Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Born in the Wrong Place

"Born American, but in the Wrong Place" by Peter Schramm

Keywords: citizen, kingdom of god, city of god,

Peter W. Schramm is the Executive Director of the John M. Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs and a Professor of Political Science at Ashland University. He came to the United States from Hungary following the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Schramm was ten years old at the time.

Peter Schramm tells this story...

"Now, with the revolution failing, came the final straw for my Dad. On one of his trips out to secure some bread, a hand grenade landed next to him but, miraculously, it did not go off. The spark that should have set off that grenade set off my father instead. He came home and announced to my mother that that was it. He said he was going to leave the country whether she would come or not. Mom said, "O.K., William. We will come if Peter agrees. Ask Peter."
My mother tells me, though I don’t remember saying this, that I told my father I would follow him to hell if he asked it of me. Fortunately for my eager spirit, hell was exactly what we were trying to escape and the opposite of what my father sought.

"But where are we going?" I asked.

"We are going to America," my father said.

"Why America?" I prodded.

"Because, son. We were born Americans, but in the wrong place," he replied.

My father said that as naturally as if I had asked him what was the color of the sky. It was so obvious to him why we should head for America. There was really no other option in his mind. What was obvious to him, unfortunately, took me nearly 20 years to learn. But then, I had to "un-learn" a lot of things along the way. How is it that this simple man who had none of the benefits or luxuries of freedom and so-called "education" understood this truth so deeply and so purely and expressed it so beautifully? It has something to do with the self-evidence, as Jefferson put it, of America’s principles. Of course, he hadn’t studied Jefferson or America’s Declaration of Independence, but he had come to know deep in his heart the meaning of tyranny. And he hungered for its opposite. The embodiment of those self-evident truths and of justice in America was an undeniable fact to souls suffering under oppression. And while a professor at Harvard might have scoffed at the idea of American justice in 1956 (or today, for that matter), my Dad would have scoffed at him. Such a person, Dad would say, had never suffered in a regime of true injustice. America represented to my Dad, as Lincoln put it, "the last, best hope of earth."

I would like to be able to say that this made Dad a remarkable man for his time and his circumstance. For, in many ways, Dad truly is a wonder. But this is not one of them. He was not remarkable in this understanding. Everybody in Hungary—at least everybody who wasn’t a true believer in the Communists—thought that way. For some it was instinct. For others, it was habit or family teaching. For some it was through book learning. Indeed, most Hungarian kids at that time (myself included) had read Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Last of the Mohicans, Tom Sawyer, and Huckleberry Finn. Jefferson understood this too when he penned those famous lines in the Declaration. The wonderful thing about self-evident truths, in a way, is that they don’t have to be taught. Or do they? They don’t have to be taught in the same way, for example, that we teach grammar. It isn’t an artificial order of things that we impose upon ourselves. Still, these truths must be understood. For if they are not fully understood (as they frequently are not by those who take them for granted), they are easily forgotten. Dad just never had the luxury to forget."

The Grinch as Hero

Present at the Creation: How the Grinch Stole Christmas. NPR Radio.

Keyword: grinch, redemption, Christmas, teleology

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss has become almost as much a Christmas classic as Dicken's "A Christmas Carol." Both are wonderful stories about redeemed lives. After the childrens book had become popular, Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) received a letter from the brothers David and Bob Grinch of Ridgefield, NJ. They asked Geisel to change the name of the Grinch since the boys were getting teased about it. Dr. Seuss responded, "I disagree with your friends who 'harass' you. Can't they understand that the Grinch in my story is the Hero of Christmas? Sure... he starts out as a villain, but it's not how you start out that counts. It's what you are at the finish."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Little Graces

"Little Graces" by E. Stanley Ott. Building One Another. October 24, 2006 e-Volume 5, No. 43
Le Miserables by Victor Hugo

Keywords: grace, forgiveness, repentance

A friend drove me to the airport when my Dad died a few years ago. Another brought me chicken soup when I was ill and another called to offer a good word. These are little graces. They may not seem like very much at first, either to the giver or the receiver, but on reflection, little graces are truly great graces offering benefits that are all out of proportion to their size. There is some form of leverage going on as God takes the tiny and makes it huge, infusing the tiny act with the infinite power and presence of his dynamic power.

In the story of Les Miserables, Jean Val Jean is arrested for stealing a loaf of bread to feed his family and spends twenty years in jail. He escapes and finds supper and overnight refuge in the home of a priest. Late in the night, Jean Val Jean begins to steal the priest’s silverware. The priest finds him. Jean Val Jean strikes the priest on the head and runs with the silver. In the morning, he is captured by the police and returned to the priest’s home. What happens then is astonishing.

The police accuse Val Jean of stealing the silverware. The priest replies, “Oh no. They were a gift. And he forgot this.” The priest adds two huge silver candle-sticks to the silverware. Jean Val Jean is stunned. In fact, he is converted by that little grace, his life changed forever. The priest says, “I have bought your soul for God.” The entire rest of the story of Les Miserables is the cascading of little grace after little grace after little grace from Jean Val Jean into the messy lives of those around him. Little graces are, in truth, great graces.

And what was the name of the priest? We don’t know A faceless, self-less servant whose little grace, at some true expense to himself, changed countless lives.

Be a giver of little graces empowered by the Lord of very great graces.

With joy - E. Stanley Ott

Monday, October 23, 2006

Longest Organ Concert in History

"Organ grinds on to 2640 in a concert sure to stand the test of time,", January 8, 2006. (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: eternity, future

The world's longest organ concert is currently being played out in an old church in eastern Germany. If all goes well, the music won't end for another 630 years! The music written by experimental composer John Cage, was originally intended as a 20 minute piece for piano. He transcribed it for organ and titled the piece, Organ2/ASLSP, standing for as slow as possible.
The concert began September 5, 2001 with an 18-month silence. The first chord sounded in February 2003, followed by two additional E notes in July 2004. The first chord just progressed to the second, which will held down by sandbags until 2012. The next change will take place May 6, 2006 when the two E notes will be released.

Since the concert began, thousands of people have flocked to the small church to listen to the music and see the new organ take shape. Organizers hope they can build the organ with the concert by raising money to fund new pipes in time for forthcoming notes.

The composer, John Cage died in 1992, but loved the idea of playing with time, and shocking his audience. The score has been divided into nine sections, each lasting 71 years. If all goes well, the half-time interval will take place in the year 2319, with the finale sounding in 2640. George Bandarau of the John Cage Organ Foundation says, "Here the question is whether the concert is over when the organist dies, or when the organ falls apart."

--, Organ grinds on to 2640 in a concert sure to stand the test of time, January 8, 2006. Submitted by Jim Sandell.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (TLB) "Everything is appropriate in its own time. But though God has planted eternity in the hearts of men, even so, many cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end."


"Merry Christmas," Books & Culture e-mail, Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Keywords: Nativity, creche,

The Gospels give us the beloved story of Christ's birth, of course. But who started the tradition of placing crèches on the fireplace mantel or coffee table? When did churches start dramatizing Mary and Joseph's journey to Bethlehem, or choirs begin singing the angels' praises in the "shepherds' fields?" For that we have to thank St. Francis of Assisi

The story goes that a woodcarver, embittered by his daughter's blindness, declared he would have nothing to do with a God "who condemns innocent children to darkness." He stopped going to church, and refused to make anything that would bring glory to God. But out of love for his girl, he consented to carve a doll for her as a Christmas present (even though he no longer had reason to celebrate).

Yet his wife continued to believe the gospel message, and when St. Francis came to town, she listened to him preach. She wondered at the friar's extraordinary peace and gentleness, yet no amount of pleading could convince her husband to go with her. Until Christmas Eve, that is, when she stole her husband's doll and took it to Francis, who had set upon the idea of creating a nativity but needed a baby Jesus.

The carver discovered the theft, and realizing what his wife had done, headed for the friar's church. But upon finding his wife, he stood transfixed, for around his carved doll the friar with animals gathered round, singing the ageless story of the birth of our Savior. And the carver's bitterness melted away. Francis approached him, gripping his shoulder. "You wondered if God could cure blindness? Well, we are watching him do it, are we not?"

This Christmas season, many of us have reason to not celebrate-to instead throw our pain in God's face and ask why we should be glad his Son came to earth. But Jesus understands our pain-he endured the greatest suffering any of us could ever imagine. And on this joyous morning, we invite you to walk into that stable, to hear the music of delighted angels, and join in the chorus, "Glory to God in the highest"


Excerpt from Richard S. Levy's review of Nathan Stolfuss' book Resistance of the Heart: Intermarriage and the Rosenstrasse Protest in Nazi Germany, © 1997 by H-Net.

Keywords: evil, good, nonviolence

Rosenstrasse represents the little-attended-to story of the German women who rescued their husbands from deportation and death in early 1943. Swept up from their forced labor jobs in what was meant to be the Final Roundup in the national capital, 1700-2000 Jews, mostly men married to non-Jewish women, were separated from the 6000 other victims of the Gestapo and SS and herded into Rosenstrass e 2-4, a welfare office for the Jewish community in central Berlin. Because these Jews had German relatives, many of them highly connected, Adolf Eichmann hoped that segregating them from the others would convince family members that their loved ones were being sent to labor camps rather than to more ominous destinations in occupied Poland. Normally, those arrested remained in custody for two days before being loaded onto trains for the East. Before that could happen in this case, however, wives and other relatives got wind of what was happening and appeared at the Rosenstrasse address, first in ones and twos, and then in ever-growing numbers. Perhaps as many as six thousand participated in the protest, although not all at the same time. Women demanded back their husbands, day after day, for a week. Unarmed, unorganized, and leaderless, they faced down the most brutal forces at the disposal of the Third Reich. Goebbels, Gauleiter of Berlin and anxious to have it racially cleansed, was also in charge of the nation's public morale. On both counts he was worried about the possible repercussions of the women's actions. Rather than inviting more open dissent by shooting the women down in the streets and fearful of jeopardizing the secrecy of the Final Solution, Goebbels with Hitler's concurrence released the Rosenstrasse prisoners and also ordered the return of twenty-five of them already sent to Auschwitz. To both men, the decision was a mere postponement of the inevitable. But they were mistaken. Almost all of those released survived the war. The women won an astonishing victory over the forces of destruction.

One Person and One Cell Phone


Keywords: difference, one, help, work

Leave it to Presbyterian Church General Assembly Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase to give an exciting insight into how little it takes sometimes to create a vital network.

In the muddle of Katrina's aftermath, when all was confusion, ONE person on the scene with ONE functioning cellphone became the critical LEAD organizer of a first response effort. Amazing!

Ufford-Chase's blog entitled "Glimpses from the Gulf Coast of Mississippi" tells of his visit to Diamondhead Community Presbyterian Church in Mississippi, just across the border from Louisiana and just a few miles north of the gulf:
"Back at the church...I find a 'seat-of-your-pants' disaster recovery center that Pastor Chas Jones and members of the church have put together. There is a five-foot long poster board showing the organizational diagram that they have come up with. Chas’s name is at the top (for a long time, his was the only cell phone that worked, and he was the entire organizational chart), and then there are about ten different task forces with the names of responsible folks under each one: communications, pastoral care, material aid, clean-up, etc. After two weeks of learning as they go, these folks look like pros."
One man. One cellphone that worked when others phones didn't. An opportunity for connectivity. Connectivity leads to purposeful organization, and organization begins to mean the difference between life and death.

The lesson for today: God's Networks can be born from surprisingly humble resources, if they're in the right place at the right time. They can be born if we're willing to take advantage of the sometimes small breaks that come our way.

God, help us to notice those small breaks, and press them into Kingdom service.

Cosmic Bummer

"Cosmic Thoughts - Bummer Edition" by Greg Easterbrook

Keywords: supernova, creation, star, leviathon

Scripture: Job 41 (A supernova makes a good modern-day leviathon)

Recently, I was creeped out by this supernova. Detected Feb. 18 by Swift, a satellite launched to look for gamma-ray bursts, the exploding star already was the 24th supernova discovered at that early point in 2006. As instruments improve, exploding stars appear more common than cosmologists had expected, and that's not the best news we might have heard. Coded GRB 060218, this star detonation began as a gamma-ray burst that lasted 33 minutes -- absolutely stunning because previous gamma-ray bursts from space have lasted a few seconds at the most. The gamma rays came from 470 million light-years away. That was discomfiting because strong gamma-ray bursts usually emanate from what astronomers call the "deep field," billions of light-years distant and thus billions of years back in the past. A distance of 470 million light-years means the GRB 060218 supernova happened 470 million years ago. That is ancient by human reckoning, but many cosmologists had been assuming the kind of extremely massive detonations thought to cause strong gamma-ray busts occurred only in the misty eons immediately after the Big Bang. The working assumption was that since life appeared on Earth, there had been no stellar mega-explosion. Now we know there has.

For several days as the giant dying star GRB 060218 collapsed, this single supernova shined brighter than all 100 billion other suns in its galaxy combined. The detonation was so inexpressibly luminous that, though 470 million light-years distant, it could be seen by telescopes on Earth. And not just fancy telescopes at the tops of mountains: A few days after the Swift satellite detected the gamma-ray surge, an amateur astronomer in the Netherlands sighted the forming supernova through a backyard telescope. The stellar coordinates hit the Web -- it was at RA: 03:21:39.71 Dec: +16:52:02.6 -- and soon amateur astronomers the world over were marveling at the glistening beacon from the cosmic past. This explosion released so much energy that it happened 470 million years ago yet the light could travel for that protracted period, plus pass through the gas and dust of roughly a hundred galaxies along the way, and still illuminate mirrors of backyard telescopes on Earth.

Now here's what creeped me out: had GRB 060218 happened in our galaxy, life on Earth would have ended Feb. 18.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Persecuted Church

from "Their Blood Cries Out" by Paul Marshall

church, persecution, sacrifice

Christians are African women who rise at dawn to greet the rising sun in a wailing chant of thanks to god. They are Indian untouchables cleaning up excrement from the streets. They are slaves in Sudanese markets. They are Chinese peasants flip-flopping by rice fields, or pedaling bicycles through Shanghai, or rotting in prison. They are Mexican tribal people, driven from their ancestral homes. They are Filipino maids, misused throughout the world. They are Arab women who have been raped and had acid poured on them to remove distinguishing Christian marks. And, overwhelmingly, they are people who, given a moment's time, space and freedom, live life with joy, enthusiasm, gratitude, and hope.

Pop Culture and Ancestor Worship

Romero, Margie. "Face to Face." Carnegie. January/February 2003. pp8-13.

pop culture, ancestor worship, idolatry, celebrity

"The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh seems an unlikely place to host a show called ‘Worshiping the Ancestors: Chinese Commemorative Portraits,’ but according to Museum Director Thomas Sokolowski, when this amazing ritual portraiture is seen next to Warhol’s portraits, the connection is absolutely clear.

...Created between 1451 and 1943, the works in the exhibit are nearly life-size portraits of wealthy, often imperial, Chinese people. Painted on tightly woven silk with ink, mineral colors, Chinese vegetable pigments, and gold, these huge hanging scrolss mounted on paper are ornate, intricately detailed, and brightly colored.

Made by anonymous artists, the paintings were part of a religious ritual in a culture that worshiped its ancestors. According to custom, the dead were venerated out of respect, but also out of fear, because it was believed that if they were not honored the deceased could turn into ghosts and come back to haunt the living. Traditionally incense was burned before the Chinese ancestor paintings , and food and wine was offered to them. The practice of kowtowing, in which one kneels and touches the forehead to the ground was done before the painting as an expression of submission, was done before the painting because it was believed that the ancestor could bring good luck and wealth.

Our contemporary culture kowtows in its own way to many of the people that Andy Warhol immortalized in his portraits. Because of their sex appeal or talent, we have endowed the likes of Grace Jones, Joan Collins, Sylvester Stallone, Cheryl Tiegs and Robert Mapplethorpe not with divine power, but certainly with earthly authority. And while we don’t burn insense before them, we saw to it that they were rewarded with money to burn. Some people among us believe that emulating these idols will help them achieve fame and fortune...

For better or worse, both Chinese ancestors and Warhol superstars fill a void for the living who search history for clues about meaning and value.

Fishing for Piranha

Hodsden, James. ESF Update. September 11, 2000

ministry, education, wisdom, learning

Once at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, Dr. Richard Ray compared theological education to fishing for piranha. Every book, every class, and every professor should be considered with the same care as piranha. Dr. Ray encouraged seminary students to have a growing sense of curiosity about God. That curiosity should be characterized by passion and some terror. As servants of the Lord, we should handle holy things with wonder. He warned us not to love the things of God (ministry) more than God.

"Like Moses, we should wonder why is that tree burning?"

Friends of the Heart

"Friends of the Heart" by Stanley Ott;, e-Volume 5, No. 40, 10/3/2006

Keywords: friendship, companion, love

Scripture: John 15:5

In this day in which we lead very busy lives, we tend to have fewer close friends than we did ten years go. Consider two kinds of friends: friends of the road and friends of the heart.

A friend of the road is a friend who walks life’s road with you. You are next-door neighbors or work in the same office or attend the same school or church. You genuinely love your friends of the road. However, when the road ends, when one of you moves away or leaves the office or the place you shared life, the friendship of the road coasts to an end.

On the other hand, there is a chemistry, a bond, between friends of the heart such that when the road ends, the friendship continues. It makes no difference if you are 10,000 miles apart and haven’t seen one another for years, were you to get together, it would be as though no time had passed. ”Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.” I Samuel 18:1*

Make the decision to have as many friends of the road as possible and to pray that several of those friends move off of the road and into the heart.

Two of the most fruitful ways I have seen to move friendships into the heart is to invite people to share a meal with you and to study the Bible with you. There is something sacramental about a shared meal that deeply bonds people. In a similar way, there is something about the experience of Bible study when a few people engage in the practice of Word-Share-Prayer that grows friends of the heart.

Jesus said, “I have called you friends.” John 15:15 Praise God for your friendships, both of the road and of the heart. Ask our Lord’s encouragement as you grow new ones.

Halverson Benediction

References: "Halverson Benediction" by E. Stanley Ott,, e-Volume 5, No. 34, 8/22/2006

Keyword: missional, worship

Dick Halverson, who encouraged me to begin the “Building One Another” letter, was a spiritual mentor who had a profound impact on my life and ministry.

When Dick was Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, he graciously preached to the congregation I am serving. On the way back to the airport, I asked him, “Dick, what was the most significant thing you did at Fourth Presbyterian Church that brought vitality and spiritual strength to that congregation?” The question seemed to embarrass him a bit and finally he spoke. I was expecting him to say his preaching or his church staff or some church program but I didn’t anticipate his answer. Quietly he said, “I think it was my benediction.”

His benediction! I thought, “Of course!” I had heard it countless times. After all that happened in any given church service with music and singing and sharing and preaching, the last thing you heard were his words:

Wherever you go, God is sending you, wherever you are, God has put you there; He has a purpose in your being there. Christ who indwells you has something He wants to do through you where you are. Believe this and go in His grace and love and power. Richard C. Halverson

I often use this benediction. It has a wonderful way of helping people see themselves as sent - as God’s missional people into our world.

The term “missional” refers to the identity and activity of the people of God who are sent by God to engage their world on behalf of the mission of our loving God. Our Lord does indeed have a purpose and a place for you. There is something he wants to do through you. Believe it and go in his grace and love and power.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Husted Homiletics

From a workshop by Heidi Husted entitled "Preaching in the Missional Church"...

Dr. Husted described a process that she used in her congregation named "Partners in Ministry." The following are "voices which are part of the dialogue" of sermon preparation.

1. The Text itself.
We should preach texts. This is the first naivete. Read the text over and over again. Read the text aloud. Use different translations including paraphrases like the Message or the Cotton Patch Gospels. Wallow in the the text.

2. Listen to the World behind the Text.
Look at the Greek and Hebrew. Study the historical-critical background. Remember that full objectivity is not possible.

3. Literary Form.
Note the world that the text creates.

4. Your Voice (The Preacher's Voice).
Where am I coming from?

5. Listen to the Congregation.
What hits you in the text? What would your congregation pick up on? What is surprising or offensive, confusing or ellusive, connecting or disconnecting?

6. Listen to the Distant Others.
The disinfranchised. Differences in class, race, culture and faith.

7. Listen to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit should be present in the entire process.

I would only add a few things. We should listen to the Church. How has the church interpreted the text? Does the text bring insight to the Confessions? How?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Arminian Grace


Keywords: grace, works, faith, gift

(Sung to the tune of "Amazing Grace")

Arminian "grace!" How strange the sound,
Salvation hinged on me.
I once was lost then turned around,
Was blind then chose to see.

What "grace" is it that calls for choice,
Made from some good within?
That part that wills to heed God's voice,
Proved stronger than my sin.

Thru many ardent gospel pleas,
I sat with heart of stone.
But then some hidden good in me,
Propelled me toward my home.

When we've been there ten thousand years,
Because of what we've done,
We've no less days to sing our praise,
Than when we first begun.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cutting Holes in the Darkness

Building One Another, September 5, 2006 e-Volume 5, No. 36 "Cutting Holes" by Stanley Ott

Keywords: light

I love the story James Hewitt tells in his Illustrations Unlimited of author Robert Louis Stevenson, who at age twelve upon watching a man light the gas streetlights, said to his governess, “I am watching a man cut holes in the darkness.”

Wow! What a vivid picture. It is certainly obvious that there is plenty of darkness in our world and in our own lives. The idea that holes may be cut in that darkness is hopeful, liberating, and motivating.

Jesus Christ has cut such a huge hole in the darkness that when all is finally said and done, there will be no darkness. “What has come into being in him [Jesus] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” John 1:3-4*

Jesus Christ is cutting holes in the darkness in your life. His mercy, grace, and love have moved you from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved son. Whatever your need may be, open yourself to his enlightening work in your life.

Just as we realize that Jesus cuts holes in the darkness, so ought you and I to cut holes in the darkness we encounter. Ask yourself and your Lord to help you see the darkness in your own life and in the situations around you and decide what to do - and do it!

‘You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Monday, August 28, 2006

Accountability in the Cockpit

Grossman, Richard. "Flying Makes me a Better Doctor," Readers Digest. August 2006, pg 207.

Keywords: accountable, friendship, love,

Doctors are known to be terrible pilots. They don’t listen because they already know it all. I was lucky: I became a pilot in 1970, almost ten years before I graduated from medical school. I didn’t realize it then, but becoming a pilot made me a better surgeon.

I loved flying. As I flew bigger, faster planes, and in worse weather, I learned about crew resource management, or CRM, a new concept to make flying safer. It means that crew members share the responsibility to listen and speak up for a good outcome, regardless of rank or seniority.

I first read about CRM during my surgical residency in 1980. Not long after than, an attending physician and I were flying in bad weather. The controller had us turn too late to our final approach. The attending physicians was flying; I was safety pilot. He was so busy because of the bad turn, he had forgotten to put the landing gear down. He was a better pilot--and my boss--so it felt odd to speak up. But I had to: Our lives were at stake. I put aside my intimidation and said, “We need to put the landing gear down now!” That was my first real lesson in the power of CRM, and I’ve used it in the operating room ever since.

CRM requires that the pilot/surgeon encourage others to speak up. It further requires when challenged, the doctor doesn’t overreact, which might prevent colleagues from voicing opinions again. So when I am in the OR, I ask for ideas and help from others. Sometimes they are reluctant. But I hope that if I continue to encourage them, someday someone will keep me from “landing gear up.” Maybe you’ll be the one to benefit.

--Richard C. Grossman, DO is a facial plastic surgeon from Colleyville, Texas.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Servant Evangelism

Brundage, Chris. "Viewpoint." Presbyweb. December 2, 2002.

Keywords: Incarnation, evangelism, Diana Ross, dance, love, good news

Steve Sjorgren is the pastor of a Vineyard Christian Church in Cincinnati, a congregation he started in 1985 with thirty-seven members. Today it numbers six thousand.

He focused on their program of servant evangelism. Members of his church go out into the community, giving flesh and bone to the gospel.

Once on Christmas Eve, a group of Vineyard church members walked into a Waffle House in Cincinnati. Some made their way to the back room, slipped on aprons and started washing dishes. Others went to the juke box, fed in a few dollars and began dancing to Diana Ross. They invited the startled patrons to join them.

Now Waffle House serves good food, comfort food, but it’s not exactly high on the hierarchy of restaurants, and it’s a depressing place to spend Christmas Eve, the night these dancers and dishwashers showed up. The smell of cheeseburgers and cigarettes doesn’t remind most people of the holidays.

But slowly folks began to shake off their inhibition. First one person joined in the dancing, then another. Soon the whole place was pulsating to "Ain’t No Mountain High Enough." Passing motorists slowed down and stared in amazement. The party continued for over an hour. Eventually the Vineyard Christians left to go home and be with their families.

A few days later Pastor Sjorgren received a phone call from a local psychiatrist: "Are you the church that was dancing at the Waffle House the other night?"

"Yes sir. Umm... we’re sorry."

"No, no. I think it’s great. Two of the people there were patients of mine. Usually during the holidays they slide into a deep depression. But not this year. You gave them something special."

Expanding on a theme from Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the servant evangelists believe
"small things done with great love will change the world." They surely changed a little portion of the world by dancing at the Waffle House on Christmas Eve.

--Chris Brundage is a Presbyterian minister, and Associate Pastor of First United Methodist Church in Adrian, Michigan

A Cross in the Sand

David Lower was part of a group from Shenago Presbytery which visited Sudan in January 2002.

Keywords: christians, Sudan, church, cross, brotherhood, unity

In a desert village on the outskirts of a city in Sudan, I had just come out of a worship service. People were greeting one another. A slightly built old man, dressed in traditional white Arabic clothing walked up to me. His thin face with short black whiskers was almost hidden by his turban. His eyes were black and he had a look of hurt and sadness that comes only with a hard life. In spite of the fact that he spoke to me in Arabic I felt that I wanted there to be a bond and knew that somehow I had to communicate with him.

He carried a short rod about sixteen inches long that men use when they are riding their donkeys. Reminded of a story I once heard about how early Christians recognized each other, I took the stick from him and drew a fish in the sand at our feet. As I pointed to my drawing and looked into his eyes I saw only confusion. He shook his head--the fish meant nothing to him.

I drew a cross in the sand. Instantly a smile lit his face and his eyes came alive. He began to nod his head, took my hand and chanted with excitement, "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ!" I repeated the same words with a feeling of joy that there truly was a bond between us. Can there be a better way for two strangers to come together than through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? No amount of conversation could have conveyed the feelings and message that my little sand drawing had done."

The Virgin Birth

Torrance, Thomas. "The Virgin Birth and the Unborn." Presbyterian Pro-Life News. Fall 2000

Keywords: Christmas, redemption, Mary, virgin, birth

The virgin birth of Jesus is an essential part of the Gospel of salvation. For through it Jesus was made one of us and one with us in such a way that he healed and sanctified in himself what he had assumed from us--our humanity--thereby recreating, humanizing, and personalizing it.

That is why leading theologians in the early Church, followed by John Calvin at the Reformation, rightly traced the root of our redemption, not only to the death and resurrection of Christ, but to his very conception and birth of the Virgin Mary. Because in Jesus the Creator Word of God was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, Christians came to regard the unborn child in a new light...

The birth of Jesus was of vicarious and redemptive significance. That means that our new birth is to be understood in relation to the birth of Jesus himself.

The doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus and its redemptive significance must be recovered for a proper understanding of the redemptive life and mission of Christ. Moreover, the virgin birth is crucial to our grasp of the nature and status in Christ’s eyes of the unborn child.

The Son of God became a human being for us in the womb of the Virgin Mary, bone of our bone and flesh. He became what we are. Think of the importance of the incarnation, then, for our understanding of and regard for the unborn child.

Every child in the womb has been brothered by the Lord Jesus. In becoming a human being for us, he also became an embryo for the sake of all embryos, and for our Christian understanding of being, nature and status in God’s eyes of the unborn child. So, to take no thought, or no proper thought, for the unborn child is to have no proper thought of Jesus himself as our Lord and Savior or to appreciate his relation as incarnate Creator to every human being.

Typical Sunday Morning

Achtemeier, Elizabeth. "The Year of the Child." Presbyterians Pro-Life News. Fall 2000.

Keywords: children, worship, teaching

"How should we raise that child to know the Lord? How can children be nurtured to become worshipers and followers of Jesus Christ?" We complain in the church that we are losing many of our young people. Why is that the case? What are we doing wrong?

Perhaps the answer can be given by describing a scene that greets many of us every Sunday morning. An eight or nine-year boy occupies the pew in front of us. He is absorbed in reading a Marvel Comic book. While the congregation stands, he sits and reads. He joins in none of the hymns. He participates in none of the prayers. He confesses none of the creeds. After the scripture reading and during the hymn, his younger sister is dismissed to a children’s class, where she will color or play a game or perhaps listen to a story. Disgustedly, the boy watches her go and gets out a toy car to run along the pew bench and over his mother’s leg. The boy is bodily in church, but obviously he is not really there. At the end of the service, he pushes through the crowd and rushes for the freedom of the outdoors. Next Sunday the scene will be repeated. And the mother and father will wonder why their children have no interest in the faith of the church.

Could it be that we lose such young people to discipleship because we do not urge them to participate in the worship of the Body of Christ, which is the center of the Christian life? When they are very young, we dismiss children from worship to classes that they can "better understand." That way they bother neither the preacher nor the parents. When they are youths, we let them entertain themselves, while we worship.

--Elizabeth Achtemeier is a writer, speaker, and Bible teacher

Convincing Friends you are Alive

Associated Press, "Villagers Shun man They Believe Is Dead", January 16, 2005 (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: death, resurrection

When Jesus rose from the dead, he had to convince his followers that He was really alive. Something Raju Raghuvanshi can relate to.

An Indian man is having trouble proving to his family and friends that he really is alive. Raghuvanshi was recently released from a short jail stint. When he entered his village, he was greeted by the sounds of neighbors locking their doors and shouts of "Help! Ghost!" If you ask his family and friends they will tell you the person they just spoke is a ghost sent to haunt them.

Raghuvanshi's problems began when he was sent to prison for a minor tax infraction. While serving his time, Raghuvanshi fell ill and was transferred to a prison hospital in another district. Some sort of clerical error occurred and word spread back to the man's family that he had died and his body had been cremated because no one claimed it.

The people in rural India follow an ancient system. They believe that if all the proper ceremonies are not performed a ghost of a person who dies will haunt the family. In a phone interview, Raghuvanshi says that is why his hometown is afraid of him. He says, "My family thinks I am dead. They will not permit me to enter my home because they think I am a ghost."

Raghuvanshi is currently living in another nearby village while he tries to convince his family that he is alive. He has enlisted the help of local police who are trying to convince Raghuvanshi's family that he is alive. Raghuvanshi says the best evidence he has is that his feet are still properly attached. Local beliefs state that the feet of ghosts turned backward. So far, none of his arguments have been effective.

Scripture: Luke 24:37-40

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Dreaming about a Church

by Simon Bailey, an Anglican priest in Sheffield, England, who lived with AIDS until 1995.

Keywords: dream, community

I'm dreaming about
a church of sensitivity and openness
a church of healing and welcome.

I'm dreaming about
a community of friends that celebrates differences and diversity and variety,
a community that is forgiving, cherishing, wide open.

I dream of
women and men who minister life and laughter and love;
of men and women who minister healing and harmony and hope;
of women and men who minister to each other and minister to the
crying needs of a world that hurts.

I dream against the rough climb still to come,
against expectation
against pessimism and despair;

I dream, I dream of the clear panorama of the vision of light
right at the top of the mountain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Head and Heart

from "The Revival I Long For" by Anne Graham Lotz

Keywords: knowledge, passion

For years, Tom Landry was an American icon…He faced pressure with poise, criticism with grace, rudeness with courtesy, humiliation with dignity, victory with humility, and crisis with faith. He became a legend in his own time.

On more than one occasion, I’ve heard Coach Landry state that he had come across many good athletes, but very few great ones. He defined the difference between a good athlete and a great one as being 18 inches - the distance from the head to the heart. From his observation based on a lifetime of involvement in sports, he explained that good athletes have exceptional ability and a thorough understanding of the game, but great athletes have heart - a passion to play that drives them to selfless sacrifice, brutally long hours of practice, undivided focus, and ultimately, extraordinary accomplishments.

In almost 30 years of ministry, I have observed many good Christians, like Coach Landry’s athletes, but very few great ones. And the difference is the same 18-inch distance - the distance from the head to the heart. While there are many good Christians who have a head knowledge of Scripture, attend church regularly, are familiar with church traditions and rituals, are comfortable with prayer, group Bible study, and outreach ministries, there are very few who are great. There are relatively few who seem to be in love with Jesus, who put him first in their lives when to do so demands sacrificing their own time, money, and desires. There are very few Christians who want what he wants more than what they want - and are willing to lay everything on the line to pursue it. There are very few Christians who are willing to risk their jobs, reputations, status, friendships, financial security, and even their lives for the sake of sharing the Gospel and pleasing God. We just seem to lack a clear vision of God and a passionate heart for God that combined are the hub around which everything in our lives revolves.

The Story of Father's Day

Bears Repeating: Southeast Local Schools' Community Newsletter: Summer 2002

Keywords: father, honor

Mrs. John B Dodd, of Washington, first proposed the idea of "father's day" in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd's mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. The first Father's Day was observed on June 19,1910 in Spokane, Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America other people began to celebrate a "father's day." In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day.

Teaching Right and Wrong in Great Britain

References:,,2-2292741,00.html (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: Relativism,

Schools in Great Britain are no longer required to teach the children the difference between right and wrong under current plans to revise the core goals of the Nation's Curriculum. Education ministers in Great Britain also propose deleting references to promoting leadership skills and a requirement to teach children about the nation's cultural heritage. Revised wording for the education plan states young people should become "responsible citizens who make a positive contribution to society." Instead of requiring students to learn about their cultural heritage, the proposal says individuals should be helped to "understand different cultures and traditions and have a strong sense of their own place in the world." Rather than requiring teaching the difference between right and wrong, the new wording, which reflects a relative worldview, calls on teachers to encourage pupils the develop "secure values and beliefs." The proposed changes will be discussed formally next year as part of an ongoing effort to give schools more flexibility in the way they teach 11 to 14 year-old students. Opponents of the planned changes say teachers did not need to be told to teach children to distinguish between right and wrong. Professor Alan Smithers of the University of Buckingham's center for education and employment research said, “The idea that they think it is appropriate to dispense with right and wrong is a bit alarming."

Proverbs 22:6 (HCSB) “Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Found Fishermen

References: (Jim Sandell)

Keywords: Lost, Found

Three Mexican fishermen who disappeared while on a short shark fishing trip were rescued in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, after spending 9 months on the open sea. The men said they survived by eating raw fish, ducks, and seagulls, drinking rainwater, and reading the Bible. They were picked up halfway between Hawaii and Australia after drifting 5000 miles from a fishing village north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

Antonio Aguayo, a local sport-fishing guide said the men took only enough fuel for a few days and ran into an unexpected storm. He thought they might have used up their fuel traveling in the wrong direction, thinking they were headed back to shore. Aguayo said the people of the tiny fishing village are celebrating the men’s survival. He said, “God is so great that he helped them all the time. Everybody is excited. They don’t know how it happened that they are alive.” Aguayo added, “Nobody has ever been lost for so long and been alive to tell about it. Not even Christopher Columbus stayed on the ocean so long.”

Luke 15:24 (ESV) “’For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.”

Forgiving Debts

The Flint Journal, "Thank God", By Kristin Longley, August 2, 2006.

Keywords: Forgiveness

When Pastor Larry Holley decided to close his used car business, he forgave the debts of his customers. Holley said he received a message from God telling him to forgive the debts totaling $191,673.06, with no strings attached. About 35 customers showed up at a news conference where Holley announced his unusual decision. Amid the prayers and tears of joy, each person received the title to their car, relieving them of their loans. At the news conference, Holley said, “Did I hear an audible voice? No, it was something deep down inside of me. The least I can do is relieve people of their material or financial situations.” Holley says he hopes those who benefited will go on to relieve debts owed to them or wrongs committed against them. He added, “So it’s like a chain.”

Matthew 18:32-35 (ESV) “Then his master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. [33] And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' [34] And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. [35] So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Learning Who We Really Are


Keywords: baptism, identity

In Toy Story 2, a toy collector steals Woody, a cowboy doll. He takes Woody to his apartment. Woody finds himself in a dark room, all alone. And then he hears the voice of Jessie, a similarly dressed cowgirl, who recognizes him. Jessie gets very excited that "Woody" is finally here. Woody asks, "How do you know me?" She replies, "You don’t know who you are?" She then turns on a light and shows Woody the shelves that are filled with Woody memorabilia. Woody finds out he was a puppet in a famous children‘s television show from the 1950s. She shows him old episodes and Woody watches with great joy. So it is in baptism. God knows us before we know who God is, and in this sacrament we are told who we are....a child of God.

(submitted by Kathryn Self, Plano TX)

Surrounded by Christianity

Godfather III; retold in a sermon by Daniel T. Has

Keywords: Christendom, heart, hardness

There's a great scene in the movie The Godfather Part III. Michael Corleone, the Godfather, visits Cardinal Lamberto to tell him the bad news that a business deal involving the Vatican Bank had gone bad. The bank is run by an Archbishop and a group of Catholic businessmen. The Cardinal listens to the Godfather, then says and does something quite surprising. He picks up a stone and says, "Look at this stone. It has been lying in water for a very long time. The water has not penetrated it." Then the Cardinal smashes the stone, "Look, perfectly dry. The same thing has happened to men in Europe. They have been surrounded by Christianity for centuries but Christ does not live in their hearts."

Churches offering a Discount

Partee, Charles. "A Mangy Scene at Christmas." Presbyterian Outlook. December 20, 2002.

Keywords: Christmas, Easter, incarnation, Jesus, creche, nativity scene

Not long ago an acquaintance of mine traveling in South America purchased a crèche for his wife. It was unusual, and it was on sale. Some Presbyterians cannot resist a bargain. The nativity scene was quickly bought and gift wrapped. On Christmas day, he discovered to his dismay that, while every other piece of the traditional manger scene was in place, the baby Jesus was absent. A Christmas scene without Christ presumably explains the cheap price.

Sadly, I know some Presbyterian Churches which offer the same big discount...In Christian congregations where Jesus Christ is not present, baptism becomes a spiritual Jiffy Lube and the Lord's Supper is fast-food take-out: junk food supposed to keep you moving along the highway to Heaven.

The issue, of course, is not the number of homiletical references to Jesus, but their meaning. Put another way, most Christians accept much of the orthodox view of the work of Christ because people still yearn for a real salvation. However, some Presbyterians are willing to settle for a symbolic savior. Therefore, the traditional view of the person of Christ is today under both direct and indirect attack. This bifurcation leads to disaster. According to John Calvin, "the blessed and happy state of the Church always had its foundation in the person of Christ" (Institutes II.6.2).

Surely, most Presbyterians will refuse to buy a Holy Family without the baby Jesus. One would hope that the strong emphasis of Reformed theology on the integral humanity of Christ will never be lost but also not maintained by discounting the substantial relation of Son to Father. The birth of Our Lord is indeed a human process, but it is also a divine gift. Resurrection, on the other hand, is a divine gift entirely. Presbyterians should continue to understand Christ's person and work, Christmas and Easter, as interlocking realities.

Charles Partee is P.C. Rossin Professor of Church History at Pittsburgh Seminary

Mister Rogers--Evangelist

Zoba, Wendy. "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?" Christianity Today. March 6, 2000

Keywords: Mister Rogers, evangelist, love

But what most people don't realize about Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood is that behind the puppets, the tennis shoes, and the simple songs lies an abiding faith and weighty theology. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ordained Fred Rogers as "an evangelist to work with children and families through the mass media." He does not bring evangelism in its churchly sense to this calling, and neither does he introduce religious themes in his programs. But his daily neighborhood visits with children sow seeds that awaken something basic in their hearts. It is hidden growth, like the parable of the seeds sown in secret. It is growth, as someone has said, as "silent as light, as subtle as life, and mightier than either." Mister Rogers, in his silent, subtle, mighty way, rescues children from a world that would too soon warp their souls. He summons them to a special place where trust arises and does not disappoint. Hearts come alive, awakened by his unconditional acceptance. "Everybody longs to be loved and longs to know that he or she is capable of loving," he says.

Losing the Center

Rev. Dr. David Henderson. "What's One Life." Presbyterians Pro-Life News. Winter 1997.

Keywords: vocation, identity, society, exploitation, other

When a culture loses its center, it is first seen at the fringes, in its treatment of those unable to fend for themselves--those nearest birth and death. Colin Turnbull pointed this out in a frightening way in the "The Mountain People," his classic 1970s study of the Ik people of Uganda. Disoriented when their hunting land was revoked, the Iciens lost their direction as a society, and with it any concern for each other. They began to think only of themselves, living in a society of what Turnbull describes as "mutual exploitation." They would steal food from the mouths of their aging parents, throw infants out to fend for themselves, and abandon the old, the sick, and the handicapped to die without a second thought. "Does that sound," asks Tumbull, "so very different from our own society?"

Glory to God

"Out of the Depths" PDA publication 2002. pg43

Keywords: suffering, burn, glory, sovereignty, doxology

On November 14, 1940, Coventry Cathedral in England was destroyed by the Luftwaffe's bombs. All night the cathedral burned with the city. Shortly after the destruction, the cathedral stonemason, Jock Forbes, noticed that two of the charred medieval roof timbers had fallen in the shape of a cross. He set them up in the ruins where they were later placed on an altar of rubble with the moving words ‘Father Forgive’ inscribed on the Sanctuary wall. Another cross was fashioned from three medieval nails by a local priest, the Revd Arthur Wales. After the war, the cathedral was rebuilt. In the transformed cathedral, a tablet reads "To the glory of God this cathedral burnt November 14, 1940."

"Do You Know Who I Am?"


Keyword: identity, Bush, fame

This is a story floating around about then--President George Herbert Walker Bush a few years ago. He was supposedly visiting a nursing home, where he took the hand of an elderly man walking the halls and asked kindly, "Sir, do you know who I am?" The man replied, "No, but if you ask the nurses they can tell you."

The Christian Novelist


Keywords: prophet, ministry, modern world, Flannery O'Connor

"The novelist with Christian concerns will find in modern life distortions which are repugnant to him, and his problem will be to make these appear as distortions to an audience which is used to seeing them as the hard of hearing you shout and to the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures."

--Flannery O'Connor

With Family, You are Strong


Keywords: Alone, Separation, Strength from Unity

A father and and his young son were fishing at the beach, when the son noticed the pools of water formed on the beach did not have the same strength as the mighty ocean. He inquired his father as to why this was so, and was told that the pools had been taken from their place of strength where they belonged. "You see", said the father, "we people are the same: when you are with your family and village, you are strong, but if you are separated off by yourself, you become weak...

-- a traditional Wolof story (anonymous)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Man is a Child of God, Made in His Image

quoted in Presbyterians Pro-life News; Winter 2002; pg 5

Keywords: martin luther king, image of God, oppression

"Man is more than a tiny vagary of whirling electrons or a wisp of smoke from a limitless smouldering. Man is a child of God, made in his image, and therefore must be respected as such...And when we truly believe in the sacredness of human personality, we won't exploit people, we won't trample over people with the iron feet of oppression, we won't kill anybody."

--Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1967 Christmas sermon.

Count The Cost: Star Trek

Reference:; "Boldly Living Where None Has Lived Before," February 7, 2006

Keywords: fool, cost, obsession

A fan of the "Star Trek" television series had big dreams, but ended up losing more than he imagined when his plans went south. Tony Alleyne turned his apartment into a mockup of the Starship Voyager. He added molded walls, touch panel blue lighting, and even a life-size model of the show's transporter room. Alleyne built a command console, reshaped windows to look like portholes, and set up vertical lights so he could pretend to be "beamed up" just like on the show. Alleyne hoped his makeover would tempt other Trekkies to pay him to convert their homes too.

Unfortunately, Alleyne's plans backfired. He took out two huge loans and ran up debts on 14 credit cards to finance the undertaking. Alleyne's wife left him after he replaced the refrigerator with a "warp coil." Alleyne has now filed for bankruptcy and admits he was wrong and overstretched. He says building the "Star Trek" fantasy was enjoyable, but he adds, "I was convinced Trekkies all over the world would want a house like mine and would pay me to do it. I'm still proud of what I created but it's been a financial disaster."

Luke 14:28-29 (NET) "For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn't sit down first and compute the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? [29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish the tower, all who see it will begin to make fun of him,"

Prisoners of Hope

Achtemeier, Elizabeth. "Prisoners of Hope," Presbyterians Pro-Life News. Fall 2002. pg 4.

Keywords: prisoner, hope, abortion, pregnancy, death, society

In one sense, all of us are prisoners. We are locked into a death-dealing age of immorality, nonbelief, violence, and killing. We cannot escape our society, nor should we want to. The biblical faith never consists in an escape out of this world to some realm of peace and beauty, where evils of the world are forgotten. Those evils are squarely faced.

Thus, we share a common prison life with every woman swollen with a problem pregnancy. No matter how she was impregnated...we are locked into the cage of our age with that woman. Her plight is ours, and we are fellow prisoners. We are, however, "prisoners of hope"--such is the term applied to the faithful in Zech 9:12. Through the gloom of darkness that marks our society’s ways, we are those who can see a light that radiates from "the God of hope" (Rom 15:13).

Zechariah 9:12, Romans 15:13

Beyond the Deep Magic

Lewis, C.S. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Collier Books. 1970. Chapters XIII and XV. begining on page 138.

Keywords: Narnia, traitor, atonement, sacrifice, propitiation, Easter, Good Friday, grace

"You have a traitor there, Aslan," said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund...

"Well," said Aslan. "His offense was not against you."

"Have you forgotten the Deep Magic?" asked the Witch.

"Let us say I have forgotten it," answered Aslan gravely, "Tell us of this Deep Magic."

"Tell you?" said the Witch, her voice growing suddenly shriller. "Tell you what is written on that very Table of Stone which stands beside us?...You at least know the magic which the Emperor put into Narnia at the very beginning. You know that every traitor belongs to me as my lawful prey and that for every treachery I have a right to a kill." ...

"And so," continued the Witch, "that human creature is mine. His life is forfeit to me. His blood is my property." ...

"Oh Aslan!" whispered Susan in the Lion’s ear, "can’t we--I mean, you won’t, will you? Can’t we do something about the Deep Magic? Isn’t there something you can work against it?"

"Work against the Emperor’s magic? said Aslan turning to her with something like a frown on his face. And nobody ever made that suggestion to him again...


"But what does it all mean?" asked Susan when they were somewhat calmer.

"It means," said Aslan, "that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of Time. But if she could have looked a little farther back into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards..."

Just Only John

Kent, Jack. Just Only John. Young Readers Press Inc. 1968

Keywords: identity, peer pressure, pretend, animal, John

Just Only John is a wonderful little story about a four-year-old boy, John, who is tired of being "just" John. Even pretending to be something else is not good enough for this little boy. John soon finds himself in a mysterious shop buying a peppermint-flavored magic spell for a penny. He wasn't sure what he would turn into, but he waited with anticipation. John began to turn into whatever anyone suggested he was. His mother called him, "my little lamb," and he turned into one. He later turns into a bunny, a pig, and even a little man. Finally, John is so frustrated changing that he asks his father what to do. His daddy says, "The magic spell won't bother you if you'll just remind yourself that you are you." John kept repeating, "I'm just only John." The book ends, "And he was. And probably still is. Moral--be yourself because somebody has to and you're the closest."

Summary by James.

Leaving Your Sins at the Supermarket

Executive Newsletter 9:2 (1994), 6

Keywords: sin, confess, confession, ministry

A Catholic priest, who had become very deaf in his advancing years, had formed the habit of asking those erring members of his flock who came to his enclosed stall to write their penitences on a slip of paper, instead of speaking them to him. The practice worked fairly well until one day when the father heard a heavily-breathing man enter the visitor's side of the confessional and fumble for a few moments as a small, crumpled piece of paper was passed through the curtain into the old cleric's hand.

The confession read: Two cans of beans. Quarter pound ham. Cans of Coke. Four fish filets. Bread rolls. Toilet paper. Large coffee. Soap. Butter.

The priest studied the note for a puzzled minute or two and then silently passed the slip back.
Suddenly, there came an agonized voice from the stall beside him: Mother of God, I've left my sins at the supermarket.

--As told by British journalist Godfrey Talbut,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Most Will Preach Better Dead

James Kiefer;

Keywords: chaplain, ministry, life, death

An English chaplain in the First World War, Studdert-Kennedy, gave an address to his fellow-chaplains in which he said (approximately):

"The one thing that you absolutely must do as chaplains is to go into the line with the men. The Army does not require it. As far as regulations are concerned, you are free to stay out of the trenches, well behind the front, and minister to the men before they go into combat and when they come back out for brief intervals. But if you do that, you will do no good at all. There is no way that you can talk about the meaning of life and death to a man who is facing death and knows that you are not. But if you go into the line with the men, if you get shot at and shelled and gassed along with them, then they will listen to you. And it doesn't matter whether you are eloquent. The fact that you are there with them when you don't have to be, doing your Master's business, will tell them something about your Master. Of course, taking this advice means that you may be killed. So be it. The more chaplains that die in the trenches doing Christ-like deeds, the better. Most of us will preach far better dead than alive."

Hospitality and Wal-Mart

Quoted in The Presbyterian Outlook, Oct 4, 2004, pg13.

Keywords: hospitality, greeters, ushers

"Wal-Mart does not have greeters at the door because the management is theologically committed to a culture of hospitality. They have them because they have figured out that people who feel welcome come back more often and spend more. I’d like to see us do at least as well as Wal-Mart in the hospitality department. "

--Kristeen Bruun, a parishioner of Gesu (Jesuit) parish in Milwaukee, writing in the Sept. 20 edition of America magazine about the need for Catholic churches to be more welcoming to visitors.

Faith Walk at Ground Zero

"Faith Walk at Ground Zero" by Rick Ufford-Chase

Keywords: sacrifice

St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City, the oldest public building that has been continuously in use on the island of Manhattan. This was George Washington’s first stop after his inauguration. St. Paul’s also has the distinction of being immediately across the street from Ground Zero where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once soared well over one hundred stories in the air.
St. Paul’s became a place of hospitality and care for the recovery workers who worked to clear away the rubble and debris that reached twenty stories up and sank seven more into the ground…

Here, the pews are battered with the marks of the heavy tool belts worn by the hundreds of workers in the recovery effort who came in to sit for a while and try to recharge after long hours of working to clear bodies, mementos, and the wreckage of the towers. Today, there is still a trundle bed, low to the floor and neatly made up with stuffed animals on the pillow, a reminder of the beds which ringed the sanctuary for many months to provide a place of refuge for the exhausted folks whose bodies and souls were equally battered by the grim work.

There are home-made banners of support from all over the country and around the world that hang on the walls and on the front of the balconies that line the room on three sides, and there are what can only be described as shrines of remembrance for both the victims of the disaster and for the sacrifice of so many of those who responded. Members of this church and hundreds of volunteers of all faiths fed thousands of recovery workers here each day. They offered counseling and care for the men and women who came in off "the pile" that eventually was known as "the pit." George Washington’s historic pew, a ten by ten, enclosed box on one side of the room, became the podiatry clinic where the workers received care for their cut or burned feet. One volunteer told us that no one entered the room untouched by their experience in the pit, but they left with spirits renewed in this place of worship...

There is a wrought-iron fence that surrounds the historic graveyard between the church and the site of Ground Zero. On the morning of the disaster, firefighters parked on the street by the church and rushed to change from civilian clothes into their protective equipment. Many hung their street boots upside-down on the spikes of the fence to be collected when they returned at the end of the day. By the next day, volunteers realized that the owners of many of the boots would never come back to collect them, and the fence that circles almost a city block became a memorial to those who lost their lives - more than three hundred of them - in their attempt to save those who were in and around the towers at the time of the attack.

Boots upside down on the fence. This is the image that stays with me. A witness to the fact that there is a cost to caring for and about others. I hunger for a church and a country in which we embody that kind of sacrifice

Resurrection of the Body

Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox Issue #258

Keywords: death, grave

The body of B. Franklin, Printer
(Like the Cover of an Old Book
Its Contents torn Out
And Stript of its Lettering and Gilding)
Lies Here, Food for Worms.
But the Work shall not be Lost;
For it will (as he Believ'd) Appear once More
In a New and More Elegant Edition
Revised and Corrected
By the Author.

- the epitaph of young Benjamin Franklin

Costing All You Have

"The B-Team Report," Connections: Newsletter of the First Presbyterian Church of Wichita Falls, December 2004

Keywords: widow's mite, cheap, expensive, christmas

In one of the "Peanuts" comic strips, Charlie Brown cracks open his piggy bank. He says, "Look I’ve got $9.11 to spend on Christmas!"

Lucy is not impressed. She says, "You can’t buy something for everyone with $9.11, Charlie Brown."

Charlie Brown retorts, "Oh yeah? Well, I’m gonna try!"

"Then," Lucy continues, "they’re sure gonna be cheap presents."

"But," Charlie Brown says with absolute conviction, "nothing is cheap if it costs all you have."

Mark 12:41, Romans 8:32

Pastor and Prayer, Joy

"Don’t Only Be The Way You Are". Presbyterian Outlook. September 24, 2004. Pg 19

Keywords: prayer, joy, Barth, charge, pastor

The following Charge to the Pastor was given by Thomas W. Currie, Dean, Union Theological Seminary/PCSE in Charlotte, NC to his son, Chris, as Christ was ordained July 25 at Covenant church in Charlotte.

I leave you with two citations from Karl Barth. The first is from his book, "Evangelical Theology." In it he says that the first and basic act of theological work, of being a minister of the Word and Sacrament, is to pray. Barth says that prayer is theological work, not just an act of piety because prayer is turning away from one’s own efforts and turning toward the God whose mysterious presence never leaves us just the way we are. To that extant, prayer is subversive of this world’s grim self-centeredness and is a witness to the deep comedy of Easter’s joy. So I charge you to pray as you study and pastor. I do not charge you to become good at it; I am not sure that is possible, or even desirable. But I do charge you to do it daily, in all its humbling, stumbling embarrassment and wonder. Pray.

And rejoice. Take joy in your work and in the life of the community of faith gathered in Calypso, NC…The Gospel is not preached or known except in embodied form. So love that community, the streets of that little town, its homes and people. And in their midst, something of the joy of the Gospel will become daily evident to you. In his discussion of the glory of God, Barth reflects on the glory of being called to be a minister, the splendor of studying theology and being a servant of the Word. "The theologian," he writes, "who has no joy in his work is not a theologian at all. Sulky faces, morose thoughts, and boring ways of speaking are intolerable (here). May God deliver us from (such) tedium."

Faith Is Not a Comfort

From an interview of Madeleine L'Engle about a Wrinkle in Time movie.

Keywords: L'Engle, comfort, challenge

What are you working on at the moment?
A book about aging: enjoy it, you might as well. And it’s not all bad. I can say what I want, and I don’t get punished for it.

Such as?
Such as I sometimes think God is a s--t-and he wouldn’t be worth it otherwise. He’s much more interesting when he’s a s--t.

So to you, faith is not a comfort?
Good heavens, no. It’s a challenge: I dare you to believe in God. I dare you to think [our existence] wasn’t an accident.

Many people see faith as anti-intellectual.
Then they’re not very bright. It takes a lot of intellect to have faith, which is why so many people only have religiosity.


"The Unchurched," The Pastor's Weekly Briefing (Apr. 1, 2005)


An annual survey (2005) of church attendance conducted by the Barna Group shows that one-third of all adults (34%) remain "unchurched" - a proportion that has changed little during the past five years. With the continuing growth of the nation's population, the number of unchurched adults also continues to grow by nearly a million people annually.

The research confirms that millions of unchurched people are spiritually active:
* One out of every five reads the Bible in a typical week.
* Six out of ten pray to God each week.
* During the past year, five percent shared their faith in Jesus Christ with people who are not professing Christians.
* During a typical month, six out of ten unchurched adults worship God (but not via church services).
* Three out of ten study the Bible.
* One out of every seven has times of prayer and Bible reading with family members.

The religious media play a part in their spiritual life, too, with four out of ten absorbing Christian content through television, radio, magazines or faith-based Web sites during a typical month. One explanation for this significant degree of religious involvement is that only one-quarter of this unchurched group (24%) are atheists and agnostics. One-fifth (20%) are adults who are aligned with a non-Christian faith. The remaining 56 percent are people who consider themselves to be Christian. In fact, 15 percent of the unchurched are born again Christians: they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that they deem important in their life, and believe they will go to heaven after death because of their confession of sin and acceptance of Jesus Christ as their savior.

Music of the Spheres

"Creation Moments," February 8, 2005
Science Frontiers, Sept-Oct, 2004. pg4.

Keywords: music, praise, creation

People living in the Polar Regions are familiar with the patterns of colorful lights that appear in the night sky, such as the northern lights. Recent research has confirmed another odd phenomenon associated with the Aurora Borealis. Sometimes when the light shows become intense, they emit an eerie type of music. While other people don't hear anything, they report feeling something during the displays. Using very sensitive instruments, researchers have confirmed that the charged particles in the upper atmosphere can create pressure waves in the lower atmosphere. These infrasonic waves reverberate beginning around 20hz, the lowest level of human hearing.

The same instruments have detected other strange sounds in the atmosphere. One example has been termed, "mountain music" created as winds blow through mountain ranges. Researchers have even discovered that the Earth's oceans "sing" as winds pass over its surface. The "song of the sea" is at such a low frequency that it carries for thousands of miles. Though these sounds are often below the range of human hearing, scientists speculate this music could be a blending of all the storms in the world, with each storm adding its unique tones to a symphony that began at creation.

Active Membership

"Explosive Growth: Unleash the Creativity of Your Congregation" by Rick Warren


Napoleon once pointed to a map of China and said, "There lies a sleeping giant. If it ever wakes up, it will be unstoppable." Today the American church is a sleeping giant. Each Sunday, church pews are filled with members who are doing nothing with their faith except "keeping" it.
The designation "active" member in most churches simply means those who attend regularly and financially support the church. Not much more is expected. But God has far greater expectations for every Christian. He expects every Christian to use their gifts and talents in ministry. If we can ever awaken and unleash the massive talent, resources, creativity and energy found in the typical local church, Christianity will explode with growth at an unprecedented rate.

I believe that the greatest need in evangelical churches is the release of members for ministry. George Gallup once took a survey and discovered that only 10 percent of American church members are active in any kind of personal ministry. But he also discovered that 40 percent of all members have expressed an interest in having a ministry. They would like to be involved in ministry, but they have never been asked or they don't know how.

This group is an untapped gold mine! If we can mobilize this 40 percent and add them to the current 10 percent already serving, your church could have 50 percent of its members active in a ministry! Would you be happy if half of your church were fully-functioning lay ministers? Most pastors would think they'd died and gone to heaven if that occurred!

JAMES' COMMENTS: Although Rick Warren is rightfully pointing out the need for our members to have ministries, he equates ministry with the institution of the church. 100 % of our church members have ministries. Our members just don't know it. We confuse church programs with ministry. The two are not the same. Being a parent, a teacher, an employee or an employer are all ministries. We need to move beyond the walls of the church building.

Refueling Your Life in Mid-flight

Refueling your life in mid-flight by Rick Warren


The Strategic Air Command -- our nation’s defense system -- operates 24 hours a day as a shield of protection for our nation. This means that at any point in a given day there are airplanes carrying nuclear warheads in the air over our country. If these planes fly constantly, how do they keep them full of gas? In the military, they do what’s called mid-flight refueling. A re-fueling plane actually flies up next to the Strategic Air Command plane, docks in, and fills the plane with gas.

As a pastor, you need to learn how to refuel your life in mid-flight. You can’t just hop off to Tahiti every time you get tired and discouraged. You have to keep going. You have to learn how to recharge yourself in the middle of your hectic lifestyle.


Discouragement leads to doubt. How do you defeat doubt? You remember three things:
1. I remind myself of God’s goodness yesterday. I make a list of all the things he’s done in my life, and I just start being thankful. The attitude of gratitude is the healthiest emotion that you can have.

2. I remember God’s presence today. I remind myself that he’s with me right now. I’m not alone. Even when I feel like I’m completely alone, I’m not. I’ve just forgotten that he’s there with me. He says, "I’m here. I’m going to help you. I’ve promised I’ll never leave you or forsake you. I’m with you right now in this crisis."

3. I remind myself of God’s promises for tomorrow. There are more than 7000 promises for us in the Bible. Each one is like a blank check that I can write out: "God, I claiming this one today. I’m turning in this coupon." He has said, "I will give you strength. I will give you the necessary tools to accomplish the task I’ve given you. I will give you the wisdom you need in this situation if you’ll just call on Me."

God’s goodness yesterday, God’s presence today, God’s promises tomorrow. I don’t need to doubt. I don’t need to be discouraged. I don’t need to be distracted. I can renew myself daily.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Prom, Camels, and Stephen Colbert

SojoMail 5-17-2006

Keyword: kingdom of heaven, rich,

Students at Kellenberg Memorial High School, a private Catholic school in Uniondale, New York, will not be celebrating prom this spring. The school's principal, Brother Kenneth Hoagland, cancelled the event. While Hoagland was disturbed by the sex, alcohol, and drugs that have become part of the prom weekend experience for many, he primarily denounced it for "the flaunting of affluence, assuming exaggerated expenses, a pursuit of vanity for vanity's sake - in a word, financial decadence."

Hoagland wrote the parents to inform them of the reasons for his decision. He argued, "But we are concerned about how our young people are being educated in the use of wealth and the experience of power that wealth gives. ... The current culture of the prom on Long Island does not represent to us a proper Christian use of wealth."

Comedian Stephen Colbert tackled the prom story on his new show The Colbert Report, a spin-off of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show…After introducing the story, Colbert launched into an over-the-top defense of extreme capitalistic spending.

Colbert asked: "What is this teaching our children? That affluence is not supposed to be flaunted? Do you know what would happen to our economy if the rich stopped acting rich? America has a simple deal with the wealthy: we cut their taxes, and in return they inspire us with their gloriously macked-out cribs, golden toilets, and young taut trophy wives."

Colbert continued his rant by jokingly justifying American decadence: "Yeah, I know that this is a Catholic school and Jesus said it's easier for a camel to pass through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. But may I remind Brother Hoagland, our nation is rich enough to buy some really huge needles, with eyes you could drive a limo full of drunk prom kids through. ... So, remember kids, they may take away your prom ... but never let them take away your champagne dreams and your caviar wishes."

We've Always Done It That Way

floating around the internet

Keywords: tradition, change

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches.

Why? Because that's the way they built them in England, and English expatriates built the US Railroads.

Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the pre-railroad tramways, and that's the gauge they used.

Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they used for building wagons, which used that wheel spacing.

If they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break on some of the old, long distance roads in England, because that's the spacing of the wheel ruts.

Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (and England) for their legions. The roads have been used ever since.

Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match for fear of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome, they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing.

The United States standard railroad gauge is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. They were made just wide enough to accommodate the back ends of two war horses.

When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs.

The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory at Utah. The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains. The SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track which is about as wide as two horses' behinds.

A major Space Shuttle design feature of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's ass.

Pride Before Fall

floating around the Internet

Keywords: pride, arrogance

A West Texas cowboy was herding his cows in a remote pasture when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced out of a dust cloud towards him. The driver, a man in a Brioni suit, Gucci shoes, Ray Ban sunglasses, leans out the window and asks the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"

The cowboy calmly answers, "Sure, Why not?" The man whips out his Dell notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page on the Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite navigation system to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo. The man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany. Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses a MS-SQL database through an ODBC connected Excel spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry and, after a few minutes, receives a response. Finally, he prints out a full-color report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet printer and finally turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."

"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says the cowboy. He watches the man select one of the animals and looks on amused as the man stuffs it into the trunk of his car. Then the cowboy says to the man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?" The man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"

"You're a Congressman", says the cowboy. "Wow! That's correct," says the man, "but how did you guess that?" "No guessing." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You tried to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about cows…Now give me back my dog"

Testing God


Keyword: test, tempt, apologetics

A Ukranian man who claimed God would keep him safe was killed by a lioness in the Kiev zoo. The man reportedly shouted, "God will save me, if he exists," and then lowered himself into the lion's enclosure at the zoo. He took his shoes off and walked up to the lions. Officials say the lioness went straight for him, and killed the man instantly. The incident was the first of its kind at the zoo, and occurred on a Sunday evening when the park was filled with visitors.

Luke 4:9-12 (NIV) “The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down from here. [10] For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; [11] they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' [12] Jesus answered, ‘It says: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Leaving a Man to Die


Keywords: Good Samaritan, Good Shepherd, love, compassion, selfish

The man who was first to climb Mount Everest says he is concerned about the attitude of climbers today. Sir Edmund Hillary who reached the summit of the world's highest mountain in 1953, said he was shocked that dozens of climbers left a British mountaineer to die during their recent attempts to reach the world's highest peak. 34 year-old David Sharp had apparently died of oxygen depravation while descending from a solo climb last week. More than 40 other climbers are believed to have seen Sharp as he lay dying, and almost all continued their quest for the summit without offering assistance.

One of those who did try to help was New Zealander Mark Inglis, the first double amputee to reach the top of Everest on prosthetic legs. Inglis said a member of his party tried to give Sharp oxygen and sent out a radio distress call before continuing to the summit. Inglis said Sharp had no oxygen and there was virtually no hope that he could have been carried to safety from his position about 1,000 short of the 29,000 peak, well inside the infamous "death zone" on the mountain. Inglis said, "I walked past David but only because there were far more experienced and effective persons than myself to help him."

In a report, Sir Edmund Hillary said he would have abandoned his own historic effort to save the life of another. Hillary said, "There have been a number of occasions when people have been neglected and left to die. " He added, "I think the whole attitude toward climbing Mount Everest has become rather horrifying." He added, "It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say 'good morning' and pass on by."
Luke 10:36-37

Teleology in Star Trek

Star Trek: Nemesis; Chapter 16: But Through a Glass Darkly; 1:15:10-1:16:12

Keywords: identity

In Star Trek: Nemesis, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is speaking with the holographic image of Praetor Shinzon of Remus, his own clone. Captain Picard is literally to face to face with himself.

Picard urges Shinzon to turn away from his plans to destroy all life on Earth. Despite the years of abuse and pain Shinzon has endured, Picard says, "I know you. I see what you could be." Shinzon refuses to listen and rise above his past. He can only see his life as a sum total of all that has happened to him. He responds by referring to himself in the third person. "He is what his life has made him."

Then Picard asks, "What will you do with that life? Waste it in a blaze of hatred? There is a better way! You still have a choice, make the right one now." Despite Picard's pleadings, Shinzon says sadly, " I can't fight what I am." Picard then pleads one last time, "Yes, you can..."

A short pause follows, before Shinzon makes his decision. He replies "I'll show you my true nature, our nature..." He has chosen to remain the same and not take a new path. Shinzon ignores his potential, choosing to remain as he is.

Application: Jesus sees the true potential in every person. He knows what we can be, if we will surrender to His will. He pleads with us to make the right choice, while we struggle to see how life could be different. We look through a mirror clouded by our fears, pain and the past. Though we only know in part, one day we will know fully as we have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV) "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known."

Giving Back


Keywords: stewardship, gift, communion, fellowship, unity

Officials at the Louisiana Baptist Convention are used to receiving donations, but a recent gift was unexpected and extraordinary.

A group of twenty men from the Island of Sumatra sent a gift of $854 to help those hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. The men themselves experienced the tragedy of natural disaster when their island was hit by the tsunami on December 26, 2004. Teams from Louisiana traveled to the stricken areas to help with the recovery and relief effort. When the news about Katrina and the damage it caused in New Orleans reached Indonesia, many Indonesians who were impacted by ministry efforts wanted to do something to help Americans in the midst of their disaster.

Disaster strategist Gibbie McMillian said the gift shows the spiritual impact of the tsunami relief work. McMillain said, "This gift is amazing. Just think people on the other side of the world felt led to make a contribution to our disaster relief work here in Louisiana." What makes the gift even more amazing is that the average monthly income in Sumatra is around $100. The men who gave the gift gave sacrificially, because they remembered how these Americans helped and cared for them.

2 Corinthians 9:7-8 (NIV) "Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."