Blog Archives

The Long (and Final) Goodbye

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Below is the final message I shared with my campus family today. It was a good and difficult time filled with memories, laughter and tears.

(Read the Long Goodbye, Part 1, The Long Goodbye Part 2)

Last week we spoke of Joseph, his father Jacob and how Joseph’s entire family came to live in Egypt. Joseph’s generation passed away followed by many other generations. In time a Pharaoh, who didn’t know the story of Joseph, rose to power. This Pharaoh came to fear and despise Jacob and Joseph’s offspring whom had multiplied greatly, became very numerous. The Egyptians began to worry these “outsiders” would someday take over the land. To keep this from happening Pharaoh took away their freedom made them slaves.

In the beginning of the book of Exodus God hears the cry of these descendants, now slaves, known as Hebrews and raises up a servant named Moses. God calls Moses to lead God’s people out of bondage into a new land, a new place where they could worship God and live in freedom.

However, even after God showed his mighty power through great miracles and made a promise the Hebrews would be God’s chosen people they would not listen to God. They would not trust God to do as he promised; lead them to a new place. These people complained about everything! They accused Moses, God’s servant, of not knowing what he was doing. They missed Egypt and wanted to go back. They grumbled in their hearts, became angry, doubted God in times of difficulty, and didn’t believe God could do what he promised. They could not move into God’s future promise because they clung to past familiarity.

Ultimately, their lack of faith, holding on to the past and fears of the future cost them dearly. God led them into no man’s land to meander aimlessly until the first generation died out. Instead it would be their children who would receive the benefits of the new land, the new place God had promised.

After most of this generation passed away a new one stood on the border of God’s Promised Land ready to go, to believe what the former generation could not. To journey on to this new place they had to leave the past behind, which included parents they had buried, places they were familiar with, lands they once called home and step into the next place God had prepared.


As they ready themselves Moses addresses them…

Deuteronomy 30 New Revised Standard Version & the Voice

Moses says;if you’ll follow your God, heart and soul, and listen to His voice and obey His commands and remember His regulations, which are written in this book.

11 What I’m commanding you today isn’t too difficult for you; it’s not out of reach.12 It’s not up in the sky, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go up into heaven and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 13 It’s not across the sea, so you don’t have to say, “Who will go beyond the watery abyss and get it for us and tell us what it is, so we can obey it?” 14 No, the words you need to be faithful to the Lord are very close to you. They are in your mouth if you will speak of them and in your heart if you will treasure them.

15 Look, I give you two choices today: you can have life with all the good things it brings, or death and all the bad things it brings. 16 If you do what God commands you today and love the Lord your God; if you live as He wants you to, if you obey His commands, regulations and judgments, then you’ll live. He will bless you with a new place, give you a new land.

17 But if your heart turns away and you don’t listen, if you go astray and you bow down to other gods and worship them,18 then today I assure you you’ll be destroyed. You’ll not inhabit this place; this new land will not be yours.

19 The Lord is giving you the choice today between life and death, between being blessed or being cursed. Choose life, so that you and your family may live! 20 If you love the Lord your God and listen to His voice and always remain loyal to Him, for He is your life, then you’ll be able to thrive in this new place the Lord has promised you.

This must’ve been a bitter sweet time for Moses. He is 120 years old but is still very capable of leading. However, Moses is also human and flawed. He has made mistakes and God has revealed to him he will not be journeying with this generation to this new place. Moses accepts this and after addressing the people he anoints others to lead them where he cannot.

God does give Moses the assurances of his faithfulness by taking him up a mountain and showing him the new land, the new place God’s people will make their home.

Deuteronomy 34 New Revised Standard Version & the Voice

Moses climbed up from the plains of Moab to the top of Mount Nebo, to the peak at Mount Pisgah on the east side of the Jordan River across from Jericho. The Lord showed him the whole land that would be Israel’s territory: Gilead as far as Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all of Judah’s territory to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, the southern desert, and the basin in the valley of Jericho, the “city of palms,” as far as Zoar.

The Lord (to Moses): This is the land I promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I told them, “I’ll give this place to this generation. I’ve let you see it, even though you will not be going with them.”

So Moses, the Lord’s servant, died and was buried in a valley in the land of Moab. The children of Israel stayed in the plains of Moab and mourned for Moses, until the grieving period was over.

Today, in many ways, we are experiencing this story in the book Deuteronomy. It is a day of decisions. It is a time when we must choose this new way or choose to hold on to the past and what is familiar.

I have served this campus church for 5 ½ years and my history pales in comparison to some of you who have been at Lebanon Valley Nazarene much longer. I can only speak from my experience and from what many of you have shared with me. There have been some wonderful times and some rough times. Moments we’ll treasure forever and memories we’d like to forget! But God has always been faithful.

In many ways we have wandered in the wilderness for these past 8 months wondering where the path would lead us. Though unsure of the way we now stand on the border of something new and unknown.

The choice becomes; do we leave the past behind, the good and the bad, highlights and low times, beautiful and less desirable events and journey into this new place, or hold on to what was, complain, grumble, fear and miss the new thing God wants to do and is doing.

Crossing the border, going to this new place requires leaving some we love behind, familiar surroundings and a place we’ve called our home. It won’t be easy but life rarely is and God is always faithful.

In some ways I see myself as Moses in this story…give me time to explain before you start rolling your eyes and thinking; “The Pastor really does need this sabbatical if he’s comparing himself to Moses!” It’s in very small ways but I maybe sense what Moses was experiencing in this selection of text.

Like Moses, I have set the choices before you today and beg you to choose life.

Like Moses, I ask you to trust God and walk his way. He will not abandon the work of his hands.

Like Moses, I have had a group of leaders and supporters who have walked with me as I have led and who will go with you as we separate.

Like Moses, I stand on the border of this new and unknown territory but cannot go with you.

Like Moses my heart hurts today as I see my dear friends and loved ones prepare to continue on without me.

I wonder if Moses regretted his actions and hasty words which kept him from continuing the journey. I want you to know I regret not being able to do more to keep this campus church open and this from being our last Sunday. I am sorry I could not lead in such a way this could have been avoided and to keep this wonderful community whole and moving forward.

This deep sadness is tempered by God’s assurance that he keeps his promises even through the weaknesses and shortcomings of leaders. I stand here today seeing, though unable to experience, God’s faithful hand which will guide you and lead you to a new place filled with his blessings!

Hopefully, unlike Moses, I will not be buried here today but like Moses I can rest knowing God is faithful.

Today, in the midst of our parting and pain, let us choose to celebrate the future unknown and not cling to the old which is passing away.

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Psalm 145

The Greatness and the Goodness of God

I will extol you, my God and King,
    and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you,
    and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
    his greatness is unsearchable.

One generation shall tell of your works to another,
    and shall declare your mighty acts.
The Lord is gracious and merciful;
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
    and his compassion is over all that he has made.

The Lord is faithful in all his words,
    and gracious in all his deeds.
14 The Lord upholds all who are falling,
    and raises up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food in due season.
16 You open your hand,
    satisfying the desire of every living thing.
17 The Lord is just in all his ways,
    and kind in all his doings.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,

  He also hears their cry, and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him.

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One Who’s Better

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A few moments ago I was doing something I loathe but has become an all too frequent discipline this winter, shoveling snow. After another few inches fell last night I headed outside, with my flimsy snow shovel, to remove as much as I could from our steep driveway.

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About an hour into this two-hour job I looked up and a nice man was heading up the other half of my drive with a snow blower. It was eating the snow up, spitting it out and putting my little snow shovel to shame! We exchanged a few pleasantries and then he made quick work of the remaining snow. I thanked him and he moved on.

There are times in life we should step aside to someone who is more talented, qualified, gifted and skilled. There is no shame in letting one who can do it better complete a task or project. However, too often we allow our pride and insecurity prevent us from admitting we can’t do all things, be all things, to all people, in all situations.

Wisdom teaches us to know ourselves and our limits. When we are aware of who we are and are not, gifts we do and do not possess, strengths and weaknesses, we can celebrate the giftings, strengths and abilities of others.

blessings,
bdl

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Never Poor

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Everything is so expensive!

Last week, while eating breakfast with friends, I told them my wife and I were hoping the oil for the furnace would last for a few more weeks until we moved. Alas, that very day, it ran out. We called the oil company, explained our predicament and were informed the minimum amount they would deliver is 150 gallons. This is much more than we need. Instead, we bought a couple of Kerosene containers and have been pouring fuel into the tank ourselves every few days. It’s not convenient but it does save us several hundred dollars.

Yesterday, at our campus, my wife told a group of people about our great oil adventure. Following the service a lovely couple invited us out to lunch and when we got home one of the men from the campus was sitting in his work truck parked in our driveway. In the back of his vehicle was a 55 gallon tank filled with oil. He asked us where the fill pipe was located, pumped the oil into the tank, told us we were loved and left.

As he pulled out of the driveway I was reminded that no person, regardless of their finances, is poor who has true friends.

blessings,
bdl

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A Wise Man Once Said…

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Foolish Wise Men

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An excellent and thought-provoking quote.

My first reaction when reading this was to think of folks I have known to whom this quote succinctly applies. However, wisdom teaches to move past the shallow critiques of others and deeply consider if it is applicable to me.

Scary. To think we may acquire knowledge and not become wise. To spend our lives accumulating that which can enlighten our path and still live in darkness is disconcerting. How do we ensure we are not someone to whom the quote; “Men can acquire knowledge, but not wisdom. Some of the greatest fools ever known were learned men.” can be hung on our lives?

A good step is to move past our initial reactions, our first thoughts. When knowledge is given to us, do we assume it is meant for someone else? Do we allow it to penetrate or just see it as data, a piece of information to file away somewhere in our minds? Do we chew on it, as a cow continuously chomps on a clump of grass, turning it over and over, drawing out all the flavor, each bit of nutrients, letting it become a part of us?

Wisdom is not the amount of knowledge we possess but if this knowledge possesses us.

blessings,
bdl

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To Feel

“Those that will not hear must be made to feel.” -German Proverb

In a world of talking, screaming, singing, social updates, breaking news, attention seekers, televangelists, highlights, lowlights and naysayers, it can be difficult to speak a word much less hear one.

To hear deep calling to deep is to shut out the shallow voices which demand to be noticed. It is to center our attention on the still small voice that beckons. To seek to listen in this cacophonous life comes from the desire to feel. When we learn to recognize the words spoken in stillness, when the stillness touches us, then we can reach out and touch the world.

blessings,
bdl

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funeral

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ashes to ashes, dust to dust
trinkets, collections, valuables rust

in vain we grasp at a vapor spray
a few quick breaths and life fades away

a moment to experience all of life's offering
before our deep sleep in a common coffin

___
bdl

In a Blind World, a One Eyed Person…

Mom Gives Eye to Blind Son as Dying Wish

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How awesome is this? Reading this HuffPo  article begs the question; “when’s the last time we helped someone see? assisted them in looking at the world and life differently?”

Each of us have gifts, skills, wisdom, which can be given to others, shedding light in dark places.

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” Edith Wharton

Too often we doubt our abilities to make a lasting contribution. We wonder “what do I have to offer?” The answer is ourselves. What we learn, what the path of life has taught us, what experience has revealed, what dark and difficult times have shown us are not ours to be hoarded. They are fragments of light, eyes if you will, to be given to others.

It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Not only do we give but we also receive. None of us navigate the trail alone. We need sight to be given to us. To have fresh eyes, to have the darkness dispelled. It is selfishness, the deep seeded desire to control, which drives us to hold onto our abilities and experiences. When we refuse to share we refuse to give light and life.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” Albert Schweitzer

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deciding to light it up,

bdl

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We’re All Insane

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Ever wonder if you’re insane? Well don’t worry about it any longer…you are…according to this 19th century list of reasons people can be admitted to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.

Why do we try to run away from or attempt to hide our uniqueness, our quirkiness?

We are all strange, everyone of us. It can be amusing to listen to folks talk about the eccentricities of others while not seeing the oddness of their own behavior and thinking.  If our lives were the subject of a reality television show how crazy would we seem to those who do not live with us, do not know us and happened to tune in?

A song by the Doors, “People are Strange” speaks wisdom;

People are strange
when you’re a stranger
Faces look ugly
when you’re alone
Streets are uneven
when you’re down
When you’re strange
Faces come out of the rain
When you’re strange
No one remembers your name
When you’re strange

Let’s face it, we are strange, and our strangeness should bring us closer together not tear us apart. Too often it is the opposite. We allow our differences to divide us because they aren’t “strange like us.”

Once we embrace our weirdness, oddness, flaws and eccentricities no one can hold them against us and hopefully we learn not to hold other’s uniqueness against them.

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may your insanity shine in someone’s darkness,

bdl

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relinquish

red-leaf-touzon_1504_600x450red tips flailing, stabbing at the source
life retreating quickly to its core
banners once reaching up to the sun
collapse to the ground and rise no more

comrades estranged hold their position
but hope for reinforcements in vain
the battle is lost, the remnants are scattered
on all sides the attackers gain

huddled inside, a strategy planned
during this season a new strength mustered
digging down deep one day they'll advance
and counter against the enemy's bluster

---
bdl

illusion

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with your beak stuck in the air
high browed and looking 'round
descending from on high
an archangel coming down

with keen crystal eyes
you see the world as yours to take
soaring with the clouds
earth bound creatures are your prey

talons outstretched, sharp and at the ready
squeezing, tearing, grasping that which satisfies
hunger driving you among lowly ones as they scamper
soiling yourself briefly then returning to the skies

perched majestically above it all
a belief you're God's crafted sculpture
but up close a lowly scavenger
not an eagle just a vulture

---
bdl

How High do Babies Bounce?

baby-240_0Someone tried to make me hold a baby yesterday! Of course, I begged off.  Don’t get me wrong, I love babies. Like most people I think babies are adorable. The world would be a better place if people thought of babies more and themselves less.  But to hold an infant, for any real length of time? Come on!

My wife and I were never blessed with children so holding them intimidates me. Actually, it downright scares me. You have to hold their head the right way, support the neck, making sure they are not going to slip through your arms and…whoops! “You break it, you buy it!” Keeps flashing through my mind.

Holding a baby is like disarming a time bomb.  You think you’re doing a great job and then, wham! Crying, screaming, the world is ending and everyone stares in your direction thinking there’s something wrong with you. It’s just too much pressure! Like a bomb, I prefer to view from afar.

I told the person who issued the challenge I was afraid I would drop this beautiful baby girl. She said; “don’t worry they bounce.” She and I both know the difference between a baby and a basketball but she was encouraging me not to be so concerned and just go for it! She is an experienced mom and grandmother. It is amazing for a novice like me to watch a professional such as her. The baby squirms, yells, stretches, smiles, cries, moves all over the place and this pro handles it with ease.

There are times in life we need folks who’ll encourage us to stop being so concerned we’re going to do something wrong, mess something up, break something and just go for it! Life is made to be lived, babies are meant to be held, this journey we’re on is meant to be experienced.

What are you afraid of today? What are you unwilling to grasp? What chance are you not taking? Mindfulness is often described as holding loosely or letting go entirely but wisdom also teaches to miss being in this moment and what it offers is to miss life.

What would life be like today if we let go of the fear and held each moment like it was a small child? Caressing, smiling, carefully making sure we didn’t drop it and when it’s time to give it back, do so with grace.

Beautiful thought, isn’t it?

so, who’s got a baby and a basketball rim I can borrow?

bdl

Breaking Sad

breakingbadTonight is the final episode of what some of have called the “greatest television show of all time,Breaking Bad. Countless articles and social media posts have both lamented the show’s end and surmised the plot of the finale. It seems the pop-world is waiting with great anticipation.

…and then there’s me. I have never watched an episode, a clip or a moment of the acclaimed drama. I’ve also never seen The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, The Office, The Wire, The Walking Dead, Arrested Development, Dr. Who, Modern Family,  Lost or Dexter. It’s been years since I’ve sat through more than a few minutes of a football, basketball or baseball game, couldn’t pick One Direction out of a lineup nor hum the tune of one song on Billboard’s Top 20. I like television, keep up with sports scores, and a good monastic chant really gets me going! However, I’m just hopelessly lost when it comes to being on the cultural cutting edge.

I do my best to keep up by reading articles and perusing trending topics. When people are conversing about something I’m not familiar with I google for insight.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out or should invest more time in keeping up with these “must sees, must hears, must knows“. No doubt they would help me relate to more people and might even make me more interesting. However, the question that always pops up is, “what would I give up to make time for these things?”

Several years ago I developed and adopted a precept that governs my time and how I invest my life;

“Your life is a list and on that list are the things that are important to you. You choose what’s on that list. The more items on your list, the less time you have to spend on the items that are truly important.”

Breaking Bad might be the greatest show ever made. I might miss the play that ignited the improbable comeback and will probably be the only guy camping outside the store for Gregorian Chant concert tickets…and I’m ok with that.

Whether you’re a T.V. savant, a sports fanatic, can sing the Bill Board Top 20, or a One Direction groupie, just be sure you’re investing your time and life in these things because it’s on your list and not because it seems to be on everyone else’s.

so, who’s down for some Monastic Motown?

bdl

better

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"how you've healed so quickly" is what he often hears
deep wounds on the mend in what is record time
smiling, "just that lucky" is what he'll often quip
the pain he seems to give such little mind

the spring in his step quite bouncy
his whistling fills the air
why help to shoulder the burden
he's casted all his cares

salutations to his neighbors, friends along the way
indicators on the outside, seems to be okay
he ambles down the sidewalk pausing to check the mail
even smells the flowers, it's been a lovely day

his door he lightly opens, slowly closing it behind
crumples to the floor, clutching photos he will lie
until the long night passes and comes again the sun
somehow he'll keep pretending that life carries on

---
bdl

companions

couple

at sunrise they are searching as lonely often do
odd singularities who catch a curious eye
to think of them together raises many questions
what would be the bond that would link these two

at midday in the park they barely miss each other
vainly looking elsewhere as the day rushes on
determined to locate their long missing paramour
hoping resoluteness will bring two hearts together

it's chance that unites them, now in eveningtide
the fading light not dimming the spark at once is there
slowing to a snail's pace is the world surrounding
they rush to embrace and hold the other tight

midnight finds them gazing as partners often do
into eyes of one for whom they long have searched
wishing it hadn't taken a lifetime to discover 
coupling mortality and wisdom, death and truth

---
bdl

doppleganger

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I glimpsed a reflection of you today
in the face of a stranger 
suffocating my soul with memories 
frightened and barely breathing

plagued by the spectre 
of how we used to be
hovering in my consciousness 
haunting every moment

how do you let go of the past
when it possesses your present
how do you ignore a ghost
when it catches you by surprise

---
bdl

meandering

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steady feet, measured gait walk a ne'er trod way
unknown the place and time of their arrival
settled ones speak of safety to all who journey near
but ramblers trust the trail for their survival

"all who wander are not lost" 
echo across the mountains
where life's not summed in length of days
but a spirit's depth is counted

unwinding trail with every step
a journey to uncharted regions
into forests vast and deep
discovering a sojourner's freedom

---
bdl

brevity

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"look how shriveled they've become"
she speaks hushed and somber
staring at her withered hands
she doesn't recognize them 

fingers filled with life's warm glow
now pail, unsteady, swollen
digits used to grab life's tail
fiddling with blankets draped upon her

the perfect fit when she was born
her suit stretched and gathered
worn out by time and overuse
she longs for heaven's tailor

a trembling wave she offers
with appendages of little use
she'll hold on tight as best she can
as days keep slipping through

---
bdl

revolution

wind

wind whispered a rumor today
tickling heedful ears
a new regime sweeping through
drafts upon the soul

blades bowed to nature's touch
earth's shield buckles
strong limbs give up on their hold
wooden giants put down their armor

blue sky lit up with a flare
betrayed by a shiver
a mood to shift, make things new
first blast of insurrection

---
bdl

genesis

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cascading from a sky of white
searching for a place to gather
locates crevices, cracks, grooves
collecting, moving, falling downward

not content to stay or settle
desires to descend, creeping inward,
sinking into unseen, unknown deepness
to saturate the salivating origin of life

---
bdl

dependable

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weight of the world on your shoulders 
face weary, worn, a scale 
callused hands squeezed of every ounce
a well-worn path to your door

a broad back that's overloaded 
strong arms grappling to hold
sure, steady feet need balance
a new task placed just so 

one more flame to extinguish
another need shadows the daylight 
the candle shines at both ends
your ears forever burning

back aches and twisted 
hips flex, tendons stretch 
pulled in everyone's direction
ruptured lives if you snap

the one on whom they lean
a foundation which to build
the cornerstone of other people's lives
if you crumble who picks up the pieces

a look into those weary eyes
a glance at trembling knees
the sight of shoulders giving way
rest my friend, you've done enough

---
bdl
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