Wednesday, April 11, 2012


What an incredible year this has been, and year before that, and year before that, and year before that.

It seems that each Easter Season brings an enormously new change. What strikes me is that God is doing something big. And keeps doing something big each year.

When Mary went to the tomb to mourn the 'loss' of her teacher and friend, Jesus took time out of his busy schedule and delayed his trip home to the Father. We get a hint of this when warns, "Don't cling to me; I haven't yet returned to the Father."

He gave her time to share his joy. To meet her grief with comfort, yes, but to ultimately share his joy.

That's the reason Jesus came.

One time he said, "I came that you may have my joy. And that your joy may be complete."

Embrace the Joy of Christ's Resurrection today, even in the midst of sorrows and disappointments.

God always has something new on the way!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Joy in the Journey - Day 1 - Sunday

This is Day 1 of our month-long trek across country. David and I have two purposes on this trip:

1- Build up our marriage after a difficult 18-months, and
2- Build relationships within LCMC and ask for prayer support for Rivers.

Joy in the Journey, from Michael Card, is what we are finding on the way.

We began last Sunday at St. Martin's, Annapolis, on the day of their second vote to leave the ELCA. We saw more joy there than we had in any previous visit and felt the Spirit moving in worship and prayer. People were still glowing from Gemechis Buba's sermon the week before. He is the new missions director for the NALC, and previously the Director for African National Ministries in the ELCA. "He had stolid Lutherans cheering!", reported one member of St. Martin's.

We joined a powerful prayer vigil between services and worshipped our Lord. We were treated to lunch and watched registration for voting move along efficiently. The expectation was that they would pass the vote. We waited expectantly in the lounge with two active non-members of the church who couldn't vote. 380 votes were cast, the vote failed by two. There were many tears as people streamed out. There was also a strong sense from some that they will now build a new congregation. We briefly greeted Bishop Wolfgang. It was the first time we had seen him since he became Bishop and we left the synod. He returned our hugs, but didn't have time to talk.

On greeting us after the meeting, Pastor Miller's first words were, "God is still God!" Amen. We pray for St. Martin's as they discern God's direction for their life together. The lyrics of Card's song seem to fit:

There is a joy in the journey,
There's a light we can love on the way.
There is a wonder and wildness to life,
and freedom for those who obey.
All those who seek it shall find it,
a pardon for all who believe.
Hope for the hopeless and sight for the blind

To all who've been born of the Spirit
and who share incarnation with him;
who belong to eternity, stranded in time,
and weary of struggling with sin.
Forget not the hope that's before you,
and never stop counting the cost.
Remember the hopelessness when you were lost?

There is a joy in this journey. May we all see it and delight in our Lord!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baptism by Fire

We just returned from a weekend drive down to
Tennessee for the baptism of my cousin, Amy.
What a joy to see everyone gather for her.

While the MiracleList has been dormant for a while,
miracles have not. We have been inundated with
love, joy and powerful working by the Holy Spirit.
What Jesus is doing in us and with us is amazing.

I'll try to be better about posting as we embark
on a month-long tour of the U.S., meeting pastors
and congregations in the LCMC across the country.

Yours in Christ,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Charging Our Batteries

Anyone who knows me, knows I enjoy my iPhone. Sadly, as it has gotten older the battery life has diminished. This inconvenience has led me to have chargers handy everywhere - at home, at work, in the car and an extra one just in case. Why is this relevant? Read on.

For over a year now our list of prayer partners has lifted up requests on behalf of our ministry. It is amazing how quickly the answers sometimes come. The most recent request was extraordinary, which is to say for God, it was par for the course.

I was discouraged by the drop in worship attendance - the last two Saturday evenings it was two families, ours and one other. I started thinking, "Maybe we aren't ready for weekly worship. Maybe we should focus our energies on other events." But that was not the Holy Spirit talking. The Holy Spirit did speak though. The many email responses I received reflected each author's own personality but the underlying message was identical. And it was a message I needed to hear. Just in case the emails weren't clear enough for me, God also sent it to my front door in person through a Christian census worker who reiterated the message. (She has now been added to the prayer partner list!)

Here is the answer to my prayer:

Worship is the center of Christian living. We are created to praise God. To do otherwise is to go against our very nature. Worship builds up the Christian community. It charges our batteries. We are like my poor phone - when we are weak we don't need to charge less...we need to charge more!

Come on Rivers of Life...Get Charged Up!!

Worship Saturdays, 6:30 - 8, Asbury Chapel
21 Craigtown Rd., Port Deposit, MD

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Prayer Retreat

A pastor friend invited me and seven other ministers
to an overnight retreat for prayer and fellowship.

What a great time!

Nine people who all have started new congregations
or trained new worship leaders just spending time alone.

We'd pray or read by ourselves for three hours,
then talk in groups of threes for an hour,
then eat for an hour, then just relax
together talking about whatever.

It was very peaceful.

And with the prayers of the sponsoring congregation,
it felt like spending time alone with God
was the most valuable time on earth.

We really do hear God differently when we stop
to actually try and hear Him speak.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Three Decisions, One Day

Rivers of Life had a big week! In one day, the
denominational leaders who first proposed this mission,
cancelled funding for the project...
just weeks after pledging they were in for the full 3 years.

They cited the economy, the unexpected lack of growth
in new home construction in the region, and the pressure
that two churches felt by having a 'new congregation' start
in between their two towns.

Now that may discourage some people, to be laid off,
but we believe that God works EVERY situation to good.

So we went to chocolate fair at a local church,
one of many, many, who have helped us start this year.
And they offered for us to worship at their building!

Then, our Rivers of Life family organized a huge dinner.
Just about everyone was there, because they wanted to
be together whatever the news from the officials was.

And it was a blast. Sure people feel hurt and angry.
No one says they shouldn't. But they felt an even stronger
sense of love for each other and thankfulness for God
giving us this group in the first place.

So, we invited a couple of the denominational leaders
and expressed our gratitude for them 'getting us this far.'

As we were planning to begin our weekly services in April,
those plans continue on track. And our hope is that even
without a full-time pastor, we will be able to work together
to launch this new church.

Isn't that how most Christian congregations have started?!

We had three big decisions... all out of my hands and
out of my control, but we placed them all in God's hands,
and God is doing something amazing with all three.

It's like Jesus feeding the 5,000+ with just a few fish and
loafs of bread. If he can do that with food... just imagine
what he can do with you and me!

Monday, December 21, 2009

God Gives Rest

People often think the first book of the Bible is about
the exact way God created the universe and our earth.

But this first Creation story is really about how God
created us... in God's own image, male and female.

And at the end of this good work, God makes
something holy.

And passes that holy thing on to us.

Time. God 'hallows' a day, the seventh day, and rests.
And thus gives us a day to rest.

No matter how busy we are, or necessary, or needed,
we are not more important than God.

And even God took a break.
And built, what Rabbi Heschel calls,
Architecture in Time.

God made a holy day.

I was recently reminded of this as the stress and strain
of helping to form a new Christian Community here
wore me down.

Several friends, and a few enemies, prayed for me,
and God answered their prayers by giving me rest.

We got snowed in at a friends house the whole weekend,
while over a foot of snow covered the roads
and blanketed our normally warm region.

So, I got to rest.
And I realized it was just the beginning of what I need.

I also need to remember that, with Ps 127:
Unless the Lord build a house, the workers labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guard the city, the watchmen watch in vain.
It is vain to rise up early and go to bed late,
for God gives rest to those he loves.

And God loves me.
And God loves you.
And the most beautiful thing in all creation
that God made, was the first holy thing on earth,
Time to rest and reflect and enjoy all the good that
God has done.

God blesses you with a sabbath day each week.
Accept this good and joyful gift.
And be like God.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Who Watches Who?

When people say, 'we go to Church' they may mean:
- the congregation is the audience
- the pastor and musicians are the actors on stage and
- the Lord is our cosmic director watching from a box.

But we don't go to Church... we ARE the church.
And God is not passively controlling our lives.
God is cheering us on!

Soren Kierkegaard said that
- the congregation are the actors on stage,
- the pastor is behind the scenes cuing lights and
- God is our audience.

We are performing for God, and whether our lives
are a drama, a tragedy, a comedy, a love story
or an action adventure... God is enthralled.
And deeply wants it to come out well in the end.

Where do you think we get our love of theater?
We were created in the image of God.

God is sitting on the edge of his seat,
wondering what you will do next.
God loves you!
God made us to enjoy us!
And God wants to see you in action!

Shakespeare penned, 'All the world is a stage,
and all the men and women merely players [actors].'
We are the Church as we go around life in the world,
not just as we gather for worship on Sunday.

But our Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit -
is not an audience passively watching or not caring.
- Our Creator wrote the script.
- Our Savior is on stage with us.
(Jesus became an actor just like us!) and
- Our Comforter (the Holy Spirit) is cheering us on.

And as any actor can tell you,
the audience's joy and rapt attention
is the really energy that drives you to perform well!

Our (Lord's) Prayer

When Jesus' friends asked how to pray, they spoke for us.
We often don't know how to talk to God.

So, Jesus said a simple prayer, we can pray everyday.

Our Father,
... Who art in heaven.
...... Hallowed be thy name.
......... Thy kingdom come.
............ Thy will be done.
............... On earth as
.................. it
..................... Is in heaven.
............ Give us this day our daily bread.
......... Forgive our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
...... Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.
... For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.


As you pray this prayer everyday and think in new ways
about how God is working in you and speaking to you,
you'll see many different things in the Lord's prayer.


I've outlined above just one way to realize that the
parts of the prayer are connected to each other
and how they connect to our lives
and connect us to God.

God is our Father. Forever.

God has an incredible kingdom and power in heaven
- Jesus preached that God's kingdom is 'AT HAND.'
- God's kingdom and power and glory is not far off.
- God's kingdom and power and glory is WITH US!

Ps 23 (The Lord is My Shepherd) says,
- 'you lead us in paths of righteousness'
- (which means safe and true paths)
- 'for your name's sake.'
- we follow God. God leads us.
God's name is hallowed... made holy among us
- when God protects us from danger
- and saves us from trouble.
- if the only prayer we can utter is, 'Oh, God help me!'
- God's name is hallowed, and God will hear our cry.

Earthy kingdoms and ruling bodies are set up to
- make sure people pay their debts and
- punish people for breaking the rule of law.
God's kingdom, God's economy and rule calls us
- to forgive debts and things people owe us,
- to forgive people who trespass against us.
- even against 'our property'... because
- it's not ours, it's all God's.

We ask God, the maker of heaven and earth
- to make things 'as' they seem on earth
- like life really 'is' in heaven.
- Make US earth creatures like JesUS, a child of heaven.
And God does this by making US part of JesUS

But Jesus comes first.

Our little "i" must join Christ's Cross "t".
- that's the "it" at the center of our lives.

Amen. ('So be it.') Amen.

Friday, December 11, 2009


To whom do you report?
When something goes wrong, or the unexpected occurs,
we often just shrug it off as 'not really our responsibility.'
It's not our fault.

But what in your life is?
What do you accept as your responsibility
no matter the difficulty or challenge?

Harry Truman was famous for his expression,
'The Buck Stops Here.'

Where does the buck stop with you?
Your relationships?
Your thoughts?
Your life?

Professionals can protect themselves by acting in a
'generally ethical manner' and documenting all we do.

But in our personal lives, this CYA approach doesn't work.
At the end of the day, our life is our responsibility,
even when other people are involved.

We're like a coach who is judged by the team's winning record,
a production manager accountable for the quality of all lines,
a governor responsible for the conduct of employees
he or she has never seen or doesn't even know.

Christians are held accountable, not just for what we do,
but what we do not do... and the negative situations that arise.

Our job, our responsibility, is to make peace.
The Bible says, We are given the Ministry of Reconciliation.

That's hard. It's not fair. It's 'unjust.'
But when we take seriously all that we do and
recognize opportunities to make things a little better,
we are joining in the work God came to do in Jesus Christ.

And that is what Christmas is really about.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Open Doors

God always has more opportunities than we imagine.
Everytime something unwanted happens, relax.

God's at work doing incredible things
with even the most horrible events.

So, smile. When you face any difficulty, know
God is leaning against the lamp post of your future
already waiting to lead you ahead.

Friday, November 27, 2009

5 "F" Words for Success

This week Christians start their New Year in the Church!
Join me in preparing for a fresh start.

Take honest stock of who we are. Write down goals!

I don't know everything or even do what I know.
So instead of being afraid of failure, we embrace it!

In fact, the first motto of this mission was: Fail Faster.
We're going to mess up. Why not do it sooner?
... and get over it and learn to succeed.

Martin Luther sparked this with: 'SIN BOLDLY...
and trust even more boldly in the grace of God.'

Below is a version of a tidbit Rick Warren sent that explains
why we'd rather... Fail Faster than Fear Failure.

Peter and Paul may be the greatest founders of our faith,
besides Jesus and John the Baptist.
And in Phillipians 3:12-13, Paul shows some secrets to success.

1. Face your Faults. Face Facts.
'I don't claim to be perfect.'

Even as a man who wrote much of the Bible and
started churches acriss the Roman empire,
Paul still said he had room to grow.

Sometimes your best friend will point out faults.
Sometimes your best enemy will. Thank God for them both!

2. Forget the Past
'This one thing I do: forget what is behind.'

Leaders learn from mistakes, but they don't live in them.
Let go of hurts, habits and hang ups that hold you back.
And they don't sit on their past success!

3. Focus on the Future
'Straining toward what is ahead, I press on for the goal.'

We aren't ignoring the past... we're looking ahead!
Rivers get their power by being focusing on flowing foward.
Rivers of Life is not called to be Dead Sea or swamp.

4. Fight to the Finish
'I press on!'

Nothing great happens without effort. We coast downhill.
Ordinary people are extraordinary when they don't quit!
Go the extra mile. Never give up.

5. Faith

Faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not yet seen.

Write down what you are trusting God to do.
And then press for that goal!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Family Gathering

It's that time of year again - the planning season. You know, it's here when the air becomes cool and crisp and the leaves are mostly gone. Then it's time to map out what to do for the holidays.

Some families may do the same thing every year. Everyone knows the routine - where to go, what to bring. But being in the ministry several hundred miles from friends and family is not conducive to this arrangement. So we sit on the phone, calendar in hand. What days are you off? Where will everyone sleep?

This year, the planning season is about a different kind of family gathering. As the new congregation starts to form, I realized that this is part of God's family coming together. It's a joyful thing to meet brothers & sisters in Christ!

We are still trying to figure out how to contact everyone so they won't be left out. And since we haven't talked to them yet, we are making our best approximation for when their calendar might be free. We would like the 'new additions' to the family - the ones that have never seen us all together before - to feel welcome and at home. And of course there are preparations so that there is space for everyone.

With God's help and guidance the plans are coming along. If I weren't here I would expect this new congregation of just a few families to feel fragile at this early stage. But it doesn't. Our foundation is firm. It's going to be an amazing party!

Even so, this is just a preview of the family gathering to come. It's going to be big - not like a Thanksgiving dinner or a birthday party, but a wedding! You see the church is described as Christ's bride as millions and millions of us will gather around God's throne, praising his name, for the ultimate reunion.

I've been to some fantastic celebrations, but I really want to see the shindig that God throws to welcome all his children home.

Don't you?

Friday, November 13, 2009

How to Help

When friends or family lose someone they love
or have a dream taken away, they feel pain at the loss.

How can you help? Usually, not by fixing it... or them.
What most people who hurt say is:
I just want someone to talk to.

Can you do that?

It's not OUR EYES that matter, but THEIRS.
What do they see? What do they feel?

Ask: How is my friend speaking about their loss?
Ask them: What died for you?

Then reflect their answers back. Use their words.
Resist the urge to share a story of your own.
Or to solve the problem of their pain.

You cannot relate.
And even if you can. This is their pain.
Loving is not talking but taking.
Accept what they give.
Accept who they are.

Christians follow Jesus example.
And our Lord did not stand TALL, he got LOW.
He knelt before his friends and washed their feet.
So can we.

We can:
Listen rather than Tell.
Observe more than Act.
Wait before we can Lead.
do nothing and not Leave.

Pay attention to when people say the loss and grief began.
Give them permission to 'Be o.k. where they are.'

There's a great story in Bible called Job.
His friends came and just sat with him
when his entire world fell apart.

And that was enough.
But then they decided his 'time was up.'
He needed to 'get over the grief'
and realize he was 'part of the problem.'

But people are not the problem
and Job's friends should have kept their mouths shut.

So, God had to come down and talk to them.
And tell them to ask Job to pray for them!
Because they had really missed the point
of just being a friend.