An Easter Experience from Years Ago

I’ll never forget the Holy Saturday night, many years ago, receiving a late night call that my mother had a stroke.  She was in Lincoln, Nebraska, 800 miles away from where I lived in Saginaw, Michigan.  Easter worship in the church where I was pastor was just a few hours away.

How could I lead worship and preach on Easter?  I held in my heart both my mom and my family and the congregation I was called to serve.  Words can’t describe the emotion, the pain, the questions. Seminary didn’t teach us how to live through personal  crisis like these!  God leads us through these experiences.  What I remember:  

1) I did my best to lead Easter worship.  I was numb. God did most of the work!

2)  I was honest with the congregation sharing my situation.

3) I asked for prayers. 

Following worship I got into my car and drove to Nebraska—easier for me to drive than fly.  My family couldn’t join me.  Driving was good.  I had time on the road with my thoughts and prayers and God. 

Finally, with my mom and sister we talked and prayed.   All mom could do is look at me with searching eyes and very slight movement with her hand.  I had not seen her for several years.  I could only try to imagine what she was trying to say. I thank God I had this time with mom before her death.  My sister was also with me.  

I remained in Lincoln several days, along with my sister and her family, to conduct memorial service in the nursing home where she lived. I remember asking my church secretary to fax materials from Saginaw that I would need to conduct this service.  In the service I sang a favorite, “His Eye is on the Sparrow”. We had ice cream and cake—something mom would have enjoyed.

 My wife and brother and other family members couldn’t be with me.  Another service would be planned so other members of the family could attend.  

My point in writing this:  

I thank God, through the RISEN CHRIST, for the strength to get me through what all families in a host of contexts in our congregations, experience every day.  With all the painful things that befall us, God is always with us!  With Gods help, through faith, we can get through anything.  Jesus lives!  God is with us!  ALL THE TIME!



I made the decision that my opening blog in 2015 should be on one of my priority objectives for this coming year:  PRAYER.  My focus is the Thessalonians text that admonishes us to “Pray without ceasing”.

Thessalonians 5: 16-18      16Rejoice always, 17pray without ceasing, 18give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

While I have always held to the idea that prayer can be at any time and any place for any purpose, I am hoping to focus my prayers this coming year on enhancing my awareness of the presence of God working in and through my life and the lives of those around me.  I want to be more aware of God at work in my life experientially and relationally.  I long for an awareness of God’s presence throughout each and every day.

Next to the idea of “constant prayer” is my longing for “simple prayer”.   I have never felt the need for prayers to be long or formal.   Constant, yes!  Constant prayer is in turning my attention toward God in placing what I am doing or saying or thinking in the context of the reality that God is always with me.  I truly believe this.  God never goes away.  God never abandons me/us.  While I may turn from God in my day-to-day activities, I know that God never turns from me.  Regardless what is happening in my life God is always with me.   I cannot help but think of the Joseph Haroutunion book[1], God With us, that holds a prominent place in my library and my heart.  God is always with me and us!

This brings to mind the wonderful Anne LaMott  book, Help, Thanks, Wow[2] – I have been reading and using as a guide/resource for over a year:  I am intentional in getting up in this morning in saying to God:  Help me with this day!  This is tied to my setting priorities for the day that help me to focus attention on what God would have me do and be throughout the day.  Finding my day filled with blessings, I am “constantly” finding ways to say to God and others in my life:  Thanks!  Thanks for my wife and daughter and her family – friends and neighbors.   This list of thanksgivings can easily move to the nation and world and church in which I live.   I am thankful for God’s presence in my life.  I thank God for Jesus.  I thank God for my mind and heart to be doing what I am now doing.  My list continues to grow — Thanks!   Going to bed at night all I can say is WOW!  What a day.  If I have any problems at all in sleeping, I turn to my litany of thanksgivings.  Better than counting sheep, keeping God as a constant focus of prayer always produces peaceful sleep.  This is real for me.  This is my prayer.

Finally, looking again at the scripture from I Thessalonians, I want to dedicate my life this coming year to “giving thanks to God in all circumstances”.   I believe this is the will of God for me through Christ my lord—one of my objectives for this coming year.

What about you?   How do we together connect our lives with God through prayer?

[1]  God with Us:  A Theology of Transpersonal life, Joseph Haroutunian, Westminster Press, 1965

[2]  Help, Thanks, Wow:  The Three Essential Prayers, Anne LaMott, Riverhead Books, 2012





 Most gracious and glorious God:  Guide me in prayer for the 221st meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) meeting in Detroit June 14-21st.  I ask for you to surround elected commissioners with your spirit of discernment.   Empower committee leadership and staff as this assembly seeks to do Your will in doing Your work.

Hear the prayers of your church for sacred worship.  May worship and fellowship fuel this assembly through Word and Sacrament.   Fill our congregations with faith and hope and love as we live out our baptism.    

 Hear my prayers.   AMEN





My first meeting of General Assembly in the former United Presbyterian Church was over forty years ago.   I believe the first Assembly I attended was in Denver in the mid-1970’s.  I have been able to attend about one-third of these Assemblies throughout my career.  [I would have gone to all of them but for the work I was called to do as a pastor.]    


I didn’t really become a true “junky” until elected to the General Assembly Council twenty years ago. It was while serving on the GAC and the COGA (Committee on the Office of General Assembly) that I grew to appreciate all the efforts of staff and elected leadership in creating a balanced national conversation on issues we face in church and world.  It is these conversations we hold officially as an assembly among elected representatives that lead to decisions that help build this part of the church we call ‘Presbyterian’. 

The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) now meets biennially in even-numbered years.   It saves money to meet every other year.  This also gives the church to deliberate and implement as congregations and mid-councils the work that has been done nationally.   The General Assembly consists of commissioners elected by each of its 173 presbyteries. The GA consists of ten long days, worship, business sessions, committee meetings, an exhibit hall, and tours sponosred by the Presbytery of Detroit—the host for this 221st Assembly.   These assemblies create life-long memories for ruling and teaching elders as well as those who visit these national meetings.

The first day of this Assembly on Saturday, June 21, will consist of worship and the election of a new moderator.  I am biased.  A friend and colleague, John Wilkerson, is running for moderator.  (see  In my mind and heart, I cannot think of a more qualified person to lead our church with “energy, intelligence, imagination and love”.  I wish I were a commissioner so I could give him my vote.  My voice of support is what I can offer through this blog.

From the official web page of the General Assembly:  

The General Assembly has several specific responsibilities outlined in Chapter 3 of the Book of Order. The assembly seeks to protect our church from errors in faith and practice, is responsible for assuring that the expression of our theology remains true to the biblical standards in our historic confessions. The General Assembly presents a witness for truth and justice in our community and in the world community. It sets priorities for the church and establishes relationships with other churches or ecumenical bodies.  


There are literally hundreds of issues that go before various committees as commissioners meet.   This is always an intense, joy-filled meeting in giving glory to God for the gift of Jesus God’s beloved Son.  At the same time as in all family gatherings, this national meeting of Presbyterians also has a fair share of controversy and healthy debate.


There will be those issues that threaten to divide us as Presbyterians. For me two issues top the list – the issue of same-gender marriage and Middle East Peacemaking top the list of controversial issues where the Assembly is unlikely to find full consensus.  The challenge, as I see it, is lodged in the HOPE that those who don’t always agree on complex issues will not forget we all are called to be “One in the Spirit, and One in our Lord”. At the same time we pray for our polity that allows us to move forward even if it means agreeing to disagree.    We are called to seek God’s will committed to pray for God’s love and peace to build us up and bind us together.

Finally, may we join in regular prayer for this Assembly.  Let’s take time to follow the work that national leaders are doing on behalf of us all. 

May God continue to bless Christ’s Church and the denominational family named ‘Presbyterian’.


God is GREAT! God is GOOD!


God is Great.  God is Good.  Let us thank God for our food.   AMEN.


Saw this prayer on FACEBOOK wondering how many people still pray before meals.   The prayer we say in our home is:

Dear Lord we thank thee for thy care and all thy mercies send.  For the food we eat the clothes we wear our health and home and friends. AMEN.


There is value in passing on these prayers from generation to generation.   What other religoius practices do we pass on from generation to generation?

{I am not sure the source of the picture}






A Prayer for Pastors on Easter by Brian McLaren

Found this wonderful prayer in the archives of Brian McLearn, March 31, 2013

A prayer for pastors on Easter

Dear Lord, I pray for all the pastors today Who will feel enormous pressure to have their sermon Match the greatness of the subject and will surely feel they have failed. (I pray even more for those who think they have succeeded.)

Help them to know that it is enough Simply and faithfully to tell the story Of women in dawn hush … Of men running half-believing … Of rolled stones and folded grave-clothes … Of a supposed gardener saying the name of a crying woman … Of sad walkers encountering a stranger on the road home … Of an empty tomb and overflowing hearts.

Give them the wisdom to know that sincere humility and awe Surpass all homiletic flourish On this day of mysterious hope beyond all words.

Make them less conscious of their responsibility to preach, And more confident of the Risen Christ Who presence trumps all efforts to proclaim it.

Considering all the Easter choirs who will sing beautifully, and those who won’t, And all the Easter prayers that will soar in faith, and those that will stumble and flounder, And all the Easter attendance numbers and offering numbers that will exceed expectations And those that will disappoint … I pray they all will be surpassed by the simple joy Of women and men standing in the presence of women and men, Daring to proclaim and echo the good news: Risen indeed! Alleluia!

For death is not the last word. Violence is not the last word. Hate is not the last word. Money is not the last word. Intimidation is not the last word. Political power is not the last word. Condemnation is not the last word. Betrayal and failure are not the last word. No: each of them are left like rags in a tomb, And from that tomb, Arises Christ, Alive.

Help the preachers feel it, And if they don’t feel it, help them Preach it anyway, allowing themselves To be the receivers as well as the bearers of the Easter News. Alleluia!



Eternal Teenager

Eternal Teenager


My prayer each day is that whatever happens, I will keep traveling with my Lord, the one who called me to follow him all those years ago, who calls me “to be me”…..


This short prayer was written by Margaret Cundiff, one of the first women ordained a deacon and priest in the Church of England.   In her sixties, she describes herself as an “eternal teenager”.   Even though I am unable to physically run (or barely walk), I feel in my heart that I too am an “eternal teenager” when it comes to walking/running with God in our hearts..  While we are not related, I have enjoyed reading a couple of Margaret’s books.


I also enjoy the verse of a hymn she quotes in her short book “One More Step”:


“One more step along the world I go,

One more step along the world I go.

From the old things to the new,

Keep me traveling along with you.

And it’s from the old I travel to the new,

Keep me traveling along with you.”


We thank you, God, for this time of change, challenge, struggle, learning, witness, and action for and with our children. Thou counseled us to “take care that we not despair” and that it is not the will of our Father in Heaven that even “one of these little ones be lost.”

Help us, God, to overcome our selfishness and greed, our political and personal jockeying, our individual and organizational agendas, our need to be first, right, and recognized, and to become humble like the child whom Christ said I the “greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Guide My Feet, Marian Wright Edelman (120)

A prayer for the Board of Education, Saginaw Schools, as they make decisions to save the school system over 6 million dollars.  On the table is a decision to consider closing Saginaw High School.