Blog Archives

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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The Long Goodbye, Part 2

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Today I shared the following with my campus family as we began our last few weeks together…

 (Read “the Long Goodbye, Part 1”)

Waiting can drive us crazy. Maybe this is why there is so much of it in life. These last few months have been one long season of waiting. A thought that keeps coming to my mind, “perhaps, life can be best summed up as one long lesson in patience.”

In a world where almost everything moves at such a high rate of speed, sometimes it’s difficult to catch our breath before something else dashes in to take it away. Instant gratification is no longer an option but rather a necessity. At a time where everything happens so fast, shouldn’t patience be placed on the endangered species list? It seems to be no longer a virtue and no longer needed. 

However, life still requires patience and a recognition that for everything there is a season.

Genesis 31The Voice (VOICE)

Jacob, the heel-catcher, has met a kindred spirit. Both men are deceivers and manipulators. Both do whatever they can to get the better of the other. It just comes naturally. Laban tricks Jacob first by marrying him to Leah before Rachel…After many years of service, Jacob finally outwits Laban and gains a more valuable flock in the process.

31 As time went on, Jacob overheard what Laban’s sons were saying about him.

Laban’s Sons: Jacob has taken everything that belonged to our father; he gained all his wealth from taking advantage of him.

And Jacob also noticed a change in how Laban looked at him and treated him. He seemed colder toward him than before.

Eternal One (to Jacob): You must now return to the land of your ancestors and to your own family. I will be with you always.

So Jacob called his wives Rachel and Leah to meet him in the field where his flock was grazing.

Jacob: I notice your father’s attitude toward me has changed; he doesn’t regard me with the same respect as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me….(but God has said to me) 13 “I am the God of Bethel, the place where you poured oil on a pillar and made a vow to Me.[a] Now get up, leave this land, and return to the land where you were born.”

It has been a long season of waiting for Jacob, heel grabber, one who wrestles with God.

He has waited in a foreign land for his brother to cool off after Jacob tricked him out of his inheritance. He fell in love with a beautiful woman named Rachel and waited seven years, working for his soon to be father in law only to be tricked into marrying his beloved’s older sister named Leah. He then had to work another seven years to complete the payments for both sisters.

After this Jacob grew rich and Laban grew jealous. The time was coming when he would need to move away from his father in law. As he waited, God blessed and his father in law schemed. Don’t feel sorry for Jacob, he could scheme with the best of them. Finally, after many years of service, back and forth plotting and scamming, wives, many children, trouble between the two families, and much waiting, God reveals to Jacob what he is to do.

Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” 

It has been many years since Jacob has been home. His life has been lived elsewhere for so long home is more a memory than reality. It’s also filled with uncertainty. What will Esau, Jacob’s deceived brother, do when they come face to face? Where will they live? Will his livestock and investments continue to grow? No certainty is given except (God promised) “Go to the land of your ancestors and I will be with you.

Jacob gathers his family and discusses this life altering revelation.

Rachel and Leah (respond): 14 Is there any inheritance at all left for us from our father’s house? 15 He regards us as foreigners now that we’ve married you. He sold us in exchange for your years of labor, and he has been using up all of the money that should have been ours. 16 All of the property God has taken from our father and given to you actually belongs to us and to our children anyway! So do whatever God said to do.

So do whatever God said to do.” Remember these are moms saying this, wives giving their approval. Moms aren’t usually too thrilled when dads/husbands decide to make a U-turn in midlife and do something unexpected. Moms/Wives like stability. They like knowing the kids are getting fed; a roof over their heads, the dad/husband is going to be able to provide for them. Thank God for wives/moms/families who are willing to say; “Do whatever God said to do.”

17 So Jacob got up, and he put his children and his wives on camels for the journey. 18 He rounded up all of his livestock and all of the property he had gained, … crossed the Euphrates River and set his face south toward the hill country of Gilead, he was going home.

When I came to ECN almost 7 years ago I left a ministry which faced many challenges and came to a new place, a new life at ECN as their Christian Education director. Though I had never held this position before, I was excited to do something new after being a youth mentor for many years. However, less than a year later, I was asked to visit this campus church for a few Sundays to be pulpit supply, a fill in, a substitute and I have been there ever since. I have never regretted my decision.

Even last year, when the future of our church became uncertain and my position was no longer available, I still knew this was God’s place for me. In July 2013, after being informed ECN could no longer financially support my position I began searching for another position but also applied at many bi-vocational jobs in this area in case the decision was made to keep the campus church open.

Though I have been considered for various positions in these last several months I have prayerfully sensed God’s leading not to pursue any opportunities until the outcome of our campus was determined. Then in December, following the decision to close LVCN, God’s call for me was to continue being their shepherd, through this time of uncertainty and until the last Sunday, was clear. I obeyed but was unsure what this meant for the future.

As I have considered other ministries and waited for guidance on where to go next, I prayerfully sensed I was to wait, to rest.

One position seemed it might be a good fit. We exchanged emails, phone calls, video interviews and I sensed I would fit in rather well. My last interview with their leadership team was on January 16, 2014. It went very well. As soon as I finished the interview I picked up my bible, prayed and began to read scripture.

The Bible I was reading from has a selection of chapters to be read each day followed by one verse to meditate upon. The assigned section for this day was 5 ½ chapters, over 100 verses. Out of all the possible selections the verse to meditate upon was:

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Up until this point Beth and I had been discussing the sense of waiting we felt God had placed on our lives. We also reflected upon certain difficult situations I had encountered while serving here since July 2007.

In some ways we, like Jacob, have been in a period of waiting for almost 7 years. There have been times we looked for a sign to transition but were always directed back to shepherding our family at the campus church. In many ways it has been this place, these people, which kept us from moving on during some very trying times. It is a blessing being their leader.

Now this verse brought everything into focus. I understood why a spirit of rest had been laid upon my heart. That night I saved and annotated the page in my Bible (pictured above) dated it January 16, and shared it with my wife. I read her the scripture I had meditated upon following the interview and she replied; “Do what God wants you to do.” Following this I contacted the church and removed my name from consideration for the position. I realized this was not the season for “next” but of rest.

In the last several weeks, we continued to pray and counsel with mentors and friends, to confirm the direction we are to take and believe it to be our course.

Last week we traveled down to South Carolina where my folks have graciously offered to let us stay with them. So, following my final day as the pastor of these wonderful people on February 28, we will pack up all we own and, like Jacob, move to the place I call home.

The decision, like Jacob’s, is filled with uncertainty. How long this waiting will last we are not sure. How we are going to make ends meet we do not know. But, like Jacob, God has directed me back to the land of my kindred, to go home for a season of rest and he offers his assurance;

Genesis 31:3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your ancestors and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” 

Reflection

Psalm 74

The Voice

O Lord we have waited for your signs

    we have searched and listened for your word,
    we have waited patiently for a season.
10 O True God, how much longer?
11 When will you release us?

12 Even as we wait, you are still our True God, our King from long ago;
    you bring salvation to Your people. You are faithful.
13 You are powerful and we praise you.
15 You made everything and give love and direction to those who follow you.
16 The day is Yours and also the night—
    You set in place the sun, moon, and all the stars to light up our darkness.
17 You have arranged all things, control all things;
    You are the Architect of our lives. You are creator of all seasons.


Amen

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Time Wasters

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What happened to my hands? When did they become so wrinkly? What are these crinkles on my face? Why do I seem to have much more face and so less hair? Except, of course, on my eyebrows and ears which seem to grow hair at a phenomenal rate!

Getting older is a reality. We realize it happens and yet it still somehow takes us by surprise.

The other day I caught myself holding an item with fine print under a light, squinting, trying to read it…and I thought; “when did this happen, when did I turn into an old person?”

Time, the undefeated one.

If we can’t stop time hopefully we can make the most of the time we have left.

blessings,
bdl

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The Patience to Live Fully

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Patience is a hard discipline. It is not just waiting until something happens over which we have no control: the arrival of the bus, the end of the rain, the return of a friend, the resolution of a conflict. Patience is not a waiting passivity until someone else does something. Patience asks us to live the moment to the fullest, to be completely present to the moment, to taste the here and now, to be where we are. When we are impatient we try to get away from where we are. We behave as if the real thing will happen tomorrow, later, and somewhere else. Lets’ be patient and trust that the treasure we look for is hidden in the ground on which we stand.

Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey

There are days when Henri Nouwen speaks directly to me, this is one of those days and I hope his words touch some of you as well.

blessings,
bdl
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When You Fall

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I have a scar on my left knee that reminds me of the difficult task of learning to ride a bicycle. The scar is from a large rock I discovered when I fell on my grandmother’s semicircular, dirt & gravel driveway.

Once you learn how to ride a bike they say you don’t forget and so far, so good, but occasionally I still take a tumble. The bigger, faster, mountain bike I now ride is more fun but can also be more dangerous depending on what’s around the next curve of the trail.

Life is like riding a bicycle. Learning balance, staying upright, keeping your bearings, is hard and sometimes no matter how much experience you have you’re going to take a tumble.

Each of us bear the scars of this wild ride called life. It seems about the time we think we’ve figured it out is about the time we take the next spill. When, not if, we fall what do we do? We get up. We might be dirty, bleeding, hurt and tempted to quit but we refuse to surrender.

from The Lion in Winter:

Prince Geoffrey and Prince Richard are confined in a dungeon, the end seems near as their father, the enemy, approaches:

Richard: He’s here. He’ll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn’t going to see me beg.
Geoffrey: You fool… as if the way one falls matters.
Richard: When the fall is all that’s left, it matters a great deal.

blessings,
bdl

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A Bad Idea?

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This is either going to be a huge success or an unmitigated disaster! 

Ever put two things together and bad things happen? Two good friends, you know will hit it off, end up not liking each other? A blind date which goes horribly wrong? Hired for your dream job and it ends up a nightmare? Vacation with family…

Not everything goes together, not everyone gets along.

Last night, on my way to the campus, I was thinking about a new situation I will soon find myself in. It will combine people and places I love but there is an uneasiness in regards to putting it all together. This uncertainty of mixing several ingredients and what will result had me feeling apprehensive.

However, after more reflection, I realized my anxiety was in not being able to predict the future. I do not have the ability to foresee if the upcoming situation will be a success or failure, good or bad, mistake or sound decision.

What I can do is allow the path to unfold in front of me, walk it, and carry as little baggage of expectation and worry as possible. Wisdom tells me this is how we are to live life, always.

blessings,
bdl
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Fooling Anyone?

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It’s almost always the little things that give us away, tell on us, blab our secrets to the world and often at the most inconvenient times.

I wish we could capture the way we see ourselves in a photograph and the way others see us in another and then compare the two. Actually, it would probably be hundreds or thousands because different people see us differently.

Holding our picture and the other snapshots, looking at them, realizing we weren’t fooling anyone as much as we’d think or like, would we have the courage to ask; “what gave me away? what were my tells? what about me dispelled the illusion I was trying to cast?” We might be shocked by the answers.

We spend so much time trying to appear as something other than ourselves. Often we listen to inner and outer voices as they suggest, “maybe don’t do this, hide that side, avoid this behavior, hold back, be more assertive, insert suggestion/criticism here: _____.

What’s interesting is the way others see us is an illusion that’s based on their own upbringing, biases, desires, and ideas of what would make a “better you.”

No matter whose illusion we try to grasp, wisdom tells us it’s only a vapor. To know our true selves, the strengths, weaknesses, dreams and fears, to be content with not being perfect, nor striving to be, is to let go of that which we will never attain.

Look at the pictures again then throw them to the wind, you weren’t fooling anyone anyway.

blessings,
bdl 
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Polluted Picture

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To find beauty in ugliness, desperate times, trashed relationships, polluted words and corrupt actions takes a certain kind of vision.

Most times, when our lives are inundated with the messes created by our and other’s choices, we tend to focus on what’s wrong with the picture. Our eyes get fixed on what’s spoiling our environment and believe only when it is removed will there be beauty again.

Mindfulness and wisdom teach us to accept the truth that life will never be perfect, pristine or picturesque.

Whether it is a situation or a someone, when an eyesore becomes all we can see we are unable to capture the truth of a beautiful life in an ugly world.

blessings,
bdl

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Comfort Food

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This morning I had breakfast with one of my favorite people. We talked about important things, laughed about silly things, ate good food, drank too much coffee, and had a good time.

My friend, as he almost always does, picked up the check. I texted him later and told him “thank you” for the food and the conversation, they were good the body and soul.

There is something about sharing a meal together. Most families, cultures and religions incorporate special times which revolve around the “breaking of bread.”

Just as food and drink are necessary for survival of the physical, also a sense of community, the sharing of lives, is needed for emotional and spiritual well-being.

We were not made to travel the path of life alone. Together we add flavor, sustenance and texture to this banquet we call existence.

blessings,
bdl

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Taking a Big Toll

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Okay, I must admit it, I have stood behind someone in a grocery store or in a line at Walmart and counted their items. I’m not proud of myself but they say recovery starts with confession.

Something in this gentleman snapped! Being 73 years old I would imagine there have been many times in his life where he stood behind a young whippersnapper who didn’t care they had too many items to be in the express lane.

As trivial a reason as 22 items instead of the suggested 20 for going to jail is, I believe the extra 2 we’re symbolic of much more. It’s the little things, after all, that get to us.

When the big problems come we dig deeper, find the strength and courage to do what needs to be done. Bearing up under great difficulty and hardship is sometimes easier than dealing with life’s everyday, ordinary, never ceasing nuisances.

If we aren’t mindful, at peace, possessing an inner stillness, sooner or later all of the aggravating, little annoyances, take a big toll.

blessings,
bdl
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Not One Person

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Interesting quote from John. If you were to watch certain television channels, listen to popular radio shows, or visit a myriad of websites, there is the sense that a huge portion of our population is intent on getting for free what others work so hard for.

Why are we so quick to believe what others tell us about certain segments of people, cultures and those of a certain social status?

Is it our own personal biases? A fear someone is taking what we think is rightfully ours? A need to blame others for our lives not measuring up to preset standards?

As long as we allow others to stoke the flame of judgement and suspicion in regards to our fellow man, we will not be able to let each person be their true selves.

blessings,
bdl

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Greater Good

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Isn’t this what we all want? A chance to do good? An opportunity, a moment, to not erase our past but to triumph over it?

We can be prisoners of past mistakes, choices, habits and addictions, defined by what we have done and not what we’re capable of doing.

It is only through being willing, like Henry in the story above, to jump into the muck of life, get dirty, make tough decisions and keep at it no matter what, that redemption comes.

In the end some may still see us as what we used to be but others will perceive the truth that all of us, no matter the bad we’ve done, are capable of even greater good.

blessings,
bdl

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Broken Promises

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I had the privilege of sitting next to a gentleman yesterday who was married to his wife for more than 60 years. I also had the privilege of officiating the funeral of his beloved in 2010.

As we ate lunch at one of his favorite diners I noticed even after all this time he still wears his wedding ring. Even after death my friend still keeps the promise he made almost 70 years ago.

Contrast this with the nypost.com story above.

In a world where broken hearts, broken engagements, and broken promises are the norm it’s good to know that there are those to whom the words; “I do” cannot be nullified even by the greatest of obstacles.

blessings,
bdl

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Rescued by Refuse

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I can’t help but wonder how many times this lady, or others from her building, complained about the trash piling up outside.

Did people bemoan to the building superintendent about the smell, the eyesore, demanding this pile of refuse be carted off as soon as possible? Yet in the end this mountain of junk saved someone’s life.

There are times when we have to deal with a lot of messiness. We wish our lives, the lives of family and friends, we’re more orderly, less smelly and didn’t seem to pile up right outside our door.

However, we never know if what we think of as junk might just be the valuable lesson which will save our or someone else’s life.

blessings,
bdl

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When Dogs are Barking

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Someone once told me that our minds are full of dogs and whichever dog barks the loudest is the last one to be fed.

Too often we feed our worries, bitterness, and ego.  They do, after all, bark the loudest. But it seems the more time, emotion, energy we feed them the louder they howl.

Like a dog chasing its tail are uncontrolled, barking thoughts. They threaten our sanity and mark other parts of our lives with their rancid scent.

Only when we break out the leash, discipline our thoughts, will our minds and lives be at rest.

blessings,
bdl
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Change & Traveling

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This morning I had an errand to run. Too early for music, I found myself thinking about life and the many changes on the horizon.

Transitions occur for many reasons and these reasons often take the blame for the difficulties we are presently journeying through.

However, whatever the catalyst for life changes might be, sooner or later we must accept what is happening and let go of holding someone or something responsible.

No matter where the path of life leads, you take yourself with you. Peace and acceptance make better traveling companions than bitterness and blame.

blessings,
bdl
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True Greatness

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I thought this was a wonderful thought by Merton.

Thomas puts “greatness and mercy” together.

To speak of greatness coupled with mercy doesn’t happen often.  The two seem to be opposed. Greatness requires conquering, possessing, triumphing over anything that stands in our way.  Mercy is seen as weakness, a giving our opponent a chance.

Could it be true greatness doesn’t fear losing? doesn’t fear for its reputation? doesn’t mind being seen as weak because true greatness, true power, truth, cannot be overcome?

For one who has greatness of this magnitude, to be merciful only increases the distance between it and everything else.

blessings,
bdl

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An Unexpected Menace

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Over at modernfarmer.com there are 6 Ways to Fight the Menace of Cow Burps.

What’s interesting is I never knew there was a gaseous bovine epidemic. Living in Pennsylvania there are many things about cows which aren’t sanitary but burping seems to be the least of these.

There are times when something or someone unexpected becomes a menace. A disagreement with a friend or beloved family member endangers the relationship, a hobby becomes an obsession,  a fun project morphs into an overwhelming burden, or a doctor’s visit turns the world upside down.

Unexpected menaces can come from any direction at anytime. Our ability to adjust and adapt will be largely based on the changeless truths we have previously learned and are presently living.

blessings,
bdl
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Vengeance

A brother whom another brother had wronged came to see Abba Sisoes and said to him, ‘My brother has hurt me and I want to avenge myself.’

The old man pleaded with him saying, ‘No, my child, leave vengeance to God.’ He said to him, ‘I shall not rest until I have avenged myself.’

The old man said, ‘Brother, let us pray.’ Then the old man prayed, ‘God, we no longer need you to care for us, since we do justice for ourselves.’  

Hearing  these words, the brothers fell at the old man’s feet, saying, ‘I will no longer seek  justice from my brother; forgive me, abba.’

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Out of Our Own Pockets

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Seeing and complaining about  injustice is one thing, confronting and alleviating injustice at our own personal expense, is altogether different.

There are many things wrong with the world and to right them we must be willing to face persecution and give of ourselves so others can receive.

The path to a better tomorrow for everyone is forged through self-sacrifice today.

blessings,
bdl
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