Empowering with the Good News…….

….the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus at the intersection of  faith and life

May 17, 2017

I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you” – Jesus

Go ahead and play this link for a minute….

Do you know the tune?  I’m guessing if you are somewhere between the ages of 10 and 80, you’ve seen Star Wars of one of the sequels…or prequels.  And if you are my age and saw the original Star Wars in the theater and then heard that tune months or years later, you got excited that another sequel was coming!  Every time I hear it, I’m reminded of a great story and look forward to the next one coming.

I’m not sure Jesus had a theme song, but it would have been cool if some great theme song was playing in the background when he shared with his disciples that he was not going to leave them alone for long. Because then, every time the disciples heard it again, they would remember the story and the promise and his presence.

After the first Easter, while Jesus is rolling around town and showing people that he was both alive and had conquered sin, death and the devil (acts very worth of an awesome theme song), he also gave them a brief trailer for the next chapter.  The Holy Spirit was going to come to lead them through the next phase of this relationship called Life.

I know I need to hear that music sometimes because Life can overwhelm and distract and separate. Maybe you do too?  That music of God’s continuing in my story and the presence of God’s Spirit in, with and around me is the reminder that something else amazing is now and is coming.  And that is and will be is part of the Promise of God.

God will not leave orphaned.  God has not left you orphaned.  God is coming.  God has come.

Play that theme song today.

Lord, remind me of your presence and promise today.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

pps from ps:  I’m going to be out of the office for a few weeks beginning Tuesday 5/23.  I have some injuries from a car accident in April that need to be corrected and will be having back surgery.  After 5/30, I’ll be available through email and text.  I’ll be at St. Paul’s for Sundays in June though so I’ll look forward to seeing you there if you’re in the 716.  Devo’s will return for a couple weeks in June but then be off for the summer.  Blessings!!  Steve

——————————————————–

April 12, 2017

John 13Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”


Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————-

April 5, 2017

David Lose, the president of our Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote recently that he enjoyed being “treated” to multiple readings during Lent where God surprises someone in the story.  In each of these long gospel readings that many of you experienced in church, Jesus surprises Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man who receives his sight and Lazarus, each of them and their communities being disrupted from what they expect.

His thought intrigued me and caused me to read it through several times.  Treated to God’s disruptions.  Really?  Is that a treat?

How many of you in daily life find a “disruption” to be a “treat?”  Sitting in traffic at a light that will cause you to miss a meeting…your car doesn’t start in the morning…you woke up to 9 inches of snow…your kid got sick over night and has to stay home from school.  Are these “treats?”

What if they were?

Across the whole Biblical story, God keeps showing up and doing unexpected things, in unexpected ways, to/for/with unexpected people.  And as Jesus enters those stories in his own unexpected way, the result is always tangle, thirst quenching, God-dripping, grace.  Disrupted to be able to see, feel, touch and experience God’s grace.

No doubt this week, one thing I can predicted for you is that you will most certainly face disruptions.  Schedules will implode.  Tasks will be delayed.  Directions will have to change.  Could God be right in those moments?  Could that change of direction, slowing of pace and delaying of doing actually be a moment of grace for you to notice and see what God is continuing to do to/for/with you?

May you be treated to a grace filled disruption this week.

Lord, treat me  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————-

March 29, 2017

I recently read a book called Shoe Dog about Phil Knight’s life and the creation of the company called Nike.  

Towards the end of the book as he reflects back on all he’s done and been through he says this:

“God how I wish I could relive the whole thing.  Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young person, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals, might be inspired or comforted.  Or warned.  Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on.

It’s all the same dream.  Same drive.

It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements.  I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years.  I’d tell men and women in their mid twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career.  Seek a calling.  Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it.  If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, and the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”

What Knight shares is a great description of what calling is: more than work, more than jobs, more than pay, more than normal.  Searching for, finding, following and living into that calling is a gift filled invitation from God to people of faith.  It’s a gift to be able to see the things we do, things we say and things we don’t as a way to live into daily discipleship.  Maybe even more than daily.  Maybe moment to moment.

You know when you’ve met a person living out their vocation.  Through St. Paul’s Lutheran and whole bunch of churchy things throughout the years, I’ve been able to watch Mary Wolf live out vocation.  From the time I met her in 1986 at a youth gathering to our day to day work over the past five years, you can tell that the church office is just a tool, a space, a title where she has allowed to herself to walk into the living out of faith in the world…allowing the intersection of her deepest passions and people’s greatest needs.

Maybe you’ve met someone like this.  Maybe you’re there right now.  Either way, you’ve probably been blessed by it too.

Although remember, your “40-hours” a week or your paycheck or your main time allotment might not be your calling, and that’s OK.  Instead, it might be the one or two hours a week you get to truly devote and immerse into that sacred space.  Honor that and grow it.  Seek it even if you don’t know what it is yet.

Knight is right, Jesus calls us into a life where our fatigue is more bearable, our disappointments will fuel us and the highs will be better than imagined.  So live into your calling!

Lord, here I am  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————-

March 23, 2017

Joshua Emmanuel baptized at Grace Church, Ile a Vache!
Here’s a clip of this weekend’s baptism at Church of Grace in Haiti…chicks and all!

——————————————————

“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” – Psalm 91:4

Ever feel like you got stuck in the mud?

I have.  And did.  And most likely will again.

On the way to visit our newest church launch in Haiti, we tried to get there in our truck, but due to heavy rains 36 hours earlier and Haitian dirt that holds water like a sponge, our truck got stuck!

So while getting out of the truck, calling AAA to find out it would be a 15 day wait for a response and trying to figure out what to do, several Haitians in the community stopped their walk, their work and their schedules and jumped in the mud.  Within about 10 minutes, they had it out of there!!

Check them out! 

After getting the truck out of the mud, we traveled on to meet the pastor of the church, where he shared his favorite Psalm…91.  A Psalm that reminded him and his community, whose church building partially under construction was blown right down in October’s Hurricane, that God never leaves us alone in the storm and when we are stuck, God is right there with us!

Church of Grace in Bwobataw

Your mud may not be this deep or it may feel like quicksand sometimes.  Holding you back.  Keeping you stuck.  Not allowing progress.  Causing you change, delays and reorganizations.  Maybe your mud has knocked your building right down.

I want to encourage you to keep pushing on!  Look at those who come into your story and into your mud and stand with and push with and wait with you.  They are God’s presence for you to know your journey can move forward.  Because I have often found that as we push through, as we allow others support, encouragement and friendship to help dig us out, our journey continues to an interaction like the one with the pastor in Bwobataw,..telling us God has been with, will be with us and will bear us up on eagles wings.

Lord, help me push on and see you pushing with me!  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————–

March 15, 2017

“Return to the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.” – 1 Bible 1:1

How’s your Lenten journey going?  How’s your Lenten Discipline…still disciplining?  Still disciple-ing?  Either?  Both?

When we are disciplined…does it help us be a disciple?

Instead of answering these questions online today, I just want you to consider them.  “Ponder all these things in your heart!”  Do the things we do in Lent or spiritually in general or the practices of our faith, do those disciplines help us grow closer to God as a disciple?  Or are we sometimes going through the motions?  Or are there things we do out of some tradition that isn’t connecting?

This week. God on Tap is going to dive into these questions and wrestle with answers.  If you’re in the 14226 area, it meets Thursday night at 8pm at Loughran’s Restaurant in the back room.  All are welcome and it’s only one hour long.  In fact, this week it’s led by special guest host, Vicar Adam Arends,

So take some time on your own this week or join in community and consider these questions of faith as we continue to be search out what it means to be disciplined disciples.

Lord, help me consider why I do what I do!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————————–

 

March 8, 2017

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your family and your house to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12

Crazy talk!  Would you?

Reading through the Old Testament again and coming across some of these Old Testament God stories, I have a lot more respect for ol’ Father Abraham.  He gets challenged!!

Pick up.  Take off.  Go.  And oh yeah, to a place that you’ve never been to and have no idea what to expect.

I’m getting another team of WNY students together to head down to Haiti next week and reconnect with our mission post there.  I’m meeting up in Haiti with one of my old interns who ended up going to seminary and is now an intern pastor at a church in Ohio.  One of the pastors at the church is traveling with us.  She’s never been to Haiti.

Today on our FaceTime meeting she shared a bit of her excitement, nervousness and anxiety, which is more than normal and most people have a healthy mix of that pre-travel.  She said: “I know and have heard it’s going to be amazing, but I don’t know what to expect so I’m a bit nervous.”

Pick up.  Take off.  Go.  And oh yeah, to a place that you’ve never been to and have no idea what to expect.

I can tell people over and over that this place called Haiti that we travel to will be blessed by us and be a blessing to us.  But doesn’t make it less nerve-wracking until you just pick up, take off and go.

I forgot as I read that challenge to Abraham that God already knows how awesome that land will be.  God already knows how that land will be a blessing to them and be blessed by them.  God’s already ahead of them.  God’s before them as they arrive and behind them as they go.

It’s that same God that calls out to you.  It’s that same nervousness in your life over moves, decisions, changes, risks, plans, conversations, relationships and directions that God is speaking to with a voice of already-been-there peace that passes all understanding.  God’s ahead of us and can see clearly and invites us to see through that lens as well.

In your callings today through the highs and lows and decisions of life, hear God’s voice and allow it to replace the nervousness with a sense of already-been-there peace.

Lord, call out to send me… and remind me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————————————

March 2, 2017

3-2-17 Wegmans Receipt“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and relents from punishment.” – Joel 2

Yesterday at Ash Wednesday services, I shared my general anxiety and frustration about having to return things at the store…any store!  It seems that every return policy is different and I’m never quite prepared and it is amazingly rare (unlike the picture) that I actually have the receipt.

So I get to the counter and there’s questions about do I have the receipt…or a frequent shopper card…or a passport…or an enhanced license or a green card….or all of them!  And I never have any of them.

So there I stand with my bags of “stuff” that I don’t want, need, can’t use and shouldn’t have tense, anxious and frustrated.

Joel simply shares God’s simple and open return policy: return…all of you…no questions asked…no paperwork needed..and you will find love, grace and welcome…not punishment.

This is Lent.  And this return policy is what Lent is about.

And if you really think about it…this is the whole Biblical story.  God’s story and our story have continually intersected with God wanting us back, to return, to be whole again, to be deeper in relationship, to be one and to be redeemed.

So if that’s who God is and that’s what God wants and that’s what God has been trying to tell us…why do I still have these bags that I’m carrying around?  Why not go to the counter with them and hear God’s invitation and grace?

This season of Lent is an amazing gift to empty your baggage.  Not just the ground curry that you bought my mistake…but instead that things that are keeping you away from God, the fears that we carry holding us back from real change, the anxiety that holds us from taking steps in the direction God is leading us, and the nervousness of coming to God with our whole self and allowing the One who created us to be the One that rules our life.

Because with that emptying into God’s return policy, there is no punishment or harsh judgement.  There is only grace.  Mercy.  And steadfast love.

Lord, thanks for making this return policy easier than we could imagine and exactly what we need.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————

February 23, 2017

2-14-17 Man on ledge“Jesus took Pete, Jim and Jack up a high mountain by themselves”….they saw a bunch of cool God-stuff which showed Jesus’ Messiahness…”And then he led them back down the mountain and told them not to talk about it yet.” – Matthew 17:1-9 Biegner Translation

I’m using the same picture I used last week because as I look at it, the image speaks of mountains and valleys and trying to see your way through them all.  Or maybe even trying to see God through it all.  Which is a lot like life.  For us and for the original disciples.

Jesus’ Three Amigos head up the mountain with him about mid-book of Matthew’s gospel and he reveals to them that he is God!  And human.  And still Jesus.  And Messiah.  And Rabbi.  And then some other Old Testament Bible dudes, who are long dead, show up there too.  Clear it all up boys?

But the boys want to pop some tents, hang out and take it all in.  Who could blame them?  I’d want to do the same thing.  Their minds were just blown by all this God-stuff happening when they thought they were just going to rest for a bit with their teacher.

So with next to no time to recover, Jesus leads them back down the mountain, into the valley of work, life, ministry, hard stuff, daily grind, needy people and says “Keep this on the down low.”

Keep this on the down low?

“It’s good Lord to be here!” – the disciples say.

“It’s better to be there.” – Jesus responds.

It’s better to be there.  Where need is at.  Where hurts are at.  Where sickness needs comfort.  Where hunger needs Daily Bread.  Where outcasts need a voice.  Where darkness needs light.  Where blah needs salt.

Where they need you!  And Him.

Why keep it on the down low you might ask (like I do)?  I think Jesus just wants people to know how much of their pain he’s going to embrace, stand in and overcome before he bursts through the big ol’ tombstone and blasts death right in between the eyes sending it’s grasp as far away as these new planets Bill Nye the Science Guy just discovered.

So maybe we should keep that on the down low too?  And instead of sitting still on Easter, we move forward, down the mountain into the places that need your/His healing, grace, presence, comfort, bread, voice, light and salt.

It’s good Lord to be….there.

Lord, thanks for showing us.  Now help me walk back down.  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————————–

February 14, 2017

2-14-17 Man on ledge

I am the light of the world” – Jesus

Many of you know that I’m a big fan of daylight.  Nothing more annoying to me than when my alarm goes off for me to get up for a run or I’m driving home from work….and it’s dark.  I like light.  I like to be able to see.  I like to be able to notice the things around me.  I like to be able to see things, like deer, coming at me on the road!  Light makes it easier to notice things.

Hayley Israel (one of St. Paul’s awesome youth), in her sermon at this weekend, talked about how for two weeks she knew she had to write this sermon.  She knew the texts and ideas from the Bible, but she was looking for a story to go with it.  She was noticing!  In her process of looking through eyes of faith at things that were happening around her, the light of that Scripture helped her notice things in a new way.

Her story struck me because I’ve started to teach my son to drive.  He got his permit and now I’m often in the passenger seat of the car praying and teaching him about everything on the road.  It’s shines a new light for me on everything out there. I’m noticing road signs that I don’t usually read and explaining them to him.  I’m see left turn lanes and arrows on lights and right-of-way rules in intersections like I haven’t in a long time.  Sitting in the other seat has helped me to notice more things that I have come to gloss right over and/or ignore and/or take for granted.

Like Hayley, I’ve been noticing.

When Jesus reminds us he’s the Light of the World, he’s telling us that he is a new light in darkness and has shattered that darkness forever.  The darkness is no longer the greater power…Light is.  And because of that Light, everything is different.  And it’s time for us to notice what that means for our everydayness.

It’s time for us to notice: that even in the grips of death and funerals, a voice from a pastor in a service proclaims Easter; that when we have the opportunity to forgive someone, it heals and releases the burdens and weight of grudges we carry around; that we are each blessed and have wealth and finances to share with those in the world that don’t; that today someone will walk by you that might really need a smile and greeting from you just so they simple know they aren’t alone; that those who are closest to you sometimes only get the energy that’s leftover from work/life but actually need/deserve the most.  It’s time to notice that this Light is for our normal daily lives filled with stories.

Jesus is the Light of the world…shining that light onto the regularity and normalcy and everydayness of our lives so we may notice.

Like Hayley, what sermon are you now called to write?  What have you been driving past day after day, week after week that you need to notice today in the Light of Jesus?

Lord, thanks for the Light…now help me notice what’s around me.  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————————–

February 1, 2017

2-1-17 Slippers

“You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world” – Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel

There’s an awful lot going on in the country right now.  There are many that are feeling displaced, literally and figuratively, by the recents moves from the country’s leadership.  As you read news feeds, social media posts and watch TV news outlets, if you disagree with this new direction, it can seem overwhelming and almost paralyzing.

So what do we do?  What can one person do when something so large and macro seems to too big to move?

Let Jesus’ words to you sink in.  You ARE the salt of the earth.  You ARE the light of the world.  You ARE.  I AM.  They are small words with a power filled impact.

Take a look at this short TED Talk video (4 minutes) and allow yourself to be inspired to be salt and light…..

You and I are already the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Don’t let anything on the macro level ever let you forget how powerful you still are to touch the life of one.  Let Jesus’ words of your calling into action direct you this day to change the life of even one person.

“Not everyday offers us the chance to save a life, but everyday offers us the chance to effect one.  So get in the game, save the shoes.”

Lord, help me today to save the shoes!  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————-

January 25, 2017

1-25-17 BLESSED

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek….and a bunch more blessings.” – Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning about the word “blessed” and he noted that he doesn’t hear it spoken by many people that aren’t “churchy”.  On many levels, I agreed with him.    You rarely hear people at the Bills games yelling “We are blessed!!!” after a touchdown.  (Mainly because we don’t get that many touchdowns).  You don’t hear it at restaurants when someone drinks a really good beer or eats an incredibly flavorful meal, “Wow, was that spare rib a blessing!”.  You don’t hear anyone say it when they hear a really funny joke, “Oh man, was I blessed by that pun!”

But I actually do hear it at other times: the deeper ones.

I heard it this week from a not-frequent-flyer-churchy guy who had heart surgery and survived a close call and yet now has a new life ahead of him.  I heard it last week from a firefighter that came away from a really hard call that involved a death of someone close to his age.  I heard it from a drug addict who was fighting off the cravings and was doing well that day as he realized the support network he had around him.

Each one of them said: “I am blessed!”

The “blessing” that we realize as culture, both churched and non-churched, is many times only named in the hardest of moments, the most difficult times and the super thin spaces where God’s presence is realized.

I believe that’s what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples in his sermon.  You are blessed.  In all moments.  Not just the high fives and celebrations.  But you are blessed in the hardest valleys too!  In fact, the spiritual path that he’s inviting them into, and us as well, is about re-defining “blessing.”  He will share and live into the greatest example of that blessing as he dies on the cross…so that we may say, “I am blessed.”

As you move through your week, listen for that word.  Not just in the responses of those around you, or the situations where it’s easy to see, but instead in the every-moment, whether that moment be at home, in a hospital bed, during a test, in a rough patch, at a fire or in some strength to say No….because in that moment, God is with you.

And you are blessed.

Lord, thanks for your blessings in the hard!  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————

January 19, 2017

1-19-17 TV Dish

“The Lord said, “Samuel, Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10

I wonder if Samuel could hear God right away or if he had to reposition himself first?

Remember the “Can you hear me now?” guy?  (Who ironically now works for a different phone company)  Seems like his point was he had to keep on wandering around all over town to get a good signal in order to be heard.

Have you had that problem yourself…with your phone?  Ever have to leave a room…go outside…stand on a roof of a school, like I do in Haiti…just to hear clearly and speak coherently?

Have you had that problem yourself…with your spiritual life?  I have for sure.  Many times.  Sometimes there’s too much noise, trauma, drama and lamas to hear from God…or speak to God.  (There’s actually never too many lamas, but I felt rhymey so I went with it.)

I’m part of a group that is reading the Bible in a Year.  It’s great.  And it’s been awhile for me to be able to dive into certain areas of the Bible that I haven’t read in years.  (Like about the mighty warrior Nimrod in Genesis….and if anyone knows the background to how Nimnod went from a mighty warrior’s name to a goofy dope, let me know).

Wednesday morning, I sat down in a coffee shop before my first meeting to read my assigned daily readings (and the two other days I had fallen behind) and the next thing I did after I opened my Bible was open my computer.  What?  I had to consciously stop myself, close my computer, readjust and reposition myself to do just one thing – dive into the Word and listen to what it was trying to tell me.  It was a two step process: (1) consciously realizing that I was being distracted and then (2) repositioning to listen.

Samuel was just told by Eli to lie down and listen for the Lord.  “If he calls out to you,” said Eli, “You should say Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

Sometimes we feel more disconnected from God due to the things going on around us.  But probably even more often, we are distracted by ourselves.  (Like all some teachers from grade 3 through now would add to my report card – “Distraction to self and others”)

Reposition yourself today.  Maybe for a moment of prayer.  Maybe for a moment of reflection on what you’ve just read here. Maybe in the middle of an argument with your family member or a tricky decision at work.  Maybe in the dark shadow of tough medical news.

Reposition yourself to hear more clearly God’s love, peace, direction and hope for you.  The Lord is trying to speak it to you. Can you hear it now?

Lord, speak please.  I’m trying harder to listen!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————

January 11, 2017

1-11-17-pointing-hand

“I, an apostle of Jesus Christ….” – Paul, a lot, as he writes to the church in Corinth

Who do you point at?  And who is pointing at you?

I had a funny encounter years ago as I moved back into the area that I grew up in.  It was the day Zion Lutheran Church in Clarence Center was voting on me to be their pastor or hit the road and find another job.  I walked into the Sunday morning service and was greeted by a familiar face, Mr. Paul Graf, one of my high school teachers at Amherst High.

I hadn’t seen the man in years and didn’t expect to see him there.  Obviously, he didn’t expect to see me there either because as he handed me the bulletin, he said: “Biegner, if you would have told me back then at Amherst that you and I would be standing here together today doing this, I’d still be laughing.”

Interesting.  Who did I point to in high school?  What did my life and my actions and probably my behavior point to?  Seems like it wasn’t quite in the direction that the Apostle Paul (similar to the teacher Paul) would have been hoping for.

As Paul begins to speak to the Corinthian church, he tells them over and over that his life and ministry point to Jesus Christ.  And he’s encouraging them to do the same.

Did my life in high school point that direction?  I guess not much, or at least not while I was in Mr. Graf’s class.  I’m hoping I’m doing a better job now because now I’m trying to point my own kids in that direction.  And together as a church, we’re trying to invite a community in that direction.  And the work we do in Haiti, we’re trying to point a whole island in that direction.

Who do you point to?  And who is pointing to you?

Today…or each day this week…take a few moments to assess who you are pointing at.  As a disciple of Jesus, as someone who’s been on that journey for a few days, a whole life, or even starting over in a new way, who do you point to?  In your work place?  Your school?  Your neighborhood?  Yes, even your church?

And hopefully you’ll do better than I used to and there won’t be too much laughing!

Lord, help me point to you!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————————-

January 4, 2017

1-4-17-tim-hortons

“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future of hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (Found under “J” in the Old Testament)

Sometimes we forget that!

What a great few weeks it has been.  Yet as life moves beyond this joy filled holiday season where we gather around so many wonderful traditions, we quickly move away from lighting candles, sharing meals and singing carols that bring smiles.  We move back to school, work, routines, dark nights, debts from over spending, Bills firing coaches and a myriad of other things that drag us back into “reality.”  Our dailyness turns from the celebrations of engagements, family gatherings, parties and joy, back into the laundry list of things that block out the beautiful light of Christmas Eve candles with the soft words of Silent Night in the background.

And we can quickly forget that what God wanted us to remember all year: our futures are designed to be filled with hope.

All too often, we have compartmentalized the compassion, sharing, gift-giving and the Pay-It-Forward mentality in the Tim Horton’s line into two or three weeks of the year.   Don’t we want to stretch that out?  Are we really ready to leave that all behind in our Christmas/Hanukkah/(Insert Your Tradition Here) celebrations of December?

I’m not.  And I hope you aren’t either.  Because that’s not how God designed us.  We are designed to live into a future that is new.  That is awesome.  That is hope-filled!   It is both set out before us and inviting us to mold and shape ourselves.

Now if you’re saying to yourself, “Self, I don’t see God paving some hopeful future!”   I get it.  I’ve been there too.   That’s when we need to drag the joy of the past few week’s traditions into the now of our today!  God works through you and me to accomplish that.  God works through the simple smile, the continuous generosity, the selfless responder, the forgiving parent, the concerned neighbor and the listening teacher.  God works through you.  And me.  And brings a future filled with hope.

May your days ahead be filled with a continuation of what has been so good in recent weeks.  May you share that joy, peace and grace with those you come in contact with.  May God’s hope-filled blessings pour over you and be super easy to see!

Lord, help me to keep living out Christmas.  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————

December 28, 2016

12-28-16-one-yr-bible

Want a better New Year’s Resolution than “be nice” or “don’t eat so much?”  Jump into this option to read the Bible in a year.  Whether you’re in WNY or somewhere else, you can do this!

I will be doing this right along with you…reading and learning and experiencing.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m no Biblical scholar.  Many pastors are, but as a mission developer, my focus was never church history or the Old Testament.  In fact, many of you reading this are better at recalling OT stories/people than I am.  So, I’m super excited to do this right along with you.

As far as I can tell, the readings take 20-25 minutes per day.  Try your best to not fall behind, but if you do, fight the urge to drop out.  If you need to skim a couple days, do it.  (That’s the whole way I got through high school/undergrad/seminary/counseling degrees!) Don’t let this be a stressful thing in your life.  We will get through it together.

You can grab the reading each day online.  You can order your own One Year Bible or www.oneyearbibleonline.com has a listing of every daily reading.  For St. Paul’sers, Mary will try to include the list each week in the emails she sends out Mondays and include a Tuesday-Monday listing.  I also just noticed today on the website, if you want to listen to the readings while cooking, driving or on your treadmill (I don’t suggest doing all those at the same time), they have audio links on the site as well.

We will get together a couple times a month to discuss, ask questions, etc.  If you have a question, please email me before our group time so I can research the answer and don’t have to just make something up like I do with my wife.  Our Jan/Feb Gatherings will be:
January 15 & 22 – 9am – St. Paul’s
February 5 & 26 – 9am – St. Paul’s

Feel free to invite others to join in and they can use the website for the texts.

Blessings in the last days of 2016.  Remember, if you are looking for a New Year’s Eve service (or you think you’ll have a sudden onset 24 hour flu Sunday morning), we will have one at Crossroads Lutheran this Saturday at 5pm.

Lord, thank you for this past year and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next.  Amen


Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————–

December 21, 2016

12-21-16-winter

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in deep darkness on them the light has dawned.”

Welcome to the darkest day of the year!  But fear not, it’ll be over soon.

December 21st is that powerful day of the year when, for those of us in WNY, you get less light than any other day of the year.  It’s a frustrating place as you get up in the dark and drive home from work in the dark.

But one of our great cultural traditions is to put Christmas lights up all over our houses and properties in this season.  Some are white, some colorful, some blink, some are inflatable Disney characters and some now are rotating laser light shows.  But they are helpful in the darkness.  They distract us from dark and illuminate something else.  Something brighter and beautiful.

Last night at my home in Clarence Center, we lost power for a few hours in the neighborhood.  I drove home from a meeting and as I passed the school, which still had power, I drove into my section of the neighborhood that was an abyss of black.  No lights.  Complete darkness.  If not for my headlights, the drive would have been terrifying.

I know that’s where some of you are right now, entering or in the part of your life that seems to have lost power and lost light.  Some of you wrestle daily with depression, family struggles, spiritual lostness, loss of a loved one, physical challenges that are overwhelming at times, a broken relationship or enter your own personal “power outage” here.  Whatever it is: it feels like Dec 21st more often than just one day.

On you today, light shines.  On you today, hope is near.  On you today, the light will begin to grow again.

I read that passage from Isaiah and am reminded that God speaks to us in the darkness, not waiting for us to “come out of it” or “get over it”.  God enters and stays with us.  Some of those moments of darkness can be the most valuable moments of our lives.  Painful for sure, but showing us something more that maybe we didn’t notice about that loss/hurt while it was light.  (More on this in January)  But it doesn’t make them any easier.

Being in the darkness isn’t bad.  It’s different.  And sometimes very lonely and painful.  But as you/if you go there  today, remember God’s presence with you.  As you drive through the darkness tonight, remember God’s light, on a lawn, from a candle, in some brief laughter or from a short historic Scripture.

If you are walking in darkness, on YOU God’s light dawns.

Lord, walk with those in the darkness.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————-

December 14, 2016

12-14-16-people-singing

Hallelujah

Leonard Cohen’s song has been covered by a whole lot of groups and people over the years, but I especially like this one.  Take a look….then come back….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9QczTSakRY

What I like about it is how the song…band…and crowd progress into the story.  First, it’s just one guy singing.  Then another playing.  Then another.  And then slowly everyone in the bar is singing quietly…”Hallelujah…..Hallelujah….”

You are just drawn into the song.  The story.

It’s roughly halfway through December.  If you’re a church nerd, you’re almost done with Advent.  Either way, someone is soon to sit down at a bench and share the beautiful music of this story again.  And the point of the story is precisely that we are drawn in.  To sing along.  To sing praise.  To have it change our night.  Our date.  Our cup of coffee or beer.  Our life.

Hallelujah.

May the days ahead be filled with this act of being drawn in.  This week I’m doing an early Christmas Eve service at Daemen College.  I’m leading a faith conversation in a bar.  I’m going to a Christmas party with a bunch of friends that have traveled to Haiti.  I’m going out with a friend and her new significant other.  I’m watching the Children’s Christmas Pageant at St. Paul’s.  And who knows where else I’ll end up.  And in every setting, every space, every community, every moment…I hope to be drawn back in.  To that amazing, simple story where God surprises…God breaks in…God becomes like us so that we can become with God.

Wherever you end up this week…work…family…party…exam…
game…service…alone…community……..may you be drawn in.  To this amazing story.

Hallelujah

Lord, hallelujah.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

ps

———————————————————————

December 8, 2016

12-8-16-christmas-eve

 

 

 

 

Merry Christmas!

OK, no yet.  Or is it?

For those of you who pay attention, this is the 8th Day of Biegner Winter (it’s 100 days long starting December 1st and going through March 10th).  And on the 25th Day of Biegner Winter, we celebrate Christmas!  We’ve done it for years.  It was nice for the Church Fathers to pick the same day to celebrate Christmas as our Biegner Winter calendar.

But the music is (and has been) playing on the radio.  And gifts are being purchased, wrapped and sent.  In fact, I already celebrated Christmas with my mom while she was in town last weekend!  Does this all not count because it’s too early?

Now this week, I’m getting ready to lead an Early Christmas Eve service on campus at Daemen College next Tuesday…the 12th.  We’ll have Christmas carols, read Luke 2 and of course, light the candles and sing Silent Night.  13 days early, what?

The thing to remember today.  The 8th.  Is that Christmas is not about the 25th.  It’s about the 26th.  And 27th.  And the 8th.  And the 12th.

“For unto you is born THIS day….” ~ an angel in Luke

This day.  8% into Biegner Winter.  While you plan for that day 17 days away.  Now, when you’re not feeling Christmasy at all.  Here, while your schedule is busy and full and stressy.

And tomorrow too.

May you celebrate today the news that God loves you enough to come into your life in the flesh.  May it sink in today that God broke in not for a once-a-year, but for an every.

Including today.  Merry Christmas.
Lord, remind me that your love is an every, not a once.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

ps

———————————————————–

November 30, 2016

lighten bag

“You better not pout, you better not cry…”

You know the song right?  Many people sing it this time of year or we hear it on the radio…since mid October.  Go ahead…Hum the rest.  Sing the rest of the words in your head or randomly out loud in your office or classroom.

The chorus…is…terrifying!!!!!

Santa Claus is coming and he sounds like he has no compassion for those who are having a bad day, sad about something going on in life and wanting us to be watching over our shoulder all the time.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping…he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

Holy Stalker Santa!  I’m now picturing this dark image of a “creepy clown” type of Santa staring into my bedroom window from the front lawn, just watching me sleep!

And here we are in Advent.  Waiting for Jesus to arrive on Christmas.  Waiting for Jesus to arrive again into our world.  Waiting for the plan to be completed.

Do we equate this coming Jesus with this odd version of Santa-comin-to-get-us?  John the often think of him yelling and screaming in the wilderness about this Savior coming and we better get our act together or else!

But there’s more to his story.  If you have a chance today, read Matthew 3:1-12.  And before you read it, get the image of Santa “Coming To Town So You Better Shape Up” Claus and allow yourself to have a clean slate.  Maybe like someone wandering into the wilderness for the first time.

Because he’s not describing a God who is coming to get you.  He’s describing a God who already got you.  He’s describing the God of Abraham who has been active and redeeming the world for a very long time.  And now he’s telling people (and us) he’s coming again in another fantastic way!

In the days ahead, let go of doing your Christmas prep “because you have to” or “because if I don’t I’ll be in trouble” or “because God will smite me if I do this or that or don’t do this or that.” Do your Christmas prep because God already did!  God already saved us.  God already arrived.  God’s plan is already in process and God already loves you!

Jesus Christ is coming to town!  And that’s great news.

Lord, help me prep for what you’ve already done!
Amen

Still in One Peace,

ps

——————————————————————————

November 16, 2016

11-16-16-finger-frameI’m writing this before the election.  If you’re reading this on Wednesday, I’m heading back from Haiti right now so I had to write a bit early.  And it’s very weird to “write ahead” in a faith/life/current events devotional style when a fairly HUGE thing is happening for our nation and it’s outcome could move our country in one direction or the other fairly dramatically.

Although, when I head to my election place and case my ballot on Election Day, I’m still in that same position.  Who will win?  How will the country react?  How will the world react?  Will we notice something huge right away?  Long term?  Nothing at all?  What will the future hold?

I know many of you shared multiple concerns and worries surrounding this year’s election process.  I had them myself.  And in many of our conversations, we asked the question: “What will the future hold?”  The challenging thing is the answer is: we don’t know.  I don’t know what the future will hold….

but I do know who will hold the future!

Psalm 46 is an amazing reminder to us that God holds the future.  Jeremiah reminded us in the 29th chapter that God has planned for us a future filled with hope.  Jesus says from the cross while giving his life that “today you will be with me in paradise.”  And Revelation reminds us of a time coming when God’s plan will be completed and “every tear will be wiped away.”

This is a story that I have been woven into through my baptism and relationship with God.  And you have been too!  This is a story that repeatedly shows me a God who is bringing us back together from differences, trials, separations and fears in a way that is eternal!

I don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know exactly what my kids will grow up to be, what our country will do, what the stock market will produce or if the Bills will ever get their act together to make the playoffs again.  I don’t know what the future holds….

but I do know who holds the future.  And it is in very good Hands!

Lord, thanks for the promise of a future filled with hope.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————–

November 9, 2016

11-9-16-all-saints

As a Church, we just moved through the actual day (November 1) and the Sunday (November 6) that we celebrate All Saints.  So many times…too many times…we only focus on those who have died in the last year in our church communities.  While those are amazing names and memories to reflect on, the day and the idea of being saints is much bigger.

See, All the Saints includes All of Us.  And the relationships between us and those who have come before us, taught us, mentored us, raised us, shaped us and steered us have included some holy and sacred moments.  Too often, we wait to reflect on and share these memories and moments with these people until their eulogy, where we try and sum up a person’s life in 2-3 minutes.  And it’s hard, emotional and doesn’t do those moments justice.

So, let’s start now and be more active in it.  

I’m inviting you this week to do two things:
1.  Name those Saints and the moments you’ve been impacted by them.  And then let them know.  Send that important person, friend, family member, coach, neighbor or insert other relationship here a card or note to tell them.  Text them.  Call them.  Stop by and surprise them.

2.  Come to Exploring Your Stories (our Sunday morning adult discipleship conversation) at St. Paul’s on Sunday at 9am and share that story!  Was it someone who has passed away, moved away or maybe still in your story now?  What did that person share with you?  A teaching?  A Bible verse?  An action in the world?  A value?  

Part of our roll as “church” is to pass the faith on to those coming behind us.  But I also believe our job is to name the faith that is happening right around us!  Or maybe happened in a very sacred relationship with another saint.

Let’s not wait until they are gone.  Let’s let the saints know now.

Lord, thank you for ALL the Saints in my life.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————

November 3, 2016

11-3-16-girl-at-door

This is just a pause to breathe and say thank you.  It’s a pattern that Jesus used in his connection to his father.  Through the good times, hard times, joyful times and painful times of ministry, we read about him occasionally pausing and praying to give thanks…and breathe.

Tonight we will breathe together and thank God for the generous giving and support of the WNY community for the amazing people of Haiti.

Our Haiti Relief Open House is tonight at St. John Lutheran Church, 6540 Main St, Williamsville NY from 7-8:30pm.  There will be a ton of great food, wine/beer, drink and plenty of great company sharing stories and updates about our partnerships with Grace Ministries in Haiti.  Some of the members of the medical team that came home last week will be there to answer questions.  A new video will be released.  We will be announcing the total numbers of funds raised through WNY Impact Foundation over the past three weeks.  And our architect Scott Jones will be bringing some initial plans for the new medical center that we will work on next.

I am thankful for so many that have given of time and treasure to this mission and I hope you can be there tonight.

What do you have to be thankful for today?  We need not wait for Thanksgiving Day to pause, breathe and give thanks to God for the many and various ways we are blessed.

Maybe that moment for you is today.

Lord, thank you for so many blessings.  You overwhelm.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————–

October 26, 2016

10-26-16-point-finger

I share some reflections this morning from Pastor Scott Hannon at St. John Lutheran Church in Amherst:

“Admit it. You’ve done it. We all have. In this instance, we’re all guilty.

It makes no matter whether we are Democrat, Republican or Independent, white or black, rich or poor. We all point the finger.

We have made presumptions that, quite simply, aren’t true. We’ve cast judgments on others that are baseless. We’ve thought ourselves higher and better than others. We’ve wondered, “What’s wrong with these people?” “How could they think that?” “How could they support that?”

We criticize, call out and condemn. We’ve knocked down rather than built up. When our heads hit the pillow at night, we fall asleep thinking that we’re the heroes in the story of our lives. We believe that we’ve got it right; and those other guys… they’re wrong. At times we’re even tempted to pray, “Thank God, I’m not like those people.”

In scripture (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus tells the story of two people – a proud Pharisee and a humble tax collector. The Pharisee, he says, stands by himself and prays this way:

Thank you, Jesus! That I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, and adulterers, or even like this guy![he says pointing at the tax collector]

In contrast, the tax collector standing far off at a distance does not even dare to lift his head, but instead, beats his chest and laments to God:

God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Jesus tells his audience it isn’t the proud finger-pointer who walks away righteous, but the repentant sinner. And in doing so he offers an ancient lesson that is as relevant as ever. We are not to judge. It is not up to us to condemn or even to criticize. Rather, we are to humble ourselves. To remember the adage our teachers taught us in middle school: When you point the finger at another, three point back at you.

In these days where everything is contested, where we make snap judgments on entire classes of people, where we point the finger more than ever – may we heed the wisdom our Lord gives to his first disciples: … all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

This is Jesus’ counsel to Democrats and Republicans, the rich and the poor, black and white, and the Pharisee and the tax-collector.”

May we humble ourselves today and everyday!

Lord, make me humble today and stop pointing fingers.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————–

October 19, 2016

10-19-16-jesus-for-pres“Follow me.” – Jesus, a bunch of times to different people through the gospels

What if?  What if this really happened…Jesus for President?  He isn’t exactly running for president throughout the story in the New Testament, but considering they crucify him in the end, I’m not sure he was winning the popular vote.
It’s interesting to me that what he calls the disciples into (and by association us too) is a life of following…of following this messiah, this mentor, this rabbi and teacher into a lifestyle change…a belief change…a way of being and then living out.

What sort of platform were they invited into?  What sort of policy initiatives do we read about in the way Jesus deals with the lepers, those who are broken, those who are outcast and those who are us?

If you’re like me, you’re not looking forward to more of the same craziness in tonight’s debate…not looking forward to jabs and punches and negatives and smears.  If you’re like me, you’re looking for someone to follow.

It might not help your choice in the upcoming election, but we do have one to follow.  No matter what happens in the debate tonight, the election a few weeks from now or the years that follow…we have Jesus to look to, to learn from, to model, to share and to follow.

In a culture, a system of voting, and a slate on the ballot that seems to do nothing more than divide, we have Jesus to follow…in our daily life, in our beliefs, as our foundation of the kingdom of God having broken in, and as our salvation.

You want to be “stronger together” and “make America great again?”  Here’s an option and what I’m planning to do – “Follow Jesus!”

Lord, thanks for giving us a choice and inviting us to follow you.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————————————

October 13, 2016

10-13-16-tree-rope

“There was a widow that just kept coming…” – Luke 18

This is a great story about a widow who keeps bugging an unjust judge until she gets what she wants.  She’s persistent.  She’s a pain in the butt.  She keeps coming!

It takes a lot of energy to be persistent…to get knocked down and keep getting up.  And I don’t know much about this poor woman, besides that she’s lost someone she loves.  She’s a widow and back in the day, it wasn’t a great spot to be in.  So not only is she hurting and grieving, but the system is keeping her down and pushing her away.  

Yet she keeps on coming.

I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of people in my life.  I meet many of them when they are facing hard circumstances in their lives: death, loss, sickness, marginalization, abuse, addiction.  And the people that have impressed me the most are those that in the middle of the worst of the worst, share how much their faith gets them through.  They are tied tightly to the cross of Jesus Christ.  That the rope they hang onto is not tied onto a short term fix, a fading fad or a “new product guaranteed to (insert newest infomercial lie here).  

They are tied to the cross of Jesus.  With a passion equivalent to this persistent widow.  

What’s your rope tied to?  Does it come with the promise of healing, presence of the Holy Spirit and power to overcome even death itself?  Are you wrapped around some “Osteen-esque” theology of just smile and it will be okay or does your rope wrap around a God who came into the worst to give us the best?

Our tree is the cross.  And on that cross was a Savior that went there to battle and overcome all that you are facing today and to reveal a promise of hope and resurrection that begins now.  Right now.

So whatever you face today…wrap your rope around that promise, hang on, and just keep coming.

Lord, help me tie on to you.  Amen
Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————————————————————————————–

October 5, 2016

10-5-16-haiti-kids

Post-Hurricane Matthew update from Haiti:

I realize many of you are not on Facebook, so here is my most recent update to keep you updated:

A couple more updates: Nora LéonLéon Gerson, the mission team and our friends and family in Grande Plaine, Ile a Vache Haiti are safe. Amazing. Nora talked with her daughter a few minutes ago after getting up the hill to Leon’s mom’s house. The damage to the island is devastating to homes and infrastructure and resources. “Ile a Vache has been destroyed” is how I have heard it from each person I talked to. They have 2-3 days of food at Grace School that they will ration. I talked to the US Embassy and they have no current plan for Les Cayes and Ile a Vache and are encouraging all Americans to shelter in place. Thanks…very helpful guys.

Our driver thinks he will be able to get down to Les Cayes by Friday after water levels recede but that sounds awfully soon from pictures I am seeing of the roadway. But the bridge being out has not stopped him before as often in Haiti people just drive right through the river and streams when they are normal levels.

The motor on the boat was damaged so they are working now to fix it. Otherwise evacuation will be needed off the island.

On a good note, the building structures of the school, church and orphanage are intact. Even the solar panels are still on the roof!! The good news: there is continued shelter, cisterns refilling and a place to charge cell phones.

We are assessing our October medical team’s potential for still traveling to Haiti and will keep you updated. 

While I can’t explain the relief in hearing everyone is OK, I can only imagine what the long tern affect will be on the shape, culture and lifestyle on Ile a Vache.

But here’s what I do know…their faith has been made stronger in this and they are praising God for protection, grace and strength and being spared from loss of life. They are praising God in the storm!!!! Please keep that in mind during your day today as you face whatever you face. They continue to teach me about my own relationship with God!

May we all praise God in the storms of daily life!

Please keep our mission partners in your prayers.  I welcome you to give financially to the rebuilding efforts through St. Paul’s (4007 Main St; Eggertsville NY 14226) or the WNY Impact Foundation (PO Box 46; Clarence Center NY 14032).  100% of the dollars you give will go down directly to the rebuilding efforts and are tax deductible.  PLEASE do not give to large scale, high overhead, high administrative non-profits.  And nothing that is associated with the government.  Even ELCA’s Lutheran World Relief does not currently have any connection on the southwestern end of Haiti.  

Lord, you are incredible.  In the midst of life’s storms, thank you for being there for us.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————–

September 28, 2016

9-28-16-isaiah-40-31Somehow, my whole family has turned into a “running family.”  Drew and Lauren, running for their school teams, Michelle, training for a marathon in SC and me running so I can have an IPA or two and not double in size.  But we all love it.

We have each noticed that while running, there’s a lot of things to pay attention to.  Even if you’re not out training for some certain time or pace, you still are watching out for traffic, thinking about your feet landing, not running into deer on the bike path in Clarence or if we are running in a new place or city, trying to watch for the signs to figure out where to go.

Some of the signs are easy and written in large letters.  Some are too small or the view is blocked.  Those are the places that you usually get lost.  I’ve been a part of several races and marathons where people in the lead or not paying close attention have actually run the wrong way, ruining their whole experience.  Especially when you get distracted by music, things you don’t expect or are just a little more scattered than usual, the lostness stinks!  It’s not unlike the lostness in our faith lives.  It stinks being lost.

In the beginning of the book of Habakkuk (yes, this is actually a book in the Old Testament toward the back) we read the words of a prophet who is trying to figure out how God could see/know the chaos and craziness going on in the world and not be acting in a way that meets the prophets timing/expectation.  “How long O Lord shall I cry out for help?  Or cry Violence!  And you do not help, you do not save.”  And he goes on through the first chapter with this continued lament, striking similar to me of the thoughts and phrases of some people in our own nation experiencing awfully difficult times right now.  “How long O Lord?”

But then he reminds himself of the promise that he has been invited to focus on and wait for.  He says “I will stand at my watch post and watch to see what he will say to me and what he will answer concerning my complaint.”

Then the Lord answered him!  And said, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, SO THAT A RUNNER CAN SEE THEM!”

So that a runner can see them!  When I read that, I thought of all those hard to read little signs, direction arrows, warnings and notes that I’ve seen on running trails, roads and bike paths offering direction or insight.  But so many of them are so small, so obscure, so covered that you can’t see them.

But God wants us to see THIS sign.  Boldly and clearly!  God wants us, running by at the pace of life that we usually go at…with all the distractions, detours and new uncharted territory…God wants us to see the prophetic message and SIGN for us.  His vision of a plan and love for us that is bigger, deeper, stronger and more everlasting than anything else.  God wants us to know as we blitz right past the undeserved grace that is offered to us that this grace is for US!  God wants us to know the whole story and that our little piece of it, our seemingly short disconnected chapter, is part of salvation history where God created the world and all that is in it for good and love.  Part of a story that God reached into through prophets and players and then finally with his own Son and gift of the Holy Spirit to hammer home the point that we are his forever.

That’s the sign.  That’s what God wants us to know today on our run, flying through work, blasting through school and work and sometimes madly moving from thing to thing to thing.

May you stand on your own watch post today and see it.  May you see the sign of God’s grace and hope and connection to all that is blessed and good and graced.  May you know today as you run that your story is part of and enveloped by God’s story of eternal love for you.

Lord, thanks for the sign.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————–

September 21, 2016

9-21-16-in-beginning

I don’t know the Bible that well.  Despite having read the whole thing, studying certain areas of it pretty hard and preaching on it for 20 years, I don’t actually know it that well.

It amazes me how many times someone mentions a Bible story, especially the Old Testament, and I sort of remember it and recognize a name of two but often don’t know how it fits into the whole story.  Because the Bible isn’t just a book of Books or a bunches of bumper sticker catch phrases stuck together, it’s a whole story.

And what I most often forget is that my story is in it.  And so is yours.

In fact, I realized at a conference last week that when something interesting, funny or difficult happens in my life, I more often equate it to a story from the TV shows Friends, Seinfeld or SportCenter than I do an actual Biblical story.

Maybe it’s because the Biblical story is getting lost?  Or it’s too long to read?  Or 100 other reasons, but culturally, it’s not our point of perspective anymore.

Maybe we need a quick Biblical Overview review, like this one I found online:

Here is the short account:

GENESIS
God: All right, you two, don’t do the one thing. Other than that, have fun.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
Satan: You should do the thing.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
God: What happened!?
Adam & Eve: We did the thing.
God: Guys

THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God: You are my people, and you should not do the things.
People: We won’t do the things.
God: Good.
People: We did the things.
God: Guys

THE GOSPELS
Jesus: I am the Son of God, and even though you have done the things, the Father and I still love you and want you to live. Don’t do the things anymore.
Healed people: Okay! Thank you!
Other people: We’ve never seen him do the things, but he probably does the things when no one is looking.
Jesus: I have never done the things.
Other people: We’re going to put you on trial for doing the things.
Pilate: Did you do the things?
Jesus: No.
Pilate: He didn’t do the things.
Other people: Kill him anyway.
Pilate: Okay.
Jesus: Guys

PAUL’S LETTERS
People: We did the things.
Paul: Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things.
People: Okay.

PAUL’S LETTERS PART II
People: We did the things again.
Paul: Guys

REVELATION
John: When Jesus comes back, there will be no more people who do the things. In the meantime, stop doing the things.

OK, that might be a little too basic, but there’s something to it.

I’m going to challenge myself, and I would invite you to join me, to recapture the use of Biblical story in my/your story.  I believe we all know more of them than we think we do.  What is your favorite?  What is that story telling you that God is doing?  Where are you in the story?  And how does it pertain to the “things” of daily life?

Let’s see where this takes us.  Let’s us where and when we are better able to connect our dailyness to the faith life.

Lord, help me know more about where my story and your story interconnect.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————

September 9, 2016

9-8-16-meadowAfter speaking with the disciples, Jesus went up the mountain to pray.  Later that night, he was alone” – Matthew 14

I hope you had an awesome, rest-filled, peaceful summer!

So…welcome back to fall!  Welcome back to schedules starting back up.  Welcome back to increased activities.  Back to school.  Back to longer work hours.  Back to less vacations.  Back to more going on at church and home.  Back to more election talk/news that you didn’t see for the last few weeks.

When the calendar turns over to September (or swiped over on your IPhone), it seems like a lot of things start back up and rest…peace…sabbath…solitude…relaxation…seems to drift away.  

Jesus actually shows us another way…a different way… to live into this transition.  

Years ago, I read Jesus’ story as one of non-stop ministry/healing/miracles and then taking a little break for prayer/retreat.  Then back to work!  Repeating this pattern all the way to the cross.

But author/theologian Frederick Buechner helped me see God’s approach a bit differently.  If you stop reading Scripture through our “work as much as you can culture” eyes, you notice that Jesus actually starts in solitude (see the birth story for details) and remains there as a base line, only to come out of that to do the ministry/healings/miracles that God’s children needed.  Post ministry, he returns to his base line – back to solitude – “Jesus went up the mountain to pray.  And that night he was alone.”  (The whole story of Jesus’ time here, which we don’t have time to go into here, carries this pattern through it with the bottom line being – his base line is one of peace.)

It might be a different approach to reading Scripture and God’s story, but I hope you will see that God’s design for us is not to live in a high level of stress, worry, over-commitment and chaos.  It is to be still in one peace!

So as you potentially move into a busier phase of life with increased schedules and demands, remember that you are designed to be at peace.  Allow yourself…gift yourself…to let the best moments from your more peaceful summer wash over you and call you to a new base line, one that starts each morning from a place of solitude, peace and prayer. 

May your days be filled with opportunities to serve, love, care, do and share.  But may you approach each one of them from the place that God designed you to begin: peace.

Lord, help me start today and each day in your peace.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————–

July 8, 2016

6-22-16 Love in Sand

In him there is no darkness at all” – I John 1:5

Be transformed into love today.  Please.  For the sake of the world.

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning who is also a pastor.  I told him that I was praying for some Godish-intervention into our world… soon.  Literally closing my eyes and praying hard.  For something huge.  Something of Biblical proportion.  Something of Pentecost or Christmas or Red Sea-ness that we couldn’t possibly miss.  That ALL people could unify around.  ALL people would get.  ALL evil would fall down to.  ALL terror would repent upon seeing.  ALL tribes would look to their left and their right and see similarities and not differences.

And then my praying ends.  And I open my eyes.  And it feels like nothing that big has happened.

The only thing there is my face in the mirror.

So maybe that’s the way God is choosing to work this time.  The face in my mirror.  The face in yours.

Allow yourself to look into that mirror today and be transformed again.  To share profound love.  “Am I supposed to crawl back into my mother’s womb and be born all over again,” Nicodemus asked Jesus.  “No,” says Jesus, “That would just be super uncomfortable for your poor mom.  Instead, be transformed and born again through the Spirit.”  A Spirit of love.  A Spirit of repentance of all your own imperfections and sins, not just the ones you point out in others.  A Spirit that can unite.  A Spirit that can forgive and inspire forgiveness.

Be transformed today.  And allow that Spirit to wash over you… to inspire you to forgive and love in a profound way for the world.  And that might just be exactly how God is choosing to work in a new and huge way.

Lord, let your light shine and transform me!  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————————————————–

June 22, 2016

6-22-16 Love in Sand

In him there is no darkness at all” – I John 1:5

Happy Summerland!  This is the land and time when we have finally hit that summer solstice and maxed out the amount of sunlight we receive everyday.

In the winter, I crave it.  My Dad and I count the days in the winter to remind ourselves that darkness will eventually give way to more light.

So here it is…finally.  And when I stand outside in the sunshine, or go for a run in it, or work in the yard with the light washing over me, I’m in a different place spiritually, emotionally, hopefully.

That space, that connection, that washing-over is who our God is: a God of light, hope and grace.  A God of love.

In Him, there is no darkness at all.  I hold onto that news when Orlandos happen, when gators strike and sickness comes.  I bask in that when life does slow down and I can clear away the dust and commitments and demands and be in the The Presence of light itself in the world: Jesus.

My prayer for you this summer, in your Summerland, is that it will be filled with those moments of peace, Sabbath and rest.  But in the event that hard times arrive, challenges crop up, transitions that you didn’t want actually begin, when you still miss that person so much…stand quietly in the light of God’s love.  Feel that unbreakable connection.  And remember the promise and depth and width of the Love.

In Him, there is NO darkness.  At all.

Lord, let your light shine!  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————–

June 13, 2016
6-13-16 Pray WO Ceasing

 

 

 

There is no perfect response to terror like unfolded in Orlando yesterday.  So the playbook for how to move forward is really being written prayerfully in live time.  

For St. Paul’s, we will do several things:
1.  Battle hate with love, not more hate.  On Sunday June 19th, the Sanctuary will be open from 9-9:30am for quiet prayer.  I will be there and if anyone wants individual prayers of healing, I would be honored to join you.  There will be no plan…just quiet prayer.

2.  Our new Dean, Rev. Lee Miller, has invited all the Conference Churches to the prayer vigil that our Network of Religious Communities is taking part in on Tuesday at 7:30pm at Masjid Mahdi; 9610 Colvin Blvd; Niagara Falls NY 14304.  You are welcome to join with other people of varied faith backgrounds if that will be a blessing to you.

3.  I shared the following thought on Facebook this morning (see below in italics) and will be using this same text as we gather for worship Sunday morning and wrestle with what it means to be a Man of Faith on Father’s Day.
 

“In response to Orlando: 

I’m reading the Gospel lesson picked out for this upcoming Sunday from Luke 8:26-29. Jesus heals a guy with a bunch of demons in him (summary). Then “the man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Jesus; but Jesus sent him away saying “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

My heart hurts over this most recent act of terrorism and hate. Deep sadness for the pain of the Orlando community and those with connections with and through there. I have no idea what to do on a macro level and grieve that my kids are living into this part of their culture as a norm. 

As a church leader, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to hold another…yes another…prayer service post-violence, racism, terrorism and ignorance for healing and forgiveness and spiritual grief. There’s nothing bad about them for sure. But today, that’s not what I hear Jesus telling the healed guy. He tells him, “Go home and tell people.” Go home and tell them what God did for you. Go home and share love, grace, forgiveness and healing.

So that’s all I can do today. With Michelle Woodward BiegnerDrew Biegner and Lauren. With my neighbors. With my extended family. With my church. With my fire halls. With the strangers I meet. With my FB friends.

So today I want you to know: I’ve been blessed, healed, loved and forgiven by God. Undeserved for sure!! I’m thankful for the love of my family and friends and will try my hardest to love you even more. I’m thankful for my crazy and awesome neighbors, even Tacks CallAaron JuddGregory FlynnKelly Dock Carpino! I’m blessed to be part of the Erie County Fire Service and each of us is watched over by God on every call. And I’m lucky to serve the community and Lord through and with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Lutheran Campus Ministry.

I don’t care if you are white or black, gay or straight, rich or poor, Lutheran or Muslim, addict or clean…you are my brother…you are my sister. We all have a God of Love. Let’s talk. Let’s forgive. Let’s listen. Let’s love.”

Please know that I am available to you for conversations, prayer, calls and texts during the week to wrestle with this event and join with you as we hold the light of Christ to a very dark act.  

May your day honor this grief and confusion, but may it also put this in it’s place as a just a part of the day.  Hate cannot vanquish love; Good Friday is NOT the final answer.  Easter is!

Be blessed and know that you are loved!

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————-

June 9, 2016

6-9-16 Maze

 

 

 

 

If you stare at the picture above long enough, you’ll see the name of Jesus.  Give it a shot.  Stare maybe….30…45….50 minutes.  I’m sure it will turn up!  (Kidding…you’ll hurt your head too much after 6 minutes and fall off the chair)

Ever looked at one of these things and tried to figure out what mystery word or image will reveal itself after we stare long enough and rock our brain into complete confusion?

I always am jealous of the people that look right at them and immediately see the intended target while I twist my eyes around in 100 different ways and still usually can’t find it.  Or that person who looks at the cloud and says: “Look at that one!  Can you see Margaret Thatcher?”  Or your every-three-year piece of toast that looks to have the Virgin Mary’s image burnt into it.

Some can see them easily and some have a hard time.

Can you see Jesus?  Can you figure him out?  Can you look at the world around you…your own life…the news…your church…and make out who Jesus is?  What he’s done, doing and about to do?

It’s tricky.  But we’re not the first to struggle.  Luke’s 7th chapter, which can be found directly after the 6th chapter and under “L” in the New Testament, has a lot of people trying to figure out who he is.  “Who is this that he even forgives sins?” they ask.  

But in each case, he answers.  Sometimes through a miracle.  Sometimes through a healing.  Sometimes through a story.  Sometimes in his tears.  Sometimes through feeding.

I wish when people asked me how they should move through some situation faithfully or what Jesus would do in a certain situation, that I had a clear, easy answer that fit every occasion.  There’s no one size fits all.  Sometimes it’s tricky.  And sometimes it takes some patience to stare at Jesus and listen and watch and see.  

What I do know is that when we do, when we look at the maze that is our faith in God long enough, there is often clarity.  When we focus on the love, grace and forgiveness that God has shown to us, that image reflected into the world is usually right on.

If you are staring at or trapped in a maze today, may you find clarify in Jesus.  May it be abundantly clear and fast.  But if it’s not, keep looking.  Keep watching Jesus who offers grace and peace which is truly hard to understand and believe sometimes.  And let that lead you through the maze.

Lord, thanks for showing us.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————

June 2, 2016

6-2-16 Packing Lunch

 

 

 

 

 

See, I am about to do a new thing….Do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19

It’s getting near the end of the school year.  And at our house in downtown Clarence Center, I make the breakfasts for the kids and Michelle makes the lunches.  Despite the fact that I make three breakfasts (Drew, Lauren and Bill the Dog), Michelle shares a pretty consistent monologue of frustration each morning that making two lunches gets challenging and repetitive.  She’s not a fan of trying to figure out what to give the kids for lunch, especially one our daughter is not the most adventurous eater.  So about this time of the year, Michelle is counting the days that she has left to pack up creative and healthy lunches (whereas I will of course have to continue making three breakfasts all year round….just saying).  It’s The Lunch Rut.

We can easily get frustrated by “ruts” – that is, getting caught in a repetitive cycles of having to do the same thing over and over again.

Does our relationship with God ever get caught up in ruts?  Does it ever wind up looking like a lunch box full of left over Taco Bell sauces and a raw potato?  

Maybe.  But that’s certainly not how God designed it.  Those ruts are on us, not God.  God is constantly doing a new thing.  Do we perceive it or not?  Sometimes not.  Sometimes the ruts are too deep and we can’t see these new things unfolding because we’re blinded by the minutia of our dailyness.

God’s story (see the Bible beginning in Genesis and going through Revelation) is filled with new things: new covenants, new promises, new leaders, new prophets, a new Savior, a new Spirit.  New.

If you are feeling like your relationship with God is in a rut, use this summer to break it open again.  God has already started the process.  Try a week at a new church.  Start a new devotional.  Begin a new spiritual practice.  Take some new time of sabbath.  Pray in a new time, new way, with new people.  

If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to get un-stuck, shoot me an email (steve@nullstpaulseggertsville.org) or text (7168681232) and I’ll see if can help you out or help connect you to someone who can.

So today, may you not be frustrated packing lunches or with your faith journey.  And may you see that God is about to do a new thing in your life….do you perceive it?

Lord, thanks for the fresh start.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————-

May 26, 2016

5-26-16 Food Truck

 

 

 

 

“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” – Jesus

All Day Breakfast and Love

Sue Currie, the artistic designer of the Daily Bread Food Truck, added this important phrase as part of our logo on the Dough Boy (my nickname for the truck).  The important piece of the phrase: and love.

When I lived down South, I really enjoyed sitting down to a local restaurant or chain breakfast joint and having the waitress come over and say “Morning Sweetie” or “What can I get you Love?”  Now be clear, 99 out of 100 times, I had never met this person before but the use of the name “Honey/Sweetie/Love” instantly made me feel more connected and at home.  Politically correct?  Maybe not.  But maybe needed now more than ever?  All day, right!?

This food truck mission that St. Paul’s is stepping into is way more about Love than it is food.  The food will be an entrance point.  The food will satisfy a basic human need for many…don’t get me wrong.  But the Love will feed the soul.  The Love will heal wounds.  The Love will connect us to the stranger.  The Love will fill eternally where the food will only touch temporarily.

What Jesus offers is a meal that fills the soul.  He offers a drink that quenches thirst for the long haul.  That Love rolls up and parks in front of us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

May you hear that voice from God this morning: “Morning Love!”  May you know that God says it so that each of us knows the depth of compassion, hope and grace we are offered.  All.  Day.  Long.

Lord, thank you for loving.  Me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

May 18, 2016

5-18-16 Food Truck

 

 

 

 

“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” – Jesus

“Thank you” was all he needed to say.

This morning I was over at one of our local elementary schools  checking in with some staff about some upcoming projects.  Amherst is a first ring suburb in WNY, but the catchment area for this school presents more like an urban zone than suburban.  It’s an underserved area that houses many people reaching financially to get their kids in a good school district.  It’s an area where many new-to-the-country students/visiting staff to local universities reside.  The school’s population is 48% white and 52% from 44 other countries.  Sixty percent are living under the poverty level and 45% of the kids receive free or reduced cost meals while school is in session.  37% speak English as a new language.  It’s an incredible area filled with the blessings and challenges of urban diversity.

We’ve been partnering with the school for the past couple years for different programs and needs and now we’re looking to take a deeper step into the community.

While I was there this morning, I walked by a dad carrying a violin with the “my kid forget this again” look, which I’ve had on many times.  We stopped for a moment, laughed about it and then he asked me what I was doing over there.  

I explained I was the pastor at St. Paul’s and that our new venture to help people with hunger and food insecurity issues in and around the church led us to buy a food truck to help out.  

Then he asked this profoundly simple question: “Why would you do that?”

I paused (which is rare) and then went into the whole back story of the WNY Impact Foundation buying the truck and a team of awesome, talented people planning the mission and our partnership with St. Paul’s and the incredible church community to help with these efforts cooking, volunteering, and serving….

And as I was babbling on, he put his non-voilin hand on my shoulder, looked straight into my soul and said: “No, WHY are you doing this?”

And I could barely stammer out: “Because I think it’s what Jesus would do and wants us to do.”

After that phrase came out of my mouth, the silence seemed prolonged and deafening.  Then he took his arm off my shoulder,  and silently held out his hand waiting for me to shake it.  And as I did, he just said this:  “Thank you”

And that was all he needed to say.

Two simple words that affirmed being on the right path…not necessarily having all the answers, details or directions, but at least knowing you are stepping into God’s plan.

I believe even more strongly today that Jesus said those words to us….whatever you do for the….because he knew we would encounter them and we would also be them.  All of us.  Being and serving the hungry.  All of us.  Being and serving the meek, the sick, the lost, the lonely, the left behind.

Today, may you hear the words Thank You from another.  And when you hear them, may you know that your ministry is unfolding right there before you in that moment.  And for those many times we don’t hear those words as we try over and over again, may you hear them from Jesus himself, thanking you for living into your future with him.  

Lord, send me to them.  And send them to me  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————-

May 11, 2016

5-4-16 God Keeps Promises

 

 

 

 

 

If you are reading this, there is a chance you have been to or go to church of some sort.  Doesn’t matter the denomination or site or dogma.  Doesn’t matter if it’s at a camp, in a regular building, at a movie theater, bar or fire hall.

In all these places, backgrounds and styles, if I ask “church people” where they see the Spirit of God at work, more often than not, the answer revolves around their faith community.  “I see God at my church when we…”  “I experience the Holy Spirit while we sing in….”  We often highlight the “we” and often neglect the “me.”

And yet, it is the “me” and the “you” that God sent his Holy Spirit to as described in the book of Acts.  (Read Acts 2)  The Holy Spirit descending on individuals, fire in tongues, dancing on and in souls, changing individual lives.

That’s what God promised.  To stay with you.  To find you.  To come to you.  The community of believers builds up around that amazing presence and celebrates it, but it’s not the only place and way that God’s Spirit moves and breathes.  That Spirit thrives in you.  That Spirit has come for you.

So my hope and prayer today is two-fold:

1.  Let yourself start to see God in and around you.  Just you.  Your life.  Your vocation.  Your family.  Your activity.  Your healing.  Your brokeness.  Your yearning.  Your love.  Because that is how God entered, for you.

2.  If you happened to have tripped over this devotion, and you are not part of church or a faith community and you didn’t think any of this was going to apply to you but yet for some strange reason you continued reading….guess what?  This same God comes for, gives to, falls on, picks up, heals and love you too.  Just for being you.

Where do you see God’s Spirit alive and at work?

You.

Lord, thank you for coming for and to me.  Help me see me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————————–

May 4, 2016

5-4-16 God Keeps Promises

 

 

 

 

(I shared this with our local students in WNY today…)

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49

Wherever you are right now, wherever you are reading this, whatever you are preparing for or finishing up: tests, papers, transitions, worries about the next, relationships that are struggling…all of it…you have a God that fulfills the promise to be with you.

You are not alone.  Promise!

Jesus said those words to his disciples when he was hitting the road from earth and reconnecting with his Father in heaven.  So he reminded them of God’s promise – to always be with them – and sends (clothes) them with the Holy Spirit.

That promise goes to you too!  In your relationship with God, wherever it is, that promise is given and fulfilled.  Have you ever had a friend or family member break a promise?  Hurts right?  Not God…God only fulfills.

So maybe you’re feeling empty right now from exhaustion from school, studying or just too many things that need to get done.  Right now, be refilled!  Be refilled with God’s promise to clothe you in his love and presence wherever you are and whatever you face.  

God always fulfills!  That’s a promise.

Lord, refill me with that promise to face the day and the challenges before me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

ps

—————————————————————–

April 27, 2016

4-28-16 sunrise beach

 

 

 

 

“My peace I leave with you…my peace I give to you.” – Jesus

Do you have that “happy place?”  That place where you go to retreat, get away, find sabbath or quiet?

Or maybe it’s a thing you do…work out, go for a run, take a nap, walk the dog, read a book or have a cold beer.  

Or maybe it’s a thing you use…cross necklace, rosary, lucky rabbit’s foot, security blanket.

What is it…where is it…how is it…that you find peace?

The older I get and the more of life I experience the more certain I am that we are designed to be at peace.  Except much of our lives calls us away from that.  So, Jesus reminds us in Scripture today that peace is a gift from God…given to us…as a part of our spiritual DNA, our operating platform and our baseline.

If you’re like me though, you mess it up and get it backwards – you try and cram a bit of peace into the chaos instead of how God intended it for us – start from that peace and walk into the chaotic moments.

When we start our day, our moments, our movement from a place of peace, we sense the gift of the Holy Spirit first.  That’s the design.  Too often, once I’m need deep in drama and chaos, I reach our reactively for a deeper connection to God’s Holy Spirit to “rescue” me.  Ever prayed that prayer?  

What if your decisions today started with proactive peace?  What is your conversations that might involve tension began at a baseline of peace?  What if your prayers and centering today brought you first to the One who is already next to you rather than groping for an EMS-like Savior to pull you from the quick sand?

Whatever that reminder is for you today….your run, your blanket, your cross, your rest…may you hear through it the voice of the One who invites you into your peace-filled beginning as He walks right next to you on the journey.

Lord, today I am in peace.  Thanks for that gift.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps

————————————————————————–

April 20, 2016

4-20-16 Three Boys

 

 

 

 

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – Jesus, in John’s gospel.

Sounds simple.  But seems to be a challenge for many sometimes.  

I was in Haiti last week with a team of people to look at beginning the phase of adding a medical clinic to our current school, church and orphanage.  And one of the things that always seems a little easier to notice in Haiti….is love.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m looking harder, more open to it or maybe because it just happens more often?  Maybe it’s because I don’t watch political campaigns down there or news about terrorism?  Not sure.  But I notice.

One day last week on a walk back from our late afternoon swim in the Caribbean with the village children, we made the trek up the hill back to the school.  The journey winds over paths that twist and turn, around bushes, crops, houses and animals.  Usually as I walk, I love every surprise around the next corner.  Most of the time that is because around one of those corners last week was an enormous bull.  With horns.  That were angry.  And eyes.  That weren’t filled with love.  And he was chilling out in the hot afternoon sun…right on the path.  

We stopped with all the children, their voices and creole chatter rising in volume and nervousness.  But one of the boys, Andley who is about 9 and 52 pounds soaking wet, motioned for our whole group to calmly move off the path and walk around the bull.  While we adjusted, he simply picked up a rock, walked towards the bull, and stood there poised to back the angry animal off, David and Goliath style, while we all walked safely around.

Once past, on our way we went.  Andley dropped the rock and caught up to the group once the last person had moved safely by.

I thought to myself: I think that’s what Jesus would have done.  And many times, I think that’s what Jesus did… from a cross… and does… through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the invitation for us to love one another.

Love.  In action.  I don’t know what it will look like for you today.  But I hope you will notice.  I hope you clearly see another, maybe one standing in harms way for you, loving you.  Or maybe you will be that one, picking up a shield of protection for another?

But either way, may the things that get in the way of those visions becoming real and present moments melt away.  May the distractions to seeing them unfold disappear.  And may the road blocks that keep you from walking in Andley’s shoes for another be silent in the calm invitation from Jesus to simply love one another.

Lord, help me notice the love and share it with the world.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps

——————————————–

April 14, 2016

4-14-16 Pay forward

 

 

 

 

I wanted to share a great story.  This came from a member of St. Paul’s as a follow up to a Pay God’s Grace Forward Sunday a few weeks back (we gave each person a gift card or $5 bill to take and share with someone in need).

Hi Steve.  Tim and I wanted to share this with you.  It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do with the gift cards we picked up out of the baskets at church several weeks ago when you had them.  I took a Walmart one, Tim took a Tops one.  We finally decided on Friday night to send them anonymously to a man I used to work with a few years ago.  He has gone through many struggles, including being homeless and many medical issues.  He is now fully disabled due to issues with his legs.  Through everything he has gone through, he has always kept a smile on his face, kindness in his heart and has never lost his faith in God.  He does not have much material-wise, but will always try to help anybody he can however he can.  He received the card we mailed on Monday, and here is what he posted on FaceBook.

“I am sitting here in awe!!!  I got a card in the mail today with no return address.  I opened it up and the card read: May your day be filled with sunshine and flowers.  The inside has a handwritten note: May your day be filled with grace and smiles.  There was also a Walmart and Tops gift card.  I have no idea of who thought of me so kindly to do this for me.  I was not having a good day until now!!!  I thank you so much!  Whoever did this has my prayer for God to look over you and bless you. – Vernon”

Sometimes we forget how much a simple gesture can affect someone else’s day.  I knew he would be grateful, but his comment actually brought tears to my eyes.  After seeing this, it not only obviously made Vernon’s day, it also made mine and Tim’s to be able to Pay It Forward.  Thank you to you and to St. Paul’s. 

Kim & Tim Stanley

God’s grace received.  And God’s grace poured out.  As my friend Leon in Haiti says: If you believe in Jesus, do something about it!  Thanks to Kim for the reminder that even a simple gesture as a response to God’s grace can have an incredible impact on God’s kingdom around us.

Lord, help me do something about it.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps

————————————————————————

March 30, 2016

3-30-16 How

 

 

 

 

How?

I was out on a long run before Easter to work on my Easter sermons and allow the assigned texts to seep in and see what was striking in them.  What I found in Luke’s version of the story was the overwhelming overwhelm on the part of the disciples: the women who went to the tomb and his closest followers.  The very ones that heard his promise the most!  How did this happen?  How would they move on?  How would they see him again?

And no joke, the song “How?” by Regina Spektor came over my earphones.  Weirdest timing.  I listened to it a few times over a couple miles as I ran in the awesome sunshine and was struck how much her story and song could have been sung by a female disciple about Jesus.  It’s a story about lost love and searching for the “what next” and trusting that there will be a “how” of reconnecting at some point.  You can listen to the song here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7mBfW-CdgLE 

Now obviously I realize that she wasn’t writing the song about “how” she was missing Jesus, but it sounded eerily familiar to what the disciples could have been feeling.  My guess is that many of you have lost someone, maybe someone you loved very deeply, and wondering how you would meet again or when that amazing time would come….hoping that what you once experienced could be experience again…somehow.

I believe that Thomas, one of Jesus disciples, might have been feeling that way too.  So when someone told him Jesus was alive, it’s no wonder that he said, “Won’t believe it until I see it.”  So Jesus shows him.  How.  Touch my side.  Feel my hands.  This is How.

Sometimes for us, it’s not that simple.  But I believe that our “how” with the people we have loved and lost revolves around connection through faith, amazing love, dwelling in the stories and knowing that the power of resurrection is bigger than just our entrance into eternal life.  Resurrection is also for the now.  Helping us know that if God can conquer death itself, God can walk with us through the sadness, grief and loss we might feel right now.

I like Thomas a lot.  He’s real with his doubts and grief.  But I also like Jesus, who doesn’t want him to stay there too long.  He wants him and us to know that the gift of faith and love can bridge the gap when we can’t see or touch.  Faith in resurrecting power and in those eternal, never wavering connections can be God’s How.  For Thomas.

For for us.

Lord, help us know how.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps

————————————————————–

March 9, 2016

3-9-16 Sprouts

 

 

 

 

Happy last day of Biegner Winter!!  God is about to do a new thing!

“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43

100 days of Biegner Winter are now in the books and in WNY we scheduled at 65 degree day to cap it off.  You’re welcome!

Actually, we just keep track of 100 winter days just to remind ourselves that spring, warmth, growing grass, flowers, leaves, birds, etc are coming again.  While this winter was pretty easy going, sometimes we really need to remind ourselves throughout the harsh, cold, blustery days that this is not our “always reality.”

And in celebrating the end of our made up winter schedule, we essentially name the fact that God is about to do a new thing.

Some of our “winters” in life (sickness, transitions, grieving a loss, tough diagnoses, struggling kids, and more) seem like they last more than 100 days.  Maybe you’re in one now?  Well this is why Isaiah is reminding those back then, and us now, God is about to do a new thing.  The storied history of God interacting with this world is full of story after story of God’s creative plan and Spirit lifting us through, recreating, redefining and reimagining the toughest, worst, sickest, and desolate situations.  They weren’t all easy solutions.  They weren’t all cures, Disney endings and Osteen-like “if you just pray hard enough God will bless you with riches” stories.  But as we look back through all of salvation history (which is a super long time), God continued to do new things.

And that promise continues today!  That God is active today.  That Savior went to a cross to conquer even death itself.  That Spirit stayed with and in us to be present through the winters we might be facing today.

“Winter” is over.  Even if you are in it right now!  It’s grip can be.  The God of past, present and future new growth is promising you again: “I am about to do a new thing!”

Lord, please do it again!!  Make the winters of life new again.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps

Side note: If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of connecting in prayer.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.

—————————————————————————–

March 2, 2016

3-3-16 School

 

 

 

 

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
 I will deliver him and honor him.
    With long life I will satisfy him
         and show him my salvation.” – Psalm 91

Today, I want to simply invite you into a time of prayer.  A time to create space within or away from the demands of now and today.  A place for you to connect and reconnect to the God this Psalm writer is telling us about.

Today, I will be joining with people at St. Paul’s around 12:30pm and praying for our schools.  Your schools.  If you are reading this, I’d invite you to join me in praying for:

…Our Preschools, Elementary, Middle and High Schools, those local to your area, where your kids attend or the one you went to yourself.

…Their students, staff, teachers and administration.

…Our local WNY colleges and universities, or the one you attended if not in WNY.

…Their students, staff, professors and administration.

…Our ELCA seminaries that work to train future leaders of the Church and for the world.

…Their students, staff, professors and administration.

Lord, bless all that we have named.  Thank you their ministry to the world.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps
 
Side note: If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of connecting in prayer.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.

—————————————————————–

February 24, 2016

2-24-16 hay

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “ Luke 13:6-9

We need more manure!  (like Cowbell, but different)

How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolution?  Can you even remember what one you made?  How are you doing on your Lenten discipline…adding something, giving something up…still going?  How’s that new workout routine going?  That life-style change diet?

In general, our acts of renewal don’t last very long.  Days…maybe weeks…maybe even a few months…but three years?  Ha!  Hardly ever, right?

And yet, how would we feel if someone walked by us while we were trying to change, grow and bloom and said “They quit…again…they aren’t bearing any fruit…again.  Cut them down!”

For the amount of times I’ve said that I’m going to do this, that or the other or stop doing A, B or C and quit on it, I probably DESERVE to be cut down.  

But not in God’s eyes.  I just need more manure.

See God’s take on our shortcomings, our falling short and our giving up, is to do more…the most.  God says in those moments: You need more manure.  I believe that God looks at our lack of fruit and says “When will they fully understand that they are capable of almost anything, powerful beyond measure and have the potential to change themselves and the world around them?”  Three years isn’t enough in the parable.  Maybe we need more time too?

So God gives more time.  Let’s add some manure.  Let’s change the soil, bless it with nutrients, aerate with oxygen and let life giving and inspiring sunshine pour over it.  And give it more time.

It’s as if God says, what I’ve done in the past isn’t quite enough I guess, let me give them my Son.  Let me die for them.  Let me take on all their sin.  

Let me.  So they can.

I can.

Today is about more time.  More manure.  Another opportunity.  A second chance.  A new effort.  A fresh start.  Which all come from the One who said “Don’t cut them down.  There’s still hope for this one.  Give them more time.”

We need more manure.

Lord, thank you for more time.  Help me to use it wisely.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps
 
Side note:  If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of slowing down.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.

—————————————————————–

February 17, 2016
2-17-16 Station 7

 

 

 
Who is God to you?

One of the Stations of Prayer I just added today is called “Who is God to you?”  The table is covered with a few objects that might hold descriptive properties as to how you relate to and see God in your dailiness.  

Hazard Cones – a God that keeps us away from the hazards of life.  Writing Implements – a God who helps write the direction of our life.  Paper Towels – a God who helps clean up the messes of life.  And there are few more.

Then people are invited to find some other object in church that describes that relationship and add it to the table and write it on the list.

I want to invite you to be a part of that: for yourself, for your family and for the community here at St. Paul’s.  What object would you add?  And why does it represent that relationship.  Do this as a family at dinner tonight.  Bring the objects to the table and have each person share the background as to why they chose that one.  Then pray in thanksgiving for a God who comes to us in so many and various ways.

For the online community, add it to the St. Paul’s Facebook page.  Take a picture if you can.  Or just add the object and description to the comment flow.  

Today, mine would be a Hand Print.  One my wall in the office hangs a piece of paper with the Sunday School kids hand prints on it.  With a simple thank you.  God’s handprint is on me and I have the opportunity to put that same handprint on others.  I’m thankful for that responsibility.

What’s your object?  Pick one out and reflect on it on your own, as a family or share it online.

And together we will be praying to a God who reaches out to us in many and various ways.

Lord, thanks for the hand print and all the ways you connect to us.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps
 
Side note:  If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of slowing down.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.

—————————————————————————————

February 11, 2016

2-10-16 Station 9

 

 

 

 

“Pick up the pace!”  “Push!”  “Keep going!”

As a runner, you hear these phrases a lot, say them to yourself and sometimes people even yell them out the window of their car as they drive by.  

Faster.  Longer.  Better.

Many times it’s helpful.  You do keep going.  You do speed up.  You set a new personal record.  But sometimes when you push too hard…for too long…you get injured.

I’m working with a new physical therapist, who is also the lead running guru for this year’s Buffalo marathon.  Here was his advice to me: “Slow down!”  “But Steve (that’s his name too), I want to get faster and get under 3:30 this year.  So I need to speed up in my training, right?”

“Wrong, slow down.”  He believes strongly that by slowing down, you will be able to speed up later when you need to.  By not beating your muscles up so badly in training, when it comes time to race, you actually have something left to push when you need to.  (And considering he dropped his marathon time from 4:05 to 2:10 in five years….I’m going to listen)

Awkward transition…..

Welcome to Lent.  Where God says “Slow down.”  

Spiritually we are in “training” as well on a daily basis in our lives.  Everything in the world says speed up, so we do.  And when we push too hard for too long, we get injured, or we injure someone else.  

So in Lent, Jesus says “Slow down.”  

Reflect.  Recenter.  Recharge.  Return to God’s loving relationship with you.  Repent.

Slow down in your training to allow yourself the build your spiritual base back up.  Then when it’s time to run the race, you’ll be ready.

“Let us run the race that God has put before us with endurance.”   Hebrews 12:1

Use this season of Lent to slow down and return to the spiritual training patterns that are healthier for you and therefore healthier for the world around you.  This way, when the race gets the toughest, you’ll be able to pick up the pace at just the right time.

Lord, help me slow down and listen to you as my trainer.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps
 
Sidenote: If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of slowing down.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open

————————————————————————————————

 

February 3, 2016

2-3-16 Like Christ

 

 

 

 

Sometimes you find things on social media that are actually worth watching.  Take a look at the following clip that Michelle brought to my attention last week:

http://damnbored.tv/basketball-player-yells-opponent-crowd-erupt/

Wiping tears from eyes….)

How great is that kid?  And how great an impact have his parents, coaches, and role models had on him?

Years ago when my kids played in an Upward Basketball league at the Clarence Church of Christ, as the coach, I got to give out the “Christ-like Player” award at the end of each game.  This is very different from the “everybody who has a pulse and plays gets a trophy” philosophy.  The Christ-like player is the one on the court that shares, gives up for others, passes, stands up for teammates, bring joy and more.  I know parents were always proud when their kid received this award.

I hope the parents of this kid in the video were proud of him.  He modeled Christ.

As we catapult ourselves into Lent next week (you’ll recognize it when your co-worker has ashes on their forehead or if you’re like me, just a blotch of dirt because I forget the cross is there and smear it by wiping my forehead), we see the Christ-like Christ.  The Original One.  The one that stands on the sidelines and finds the least, little, lost, lonely and left behind and gives them the ball.  And his ball…is life.

He did it once on a cross.  He does it now through us.

From the sidelines.  From the kitchen table.  From the classroom.  From the court.  From the driver’s seat.  From the doctor’s office.  From the hard conversation.

Lent is an opportunity to refocus ourselves on being the Christ-like Players.  A new change to reformat our shape around the shape of a cross that reaches from the center to the outsides.  That center is where the beams cross: one beam is the action of God’s time (vertical) and the other beam is our time (horizontal).  And in that crosspoint is the Christ-like player himself.  Giving his life for ours.

May your movement into Lent be your movement into this shape.  May those changes and reformations in your own life help you to see all the players on the floor intersecting with your potential to be an agent of God’s love, grace, hope and compassion.  And in doing so, may we all win the game.

Lord, help me be a Christ-like player.  Amen

Still in One Peace
ps

Side note: If you have kids or are just looking to volunteer some time, the Upward Basketball program is fantastic!  Please consider being a part of it.  The people and program at Clarence Church of Christ, led by Pastor Mike Bowers, have been incredible assets in the lives of so many kids in the Clarence area.  I’m very thankful for all of them!
—————————————————–

January 27, 2016

1-27-16 Prison

 

 

 

 

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery..” – Galations 5.

I know that most of you reading this are not currently in jail…at least, I hope this is the case.  Otherwise, it’s been a few crazy days since I saw many of you this past Sunday!!

But, we don’t often run into times where we find ourselves “imprisoned” in other ways?  Not with bars, but many other things that end up holding us back, and in and down.

For me, I feel a type of imprisonment when I am not in control…of my schedule especially.  So my recent visit to jury duty last week included a stressful week of build up, wondering how long my schedule would be “out of my control.”  I found myself grumpy and stressed over the thought of having to do my usual duties for multiple jobs and responsibilities with a decreased amount of time.  And then, when after days of being sequestered (it was actually only 1:30pm the first day…4.5 total hours) and the attorney said “You’re dismissed,” I felt a rush of relief and joy come over my type-A, control-freak self.

And yet as I reflected back on the many times I’ve been “imprisoned” like that, or during sicknesses, or family struggles, or because of unforeseen demands, God just responds, acts, heals, and brings resolutions without me.  It always gets done.  God always wins.

I know that Jesus died for our eternal salvation.  I get it and it’s awesome.  But isn’t it nice that he also came into the dailyness of life and still shows up today, so that freedom from imprisonment isn’t just a thing I have to wait for until I die?  

Freedom happens now.  I am free.  And the only bonds that are left on me are the ones I place there and let stay there.  

Freedom through Christ isn’t just for my Sunday morning church experience.  It’s for my jury duty stress.  It’s for the time when I hear about so many friends and loved ones that have cancer or illness very present in their lives.  It’s for the time I watch the news with the kids and see acts of terror unfolding.  It’s for the times when I can’t seem to figure it out, don’t know what to do, can’t see the way out and don’t know the next step.  Even those bonds get broken!  Because that’s right where Jesus is.  Freeing me.

May your jury duty moments be short.  May the freedom that Christ brings and offers help release you from those bonds and stressors in eternal life and in the dailyness of life.  And may you  know that whatever you are facing and feeling trapped by today, that is exactly where Jesus is!

Lord, help me live out freedom! Amen  

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————

January 20, 2016

1-20-16 MLK

 

 

 

 

“It is always the right time to do the right thing.” – MLK Jr.

Most of the time in my Devo’s, I start with a Jesus quote at the top.  I’m not trying to make Martin Luther King Jr. into the Savior, but I have to believe that Jesus would have agreed with his thoughts here.

In fact, I have to believe that Jesus would have agree with most of his other thoughts as well: dreaming of equality, turning the other cheek, standing up for the beaten down and searching to be light in the darkness.

I hope that this past Monday was more for you than just a day off or a time when you didn’t need to go to the mailbox to pick anything up.  I hope you paused, for even a moment, to remind yourself what MLK reminds us: do the right thing.

When?  Now.  What?  Whatever!  Who?  Yes, with them.  

If you came to St. Paul’s Sunday and walked out with money or a gift card or a note card, hopefully you’ve already engaged that tool.  But now that you might be reading this on Wednesday or later, we’ve had at least three whole days where potential opportunities have been on our radar.

The neighbor who needed their driveway shoveled.  The friend whose family member is in the hospital.  The shut-in church family member who is feeling isolated.  The kid in your house that might need some extra time.  The parent who could use an extra phone call.  The spouse that deserves that apology.

Now is the right time to do the right thing.

The chance are around us all day every day.  Each day, may you start it off knowing that you are already loved, forgiven and poured over with grace.  May that gift from God through Jesus Christ motivate you to know that this is the right time to do the right thing.

Lord, help me see the times and respond!  Amen

Still in One Peace,

ps

——————————————————–

January 6, 2015

1-6-15 Richard Rohr

 

 

 

 

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” – John 1:14

Why did God become flesh?  Why did the whole Jesus story happen?  Could God not have done all this salvation stuff through ghosts, angels or palm readings?  Maybe.

But that’s not how it happened.  The Word became flesh.  And “flesh” would never be the same again.

There’s intimate relationship between our humanity and our spirituality.  Too often (especially as Westerners and for me, especially a mainline protestant worshipper), we parse those things out, separating them into different times, sections and experiences of life.  We move heart, soul, mind and body into quadrants that don’t get a chance to touch enough.

We have a tendoncy to be more comfortable with compartmentalization rather than transformation.

This is why I really appreciated Richard Rohr’s reminder today that Jesus came to transform and reform, not to break us apart into compartments and departments. 

“Belonging and believing” is not a bad thing for sure.  However, without transformation that experiences love and let’s that love form and mold us into the needs and hopes of the world, it’s probably closer to a cult or a club.  

THIS is why Jesus came.  To make the love of God into humanity and bring humanity into the God of love.

How can we reflect that transformation today?  How does that intersection and interconnection allow us to fuse our parts and pieces of “self” into the whole of the needs around us, the God around us and the community around us.  

How can the news that Jesus already did it allow us to transform our flesh into the very Word of God itself?

Lord, help me to be transformed!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————

December 30, 2015

12-30-15 Baptismal font

 

 

 

“And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” – John 1:14

Ever open your eyes under water?  For many people, it’s tough to do.  If you wear contacts, have high prescription glasses or are sensitive to salt or chlorine, it’s probably not high on your to-do list.  It can sting, irritate or cause your contact lens to float away.  

What about opening your eyes and looking through baptismal waters?  Ever done that?  My guess is you have: on those days you go to church and someone’s child is being baptized or on Easter Sunday while singing “Christ Is Risen!” or Christmas Eve as you hold a candle and sing “Silent Night.”  At those times, it’s easy to see the world and life through those watery times.

What about Thursday?  Or Friday?  A regular one.  Without the songs and the candles and lilies.  Can you look through the waters then or does life just feel like it stings?

The Word became flesh for days such as these!  God came into the world so that especially on the tougher days, we could still see the kingdom of God broken in and broken for us.  We could still look through the waters, without the sting of death or pain or loss or dysfunction or loneliness winning out.  And instead seeing through those waters the blessings pouring over us.

I’ve started writing in cards to people: “May God’s blessings pour over you and may they be really easy to see.”  We know that God’s blessings are there.  They just get blocked out by other stuff, poor vision and lost contacts sometimes.  

Today, for you, as you transition into the new year, may the blessings be really easy to see!  May the waters of your own baptism be the lens that clarifies those blessings.  May the sting and irritation of other sight lines wash away.  And may your steps into the New Year be blessed by the Word…made flesh!

Lord, thanks for your vision!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————————————————–

December 15, 2015

12-15-15 dentist

 

 

 

“Prepare the Way of the Lord….make his paths straight!” – John the Baptist elaborating on the prep work

I just had my teeth cleaned.  And I am a horrible patient.  Not because of my time in the chair or just because I start to floss one week before I go see my dentist….mainly because of the five minutes after I leave the office….when I drive directly from his parking lot to the Dunkin Donuts drive thru across the street.

At the end of my cleaning, I usually stand right up and say: “Thanks Doc!  That feels great.  Now I gotta go get some coffee!”

What a jerk head thing to say.  The hygienist and dentist work on my teeth for almost an hour, helping correct the damage I’ve done to them over the last six months and I tell them I want to immediately recover my teeth with caffinated black paint.

How would I feel if people came to church on Sunday morning and as they said goodbye, shook my hand and said: “Thanks Pastor Steve, that was great.  Now I’m going to go home and kick the dog.”  Or: “Nice sermon Steve, I’m going right to rob a bank.”  Or: “Thanks for that blessing and reminder of God’s forgiveness.  I’m heading over to a family gathering where I’m going to hold some grudges and stir up some unnecessary drama!”

It’s about the same as my light speed movement to more coffee.  

Making our paths straight, as John invites us into, is not about a quick fix or a momentary departure from a bad habit.  It’s about a lifestyle change, a longterm attitude adjustment and a walk into the new and discomfort that might just be the presence of tangible grace.  It’s about removing barriers long term.

When my teeth get cleaned, they feel sort of raw…naked.  My gut reaction is to back track and re-cover, going back to old habits and comfort zones.  John invites us into different sort of responses: standing in the new, embracing  that discomfort, re-covering our forgiven souls with grace filled movements and living out this Christmas joy for longer than an hour.

May your Advent prep actual prepare you for good news that is lasting.  And may that good news inspire you to not run toward your caffeinated black paint equivalent.  

Lord, help me to prepare the Way…and help it to last!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

 

———————————————————–

December 9, 2015

12-7-15 cups

 

 

 

 

 

Prepare the Way of the Lord!” – John the Baptist, STILL yelling from the wilderness

How is your prep going?  Sometimes it’s not as hard as you might think and may just come out of one word.

Hope.  Presence.  Peace.  Vision.  Breathe.  Patience.

These are just some of the words that people sent me, which they wrote on their cups for this week.  In Sunday’s worship, everyone took a red cup, wrote one simple word on it that could help them truly prepare the way and, after returning home, placed that cup in some place they would see it consistently.  

We reflected on Starbuck’s “removal of Christmas messages” from their coffee cups: snowflakes, mistletoe, and greens.  Yes, the true symbols of God’s incarnate presence in the world to redeem and save it.  Or maybe not.  

John is asking us to still prepare….the right way.  So maybe we needed to write new words, new symbols, faith-moment inspiring images back on our coffee cups?  And instead of heading out into the wilderness to be distraction free (which we know will never happen in our Decembers), maybe we should place that cup right in the middle of all the lists, noise and stresses to help remind us to prepare.

12-9-15 cup on dash

 

 

 

 

Kitchen counters.  Office desks.  Home side table.  Car dash boards.

12-9-15 cup on counter

 

 

 

 

 

People have been sending me pictures of how they are preparing, where they need to see it the most and what they are centering their advent preparations around.  Where is your place you need to hear John’s voice the most?  What is the word, phrase or image that should be written on your cup?

Mine for this week is “Breathe.”  With every breathe of life that flows through me, as I center on that and pay attention to the moment of life I am currently in, I remind myself that this is what God cares about!  That very moment of my life is what God came into this world to celebrate and save.

Feel free to send me a picture of your cup, your word, your place.  And may those spaces, times and images be reminders to prepare for a present and coming again God who loves you very much!

Lord, help me to prepare the Way!  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————–

November 18, 2015

11-18-15 Tying Tie

 

 

 

 

 

It appears that I am officially obsolete as a father.

Drew runs for the Clarence Varsity Cross Country Team. Their banquet was Tuesday night.  So to get ready for it, he went upstairs Monday night to get some nicer clothes and a tie ready for school and formal banquet.   Up to this point, I would tie his ties for him and then he would slip them over his head and tighten them up.  

But Monday night was different.  Instead of wanting me to finally teach him, Drew went upstairs and taught himself how to tie a tie through a YouTube video. Then, to make matters worse, Tuesday morning on his way out the door for school, he put on my dress shoes, claimed them as his own and walked out of the house and went to school.

When I said goodbye to him at the door on his way out, I said: “Dude, those are my shoes!”  His response: “Not today.”  So much for going out together and buying him a nice pair of shoes.

It was a laughable moment, but as a dad, you walk away from moments like that and wonder “what’s the next thing he’s not going to need me for?”

The list will be vast and growing larger as the days move on and he jets at warp speed through high school and moves on to college.  But I do know, and he knows as well, when he hits those “untie able” ties and “shoeless” moments, I’ll still be there for him.

I think about my own relationship with God when parenting my awesome and seemingly already completely self-sufficient kids.  How many times have I subconsciously said through my actions, hasty movements and decisions: “I got this God.  No need to teach me.”  And how many times has God been thinking: “That tie could be done better Steve” and “How about I send you in shoes of your own, blessed…paid for…by me?”

I know my list of things I’ve blown through God’s presence and guidance on is vast and long.  Maybe yours is too.

But as I continue to read Scripture about Jesus inviting us to always call on him, the Holy Spirit promising his presence with me and an image of a loving Father in my life to forgive and re-create me, I know I am never alone…even as I stubbornly, self-sufficiently try to do it on my own sometimes.  

While I do it…while I blow past God and walk out the door on the way to school, I can almost hear him say: “When you need me, call on me  I’ll be there.”

Lord, thanks for being patient with me and staying with me through it all.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

 

————————————————-

November 11, 2015

11-11-15 Silhouettes

 

 

 

 

 

“….whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” – Jesus

It’s amazing to think about today, on Veteran’s Day, that so many people fought for ME so many years ago.  And still do today.  And I didn’t know any of them.

I dare say that there isn’t a single person going to an Army enlisting office today and signing up and saying: “I’m doing this for Steve Biegner!”

But, in a sense, they are.  And did.  

We’ve been spending a lot of time at St. Paul’s the past couple weeks reflecting on an Everyday Faith.  Jesus’ calls us to live out faith out everyday.  At our leadership meeting last night, we shared stories of people who were important “faith-sharers” along our journey: parents, teachers, Sunday School teachers, grandparents, pastors and more.   They lived grace, love, forgiveness and hope and modeled it and shared it with us.

But they knew us!  So there was a certain investment in us.

I’m thankful today for those who are serving and have served that possess that same investment. Without knowing me.  Not just in a generic country, but in a home, a place of freedom, an ideal and a lifestyle.  It’s their daily faith in that which allows us to worship, to play, to relax, to laugh, to watch the Bills beat the Jets and more daily shenanigans that so many in the rest of the world don’t enjoy.  

Thank you today to those who have served and continue to serve!  Thank you for doing that on behalf of “the least of these” like me.  May God bless you for the faith you share, the expressions of faith that come from that freedom and for your safety as you serve.

Lord, thank you for all who serve on behalf of the least of these.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————–

November 3, 2015

11-3-15 Coins

 

 

 

 

 


“…but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” – Jesus’ reaction in Matthew’s 12th chapter about the widow that put her two small copper coins into the offering

She gave everything she had.

I’m struck again by this story about the poor widow putting in a huge offering in proportion to what she actually possessed.
And what strikes me is that this has less to do with money and WAY more to do with an active and daily faith.

It’s not just about Sunday.  If it were, there’s no way she would make that sacrifice for the rest of the week to clearly do without funding for the remainder of life’s “needs.”

All she seems to need is her relationship with God and living into and out of that alone.  

What a great example she is for me today.  And maybe for you too?  Many churches like St. Paul’s spend time in worship focusing on the sharing of our blessings through our offerings to the church.  But faithful giving is so much more than that!  

We had many visitors in church this past weekend and it was as important for them to hear and be reminded of as it was for the consistent frequent flyers of St. Paul’s.  We are all blessed!  How will you live out sharing those blessings?  Members of churches…how will you live it out?  Members of country clubs…how will you live it out?  Members of schools…how will you live it out?  Members of fire halls…how will you live it out?  Members of families…how will you live it out?

The widow is a great example because she’s not some priest or church leader or even Jesus.  She just a child of God at an especially tough place in the world and she relies on God and lives out amazing faith.

How will I live out my faith today?

How will you?

Lord, help me to live out faith.  Every.  Day.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————–

October 28, 2015

10-28-15 Reformation

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think we might just need another Reformation.

There was a clear need when the Protestant Reformation occurred behind the leadership, voice and presence of Martin Luther in the early 1500’s.  The culture and church were dominated by guilt, misinformation, human standards over God’s standards and a lack of both understanding and living into the gift of grace.

Maybe we need another Reformation?  If only for the people that are outside of a church community and won’t return due to the fact that they are still seeing these same things happen within some aspects of our Christian Church right now.

This past Sunday during the Reformation Bowl (this was our fundraiser for Lutheran Charities that included a televised Bills game at church, extra worship time, pig roast and tailgate party), one of our local media outlets stopped by and did a quick interview which ran that evening.  Like any news outlet, they told only part of the story and shared the story through the lens they wanted to use.  Fine, whatever.  That’s just how it happens.  They titled the clip: “Keg in church: Local Church comes together to watch Bills game”.

But once the piece went online, Holy Social Media Comments Batman!  It was a mix of positive supporting comments and negative as well.  As you can imagine, most negative comments and people only focused on the fact that a church had a keg in it.  They chose to ignore the extra worship time, the fundraising, the chance to meet culture where it was and the community time that was created.

I’m fine with all that.  As a public figure (usually spending more time outside the walls of church than inside) I don’t mind the negative comments.  What bothered me more were comments like this:

“This is why I stopped coming to church.  All of you ‘church people’ who are so judgmental.”

“Why are you quoting one or two verses of Scripture just to defend your own point?  You are twisting everything.”

“How can you be so negative toward a church trying to make people’s lives better.  THIS is why I don’t go to church!”

And the comments like that went on and on and on.

What bothered me most is that many churches and parts of our culture are still bogged down in the works righteousness, judgmental and divisive tones that Luther posted his theses about in the first place.  We’ve lost grace again!!!!  It’s not one person or a bunch of edicts that are the problem this time.  It’s a lost sense of acceptance of others, love as a first response and finding points of unity rather than difference.

And people who aren’t in churches are noticing.  And through their lack of presence, they are responding to it.

I think we need to reclaim the Reformation.  Reclaim the knowledge and understanding that we are saved by grace through faith.  Faith in a God who already did the heavy lifting.  Faith to trust that the gift of grace is enough.  Faith to let God judge, lead and convict.  Faith that grace can be an operational structure from which to live.

It can.  It really can.  And can be the motivational strength by which and from which we interact with the world around us.  In community.  Online.  On the road.  In school.  At work.  And maybe even at church.

“While I enjoyed a beer with my friend Philip Melanchthon at the Pub, a Reformation took place.” – Martin Luther

Maybe we need to lead another one?

Lord, help me to live out life today motivated by God’s grace.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————-

October 13, 2015

10-13-15 Ref Bowl Ticket

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above picture has a bunch of nothing to do with Devo’s today.  But tickets are available and limited for the worship, tailgate and game on the 25th.  Email the church or steve@nullstpaulseggertsville.org and we’ll set aside some for you.
 ——-
 I can’t say things better than Father Richard Rohr this morning as he reflects on consciously living into our faith.  Enjoy!

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. 
 
That is the meaning of divine service, of the service which man can render to God, that light may emerge from the darkness, that the Creator may become conscious of His creation, and man conscious of himself.”

–C. G. Jung
 
Edward Edinger writes, “Our whole unconscious is in an uproar from the God who wants to know and to be known.” [3] To love is to be conscious, and to be fully conscious would mean you are capable of loving. Sin always proceeds from lack of consciousness. I don’t think most people are sinners; most people are just not aware and not fully living in their own present moment. When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34), he was absolutely right. Most people are on cruise control, and most of their reactions are habituated brain responses–not fully conscious choices.
 
We may have moments when we are conscious of our real motivations and actual goals, but it takes years of practice, honesty, and humility to be consistently awake. Whenever you do not love, you are at that moment unconscious. If you consistently choose to defend your state of separateness, then spiritually speaking, you are unconscious, or in religious language you are “in sin.” [4] As has often been said, “Unless you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will think of it as fate.”
  
Spiritual maturity is to becomeaware that we are not the persona (mask) we have been presenting to others. That is why saints are always humble and scoundrels are always arrogant. We must become intentional about recognizing and embracing our shadows. Religion’s word for this is quite simply forgiveness, which is pivotal and central on the path of transformation.

– Father Richard Rohr

Lord, help me to live in consciousness today.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————

September 30, 2015

9-30-15 Haiti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“God is love”

I read this on my friend’s Facebook this week.  It had followed a couple other “God is…” statements.  Intrigued, I asked her what was up and she shared that it was one of the social media challenges.  

Now normally, those things get old to me when they tell you “if you don’t repost this your dog will die and the tires on your car will go flat.”  This one was different though.  This one made more sense.  After I inquired and she asked my permission to send the background (a crucial parts of these things that is often over looked), she sent me this:

I saw that you liked my “God is…” status. The purpose is to fill Facebook with these daily statements: Day 1: God is real Day 2: God is good Day 3: God is faithful Day 4: God is my strength Day 5: God is my shield Day 6: God is love Day 7: God is alive For seven days, please publish these without explanation or comment. If someone comments or likes your post, send this message and this way we can fill Facebook with these statements. (Please do not write the number of the day, only the statement.) Today will be your Day 1.

So here’s the thing.  I’m heading to Haiti tomorrow so I won’t be able to post all week.  I’m going to post today because when I consider the awesome people I will get to reconnect with in a few hours, the reality of God in them and us together is front and center.  

So I offer this to you today!  If you use social media, consider posting these seven statements.  Forward the reasoning if you want or just make a statement into the world.

Real.  Good.  Faithful.  Strength.  Shield.  Love.  Alive.

God is very all those things.  So post away if you are so inclined.

But also consider – Maybe posting those statements for the world to see or using them as your daily mantra doesn’t even need to be for anyone else in cyber space to see.

Maybe it’s what you need to remind yourself of this week as well!

Lord, help me use a little word to remind me of your huge role in my life.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————

September 23, 2015

9-23-15 Bishops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John Macholz, bishop of the Upstate NY Synod, and Elizabeth Eaton, bishop of the entire ELCA.  I just spent a couple days with them in central NY at a retreat with a ton of other pastors and church leaders from around the State.  It was very clear they both know Jesus.  

They are both very real and very accessible.  Their faith is very simple and not stuffed away in some high ivory tower.  And their leadership style and mission can be summed up in a statement that Bishop Eaton shared when talking about what separates the church from every other non-profit, do-gooder, impact the world sort of organization: “I want you to know Jesus.”

The pope is visiting now in the US of A and seems to have boiled it down to that same statement.  Know Jesus.  And because he has simplified it, people seem to be responding.

How do you share your faith?  How can you live out knowing Jesus?

I have noticed over a few years of church leadership that less and less people care about the background of the Athanasian Creed.  Far less want to hear the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation.  And even less ask me to name all the books of the Bible in order.

But I do see people wanting to figure out how to move through broken relationships; how to treat people they are different from; how to wrestle with the death of a loved friend or family member; or how to connect to a place and a God of Grace.  

And what I have to offer them is not some Creed or order.  It’s simpler than all that.  It’s just Jesus.  And that can be enough.

Thank you to John and Elizabeth for reminding me it is simple.   How can you live into that simplicity today?  For yourself and for the world around you?

Be a blessing for the world around you today.  Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be and simply know Jesus.

Lord, help me to know you and share that gift with the world.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————

September 16, 2015

A youth baseball team prepares for a game n a huddle. All hand in for a cheer. Green and blue uniforms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Made the team!  Thanks be to God.

We’ve recently gone through that nervous parenting time when: your kids try out for  a school sport.  Not sure if they will make it, get cut, or even like the experience as a whole.  It’s fairly nerve-wracking as you go through it, waiting for that final list posted on the locker room door.  And then it happens.

Your name is there!  You made the team.  

What emotions go through your soul:  relief?  excitement?  time to relax finally?  peace?

Maybe, for a few moments….but then the work begins!  If you made the team, you just got signed up for maybe some of the hardest work you’ll do all fall.  Sprints.  Stretches.  Pushing beyond.  Trying harder.  Diving.  Sliding.  Twisting.  Hurting.  Sore.  Digging deeper than comfortable.

But that’s what you signed up for!  That’s exactly what you wanted.  I used to tell the kids that I coached in high school, you are about to push harder in practice than you’ve ever pushed before, so you can enjoy playing in the game!

I have a sense that sometimes as Christians when we are reminded of God’s amazing love and grace, when we get the news that we’ve made the team, been forgiven, are being led and realizing God’s presence….we relax.  We let down.  We slide back into comfortable spaces.  Like we’ve reached some imaginary finish line.  

And while that grace and love and strength and guidance is true and real, it’s not the announcement to give in and let down.  It’s the reminder: you are about to have an opportunity to push harder in practice than you’ve ever pushed before.

This team called Christianity is ABOUT the practice, knowing full well that the game is already won.  It’s about the interactions between each of us and the world that give us chance to push harder, be pushed harder.  Maybe Sunday morning is our rest together?  Drew finishes each of his cross country practices at school by jumping in an ice bath.  It decreases swelling, treats the muscles and cools the entire body after a 8 mile run.  Sunday can be that for us.  A place to cool down, to rest, to hear it all again, to decrease the swelling in our soul from the daily grief, stress and strain.

But the rest of the time is our time to practice.

The good news: you’ve made the team!  Congrats!  The game has been won!  But now the work begins.  Let’s get to practice.

Lord, give me the strength to push in practice today.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————-

September 9, 2015

9-9-15 Red Jersey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is it!  Time to put on the jersey of choice and define yourself!  Mine will be white and blue this weekend.  Let’s Go Buffalo!!!!

What one defines you?

See when I put the jersey on, wonderful things happen.  I unite with my brothers and sisters around me.  I become insanely passionate.  I cry during the anthem and cheer if a plane goes over.  I rejoice when someone hits someone else hard enough to knock their teeth out.  I hate anyone in a Colts, Patriots, Jets, Dolphins….and the list goes on…uniform.  When they walk up the stairs near my seat, I boo at them.  

OK, maybe not everything on my list is wonderful.  In fact, most of the things aren’t.  And if I was like this all the time, even when I took the jersey off and the game was over, now we have a huge problem.

But some of the things that define us in life seem to last longer than the “game”, becoming part of our DNA, our belief system about who we are, what we stand for and who we belong to.  

When the person who is dealing with addictions is constantly told they will go back to it again even if they quit and are a horrible person for using.  When the mom with ultra-active kids who are struggling with diagnosed behavioral challenges is called a bad parent.  When the guy with a cancer diagnosis only gets strange and pitiful looks once he’s told his co-workers.  

The stuff that our culture defines us by sticks.  It lasts.  It can even seem to affect our very DNA of dailyness.

Peter, one of Jesus’ outspoken disciples, tried to define him as a messiah, one of power and status and conquering success.  Jesus would have none of it.  “Get behind man!”  Follow me.  Watch who I am.  Who I am claimed by.  Who I live out.  Where I go.  And who I have claimed you to be.  Peter was thinking crown and Jesus was thinking cross.

I don’t blame Peter.  His culture led him into it.  Too many jerseys put on by everyone wanting this over that, and these over those.  Pitting expectations over identity.  

It happens to all of us.  But it’s not who we are called and claimed to be.  We are simply simple.  Called to live that life and wear that jersey.  Invited into a team that has all teams, a simplicity that appears too complex to get to.  

What defines you?  And how have you defined yourself due to someone’s pressure to be something you were never intended to be?

“Get behind me.”  I invite you to use those words this week as a response to any one or any thing or any jersey or any impairment or any sickness or any struggle or any separation or any loss that calls, begs, guilts, shames you in being anything but…you.  Loved.  Forgiven.  Claimed.

Lord, help me focus on the one thing.  Simply that and yet not that simple.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps
—————————————————————–

July 22, 2015

7-22-15 Pickles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise!  These writings will have nothing to do with pickles! 

Have you been surprised lately?

Maybe your kids did something fantastic for you recently? (Or just even listened to something you asked and actually followed through?)

Maybe someone in front of you in line paid for your coffee at Tim Horton’s?

Maybe someone left an amazing message for you and it reminded you that you were loved?

Maybe you were just surprised by a wonderful day filled with sunshine instead rain?

Maybe the Bills will actually be good this season and, as the Chaplain of Section 313 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, all my Sundays will be filled with overflowing joy!?

If we can be surprised by the little, the small and maybe even the trivial, what’s it like when we are surprised by God’s power and presence with healing, forgiveness, strength or direction?  Probably even cooler than a home game win!

In John’s gospel chapter 6 (That can be found under “J” in the New Testament), Jesus surprises his disciples when he feeds thousands of people.  He grabs some loaves, some fish and the banquet had enough for them all, with leftovers to boot!  So after seeing that, the disciples should “get it” right?  They should be able to see that this dude is for real and yet unreal.  That God’s power and presence are walking in flesh and sandals.

Yet that same evening after the mountain side Golden Corral-esque meal, the disciples hop into a boat, get caught in a storm and Jesus walks out to them to calm the whole thing and THEY ARE SURPRISED!  What?  Still?  Should have seen it coming right?

Why are they surprised?  Because they are exactly like me…and maybe you…surprised at the power and presence of God in the midst of the everything and the anything.  They/We get surprised because we forget, or get blinded, or disconnected, or numb to or angry at, or isolated from this amazing news.  See, this is who God was, is and will be.  Surprising them and surprising us…this is where God was, is and will be.

So may you be surprised this summer.  In your hunger, in your storm, in your sickness, on your mountain side, during your vacation and travel, in your church, on your street, on your soccer/softball/baseball/football field and in the very depths of your soul, may you be surprised by God’s power and presence being who God is and right where God need to be.

Lord, thanks for surprising me again, Amen

Still in One Peace,
Steve

—————————————————————

July 17, 2015

7-17-15 Curve

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cafe At The Curve begins!

This is just a reminder that our newest initiative at St. Paul’s begins this Saturday and Sunday.  Check out the Facebook page “Cafe At The Curve” for updates and details. 

Or take a look at this recent article in this week’s Amherst Bee.

If you are planning on coming to worship for the next eight Sundays, (which I hope you are!) the Curve will be open!  Cruisin’ Crepes food truck will be serving up food all morning.  Come to church at 9am and have breakfast before church or stay after.  Ed, the owner of Cruisin’ Crepes, is doing us a big favor by coming to the Curve so please plan on supporting his business each weekend.  I told him he’d sell 50 Crepes each weekend, so let’s help him out.  

Plan to stop by on the weekends ahead.

We’ll see you at The Curve!

Pastor Steve

—————————————————————————–

June 17, 2015

Thrivent Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s time for a summer writing break.  Although, every once in awhile I might shoot out some notes or rants here and there over the summer months.

If you’re in the greater St. Paul’s area for this Sunday, join us for worship and then stay for a few minutes after to plan new ways to spend Thrivent Financial’s money!  Yes, we have to spend it.

With Thrivent being a non-profit investment and insurance company, our role is to help invest their profits back into the world as Action Teams.  You can lead one!  Whether you are a Thrivent policy holder or not, you can help.  It only takes a few minutes to sign up, plan your Action Team and you’ll receive $250 to make it happen.

This Sunday we will have ideas for you if you need some help figuring out ways to impact the world.  Even if you’re not in WNY, you can check out Thrivent.com for more information by searching Action Teams.

Enjoy the summer with a little free money and change the world with it.

Lord, thanks for my potential today.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————

June 3, 2015

6-3-15 In Lake

 

I have to wear a wetsuit for a long swim in Lake Chautauqua this weekend.

As I Googled an image of a “wetsuit”, this picture above is what I got.  Now that is really a wet suit, but not the kind I’m going to wear.  Mine will be made of neoprene and make me a little more buoyant and keep me a tad warmer in the 56 degree Lake.

If I asked someone to borrow a wetsuit, and this is what they gave me, I’d actually find myself in some trouble about half way through the 1.2 mile swim due to hypothermia and generally sinking.

I guess I should be clear when asking for one.

In John’s gospel, chapter 3, a guy named Nicodemus asks Jesus about being in relationship with God and how to comprehend God’s presence in the world.  Jesus says: You must be born again.  Nick replies: “How can you be born again after growing old?  You can’t crawl back into your mother’s womb and do it all over again??”

Wrong wet suit Nick!  That’s not the born again Jesus meant.  The conversation went on and Nicodemus was still pretty baffled by the interaction and explanation that he received.  

Yet despite his confusion, his misunderstanding, what we do know is that Jesus gives him the correct wetsuit.  He invites him to try on the one that will keep him buoyant and that will bring him warmth.  It takes Nick awhile to figure it out, but he eventually realizes how to fit into it.

My friend Al is letting me borrow his wetsuit this weekend (the correct kind) and it took me about 20 minutes to try it on for the first time.  Wasn’t used to it.  Didn’t know how best to wear it, move in it and certainly swim in it.  It took awhile.  But the effort is worth it.  Warmth.  Buoyancy.

Have you been offered that wetsuit?  Or are you wearing a wet suit?  Have you struggled to wear it?  Feel like it’s sinking you rather than helping you?  (Hopefully you’ve figured out to insert “relationship with God” with the word “wetsuit” by this point in the Devo’s or this makes very little sense outside of a long swim in cold water).

The beauty of the offer God makes, despite our misunderstanding it, not fitting into it, not wanting to try it on sometimes or do the swim without it, is that it is there to help.  That wetsuit is there to make our swim more enjoyable.  To fall back on when we are tired and need some rest.  To warm us in the cold waters.  To protect us from some of the dangers.

Check your wetsuit.  Make sure you’re not just wearing any old wet suit.  Wear it.  And enjoy the swim. 

Lord, thanks for the offer of the wetsuit.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————

May 27, 2015

5-27-15 Heaven Hell
Heaven or hell!!!  Decide!!!!!  Now!!!!  During the parade!!!!!

You ever been handed one of these tracts like the picture above?  Very motivating, right?

I was at a Memorial Day parade in Clarence with my family this week and a woman was passing these highly terrifying tracts out.  It wasn’t exactly like the picture above.  Hers had the similar imagery to the right side with a cross going over a lava-like pit allowing you to walk from fiery hell left side to gum-drop-like heaven on the right side.  Not quite as catchy as the Superman Jesus above flying off to the rescue.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of these pieces of junk handed out at public events with equally scary imagery and have yet to see someone react: “Wow, I hadn’t thought about it this way yet?!?!  Please let me quickly pray the Sinner’s Prayer so I can walk that bridge over troubled water cross right into the pearly gates!”

Most times, they just get thrown on the ground.  And make most of Christianity look pretty bad.

I know that my theology and that of the Lutheran Church is probably riddled with holes, despite me/us thinking it’s correct.  I’m also sure Catholic, Muslims, Buddhists, Episcopalians and every other denomination thinks that their take is absolutely right as well.  Until we all get to that Great Kum Bah Yah My Lord campfire one day and sit around it with Jesus while he has a pretty good laugh at our arrogance and close mindedness.

So in the meantime, while here on Earth….while trying to communicate our take on this amazing God…while trying to figure out what we know more than we don’t know…while trying to share it with those who have never known or tried to forget…while walking up on the unsuspecting, unwanting, unneedingmorepaperjunkputintomyhandsduringaparade people out there, isn’t there a better way?

What’s your way?  Does it reflect five or six lines of the Scriptural story or does it take into the count the entire story of God being awesome and amazing and forgiving and patient and promising and grace-filled and more?  

What’s on your tract?  Give it some thought, before you hand it out.

Lord, help my tell your WHOLE story.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

 

————————————————————————-

May 21, 2015

5-21-15 Resting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Rest in Peace”

How come we only say that to or about people after they are dead and gone?  Why can’t I rest in peace before I’m in a pine box with four nails six feet under?

“Let us go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest for awhile” Jesus to the disciples in Mark’s gospel.  

He’s actually encouraging rest.  He’s encouraging re-centering and recharging.  In fact, if you look at the Scriptures that include the stories of Jesus, rest is actually his baseline instead of something crammed in when he has a chance, like most of us treat the concept of rest.  For Jesus, Sabbath was a time and a mindset.  It was a needed space to START from and END at.  

I know I have a tendency to look at it the other way.  I frame my day through tasks, work, obligations and roles.  Those are the days when I lose track of my center as a child of God much more easily.

The space is there.  The opportunity is there.  The offer is there: “Come to me all of you who are weary and have heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus to you and me in Matthew’s gospel.

Take time this summer to rest.  Not just for a day or a vacation, but as a routine-changing, sabbath-finding, routine-redeveloper.

Start small.  

A quick prayer when your eyes open through a deep breath acknowledging you are alive.  

A few hours when you leave/lose your cell phone so that you aren’t constantly checking in on everyone else’s lives but instead honoring yours.

A stop by a local park to sit under a pavilion on a picnic table and reflect on an amazing experience you had and love.
An extra half hour when you drop the kids off early at the practice or game and instead of reading emails, or writing lists of to-dos, you just read a book you can get lost in.

Or insert your restfulness idea here.

Start small.  But start.  Slow down and invite your soul to catch up to you body and schedule.   Then if you are bold, give yourself a gift and go off to a quiet place and rest for awhile.

Lord, thanks for the invite…… Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————————

May 14, 2015

5-14-15 Pews

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A recent NY Time article came out and said some amazing news: church attendance is declining.

Shocking.

“Seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007.
 
The Christian share of the population has been declining for decades, but the pace rivals or even exceeds that of the country’s most significant demographic trends, like the growing Hispanic population. It is not confined to the coasts, the cities, the young or the other liberal and more secular groups where one might expect it, either.
 
 “The decline is taking place in every region of the country, including the Bible Belt,” said Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at the Pew Research Center and the lead editor of the report.” – NY Times

When the report came out, many of my friends, both flesh-n-blood and social media friends, were shocked and concerned.

I’m not and I’m not.

I’m not shocked.  If you go to church on a regular basis, you probably aren’t either.  You’ve seen it.  Every church has a life cycle and most denominations do as well.  As Millennials replace the departing Greatest Generation that were every week attenders, you will certainly find more opportunities to have more space in the pews between you and the woman who always makes out her shopping list during the sermon and the guy checking his email.  Without going into a long narrative on the breakdown of the former group, M’s are generally not as active in traditional worship life, like their grandparents might have been.

I’m also not that concerned.  In fact, I’m excited.  It means that we, as church, need to work harder to meet the culture where it is at.  Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not saying we should give into it or assimilate, changing our very DNA.  

What I am excited about is that we have a pretty nice product to share with the uninformed world through a newer/different infomercial than we used before!  We have grace!  We have hope.  We have a way of living that can impact the dailiness of regular life.  We have Jesus’ love for the least, lost, little, lonely and left behind.  

We just need to shape-shift it into a culture that isn’t coming to hear about it like the prior one did.  That’s not bad.  It just is.

On this Ascension Day (the time we celebrate that Jesus was beamed back up to heaven), Jesus invites his disciples to return to the city for a different phase of their following him.  And they did…living out life of worship, waiting for the promises to be revealed and worshipping the Lord.

We are invited to do the same, in a different shape, a changing shape, a new church, a redeveloping mission with the same grace, hope and love attached!  And there is nothing declining about that good news!

Lord, help me shift…… Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps
————————————————————————————

April 29, 2015

4-29-15 Jungle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“There’s no good answers Dad”

I took Drew to school early today for intramural (insert any sport here) and on the way, he talked non-stop.  He stayed up last night a bit late watching the coverage of the situation in Baltimore.  On the 10 minute drive, he took me through a narrative about how every group involved in this has been put in a crummy situation.  He would start saying how “this group” was in the right…and then quickly move to “But they did” which nullified the initial justification.  It was a twisted, confusing, jumbled mess of a conversation.

But then again, so is the topic itself.  Like so many other topics before this one.  And unfortunately, like so many that will follow.

Twisted up.  Hard to find a beginning.  Searching helplessly for a ending resolution.  Caught in a jumbled mess.

Now I know Jesus never visited Baltimore in his time here, but it seems that he did speak to the situation and to many like this.  And we will get to hear from him again in churches around the world as we watch this Baltimore story unfold on TV’s, iPads and papers everywhere.  He said this: I am the vine, you are the branches.

You look at the picture I included today at the top of these Devo’s and it is a mess.  Because it has grown out of control.  Seems to not have a beginning and an ending and things seem a tad chaotic.  A bit like Baltimore.

Jesus said: I am the vine.  Your beginning.  Your life line.  Your nourishment.  And you are the branches.  My flower.  My fruit.  My image in the world.  And then he invites them to trim it up a bit and allow God to help them do that.  Get rid of the death and dead and overgrowth and unkeptness.  Crop it off.  Rule it out.  Don’t let it come back.  Never allow it to be there in the first place!

That’s when the blooms energize.  That’s when the fruit becomes sweeter.  That’s when life would be how it was intended.  That’s when beatings and riots would never begin in the first place!  A vine.  And it’s branches blooming with life and love.

You may not be in Baltimore right now and neither am I.  But I would invite you to pray for that community and the world with me.  I would invite you to proactively trim some stuff up in your life, your neighborhood, your city…so that the unkeptness never has a chance to overwhelm the basics of love, grace, hope and peace.

Each day when the kids head to school by bus or leave the car, I say: “Go change the world.”  Most times, Drew just responds: “Whatever Dad”.  But today I think he understood a little more why I invite them into that lifestyle.

Sometimes it seems like there are no good answers.  I get that.  So in the meantime while we search, let’s work harder to listen, to trim some things up in our own lives and let that Vine bring us new life.

Lord, make me an instrument for peace in the world…… Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————-

April 22, 2015

4-22-15 Jesus n Baby
“The Lord is my…..”  Your what?  How would you end that sentence?

John gospel, chapter 10, has Jesus describing himself as the Good Shepherd.  Psalm 23 also describes the Lord as a shepherd.  So what does that mean for you?  Look like to you?

How do you imagine/experience/dwell in/relate to Jesus?

Is your image like the one above…the Presidential Jesus…picking up babies left and right as he rolls from town to town.  See Joe Biden for details but less creepy and touchy?

Is your image like this?

4-22-15 Thumbs Up Jesus

The Hey There Buddy Jesus…where God’s always giving you the thumbs up?

 

 

 

 

 

Is your image like this?

4-22-15 Tough Guy Jesus

The Tough Guy Jesus who takes on the religious powers of the day?

 

 

 

 

Is your image like this?

4-22-15 American Jesus

 

The Kenny Rogers Wow He’s Awfully American Looking Jesus that looks just like some of you out there but probably not what he really looked like?

 

 

 

 

 

I bet our images of Jesus differ.  Mine and yours come from different experiences of God in our daily lives, our family history, our church background, our cultural biases and about 100 other different factors.

And that’s just Jesus, can you image our images and experiences of God?  Probably even more wide ranging.

So it’s no wonder that Jesus wanted to give a few: bread of life, good shepherd, a vine and more.

My take: God wants to help us see, sense and experience how many roles he plays in our lives, how many ways we can have access to the One and how vast and limitless the list of descriptions and images really is.

The Lord is your…..what?

I’d like you to email me (steve@nullstpaulseggertsville.org), or FB message me, or text me (716-868-1232) and let me know how you would finish that sentence.  How are you experiencing God right now?  What image sums it up?  I might share some of the responses in our community on Sunday morning (without names connected to them of course).  Thanks for taking some time today to reflect on how God is shepherding you and what that looks like today.

Lord, thanks for letting me experience you as my…… Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————————–

April 15, 2015

4-15-15 Weddings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friends,

I’m copying you on an email that my friend and mission partner, Nora Leon send out from Haiti.  This is a recap of our recent wedding weekend and baptismal celebration that took place in March.  So many of you were a part of making this happen, I thought you should know what God is doing through you!  Thank YOU for your partnership!

Pastor Steve

Communiqué #113
TO MY PARTNERS in MINISTRY
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
April 12, 2015

A N E W B E G I N N I N G

What a glorious weekend it was! What a sight to behold! Witnessing the marriage of 21 couples in a mass wedding on a tiny island in Haiti was the culmination of many months of planning and preparing by Grace Ministries of Île-à-Vache. A mission team and I were blessed to be a part of this incredible weekend!

For years, we have heard of couples on this little isle that wanted to marry but could not afford a beautiful bridal gown, a suit for the groom, rings for the couples or a reception for family and friends. Before plans went into full swing, a marriage seminar was held several months prior to teach the couples about Christian marriage. Following the seminar the couples were asked if they would like to make a commitment to marriage. Many, many said, “Yes! We want to get married!” And with that … a plan to make it happen started to take shape. Through the generosity of many friends, all the obstacles were overcome and a real wedding was made possible. Donations came in many forms. We received gently used bridal gowns and veils and men’s suits, wedding bands, flowers for bridal bouquets, decorations for the church, photographs of the couples, cake mixes and cake pans, candy favors and monetary donations for a celebratory meal for the newlywed couples and a food treat for the hundreds and hundreds of guests.

It seemed fitting that the weddings would take place on March 21 – the first day of spring – the day of new beginnings! Some of the bridal couples walked 5 hours, from the other side of the island, in time to change into their wedding attire prior to the mid-morning wedding. The grooms were like many others, as they sat on a bench out-of-the-way of the brides who were taking much too long to get ready. The brides would eventually emerge from the school classroom where they had make-up applied and the dresses and veils were adjusted to perfection. All ages of brides appeared with a glow on their faces as they were finally able to experience this special day. For at least one couple, which had been together over 30 years, this day was a day that they would be celebrating both with children and grandchildren!

3-15-15 Grooms

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grooms waiting for their brides!

3-15-15 Bride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sauvnette – one of the beautiful brides!

Preparations for this big event started taking place at least 3 days before the event. The professor for the culinary arts/cosmetology classes of our Trade School was put in charge of many things. He and his students literally worked three days and three nights to get everything ready. They used ONE propane-powered stove/oven to prepare three tier cakes and over 900 cupcakes. They prepared the “fancy” meal for the newlywed couples. They decorated the bridal reception room that was held in a school classroom and also joined the missionary team in decorating the church – a task that would be an interesting combination of Haitian & American decorating techniques. For the brides, they styled hair and gave manicures & pedicures (using a good old-fashioned 5 gallon pail for the foot bath).

4-15-15 Cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the tier cakes prepared by the students of Grace TRADE School!

People from all over the island, as well as people from the mainland and others who had traveled from other countries to witness this ceremony, had begun arriving long before the wedding was to take place. So many people came it was soon evident that a vast majority of them would not be able to fit inside the church. Appointed people were in charge of not letting any guests into the church until the bridal procession of all of the couples and their “parans” and “marans” was in place outside the church and the start of the service was imminent. When the doors opened, the crush of people vying for a seat was a bit daunting. In the end, even the aisles of the church were crowded with people standing tightly woven together and a multitude of people were left to find a place outside where there might be some hope of at least hearing the service. But hearing the start of the service was impossible, both for the people outside the church and those inside. People who could not get into the church were loudly protesting the fact that they would not be able to enter. The service started anyway with several choirs sharing musical numbers and finally the vows of the couples being exchanged.

4-15-15 Guests

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hundreds and hundreds of guests arrived!

No matter what, anything that did not go perfectly on this day did not spoil the day. It was a glorious day for all of these special couples!

As a “maran” for one of the couples, I was invited to be a part of the bridal meal that was served. A not-so-typical meal was served to the couples that usually dine on rice & beans or less. It was at this point in the day that an oxymoron thought began tumbling through my mind. I observed a bride refusing to eat anything of the specially prepared meal, but rather, looking out of the room in search of her hungry children she called them in one-by-one to feed them morsels from her plate. Only when they all had received something to eat did she chose something for herself. There was no food left on her plate, but she was able to salvage chicken bones from some of the other brides and feasted on the marrow of the bones. The luxuriousness of this day and the of eating a special meal was impossible for this mother to enjoy as on a daily basis she struggles to have food to feed her children.

Following the wedding and the reception, we were invited to attend a few open houses in the community. Some families chose to have an additional celebration at their homes for their close family and friends. The homes were small, but the largest room was cleared for the setup up of a very large array of food! I am sure that the family budget for the month was all spent on this special occasion, but nonetheless a celebration like this does not happen very often and families were willing to make the sacrifice to share their joy with their family and friends. Outside the family homes, people would stand under mango trees or crowd on a borrowed school bench to enjoy the food on their plates. It was a joy to be a part of the happiness of the day!

4-15-15 Food

 

 

 

 

 

 

 An array of food was served at an open house in the community!

One would think that no more joy could be packed into one weekend, but what occurred early the next morning only added to the “incredibleness” of the weekend. Fourteen people were baptized in the Caribbean Sea just prior to the Sunday morning worship service. At least one bride was baptized and one of the team members who had been adopted from Haiti when he was a baby was also baptized! What a glorious reminder of yet another new beginning! Again, what a privilege to have shared in this wonderful weekend!

4-15-15 Baptism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An early Sunday morning baptism in the Caribbean Sea!

What a great God we have!

If you wish to view additional photos of this weekend, copy and paste these links to view

THE WEDDINGS
https://www.facebook.com/nora.leon.393/media_set?set=a.1021412417872293.1073741852.100000106345432&type=1&pnref=story

THE BAPTISMS
https://www.facebook.com/nora.leon.393/media_set?set=a.1021497727863762.1073741854.100000106345432&type=1&pnref=story

Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………

 

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————

March 25, 2015

3-25-15 Sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s coming.  My favorite and least favorite morning of the year.  Some ten-ish days from now.  Easter.

There’s nothing Resurrection-ish for me when my alarm goes off at 4am to get ready for the Sunrise Service.  I hate it actually.  Didn’t Jesus die on the cross so I could sleep until 6:15am like normal?  Well, I guess there is more to the story.
But every Easter, up we go.  Off in the dark.  Balancing unconsciousness and conscious action while trying to pour coffee into a cup.
Out the door into the cold.  Into the car and on the road as I put it in Drive and try to contemplate many and various ways to eliminate this service from our programmatic options.  Or make the sun rise at 8am.
Arriving, I walk through the office.  Gather my thoughts, run through my sermon notes, find my bulletin.  Refill my coffee.  Twice.
The “Christ is Risen’s” from everyone named Wolf start to echo through the dim light at church.  I muster a response.  “Indeed.”
I find some robes and walk into the darkness at the front of church, standing near the street.  There’s a fire going at the foot of sanctuary steps and for some strange reason, a multitude of people already gathered there.  And then I start to read the Story again as I walk toward the group and the darkness begins to fade.  I walk up the steps finishing the Scriptural story that a long time ago, in a very similar spiritual darkness, others walked into on that first Easter to find emptiness.  And actually…fullness.  Completed.  Promise.  Fulfilled.
On those steps, I walk into Easter.  The Already.  And the Not Yet.
And the darkness fades away even more.
As you approach Holy Week this year, the individual steps of already and not yet, may your hesitancy fade, your devotion be rewarded, and the parts and pieces of that promise become tangible.  And into those parts, that sometimes come with unimaginable darkness, may the dawning light and hope of Easter break forth like that familiar Scriptural story walking up behind you.  And may your hear the profound words that maybe you’ve heard before, allowing them to break you from your malaise: He is not here.  Christ is Risen.

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————————————-

 

March 18, 2015
3-18-15 Rings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Usually spoken at a wedding after a couple has exchanged their wedding vows)

As you read this email, our Haiti Medical Mission team is traveling out to Ile a Vache, Haiti to host medical clinics at Grace Ministries and School, as well as a couple clinics in Les Cayes, Haiti.  Over the next few days, they will be able to see a couple hundred children and adults, delivering care and much needed medicine.

They are also making final preparations for the village weddings, 22 in all, that will take place Saturday.  Some of these couples have taken the “traditional” route to marriage, having been recently engaged.  Some, due to not having the financial ability to get married, have been together for 32 and 34 years.  It will certainly be a celebration!

Healing.  Care.  Love.  Compassion.  Commitment.

This is what God has joined together!  Nothing should come in between these things.

When we reach out to heal, we are less “separate” from God.

When we love and commit to that love, we are less “separate” from God.

When we share our resources, donations, wedding dresses, wedding rings, suits, meds and more, as so many people did to make this mission happen, we are less “separate” from God.

May you continue to join together the blessings that you have with the deepest needs of the world.  And as you do, may you sense God’s presence in and through that connection.

Lord, join it all together.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

—————————————————————————————–

March 11, 2015

3-11-15 Dollar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” – Romans 8:26-28 – The Message

Mark walks a couple miles to work everyday on the streets of Buffalo NY.  Between his home and the University, you can imagine what he sees each and everyday.  Today he shares with you a story of a “chance” encounter and how it turned out.

Charles is the janitor in the building where I work on the UB South campus. His large size, extensive tattoos and body piercings belie a gentle and friendly disposition. Charles sometimes works double overtime shifts to earn extra money, going 36 hours straight without sleep. Charles smokes a lot, works hard, and waits for long periods of time for the buses on which he relies, most recently in sub-zero weather. Maybe these factors contributed to the heart attack he suffered last week. A stent was put in and Charles is home and doing OK, but he cannot work for at least a month. Charles does not have enough sick time to cover this period, and so a colleague is taking up a collection to help out Charles. I scribbled a message on a post-it note, and stuck it in my wallet to remind me to bring in some cash the following day. 

On my walk home from work along Kenmore Avenue, I came across a wad of money lying atop of the matted down snow on the sidewalk. 182 dollars to be exact. No wallet. No clip. Just folded bills. Luckily, there was little wind to blow the bills away. The Tonawanda police told me that no one had reported lost money, and so I gave the cash to Charles.

A story with a happy ending, right? Well, I don’t think so. After all, some unlucky stiff is out 182 dollars. A person with a story of his or her own. I don’t think I am being too presumptuous in assuming that most commuting pedestrians on Kenmore Avenue are more like Charles than like me in that they do not forgo a car by choice. What is the impact of that loss? We really cannot know.

People often say that things happen for a reason. I strongly disagree with that view, but I am fascinated by how independent events can be linked, and the stories of strangers become intertwined. Math says that the losing and subsequent finding of 182 dollars is a zero sum game, but it does not really seem that way. Lives are lived within the exchange, and with it a wide range of human experiences and emotions.

A story with a happy ending? Not exactly, but it might be the best ending, and in that sense, a good ending.”  Mark O’Brian, college professor at UB and teacher of Life.

I often wonder what this “Spirit” of God looks like that Paul makes reference to in Romans…walking alongside us.

Mark reminds me.  It can look like us.  Being us.  Doing what we do.  Living out the right thing.  Connecting tricky and bad stories and mysteries…for good.  Being active, present, real disciples of Love that God infused into Life for the life of the world.

Lord, allow me to live into that Spirit.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps…and Mark

———————————————————————————–

March 4, 2015

Basketball on Vacant Basketball Court
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Nice quote, right?   Would you believe me if I told you that Jesus said it?  Or Gandhi?  Or Martin Luther King Jr.?

Nope, none of them!  It’s Timo Cruz answering the question:  What’s your greatest fear?

Who’s Timo Cruz?  I’m glad you asked.   He’s the troubled teen basketball player in the movie “Coach Carter.”    In a pivotal point of the movie, after being asked time and time again by Coach Carter what his deepest fear was, he finally blurts it out,  “It is the fear that we are powerful beyond measure and don’t know how to handle that.”

As Jesus leaves the disciples and ascends to his father,  I can picture them fearfully saying the same thing…. Or Jonah…. Or Jeremiah….Or Moses…. Or (insert a boat load of other Bible-dudes here).

Or me.

My playing small does not serve the world.   The church’s playing small does not serve the world.

We are meant to shine as children do.  Isn’t that what was said at your baptism as a lighted (lit?) candle was handed to your sponsors, parents or godparents?

In John’s gospel for this coming Sunday, Jesus walks into the temple and sees them not living up to the new potential that they have in him.  They are living in the old system.  The old fear.  The old darkness.  The old sacrifices.  He “turns over the tables” and tries to liberate them from their fears to be a new light, a new people, a freed child, a lighted torch and one that abides now in him.

Timo’s speech happened on a basketball court.  Same speech echoed through your baptism service.

Can you still hear it now?  Or is fear attempting to extinguish that light?

Jesus came to liberate us from that fear.  And went all the way to the cross to prove it.

So in the shadow of that gift, what’s your greatest fear?

Lord, help me live into that fear.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

——————————————————————————————-

February 25, 2015

the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus trying to stand in the intersection between life and faith.

2-25-15 Ashes to Go
Ash Wednesday….one week old.

Maybe you were able to make it to church last week or maybe the weather kept you away.  Or maybe you grabbed “ashes on the go” outside a church, or in a coffee shop or on the street.

Ashes To Go.  It’s a fairly new cultural trend which allows people to receive the imposition of ashes outside the doors of a church or in some other place in a matter of seconds, as opposed to embedded in a full worship service.

I’m sort of torn about the idea.  On one hand, I love that people are able to connect to a component of their faith life at all in the middle of the week.  With those ashes, they are remembering that they are a part of God’s very important plan for us.  And, I’m thrilled that the “church” is actually outside the building that shelters it.

Yet on the other hand, I wonder of all the things we want to take outside into culture….this is it?  This message of ashes and drive by repentance is what we want to lead with?  And in most cases, it’s not just “lead with”, it’s also the only thing we go outside with all year!

What about Communion?  Or baptisms?  Or speaking to the injustices right outside the doors of our church?  Or just some general good news about the fact that Jesus died for us so that we could live out that salvation and impact the world now?

What do you take outside?  Outside after your church experiences?  Worship experiences?  Meetings at church?

What do you take outside as you leave your homes today and tomorrow and every day to walk into the culture around you?  Do you take an ash-like message, a hope-like message or any message at all?

Last week, we reminded each other that “it was from dust that you came and to dust you will return.”

Today, remember that from that dust, hope arises and lives.  From that death of Jesus, you and I arise and live.  May that cross and message of hope, joy and good news be on your forehead today.

Lord, help me take a full message into the world today.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————————-

February 18, 2015

2-18-15 ashes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lent….

As a kid I always enjoyed the season of lent. The church was always dimly lit, with the flutter of candles bouncing around in the background. There were always stations of the cross, incense, and lots of deep mediative prayer and reflection time. My stomach was always so empty and I was hangry (angry hungry) from fasting, but It was always very mystical to me.

As I have grow older, I realized Lent is a way bigger picture then the ritual, fasting and keeping ourselves from many things that we may enjoy. This is a time to reflect and be with God…more often.

Every Lent I find myself right back in that same place. The place is where I have God just as an addition in my busy life. Then once a week, I happen to find that right space, that right time to fit him in.

Maybe you feel this same way? As the first week of Lent begins, we are invited to create a larger space than just once a week.  We are invited to return to God fully.

We do this not because we have to or for ritual or tradition sake, but because of what Jesus has already done for us.  When we have given him nothing, Jesus gave us everything.  He gave us his life.  This is the moment where God invites us back in to be with him…all day…everyday. When I find myself forgetting how to live like that or carry my cross like that, I look at the cross Jesus carried for the whole world.

May we enjoy Lent and all that it brings. May we be filled with the spirit to always connect to Jesus everyday. May we sit in this darkness for a little while to yearn for that day of resurrection on Easter morning.

In Jesus Name Amen,

Danny

————————————————————————-

February 11, 2015

the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus trying to stand in the intersection between life and faith.

2-11-15 boy

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

I’m sure this will come as a huge surprise to most of you reading this…except for those who have actually met me… and those who’ve seen/heard me spell something…and those who’ve asked me a question concerning history, important names or any classic literature…but…here’s the breaking news…I was never a huge fan of studying.

Now, for those of you for are in an academic setting or journey right now…studying is good…Steve was/is just bad at it.

I call myself an “experiential learner” (read: would rather go golfing with someone who already did the assignment and have them tell me the oral report of the book).  I found over my academic career (read: purgatory) that the library and me just didn’t click.  It was a bit too quick and dark.  Very helpful for naps, not so much for learning.

I was known as “well rounded” by my dad…not great at anything but could survive everything.

I was never a supporter of “tests” but loved the concept of “independent study.”

Long story short…I was never a big fan of studying.  At least, not in the “classic” sense of the word.

I don’t think the Psalmist is either…especially the guy who wrote Psalm 111.  It seems that he might not be a studier in the classic sense of the word either.  He’s truly an experiential learner.

He’s trying to tell others of his personal experiences with God.

He’s rejoicing in God’s presence and activity in his life.

In other translations of the Bible, it is written, Great are the works of the Lord, “they are pondered by all who delight in them” (NIV)…”worth of lifetime of study – endless enjoyment.” (The Message)

That’s not the language of cramming for a test!  That’s the language of immersing one’s self into God’s active presence through the Holy Spirit.

It’s living with God…not learning about God.

It’s Jesus sent into our lives…not passing high above with a magic wand.

It’s the Holy Spirit poured out over you in baptism, working through you in the world…not a holy ghost blowing by in the wind.

Can you study that?  Can you experience the God that has been, is and will forever be in your story in a very real, present, non-quiet-dark-library sort of way?

Last week,  guy walked into my office early in the  morning and we had this great conversation about what God was going to do with this day for him, his plans, his finances, his vision, his family…and he walked out with joy and anticipation.

That’s how we can study God…by looking at the Lord’s wonderful work in our lives…calling us to change…calling us to forgive…calling us to trust…calling us to be free…calling us to……..experience.

Lord, help me study and experience your presence in my life.   Amen

Still in One Peace,
Steve

————————————————————————
February 4, 2015

2-4-15 golfer
“Sometimes you have to make something’ out of nothin'” – Jesus, nowhere in the Bible.

Clearly Jesus didn’t say that exactly.  And clearly the Greek language doesn’t translate anything into “something'”.  Just a Steveism.

But Jesus  certainly did live this out.

For those of you who are reading this and in the northeastern section of the US of A, you might be at this stage…close to wits end with this whole cold and snow thing.  Maybe getting to the point of grabbing the sticks and playing a quick round of 18? Or just disappearing from home one day and hopping on a plane to Miami, while your family sits at the dinner table looking around and saying, “Where’s Mom?”

I feel your pain.  Despite Biegner Winter being 66% over, it feels like it’s dragging on.

So make something’ outta nothin’!

This goofy life-constricting weather coupled with the season of Lent swiftly approaching provide an opportunity for us to make a little more “I’m stuck indoors I can’t do as much outdoors as I want to” time for our spiritual connection to God and the kingdom breaking in around us.

Maybe it’s a new book about faith and life?  Maybe a new group at your church is beginning?  Maybe it’s some quiet time of prayer in the darkness of the morning?  Maybe it’s writing letters to service men and women?  Or someone in the hospital or nursing home?  Maybe it’s calling a friend and reconnecting to that important relationship from your past?  Maybe it’s doing some basic cardio or core workouts at home while that TV is on, improving God’s gift of your body and health and wholeness?

You might not want to chase a little round ball into a snow drift and if you are in WNY you’re going to need an 18″ tee to drive the ball.

But maybe there is something else, something small, something for 15 minutes, something you haven’t done in awhile or something you’ve always wanted to try….maybe this is the perfect time to reconnect in a new way to God and make something’ out of nothin’.

Lord, help me make something’ out of nothin’.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
Steve

————————————————————————————————————————-

January 28, 2015

……the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus trying to stand in the intersection between life and faith.
Light vs dark
59% of Biegner Winter is over!  Yes, the simple, globally famous and accepted system, much like the “European” and “American” models for inaccurate weather prediction, has us almost 6/10ths of the way through winter.

Review for the newbies: We (Biegners…ok, my Dad and me) count 100 days of winter, beginning on December 1st and going through March 10th.  Any snow that falls in that period is welcome to stay…any outside of that period must leave within a week.

One of the hundreds of advantages to this tracking system is that it helps us prepare and get excited for the days getting lighter…longer.  We know that when we cross the 50% threshold, each day the darkness gives way to the light more and more.

For me, it’s harder to be in the darkness.  Harder to wake up in the morning.  Harder to go back out at night.  Harder to be inside so much.  It’s harder.

But it’s not bad.  Darkness is not a bad thing.

I’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on the darkness in recent weeks, instead of running away from it…toward some all-encompassing, all-healing light.  And when I’ve spent time in this darkness, I’m still finding God’s presence.  Maybe even to a greater degree.

I find in Scripture that God spoke to people many times in dreams in the darkness, helped people search in the darkness, came to people in the darkness and in the darkness of death, saved humanity from itself.

The darkness is not all bad.  And when we can allow ourselves to spend time in our own darkness, our own Shadow of hurts, disfunction or unrealized needs, our own brokenness, grief and inadequacies, we find a new side and shape and experience of the Holy that the light might blind us from.  And that presence is good.  And the experience can heal.

Your darkness is not a bad thing because your God is there in it with you.  It might be a harder thing, but I encourage you today to not run away from it.  Allow God to speak to you in it.  Allow a God who has created all things from darkness, recreate you.

Winter will end one day.  But God’s presence in your light…and darkness…will not!

Lord, be with me in the dark.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
Steve

———————————————————————–

April 30, 2014

back pack

 

What are you carrying around today?

Maybe you have seen this picture lived out on a street corner near you or the hallway of your home as your kids cram all their stuff into their backpack, wrestle it over their shoulders and stumble down the driveway to school?

It’s a common event…too much junk to carry around!  Many times I look through my kid’s backpacks and find their books, along with that lost lunch bag, extra sweatshirt that is bunched up at the bottom of the bag and one extra shoe that smells like a cross between wet dog and end of the world.

Clearly, our packs need a few things in them but there are a few things we could leave behind.  Some kids have been advised to get backpacks with wheels because the sheer weight of the pack in damaging their young bodies.

Luke tells a story about two guys walking down the road post-crucifixion of Jesus. Their backpacks are overloaded!  Filled with grief, loss, confusions and lack of direction.  In fact, their packs are so overloaded that Jesus himself walks up next to them and they don’t even recognize him.  Only once they gather with Jesus for Communion (letting some things out of their packs) do they recognize that it is the Risen Savior.

That’s a heavy pack.  Time to let some weight out of it.

How overloaded is your bag?  Damaging your body?  Your soul? Your spirit?

See, like these two guys, we are on this side of Easter and because of that empty tomb, there are some things we can take out of our backpacks.  Let me highlight a few for you.

If you are carrying guilt around today over some past action, take it out of your pack, recognize Jesus right there and give it to a Risen Savior.

If you are worried about your kids, your finances, your health, that decision, the next, that relationship, take it out of your pack, recognize Jesus right there and give it to a Risen Savior.

And most importantly, if you are concerned about your eternal life, so concerned that it is paralyzing you living out your current life with grace, peace and love, take out that worry too, recognize that Jesus is alive and well and has taken care of all this, and give it to him.

With all those concerns removed, trust in the power of Easter.  Trust that this is what Easter WAS all about and what Easter IS all about.

Then wrestle on that lighter pack, head to work, head to school, head to life.  And enjoy a lighter load.

Lord, help me lighten my load.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

———————————————————————————

June 19, 2014

race

 

 

This finally happened to me…..(see picture above)

After a couple years of running 5k race together on a beautiful night in Eggertsville, my son Drew finally beat me.  I ran the fastest 5k time I’ve ever run….and he still beat me.  And I guess I should have known it was going to happen because he told earlier in the afternoon that it would.

Our strategy for the night was: run together but whoever had more energy in the last half mile (which was uphill and into the wind) would go hard and leave it all out there.  His response: “Don’t worry Dad, that will be me.  I’m going to beat you.”

And then it happened.  I guess I should have seen it coming.  Drew ran with purpose, a goal and with confidence.

“Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.” – Paul to the Corinthian church

Paul found his purpose (or maybe we should say God found his purpose for him).  His deal was to tell other people about God’s love for them and the world and because of that love, get it together and do something about it.  Simple.  And even during the times when he had to run uphill and into the wind, he ran with purpose and finished the race.

This is one of the things I love about running.  It’s just you and your own goal.  The one you designed for you.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a marathon or 1 mile family fun run, you can set your goal and confidently walk or run with purpose to meet it.

Today is another day to do just that: God has found your purpose for you – to be a child of God!  So as a child of God, set your goal and purposefully run the race that will help you achieve it!  My race course might be a bit different than yours.  Our distances might differ as well.  But our starting line is the same: standing in God’s grace and love, God’s forgiveness and call into the world, we wait for the starter to yell, “Runners ready?  Go!”

What do you want to achieve today?  What goal is God inviting you to set your heart toward?  Don’t fight like a boxer fighting against the air.  Run your race and leave it all out there.

Lord, runners ready?  Go…..  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps

————————————————————–

December 11, 2014

“He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the Light.” John’s gospel referring to John the Baptist.

Testify.  To be a witness to something.  Pointing to something meaningful.

If someone met me today, what would they think my life is a witness to?

Today, I’m getting my kids ready for school and running them over there early so they can get some work done.  I’m visiting my neighbor in the hospital.  I’m gathering my Board for the Impact Foundation to do some planning.  I’m mentoring kids at the middle school in the afternoon.  And I’m spending the evening with college students and young adults to grab a meal and discuss the current events of race relations in the United States.

There are probably 100 other little things in there as well that I’ll point to.  So today looks like a pretty good day of pointing I guess.

If you catch me Sunday afternoon, I point towards a football game for more hours than I care to admit.

Some days of pointing and witnessing are better than others.

Wednesdays are MUCH better for Ryan.

Last week, while it was raining outside, the doorbell at the church office rang.  I went to the door to greet a soaking wet young man named Ryan.  Saturated, he cleaned off his glasses as best as he could and told me a little bit of his story.  He was there to tell me about the miracles that occurred in his life.  He was walking around town for miles that day, in the pouring rain, to tell as many people as he could about God’s presence in his life.  When I asked him why he didn’t wait until tomorrow, when it would be nicer, to walk around and tell his story, he said:

“Wednesday is my walking day”

Every Wednesday, he walks.  And points.  And testifies to the miracles.  And witnesses about a God who impacted and impacts his life.  He wasn’t trying to sell me anything.  He didn’t want money.  I offered him a cup of coffee which he politely declined.  I wasn’t able to talk with him very long because I left someone on hold on the phone.  So he gave me his card and we said we would connect again soon.

After the phone call was done, I added Ryan on Facebook and learned more about his story and the miracles that God did in his life.  And because of those interactions and continued messaging, his pointing and witnessing, I got another glimpse of an amazing faith in God.

All because Wednesday is his walking day.

John the Baptist was pointing, his whole life, to the one who was greater than he was.  Maybe John went to the wilderness on Wednesdays?  Not sure.  But I know he went.  And I know he pointed.  And because he did, many saw a great faith in a great Light.

Today is Wednesday again.  Will today be your “walking day?”  Will your life today point to a Light that entered the world so long ago?  Will your interactions, conversations, scheduled events and random happenings witness?  Point?  Testify?  To the One who is in your story now.

As we move through the days getting darker, and the rains and snow soaking us sometimes, clouding our glasses so it’s sometimes even hard to just navigate….may we use our Wednesday to walk like Ryan, dedicated and guided, risking and unassuming.  And in all we do on this Wednesday, may it point to the One who conquers darkness, warms our very soul and clears our vision to see the Light.

Thank you for stopping by Ryan.

Lord, empower me today to point.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps