Category Archives: holidays

Rest and Relax

The Lord is My Shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

  –Psalm 23 (KJV)

Like many others, I love the Twenty-third Psalm. I read those words about “green pastures” and “still waters” and am reminded of the free spirited fun I had spending summers at my grandparents’ farm up a dirt road hollow in Potter County. Depending on the day, I’d go off on an adventure with our neighbor, or my cousins, or even my little brother, and we’d explore the pasture, the upper meadow, or the forest, staking out our claim to territory and finding great “undiscovered” camping sites.

But some of my best memories were the times I was alone, just me and God, out for a walk. Inevitably, I’d end up stopping and sitting alongside the banks of this one little stream that cut through the pasture behind the barn. I would just sit there and watch the water bubble along on its way down the stream… knowing that, eventually, that water would end up as part of the Gulf of Mexico via the Oswayo, Allegheny, Ohio, and Mississippi Rivers. It was peaceful. In the quietness of those moments, I found myself close to God and able to talk with Him and hear Him talk with me.

Summertime is here again, only now I’m more than 45 years older. And I don’t have a schedule of playing, followed by hiking and exploring. Not even sitting down by a stream. I’m adult now… I have a lot to do. I have expectations to meet for my job and my family. I don’t have the time to do that “kid” stuff… Or do I? The problem is just this: In losing the “play” time, most of us lose the quiet time… and lose the time to spend quietly with our God, as well.

The Bible is filled with times where God commands His people to rest and times that they were commanded to play!

The command to take time off and rest goes back to the Ten Commandments, requiring that one day out of every seven be spent doing no work… just resting. And if you violated that command even to go out and try to pick up extra food (the manna lying on the ground), God would see to it that that food went bad before you got to eat it. He knew that He made the human body needing rest. Even now, without proper rest and time off, our bodies still become more susceptible to disease and injury… as well as stress and burn-out.

The command to celebrate was extra-time off every so often where the people had a festival, special meals, special worship services, being together with extended family and friends that you wouldn’t get to see all the time. It renewed the mind and rejuvenated the spirit. You had something to look forward to once again, no matter how tough the year might have been.

This summer, let’s schedule in some time to rest and to play… the way God meant for us to do. Time off to relax and connect with God again and also time deliberately spent reconnecting with the people He’s put in our lives… our families… at home and at church.

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Filed under Church Leadership, holidays, Newsletter, sabbath

The Problem with the Pews

A potentially dangerous situation has developed in the church sanctuary. The pews, which are as old as the church building, have begun to dry out.

This loss of moisture, and the subsequent loss of weight, has led to the distinct possibility that they might float free. This presents the possibility that during worship, a free-floating pew could damage a member or guest. Further, it is believed that even if a member or a guest were able successfully to dodge an oncoming free-floating pew, the evasive action would certainly disrupt the spiritual tranquility of the worshiping dodger.

The problem was brought before a committee in the latter part of last year. The committee first considered using steel cables to anchor the pews to bedrock, which is 247 feet beneath the church. After receiving the cost estimate of $145,912.77 and extensive consultations with engineers, this idea was abandoned. The committee, after deliberating, deciding that adding weight to the pews would be a better solution to the problem. The committee considered using brass scrap or lead ingots but they proved to be too expensive. Pig iron was found to be cheaper, but it, like brass and lead, had a certain lifeless quality.

The committee searched for a medium density object which was both sparkling and vibrant. After sifting through all of the possibilities, the committee has opted to use warm bodies to weigh down the pews, and the committee is asking the membership to provide the necessary weight. This can be done by coming to church and, if possible, by bringing a medium density object (in the form of a friend or neighbor) with you.

 

HAPPY APRIL FOOL’S DAY!

 

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Filed under holidays, Humor

The Atheists’ Holiday?

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

— Psalm 14:1/Psalm 53:1

 

There’s a funny story that circulates around the internet about an atheist who is in court claiming discrimination since there are holidays for religious observances, but none for those who aren’t believers. The judge is reported to say that atheists in fact DO have a holiday: April Fool’s Day! The judge’s rationale is this verse from the Psalms.

It’s a cute story, even though I doubt it’s true.

As usual, April starts with this holiday celebrating foolishness and fun. But this year we also have Palm Sunday, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday. Holidays for non-believers AND believers alike!

But this idea of the fool has captured my attention. Nobody (that I know of) likes being called a fool. And yet, to the extent that we are still unbelievers… ones who doubt God… then, according to the Bible, we ARE fools.

Most of us involved with this church family would claim to be a believer in God… in fact, we regularly use the Apostles’ Creed to declare, and reaffirm, our beliefs. “I believe in God the Father… in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord… in the Holy Spirit…” We believe.

But if we are really honest with ourselves, there are many moments when we’re not sure WHAT to believe. There are so many different opinions on what it means to be a Christian, what you’re allowed to do or say, even what you can wear if you’re going to be a member of this group of Christians or that other group down the street. Many people look at the very same Bible we read and get an entirely different meaning than we do. What are we to do?

Ultimately I find myself in those moments remembering the father of a sick child asking Jesus for help and for healing. Jesus asked him “Do you believe?” And that father replied “I do believe… Help my unbelief.”

Isn’t that our situation so often? We DO believe… yet there are so many areas where our faith needs to keep growing and our believing needs help. We, like that father of the sick child, can honestly say: ‘I believe… Help my unbelief.’

It is only the foolish ones that categorically decree that there is nothing in which to believe. And they are known as fools.

Let’s respond to God and his offer of help and healing through Jesus with those words: “I do believe… Help my unbelief!”

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

This was my pastor’s column in my church’s newsletter.

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Filed under holidays, Humor

Happy PI Day

Today, at least in the United States, is affectionately called PI Day! In U.S. notation the month, represented by a number, is noted first, followed by the calendar day of the month, thus today, March 14th, is 3.14, which any of us geeks will tell you is the beginning numbers of the mathematical PI!

I won’t bore you with all the details, but PI is a number that you get when calculating with circles… AND as you divide it out you soon discover it is a never ending number. To understand it better, check with your favorite mathematician or watch the movie “The Life of Pi.”

I’ve collected a few PI jokes through the past few years and then found some in a news article from Newsweek online at https://www.newsweek.com/pi-day-2019-jokes-celebration-1361317.

Here are the jokes from their article…

Why should you never talk to pi? Because he’ll just go on forever.

What was Sir Isaac Newton’s favorite dessert? Apple pi.

The mathematician says, “Pi r squared.” The baker replies, “No, pies are round. Cakes are square.”

What do you get when you take green cheese and divide its circumference by its diameter? Moon pi.

How many pastry chefs does it take to make a pie? 3.14.

The worst thing about getting hit in the face with pi is that it never ends.

What is 1.57? Half a pi.

What do you get when you cut a jack o’lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin pi.

3.14 percent of sailors are PI-rates!

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Filed under holidays, Humor

Another Year Is Dawning

I saw a Twitter post yesterday highlighting the first verse of this 1874 hymn by Frances Ridley Havergal, called Another Year Is Dawning. I’ve never sung it before, but I’ve been captivated! Check it out:

1 Another year is dawning:
Dear Father, let it be,
In working or in waiting,
Another year with Thee;
Another year of progress,
Another year of praise,
Another year of proving
Thy presence all the days.

2 Another year of mercies,
Of faithfulness and grace;
Another year of gladness
In the shining of Thy face;
Another year of leaning
Upon Thy loving breast;
Another year of trusting,
Of quiet, happy rest.

3 Another year of service,
Of witness for Thy love;
Another year of training
For holier work above.
Another year is dawning;
Dear Father, let it be,
On earth or else in heaven,
Another year for Thee.

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Filed under Church Leadership, Devotional, holidays, Poetry, worship

REPOST: Teach Us To Number Our Days

I like the story of a man who accidentally calls a wrong 1-800 number and gets GOD. After being apologetic about wasting God’s time with a wrong number, God says that’s OK, what we humans think is a long time is really almost nothing to him. So the man says: “Let me get this right: 1000 of our years are like nothing more than a minute to you?” And God says “yes.”

“So what money?” says the man. He continues: “Is it true that you really own the cattle on a thousand hills and that everything we could possibly ever own is really yours?” Again, God responds with a “yes.”

Feeling a bit braver, he pushes on. He says, “So a million dollars to you is like nothing more than a penny, huh?” God says “That’s right.”
The man then asks “Hey God, I got a favor to ask. Can I have a penny?”
To which God responds: “In a minute.”

 

PSALM 90:10 says: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.”

The most we can hope for, as far as our age goes, is about 70 years; maybe 80 or so if we’re exceptionally strong in health… more or less. And back in verse 4 of Psalm 90 we read “For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.”

Our full-life, in God’s reckoning of eternity, is like the morning fog: it’s gone pretty quickly without a trace. But what does 70 years give us… what value does it have?

Depends on what we put into it.

chalkboard-hours

There are 24 hours in a day and 365 days in a year, which means we each have 8,760 hours in a year. If you multiply that number of hours in a year by a life span of, let’s go ahead and say 70, you get 613,200 hours in a 70 year lifespan.

BY THE WAY, by following the math out, a 70 year lifespan would have 36,792,000 minutes (36 MILLION…) OR 2,207,520,000 seconds (2 BILLION, 207 MILLION…)

So, since our time is our most precious commodity, we ALL could be considered to be MILLIONARES! (or even BILLIONAIRES). So how do we spend our time? Into what purposes and activities do we invest our time?

To start with, the average American person, in a 70 year lifespan, will have spent an average of 178,360 hours just sleeping. (7 hours/day x 7 days/ week x 52 wk/yr x 70 yr = 178,360 hours of sleep in your lifetime. To make it easier to process, you can take that number of sleeping hours (178,360) and divide it by the number of hours in a year (8760) and that means you sleep about 20 years of a 70 year lifespan.

That same person will have spent 104,000 hours of their life working, which turns out to be almost 16 years spent working out of 70.

That person will also spend an average of 76,440 hours of their life eating! (Assuming an hour for every meal (that’ll count your snacks) X 3 meals a day X 7 days a week X 52 weeks X 70 years = 76,440 hours of eating. That’s almost 9 years of eating!

Time spent watching television is also insightful: 3 hours of TV each day = another 9 years spent just watching T.V. !

Now, when it comes to church, there’s a bit of a problem because the AVERAGE American simply does NOT go to church! So for the average American it boils down to ZERO hours a year.

But, for OUR benefit, we’ll assume the Average American Church going Christian will have spent 6/10 of a year worshipping God.(Assuming an hour and a half each week, giving you time to get in here and get out plus the normal hour and fifteen minutes we usually set aside for the worship service.)

NOW, some reading this are going to challenge me in this. They might say: “That’s not fair, preacher! I go to church more often than that, I’m a really committed Christian!’”

Assuming that’s true, we’ll take you Sunday morning worship time PLUS EVERY Sunday School Class you’ve ever attended, PLUS EVERY Prayer Meeting scheduled, or Youth group meeting, or Women’s group, PLUS EVERY Bible Study that takes place, and we can bump your weekly Church worship time up to 5 hours in a week. What’s that give us? (5 hours per week X 52 weeks X 70 years = 18,200 hours in worship in your lifetime = about 2 years and a couple of months spent worshipping God.

Add to those numbers the results of a Survey of 6000 people polled in 1988, reported by U.S. News and World Report:

In a lifetime the average American will spend:

chalkboard years.pngSix months sitting at stoplights

Eight months opening junk mail

One year looking for misplaced objects

2 years unsuccessfully returning phone calls

4 years doing housework

5 years waiting in line

Reader’s Digest takes this even further and says that the Average American will spend 6 years looking for misplaced stuff.

OH GOD… Teach us to number our days……..

As we look back over this list of time spent, we can see how our little uses of time add up to YEARS throughout the course of a lifetime, so we need to ask God to help us number our days… to make the most of our time.

Who is our God? Our God is the one to whom we give our time and attention.

OH GOD… “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

-Psalm 90:12

(This originally started as a newsletter article years ago based on a message I had heard once at Cherry Run Camp. Then it became a blog post in January 2011. Now, it is ‘resurrected’ today here and served as the foundation for my Sunday morning sermon at Carmichaels: First United Methodist Church.)

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Filed under Church Leadership, family, holidays, Newsletter, sermons

Christmas Offerings


A year ago on this date, our family went to a Christmas party for pastors and their families. After the party we went into the sanctuary of the host church and just sang Christmas carols and worshipped our Lord Jesus. When we were getting ready to leave, adults started talking and visiting, and little Miss Elizabeth got bored (quickly) and started looking around. We hadn’t taken an offering that night, and she’s been in worship enough to know we usually “pass the plates.” So when she saw the empty plates, she walked around giving folks a chance to give to Jesus. 
So many people expect the church to meet their needs; MY kind of music, MY kind of ritual or casual style, MY pastor ‘feeding’ me. But our granddaughter, still a month before we finally were allowed to adopt her, had caught one of the keys of real worship: Real worship is about what we bring to church to GIVE to God. Clear back to Old Testament times we read how the people worshipped by taking an offering to give to God (a bull, a lamb, a bird, some of your grain perhaps). Other than that, you would bring your praises and singing, your prayers, and a heart that was ready to listen for God to speak in your heart. And then worship continued as you went home and lived for God according to His ways as much as you were humanly able. 

As I look at this picture of our granddaughter/daughter with her attempt to mimic the missing piece of worship that night (in her eyes), I am reminded that as we approach Christmas and as we approach any Sunday worship gathering: What gift am I giving to Jesus? How about you? What will you give him?

Give him your teachable heart. Give him your listening ear. Give him your excitement and praise and joy. And yes, give him whatever physical or financial offering you feel he’s leading you to give. And there’s one more thing you COULD give… Give him the one silent, unspoken, often unrecognized gift you can offer: the gift of giving God your time by simply being present. That’s often one of the hardest parts because there are lots of good activities and good groups that decide to make competing programs, practices, and fundraisers at the exact same time as the time your church has worship services. For you to give your time is truly a sacrifice. Which is how worship started so long ago. 

What will you give Jesus this year for his birthday? Give him your best!

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Filed under Church Leadership, holidays, Methodist, worship