Something New

“And the one sitting on the throne said, ‘Behold I am making everything new!’  And then He said to me, ‘write this down, for what I am saying is trustworthy and true.’”

Revelation 21:5 NLT

As we welcome in 2023 on Sunday, I am both sober and excited! I am sober at the reality that yet another year has passed, and they seem to be going by quicker than I remember. I am excited at the reality that God is in the business of making everything New!  One of the great things about a New Year is it gives us a chance to reflect on where we have been in the last year, hopefully take stock, learn, and ultimately grow. Probably most importantly is to think about how we want to live and experience the New Year.

2022 was a year filled with many challenges as well as many blessings. I am not sure that I took the time necessary to fully experience and process it all.

As we begin the New Year my wife and I are heading to South America to celebrate our 30th Anniversary on our 33 1/2 Anniversary (you can probably guess the reasons for the delay). We are excited to spend some time together, meet some strangers, and visit some new places and cultures where we have never been.

For the last several months I am been practicing my Spanish. There is a word in Spanish “demasiado” which translates “too much” in English. When I think about 2022, that pretty much describes how I feel, in many ways 2022 was “demasiado” for me. The “Something New” I am looking for in 2023 in “Lo Justo” or “Just Enough.” I am looking forward to a calmer, slower pace in the New Year. That’s what I want, we will see what the Big Guy upstairs has in mind.

Happy New Year to you and your family!

All I want for Christmas!

Christmas snuck up on me so quickly this year! I must admit that I struggle when I see Hallmarking Christmas movies running in July, and Christmas decorations on display at Costco in September. I am one who likes to keep the seasons in the season. It seems that in the name making $ businesses skip right over important holidays like Thanksgiving and go straight to Christmas the day after Halloween. This dilutes the importance of the Advent and the Christmas season, making it about what we get, rather than who we are.

Christmas is too important a holiday, to reduce it to a retail sales goals. AT CHRISTMAS WE CELEBRATE ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT EVENTS IN HUMAN HISTORY, the birth of Jesus Christ the savior of the world. It is a celebration of life and hope for all mankind.

In 2022 all I want for Christmas is time, focused time, to celebrate with family and friends the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of the King of Kings & Lord of Lords, our Savior Jesus Christ. The traditions of Christmas if fully understood, can lead us to the deeper meaning of the holiday. One of the blessings I have experienced this Christmas has been watching season #3 of The Chosen. I am inspired when I watch the humanity of Jesus and the story of the Disciples as they struggle to follow Jesus. It has made Jesus very real to me this Christmas.

I would encourage you to consider slowing down, and dig into the things this Christmas season that will help you see Jesus more clearly and like the Shepards and Kings alike of old, seek Him out and come and worship Him. This is all I want for Christmas!

A Memory of an Unexpected Blessing

Several Years ago in July, I had the opportunity to travel to travel to Kosovo on a ministry trip with my family.  As you might expect our days were filled with many interesting people curcumstances and things to experience. Of course in a new culture their are many things to learn and explore.

This last July was exceptionally hot and our last Friday night before returning home via Istanbul we were having dinner and a final meeting with our friend and ministry partner in a local restaurant sitting under the cool air of a nearby air conditioning vent. As we enjoyed some interesting foods and a cold drink and good conversation, the family sitting next to us caught my eye, they were a large family enjoying a meal together, what caught my attention was one of the sons was handicap and I noticed the attention and deep affection the father expressed to his son. Not to many years ago Kosovo was in broiled in a bitter fight with its neighbor Serbia, to this day you can still see the remanence of this horrible conflict. One of those remanence is many handicapped children from mothers being exposed to chemicals during the fighting , my friend told me. one thing that could not be damaged in this conflict was the importance of family in the kosovar/Albanian cultures and the deep trust and love of family members. As I watched this family eating together and the love and laughter they shared it brought a smile to my face and filled my heart with joy.

I AM Back!

I have been away from this Blog for some time and for a number of reasons…I am back! I have decided it’s time to return to my computer and continue the long conversation I began some years ago with all of you.

One of my favorite things in life is people and their stories, people of all ages, sizes, colors and backgrounds. I am fascinated by their journey with its twists and turns. To hear their story, is to come to know them and gain understanding of where they have been, who they are and who they are becoming. I consider it a great gift when someone is willing to share this very personal part of themselves.

Over the weeks and months to come I hope to share with you on these electronic pages MY STORY as it unfolds. For me, this is a place to share the experiences and insights of my life in hopes they may be in some way useful to you.

I look forward to meeting you here again soon!

Rick

A Time To Reflect

Most of you are probably reading this from home, some of you are working from home, others just home. There is no question, in the last few weeks, we all have been forced into a new rhythm of life. I know for me there are some aspects of slowing down that I am enjoying, others parts not so much.

By far, the hardest part is not being able to be with friends and family.

How ever you are feeling about things, in uncertain times it’s easy to feel stress and it can be difficult to find peace. I am grateful to have a few minutes to share something with you that God spoke to me this week.

For some of us, we can loose sight of God in diffulicult times, we can feel afraid and ask ourselves why is this happening? I am big on the WHY question, I am always’s asking WHY this or WHY that.

I was thinking about “why” this week, “why” this virus and then I came across a passage in the Hebrew scriptures in the book of 11 Chronicles 7: 11

Soloman, who we are told was the son of King David, and the richest and wisest man to ever live, has just completed the most important work of his life, building the Temple of God in Jerusalem, and his own palace. This is the one place on earth where God’s presence would be with man, and the entire Jewish Nation from all over the world would come to worship God.

Soloman had completed building the Temple of the Lord and prayed a prayer dedicating God’s new home. They Jewish people celebrated for 7 days and then one night God appears to Soloman and this is what God says to him.

“I have heard your prayer and have chosen this Temple as the place for making sacrifices. 13 At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you.14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. 15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. 16 For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.”

In the days before Jesus was born on earth God’s dwelling was in the Temple, but today as followers of Jesus we are His Temple, Jesus presence through His Holy Spirit is in each of His followers. 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20

No one can truly know the purpose God has in allowing difficult times in our lives, but we do learn something from His Words to Soloman.
1. In difficult times, God hears the prayers of His people – He says “15 My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place.” Bring your worry to God, He is waiting to hear your prayer.

2. Difficult times are an opportunity to humble ourselves and seek God. Not all of us, but many of us have margin right now, God is giving some of us the gift of time, lets use it to move close and listen to His voice, spend time in the Books of the Bible and allow His voice to speak to you.
Humility does not come easy for me. Maybe it’s not easy for you either. I heard a wise man say. it’s a much easier path to humble yourself before God, then to be humbled by God.


3. Difficult times can motivate us to examine our own lives and confess to God anything that does not please him and turn from our sin. Soloman’s Father David wrote these words of confession when he had fallen into sin.

Psalm 51 1-4
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight

Is this virus that is plaguing our world allowed by God to cause both Christians and non-Christians alike to turn to God, I frankly do not know, but, lets not waste a moment of the crisis we face, lets all together use this as an opportunity to evaluate where we are with God, and step toward Him, in fact lets run into His arms of Grace and Mercy.


Made In The Middle

Every story has a beginning, a middle and and end.  Beginnings are exciting and full of hope.  A new baby, a wedding, 1st job, or the first few miles of a marathon, most of us love new beginnings  and we celebrate them.  The end of the story can be pretty cool too!  Golden wedding anniversary,  retirement from a great career,  when you have been praying for years for that family member who is far from God and see them come to faith in Christ.  Or  like my wife and I seeing our son graduate from college after some tenuous years in High School.  Beginnings and endings are where it’s at.

It’s in the middle is where things get hard.  The truth is we are “Made in the Middle,” and how we navigate the middle determines what kind of a person or what kind of a leader we will become.  How many Christian leaders can we point to who have been built successful ministries and then lost their way.  It can be hard to have faith when you’re in the middle of something.  The longer we spend in the middle, the harder it gets.  In raising children it’s the teenage years that can be a challenge.  How about midlife, it’s not the most fun season.

We see the reality of ‘Made in the middle‘ throughout the Bible.  In Exodus 14 –  the Nation of Israel is fleeing from the Egyptian army, they find themselves in the middle.  They are trapped between the Red Sea and the Egyptian army, and the people of Israel begin to panic.

 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the       Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the Lord, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’” 13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the Lordrescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

We are no different, we sometimes find ourselves in the middle of difficult circumstances, things take a bad turn and we don’t know what to do.  We pray and God is silent.  We feel the weight of things bearing down on us.  Sometime it feels like we are living through a storm, the waves are coming over the bow, and we fear we will find ourselves at the bottom of the sea.  In these moments of intense pressure is where our relationship with God is deepened and our characters are formed.  From the pressure of life, we can become weary and find our faith growing weak.  This can lead us to begin to compromise and even sell out our convictions.  As Christian leaders we can loose sight of our calling, we can begin to use people for our our benefit that God once called us to love & serve.  WE LOSE OUR WAY!

The odds you can predict the path of your life are very small.  The unpredictable, sometimes the unthinkable happens, things we don’t see coming.   God does not expect you to predict the path of your life, but just to walk in it, to walk in faith.   Like the Israelites, It’s hard for us not to doubt when we are in the middle being pressured on all sides.  The hard part, the middle, is where most of life is lived.  The 1st day is not hard, the last day is not hard, but every day in the middle is hard.

What do we need to know about the times we find ourselves in the Middle?

When the people of God were stuck in the middle between the Red Sea their enemies   and Moses has a message for them, and his message also applies for those of us who find ourselves in the Middle as well:

1.  Don’t be afraid.

2. Just stay calm.

3. The Lord Himself will fight for you.

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lowing, keep the faith, walk in humility, lead faithfully.  Jesus can take the sting of the things that hurt us away.  If you are in the middle today, Its an invitation to push through, faith is believing in things we can’t see.

Reflections on Mothers’ Day

Proverbs 31:26-27

“When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness.”
Image result for mother
The 2nd Sunday in May is celebrated in almost 100 countries around the world as Mother’s Day, a day to remember and honor our mothers.  This last weekend many of us took time to do something special: write a card; send flowers; or purchase a gift for our mom.  My mom turned 78 a few months ago, and with each year that passes, I realize how lucky I am to still have her in my life.  We gathered this past Sunday for Mothers’s Day brunch.  My parents, wife, our 3 son’s, daughter-in-law and grandson were all together for the day, creating an indelible memory in my mind and heart.
As we sat together around the table eating eggs, french toast and sipping coffee, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy & gratitude for the day.  I realized what a blessing it is, at age 54, to have my mom in my life, a person who has always loved and believed in me.  Life is never perfect or without it’s troubles, but in moments like that around the table, I became aware of God’s gracious love toward me and my family.
As I sat there, I  watched my 3 sons 14, 19 & 25, serve and love their mom with their words, gifts and actions.  The capstone of the day was watching my oldest son honor his young wife celebrating her first Mother’s Day, that was beautiful!
My wife and I also celebrated our 28th wedding anniversary on Saturday.  For the last 30 years I have known her deepest desire has been to be a wife and mother.  To see her on Sunday with all her boys around her, talking and laughing, in itself was honoring her, amazing!  I could not help but think about how good God has been to this faithful woman.
I realize that for many reasons, not everyone was able to celebrate with their mom this past Sunday.  If that is the case for you, I can imagine you may have experienced some sadness on Mother’s Day.  My hope is that it was a time to replay the fond memories of your mom and be grateful for her influence in your life.
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Mother’s are a part of the foundation on which our culture and society are built.  Mom’s do much of the heavy lifting in our families, serving, nurturing and loving their children and husbands,  helping them to reach for their dreams in life.  All of us have something to be grateful for today, that women in our life we call mom, whether she is our biological or adopted mom, she is the one who gave of herself to make our lives better.
Thank You Mom!

Possibilities

th  Another year has quickly passed into the annals of history, and a memorable year it was.  2014 was filled with global & personal challenges, and more growth for me than any time in recent years.  As I stand just inside the door of a new year, and look to the future, the word that comes to mind is “possibilities.”  “Unspecified qualities of a promising nature; potential” Webster.

For me, celebrating the New Year is like pushing the restart button, a fresh start in the important areas of my life.  A chance to rethink the journey and how I am navigating, a chance to make course corrections.  God has given us a road map for the journey in the Bible.  In it we are encouraged to take stock of our lives and make any necessary changes to live as God intends us to.  Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) says:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”

We see three important things in this passage.  1)  Life is like a race of unknown duration.  We don’t know how long our race/life will be, but if we have a chance at winning the prize, we need to lighten the load so we can run our best race.  Here the load can be several things but one is specifically mentioned, sin.  Sin is like loose shoe laces on our life and if we are not careful, it will trip us and we will fall.  2)  We don’t run alone.  We are told that there are a great crowd of witnesses to our lives as followers of Jesus and they are cheering us on through our struggles.  3)  The race is not going to be easy.  Life will have it’s difficulty, and we will be required to endure to win the race.

As I think about the possibilities before me in 2015 my mind is filled with anticipation of what can be accomplished.  In the days & weeks ahead I will be intentionally thinking, planning and structuring my life around the possibilities God has for me, my family, friendships and ministry and I would encourage you to do the same.

Realistically, like most years, 2015 will have it’s high points and it’s lows.  But, I am confidant of this, that God is working out his plan in and through me, and you too!  In the words of King David in Psalm 27:13:

 “I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Happy New Year!
th-2

Revolution

2014-02-10 17.27.50

Kiev, Ukraine

This week I had the opportunity to spend some time in the City of Kiev in the Ukraine.  If you have been watching the news you know of the current standoff between the people and the leader of the Ukraine, President Viktor Yanukovych, around issues of corruption and abuse of power.  The situation is complicated by the pressure being applied by the Russian President Putin, to put down the rebellion and align with Russia.

We were in Kiev meeting with Church leaders from all over the Ukraine.  We learned some more about their history, from the murder of Jews during the II World War, starvation of the population under Stalin and the oppression of the modern Soviet State before the fall of communist in 1991.

Our new friends took us to see Maiden (pronounced Maydawn) where the town square has been blocked by barricades.  The protesters have taken over the city center occupying  city hall and a number of other government buildings (they say they belong to the people).  The youth are leading the protest, but there are those of all ages, and from all appearances, they seem willing to give their lives for the freedom of their country.

2014-02-10 17.23.04

As we walked past the barricades, the tents and cooking stations we saw a people resolute in their cause.  The local population supports the protesters by daily bringing food, firewood, clothing, supplies and money to meet the needs of those fighting for the cause of freedom.

The streets of Maiden could not help but make me think of Les Miserables, the story of the French Revolution and those who gave their lives for freedom there.  I hope the situation in Kiev has a better ending.

Nothing like a stroll behind the barricades to make you appreciate the freedom we enjoy in the United States and those who secure it for us.  This experience made me appreciate again the men & women of the United States armed forces who fight to keep our nation free.  Not only do they fight for our nation, they fight to keep people free all over the world.

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I would ask you to pray for the people of the Ukraine and especially those who control the government.  Their future as a nation is in the balance, pray that God would intervene and there would be a peaceful resolution to this crisis that advances the cause of freedom in this country and region.  It is a powder keg and has the potential to ignite something effecting all of Europe, Russia & the United States.

Home Away From Home…One week in the BVI

"In Recess" at Jost Van Dyke
“In Recess” at Jost Van Dyke

A long-time dream came true for me this last week as I have been made my home on a 41′ sailboat, sailing through the British Virgin Islands.

The opportunity came a few months ago when a friend of mine invited me to to crew on a boat for the week sailing in the BVI.  I checked the calendar, talked to my amazingly generous wife , figured out a flight using frequent flyer miles, and the trip was a go.

It has been an unbelievable week,  I stand in awe at God’s creation and power as a result of all I have seen and experienced in the last few days. The pristine beauty of this part of the world amazes me.

Our first day out we snorkeled over the “Wreck of the Rhone,” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Rhone, a British mail ship sunk  off of Salt Island on October 29, 1867.  Seeing the massive 310 foot ship lying on the bottom of the sea like a filleted fish was amazing!  Seeing the anchors, huge steel prop and metal framework made me think how incredible the seas power is to destroy such a huge ship.  Then my mind wondered about the men & women who were on the ship, both passengers and crew, what were they thinking, what must have endured.   Over 123 souls perished when the ship sunk.

Sailing to Wreck of the Rhone
Sailing to Wreck of the Rhone

My first time at the helm, we were sailing to Marina Cay through a gale.  As I stood at the helm, I could feel the power of the sea and the wind as I tried to keep the ship on coarse.  The wind was so strong…at one point the ship was leaning significantly to port, I slipped on the wet deck, my feet went out from under me, and I was hanging on by the huge pilot wheel.

God made His mighty power evident to me that day in the torment of the sea!  I saw His power up close and personal.

Me On "In Recess"
Me On “In Recess”

As a part of my schedule, I am taking a seminary class on the Book of Isaiah, with Dr. Van Gemeren, at Trinity Divinity School (a fantastic class).  This week, the BVI has been my classroom.  What a place to study about our creator and His purposes for His people!  God is teaching me many things through the book of Isaiah (more on that later).  No question about it, God took me to school this week.  He showed me amazing and wondrous things through His Natural Revelation (creation), and wondrous things through His Special Revelation (the book of Isaiah).  I am grateful for both.

Kane Garden Bay, Tortola, Island
Kane Garden Bay, Tortola, Island

Here are a few of the lessons I learned this week, 1) God is good and sometimes If you are patient, dreams can come true.  2)  Time with good friends is priceless.  3)  I still like 80’s music.  4)  Sometimes it’s difficult for us to see God or know Him, but, God has revealed Himself, His nature and character in the things he has made as well as the things He Has said.

My home away from home was a gift for which I am extremely grateful!