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Because ”RICK’S BLOG” is always written on Wednesdays, and Wednesdays used to be “garbage day” at my old house, and because I’m always the most sensitive to what God is showing me on Wednesday mornings prior to my writing; I have learned a lot about God from taking out the garbage. What does THAT tell you about me? 

In any case, as I was wheeling my garbage cans down the driveway to the sidewalk one morning and I saw some garbage sitting on the sidewalk, close to my garbage can. That inner dialogue began almost immediately,

“You should pick that up and put it in your garbage can.”

“But it’s not MY garbage…I don’t even GO to MacDonald’s! It’s the responsibility of the Neanderthal who either threw it out of the car or just dropped it here on their way back.”

 ”You should pick it up and throw it away AND you should walk around the sidewalk and pick up all the garbage you see and throw it away…since you DO see it.”

 “But it’s not MINE.” 

“But didn’t YOU just say that if you see it, it’s YOUR responsibility to change it?”

 “Yes….but I was preaching to the flock, not to myself. (smiling). Am I really and truly responsible to clean up after others…after people who are thoughtless and tasteless and lazy?”

 “You tell me.”

And then I remembered a “Principle of the Kingdom”: we are all here for each other and, yes, it IS my responsibility to clean up after others…just as it’s their responsibility to clean up after me.  It is my responsibility to put up with others – as it is their responsibility to put up with me.  Each of us will make mistakes, act foolishly, and leave a trail of garbage sometime in our lives.  None of us live in a bubble, we are ALL connected.  As a citizen of the Kingdom it is my responsibility to provide for others what they cannot or will not provide for themselves, both inside and outside of the confines of “the flock”. If everyone did that job, we’d ALL have someone looking out for us…that’s the ideal design for the world we live in, and it’s up to the Church to reinforce that behavior.

I picked up the empty burger bag, a couple of cigarette boxes, an empty Coke cup and an empty tube of eyeliner (that WAS mine…just kidding). As I did, I realized that God is right…if we only look after ourselves we have a very limited and unfulfilling life…if we only take care of our own lives we live in seclusion and our solitary existence benefits no one…not even ourselves…and it certainly doesn’t promote growth of the Kingdom of God.

We are all connected, whether we like it or not. Sometimes we mourn with each other, and dance, we share more than we understand…and yes, there are moments that call for us to clean up one another’s garbage. No one has penned it better than one of my favorite poets, the priest, John Donne:

No man is an island entire of itself; every man
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 any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. 



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A few years ago someone, in a moment of weakness, asked me to participate in a community fund-raiser based on the popular, “Dancing With the Stars” show. I was supposed to be one of the celebrities…which means I was the one being judged and no one expected me to be very good.

My wonderful, professional, partner and I chose to do a tango.  I was instantly hooked. I enjoyed the experience quite a bit…but, most of all, I have to say that learning the history, style, art, passion and essence of Argentine Tango is what I am truly thankful for.  Expecting to walk into the studio and “learn some new steps” was a major underestimation on my part, I had no idea what all Tango encompasses.

For the body, Tango requires one to learn, memorize and get “into one’s limbs” certain, specific steps, stretches or “lines”, embraces and cues from the other partner. Once learned, these steps are improvised, joined together in seamless phrases, depending on the music.

For the musician, Tango is an amazing thing, because the Lead listens to what is being played and decides/improvises the combination of steps and hesitations depending on what he hears. His partner, the follower, responds to his lead and, in essence, becomes an instrument on which the Lead plays.  Through all this there is the technique, much like instrument-playing, of specific turn of body and foot, hand and arm placement…particular to Tango.

For the communicator it is a lesson in subtlety and “listening”.  Once the dance has begun, the partners don’t talk to each other. So how does the Follower know what the Lead is going to do? How does the Lead know that the Follower will respond in a complimentary (sometimes unexpected but always complimentary) manner? They must “touch”, be close and anticipate each other’s moves. It is a very intimate dance, and for some it is just too close for comfort. At most melongas (Tango Parties) the dancers are strangers to each other, most are there as singles, and so it is without introduction that one is immediately with someone they don’t know, who must communicate to them clearly, and they in turn with the other…it is a constant act of listening and breathing with one’s partner.

For the Christian, Tango is continuing physical illustration of spiritual Truth. If LIFE IS A DANCE, then for MY money at least, life with God is a Tango. Sometimes the beauty in a tango is the “opposite” nature of the dancers, they pull apart from each other to give them the energy to suddenly be flung together Their bodies are sometimes mirrors and sometimes in opposition, depending on the phrase.  Sometimes the steps are simply a “walk”, sometimes their legs are intertwined, sometimes quick, sometimes slow. There are times when the Follower seems to fall and is caught, held and brought back up by the Lead. And there are even times when the Lead rests and simply spins as the Follower pulls Him around…but there is rarely, if ever, a time when they aren’t touching and aren’t looking at each other. It is a dance of connection, like life with God. There is no such thing as “solo” Tango (remember the old Ella Fitzgerald song, “It takes TWO to tango”?)…and the Follower is dependent upon the Lead. Even when stepping away from the expected and adding something extra to the line, the Follower can only do that within the complete trust of the Lead, after following him enough to know that trust.

You can see why I fell in love with Tango, and why I’ll continue to make it a part of my life.

 In our effort to know God in this life, it is obvious that He is constantly finding ways to reintroduce Himself to us, in our language, and through our passions…my prayer is that each of us will RECOGNIZE when God is giving us this opportunity…and in the “tango” is life, that we will be sensitive and intimate Followers to His Lead.




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My favorite Broadway musical of all time is “THE MUSIC MAN”.  There is something about the combination of the setting: America at the turn of the century, the story-unique boy-meets-girl, the music-ballads, dances, barbershop quartets, bands.  But I also know that I’ve been influenced by both the movie AND the fact that it was the first musical I ever performed in, as a sophomore in High School.

Robert Preston, as Professor Harold Hill (even though Jack Warner asked both Frank Sinatra and Cary Grant to do the role before it was given to Preston) is definitive as the con man who changes his life through the love of a good woman.  In the story, however, he must “sell” the Iowa town folk on the idea of a Boys Band (not the Backstreet Boys, something completely different).  He isn’t a musician, can’t read a note, but he sells them instruments and uniforms and “cons” them into believing.

The technique he uses?  He reveals a serious “issue” in the town that they’re not even aware they have, and who can save them from this seed of degradation that has infiltrated their little prairie town? Prof. Harold Hill, of course!  And so we have the song, TROUBLE; “O, ya got trouble…right here in River City, with a capital-T, that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL”  – not a swimming pool, mind you, but a pool table.

Here Professor Hill has actually CREATED trouble, this pool table could’ve gone unnoticed except for the Professor’s sermon. He needed to CREATE trouble so that he could be the “hero”, and make out, literally, “like a bandit”!

It’s an old, old technique, a technique that Advertising Gurus have been using for years: create a situation that can only be solved through our product.  Who has heard of “ring around the collar”, or “cellulite”?  Before advertising, these things were just called “dirt” and “fat”!

TROUBLE comes in all forms, and TROUBLE comes to all people.  Churches experience all kinds of trouble: economic trouble, growth trouble, a leaking roof here, not enough teachers there, sickness in the winter, simple-minded preachers, etc.  The Church doesn’t NEED any help, when it comes to trouble.  In other words, the Church doesn’t need any “Harold Hills”; someone to CREATE a problem so that he can solve it.  The Church doesn’t need a hero to save them from trouble, the Church needs a pilot to steer them through trouble.

Being a Believer & Follower of Jesus has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s be honest, in some ways, being a disciple is not an easy choice OR an easy thing to do. There are troubles from within and without, many of which cannot be avoided.

But what every Believer & Follower has, and what the Church has, is not a “Harold Hill”, but a “Captain Von Trapp”!  A Captain/Pilot who can lead us through the dangers, who knows where the rocks are, who knows when the wind will be foul, who knows the currents and tides like the back of his hand, who knows what we will face and promises to guide us through it (“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me…”).  We have someone with us always, who has been there before.

As I’m writing, I can’t help but hear the voices of my home congregation sing one of my father’s favorite hymns:

Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea
Unknown waves before me roll
Hiding rock and treacherous shoal
Chart and compass come from Thee
Jesus, Savior, pilot me 

When the darkling heavens frown
And the wrathful winds come down
And the fierce waves, tossed on high
Lash themselves against the sky
Jesus, Savior, pilot me
Over life’s tempestuous sea
(words by Edward Hopper)

You don’t need “Christians” who create trouble so that you will believe they are being “persecuted”.
Nobody needs a person to create trouble so that their own egos are inflated by making others look bad.
And we certainly don’t need anyone to create trouble so they can appear to be our “hero”…

we HAVE a Hero.
He doesn’t take away the trouble, He goes AHEAD of it.
He stands with us in the MIDDLE of it.
He marches with us THROUGH it… 

…and He covers the scars left by it.



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I saw an interesting “post” on the internet a while back: “The 38 Most Haunting, Abandoned Places On Earth”.  I decided to scroll through these beautiful (and yes, haunting) photos of everything from abandoned asylums (creepy), to old subway stations, churches (one with the chairs still standing in rows and an infant’s coffin still in its place next to the altar).  All in all, each photo begged for a story.  Then I came to Photo number 22…an old ocean liner, wrecked, beached and rusted…but still somehow beautiful with the waves crashing near it.

Then I read the caption: “Wreck of the SS AMERICA – Fuerteventura, Canary Islands”.  The SS AMERICA was an American ocean-liner that, in the 50’s, sailed from New York to Europe and back, as part of the old “United States Lines”.

A few months after I was born (1958) my father returned to Frankfurt, Germany, where he was a part of the Army Band.  My mother and I stayed in Richland, Washington until the end of July 1959 when we boarded a train from Washington State to New York City…Pier 86 on West 46th Street, to be exact.  And there we boarded the SS AMERICA and sailed to Bremerhaven.  We sailed Tourist Class, sharing a stateroom with another mother and her young daughter.  My Mom kept a bit of the memorabilia and so I’ve always known about this ship, and our time aboard.  We sailed (as opposed to flying) because of my Mom’s fear of flying (she only flew once, that I know of, and that was our return trip to the States…because there was no room on the liner when we were to depart…they drugged her up).

It was on board this ship that I learned to walk…with the aid of the Cabin Steward and some of the crew.  This ship holds a special place in my life and my heart…now a shipwreck at the Canary Islands, home to fish and a beautiful photographer’s model of “haunted abandonment”.

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?…”

What is the good of “remembering”, when the things of the past even those things that mean something to each of us, are nothing but skeletons or memories?  There IS some good to looking back, and like everything, there is some bad as well.  I’m a bit sad to see the hull of what was once a “majestic lady on the seas”, and one that had a place in MY history, abandoned and decaying.

But on the other hand, God speaks of “memories” in terms of strengthening the present day.  And in those terms I can look on this photo and remember that Mom had a great time aboard, and I learned how to walk (undoubtedly fostering my love of cruising in the Caribbean).  I can thank God that we traveled alone across the country on train and then across the Atlantic without trouble, and in fact MADE new friends along the way.  I can thank God that the SS AMERICA gave 54 years of splendid service to families like mine.  There should be nothing bitter about those kinds of memories…and God understands that some things are best forgotten…and that is why He promises, when we ask, to forget the times we hurt Him, abandoned Him, made stupid, stupid mistakes and turned our backs on Him and our birthrights.

God REMEMBERS His promises/covenants even when we forget, and He asks us to remember the times when He rescued, saved, healed, fought…for us. (EX 13:3…example)  When we remember THOSE times, we can feel the power of faith surging back through our needy limbs.  God will never forget us or our His love for us (IS 49:14-16).

How then should WE live?  The answer is obvious and simple.  (PHIL 4:8) Don’t expect to be happy if you constantly think of the “sad” and the ”bad”…don’t expect to be at peace if you dwell on discontent.  “Think on…” and remember the things that give you strength TODAY.  Life moves on, the universe is expanding daily, people change…God, in His own way, has “moved forward” so that He can meet us where those things that are new to us exist.  This is a new year, and yet ANOTHER CHANCE to turn and walk in a different direction…let the good things of the past empower you to walk forward.

The flip side, and the difficult side, is to do with ourselves what God does by forgiving our imperfections and sin (PS 103:12)God forgives and forgets…sometimes we don’t.  We don’t forgive others and more often, we don’t forgive ourselves.  Remembering all of the wrong things one did, all of the mistakes one made makes one depressed, cynical and angry…often filled and motivated by regret.  This is where the new year raises her head again…turn around, walk forward…you are not who you were, and YOU and GOD define how your past dictates your future…God won’t force the issue.  Don’t expect your sins and indiscretions to be forgiven if you don’t ask Him, and don’t expect God to take care of any “repair work” that you need to make in your relationships with others, just because HE’s forgiven you.  But you CAN move forward.

No one sails on the SS AMERICA now…but it is obvious to me that many people go nowhere because they’ve “stayed aboard the shipwreck”…thinking their past defines their future.

Whatever it is in 2021 that you need to do…do it.  God has promised His power, through the “Breath of God” to strengthen you in any Godly purpose…and His people are standing beside you almost every week, at least.  And in case you need a little reminder of exactly what CAN be done…remember the good things, the true things, the beautiful things that God has already done.

Happy New Year.




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I am, as I do every Christmas season, reading my favorite Christmas book, Charles Dickens’ “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”.  Through the years I’ve had several copies of this story, one is in a collection of Dickens’ classics, one is in a collection of other Christmas stories, and this year my copy is on my IPad (backlit with big letters…yeah!).  No matter what the setting or context, this story continues to amaze and inspire me.  It was my privilege to be involved with a production (as script and songwriter) for the North Anderson Church of God (now Madison Park) production of “A CHRISTMAS CAROL”.  THE ALLEY THEATRE will premiere the new production of my script and music next Christmas!

It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of Christmas season I’m having, or when or where I’m reading, Charles Dickens uses his words to reach down into the soul where he communicates that best of all messages to the child that is still hiding inside of this old shell.

The great question of the story for me is; how can Scrooge, with all of the resource that his world can offer, miss completely the joy…while Tim Cratchit, sick, poor and facing a certain and early death, seems to not only understand but “embody” the joy of Christmas?  And what is that “joy of Christmas”?

In the story, it’s perhaps easier to see what the “Joy of Christmas” is not.  When one observes Scrooge, it’s easy to understand the JOY does not come from wealth or power.  Scrooge has an abundance of both and neither has given him joy.  One can also see that “memories of Christmas”, though fond and perhaps filled with warmth, love and kindness, are more often a reminder that Christmastime now does not fulfill the memories of what it used to be.  For Scrooge, his past memories of Christmas only filled him with despair at all he had lost or cast aside.

So what is “The Joy of Christmas”?  At its core, it is the knowledge that our Great God cared enough to save us through such elaborate and sacrificial means as placing His Son in this “God-forsaken” world, where he “put on our skin”, felt our pain, walked our path…just so that we would trust and follow.  We no longer need to fear the grave, we no longer are victims of our circumstance, we are no longer prisoners of our past, our present or our future.

Tim Cratchit “embodies” the idea that despite our circumstance, Christmas and its Joy transcends all, life is not totally encompassed in this Age, but lives beyond…and “life” is not defined solely by heartbeat and breath.  Christmas Joy is greater than the sum of our surroundings, our memories, our hopes.  And what finally makes Scrooge happy, what fills him with a joy that sets him dancing?  Giving.  Because Christmas Joy is “outside” of ourselves, we find the physical manifestation of that joy is also outside of ourselves.

Isn’t that just like God?  We must GIVE to GAIN.  The percentages will always remain the same, in the Kingdom of God; the more joy you give, the more joy you receive, whether it’s smiles, time, talent, cash or love.

“I have come that you might have life…and have it more abundantly”! JOHN 10:10

“God bless us, everyone.” TINY TIM




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If you are a connoisseur of “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS” you know what today is…as Schroeder pointed out, it’s BEETHOVEN’S BIRTHDAY!  “Schroeder” is a role I played in the musical, “YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN”, and enjoyed it immensely…years ago, when I could actually sit on the floor of the stage, playing a toy piano, and just spring right up on my feet without taking an hour to do so.

Anyway, Beethoven is not one of my favorite composers.  I don’t dislike his music, it’s just not my favorite…but oddly, he IS one of my favorite people, aside from his music.  I learned quite a bit about him in college, we spent an entire semester researching, learning, getting to know old Ludwig.  I also found out so much more about him in a book by Russel Martin in 2001: “BEETHOVEN’S HAIR” (highly recommended if you haven’t read it.)

But one interesting “Beethoven thing” happened in college.  I attended a small art conservatory on a hill in Seattle, filled with the greatest combination of people, art, and night-life.  There was an older man who was seen frequently on the main drag by my college.  His hair reminded me of photos of Einstein, he wore a trench coat, always.  He carried around a portfolio, which I later saw filled with handwritten music manuscript.  He appeared to have a “girl-friend”, about his age (late 50s?…it’s hard for me to remember now because when I was 21 everyone older than me seemed to be ancient) who would pretend to meet him for the first time at a bus stop (we witnessed this often) and they would strike up a conversation as if they had never met.

In any case, one morning I walked into the front door of the school and into the office…to see him bending over the copy machine making copies of the hand-written music in his well-used satchel.  The secretary noted the look on my face and pulled me outside the door.

“Have you not met Ludwig?”

“That guy’s name is Ludwig?  No, I haven’t.”

“We don’t know what his actual name is, but he believes he is Ludwig Beethoven.  He comes in and the President of the school has authorized him to use the copy machine when he wants to copy his music.”

“He thinks he’s Beethoven.”


She was right…he did, and everyone just went along.  Partly proven by an event that happened just the next week.

The school had a small choral ensemble, and we were prepping a performance of a Beethoven piece, “CHRIST ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES” (SIDE NOTE: our Chancel Choir has sung the “HALLELUJAH” from that work) and our Director informed us, at rehearsal that day, that a special guest would be coming into class that day to “give us notes” on performing (wait for it) HIS piece.

I was REALLY looking forward to this.

He walked in the door.  Everyone stood.  Our Director welcomed him, introduced him and gave him the floor.  Graciously, warmly, and lucidly, “Ludwig” smiled, began informing us of his “vision” for the piece, finishing by opening up the time for questions, while reminding us to speak up…since he was going deaf. Shockingly, our Director asked the first question, and “Ludwig” answered astutely.

I have to say, everyone “played along”, our Director never indicated in any way that he didn’t believe this man wasn’t Beethoven.  And as for “Ludwig”, I think the actual Beethoven would’ve approved of his answers and demeanor.

Were we cruel or loving to “Ludwig”?

I ask that, as a BELIEVER & FOLLOWER, to see what you think?  You see, we propagated his “untruth”.  We played into his “delirium”.  We pandered to his “illusion”.  Was that OK?  As far as I know I was the only person in the room who identified as “Christian”, but I have to say: I was SO impressed by the love shown to this man…and must add that moment to all the times I have learned more about Christian behavior from non-Christians than from people who identify as “Christian”.

What I learned was: “Truth” (in the life of a BELIEVER & FOLLOWER) should always be defined through the filter of love.  Was it more important to make sure he understood he was not who he thought he was OR important to make a “relationship connection” with him?

 I have acquaintances (who identify as “Christian”) who believe we should’ve prayed over him and his mental healing.  I have acquaintances (who identify as “Christian”) who would’ve at least believed we shouldn’t call him “Ludwig” (because that’s not really his name) or continued to let him use the copy machine because that’s not really “loving him”…it’s only helping him continue to live a “lie”.

It’s sad, to me, because I don’t think Jesus said, “the facts shall set you free.” I think He said, “the Truth will set you free”, and Jesus, the way I hear Him at least, says over, “love one another”.

The Truth is: relationships are the only currency you can take with you.
The Truth is: “consider others greater than yourself…”
The Truth is: no matter whom HE identified himself as, MY business was to show love to him.  And MY business was to know that whatever was going on in his brain was none of my business.

I learned the truth about acceptance of others, no matter what, without compromising Jesus who lives in me…from people who took him for who he said he was.

“Ludwig” reminded us that day that “CHRIST ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES” was not a “concert piece” but a sacred one.  That it should be treated and sung as a sacred work: it was not about RELIGION (he told us), it was about the person of JESUS.  That person who, on the Mount of Olives, cared more about us then Himself.

 “Sing,” Ludwig said, “as if you owe Him your life.”

I never did actually learn his real name, but that year I learned LOVE is the greatest thing, and THE TRUTH certainly does set you free.

(PS – And a HAPPY 250TH BIRTHDAY today, to the real Ludwig Van Beethoven.)



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A few nights ago several of us “caroled” for folks who came by the church.  It was a blast to actually see people mask-to-mask, to laugh, and just to hear their voices.  It was also another chapter in a tradition I love, “caroling”.

I’ve caroled every Christmas most of my life – and one of my very first memories was my Dad lifting me up so I could see over the balcony of our American apartment in Frankfurt, Germany, and see the carolers in the courtyard singing German carols.  (It’s still not Christmas until I hear some German carols reminding me of my earliest Christmas memories.) 

A few years ago some “musical friends” had a large Christmas party filled with all sorts of food and drink that had no nutritional value in the least, and at the door handed us a customized bound book of carols.  The guests were all singers by profession, and all we did was eat, drink, and sing…it was a glimpse of my 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 ladies sang one part, and the men 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 it’s 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 of 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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No matter how THANKSGIVING DAY is celebrated at my home (away, home, crowded, or quiet) I really love it.  As was proved THIS year, it doesn’t matter if there are twenty people or two, I will always eat too much.

THANKSGIVING DAY, because of what it is, because it’s a time when I saw my extended family and grandparents (who didn’t live in town), and because it ushers in ADVENT, THANKSGIVING has always been a favorite holiday…since I was a small boy.  Part of that was also because Mom was a really good cook.

There are many memories of Thanksgiving Days past that move to the front of my mind each year about this time…but one of the earliest, and funniest is this:

I was probably about five-years-old when, on Thanksgiving Day, I was walking down the street as we were taking care of some last-minute shopping for the meal (probably).  Coming right at us were two women, dressed in long black dresses and wearing white and black caps.  I couldn’t contain my excitement at seeing, in the flesh, these two figures approach and so I jumped up and down, pointed and yelled at the top of my lungs,

“Look!  Pilgrims!”

They were, of course…nuns.

In my defense: 1. I had never SEEN a nun, 2. I was five-years-old, 3. it was THANKSGIVINGit seemed obvious to me that they were pilgrims.

My Mom said that the good-humored sisters laughed, came to me, stooped down, and chatted.  I was awestruck, and still thought they were Pilgrims. They wished us all a happy THANKSGIVING and went on their way…as my parents attempted to explain to me who they were, and why they weren’t pilgrims…I didn’t get it.

 Now, of course, I understand who they were and what happened…but as a child I only understood what I saw and experienced according to my limited knowledge, wisdom and experience.  Was my conclusion the “truth”?  Well, it wasn’t like I was deceived, all that I saw TOLD me that they were pilgrims. It was only through a little more teaching, and a few more years (which broadened my experience and gave me a bit more wisdom) that I understood TRULY what that experience was…and who those two kind women TRULY  represented.

God probably smiles when we come to conclusions about who He is…according to our limited knowledge, wisdom, and experience.  There are, more-than-likely, also times when He doesn’t smile; times when He sees His children declare that, despite their limited knowledge, wisdom & experience, they have concluded once-and-for-all who HE is.

I for one am thankful, this THANKSGIVING/ADVENT, for a church that doesn’t claim to OWN God, but claim to BELIEVE & FOLLOW Him.  As we all walk together behind our Shepherd, our King, our Jesus, we continue to have our eyes opened, our mind expanded, our faith strengthened by the continuing knowledge, wisdom and experience that He alone can give.  It is a lifetime learning experience that will continue into the next age. Although we should all share with one another the “angles” from which WE have each experienced our great Father, we should never assume that someone else’s different “angle” is WRONG.

We all “see through a glass darkly” (as Paul the Apostle reminds us)…so keep walking, keep learning, keep growing.  Let’s move into the ADVENT SEASON with a continued life of gratitude: thankful for the God of the “indescribable gift” who unfolds knowledge and wisdom to us all, in His time…not ours.



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Today, as I attempt to GIVE THANKS (as a child I always wondered why it wasn’t called, “GIVE THANKS-ING”) I realize this year was/is a doozy – and how much of it can I really be thankful for.

“Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I THESSALONIANS 5:13

I hear this quote often, from BELIEVERS & FOLLOWERS, and others.  It’s used when facing adversity and sadness, sometimes, mistakenly.   NOT because it isn’t right to thank God in all situations, but many people misinterpret what this scripture is saying and carry it beyond its meaning.

“Giving thanks IN everything” is not the same as “giving thanks FOR everything.”  What Paul is saying here, in his letter back to the church at Thessalonica, is that DESPITE all the turmoil, poverty and evil that happens around us, and happens to us, we still have reason to give our thanks in all situations.  We have reason to “sit in the seat of GRATITUDE and not ENTITLEMENT“.  In other words, we live as if we know the end of the story…because we do. (“Everything will be alright in the end, if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”)

It’s almost the same as when people say, “there’s a reason for everything”, which is also a little misleading.  Saying that “there’s a reason for everything” makes one think that there must be a “master plan” behind every horrible thing that happens to people…which is not quite accurate.  THIS is more accurate: “God makes REASON out of chaos”, so “despite everything, God can turn the bad to good.”…and good CAN come from BAD SITUATIONS.

Thanksgiving Week is always the week that I pop in the “WHITE CHRISTMAS” movie, while decorating.  There’s a great Irving Berlin song in the film (he wrote all the music for the film) called, “Count Your Blessings”.  It has the line, “…when I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings…”  What a great message.

For many, this holiday is a joyous and favorite.  For many, the holidays bring the sad reminder that they don’t have family or friends, like they used to, to share the holidays with…some will not have a “feast”.  This year especially, it’s different for everyone.  The best thing we can do is “give thanks” in and during all times, and all seasons, the good and the bad…because WE KNOW THE END OF THE STORY; when all things are set right.  And if times are bad, remember that God takes bad times and turns them to gold…”for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”  He makes “reason” out of the “unreasonable” and turns hunger to feasting.  He takes the orphan and adopts them into His own family.

This week, among many other things, I am thankful for your presence, your kind words, your friendship and your love,




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Time flies…whether you’re having fun or not.

I remember the day that we moved into our first house in Anderson.  Our stuff, which had been in storage since April, was being moved in August to our house on Coventry Drive.  My 9-month-old youngest child learned to walk AND got chicken pox that same day.  It was a full day for mom and dad.    I remember the warm night, our new neighbors bringing over a home-made key lime pie, and a garage full of boxes…along with a toddling, speckled 9-month-old.

That nine-month-old is now 27-years-old…by-the-way.
Time flies…whether you’re having fun or not.

When I look back at what seems like a short time ago, I have many conflicting emotions: happiness, remorse, regret, fondness, nostalgia, just to name a few.
 I could concentrate on the regret and become a sad, bitter guy who regrets not being the best Dad.  Or I could concentrate on only the good things and not see, realistically, how my friends, family and congregations have contributed to my life and me to theirs.  Either way, the past is the past…so how then should we live?

Jesus, who understands what it is like to live IN time (like us humans) and OUT of time (in the age of timeless bliss that IS God and His home) said a few things that help put things into perspective.

“Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat and what you will drink…isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing?…Can any of you add an inch to your height by worrying?…don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself, each day has trouble enough of its own.” (MATT 6:25-34)

“Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal.  But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal.  For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” (MATT 6:19-21)

 As Jesus walked with us, throughout his ministry, he reminded us that NOW is the time.  CHANGE is possible, and that HE makes all things new.

Probably all of us could look back on our lives, our parenting, our relationships, our work history…and have regrets.  We could LIVE in those regrets.  Or we could look back and think that everything was “rosey” and realize in a shock that our loved-ones didn’t quite have that same experience.  Both of these perspectives are skewed, and both come from a life that is not lived according to the words & life of Jesus…to LIVE EACH DAY, EACH MOMENT without worrying about tomorrow AND investing in something that you will never lose.

 One of the wisest things I’ve learned from my friend (I’ll call him, Ed Payntor) was to not look at what happens in the stock market daily or even weekly or monthly…but to step back, wait, and see the bigger picture…otherwise you begin panicking about things that won’t matter in the long-run.  I have another good and wise friend, now passed, who used to say to me, “Rick, ask yourself if it will matter in five years.  If not, then don’t spend too much time worrying about it now.”


The scripture says the same thing…if you must look back, look at the big picture, look and see where God has delivered, worked through the worst situations, brought order out of chaos and supplied the need.   

I AM so thankful for my family, my time here in Anderson, my neighbors, my theatre family, and my Central Christian Church family.  Yes, time does fly…whether you’re having fun or not.  But with each year I am just beginning to understand that I can touch “eternity” by living in THIS moment and enjoying THIS time.  Being thankful for every moment I am in the presence of those I love is, in fact, touching the place where God is.

I have not been a perfect parent, a perfect spouse, or a perfect friend – however:
1- I have the opportunity to be a better father, husband, friend, and Pastor, every day, and
2 – my Heavenly Father IS perfect, in every way, and is continuing to “parent” my sons…and me.