Steep Trails

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) Last week, I had the opportunity to get away for a short hike in the Santa Cruz mountains in a little park area called Pogonip — how it got its name is a story for another day. My sister and I were […]

Speaking The Truth In Love

But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love. (Ephesians […]

Are We A Beloved Community?

Let love be genuine. Hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good. Love one another with familial affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Romans 12:9-10) When the Apostle Paul addressed the above words to his community in Rome, somehow he knew that it wouldn’t be religious rules, regulations, or legalisms that would […]

Family Friday: The Right Choice

With all your heart you must trust the Lord and not your own judgment. Always let Him lead you, and He will clear the road for you to follow. (Proverbs 3:5-6) Over the last few weeks, families have been faced with overwhelming decisions regarding school for their children for this coming fall. The wonderful thing […]

Sinks

Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; [God] has become my salvation. (Isaiah 12:2, NRSV) Have you ever said, “I wish things were easier sometimes?” I have found myself saying that with increasing frequency. Maybe with all that we […]

Waiting for the Fog to Burn

For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope if from God. God alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress. I shall not be shaken. (Psalm 62:5-6) As I sit here this morning, I am watching the light of day beginning to break through the daily fog that greets me near […]

Open My Eyes

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the […]

Make God Smile Today

Thus says the Lord: ‘Let not the wise one glory in wisdom; let not the mighty one boast in strength; let not the rich glory in wealth; but let those who glory, glory in this: that one understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the […]

Family Friday: The Prayer Chair

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35) In the spring of 1994, I attended a three-day-weekend devoted to learning more about living the Christian life. While there, I discovered that before I could share […]

Refrain from Vocalizing Loudly

Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31, NRSV) I love roller coasters. When I was […]

A Time for Masks

O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely. […]

Ears to Hear

“Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you.” (Mark 4:23-24, NRSV) Multiple times Jesus told his disciples, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” This admonition is found […]

Drinking From My Saucer

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of my enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup overflows.  (Psalm 23:5) When I was a little boy, I sat with my father at the breakfast table watching him attempt to cool is Folgers Instant coffee by tipping his cup and letting some spill over […]

Family Friday: Be Fruitful with Our Words

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose. (Proverbs 18:21) There are certain phrases that have become ingrained into my regular vocabulary, either in my personal experience or my experience as an educator. Growing up we are all taught, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything […]

Pruning

I am the true vine, and [God] is the vinegrower. [God] removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit [God] prunes to make it bear more fruit. (John 15:1-2) Last weekend, I had the privilege of taking the holiday weekend off. With social distancing and COVID-19 cases surging in […]

What Are You Cast Down?

As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.When shall I come and behold the face of God? Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again […]

The Earth Is The Lord’s

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) God saw everything that God had made, and indeed, it […]

Failure to Adapt

It causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark. (Revelation 13:16) Some time ago, a colleague was reminiscing about his military service overseas when he was […]

Family Friday: Making Lemonade

And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5, NRSV) It’s 4th of July weekend! […]

It’s Latin to Me!

“… I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b, NRSV) I have a small, brass disc with a phrase in Latin on my key chain. It rests between my car fob and my office key. To be honest, I do not see it much or think about it much. But […]

Angel’s Way

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good […]

Letting Go of My Need to Know

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. (I Corinthians 13:12, NRSV) When I was a child, I had a nickname, “big ears.” I cannot say for sure, but I assume it was […]

An Unexpected Conversation

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8 Ten days ago Friday I had corrective surgery for a hiatal hernia, something I’ve wanted […]

It Is Done In Love

“Let all that you do be done in love.” 1 Corinthians 16:14 Sometimes it is hard to have patience. In this current world of fear, challenges, and injustices it can be even more so. Children have no filter- if there is one thing you can count on, it is the truth and honesty that flows […]

Rainbow

“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Genesis 9:13 (NRSV) It was just after one of our typical Southwest Florida summer showers. I had been working in my office and was running an errand before going home. The sky was […]

My God Was Too Small

“To whom then will you compare me, or who is my equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He who brings out their host and numbers them, calling them all by name, because God is great in strength, mighty in power, not one is missing.” Isaiah 40:25-26 […]

Journey Without Maps

“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.”  Genesis 28:15-16 […]

See Your Suffering Clearly

For a second time they called the man who had been blind, and said, ‘Give God the praise; we know that Jesus is a sinner.’ He answered, ‘Whether he is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I know, that thought I was blind, now I see.’ John 9:24-25 Unsettling fear. Lurking discomfort. Instinctual […]

Building Sandcastles

“As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because […]

Do You Know That You Are Free?

“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NRSV) Tomorrow, Friday, June 19, is a holiday known as Juneteenth. It is not a federal holiday and, while acknowledged in many parts of the nation, it is truly celebrated among African Americans […]

The Barnabas Factor

“And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25 “There was a Levite, a native of Cyprus, Joseph, to whom the apostles gave the name […]

A Still Small Voice

“And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a […]

Who You Are Matters

“The Lord said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by him? No, for I have chosen him, that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep […]

We All Matter

“He heals the wounds of every shattered heart” Psalm 147:3 When I continue to watch the current events in our country unfold, my heart shatters. I think of parents who are trying to cope with children who already lost so much over the last few months, and as they struggle to try to bring a […]

Palms Up, Palms Down

“For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13 One of the new activities that has given me the most joy during these days of social isolation is the NUCC Zoom Prayer Gathering that I have been […]

Difficult Conversations

He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8) When George Floyd uttered his last words, “I can’t breathe,” our nation took notice. While this issue has always been front and center for […]

Take Care

“Lord, let me know my end, and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting my life is. You have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing in your sight. Surely everyone stands as a mere breath.” Psalm 39:4-5 (NRSV) It’s always true, but sometimes we […]

Look Within

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” The Lord said, “What have you done? Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground!” Genesis 4:9-10 Last week was a week of fire and tremendous turbulence in our country. Today begins a new […]

Family Friday: Be Still

“God says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10 (International Children’s Bible) My favorite movie is The Sound of Music. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have seen it, but enough to know the words to every song. In the song How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, the […]

No Surprise Parties For Me

“Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things […]

Snakes

“The people came to Moses and said, ‘We have sinned by speaking against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord to take away the serpents from us.’ So Moses prayed for the people.” Numbers 21:7 (NRSV) I want to be crystal clear: I do not like snakes. And please save yourself the time […]

First, Be Reconciled

“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 Eight days ago, George Floyd, an unarmed 46 year old […]

A Mighty Wind

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly a sound came from heaven, like the rush of a mighty wind…” Acts 2:1-2a Doubtless you remember that yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. It is part of the church-year calendar, the cycle of liturgy that we observe every year, forty […]

Family Friday: This Too Shall Pass

“Nevertheless, that time of darkness and despair will not go on forever” Isaiah 9:1 Has anyone else caught themselves saying more and more frequently, “when this is all over?!” As time continues to pass, and our community begins reopening, it feels as if everything would just magically return to the way things were before. However, […]

For Everything, A Season

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to […]

Crammed with Wonder

When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.”  Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:4-5, NRSV) I suspect I am not […]

A Modern-Day Salutation

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you, praying with joy…” Philippians 1:2-4a Greetings on this Memorial Day Monday! I would have written “Happy Memorial Day”, but I know it is […]

Family Friday: The Rainbow Connection

So God said to Noah, “That rainbow is a sign. It is the sign of the agreement that I made with all living things on earth.” Genesis 9:17 (International Children’s Bible) For weeks, I have been thinking about rainbows. I honestly don’t know why. Ms. Lois and I haven’t taught the Noah’s Ark lesson, nor […]

Don’t Pray for Patience

“My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4 (NRSV) I am not, by nature, a patient person. […]

Lessons from Max

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.” Psalm 46:1-3 (NRSV) You learn a lot about your dog […]

Beyond Severe Affliction

“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God which has been shown in the churches of Macedonia. For in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of liberality on their part. For they gave according to their means, as […]

Family Friday: Seeing With More Than Our Eyes

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:6 You know the adage, seeing is believing? Well, I do not know about everyone else, but for me, especially lately, that has been challenging to understand. It has been so difficult at times to “see” the […]

Green Market Realization

“Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, […]

Royal Pains

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1 (NRSV) When the safer-at-home order came from Governor DeSantis, I decided that I needed to find a television show that I could watch at night since I am not much of a television watcher. I do not remember how I found […]

How Long, O Lord?

First, a gift for the Naples UCC Choir-in-absentia: A snail went to the exotic car dealer the buy a car. He picked out a Jaguar. The salesperson was surprised when the snail wanted a large “S” painted on each side door. Why would you want that, the salesperson asked. “Because”, said the snail, “when I […]

Family Friday: The Abundance of Mothers

“As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”  Isaiah 66:13 When the calendar turns to May, I think of my mother and her best friend since boarding school days, who I fondly call Aunt Dale. Their birthdays are a week apart, around Mother’s Day. My own mother passed away nine years ago, […]

Blessings in Disguise

“With every sun’s rising, surprise us with your love, satisfy us with your kindness. Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive.” Psalm 90:14 (The Voice Paraphrase) Meister Eckhart once suggested: “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was thank you, that would suffice.” Those words have had a profound […]

Called to Be Friends

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. John 15:15 (NRSV) In 1980 Paula Ripple, an American Catholic nun and spiritual leader, published a […]

Suffering or Peace?

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you will have suffering. But take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Which would you rather have: today, Monday, the first day of another week? Suffering or peace? That may seem like a stupid […]

Family Friday: Seeking Control of the “Big” Things

“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control,” 2 Timothy 1:7 So often lately I have found myself desperate for some sense of control. For families, who spend so much of their days trying to control nap times, meals, routines, and keeping everyone in check, feeling a […]

It’s the Small Things

“And, whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:17 It’s hard to be in the helping profession while often feeling helpless about being able to do something significant during this crisis. I don’t think I’m alone in […]

Some Good News

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NRSV) Probably like you, I get tired of watching the news. Also, probably like you, some days I cannot seem to turn it off. It is like watching a […]

Then Sings My Soul

Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth! Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into God’s presence with singing! For the LORD is good. God’s steadfast love endures forever, God’s faithfulness to all generations! Psalm 100:1, 5 On occasion, I’ve seen video clips of outdoor concerts with thousands of people crowded together around […]

Family Edition: Hugs from Heaven

So comfort each other and give each other strength, just as you are doing now. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (International Children’s Bible) At the end of our Zoom Sunday School class this past week, Gabby called through the screen with her arms wide open, “I want to come right through that screen and hug every single […]

The Luxury of Small Complaints

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. I Peter 4:8-10 You have heard the adage: “The longer you live, the more […]

Many Members, One Body

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many… If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. I Corinthians 12: 14, 26 In I Corinthians 12, Paul writes extensively about the unity of the many members of one body. He insists […]

COVID in the Body of Christ?

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let her pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing praise!” James 5:13 “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together! Now YOU are the body of Christ, and individually, members of it.” I Corinthians 12:26-27 I smiled warmly, as did many of you, the […]

Family Edition: Seeing Beyond the Now

“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.” Proverbs 4:25 I cannot help but think of what it means for children and youth to see their milestones canceled. When I read of high school seniors not able to have a prom, and graduations canceled for all grades, my heart ached for […]

A New Normal?

“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5b For the past year, I have been meeting via Zoom with three friends for mutual coaching. Even though we had never met before sharing a coaching seminar, we have become close over that time as we have learned about each other. […]

Butterflies

“Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed…” 1 Corinthians 15:51 (NRSV) The count of people infected with COVID-19 (coronavirus) goes up daily. Collier County has experienced three deaths from the disease. Congress passed, and the president signed, a $2+ Trillion stimulus package in an […]

Surrender to Vitality

And Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have sent me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may trust that Jesus is the Christ, […]

Family Edition: Good-Bad Friday?

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16 NRSV Today is Good Friday, which I will forever associate with the Good Friday Vacation Bible School at the church I previously served. Each year, children […]

Knackered

“I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25 Maybe I’m not alone, but I am discovering the great variety of shows on Netflix, and somehow, I’ve gotten hooked on several British cooking shows. I find myself enamored with the different turns of phrase that the English language takes in […]

Unknown Future, Known God

For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you […]

April 6

“As Jesus sat at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. But there were some who said to themselves indignantly, ‘Why was the ointment thus wasted? It might have been sold for more than three hundred […]

Family Friday: April 3

Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Mark 11:9 We have been hearing a lot about the importance of routine over the last few weeks. Routines are different than habits, recurring actions that require little or no conscious thought. Establishing a […]

April 2

“Then God said (to Moses), “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) This morning, I received a FaceTime call from my daughter because our granddaughter insisted on calling her Nana. So, bless my daughter, she called me. The first words […]

March 31

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of […]

March 30

“Let love be without pretense: rejecting evil, holding on to good, exercising heart-felt affection, preferring each other in honor. Don’t let go of your enthusiasm, your spiritual energy, your desire to serve the Lord.” Romans 12:9-11 I like the way technology gives us so many ways to communicate and to manage information. I’m glad that […]

Family Friday: March 27

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or troubled. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 When I think of what families, particularly parents, must be feeling right now, my heart aches. Most overwhelming of all is the uncertainty of not knowing what’s ahead while trying to navigate parenting in […]

March 26

“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15 (NRSV) Not that I keep much food in my house during the height of season, but I […]

March 24

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NRSV) A couple of weeks ago, one of our daughters, who lives in Manhattan, had been told to work from home, and had booked a flight to be with us in Florida. After all, who wouldn’t rather […]

March 23

“And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20b (NRSV) In the midst of a crisis, there is a strong human tendency to ask questions like: Why is this happening? Or, why is God allowing this to happen? I do not know. That is simply not how I think about it. […]

Family Friday: March 20

He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27 (NRSV) My home in Massachusetts was set 800 feet back from a two mile stretch of road, surrounded by woods. […]

March 19

“I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power and love and soundness of mind.” II Timothy 1:6-7 (NRSV) When Paul writes to young Timothy, he writes to remind him […]

March 16

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV) During this time of uncertainty, my mind races everywhere, keeping me […]

March 15

  “Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:30-31 (NRSV) I do not wait well. The […]