Thursday, December 24, 2020

Christmas Miracles 2020

 Christmas Miracles

Is there a miracle in Christmas for you this year?

This Season of lights (advent –Waiting in expectation for the birth of the Christ-child) has been extraordinarily amazing to me. It has been filled with highs and lows, lights and darks.

Is 9:2-7 “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the shadow of death a light has dawned…For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on His shoulders. And He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no endHe will reign over David’s throne and over the kingdom upholding it and establishing it with righteousness and justice from that time and forever. The zeal of the Almighty will accomplish this.”

 

We need this prophetic promise again in our dark and divided country. We all can re-grasp this amazing truth of Christmas.

 

“Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord will give you a sign: the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a child who shall be called, Emmanuel, which means God with us.”  He never leaves us for forsakes us.

 

I have been struggling with increasingly dark depression since leaving my chaplaincy at Froedtert Menomonee Falls 1 ½ years ago. Long hours of call and traumas, and no sleep took its toll and I needed a sabbatical. But I asked God and didn’t wait for His answer. It was July so I had fun biking and swimming with Pam. Then volunteering as patient visitor in hospitals just didn’t satisfy. Then Covid-19 and the pandemic. No one allowed in hospitals. I began to slowly become depressed as I had left my calling without God’s blessing or waiting for His answer.  We need always to seek God first and wait expectantly for His response.

Grief and depression darkened my life. Fear and anxiety came with my “retirement” God never said we retire, except for Levites to mentor younger men at age 55. Recently as all darkened and I seemed unable to talk of think, maybe some of you saw my light grow dimmer and almost out, disabled if you will. Night after night no sleep, in fact 13 nights straight was bringing me to a place where I had suicidal ideations in my loneliness and distress. 

The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles.
Psalm 34:17

 

 


The Joy of Salvation 
Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
Psalm 51:12 

 

I walked into our back sanctuary of ponds and forests early in the morning of Dec. 11thlooking to end my life, But God.  

The Holy Spirit came down as He had in my spiritual darkness while serving as Pastoral Care director when Crossroads Church imploded, leaving me as sole clergy counseling, teaching and splashed with spiritual blood of many in the church as many angrily followed a wayward Senior Pastor. Then in 2012 on Pentecost His power fell on me as I presided over worship. An experience of warm oil anointing from head to toe, soaking through me brought euphoria and healing to darkness. An elder friend in the back of the sanctuary said there was no light except me aglow. 

 

Now Holy Spirit came in bright light and warm oil and breeze enwrapping me again as I lay despondent on a forest path in the woods behind our home just yards from brother Chip Burgharts home. I was lifted up and embraced for what seemed hours as He filled and baptizing me with healing balm and love. He lifted me up to a heavenly place. 

Now filled with joy and awe, praying in the Spirit, I was frightening the coyotes and a man who had ventured out in the early dawn’s early light. I was ecstatic and even manic as I returned home in the glow of dawn. A re-made renewed man out of the darkness into the light of Advent has frightened my wife Pam. I have overwhelmed many with spiritual excitement since.  A high like the Matt 17 Transfiguration of Jesus came over me. The over the top manic like filling has been diagnosed by a “Christian Psychiatrist” to be possible Bipolar depression on high. This is an inherited family curse if you will. Suicide also runs deep my ancestors. 

 

I have been receiving counseling by Christian therapists to bring me down; meds have brought brutal side effects, including many nights of sleeplessness.  Three nights ago a severe adverse drug reaction led to an epileptic-like seizure and a five-hour ordeal at Froedtert Menomonee Falls where I served for 6 years as Chaplain. Very professional and a compassionate pastoral care staffer and wife of former FWs member Jim Freel ministered to me. Thursday night a new sleep med brought night sweats and an early drafting of this Christmas miracle message to you. 

 

Christmas brings us light in the darkness, where hope joy and peace can mingle down with other experiences like Jesus and family having to flee to Egypt for their lives. There can be lows in our high expectations of the Advent and Hanukkah season of light. 

This year particularly, I am celebrating both as I recently found out from a first cousin on my mother’s side that my ancestors had escaped from German oppression of the Jews in the pogroms of late 1800s to the US. A long family secret that I am 50% Jewish has brought amazing revelations. My grandmother’s maiden name is Leo. I am actually from the Tribe of Levi, making me a born-again believer and Levitical priest. I am trying to figure out like a Hallmark movie of a DNA reveal for a woman of what to do with celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah and the Miracle and festival of light when the oil did not run out in the temple. Two days ago I had the great and emotional privilege to be in Hanukkah Parade past your house. I rolled down the window of our car and yelled and cheered as hundreds of beautiful faithful with Menorahs on their cars streamed by with four police SUVs in the lead and many more protecting and honoring the celebration parade to the synagogue I celebrated after two years of deep depression that just exploded into a million ever burning candles.  

 

 

 

I recently presided at the Memorial service of a former FW Don Gass, where light shined in the darkness. His widow, Ann, wanted me to preach on Psalm 23 and going through the valley of the shadow on death and Isaiah 43:1-2 saying, “Fear not, I have redeemed you… When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers they will not sweep over you, and when you pass through the fire, the flames shall not set you ablaze.”  Light and dark, good and evil are constant messages in Scripture and life. Also her request was from Jere 31:3 saying,  “The Lord appeared to you in the past, “I have loved you with and everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Christmas brings us Bright lights and the message of His love, but also of darkness and the Cross He came to bear. He came to live and die for us to be able to live in His bright light and love. Galatians 4:4 says, “That in the fullness of time, God sent His son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His son, the Spirit that calls out Abba Father. We are no longer slaves, but sons and heirs to His kingdom. Hallelujah! And this Christmas is assured that He is with us.

 

May the brightest Advent lights and those of the Hanukkak miracle of eternal light in the darkness also be with you this Christmas?

 

RF/2020

 

 

Be Filled


Be Filled
It has happened! The “fullness of time” had come, when God sent His Son, born of a woman, under the law, to redeem and set free those walking in darkness and under oppression, that they might receive adoption as sons and daughters of the Most High God. The infant Jesus, born in Bethlehem in a feeding trough for animals that He created took His first breath. And this breath becomes His Spirit in our hearts as we trust in Him and became an heir of God through Christ (Galatians 4:4-6). God was pleased that in Him, “All the fullness of the Godhead should dwell” (Colossians 1:19). Yes ALL, overflowing and abundant in provision. 

At just the right time or fullness means that God knew and He continues to know when He must intercede or incarnate or invade His creation to rescue or restore brokenness and even despair and save. In this time, when our world seems in chaos and America is walking in “practical atheism,” or without God, there is a malaise and malcontent that has crept across our vast land from sea to shining sea. The mountains, forests, rivers and lakes are still beautiful and mostly pristine between the seas. But the cities and the hearts of man within have for the most part become soiled cynical and self-serving. So is there a solution? Is there a Savior? 

He came and He is still here; have you seen or known Him? Are you even looking for Him? You see about 2,600 years ago, Solomon, the son of King David of Israel wrote Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, known as wisdom literature saying, “The fear (awe) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:1). But then he too became bored and disillusioned with life even as the wealthiest man in the world and King of Israel with 700 wives (help!), saying of life, “Vanities of vanities, it is all vanities” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Life is just a vapor or mist and without purpose he proclaimed. Yet, he began in his unfulfilled state to seek after God and concluded: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all (the whole duty of man). For God will bring every work (with every secret thing) into judgment, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). 
God’s Son coming to earth as a sign of God’s promise to save His people Israel as Immanuel- God with uswas prophesied by Isaiah’s uplifting words (Isaiah 7:14) some 700 years before His incarnation. There are over 400 prophecies that Jesus fulfilled.  Matthew’s Gospel tells of the actual birth saying of its detail, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). 
 The Psalmist David called to God saying, “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose. We will rejoice in your salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions” (Psalm 20:4-5). Well, He has done just that by sending us His Son called many things including, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace. Of the Increase of His government and peace there will be no end” (Isaiah 9: 6b-7a). The mystery of God’s coming to us and living with and in those who believe is beyond wonderful. The Apostle Paul regarding Christ’s dwelling in us richly through His Spirit in our inner man, prays that we may become rooted and established in His love, and that we may be “filled to the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19). 

I have been filled to the fullness of God more than once since coming to a personal faith in God through Jesus Christ, His Son. But it has been through the filling of the Holy Spirit at the times when my selfishness was diminished that I have truly experienced God’s palpable presence with all my senses. God’s Spirit once surrounded, warmly embraced and lifted me off the floor of my basement sacred place when praying for the love of my own father that I had never fully received. He was a great provider, a disabled war hero and full of wisdom, yet I never actually remember having experienced his physical touch, hug or embrace. He had tragically lost his own father and his modeling guidance at nine years of age to suicide during a brutal early 20thcentury recession. Yet for me, that morning in deep grieving prayer somewhere after my 60thyear came a profound and fulfilling sense of not just my father’s love, but that of my Father in heaven overflowing into and through me with warmth and presence beyond earthly understanding. This was the Comforter in the promised Holy Spirit comforting me in loss so that I might comfort others in pain with the same consolation I had received. The Apostle Paul shared this truth of both the sufferings and comforts of Christ abounding in us that we might more than endure (2 Corinthians 1:2-4 paraphrase). In this experience and others I was being filled to the fullness and abundance of life that Christ came to provide to all those who would seek and find Him with all their heart. 

Jesus and His love is more than the “fulfillment of the law” as Romans 13:8 tells us. He has already and will continue fulfill all prophesies and promises in incarnating, dying and resurrecting to life, thereby restoring the fullness of relationship with Him. He will be completing the end times by coming to rule and reign from Jerusalem in the Millennium apocalypse or revealing (Revelation). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Himself said as part of His Beatitudes, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6). Crowds were “filled with awe”when they heard Jesus. The women who came to His empty tomb were “filled with joy.” 

 What fills you today? Are you filled by what brings wonder, peace and joy, or are you controlled by self-indulgence? The “Fruit of the Spirit” consists of those things and much more to true believers as they are filled with,“love, joy, peace,  patience /forbearance/longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)So chose to “befilled with the Holy Spirit,speaking to one another with hymns and singing joyous songs,giving thanks always to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:19,20-21). I for one would rather receive the fullness of God’s Spirit of comfort, counsel and even conviction in my waywardness that I might hear the words of God saying, “This is the way; walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21)than anything the world has to offer that never satisfies.  “Be filled.” Amen



Friday, December 18, 2020

Retirement


Does God want us to retire? I don’t know what you think, but God says NO!
In the Bible the subject of work is mentioned 419 times with other related work words another 350 times. Really you might say.  Jesus talked a lot about money more than most topics, some 140 times. But work appears some 700+ times in Scripture. Retirement as a word appears once. Perhaps the closest word is rest.

Two years ago I tried to retire as I resigned from my job as Pastor of Congregational Care at a large Presbyterian church.  It was summer, so I threw myself into biking and swimming in Lake Michigan that was rarely warm that year.  After about four weeks my wife announced that I ”failed retirement.” This was amusing and frightening all at once.  What now?  What did this mean? What was I supposed to do?  More importantly I asked what does God say about this?
Christian Retirement In The Bible
"The LORD said to Moses, This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the Tent of Meeting, but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the Tent of Meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites" (Numbers 8:23-26 (New International Version).

Mandatory Retirement
Retirement is specifically mentioned only once in the Bible.  It applied only to a certain group of people...the Levites.  Levites were charged with serving God by doing much of the work in and around the Tabernacle, or Tent of Meeting, and later, the Temple.  They were allowed to begin their work at age 25 and work until the mandatory retirement age.  The Bible passage outlining their service and eventual retirement is found in Numbers 8:23-26.  God required the Levites to retire at age 50.  Why did God require that they retire at such an early age?  While no one but God himself knows for sure, we may speculate that among the reasons for their retirement were these: 
1  Moving the Tabernacle and its furnishings required strength and stamina.  God may have wanted the younger men to carry most of the load of physically moving the articles of worship from place to place.

2  The Levites were not required to stop working altogether.  They were required to retire from their "regular service," and to take on the role of assisting the younger men perform their work.

3  The men age 50 and above were needed to mentor the younger men in their trade by providing the wisdom and leadership that came from 25 years of experience in serving the Lord.

4  New leadership was identified and utilized as the younger men moved up through the ranks of service.
When Retirement is Not an Option
When Joshua was between 85-100 years old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him,  "You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over" (Joshua 13:1).  God still had work for him to accomplish.  Unfortunately, the American culture often glorifies youthful strength at the expense of overlooking those who are older.  Older people have much to offer, including wisdom, experience, knowledge, commitment, leadership, and many other things of value.  Do you remember the advice Paul once offered to his young protégé Timothy?  "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity" 1 Timothy 4:12. 
Don't give Anyone a Reason to Look Down on You Because You are Old
Many older people need to consider how Paul may have offered this same advice to Timothy had he been around to have written it during Timothy's retirement years.  "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are OLD, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

Psalm 62 says “My souls finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will never be shaken…Find rest O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Ps 62:1-2, 5-6).  This psalm began to be a mantra for meditation. God told us in Genesis 2:2 “By the seventh day God had finished the work He had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it He rested from all the work of creating that He had done.”  So God rested from his work. Yes, not because he needed it, but because we needed it. He created the Sabbath for us not himself.  Psalm 23 reminds us of this same theme. David said that the Lord our Shepherd makes us to lie down in green pastures and leads us beside the still waters. He refreshes our souls. He leads us along paths of righteousness. Why? I believe because we are not capable of it alone. We need rest, and refreshment and restoration.  So do we retire?

Jesus said to the disciples in John 9:4 “As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”  Jesus was reminding them that they would have him only for a short while longer, they were to do the work of the Lord. Solomon, supposedly the wisest man on earth beside Jesus, said in his wisdom book Ecclesiastes 5:19, Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work- this is a gift of God.” God has gifted us with work and wealth.  On this gift, the Holy Spirit said of Barnabas and Paul, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Here is a key to God’s heart on the matter. God is calling each of us. He has given each of us with a gift of the Holy Spirit. This is a gift we are to utilize for the encouragement and edification of the church. I don’t know what your gift is, but for me it is encouragement and teaching and healing. Our calling is from God and he wants us to use it. When? I believe now and as long as we live. Ah ha, here lies the rub or key.  God never wants us to stop using the gifts he has given us.

God never stops working. In Romans 8:28 we hear that God is working all things together for our good if we love him and are called according to His purpose. Yes, he called us and will conform us to his likeness and is justifying us.  Later in Ephesians 2:8-10 Paul expands this thought and plan. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is a gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared for us to do.”  We are working for God not ourselves. It is because of his grace and goodness that we do works for Him and for his glory, not ours.  We are not saved by works but for works is what James, the brother of Jesus is getting at in Chapter 2 when he tells us that faith without works is dead. They work together to show our love of God and to fulfill his purposes for us. Solomon again in Proverbs 31 gives praise to the wife of noble character, “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gates.”(v.31).  I hesitate to add Paul’s admonition to the Thessalonians. Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody” (1 Thess. 4:11-12).   Additionally he goes on in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 to bring this rule: ‘If a man will not work, he shall not eat.’ This is pretty serious teaching. This is why Paul himself worked as a tentmaker to leave an example for us to follow. Remember, Jesus was a carpenter.
What about Christian Retirement?
A Christian may retire from their job or career any time they choose to do so...However, a Christian never retires from Serving God!
The Bible NEVER encourages Christians to retire from serving God.  Those who are past retirement age should never assume that age disqualifies or excuses them from serving God.  Joshua 24:29 tells us that Joshua ultimately died at 110.  That same chapter records the most famous words he ever spoke.  "But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" Joshua 24:15.  We must assume that since this was right before his death, he was 110 when he spoke these words and that he was still planning to serve the Lord until he drew his very last breath.
Your Best Years of Christian Service may lie just Ahead!
Allow God to use your God-given wisdom, knowledge, abilities, leadership, commitment, time and availability to serve him.  Serve in your local church.  Become a true prayer warrior.  Mentor younger men and women.  Apply your biblical knowledge by teaching in your local congregation.  Volunteer for local, state, regional, domestic, or foreign missions.
Never yield to the temptation to retire from serving God.  You are needed and wanted in his service.  Your best years of Christian Service may lie just ahead!

Well, I am convicted in a good way to know that God wants us to work and to rest. Perhaps we may not be working for money always, or we change employers or calling at some points of our life. Jesus’s last words before ascending to heaven were to go and make disciples of all nations. This work is not done. And it appears that Jesus will not return to rule and reign until we have finished this work.  So, I am back at work and I am serving God’s people in hospitals as a Chaplain. This is my calling. I have worked in hospitals for 40 years. Fifteen years ago God called me from the front office to beside, but I am still doing his will for me in Christ Jesus.

The Takeaway- God’s word is Pretty Clear
Are you interested in retiring or working longer?

Are you actively looking for employment?

Are you considering becoming involved in Christian ministry by seeking place to serve or volunteer? 

Are you interested in relaxing and getting away from a job or career?

Are you interested in travel opportunities?

Are you looking for ways to share your knowledge and experiences with new friends or acquaintances?

Are you interested in finding a Christian retirement community, or do you or someone in your family need the services of an assisted living facility?

Are you in need of other retirement opportunities or services?
Explore ALL your Options
  Conduct a web search of ministry opportunities

  Check with your local church, congregation, state, or national denominational administrative body
   
  Seek special places where you can volunteer or serve
   
  Explore avenues of teaching new friends
   
  Conduct a web search of Christian retirement communities and Christian retirement options
   
  Explore assisted living opportunities
   
  Explore Christian retirement resources


Friday, December 11, 2020

Underside of Joy

I recently read a novel called The Underside of Joy. This story took place in Northern California based on a woman marrying a divorced man with two young children. They lead a peaceful life enjoying the beauty of the region and the children finding love even after a difficult abandonment by their mother and death of their father. Great pain comes through real and metaphorical deaths. Yet in the end a crisis brings a new reality of shared suffering causing healing to occur. This is also a biblical theme through Jesus’ resurrection. Even in Malachi 4:2 we read, “For you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” Often life is full of difficulties that eventually work out for believers as Romans 8:28 tells us saying that God is working all things together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.

The Apostle Paul endured beatings and shipwrecks, stoning and imprisonment as he pursued his calling to witness of the gospel. Have you experienced anything like that? I have. The providence of God was working out these trials for his good and God’s glory. Hosea 2:15 says, I’ll turn Heartbreak Valley into Acres (or the gateway) of Hope” (The Message Paraphrased). This is the message that Paul shared wherever he traveled.

I have written at length about my life’s adventures and Gods place in them, even if I didn’t understand His purpose at the time. It seemed that He was using survival through Alaskan wolf attacks, auto accidents, plane crashes and tumbles down waterfalls to keep me alive for His purposes when I was not yet a Christ follower. However, I now see His hand in it and several other stories I will now share.

“Death to Life”
The preface in my 2014 book Great is Gods Faithfulness, speaks of God’s Word Living Through Us. This is the story of my life and death struggle resulting from a tick bite. My frozen joints, high fever, and headaches led physicians at the University of Virginia Medical Center to tell me that I was dying from an undiagnosed blood borne cancer, or immune-depressive disease. They sent me home on a dangerously high prescription of Cipro® from which I had a severe adverse reaction. That night while lying in my sweat soaked bed, unable to move, I prayed aloud Psalm 103 saying, “Praise the Lord and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” As these words were cried out to God, hot oil-like warmth came over me from head to toe bringing God’s complete healing. His word will not return void but will accomplish His purposes as Isaiah 55 promises us.

This experience confirmed my plan to complete seminary and become a hospital chaplain to care for people in crisis. Upon returning to Milwaukee I would obtain a consulting gig that would lead me to become the first chaplain for Aurora Psychiatric Hospital. However, I was to have another life altering experience while still in Virginia.


“Dark to Light”
On that same assignment in the Blue Ridge, my wife sat me down and told me that I was negative about everything. In fact she said that she could not take it any longer. This was a frightening ultimatum.  I am blessed to report that these strong words brought a transformational change that has been a light in the darkness and joy in the morning. Her not so subtle words were life changing and a blessing to my life outlook.

“Holy Spirit Healing”
God soon also used an intense implosion of a large church congregation to bring healing to me through severe depression that almost took my life. A desperate request from the senior pastor caused me to leave chaplaincy work to take the congregational care position at my church for a season. However, soon I was the only pastor left standing after the senior pastor’s abuses had brought a schism and ousting of all other clergy. I preached, taught, and counseled broken members still standing after hundreds had abandoned ship in acrid anger and torn fabric. It was too much for me, but God was present. On Pentecost in 2012, as I led worship, Acts 2 was read from the pulpit. As the dynamic word of God came down speaking of the Holy Spirit’s dramatic filling, it was so for me. The powerful Spirit once more enfolded me in His healing power and warm embrace. Joy sourced through me bringing clarity of thinking, and strength in every part of me. My suit was soaked through and my face was aglow. The guest pastor standing near me observed the transformation as I told her that I was in ecstasy. I had submitted under the stress and stayed beneath His hand. Now He had prepared for me a new assignment. Obedience releases grace.

“You Failed Retirement”
I announced to the Elder Board that I was retiring as God had released me from my call. I spent the next few weeks trying to heal fully and rest in God’s providential love. However, after only six weeks, my wife announced that I had “failed retirement.” My initial response was anger and confusion. I was just trying to figure out the next steps when it became obvious that change was again in the offing. This short-lived retirement has turned into a blessing as I have returned to my true calling as hospital chaplain, now for Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin. Here I encourage and comfort people in crisis. Since I am working part-time, I use other days for writing and blogging. Even though I abhorred writing my Master’s thesis in healthcare administration, I now love to write about God’s kingdom and how to walk in it. My four published books include, This is The Way; Walk in it (Vols. I&II); Hospital Parables: “Front-Office to Bedside,” and Great is God’s Faithfulness. My blog of the same title goes worldwide with some 500 people from Ukraine and Russia reading it weekly along with folks from many other countries. I feel blessed that 10 years earlier another chaplain friend from Roger’s Memorial Hospital had encouraged me while convalescing from hip surgery to “Do something useful with your time.” And so I wrote my psalms devotional for small group spiritual care at Rogers, Great is God’s Faithfulness. Now finally published in 2014, it has become part of the Roger’s ministry. Bless you Carol. Being in God’s will brings blessings.

James, Jesus’ brother said, “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of diverse kinds, because the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which must finish its work so that you may mature and compete lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). He goes on to say if you don’t know what to do in the trial that you should ask of God, believing with all your heart, and He will respond generously with what and how to respond. It seems that strong statements from women in my life have been important and transformational.

“When You Drink Your Personality Changes”
Very recently as we sat down to dinner after a long day at the hospital I had taken a glass of wine to relax. My wife said it seems when you drink that your personality changes, and not for the better. This was another life changing word. I grew up in an alcoholic family, starting to mix my mother’s drinks when I was only 12 years old. I did not drink hard until college where I became the Beer Chugging Champion; hardly a high honor, excuse the pun. My father loved wine and so I would too. I tried not to drink during the workweek with limited success. I tried abstinence a few times and only returned to more regular imbibing. Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler Proverbs 20:1 admonishes. It is true. It is a stumbling block to God honoring behavior.

I recall and replay vividly a recent couple of dramatically awful evenings with my brother and sister-in-law. We were at our home for a birthday celebration and my brother had provided a very costly bottle of wine.  After consuming the outstanding Pinot Noir together and opening a buttery Chardonnay, I was well on my way to feeling nothing good. Like my alcoholic mother before me, I was transforming from light to dark again.

After receiving what I have considered condescending orders from my sister-in-law again, something I had endured for over 30-years as the younger and less intellectual brother-in-law, I had had it. I yelled, “Stop your condescension” and went on to dramatically lambast her in the presence of my brother and wife. The dam(n) had broken open like the spillways in California. Damage was done and relationships broken. Even though I have written an apology note seeking forgiveness, it has not been received. The only response has been, “nice note,” and my brother very angrily telling me “she is angry.”  Well, this is not good for a witness and especially to a Christian testimony.  I realize that I might be becoming what I hated in my mother. I have prayed and written and meditated and now have a clear guidance from God that I must stop drinking. Paul said, “Everything is permissible-but not all things are beneficial” (1 Corinthians 10:23). I have committed to the Lord my vow and shared with my accountability brother, my wife and two other close friends. This is a public expression of brokenness and desire for change. Again Pam’s words have become a blessing. The Lord is my strength.

"Random"

As you have read, I am a Christian writer. I have had the privilege of working with a Christian Publisher, Caritas, and a Christian editor. My editor works with our Spiritual Care department at the hospital, so I have seen her almost daily. Since I decided not to publish any more books, but only blog at this time, I am no longer utilizing my editor’s skills, except just to send her my essays. However, very recently during our usual morning greetings she said in a harsh voice, “Do you ever look critically at your writing, it is so random.” The words were direct and not only a surprise but very disturbing. I took a few days break from writing and then decided to continue to write as God was continuing to give clear guidance on that. I am not writing towards publishing another book, and not sending my editor any more writings. Perhaps this is good as I have only sold about 250 copies and my wife also wants no more books as we have lost some $10,000 on the work. I know that many readers have been positively influenced by the work, and I still have a blog with over 5,000 readers so far.

Writing Christians essays and books in an anti-Christian nation is risky. I will take that risk that someone’s life might be transformed.  I will head the voices of people who hopefully have my best in mind. As well, I will watch for the "randomness" of my works. “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).