Journal: ONE YEAR ON DISABILITY (or as some say, RETIREMENT). “…..I have calmed and quieted my soul…” Psalm 131:2


(or as some say, “RETIREMENT”)

“….I have calmed and quieted my soul”   Psalm 131: 2


Psalm 131:1-3 (NRSV)

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high;

I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its other; my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.  O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time on and forever more.

It was one year I ago I notified the Session of the church where I was pastor of my need to resign and go on disability. After almost forty years of ministry, twenty-eight years at the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church in Saginaw, I could no longer keep up with the physical rigors of day-to-day ministry.

Retirement or Disability? For practical reasons, it was better for me and my family to apply for disability.   I am now a “Minister-at-Large” of the Presbytery of Lake Huron living as a disabled almost retired pastor.

Health issues aside, I am enjoying my new schedule. For the most part I can get up in the morning and go to bed when I want.   This means I get up about 7:00 a.m. and go to bed around mid-night.   I take an afternoon nap.  I now have coffee or lunch with friends and colleagues on a very relaxed schedule.  Because of mobility limitations, I get out at least once a day.

I regret not being able to help around the house or yard. While I can’t physically cook or do housework, I can be the “house manager” when it comes to keeping up with contractors who cut the lawn, clear the snow or tune the furnace.  Life is different than before.  I no longer have to worry about sermons and church budgets and buildings and most important, the spiritual welfare of members.  I can now spend time taking care of my family and myself.  In the past, I never really gave enough of myself to be with my family.

I miss the people in the church I once served. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t think of and pray for the congregants in this church.  I have done pretty well in not interfering with the work of the new Interim pastor.  I really like Jim Williams, a UCC Transitional Pastor.  He is doing a great job in loving this congregation.  I also know he has the skills and gifts required to help this congregation work through a variety of tough decisions before them.  Jim Williams is in my daily prayers.  While I don’t really know what is happening in the church internally, I do hear through the grapevine occasional comments from those who say “things are going well”.   This warms my heart.

I am now ready to get to know some new people in the congregation I am now attending with my wife—Second Presbyterian Church of Saginaw.  This is a warm and caring congregation close to where we live.

One of the greatest things about retirement (yes, I should get used to using this term), is the time I have to catch up on all kinds of reading. I no longer read with an eye on what I am going to be preaching on Sunday.  This was a weekly task that seemed to never end.  I’m glad I kept about half of my personal library.  This avails me the opportunity to re-read books I should have read more thoroughly forty years ago.  I no longer skim through chapters.  I can now take time to savor and really internalize what some fantastic authors have to say. The sad thing about retirement is not having a platform or pulpit in which to share the many ideas running through my mind and heart.

In turning to the Psalmist, now is the time in my life to quietly place my trust and confidence in God to help me find ways to use what God has entrusted my care.  It is in God I find hope in the future.  While life has changed, my faith in God is as solid as ever.  In fact, I believe because of the ‘sacred-time’ time I now have for reflection and prayer, my faith is stronger than ever before.  I now listen to two or three worship services a week on the Internet – in addition to worshipping as often as possible at the Second Presbyterian Church.  Using the lectionary, it’s actually FUN listening for how different preachers bring light to common texts.  The preaching at Second Presbyterian is as good as many of the sermons I hear from mega churches in large cities!

I am trying to do some blogging. My newest goal in blogging is to remember I am an ordained pastor.  I am challenging myself to write, as Karl Barth would suggest, with a newspaper in the one hand and the bible in the other.  My biggest challenge in writing is in juxtaposing what I want to say with my theological training in a scriptural context.

All in all, this first year on disability has gone fast. What will the next year bring for me?  My wife retires in another month.  We can spend more time in mapping out our journey for the last quarter of life together.  In December we will celebrate our 37th Anniversary.  Together we can watch our one-year old grandson grow.  While trips to California will be physically challenging for me, I really look forward to spending more time with our daughter and her family.  Simply, there’s a lot ahead for us.

Personally and pastorally, I hope to discover new ways to be a “Minister of Word and Sacrament” without a pulpit. I have plenty to do in capturing where God wants me to go “in occupying my heart” and my daily schedule with things that are worthy of God’s praise.

For those who read this, I continue to hold you in my heart and prayers. I ask for the living Christ to walk with you each and every day….just as the living Christ continues to walk with me and my family.  I continue to ask God’s blessings for my family and those I call “friend” and “child of God”.  In Christ’s service I hear those who read these proclaim with me:   AMEN.

Journal: Baptism

Grandson Tommy

A good friend who will soon be retiring is baptizing a little girl in worship this morning. This brings back memories of those special days when I dipped my hand into sacred waters to baptize and welcome new members into Christ’s church in the name of God the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.  Through the years, I am glad I kept a list of those baptized on my watch as pastor of the church.  What wonderful blessings emerge from every baptism and these precious children of God as they grow.

Listening to a worship service from the First Presbyterian Church in Davenport, Iowa, the church where our daughter was baptized 35+ years ago, I noticed the entire congregation participates in the celebration in  sharing these words in unison:  “We baptize you in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit.” What a wonderful way to include the entire congregation in collaborating as a partner with ordained clergy in baptism.  As children of God those who are baptized are members of Christ’s church. We are collaborative partners with God in promising to care for those who are baptized.  We are also called to remember the promises God has made for each of us who were baptized in the same way.  Always, we belong to God.

Now retired, it’s a blessing to look back to see what these baptized servants of our Lord are now doing in their faith journey. While I have lost track of a good number of those I have baptized, I am delighted to see some of these children now a quarter century later serving the church as ordained elders and deacons.  Thanks be to God for giving me the opportunity to walk with so many saints and souls as a pastor.

Friday Rambling about “Boots on Ground”

I suppose I can support air strikes in Iraq and Syria. We seem to be pretty good with the drones. I worry about collateral damage– lives of innocent women and men and children who will be used by ISIS as human shields.

I hope we stay clear from sending troops (boots on ground). Why would we want to put ground troops back in Iraq? We’ve already tried this out and at what cost?

Our nation has suffered the death of thousands of Americans. We’re not doing the greatest job supporting our veterans many of whom now have a hard time finding jobs, housing, etc.

Why would we want to put troops into Iraq when most of the countries directly impacted by ISIL are not committing troops? And why would we commit troops to Iraq when we can’t seem to protect our own borders?

James Brown on Domestic Violence

Last night my wife Nancy along with two of her good friends went to a fund raiser in support of the “Underground Railroad”,, a local organization that provides support and shelter to women and girls in Saginaw who are victims of domestic abuse. The same evening, prior to the NFL Thursday night football game between Baltimore and Pittsburgh, I heard James Brown give a powerful statement this issue of domestic violence and the responsibility of all men to show more respect toward women.   This statement is worth sharing.

A transcript:

james-brown domestic violenceA full article can be found in the Washington Post:


These Friday afternoon thoughts as the President returns to Washington after a week of NATO meetings:

First, his steady and methodical leadership is producing tangible, positive results in Ukraine and against ISIS.  He is keeping his promise to keep “boots off the ground” in these conflicts.  The President hasn’t had any kind of ”knee jerk” response to either of these conflicts.  He also managed to stay clear of the direct involvement in the battles between Israel and Hamas.  The horrific deaths of two reporters by ISIS terrorists, in my mind, were meant to illicit an emotional response.  I think Obama needs to take his time in consulting with Congress before making any decisions on entering Syria.  President Obama has been keeping his cool!

Second, what really bothers me is something I heard on the news.  We have been using air power in dropping bombs on various targets nearly NON-STOP, now, for over 25 years.  (I should say expensive bombs and ships and bombers and jets and drones for over 25 years).  I would be curious to know how many, if any days we weren’t using air power to make this a safer world in which to live.

Third, this question:  What can be done to turn all these conflicts around in taking pressure off all our American resources so we can  get back to the work of caring for this country and the American people?  We have way too many people suffering in this country. 

From where I sit, as an arm-chair observer of all that is going on, I think President Barack Obama is doing a pretty descent job in managing numerous world conflicts – while at the same time keeping his eye on the ball with dozens of domestic concerns.

Journal: The Prayer of Jabez (I Chronicles 4:10)

My challenge for those who read my journal entry:  Identify a blessing in your life and challenge a friend or two to do the same.  Let’s create a “Pass our blessings forward” chain! 

From the Hebrew Bible:  The Prayer of Jabez  (I Chronicles 4:10)

Jabez called on God of Israel saying, “Oh that you would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that your hand would be with me, and that you would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”  So God granted him what he requested.     

Some years ago I was introduced me to a little book by Bruce Wilkinson, “The Prayer of Jabez”.  I preached this prayer several times in my ministry.  I shared this book with people I encountered as a pastor.  Today, in my devotions, I took time to re-read this book and some of my past sermons in preparing to write in this blog.  This book has again brought me strength and encouragement in facing recent health challenges.

Who was Jabez?

The books of Chronicles, found in the Old Testament, lists chronologies of those who have been faithful descendants of Judah – so there are dozens of names.  Perhaps this is the reason I have avoided reading / studying this particular scripture!  The one name that stands out above all others:   Jabez.  There is little we know about this man.

What is this prayer?

This prayer can be broken into five phrases:      

1. “Oh, that you would bless me indeed”. It’s OKAY to ask for God’s blessings!  The neat thing about blessings is they are transferable.  You can call upon God for personal blessings and then transfer those blessings to others – and ask for these blessings to be shared with others.  “Pay–it–Forward” comes to mind.  As a reflection of this biblical concept of “blessings” we turn to Genesis 12:2 and the words to Abram who says,  “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you … so that you will be a blessing to others.”   Honestly, it is hard to think about personal blessings without also contemplating how to pass these gifts, these offerings – these blessings on to others.


 2. “and enlarge my territory…” is allowing us to live larger than ourselves.   This prayer calls us to enlarge our personal borders, our coast, the perception of tasks – even risks we are willing to take knowing that God is always going to have our back.  I will have more to say about this theme in just a few moments.


 3. “that your hand would be with me…” The “hand” of God speaks to me of the power of God….asking God not only to bless but also empower – in sharing our lives (and blessings) with others.  As Christians where do we get our strength, our motivation, our power?  Jesus Christ our Lord is our strength and salvation – or as Psalm 18 says, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge.”  God’s hand, God’s power surrounds and empowers us!


 4. and that you would keep me from evil….” There are lots of things that tempt us in life that threaten to our getting off track in doing God’s will.  What are the things of this world that keep us from realizing our full spiritual potential?  What separates us from God?  Just as we pray, “deliver us from evil….”, the Prayer of Jabez helps us use the strength that comes from God to resist evil in our lives and the world around us.


 5. “that I may not cause pain….” This concept isn’t discussed nearly enough.  As Children of God, we are here to bring JOY to others – not anguish or pain!  I’ve said this many times throughout my ministry:  “It’s onlyh natural for us to smile!  It’s hard work to frown.”   To bring joy into the lives of others is our truly calling…..its like wrapping our lives in blessings…gifts we are challenged to give others.  The example of my new grandson, Thomas.IMG_0621  He will be two in just four more months.  I continue to “melt” with his laughter.  Life is so precious.  My heart also drops when he has tears in his eyes or cries.  It’s only natural to what the smiles in life, the blessings…..who in their right mind would want the tears…..but yes, life has both the smiles and the tears! 

 The ‘heart’ of this prayer is this one phrase:  

 “Enlarge My Territory”!

This phrase takes me back to some memories from High School.  I recall various conversations with friends when I was a teenager ready to graduate and make some decisions about where to go to college.  “Do I stay close to home or leave the “nest” to travel to Nebraska in order to attend a Presbyterian college.”  This was a tough question.  This was a risky decision – to leave home to enlarge my personal and spiritual territory.  Yet this is what I felt God, at a young age, calling me to do.      

Active in the Presbyterian church, surrounded by wonderful mentors, I was already starting the adventure in contemplating ordained ministry.  I am grateful to this day for the wonderful mentors and prayers from a church that gave me the freedom to “Enlarge My Territory” that would eventually take me to churches in Iowa and Illinois and here in Saginaw, Michigan.

My message today:  As God has blessed me and challenged me to enlarge my territory of ministry. I know God can do the same for you!  What are your hopes and dreams?  Where do you feel God is leading?  In what ways is God calling you to “enlarge the territory” of possibilities and new adventures God has for you and your future?   In what ways has God blessed you?  What blessings would you like to pass on to others?     

Finally, accept the blessing of this prayer.  May God continue to expand your boundaries of care and compassion and encouragement offered others. 

Ending with the theme of this blog:  May God continues to bind us together in love….building us up in Christ!

Note:  Back when I preached this sermon, I made reference to a sermon I read on this Prayer of Jabez by Dr. Stuart D. Broberg, Interim Pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, PA, Oct. 3, 2004.