What a Conversation Starter!

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As we continue to face the challenges and changes the corona virus outbreak is having on all of us, I have also discovered a few silver linings in my daily life.

One of these is the on-going discovery of people I do not know who live in my neighborhood.  As you may recall, Faithful Reader, I have worked primarily out of our home for the last 3 and a half years.  On any given day, I will take two or three long walks with our Golden Doodle, Violet (my computer would not let me use any of my own pictures of her, but this photo from pinterest is strikingly close to what she looks like).

Previously, these walks have been completed almost exclusively without seeing anyone to speak to.  Over these past few days, that is no longer the case! Parents prevented from going to their workplaces are outside at times they never were before.  Many, like me, are on potty runs for their dogs.

The pastor in me tries to take these meetings as opportunities to share hope.  Having Violet along has certainly made conversations easy to start.  Almost everyone is taken by her soft coat, soulful eyes and goofy personality.  As we share info on our different pooches, the talk invariably comes around to the current circumstances that have led us to meet.

I am not now, never been, and probably never will be a very successful evangelist.  I don’t have the gift of gab, if you will, that allows words to smoothly and cohesively flow from my mouth.  No, my strength seems to be more in the walking out of my faith.  This, I have been told, is most evident in my peaceful demeanor.  “You are easy to talk to,” and, “thanks for listening” are things I hear quite often.

So it is with those gifts that I engage my new-found neighbors in conversation.  By asking what their ‘normal’ was before this all started, I can begin to get the sense of what is most troubling them in these days.  Invariably, they will then ask me the same question to which I reply that my routine is pretty much as it was.  I then offer to tell them about our home-based ministry and some of the care we bring to our community.  As I do, I extend the invitation to them as well by asking if there is a specific area of concern for which I can be praying for them.  I gladly tell them of the resources we have available that may be of some help.

I share this with you today as an encouragement to take the new opportunities that are presented to you through this radical shift in your day to day life.  I understand the fear and uncertainty you may be experiencing, but my encouragement is that you not let them dominate your life.  In the midst of being careful and making preparations for the days to come, please stay aware of the people who have now appeared on your radar.  Please don’t be afraid to lend a listening ear or offer to help if appropriate.

Together, we will get through this.  Just ask Violet, she has heard me encourage quite a few of this recently.

Blessings and thanks for taking the time to read this,

Pastor Chuck

 

What an Opportunity!

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image courtesy of finerminds.com

Though I wonder what I might be writing about on March 15th, 2021, there seems to be little else on peoples mind right now than the global spread of coronavirus/covid-19.  Like many, I initially thought the talk of precautions, quarantines and physical distancing were all huge over-reactions.  I watched as stores were picked clean like buzzards on a carcass and wondered what was wrong with people.

However, as I have carefully done my research on this issue, I have jumped fully on-board with the ideas and practices that will help reduce the spread of this new threat. This in turn allow our health care providers to be better able to treat those most adversely affected by it.

Having said this, please know, Faithful Reader, that I am not advocating sticking our head in the sand in hopes it all goes away quickly.  Truthfully, I have no idea when things will return to the ‘normal’ I know and am comfortable in.

What I propose, and admittedly I should have been doing these things long before corona came along, is to seize every opportunity to be of help to those around us.  But try as I might, there is no way I can personally help everyone that I would like to.  Knowing this limitation, here is what I’m doing and I strongly encourage you to consider doing something similar: As I look out the front window of our little house, I see 3 homes across the street that are each inhabited by widows, all in excess of 70 years of age.  My plan, as soon as I publish this, is to walk across the street to each of these three in order to ask if they need anything.  Can I go to the store for you? Maybe I have something on hand that you need? Or maybe they will allow to simply pray with them.  I’ll make sure I leave my number with them should they need me later.

You get the idea.  Let’s take the opportunity circumstances have thrust upon us and literally be the hands and feet of Jesus in our own world.  I will take all the appropriate precautions when doing this, for their protection, mine and anyone else I may come in contact with.  But I will do it.

Please consider this for yourself.  We have been given the chance to step up as a people.  Let’s take advantage of the opportunity!

Blessings to you all,

Pastor Chuck

The Bible: The Ultimate Battery Charger

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(image courtesy of Walmart)

Ah, the portable battery charger.  I love mine.  No cables to unravel, don’t have to line up with the other vehicles battery.  Just set the clamps, positive to positive and negative to negative, and the dead battery will come to life.  It’s convenient. I have used mine on numerous occasions to help fellow motorists with dead batteries.  All I have to do afterward is remember to bring into the house to re-charge it.

.  Days like today remind me that God’s word re-charges unresponsive things as well.  I make it part of my morning to read from the Scriptures each day, but to be honest, I can’t say my battery is charged to full capacity after every reading.  Thankfully, today is one such day that it is!  I was reading in Luke 6:6-11 how Jesus performed a healing of a man with a shriveled hand on the Sabbath Day.  The Sabbath Day was to be a day of rest, as commanded by God.  The issue at hand, pun intended, was how the religious leaders over time had twisted its meaning.  They were quite literal when they said, “no work can be done on the Sabbath.”  Jesus, as He often did, showed them what the true meaning of something was.

Jesus healed the man, right in front of them, to help prove the point that doing good far outweighs the attempt to do nothing wrong.

The Pharisees and keepers of the Law were incensed that Jesus would do such a thing, and in the synagogue no less!  These dudes needed a jolt to their system, as I admit I must also from time to time.

Here’s the problem as I see it: the religious types were totally focused on the wrong thing.  Their motivation was to do avoid doing anything wrong.  They were completely handcuffed by fear making it is much harder, if not impossible, to be doing intentional good. When your mind is pre-occupied on what man-made rules you might be breaking, the ability to move freely in other ways is compromised.

As I unhook the charging cables from my mental battery this morning, I sense in my spirit some of the peace that God promises all of us.  I find my mind has been freed (again) from the crippling fear of doing something wrong and instead reset to the place where I simply trust God to lead me where He wants me and to be ready to do what He would have me do.

Might I suggest, Dear Reader, that if your battery seems low on juice today, to go plug yourself into the source of energy that never runs dry, God’s word.  He has made Himself available to us always and everywhere so that we can do this.  As you make your plans for this day, please bring that blessed charger along; you never know when you will need its boost!

Blessings,

Pastor Chuck

 

 

Make Everyday Valentine’s Day

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image courtesy of keepcalm-0-matic.co.uk

Celebrating Valentine’s Day with that special someone in your life is a wonderful thing.  It is never a bad idea to let your significant other know how important they are to you.  February 14th, coming as it does just once a year, is a focal point for many to do just that.  So if you are getting a gift or taking him or her out to dinner, enjoy!

Having said this, let me tell you what my wife and I are doing on this St. Valentine’s Day: going to a hockey game! We truly enjoy these outings, so what better way to say “I love you” than watching our favorite team, the Syracuse Crunch, battle for a win.

You might think that’s not the most romantic endeavor you will hear about today, and you’re probably right.  What you need to understand is that my wife and I still love each other very much and we have learned over the years (36 and counting!) to let each other know it.  As special as Valentine’s Day is, we make the effort everyday to be that special someone to/for each other.

My perspective on our relationship is wonderfully described in Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs (if you have a bible handy guys, go read it. It may help you appreciate more the special gift your wife is to you).

Here’s a few excerpts from Proverbs 31, along with how Betsy personally lives these Scriptures out:

Verse 15: She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family

Betsy gets out of bed every morning at 5:30. She manages her time in this way to allow herself the ability to pray and read scripture and take a long walk with me and our Goldendoodle Violet.  She then goes off to work, Monday through Friday, to perform her many duties and responsibilities as a Senior Director at the largest not-for-profit human services agency in our area.

This verse I’ve quoted says how the Proverbs 31 woman provides food for her family.  As the sole income earner of our household, Betsy does that very thing. (Allowing me to stay at home and write this blog, among a few other things!) And she accomplishes this task, as she does everything else, we cheerfulness that only comes from having a deep and active faith.

Continuing with Proverbs 31:20

She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.

Betsy’s job in human services gives her the opportunity each day to fulfill this, and she does.  Yet her concern for the poor and marginalized does not end when her workday does.  She is very active in our ministry, Lakeside Christian Ministries.  She continually develops ways for us to reach those folks who seemingly have fallen through the cracks of society, caring for each one with the love she has for Jesus beating in her heart.  Betsy inspires me to make this same level heart commitment through her example of ‘no-quit’ love and hope for those she ministers to.

Though I could go on, allow me just one last verse from Proverbs 31 that expresses more of the blessing my wife is to me (and so many!)

Verse 26: She speaks with wisdom and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

There are plenty of smart people in the world, but not all of them possess wisdom.  My wife does have both, and in abundance! Not only is Betsy one of the most educated people I know, she has the gift of explaining deep and complex things that allows others (like me) to understand.  Countless are the times I have brought a topic I was struggling with to her, asking for clarification.  I can think of no time when Betsy did not clear up my jumbled thoughts.

I am truly blessed by God to have Betsy as my partner.  I thank and praise Him everyday for this awesome gift.  My hope and prayer is that now that you’ve read this, you might be encouraged to make tomorrow, February 15th, a special day for that special someone in your life as well.

And by the way, we’ll be going to another Syracuse Crunch hockey game tomorrow night!

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

A Life Well Lived

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There are times, though not very often, when I think about what kind of mark I will leave on the world.  Will my wife remember me as a partner who adored her? Will my kids recall me with fondness? Did I allow enough of my heart to be transparent; so that through the ups and downs of life my family will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my love for them never wavered?

With regard to ministry; how will the people God placed in my life and under my care  remember me? My desire has always been that they know my everyday intention is to have God glorified through what we shared together.  Have I lived out the Gospel in such a way that Christ is more fully in their hearts through what I have taught?

As I said, these types of thoughts don’t rattle through my brain too often.  Yet as I have mentioned here before, as I draw ever more away from the start of my life and closer to its human end, thinking about my legacy does happen from time to time.

This most recent journey into this recess of my mind has come about because of an individual I met last week.  I received a request from a family in hospice care that they wanted a pastoral care visit.  No more details were given me, so I on the drive to their home some of the more usual questions and my responses to them went through mind.   You see, the full awareness of one’s time being up on earth has a definite tendency to focus thoughts about the process of dying and what may lay beyond.

As I was greeted by the sad smile of the caregiver, I felt as ready as I could be to meet the patient.  Was I wrong!

That’s not to say I was totally off base.  Some things were as expected.  I was introduced to a patient who was obviously near death.  The frail and gaunt body told me all I needed to know about the physical condition: Cancer was wreaking its usual havoc at the end stage of life.

But this is not the memory I will carry from this meeting.  What touched me so deeply was the absolute peace this person exuded.  Though in obvious pain that the meds couldn’t alleviate, his eyes fixed on me with more care than I have seen in a long, long time.

We chatted briefly about the journey through life; of the many places seen because of work and family.  I am always blessed when folks share these personal nuggets from their past.  Losing track of time, I probably could have sat there all afternoon.  But the conversation lagged and then stopped.  I wondered if it was time for me to excuse myself, thinking that fatigue and pain were winning out.

What became apparent next was that it wasn’t tiredness that had quieted our chat, but rather that the patient was gathering the strength he needed to finish our time together the way he wanted it to end.

As best as I can remember, this is what he said to me: “Tell your parishioners this, ‘Think of others more than yourself.  Be ready and willing to help out in practical ways.  Don’t simply tell people that you love them, live your love for them in front of their very eyes.  I made this my primary goal in life, and as my time here is up, I am so very glad I did.’”

It was crystal clear to me that these weren’t merely words said in an attempt to comfort oneself when faced with imminent death.  They were spoken with a genuine desire that they be shared so that others could see what I was witnessing; peace.  Peace from a life well lived.

What an incredible legacy! I share this with you, my Faithful Readers, to encourage you as it has encouraged me to look beyond myself and into the eyes and hearts of others.  If I can incorporate this level of caring into my everyday lifestyle, I need not worry about what kind of legacy I am leaving behind.  The patient I met last week certainly wasn’t worried about it; may you and I find that same level of peace from our lives well lived too.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

Somebody is Watching

Hello Faithful Reader! As the title of this entry implies, all that we do is being watched by someone.  Bearing in mind the times in which we live, this is not a hard sell.  We must be ever-vigilant in protecting our identities from theft.  Big Brother is seemingly everywhere, up to and including that intersection you just ran a red light thru!  Indeed, our every action seems to be under scrutiny by someone or something all the time.

However, as I like to do, allow me to put a more positive spin on the above stated fact.  I know a great many people who go about their lives doing for others simply from the goodness of their hearts.  No compensation is required or even looked for.  They see opportunities to help and take action.  These folks aren’t looking for recognition and most prefer to fly under the radar.  Whatever the motivation is, the willingness to help can be a great encouragement to others.

If you are one of these helpful-minded folks, thank you! I realize that the vast majority of you are simply doing what you know to be the right thing to do.  But let me encourage you to remember, people are watching!  And I mean this in the best of ways.  Your actions of sacrifice or words of kindness are being observed.  You may never know who is noticing, but be sure that someone has, is, or will.

I recently received an encouragement that has spawned this entry.  I have volunteered for a number of years at a local care-giving agency.  The little bit of my time that I have given to this cause has been returned in countless blessings to me.  In the mail yesterday I received another.  Among the fliers, bills and campaign literature was a letter addressed to yours truly.  It was from the national office of my local agency.  The letter, with my first name handwritten on top, informed me that I was one of only 140 people who had been nominated, nationwide, as volunteer of the year!  Though it went on to contain their condolences that I was not selected, the honor of being a nominee was not lost on me.

As I pondered this further, I became aware that it had to be someone within the local agency that had given my name for consideration for this prestigious award..  What an honor indeed! On the heels of this thought came the realization that caused me to share this brief piece with you, someone is always watching.  If we accept that as an on-going reality of our times, why not let what is being watched be seen as an encouragement to others.

Blessings to you and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck