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One of my very first memories is my dad lifting me up so I could see over the balcony of our American apartment in Frankfurt, Germany, and hear the carolers in the courtyard below, singing German carols.  (It’s still not Christmas until I hear some German carols reminding me of my earliest Christmas memories.) 

I grew up with singing parents, and in a singing church. Singing in a group has been a part of my life, continually, since I was born.

Several years ago, some “musical friends” had a large “music” party filled with all sorts of food and drink that had no nutritional value in the least and friends, old and young, just getting together to sing some hymns. At the door we were handed a customized bound book of hymns and psalms (and “spiritual songs”)The guests were, for the most part, singers by profession.  All night we ate, drank, laughed, chattered, and sang…it was a taste of my own personal heaven.  As I sat and looked at and listened to the variety of singles, couples, and groups, all ages, all types, I smiled and listened as everyone sang along.  Some songs were familiar, others were not…and no one cared.  It was a great evening!

I was especially taken with the thought that we all were singing the same song, but not all were singing the same notes, some were singing the same words, but maybe not at the same time as everyone else…on purpose, or not.  Some were singing the melody, and at one point we sang a duet, and the treble voices sang one part, and the lower voices the other.  It was beautiful and the differences in voice, range, dynamic and polyphony (singing various moving lines of music simultaneously) still created a unified thought and the sense that ALL of us were “journeying” together to the same conclusion, along the same theme, but at different paths.

The phrase, “many paths to God” is one that Christians have avoided because it seemingly conflicts with Jesus own words, “I am THE way, THE Truth and THE life…no one comes to the Father except through Me.”  I don’t think the “many paths” idea conflicts with Jesus at all…I may be “splitting hairs”, but I believe that Jesus is stating there is ONE DOOR…but it is also obvious to me, in the scripture and in life, that each of us comes to that door through a variety of ways.  It also seems evident, by virtue of the scripture, that each of us feels, sees, hears, and experiences things in a different way.  Our journeys of faith have different beginnings, but the same end, have different twists and turns, but the same arrival point, have different tempos of transport, but the same destination.

I don’t believe that God wants us all to sing in unison, because we couldn’t…we are all as different as Soprano is from Alto, and Tenor is from Bass.  Jesus has a song written specifically for each of us.  Also, the scripture reminds us, there are “a variety of gifts, but One Spirit”.  We also have differences built into us, and we begin our journeys at different times.  Our perspectives of God are different depending on what He has done for and to each of us, and where we are in our maturity as Spiritual beings.  We couldn’t and shouldn’t sing in unison.  It is not the church’s job to make its congregation “toe the party line”, but to know the breadth and depth of the love of the Father…nurturing the Spirit in each person to “lead into all Truth.”

We are made to sing the song together…but without the beauty of our individual voices and parts the song would not be so rich, so full, so moving…it is the combination of ALL our “journeys to Jesus” that makes the voyage so wonderful…and the destination cadence so breath-taking.

We were created to sing in HARMONY.





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A couple of weeks ago I experienced the joy of a body slowly falling apart.  While on vacation I had the audacity to sit in a chair, you heard me correctly, I SAT in a CHAIR.  I didn’t twist, I didn’t turn, I did nothing out of the ordinary.  And yet, my right knee (the right side of my body, where nothing works well) suddenly was injured in some way.  It has ached ever since, although a little better every day with some walking and stretching…good grief (as my sainted mother would say).

In the scheme of life this is a minor, very minor, thing to experience.  And many of my friends suffer much more than this.  For me, it is, after all, not my hands.  I use my hands every day to do all sorts of work.  And although I have arthritis in my right hand (again with the right side of my body) I can deal with that.  The knee is not my voice.  In the scope of my physical body, the place that hurts and cripples me is a small area, not even as large as my fist.

However, I am stunned at the realization that even that small place, when “out of place” affects absolutely EVERY part of my body and EVERY part of my life.  I find myself “re-thinking” about walking down the hall, or getting in and out of chairs, or going up and down stairs.  How long will I have to sit?  Will I be able to stretch out my right leg? Will I be able to get up?  How much sleep will I lose because I can’t find a comfortable position?  If I lose that much sleep, will I be able to do everything I need to do tomorrow?  How much ibuprofen can I take without jeopardizing my kidneys or what-not, should I just go ahead and switch to morphine (kidding)?  I’ll bet that many of us have had ALL and more of these kinds of thoughts. 

And have you noticed how even the smallest discomfort, pain, or brokenness affects the rest of the body?

And here is the lesson: In our collective “body”, this community of faith, there are many people with many different gifts to offer.  There are many ways that each of us fit into the “brickwork” of this Body of Christ…some are obvious, and some are not…and no one is unimportant or less connected than another.  AND, like our physical bodies, if the “toe hurts”, the arm may not feel the pain, but the arm will be affected by what the toe cannot do.  When one of us hurts, we all are affected, whether we feel it or not. 

Once again, one cannot be a believer and follower of Jesus in the abstract.  Faith is a COMMUNITY eventour BELIEF is nothing without ACTION.  ACTION is played out as we love each other as Jesus loves us:  totally, sacrificially, and sometimes unrequitedly.

Why do we take the time and trouble to ask for and publish prayer requests?  First, because prayer works.  Secondly, because we care.  Thirdly, and most selfishly…because YOUR pain affects ME.  YOUR pain, and MY pain, affects all of us.

John Donne, another one of my favorite writers; the poet-priest who lived in a time when the church bell tolled three times at the death of a villager, wrote this God-inspired and familiar collection of lines:

 No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

And, the Apostle Paul (another one of my favorite writers) said:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.  Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?  But in fact, God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

Let’s continue to be “connected”, especially when there is no pain, where there is no imminent reason, but just because we need to be connected.  Then, when there IS pain to share or pain requiring comfort, we have already been practicing the action of love required by us if we are to call ourselves a community of faith, a congregation. 




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One day, when I was out for a neighborhood walk, I noticed two boys and an adult walking along the street.  One of the young boys had a bike which he was “walking” behind the other young boy, who was slightly ahead.  The boy with the bike accidently (as it looked to me) ran into the boy who was walking, just a bump, nothing major.  Immediately the boy in front turned around and without so much as a word hit the other boy in the shoulder.  The boy with the bike threw it down and started to pound on the other boy…the adult immediately jumped in and broke up what had started.  Now I don’t know the “back story” I only know what I saw…but these boys were young, very young, and I wondered at what age we all learn to hit back when we are hurt.  Because it IS a “learned” behavior…and not the way we were created…and not the way of the Kingdom we “Followers” call Home.

At whatever age we’ve learned to hit back harder, or repay an equal amount of pain, we also learn to apply that principle to every part of our lives.  We learn the subtle ways of “getting back” or “getting even” and call it “fairness”.  We learn it, and we practice it.  It becomes a part of our politics: whatever happened to simply stating your platform and being polite, without attacking your opponent?  It becomes war: how long have countries fought, simply stating that they are paying back for the attack on them?  It all seems so natural…after all, I have the right to defend myself, don’t I?  I have the right to say that if you hurt me, you deserve pain also…isn’t that the case?

Some people who identify as “Christian” do the same thing, without a second thought, even though “fighting back”, “getting even”, “causing pain”, “an eye-for-an-eye” is completely, irrevocably, and undeniably against ALL that Jesus, the King, teaches in that black book they hold up while screaming curses at those who are different than them.

When our soldiers across the sea are killed, mutilated, their bodies dragged through the streets…I am not surprised, I am horrified that any human could do that to another, but am not surprised.  That is the kind of behavior I expect from the ignorant and ungodly.  I would hope that is never the kind of behavior any American citizen would engage in…but I know that I’m wishing for something that is probably not to be.

However, we who follow Jesus (and if you’re going to call yourself a “follower of Jesus” you actually DO need to “follow Jesus”…otherwise, you’re just a “fan”) should be behaving in a manner that HE teaches us.  No matter what country we live in, no matter if our bodies live in the USA or somewhere else, we are citizens of the KINGDOM OF GOD, and we simply don’t behave that way.

Not because we haven’t been hurt, we have.
Not because we haven’t been slandered, we have.
Not because we haven’t been humiliated, we have.
But because we simply don’t behave that way…no matter what they do to us.  The minute we hit them back, we become them, we ignore our citizenship in the Kingdom, and we cause God grief.  

If we are going to “follow” Jesus, then we have no other choice but to do as He commands: walk the extra mile, turn the other cheek, love (LOVE) our enemies and pray for them…and be IN the world…but, unlike “them”, not OF the world. 

My prayer is that there will come a time, soon, when others will know we are Christians by our love, and not just because our Facebook status says so.



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I was reading, enjoying the night on the little balcony outside our ship cabin this week.  The balcony light, like the light of a back porch at home, lit up the space…and I was enjoying the night. The moon was bright and reflected on the ocean waves, steady but calm.  Across from me were the Florida Keys. Their lights were twinkling in the dark; winking at us as we slowly cruised by.  Key West was the last light I saw, and I silently remembered Jimmy Buffet who had just passed that day.

As I was reading, I realized there was a little sound playing in the background; a sound that didn’t belong with the sounds of the waves and the distant music of the ship.  It was the intermittent quiet chirp of a small bird.  I looked around and sure enough there, perched in the upper corner of girders over me, was a small, white-breasted black bird.  He was the size of a finch. He was getting my attention, chirping one “peep” at a time, looking directly at me. He hopped down to the chair across the balcony from me, and I put my book down and watched him for a moment.

Then he started hopping in place, turning, looking, faster and faster, turning his head and body, looking all around him.  I realized he was getting agitated.  He ruffled his feathers a couple of times as he was trying to make up his mind about flying.  Then he did.  He fluttered closer to me and looked intently.  He chirped again. Maybe it was my own imagination, but I got the clear idea he was trying to get my attention about something.  Suddenly he swooped up and started flying in a panicked manner, back and forth from one side wall to the other. I was afraid he would hit the wall. He stopped and “hovered” right at the opening out to the sea but would not fly out.  He continued to panic, I could see, as he didn’t think he could fight the breeze caused by our movement, and he continued to fly back and forth over me. I tried to calm him as best I could, not knowing anything about birds, hushing him till he stopped and perched, once again, on the chair across from me.

I watched him. I suddenly saw him as a small and helpless child, wanting to escape, panicking because he thought he couldn’t, and seeking help from the only other living being he could find.

My mind started spinning. I remembered a time when my youngest suddenly thought he was abandoned (he didn’t see me right there) and panicked like this little bird, until I called his name. He then ran to me and held on as if he hadn’t seen me in years. My mind quickly moved from there to a time, in my mind, when I also felt emotionally trapped, in a small place that was very dark – and from where I didn’t think I could escape…I could see myself flying back and forth, panicking as well, looking for an escape, wanting to be free, fearful of what lay beyond. 

All of this led to a simple and ridiculous prayer for a 65-year-old man to pray.  I prayed for this bird. I knew it would weigh me down like an anchor if I didn’t do it.  I wasn’t sure if my little “Balcony Bird’s” survival instincts were better than mine, but I assumed if he tried to fly off the balcony, he really wouldn’t be battered by the slight wind but would instead be free.  I also knew that he was afraid. So, I prayed for him. His panic had become my child’s panic.  It had become my panic. I decided there was nothing I could do but let it go by giving it to the ”other closest living being I could find.”

The next voice I heard in my mind was the One that said, “Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent…” and the music in my head began to play, “…His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me…”

And I knew: both my little Balcony Bird and I would be safe and loved.

“It’s the light”, said the voice, “turn off the light and he will sleep. By morning, he will have found a place. He will conquer his fear and will be fine…rest assured.” 

I closed my book.  I figuratively “dropped my own burden stone in the water”, slowly opened the balcony door, went inside, and shut off the light.  Before I went to bed, I opened the drapes enough to see him sleeping, huddled in a corner.  The next day he was gone.

The experience moved me enough to write it down.  It moved me enough to remember that even a 65-year-old man can be haunted by the memory of being scared and trapped…and also still have feelings for something small, helpless, and dependent…just as all of us are small and helpless, in the face of the universe.  But the “closest living being” to us is the KING of the Universe. He even cares for poor little birds…so, how much more does He care for us?

My Balcony Bird reminded me of His profound love and care; the kind I receive, and the kind I should reflect.  I have honored my Balcony Bird, along with the time and place of our meeting, by naming him…”Jimmy”.



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After moving into our home in Anderson, a 9-inch X 12.5 inch by 2” solid metal block was found outside…weighing 62.8 pounds. How can something a little larger than a ream of paper be heavier than a 50-pound bag of fertilizer? Simply put, it is composed of iron.

Iron endures and withstands the test of time and endurance. Warships are made of iron, and yet they float! That’s irony or ironic, meaning that it is almost absurd to think that anything made of such heavy iron can float if molded into certain designs and shapes. Equally absurd is the idea that airplanes built with iron frameworks with a load of military tanks that are also made of iron…can fly. Ironic! Doesn’t seem possible!

When Jesus taught and preached, the law was like iron…” grievous and a heavy burden to live by.” The law could literally leave a family in destitute and dire circumstances.

The Bible tells the story of a woman whose husband had died, and she had ten sheep for her and her daughters. But the law on tithing and taxes soon demanded all her sheep, leaving her with nothing for an income. Heavy indeed was the ironclad law that was indeed a heavy, heavy burden.

On several occasions Jesus used the formula, “You have heard it said (cites a law), but I say to you (names another interpretation).” In Matthew, chapter 5, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus used this formula several times. How ironic! How dare Jesus to even hint that the law was less than iron-clad, In verse 21, Jesus said, “You have heard that you should not murder for murderers are liable to judgment (under the law’s provisions), but I say that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you are also liable to judgment (in God’s eyes)!” Talk about irony! The law did not deal with the forces and emotions that led to murder. In other words, if a person cannot let go of their anger, treating family and friends as if they were dead, they are also murderers! Ironically, Jesus was not speaking of murder per se, but of the nature of agape love (Godly or Christian love). 

Agape love imparts value and worth to all people, thus anger nursed for years also “kills.” Agape love is recognized by the abundance of the Fruits of the Spirit

In verse 38 Jesus said, “you have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, BUT I say do not resist the one who harms you, but if someone strikes you on the right cheek, then turn the other cheek to him.” The law permitted exact retribution which meant that anyone who was harmed physically by another shall likewise inflict the same injury on the offending person…even to the point that if someone caused the loss of eyesight, then the loss of eyesight would be allowable punishment of the offender. But Jesus taught that, instead of inflicting the same injury, one should not retaliate, but endure the abuse. Talk about irony! A solid, heavy law now has “no teeth!” Here again Jesus was alluding to the very nature of agape love, that is, other persons should be treated with worth and value and dignity even if one is treated harshly.. Jesus expected that people would love one another (agape) as God loves the world (all people). God sees us, sinful as we may be, as persons of value and worth…so God sent Jesus…to teach and to practice agape love. 

Down through the long years people have recognized that God created the heavens and the earth, and thus “God is in charge.” Therefore, goes the faulty reasoning, climate is in God’s control and thus, any fluctuations in climate patterns is under God’s oversight and changes are normal and climate is simply cycling back and forth. That assumption is embedded like iron into most of humanity and its leadership. But God put man over dominion of all the earth. When did God do that? ironically, God said just before he created Adam, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image…” (Gen. 1:26-27) The Psalmist (Ps. 8) is talking directly to God. “What is man that thou art mindful of him? For you have made him a little lower than the angels and given him dominion over the fishes of the sea and the birds of the air…” So, is climate change really happening? If so, is it changing due to the cycles set in motion by the Creator God or is it changing because humankind has abused the dominion of the earth? Ocean waters near Florida have, for the first time in recorded history, warmed into triple digits (over 100 degrees). The Gulf Stream cycle of Atlantic Ocean currents is slowing. Methane gas (which lingers in the atmosphere far longer than carbon dioxide which has been responsible for global warming) released from thawing permafrost is far more dangerous to human life than other sources that heat the atmosphere. Ironically, it is thought that global warming at the polar caps may actually produce a “little ice age” each winter because fresh water that enters the ocean from ice melt is lighter and does not sink in the heavier briny ocean waters. Fresh water will freeze at 32 degrees while sea water must be several degrees colder to freeze…and should this happen, the ironclad argument for normal weather cycles rather than human-caused warming may triumph. If God gave humankind this immense authority over the earth, is it getting too late to claim it?

The world is like a train…running along its tracks as always…and over the years the population of the world has now exceeded 8 BILLION people. So, the little train runs as always…and the population grows bigger. But wait a minute! Ironically, the train has slowed down and may run backwards!!! What is meant by that statement? Of course, populations over history have dropped due to war, drought, plagues, and other deadly forces, but as a general ironclad axiom, population will grow until the planet can no longer feed and house its inhabitants. Ironically, that is not the case today. Childbearing women who average 2.3 children will only have enough offspring to REPLACE themselves and their mates. In 1950-1960 the average household in the United States had about 5 children and globally it was almost 6 children per childbearing woman. Today, Japan averages only 1.09 child per childbearing woman and since 2015, Japan’s population has fallen an incredible 6 million people and there is a glut of 10 MILLION housing units. China, the largest country by population, has dropped from almost 6 or 7 children per mother to only 1.6 today. India, which will surpass China as the most populous country this year, has fallen to 2.0 children per family. Since 1950 the United States has fallen from about 4 children per mother to only 1.7 today. The population will age but grow until after 2060…about 35 years from now and…if these trends continue, world population will drop by 2070, slowly at first, because until then, rising numbers of people in the older generations will grow for about three decades. What does a dropping population mean? Already, in China and Japan, the number of people in the workforce has dropped significantly as well as overall production of goods because there will not be as many consumers. . One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see the impact of declining population…for a few decades yet the care…and medical availability…for the elderly will become quite a thorny issue. The output of goods and services that drive the economies of every country adjust to the reality of fewer people buying clothes, cars,houses, etc. Should these trends continue (and notice I said SHOULD), the issues facing us are not issues of budget cuts per se, but issues of reframing how we must understand economics in the future. We can no longer say, “X, Y, and Z is no longer affordable” but instead we must say, “X, Y, and Z were the old values, but this is the reality today, and the new priorities are. . .!” This new reality, should these trends continue, also explain 1) the unfortunate, but growing appeal of authority rule as an effort to “control” personal and societal life which avoids the real issues that may affect the survival of humanity on earth (enough said), and 2) the vital need to pay attention to what is really going on in this world right now and what it may mean for just one or two generations from now. One would think that a drop in population would be welcome in a world that is overusing its resources, but ironically, such a drop, if continued, will bring its own set of huge headaches. AND dare I say it, should these trends continue, then the only way most countries will avoid a population loss is by welcoming immigrants from other countries. Talk about irony…when the old, tried, and proven ways (iron) no longer hold up.

God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. That’s the iron that we can truly rely upon. In a world of irony, we would be wise to know where we can find IRON.



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I was in my car, on my way to Indianapolis.  I was in the right-hand lane (going the speed limit…really!) and a car drove past me, pulled in front of me and slowed down.  It was obvious, from my vantage point, that the driver of the car ahead of me was busy on his smartphone, texting.  I wasn’t really in a hurry, but did at least want to go the speed limit, so eventually I signaled and moved to the left lane.  This action apparently jarred the driver from his text conversation and made him upset as, to my amusement, he sped up the minute I was beside him so that I could not get around him.  I didn’t care, as I didn’t need to be in the right lane for a while.  After a few minutes he slowed down, abruptly passed behind me to the turn lane coming up on my left, honked and gave me a “sign” (and it wasn’t the sign of the cross).  I was a bit confused as to his anger with ME, but not enough to care.  I was more humored than anything else.

Oh, did I mention that he had a Greek “ichtus” (sign of the fish, the “secret” symbol Christians used to identify each other in the First Century) on his bumper?

I assumed the car was purchased by the current driver at a used car lot.

And once again the words of a friend came to me, “If your car has a bumper sticker about heaven, you probably shouldn’t drive like hell.”

 That quote is far-reaching implications for any of us who identify as Believers & Followers of Jesus.  If we are going to put our identity out there, we should probably BE what we advertise.  After all, I don’t expect to find SKITTLES in an M&M bag.  If M&Ms are advertised on the packaging, they had better be M&Ms inside.

Now we all do some things, as Believers & Followers, that some other Believers & Followers would call “unchristian.”  Example: as an actor I have been called upon to play characters that are NOT Believers & Followers.  One of those times, I had to carry (not smoke) a fake cigarette through most of the production.  A dear saint wrote a kind note to me, making her case that she thought it was inappropriate for a minister to carry a cigarette.  I, of course, disagreed…on several levels (1. a minister WASN’T carrying the cigarette, the character was, 2. I know several spirit-filled ministers who smoke, and 3. if you’re offended by THAT, then I could tell you a few other things about me that might make your hair curl…etc.) but what I actually said was that I was sorry she was offended and hoped that my carrying a fake cigarette around, as an actor, didn’t shatter her faith.  And I realized that in this large community we call the Kingdom of God, social norms, geographic boundaries, and tradition often define what some might think is “Christians behaving badly” while another group doesn’t see an issue.

At the core of the community should be the unity of the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, no matter what we wear, how we cut (or don’t cut) our hair, how we worship, when we worship…etc.  A person identifying as a Believer & Follower, either by carrying around a Bible, wearing a big cross, or even putting a bumper fish on their car need to at least PRACTICE (if not perFECT) love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (GALATIANS 5:22-23).  These things, and not anything else, are the mark of those who believe Jesus is the Son of God and follow Him as sheep follow a shepherd.  If one is not willing to at least attempt, and practice these things, then they shouldn’t advertise they are something they are not.

I say “attempt, and practice” because many of us are not there yet.  However, the practice and attempt are obvious in people who DO practice and attempt to be who they claim.

Those who are obviously (by their lack of “fruit”) not who they profess to be give a bad name to those who ARE, because the world tends to paint all Believers & Followers with the same broad brush, and God gets a bad reputation.  The FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT; the evidence of a Believer & Follower’s roots, plays out in large and small ways, sometimes those ways are how we DRIVE, how we treat people we don’t HAVE to be nice to, how we tip, how we serve.

Jesus called this sort of false advertising “whitewashed tombs” (MATTHEW 23:27), a far more colorful description even than “If your car has a bumper sticker about heaven, you probably shouldn’t drive like hell.”

Even better is to make sure that one’s fruit of the Spirit is so self-evident that a bumper fish isn’t necessary.

Drive safely.  Advertise accurately.  Produce fruit.




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Miss LaClaire, Miss Just, Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Van Dyke, Mrs. Goranson, Mrs. Stankman, Mr. McNamara. When the school year comes around, I go through these names and memories again. I may not remember everything they ever taught but I remember every name and face of the teachers I had through Grade School (6th Grade). I admire and trust educators to do what they were trained to do.  I grew up with two supportive parents who partnered with my teachers, and I know times have changed, but I still believe in the power an educator has to inspire a child’s very heart and soul…even against the odds.

If I can remember each name of each teacher, I had in those “formative” years AND the names of most, if not all of my Middle School, High School and University teachers…they must have had SOME impact. I thank God for those who teach. It is sometimes a thankless but glorious job to stand at the gate and train those who must pass through to the next leadership time. At times I have an epiphany and think that my parents weren’t so crazy after all when they mourned about MY generation, and I think of this great quote:

“I’m trying very hard to understand this generation.
They have adjusted the timetable for childbearing
so that menopause and teaching a sixteen-year-old how to
drive a car will occur in the same week.”
ERMA BOMBECK (U.S. humorist, 1927-1996)

But as much as I remember (or don’t) about those that taught me to read, write, add and subtract…it’s these names that I remember more, and hold even closer to my heart…Pearl Mohler, Della Reibolt, Della Nunez, June Clinebell, Violet Van Hoose, Jean Martin, Eloise Woods…These were my Sunday School teachers from the time I was in the Nursery through my High School years, at HIGHLANDS CHURCH OF GOD in Kennewick, Washington. These women not only taught me the stories of Scripture (using everything from flannel graphs to play dough and puppets) but they LOVED me and when I was at my home church, I was as much at home as I was with my parents in our home. To those remarkable people, all gone except for one now, I give thanks to God.

As the years run by and each new “class” walks through the pages of the Herald Bulletin and through the halls of Central Christian Church, let’s thank God for the people He has placed in our children’s path, to teach, train and lead. Let us always pray for our children’s safety and wisdom for teachers.

As much as we may shake our heads at some of the things we see with each generation, it is good to know that some things haven’t changed in a millennium, and through those years, teachers were always held as precious:

“What nobler employment, or more valuable to the state,
than that of the man who instructs the rising generation?”

(Ancient Roman Lawyer, Writer, Scholar, Orator and Statesman, 106 BC-43 BC)

“Thank you.” To all at Central who teach, who have taught, who will teach. I also thank those who teach our own Church small groups, as well as those who have taught and are teaching in the public school system…God smiles on you.

“Teach the youth about the way they should go;
even when they are old they will not depart from it.”


CONSIDER THE LILIES by Pastor Ken Rickett

CONSIDER THE LILIES by Pastor Ken Rickett

Written By:

Luke 12:27
“Consider the lilies, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.” 

“Consider the lilies…” 

You bet I do! My favorite flowers, indeed!

My yard has several sites where lilies grow! While they are in bloom I marvel at their intricate, bright colors. Daylilies, stargazer lilies, and other species of lilies are not only “eye catchers” but also “nose catchers” as some have a sweet, pleasing fragrance that can be noted from several feet away!

Consider the lilies…” Jesus said, inviting folks to note that lilies labor and spin not, but they grow under the mysterious Hand of God and their blooms are far more beautiful than King Solomon in all his glory…a reference to the King who actually built the Temple in Jerusalem with its ornate decor and gold inlays.

Consider the lilies…” Jesus said and note that the lilies are not anxious nor troubled. They grow and bloom in their own time, not rushing nor slowing Mother Nature’s (God) design.

“Consider the lilies…” Jesus said, and I do consider them! If I want lovely lilies, I have “work to do!” I plant the bulbs, mulch the soil around them, replenish the nutrients for healthy plants, and I water them in drought. And every few years I will have 10-12 plants where I only planted a couple of bulbs because lilies reproduce by creating new bulbs. Over time, if I do nothing, then the clump of lilies will keep enlarging OR I may choose to dig up some of the bulbs in the fall and plant them elsewhere in my yard OR I can give a few bulbs to others who enjoy lilies. Lilies can be hard work at times!

Consider the lilies…” Jesus said, inviting us to marvel as we think about lilies. Lilies do not toil or spin! They do not fret and worry. And yet, they are exquisitely beautiful! 

“Consider the lilies”…Jesus said, and likewise, we are not to worry and fret about food and clothing because our life (GK: “zoe”) is wrapped up in God “Consider the lilies…” Jesus said BUT notice what Jesus did NOT say…Jesus did NOT say that we should likewise avoid toiling and spinning! I have lovely lilies because I “toil.” If I did not keep the invasive vines pulled out of my lilies, the lilies would become smothered by the sheer weight of an invasive weed. If I did not control the weeds, not even I could see the beauty of the lilies. To experience the God-given beauty of my lilies, I have work to do. I have to put nutrients in the soil by feeding them, I have to keep the grass from crowding the lilies. I have to remove grass and weeds that encroach on the lilies to the point that the lilies do not get adequate moisture. Yep! God grows my lilies and they do not have to toil nor spin…. that’s MY JOB!

“Consider the lilies….” Jesus said, with the implication that beauty of the lily is God-given, but the care of the lily is our work. Yes, God takes care of us just as surely as God takes care of the lilies. We are not to worry about what we will eat or about our bodies (and clothing). Worry not, but, instead, embrace life…for life (Greek “zoe”, meaning life wrapped up in GOD who is eternal) is more than food and the body more than clothing. Mind you, this whole conversation about lilies was started when a man asked Jesus to ask his brother to share the inheritance (from parents) with him (Luke 12:13f).

Obviously, the man wanted to live in the abundance that a goodly portion of his brother’s inheritance would have provided. Wanting a chunk of his brother’s inheritance, the man wanted “the life of Riley”, a life on “easy street” with no worries about food or clothing. His vision of life is best expressed in the word bios (Greek bios meaning physical life) of ease! Such abundance would take care of all his earthly needs…or so the man thought!

Jesus responded to the man by the story of the successful farmer who built bigger barns to hoard his over-abundance of crops. And then…the farmer died. His abundance gave this farmer no benefits on this earth or in the afterlife. Then Jesus begins teaching….

“Consider the lilies….” Jesus taught. Have we missed the whole point of this text? Yes, indeed! “Consider the lilies”, Jesus said. You see, abundance is not ours to possess or own. Any earthly abundance, including food and clothing is often fleeting rather than enduring. True abundance is only given to us…and it is given by God. God’s abundance comes in the form of love, grace, mercy, peace, forgiveness, etc…and all God asks is that we SEE this abundance.

“Consider the lilies…” Lilies live in the abundance of God…and such is our life (“zoe”) just for the awe and wonder of seeing the beauty of God’s abundance.



Written By:

Warner Elias Sallman, a first-generation American (his parents were immigrants from Finland and Sweden), sang in his local church choir in Chicago.  It was there he met his wife, Ruth in 1916.  He was an artist who apprenticed with some of the best local illustrators and painters during the day, while attending the Chicago Art Institute at night.  In 1924 he was commissioned by a denominational magazine for a charcoal sketch of the head of Jesus.

Using a physical description of Jesus, supposedly written by a Publius Lentulus (Roman Consul during the reign of Augustus, and Governor of Judea prior to Pontius Pilate), Warner followed the description set out by the letter and sketched a head.  Here is an excerpt from the letter (there are several questions about its authenticity, however, it is the only physical description available):

“…He is a man of medium size, he has a venerable aspect, and his beholders can both fear and love him. His hair is of the color of the ripe hazelnut, straight down to the ears, but below the ears wavy and curled, with a bluish and bright reflection, flowing over his shoulders. It is parted in two on the top of the head, after the pattern of the Nazarenes. His brow is smooth and very cheerful with a face without wrinkle or spot, embellished by a slightly reddish complexion. His nose and mouth are faultless. His beard is abundant, of the color of his hair, not long, but divided at the chin…”

A few years later he turned his several sketches into an oil painting, he was asked to replicate that painting for another group, and executives from The Warner Press Company (publishing arm of The Church of God) first saw it then.  Warner Press created an arm of their company, which would own the copyrights and distribute copies of the painting.  For the next 30 years Sallman’s HEAD OF CHRIST was distributed throughout the world.  Churches, clubs, service organizations all used this remarkable portrait.  The USO printed small copies to be given to every soldier, sailor and airman who enlisted.  Eventually it become the most recognized and popular picture of Jesus known.  Warner Press eventually acquired total rights to this and some 100 other well-known, and not-so-well-known paintings, sketches and illustrations by Warner Sallman…and all of them, including the HEAD OF CHRIST, are right her in Anderson, Indiana where Anderson University regularly displays them in their galleries.

For many, this is the picture that comes to mind when someone says the name, “Jesus”.  It is the product of a questionable description and a gifted Christian artist…but it is not Jesus.

This beautiful painting should serve as a reminder, to all who believe and follow, that God is not to be so narrowly defined that we would refuse to get to know Him.  The scripture, specifically the Gospels in the books of the New Covenant, remind us that Jesus-in-the-flesh stepped into a church that had SO NARROWLY defined God that they not only didn’t recognize Him when He stepped into their church, THEY CONSIDERED HIM THEIR ENEMY.  The church spends a lot of time defining God, refining His mind, His preferences, His “rules” …so much so, that any time God does something out-of-the-ordinary (“para physin”, as Paul would say) or blesses/calls/sends/anoints someone whom other “Christians” would consider inappropriate…then they/the church once again has created God in ITS image, and not visa versa.

The vastness of greatness and personality, the unfathomable mercy, love and grace that comes from our Heavenly Father is, to our minds, limitless…surprising…uncomfortable.  And that is as it should be.  We who “Believe & Follow: need to be reminded that is our calling: to BELIEVE and FOLLOW, but not to define and lead-by-proxy.  God will love and bless whom He loves and blesses.  He will call into His Kingdom anyone of His choosing.  He is not defined by our limited understanding of love, mercy or justice.  He is not to be framed into the narrowness of an “image” or painting, but He IS to be sought after as a friend who surprises us daily with new facets of His personality.

Creative and visual learners will continually look to define, visually, concepts and people, to define our thought and philosophy.  But when it comes to assuming what God does and does not think, we should tread very, very carefully, trust the Spirit, and measure against the Scripture… 

…because we don’t want to be a congregation that has Warner Sallman’s HEAD OF CHRIST hanging in the narthex but wouldn’t recognize Jesus if he stood among us during our post-worship Coffee Hour.

Our calling is to BELIEVE Jesus is who He says He is,
and to FOLLOW Him, wherever He chooses to lead us.
Let JESUS be JESUS and trust Him to define Himself.


It was a beautiful place, and a wonderful vacation: Italy!  We recently spent nine glorious days in one of my favorite cities in the world, Florence. Our circle was small; we stayed in one place, walked everywhere, and were in a neighborhood stacked with cafés, shops, art, music and the wonderful Florentines…and a lot of tourists from out-of-town.  It was unfathomably hot (above one-hundred degrees, Fahrenheit, most days.) 

Then it came time to leave.

As always, I pray for a safe, non-eventful, trip and flight(s).  God has never failed to answer with remarkably easy trips. And you all know how I hate any sort of transition or waiting.  Of course, this time, it was transcontinental…which is a whole different story…this one took two days of prayers prior.  I even thought about fasting (though not for long). 

Do you know what happened?

God said, “I’m sorry, I can’t guarantee that this time…but trust Me.”  “Really God?  I’m not sure I understand, but alright…I know the universe doesn’t revolve around me.” 

As much as I didn’t want to believe God would reply as He did, I knew from the moment I prayed my safety prayer that we were going to be in for a bumpy ride. I heard His answer clearly, and didn’t want to believe it.

We decided to arrive much earlier than our flight, and booked a taxi the night before to make certain we had lots of time at the airport.  The next morning our taxi company texted to tell us our reservation was not confirmed.  I called two taxi companies to be told there were no taxis in our area and the best thing to do was to walk, with our luggage, to the nearest taxi stand three blocks away (it was already ninety-degrees, at nine-thirty in the morning).  We did, and waited for another forty-five minutes to share a taxi with a poor university student also trying to get back to The States.  It seems there was a “taxi strike”. Of course.

“Really God?  I’m not sure I understand, but alright…I know the universe doesn’t revolve around me.”

We arrived at the teeny (one runway) Florence airport to be met with crowds of people, and a young guy at check-in who told us our gate was already closed. I asked him to please call the gate. He did.  He told us to run.  We didn’t, but we DID walk fast.  We found our gate…it was packed with people waiting to get on our flight (we needn’t have walked fast). One-hour and thirty-minutes later, we left the runway.  We arrived in Amsterdam just in time to miss our connecting flight to NYC. 

“Really God?  I’m not sure I understand, but alright…I know the universe doesn’t revolve around me.” 

They graciously gave us food vouchers, tram vouchers, hotel vouchers, re-booked our flight for the next day (Saturday) and sent us off to our hotel (vouchers in hand) along with HUNDREDS of other stranded passengers.  One night in Amsterdam.  We would take off in the morning.

Two hours after arriving in the hotel room the pain started; a low-grade ache in my stomach.  It grew over the next couple of hours to a relentless pain that was at least as bad as the time I had a kidney stone.  I couldn’t lay down, I couldn’t sit down, I could only pace, bang my head against the wall, hold a frozen can of COKE against my stomach and pray to die. It lasted for eight hours through the night…no sleep.  By the time emergency numbers were being looked up the pain started to subside enough that I could lie down, and then doze, and then sink into unconsciousness.

“Really God?  I’m not sure I understand, but alright…I know the universe doesn’t revolve around me.” 

Needless to say, I couldn’t fly the next day; weak, tired, confused, in and out of sleep.  We were re-booked again, and finally left on Sunday.  I slept the entire seven-hour trip.  When arriving home nothing has ever felt as good as sitting on my corner of my couch, kittens on my lap.  I called the twenty-four-nurse-hotline (a benefit of being over sixty-five!) After some consultation, some questions from her, she said I wasn’t the first person she had dealt with, having similar questions that week…she was certain, after knowing where I had been, and asking me what seemed like “unrelated symptom” questions, that what I suffered from was an attack of severe dehydration…and suddenly it all made sense.  Everything seemed to clear up rapidly the moment I got an infusion of electrolytes.

Then she said something that remarkably brought the entire weekend into focus…”Well, someone was watching out for you.  If that had happened during the flight, this might be a completely different story…FOR EVERYONE on that flight.” 

And then, I could see what happened in my little world might have adversely affected everyone flying with me, and even my own health, IF we had gotten a taxi in a timely fashion, IF the Florence airport was empty and running smoothly, and IF we had made our flight to NYC…it certainly would be a different story. 

Suddenly, God’s “Sorry, not this time.” became the answer to prayer I didn’t even know I should be praying. 

Again, the universe does not revolve around me.  My little pain and struggles don’t balance out the pain and struggles of those around me, or the pain and struggles of the world…but for a moment I saw this miracle: 

God loves EVERYONE.  But God treats EVERYONE as if each were THE ONLY ONE. 

This story is NOT about me.  It is yet another chapter in the on-going book: “Father knows best.”  Sometimes we ask God for something, but the greatest answer He can give, for our total well-being and the well-being of those around us, is: “Sorry, not this time.” 

ME: “Really God?  I’m not sure I understand, but alright…I know the universe doesn’t revolve around me.”
GOD: “But YOU are MY universe. You are my everything…so, trust Me.”