we make mistakes, but how we deal with them. Having an eraser is a good thing. Using it is even better. Have the courage to rewrite anything that isn’t your best; a relationship that needs fixing, a way of thinking that has not yielded anything positive, you know where the mistakes are. Go at them with the determination of a fifth grader who wants a good grade. Make corrections; Today Counts!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Should I prepare or not?

I'm wondering if I should finish studying for this week's sermon. After all, Harold Camping predicted that the Lord will return on Saturday, May 21, 2011 around 6pm. Wow--should I study or not?

Regardless, I've had several people who have approached me with some great anxiety from this prophecy about the impending "end of the world." First of all, this isn't the first time he's predicted it. He did this previously predicting that judgment day would occur September 6, 1994. Furthermore, worrying won't change it--will it? Regardless, the bible doesn't indicate that the "world will end" for quite some time. (And that will only happen because God makes a new heaven and earth.) As far as his prediction of the return of Jesus for May 21, 2011, the bible says that no one knows the day or hour that of the second coming--not even Jesus. ("No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36) So Harold Camping knows something that even Jesus doesn't know. Wow, now that's what I call a hookup for inside information! But then let's not actually involve the bible in Mr. Camping's end time prophecy.

Consider this, the bible warns that in the last days we should be careful because of the many false prophets. In fact, the bible spends just about as much time talking about false prophets as it does prophets in the last day. Which should give you an idea that most of what you hear is a bunch of bunk. With that in mind, then these false prophets are actually more a sign themselves that Jesus is returning soon than are their prophecies.

Lastly, when people get misdirected on tangents like this, all it does is serve to discredit the rest of us who are trying to draw attention to Jesus. Much in the same way all of the silliness about the supposed confession that the president of Proctor and Gamble made on the Phil Donahue show a few years back. Never happened. No appearance on the show, no confession on the show, and sadly, no more clean clothes or toothpaste for many of these misguided followers.

Seriously people--focus. There is a conspiracy out there! It's the conspiracy that the devil uses to divert our attention away from the real gospel to these tangents that only serve to distract and ultimately discredit us. If you want to see some possible signs concerning the end times, pay attention to the speech that President Obama made concerning Israel this week. Maybe he's cashing in the collateral that he collected from the Osama Bin Laden killing. Maybe he thinks we're giddy with laughter to the point that our eyes are closed.

Lastly, if you are really rattled with anxiety about the Lord's return I have a solution for you, surrender your life to Jesus and you won't have to worry if it does happen.

One more thing, if Lord does indeed return tomorrow, will someone please shut the lights off in the cafe after the third service on Sunday?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Your Time Will Come

Spring training for baseball is upon us and the speculation on who will be this year's successes begins. You’ve probably heard the old saying, “they were just in the right place at the right time.” While on the surface it may appear that someone’s success was completely coincidental, I am persuaded that success is never an accident. In fact, it’s my observation is that it is usually a combination of preparation and timing.

Satchel Paige threw his first major league pitch at the age of 42. Actually, he was good enough to play in the majors at the age of 18, but he couldn't--Satchel Paige was black. However, seven years after Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball, Paige, an undisputed superstar everywhere but in the major leagues, finally got his chance.

Cleveland Indians owner Bill Veeck was criticized for adding such an old man to his roster--some sportswriters and critics called it a publicity stunt. Others said Paige was finally getting the break he had deserved for years--though most doubted his ability to compete effectively at his age. Paige silenced the critics when he won his first three games as a pro…shutting out Chicago twice in the process.

All along he knew he was good enough to pitch in the major leagues, and when he finally got his chance, he proved it. He went on to win 28 games during his pro career, and even made a brief comeback at the age of 59, pitching three innings for the Kansas City A's.

He approached his major league pitching debut no differently than he approached any of the 2,500 games he pitched during his career. "It was just another game," he said. "And home plate was where it always was."

Though Paige had the ability to make throwing a baseball look effortless, he spent his life perfecting the art. And, eventually, he got his chance to show the world he was capable of competing with the best.

In the work that you do, you may have to wait years before you get your chance to play in the big leagues. And the fact is, the chance may never come in just the way you would like. But if you’ve invested the proper preparation, you can be sure your time will come—and when it does you’ll succeed.

Never give up on the dream of being the best—Today Counts.

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Change of Seasons

Oh, the dog days of summer. It’s a season of sensations. Open the back door and sweaty kids and dogs swoosh by. Who smells worse? It’s a toss-up. Here’s a summer sensation: that constant bloated feeling from too many cookouts with too many watermelon wedges and condiment laden hot dogs. Holy tummy trouble, Batman! And family vacations: don’t get me started. Cooped up with people twenty-four hours a day, people with whom you would not normally spend more than two hours a week. Help.

But now, summer is essentially over and not a sweltering moment too soon. I’m looking forward to a celebrating a new season. But what is there to celebrate in late summer?

Back-to-school is the closest thing we have to a national holiday between the 4th of July and Labor Day. The seasonal aisle at your local Walmart even changes colors. Gone are the red, white and blue paper plates and streamers. Now it’s black and white composition notebooks, rows of bright blue and orange Elmer’s Glue bottles and the nostalgically soothing green and gold Crayola boxes. Have you seen that Nike has a shoe in each of those color schemes? They are released just in time for the big business that is called back-to-school. The cool shoes and mega-sales pull parents into the maelstrom of the malls.

Whether you are the parent or the child there are emotions that go along with this “holiday” just like any other. There is a heightened sense of frantic joy knowing that the days are numbered. The brand-new school year with its unknown details is right around the corner and it is electrifying. New teachers, new friends, sometimes a whole new school. New clothes, new lunch box, new crayons, oh, such heady stuff!

You probably have indelible memories of shopping for all that new stuff. Those memories can be pleasant or unpleasant depending on your experience. Was it an amazing adventure or a foray into battle? Was it a buying bonanza or did money have to be spread thinly amongst several children? Were there cool clothes and a cool lunchbox or are you still haunted by the ridicule you endured for that faux leather vest?

Rare is the child who did not lay awake the night before school started wondering if the next day’s experiences would match the visions in his head. Hopes were for nice teachers and friends that accepted you, even in a faux leather vest. If you were changing schools, maybe you worried about finding your way in uncharted territory. And do you remember the angst you felt the first year you would have to “dress out” for gym class? Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, there is no argument that this time of year is filled with what has become an American ritual. I see it happening around me and think: what marks time for me at this stage of my life? I do not participate in the back-to-school frenzy anymore. I’m a little nostalgic for the time when there were clearly defined transitions in life. I need some sort of ritual that draws a line of demarcation from one season to the next. Life indeed has its seasons and it would be nice to anticipate each change with a flurry of joyous activity. Changes in our lives usually descend on us unannounced. I’d like a little preparation time when everything is about to change.

Maybe I’ll work on that; a buying spree before every major change in my life. Buy myself some crayons and new tennis shoes. Oh wait, I already do that. So maybe, I’ll just imagine that tomorrow is the first day of a new “school of life” for me. I can joyously anticipate that tomorrow will be filled with adventures to live, lessons to learn, friends to make and new territory to navigate.

Anticipating tomorrow with joy is like enjoying the aroma of a backyard barbecue. Even the smell is delicious. Enjoying the anticipation that tomorrow may be something bigger, the start of a new adventure, makes today even better. I don’t have to fear tomorrow. I can celebrate it today. That makes today count.