Category Archives: News and Notes

January 10 – When Grace Abounds

It’s like one of those stories of the unexpected check arriving in the mail and it’s exactly the amount you need to pay the bill of the unexpected expense. I would dismiss such stories as just too cheesy except for Becky and I having experienced just such grace many years ago in our tight budget years.

This is a story with less of the unexpected, but more of seeing grace and its amazing work.

Chapter one begins nearly a decade ago and mostly is not my story to tell, but for the fact that at the very end I have a small role to play.  One of our LPC physicians had walked with a patient on a long journey through what would be a terminal illness.  The care given was the best medicine could provide, but, more, it was personal and caring and filled with faith.  In time our doctor would share his Christian faith with a faithful patient and her family and friends.  The patient would speak of God’s presence in her life even through the darkest times. Our doctor prayed with her and sometimes when appointments and procedures were scheduled around the doctor’s mission trips to Guatemala, he spoke of his sense of calling and the joy he found in following Christ to that faraway place.

When death’s dark shadow finally fell, family and friends – and the physician – grieved deeply, but not as those without hope. Continue reading

January 3 – The Rise of a None

“The rise of the nones” is the attention-grabbing phrase used to describe the well-documented increase in the percentage of Americans who, when queried by survey researchers about their religious identification, say “none.” 

So begins a recent report from Gallup.  As is frequently noted, the “rise of the nones” is not necessarily the “rise of the atheists.”  In fact, for all the noise made by the celebrity atheists, atheism is not doing much better than organized religion in capturing the affection and loyalty of modern Americans.  Simply put, when the pollster asks one of us to check a box to describe our religious identity fewer of us are checking Catholic or Protestant (mainline or evangelical), Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu.  More and more of us are choosing “none of the above.”  Hence, the “rise of the nones.” Continue reading

December 27 – Happy New Year

Our God, our help in ages past,
our hope for years to come,
our shelter from the stormy blast,
and our eternal home. 

The words are from Isaac Watt’s hymn interpretation of Psalm 90. They have spoken to the hearts of God’s people since the Psalmist first wrote them and for 300 years as English speaking Christians have sung them.

Should the Lord honor our plans, 2020 will be the year I cross the finish line as my 45 years of full-time ministry come to an end.  Becky and are looking forward with eager expectation to the next season of life with our faithful God; he is, indeed, our hope for years to come. The year undoubtedly will bring reflections on his help in years past, as well. Continue reading

December 20 – A Christmas Homecoming: Chaos and Confusion

First, the graphic.  Ornamental cinderblock that reminds me of home.  My family’s 1960s house in suburban Southern California had the stuff all over the place, and it was meant to look modern.  It still reminds me of that house where we lived.

I’ve been thinking about Christmas Eve, and will say more about it in Sunday’s sermon.  Not so much the nativity account in Luke’s gospel, but the ways we remember and celebrate Christmas Eve in the church.  This coming Tuesday may be my last time leading a Christmas Eve worship service.  By rough count I think I may have attended nearly a hundred Christmas Eve services of various sorts and I have led or helped lead around 75 of those services.  That’s a lot of Christmas Eve experience.  I have an idea of who’s going to show up on Tuesday and what to expect from them.

I don’t remember much if anything about Christmas Eve, 1969 – fifty Christmas Eves ago, except that I am pretty sure I went to the worship service at our church with whichever of my brothers and sisters my parents could persuade or coerce to join them, and that I must have been more confused that Christmas Eve than I have been any Christmas Eve since. Continue reading

December 13 – A Squatters’ Christmas

Last evening in our Faith Acts adult class we attempted to answer the provocative question, “Is it time to take Christ out of Christmas?”  We ran out of time, as I knew we would, and I’m not sure we answered the question.  I’m pretty sure no single answer to the question is to be found.

Christmas has always been a problem for Christians.  We talk about the “real meaning” of Christmas and then hurry back to our shopping lists.  We love this season of joy, but then find ourselves irritated by the unreasonable demands of the season.  We want to keep Christ in Christmas, but forget to read our Christmas devotional or find ourselves five days behind in opening the Advent calendar windows.  Everyone knows our wait is for Christmas morning stash much more than for Christmas Eve worship.

At its best our Christmas is schizophrenic, Christian Christmas and Cultural Christmas waging war within and without.  There’s a war on Christmas, some say.  It rages on every front.

Things aren’t looking good on the battlefield. Perhaps we should retreat before we must surrender.  The culture owns Christmas.  We might as well go underground – committing acts of sabotage when we are able, refusing to cooperate with the occupying forces as best we can. Continue reading