Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas!

When I look at pictures taken from our back porch exactly one year ago today, I realize how blessed we are! What could we be thinking when we sing, "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas"! It's one of the few times I am exceedingly thankful for mild temperatures and rain.

Truly this is a Merry Christmas. As I stop and consider the gift God gave to us that first Christmas in order for us to have a relationship with him, I am overwhelmed. When you get right down to it, it's all about relationship, isn't it.

Over the past year, I have witnessed such great growth in our own church in this regard, both in terms of people growing in their relationship with the Lord, and as a result, in their relationships with one another.

That gives me great hope for the new year. My prayer is that we all will recognize more fully the beauty of the relationship God wants with each of us, and simply echo that in our relationships with one another.

Oh, it may snow again in the new year. But as we stay close to the Lord, it won't make any difference. His warmth will carry us through anything!

Be blessed,


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

There's always life...

Though most all the leaves have fallen from our trees, other plants are just now showing their beauty. This particular plant, a type of "mahonia," is in a flower bed near the entry to our house. That means that during the dead of winter, when you walk toward the house, you see these "candles" lighting up the area. In a place where there's way too much grey, it's a wonderful relief.

It also serves as a reminder that even though so many things look dead around us, there's still life. And that life is beautiful. I began to reflect on this again as I pondered the most recent news telling women not to have mammograms or do breast self-checks while in their 40's, that there's no compelling reason to do so, and in fact it's better if they don't. As I heard the reports and read the articles about them, I wanted to shout, "Tell that to all the women I know who have been in their late 30's or early 40's, found breast cancer, and fortunately got it treated!"

Of course this falls in line with an earlier "study" that told men there was no reason to do a psa test to check for prostate cancer, that most guys don't die of it anyway. Again, tell that to those of us who found we had it, and without getting it treated would have succumbed to it an an early age.

While I'm not prone to buy into many of the conspiracy theories that abound, I've got to assume in these cases that it has everything to do with a) money, and b) a lack of respect for life. I've been warning the folks in our congregation about this for years. When you don't respect life in the womb, then start devaluing life as people age, it's only a matter of time until our society rids itself of all the people who don't fit some group's profile of "perfect." What a tragedy!

Compare this to Jesus' words in John 10.10: "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly." God is into life! That's why he sent Jesus. As we trust him with our own lives, not only do we gain real life now and forever, but we get to pass on that good news to all those around us, especially those who are caught up in the culture of death.

Choose life. Celebrate life. Give the gift of life to those around you!


Friday, November 13, 2009

Going Again Pt. 2

The IT guys on staff rock! They got me set up so that I can use an app
on my phone and drop in thoughts here and there as they come to me. That
last post was just a test. Fortunately, it worked.

Currently I'm most excited about experiencing more deeply what it means
to walk in the Spirit. I'm convinced that when it comes to spirit-filled
living, most of us have barely scratched the surface. To live life filled
with God's grace and power is the best! So if you happen to read this
blog, I'd love to hear what you are finding in your own walk in the Spirit.

Have a blessed day!


Going again

This is better than tweeting!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The heavens declare the glory of God

When I look at what God has created, I'm reminded of the words of David: "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?" (Ps. 8.4) Truly, "the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork." Considering all the beauty he has created, it's remarkable that he cares about you and me!

Over the fourth of July, Betty and I had the opportunity to spend time in Central Oregon. Among other places, we visited the "painted hills" just outside Mitchell. This picture doesn't begin to do justice to the overwhelming beauty of the landscape, but at least it gives a hint. As we approached the main section, the colors were so varied and striking that Betty was convinced someone had come in at night and spray painted all of them. In truth, someone had: God!

One more time I was speechless in beholding God's creation. Amazing. Then to think that he cares about me, and each one of us individually, makes it even more amazing. What a God he is!

As we continue through the course of this Summer, my hope is that you take time to "smell the flowers," drink in all God has put before you that help you see him, and his marvelous created order. As you do, take some time to give thanks!

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Lord is on our side...

The last few weeks have been particularly challenging. As I have pondered the "why" of my emotions, I am certain it has to do with the journey I've been on myself with prostate cancer, and the thoughts and feelings that has triggered. If you've "been there, done that," I'm certain you can relate.

So why have the last couple of weeks been particularly heavy for me? Because it seems as though the list of people I know who are fighting the same kind of battle is increasing exponentially. Betty and I pray for each one every day, and our list just keeps growing. Add to this the fact that at this very moment, in spite of all he has been doing, one of the guys has seen his colon cancer spreading exceptionally fast, a young mom with three beautiful kids just found out she has breast cancer, and a father of two healthy young kids has found he has prostate cancer. And that's just the tip of the iceberg!

I must say, if I were to allow myself to sink into the flesh, it would be overwhelming.

That's why God's Word is so powerful, particularly at times like this. When I find myself beginning to feel the sting of defeat, I find great solace in God's Word, like Psalm 124:

"'If it had not been the Lord who was on our side,'let Israel now say - 'if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive, when their wrath was kindled against us; then the waters would have overwhelmed us, the stream would have gone over our soul; then the swollen waters would have gone over our soul.' Blessed be the Lord, who has not given us as prey to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from the snare of the flowers; the snare is broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth."

That, my friends, is THE answer: our help is in the name of the Lord! It is true that in the world we will have trials. But it is also true that we can rejoice, because our God has overcome the world and all it can throw at us! Praise God!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What a concept!

Today I had the privilege of doing the memorial service for Paul Johnstone, a wonderful man who was the second principal of our school, Cornerstone. Paul came to us as a teacher, and left as a Principal to serve in numerous schools around the world. He left this world much sooner than any of us were ready for (62 years of age). What a lot of life he packed into those 62 years!

In talking with Joanne and his girls, among the many wonderful things they said about Paul, one thing really stood out. They said he was always "current" in his relationships, having no regrets or unfinished business in any of them. Indeed, moments before he died of a blood clot that went to his heart, he had sent Joanne a message at school telling her he "loved her endlessly," and loved his girls madly as well. Interestingly enough, he just "happened" to visit all his girls in February, being home for a short time from his school in Eritrea, Africa. Wasn't God good? In man ways that would have made little difference, because he made sure to communicate his fondness continually.

What a concept! Current in all his relationships. Wow, is that ever something to ponder. It made me stop and consider myself just how "current" I am, "caught up" in communicating my love for my loved ones, making sure there's no significant unfinished relational business. How about you? Are you current, caught up?

One more time I'm impressed by the brevity of life. Though we don't know what tomorrow holds, we know who holds tomorrow, and that brings us comfort and peace. But how much more we could have if we were to make certain our relationships with those we love were "current."

God bringing anyone to your heart?



Monday, April 13, 2009

A new season...

There's something about Spring that always brings a sense of joy and refreshment, at least to those of us in the Pacific Northwest. The beauty of the trees and flowers is awesome, like these in our backyard. But we also have the sense that we are entering into a new, fresh season.

This last week we came through another celebration of Easter. One more time it was remarkable. At least for us in our church, it was so very uplifting, positive, and refreshing. You couldn't help but leave with the feeling that something great was just around the corner.

We are so blessed at our church with so many people who want to be a part of what God is doing. As day by day goes by, we see that more and more. The hundreds who turned out Saturday to spruce up the grounds was in and of itself nothing short of phenomenal. And we won't have time to catch our breath. All sorts of exciting, new things are ready to roll out. God is good!

Have you thought about what new and fresh things you might do in your life in the Spring and Summer just ahead of us? Have you considered an area of ministry God might have for you, perhaps one you've never gotten around to before? If not now, when?

May you be blessed as you enjoy the life God has for you!


Friday, April 3, 2009

Spring has sprung!

It's about time. Finally Spring is here. Now all I have to do to enjoy it is put up my umbrella and go outside!

Actually, as I write this, the forecast is for a stunning next 3 days: 70-75 everyday. That is my kind of weather! I got my mason bee house out so they can begin doing their thing, the roses have already been pruned so they are ramping up for the season, and my sweet peas have not only emerged, but are beginning their ascent to beauty. It's going to be a fantastic Spring.

One of the things that hits me each year at this time is how God rejoices in making all things "new," better than they ever were before. What we could never accomplish on our own, he does for us in new ways every day.

One morning this last week as Betty and I were praying, we thanked the Lord in advance for the fresh, new things he would do in our church in this new season. Hardly had I finished that prayer and arrived at work, but I found myself in a staff meeting experiencing a response to that prayer. All sorts of wonderful new things were on the horizon, truly turning a new page in the life of our church. That is so very God!

Remembering that God delights in doing all things "new," are you looking for God to do fresh things in your life in the months ahead? My prayer is that you move into a great season of God's life and love!



Sunday, March 1, 2009

Here today, gone tomorrow

With the emphasis on beauty we find in our culture, you'd think it was something we'd keep forever. We spend untold billions of dollars on tucks and "tox," lotions and potions, all designed to make ourselves look far younger and better than we really are. You'd think that sooner or later we'd all simply stand back and ask the question, "what's the point?" So why don't we?

For the past week Betty and I have been in Jacksonville for my 6-month check-up following proton therapy for prostate cancer. The numbers are doing exactly what they are supposed to, going down, down, down, so we feel very blessed! It was wonderful to connect with friends we got to know this summer. In fact, many of us drew so close during our time "going to war" together, that 15 couples of us scheduled our 6-month checkup during the same week so we could all hang out together. It's been a lot of fun, and everybody seems to be doing quite well.

Yesterday, Betty and I drove over to Gainesville (home of the U of Florida) to see a butterfly exhibit they have at the Florida Historical Museum on campus. It was really spectacular, getting to walk among hundreds of butterflies, some of which landed on B. They were incredibly beautiful, but get this: inside a perfectly controlled environment, the bulk of them live only 3 weeks. If they were outside in their "normal" environments, they'd only last 7-10 days! What you see in the pictures here is just two of tens of thousands of species. In fact the beautiful ones in the first photo are all like the one with the blue back; the rest just have their wings closed. All that beauty, yet only to be enjoyed for a moment! Wonder if they get stressed about that?

Seeing these gorgeous creatures, taking in their stunning beauty and learning of their short time on earth, while at the same time remembering why were were in Jacksonville, brought to mind how important it is to make the days we have on this earth count for something significant for the Lord. Who in the world knows how many days we will have?

Fussing over beauty ultimately is a losing battle, something that really won't benefit anyone. Indeed, gravity and wrinkles win! Doesn't it just make more sense to give ourselves to living lives that will be a blessing to the Lord? Surely that will pay eternal dividends, not to mention being far less stressful!

May you be blessed this day,


Friday, January 16, 2009

A delightful garden

A beautiful garden takes your breath away. When you step into a garden like the one pictured here (Butchart Garden outside Victoria, B.S.), you feel as though you've landed on another planet. The colors, textures, and shapes dazzle your eyes. Probably because it is kept by a fleet of trained gardeners, there's not a weed nor a plant out of place. It's perfect.

When you read The Song of Solomon chapter 4.6-5.2, you realize this is the way God sees his people - as beautiful gardens, wonderful to behold. Yet are we really that way?

Far too many Christians feel as though they are at best last year's garden, something that once wonderful, but now is overgrown, broken down, and filled with weeds. If someone were to stumble into this garden, the last thing they would want to do is stay.

Yet that isn't how God sees his people. In spite of the overgrowth and weeds, he sees the beauty that he is creating, and focuses on what will be. What a blessing that is to remember.

As I was contemplating this scripture, it reminded me of something that happens when you garden. Sometimes when a weed first emerges from the soil, it is quite beautiful. It is delicate, appearing to be the beginning of a delightful flower. If you operate on that assumption and let it grow, however, in time you will be sorry. It will overtake the plants around it, and send out runners under the ground that will make it difficult to eradicate. If you'd have plucked it out of the ground when it first made its appearance, there would be no problem. But when you let it flourish, watch out!

So is it with sin in our lives. The point is not that we will have none. The seeds of sin blow into and take root in every life. That is not the issue. The challenge is what we do with them. Do we let them take hold and grow, or do we pluck them out and get rid of them before they ever get the chance?

If we want to join God in the process of making a beautiful garden of our lives, we only have one choice. As the challenges to our lives in the Lord emerge, when we find ourselves face to face with temptations to divert from the path he has for us, he reminds us to see them for what they really are - weeds that would destroy a beautiful garden. As we look at them that way, it helps us do the gardening we need to that the beauty of the garden might be enjoyed by all!

Happy gardening and blessings to you,

Pastor Bill