Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I have never been a skilled baseball player, nothing much has changed. I'm not even a fanatic, keeping up with a favorite team and player anymore. Still baseball was a bonding point for me with both of my parents. My cousin, Mike Pagliarulo played pro ball first for the Yankees then for a few other teams. Last night, holding my son, I watched a PBS special on Fenway Park. There is a strong connection for me there. My mother's family is from Boston, and I have been privileged to see two games at Fenway. One was a Red Sox v. Yankee game in the 1980s when my cousin was playing. It truly is an incredible experience to go to that historic park. It was a moment, holding 2 of my kids in which there was this deep connection to my roots (my family, my relationship with my dad and my mom, and experiences with students) that came into a unique perspective, something as simple as baseball that transcends time, geography, and any number of things to build a strong family connection for future generations.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Loving Difficult People

Calvin Miller delivers a wonderful resource for ministers in his recent book, Letters to a Young Pastor. Miller draws on his 30 years of pastoral ministry and his perspective as a seminary professor to encourage, caution, and challenge a new generation of pastors. Essential reading for anyone in ministry!

Above all, never hate anyone. 
John said that to claim to love God and hate your brother is but a great deception that blinds you to what you really are, the certified lover of the church, all of the church, starting with the difficult people.  
Most people are difficult once in a while. In fact, nearly everybody is a problem to somebody, sometime, somewhere. You must decide whether to solve these people problems, cope with them, ignore them, or run them off. Pastor, I know that in ministry it gets hard to like everybody. Will Rogers did, I know, but then there's a general feeling that while Will never met a man he didn't like, he never really got out all that much. And I'm pretty sure he never pastored a church. 

I think you could insert served a church rather than pastored, because anyone who serves in a ministerial position faces this challenge weekly.

The Need for Christian Thinkers

John Stott in his commentary on Acts writes, 
There is an urgent need for more more Christian thinkers who will dedicate their minds to Christ, not only as lecturers, but also as authors, journalists, dramatists and broadcasters, as television script-writers, producers and personalities, and as artists and actors who use a variety of art forms in which to communicate the gospel. 
The Millennial generation is less influenced by talking heads who lecture about the incarnation of Jesus Christ than any other generation in history. They are more open to traces of the transcendent in pop culture. The church must find ways to communicate the gospel in new forms, even newer ones than Stott mentions, but include those he references if we will see future generations encounter the living Christ! We don't just need new generations of missionaries and preachers we need believers in all vocations to make Yahweh famous.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Demands of Jesus

In comparing the demands of the contemporary, evangelical church to the demands of Jesus, Mark Galli finds the church sufficiently lacking. It seems that in the church we want to make it as easy as possible to follow Jesus, yet that doesn't square with the picture of Jesus in the gospels.

So it seems we want some theological and moral demands made on us, but just not too many. Give us a somewhat challenging faith and we do just fine.  
Then along comes Jesus, telling us to cut off a hand or foot or cut out an eye if it gets in the way of serving him. He instructs us to abandon wives, sisters, brothers, and friends and put our lives on the line. I don't know about  you, but I'd much rather tithe, pray daily, serve on a couple of church committees, lead a men's Bible study, serve on the church board, and attend weekly worship. As exhausting as it is to be a good churchman, it's infinitely easier than the demands Jesus would make on my life.  
The point is simply this: if we've given ourselves to a contemporary, high-demand expression of faith, we should recognize that it doesn't even approach the demands Jesus makes on us. Even monastics, old and new, know that their sacrifices are ridiculously meager. And when this reality hits us from time to time--as well it should, if we're at all honest with ourselves--the only reasonable reaction is fear and trembling. What else would a sane person do after realizing that Jesus wants nothing less than all of us--every molecule, every breath, every ounce of energy, every interest, every passion, every thought, every action, every love? It certainly scares the bejeebers out of me (134-136). 

The God Who Is Able

Jude 1:24-25

New Living Translation (NLT)

A Prayer of Praise

24 Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault. 25 All glory to him who alone is God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord. All glory, majesty, power, and authority are his before all time, and in the present, and beyond all time! Amen.

I'm thankful that my salvation isn't dependent on me, rather on God. He alone is able to keep me from falling, preserving me until that day that I meet him face to face. He truly does deserve glory and honor in our lives!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Mark Galli's book Jesus Mean and Wild grabbed my attention because of the title, unfortunately the book was less engaging than I hoped. I was still able to distill a few great truths though.

Galilee is the beginning of things. Galilee is where Jesus was first revealed to us. Galilee is where we must go to get in touch with reality again.  
To go to Galilee means to remember what it was about Jesus that first connected with you. It means to explore those things that drew you into the faith in the first place. This Jesus likely left you with more questions than answers and perplexed you as much as fulfilled you. It took years to get all those answers and resolve those perplexities and thus year to refashion him in your image. Instead, return to the alluring, mysterious, captivating Jesus who first attracted you--not in a naive way (as if you've learned nothing), but in a way that sees the simplicity of Jesus within the complexity of faith (177). 

In writing about the encountering God in our world Galli writes,
God is found in the magnificence of Half Dome and in the miracle of the embryo, in the abandoned play of children, in intimate conversation over coffee. He is found when a husband and wife make love or when two or three are gathered in his name. He is found in the hungry, in the homeless, in the prisoners. And most specifically, he is found in his Word, in his body, and in the breaking of bread and the sharing of wine in his name (181-182).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

St. Patrick on God's Gracious Provision

I give thanks to my God tirelessly who kept me faithful in the day of trial, so that today I offer sacrifice to him confidently, the living sacrifice of my life to Christ, my Lord, who preserved me in all my troubles. I can say therefore: Who am I, Lord, and what is my calling that you should cooperate with me with such divine power? Today among heathen peoples, I praise and proclaim your name in all places, not only when things go well but also in times of stress. Whether I receive good or ill, I return thanks equally to God, who taught me always to trust him unreservedly.

From St. Patrick's Confession, emphasis mine.

Birthday Girl

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Choice of Pain

Taken from The Jesus Prayer by Frederica Matthews-Green

Jesus said, “In the world you have tribulation.” You will, he promises; just take a deep breath and accept it. In this world, pain will visit everyone sooner or later.
               But Jesus didn’t stop with that thought. He went on, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33). Pain may be inevitable, but it is also temporary, and that alone is a comforting thought. Pain is mandatory, but misery is optional.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wrecking Ball

Great thoughts on the Boss and the Gospel at the Christianity Today blog,

Here is the review from Andy Whitman on the album,

I haven't anticipated a new album like I have this one in a while, not really sure why either. Springsteen is one of those musicians my dad introduced to me, so maybe that has something to do with it. I've only had a chance to listen through the disc one time...based on first listen isn't amazing!

College Ministry Lessons

The transition to college ministry is going to continue to be one of challenges and lessons learned, some the hard way others with a measure of humor.
The first lesson, when you do a mission project in which you hand out brownies late at night at the library the week before spring break...go ahead and make a sign that says pot-free brownies to wear around your neck. A student and I handed brownies out at the back door of the library from 10-11:30 last night. It was a cool experience to see different people's reactions. Most were very polite even if they didn't want our goodies. I would estimate that 20-25% of them asked if the y were "special", meaning did they have marijuana in them. 
I guess next time we should only do cookies!

Monday, March 5, 2012

First Trip to the Doctor

More pics

It's NOT about YOU!

Another great reminder of the role that we as preachers play on the gospel stage. Unfortunately most of us are arrogant and full of our own delusions of grandeur the majority of the time until someone or something knocks us off our high horse. Because of our propensity to think of ourselves more highly than anyone ought to we become more concerned with our own "performance" and the well wishes and applause of our people rather than remembering that it isn't about's about the gospel.

See the excerpt below from Shurden's journal.

South Carolina Preacher Robert Guffey tells of instructions that he received from his band directors in junior high and high school. They would say:
          “Ladies and gentlemen, if you cannot hear the playing of the person beside you, you are playing too loud. This is not about you; it is about the music. It’s not about your ego. If there is a solo in the music for you to play, I’ll let you know. It’s not about whether or not your mother is sitting on the front row and you want to stand out. It’s not about you. It’s about the music.”
I was going to preach for my first time in chapel at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was nervous, really nervous. The day before the sermon I told ole jubilant, jolly Wayne Ward who had preached in that chapel a hundred times how apprehensive I was. Wayne dismissed it, “Oh, Buddy, you are just worrying about how you are going to do. It is not about you. Rare back and preach to us. Quit worrying about being a hit.”
Almost four decades after Wayne Ward said those words to me, I can truthfully say that I never get up to preach that I do not worry about how I am going to do. I have to keep telling myself, “It is not about me; it is about the music, the gospel that I preach.” My sense is that worrying about how you are going to do is not all bad. It’s just not that important.


A great reminder about forgiveness from Walter B. Shurden's most recent volume of his preaching journal.

          Like Andy Catlett in Wendell Berry’s novel Remembering, each of us has a “stub” of some kind. In a stupid accident for which he could not forgive himself, Andy lost his right hand in a corn harvesting machine. After that, he lived with a sense of not being whole. Who doesn’t?
“He raged, and he raged at his rage, and nothing that he had was what he wanted.” Because he could not accept his “stub,” Andy thought, erroneously, that others could not accept him. At the edge of his anger at everything and everyone else was his anger at himself. And so, Flora, his wife, said to him one day:
                   “Do you know what you need?”
                   “Forgiveness. And I want to forgive you. All of us do. And you need more than ours. But you must forgive yourself.”
          Each of us has a “stub” of some kind, some physical deformity, some emotional scar, some public moral failure, or some clandestine sin. It weighs us down like concrete. No day passes that we do not think about our “stubs,” those marks that make us unacceptable to ourselves.  And, of course, if we do not find a way to restore joy to our stubby lives, we will live joylessly because of a deep, deep anger toward ourselves. Beyond the forgiveness of God and the forgiveness of others lies the really hard work of forgiving ourselves.

Meeting My Son for the First Time

This weekend was an amazing adventure as we welcomed our third child, the first (and only) boy into the world. Meeting him for the first time was a joyful, even tearful experience as I saw him extracted from his home for the past 39 weeks and as he uttered his first sounds in this world. Breathtaking, inspiring, humbling, almost indescribable...almost. I am so incredibly excited to get to welcome a boy and slightly scared at the same time. Girls are least I know what to do and what to expect...I'm sure that will change when hormones and puberty come into the picture, but I'm not going to even think about that right now.

He is so stinking awesome. To hold him, to love on him, to see our girls and the rest of the family fall all over him, there is no doubt he will be spoiled rotten by day 10 if not before.

In the midst of the excitement it is possible to forget to thank God for the blessings he bestows, but Cyd and I found our hearts overflowing with thanks and praise, some voiced audibly but most treasured in our hearts like Mary, the mother of our Savior modeled.

Lent and Ink

Here is a really interesting post on what one church (an evangelical church that breaks that stereotype) is doing to challenge it's members to observe Lent. Lots of dynamics in this story, 1. controversy among believers over body art, 2. blending of traditional Catholic understanding of the Stations of the Cross within a largely conservative church, 3. the pastor leading by example (for some in this situation it would be encouraging while for others it would be a huge stumbling block.