Monday, December 31, 2012

New Years Eve

Last night I sat around and listened to people share how happy they were that they were off on New Years Eve.  Others complaining that they had to work.  I thought it was an odd discussion.  Doesn't every body work seven days a week?  Isn't there always something that we have to do?  Sure seems like it to me. 

Seems like in life, you have to lean into the plow and keep working at it.  You take your rests when you can.  That is just the way the world seems to work to me.  No reason to complain, you just get up every day and keep going, and look for the good along the way.  Not very scientific, but it seems to be working.

I have great memories of New Years Eve's.  Invited over to someone's house.  Games, snacks, stories.  You fall into bed late at night and tomorrow the new year starts.  The older I get, the faster it is all going by.

If you have the day off today, enjoy it.  If you have to work, enjoy that as well.  It is all good.  Life is good.  Rain or shine, snow or not.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Aftermath

Christmas is over again for another year.  We had a wonderful time at our house and everyone is glad to take some time to rest.  All the busy-ness tends to make everyone a bit tired.

Today is the last Sunday of the year.  You may not have any relatives with you, but I hope that you will make it to God's house.  He will surely be there.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


There are always several that ask about our attendance numbers for Christmas eve.  Please remember that numbers are only important because they represent people.  Human beings.  Numbers can also reflect the level of vitality in a congregation.

Last year on Christmas Eve we had a record attendance of 3003.  It always makes me nervous when we set records because you are always still expected to beat it.  If a baseball player hits a 360 foot home run, the next time that he comes up to bat, the fans aren't excited until he hits it 370 feet.  And a 350 foot home run, well that is just boring.  Anyway, you get the drift, there are some strange pressures that come to bear on pastors regarding attendance figures.

Having said all of that, we had a great night on Christmas Eve.  The music was super and I was very pleased with everything.  I so appreciate all of you that volunteered with hospitality, parking lot duty or ushering.  The total attendance for the Christmas Eve this year was 3281.  This is another new record.

Please join me in working to identify and retain every person that is now newly visiting Woods Chapel.  Please also receive my thanks for being the kind of congregation that people want to become a part of.  I am indeed the most fortunate pastor that I know.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, December 28, 2012

something to think about

A reader shared this story and quote.......

Wes Swank passed away at the young age of 31.  His death was a loss to all those who knew him.  This was one of his favorite quotes.

“I go to work every day with people smarter than me, who are better at what they do than me.  I go to the gym every day and work out with people stronger and faster than me.  I spend my spare time with friends and family whose values and quality of character I aspire to reflect.  For all of these reasons, I get a little better, every day.”

I thank God for those who give us something to think about.  Heaven is a better place.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.


Thursday, December 27, 2012


What is that line from the serenity prayer?  "Accepting the things that I cannot change."

I really don't like the painful things that I am powerless to change.  I wish I could change them.  It is easy to get lost in the struggle of trying to fix that which I cannot fix. 

Sometimes Christians think that if they pray hard enough, or if they get enough people praying, that anything will be fixed.  Well, I am all for prayer, but in the world that I live in, honest people will admit to you that sometimes, things don't go the way that they want them to go, no matter how much they pray.

Jesus offered an interesting prayer, it includes a request and an acceptance.  "Lord, let this cup pass from me, but if not, then not my will but Yours be done."  Sometimes true spirituality is accepting that which we are powerless to change.  To learn to find the joy in these times is a great gift.  I find that I am often on a pretty serious search for this kind of joy.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

the gift

What does a parent give to a child?  What does a son give to a father?  A father to a son?  What does a mother give to a daughter?  For that matter, what does a Father give to a daughter?  A mother to a son?

The joy of giving and receiving is beyond description.  It is such a wonderful opportunity to give to those we love.  I hope that you have taken the opportunity to invest in those that you love.  There is no greater joy in life than to help someone else along the way, along the journey.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas!!

I dearly love you all.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve

Today there will be long lines at the shopping mall.  There will be hurried wrapping and baking.  The rush of deadlines and the pressure of trying to get everything done will cause many to be on their last nerve.

Today the churches will be filled.  The story will be read and the carols sung.  The pastors will remind their congregations of the reason for all of this.

God has spoken into this world.  Although the message came through a quiet babe in Bethlehem, His message still resounds loud and clear.  No evil of human endeavor can quench the message of God's light.  Every time a light bearer falls, someone else is there to take up the cause and point the way again.

God is redeeming the world.  God is reaching His people.  God so loved the world.  It is Christmas eve.  Don't be distracted.  God is not.  He is still on point, looking for hearts that are open to receive His wonderful message of love.  May yours be such a heart.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

for you

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
Eleanor Roosevelt

It is Christmas time.  You should be happy.  So should I.   What ever it is that is dragging your heart and mind down, don't let it do it anymore.  God loves you.  Jesus died for you.  The child was sent to a lowly place, to common people, to grungy shepherds.  God's message in Christmas is that every single one of us is loved, especially those who did not expect it. 

Realize who you are in Christ.  Realize that you are the object of God's love, God's delight.  Don't give in to the bad feelings that come from time to time.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

the end it isn't

Please join me in putting no stock in any future predictions of the end of the world.  In my lifetime I bet that I have heard of 50 different end of the world predictions.  The middle east is always in turmoil.  Please don't rush out and buy the books the next time that there is a big war in the middle east.

We just don't know about these things.  There is no reason for us to get ourselves all excited about trying to predict the end.  We can not do it.  When we try, we are simply engaging in speculative theology.  It wastes our time and it is not glorifying to God. 

Do you want to please God?  Then stop worrying about the end, and start being concerned with today.  Who can I love?  Who can I help?  How can I use the resources God has given me to bless someone else?

A long time friend sent me this version of a famous scripture.  I found it humorous....
"Of that day and hour knoweth no May-an."

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, December 21, 2012

the end

The Doors sang a song about "the end."  The Mayan calendar said something about the end.  Or maybe it didn't.  My entire life I have listened to preachers, prophets and ner-do-wells threaten the end of the world.

I stick with the words of Jesus, "of that day and of that hour knoweth no man."

Each day that God gives us is a gift for us to cherish.  Instead of hoping for the end, or worrying about the end, why don't we just throw ourselves with wreckless abandon at the gift of today.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

this Sunday

I know this is going to come up in the sermon on Sunday.  It is a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote- "rings and jewels are not gifts but apologies for gifts........the only true gift is a portion of one's self."

I don't know about you, but that little phrase has given me plenty to think about for a while.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

a loss

He was born December 21, 1911, before the titanic sunk, before WW1. He was appointed a bishop in 1972 when I was 15 years old.  He retired from the episcopacy in 1980 and became a professor at my seminary.  At the age of 72, he was my oldest professor in seminary.

I remember how much I loved to hear him talk about faith in Jesus Christ.  He was an expert on prayer.  He was a good soul.  He used to say that "prayer was the soul's most sincere desire." He took a personal interest in me.

Bishop Mack Stokes died on November 21 of this year.  He was 100 years old.  He will be greatly missed, yet I thank God for the ways in which this wonderful man touched my young life.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

momma said

Momma said there would be days like this.

Everywhere I went yesterday, I ran into people that were mad at me.  People that I had disappointed.  I hate days like that.  Much as I don't like to let people down, it happens.  They didn't want a bigger church, they don't like some new staff person, they don't like the sermons.  Any number of reasons for folks to be discontented in any church.

 I comfort my brain on days like that by telling myself that I did not mean to hurt them.  It was not my intention to let them down.  In fact, the opposite is true.....usually I was trying to do the right thing, and they just saw the world differently.

So, you keep going, you keep trying to do the right thing.  The sun will come up tomorrow.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Monday, December 17, 2012

those painful moments

"You didn't fail.  You have not lost.  Instead you have gained.....a chance to start again, this time, with new ideas, new energy and a new perspective.  An opportunity to try something you've always wanted to do without the ties of the past to restrict you."
Patricia Mitchell

Change, pain and perceived failure can be painful.  They can also be a chance for a new start.  A person has to decide in such moments, whether they will succumb or overcome, whether they will rise or fall, whether they will lay down or whether they will step into  the wind.

It's all in how you look at the moment.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Shhhh.  Quiet.  Listen.  Don't miss it.  Sometimes I am talking when I should be listening.  Sometimes I  am worrying and scurrying when I should be listening.

There is a little sound.  A little sound of Christmas.  A little word.  It is the heart.  It is the core.  It is the central and only piece. 

Shhh.  Quiet.  Listen for it.


That is what Christmas is about.  God's love.  Don't miss it for all of the hurrying.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


I am saddened, as all of you are over the senseless killings of teachers and children that took place yesterday.

We will be talking about this in church tomorrow.  Suffice it to say, while I am baffled by people that do such things, I feel pretty clear about who we are and the message that we have to give to the world.

I cannot control others, but I can control me.  And as long as I have life and breath, I am going to work to to the right things and to love every one that I possible can, for the sake of Christ.

Let us grieve for those whose hearts are breaking.  Let us pray that our Father console them as only he can.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Friday, December 14, 2012

your choice

How do you spend your time?  What do you get caught up in?  Are you drawn into endless arguments?  Are you fighting a battle that will never be won? 

As the Hasidic masters taught their students, “Rake the muck this way.  Rake the muck that way.  It will still be muck.  In the time you are brooding, you could be stringing pearls for the delight of heaven.”

How are you spending your time?

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


We all want God to act.  We all want something to happen that will remind us of his presence with us.  We pray for miracles.  We beg for His touch.  But we cannot force God to do anything.  We can’t make it happen.

What we can do is wake up.  We can learn to open our eyes and our hearts.  At least that way, when God does act, we will notice.  We will be looking.  It will not pass us by.  Awake thou that sleepest, and the light of Christ shall shine on you.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Good or bad?

Is the world good or bad?  Is life here a good thing or a bad thing?  Are you usually safe or usually in trouble?  Now there is no argument that there are some bad folks who make life terrible for others… gangs in Mexico would be an example.

But outside of those situations, I think that the world is basically a good place.  This is my Father’s world.  I was reading an author the other day who pointed out that the most common phrase in the Bible is “be not afraid.”

God is with us.  Be not afraid.  All is well.
I like it.

It’s a beautiful day in God’s world, be sure to see the good.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

fighting depression

Little d depression.  Many of us get it.  It isn't any fun.  Big D Depression.  Fewer get it, but it can be very debilitating.  I talk to people all of the time who are dealing with one form or another of depression.  Here are some suggestions if you are struggling..........

8 keys to fight depression

1.  You may feel overwhelmed by many difficult things in your life.  Agree that most of them will be there tomorrow.  Make peace with that.  Focus your efforts on one of the issues.  Work on it until it is resolved.  Then move on to the next.  One thing at a time.

2.  Listen to soothing music.  Classical music or Fernando Ortega or whatever you love.  Music calms the savage beast.  It speaks to our souls. 

3.  Diversion.  Go to a movie.  Go occupy your time.  Give your brain a break by force filling it with something.

4.  Read something helpful.  Try the book, "Walking on Water" by Anthony Demello.  It really helped me during a very little d depression time.

5.  Spend time with Christian friends.  Surround yourself with positive, helpful, constructive people.

6.  Get outside and take in some of God's creation.  let the sun, the moon, the air, the wind, the trees speak to you of the glory of God.  Get outside of the four walls and let the heavens declare the glory of God.

7.  Exercise.  Go for a walk.  Start a mild callisthenic work out.  It is amazing how much better a person feels when they are exercising even a little bit.  It is a giant stress reliever.  This might be the first thing that you try.

8.  Pray.  There are some things that we can do, and there are some things that God can do.  Do everything that you can, but ask for the help of our loving Father.

It is a beautiful day in God's world.  Keep looking for it.  You will find it.  You will see it.  The goodness of God is here.

Monday, December 10, 2012

the blessing

Oh.  The blessing of a Sunday off.  Whether a pastor is on vacation, or present but not preaching that day, it is a blessing to have a Sunday when you are not preaching.  Sometimes people complain to me if I am gone, but please understand that your brain needs a break.  Your soul needs a break.  There is such pressure to have something to say, something spiritual, and it better be good!

It is so wonderful to have a Saturday when your brain isn't rolling over the information for the sermon every moment of the day.  You can actually work in the yard and enjoy the relaxation.  It is nice to have a week when you are not frantically searching for the right things to say.

So I was off yesterday.  It was good for my brain and soul.  Getting a break keeps our souls good and excited about life in general.  Thanks for understanding.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

golden windows

When I was a child, my grandmother used to tell me a story about a boy who looked to the west at sunrise and saw a home with golden windows.  He wanted very much to go to that very special home and be apart of the wealth, glamor, fame and wonder of that place.  He packed a lunch and started walking.  He walked all day.

Just as the sun was beginning to set, he arrived at the home only to find that it did not have golden windows.  In fact, it was a very common home just like his own.  And so he looked to the east, and as the sun was setting, he saw his own home, now itself complete with golden windows.

Grandma would explain how the sun does that to windows depending on whether it was rising or setting.  Then she would tell us the meaning.  Your home is fine.   Your things are fine.  Your life is fine.  You are fine.  All is well.  Don't think that the answer is somewhere else.  Find the answer where you are.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

our choice

There is a scene in the movie Evan Almighty where a reporter is interviewing Evan that sticks with me.

Ark Reporter: What makes you think God chose you?
Evan Baxter: He chose all of us.

It makes me think about when we talk about the people who are chosen and how it is usually followed by the statement ........God doesn't choose the equipped, He equips the chosen.

That statement seems have a sense of exclusiveness to me.

I Believe
We are all chosen.
We are all equipped.
We just need to say yes.

Lion's Den Man

Friday, December 7, 2012

83 years ago

today is my mom's birthday

born a little over a month after the 1929 crash on wall street
she grew up in the depression era
pearl harbor was bombed on her 12th birthday (today) and so from that point on war replaced the depression.
at age 16 in 1945 the war ended
those were her child hood years

i doubt she knew how much of the plans made for her that were set aside. i never had the chance to talk to my grandfather about what he went through as a father and provider i am sure it was tough for him.

neither of my parents never talked much about those days growing up but in hindsight you can see how it affected their lives. never really complaining and never really wanting. they grew up "making do" and continued in that way of life their entire life.

so many things we can learn from our parents and those who came before us.

Lion's Den Man

Thursday, December 6, 2012

beware of doug

i love this larson cartoon
my twist on this piece of humor is
i think everyone has a doug in their life
someone that we avoid
someone that makes us uncomfortable
someone that we find hard to communicate with
someone that always needs something or just simply gets in the way of our plans
someone that if we don't see and can't avoid really brings our day down

more than likely you have a doug lurking around
more than likely you are a doug too.... as am i

i need to remind myself of this and remember doug is ok if i don't let myself get in the way

Lion's Den Man

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Yesterday morning, at the men's gathering, a talk was given on the topic of Grace. I think most will agree that although we are thankful for God's gift of grace it is still something we struggle to accept or understand at times. When we know we have done wrong to another, although it is nice to know when they have forgiven us, we are either unable to accept it as a truth or we tend to still want to prove ourselves worthy of that forgiveness. Many times how we accept it often plays into how we give it out as well.

In the book "The Ragamuffin Gospel", Brennan Manning writes,

We accept grace in theory but deny it in practice. Living by grace rather than the law leads us out of the house of fear into the house of love. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love." (1 John 4:18) Living by Grace inspires a growing consciousness that I am what I am in the sight of Jesus and nothing more. It is His approval that counts.

Yesterday's talk ended with an exercise that went something like this:
Close your eyes.
Think of something you have done that has made you feel unworthy of God's grace.
Now picture Jesus next to you.
He calls you by name and tells you that you are forgiven.
Thank Him.
Open your eyes.

Grace provides the freedom we need to carry on and do his work.

Lion's Den Man

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


here is a twist on something i heard the other day.....

wagons. in church some people pull the wagon. some ride in the wagon. some need to be in the wagon and others need, at some point, to leave the wagon and pull. pulling feeds us. it strengthens us. it binds us closely to others we are pulling with and helps to keep the wagon on the path.

my guess is the majority of the readers here are wagon pullers and my guess is you weren't always but because of another puller's invitation you became one. there are lots of folks in the wagon that really just need a personal invitation to pull. as pullers that is our job too.

Lion's Den Man

Monday, December 3, 2012

a simple message

It can be easy I think to take something that is simple and make it complex. sometimes we just tend to get in the way. sometimes we let others tell us what we should think or how we should respond or how we are suppose to view something. we are all so different and so we all have a different take or view on how things should be and that is ok as long as it doesn't stray from the truth....over the last few weeks I have been reading and listening to thoughts and opinions about what Christmas is "really" about and how, as believers, we are to suppose to respond to the Christmas message. Interesting how easy it is to make a statement and then argue it until it sounds like you have the answer....

I like this one myself....

John 3
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

That is Christmas. A gift of love from God. God is love. God loves us. God wants us to love each other. When we love each other by whatever means we can..... a smile and hello, a gift, serving, etc. then we are in understanding of the true meaning of Christmas.

Lion's Den Man

Sunday, December 2, 2012


I recently watched a movie called the Tree of Life.  I was moved by some of the quotes, which I share with you today.

"The only way to be happy is to love.  Unless you love, your life will flash by.

There are two ways through life- the way of nature and the way of grace.  You have to choose which one you will follow.

Grace doesn't try to please itself.  It accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked.  It accepts insults and injuries.

Nature only wants to please itself, to get others to please it too.  It like to lord it over them, to have its own way.  It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it.  And love is smiling through all things.

No one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end.

I will be true to grace, no matter what comes."

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

sermon series

I love the Christmas season, but it will soon be over.  It is pretty easy to know what to preach about during Christmas.  The story is the same every year.  But between Christmas and Lent, there is a period of 6-8 weeks that we need ideas for a sermon series.

You all are the best people in the world, and you all have great hearts and great ideas.  What would you like to hear about during that time period?  What topic would you like to hear a sermon series on?

Thanks for your help today, and in every way that you reach out and care about your church.

It's a beautiful day in God's world, be sure to see the good.