Pastoral Ponderings—Legacy

Pastoral Ponderings—Legacy

I was just up in the sanctuary admiring again the stained glass window that Dick and Madeline Tabor had donated years ago, looking for a kiss again (the chocolate kind!) from that wonderful ol’ guy.  It’s a lovely window.  Some people who have more money than they know what to do with, might provide a pipe organ, or even a whole architectural marvel of a building as a legacy.  But if we were to just see something as beautiful as a window as the legacy of people as impactful as the Tabors, we would be missing so much.

Some might say that window is just be “the tip of the iceberg” for such a legacy, but I think that, too, is off the mark.  As beautiful as it is, a window is but a thing, and the legacies this couple left, the legacy I hope to one day be able to leave, is a legacy of impact on people, that can only be pointed to by any “thing.”  Perhaps the window is better thought of as something of an icon—an image to point you to something much more deep and expansive.

The gift of a window, a pipe organ, even a building, is really more of a concise decision or act.  It might take some time to think about, design or put together, but it’s not a reflection of a lifestyle.  The legacy of people like the Tabors, though, is more the result of lifestyles of blessing, built one piece at a time, day by day, out of a habit of moments of investing in and blessing others.  Which leads me to the question to ponder—what habits of blessing am I living out today, or at least developing today, that form a lifestyle where every day I live is another day to bless someone else?

Makes me think of a great song from the rock opera, Godspell, first produced off-Broadway in 1971—Day by Day, whose chorus goes (with some repeats) “Day by day, O dear Lord, three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day…”  Ever since first hearing that song, that has been my prayer, and I’ve since realized that following Jesus more nearly, and loving Jesus more dearly, means living habits of intentionally blessing others day by day.  Perhaps that’s how the Tabors built their legacy, through being blessings day by day.

Following Jesus more nearly—Rev. Jim


Pastoral Ponderings—Lost my Hope!

Pastoral Ponderings—Lost my Hope!

I recently lost my hope—a devastating thing!  Or at least an uncomfortable thing in this case.  Is it a sad thing, or perhaps an encouraging thing that even a pastor can lose hope?  Well, this time it was just a coffee cup of hope—which is bad enough for a guy like me when coffee helps feed my spirit! (At least I’m not as bad as the guy whose bumper sticker I just saw—“Give me my coffee and no one gets hurt…”)

I know, it’s just a coffee cup—and a Christmas one at that.  Don’t we have enough coffee cups to just grab another?  But I’ve actually been using this as my primary “go-to” coffee cup at the church since the beginning of COVID.  These past couple years have definitely been a time I’ve needed to be reminded of reason to hope!  And isn’t it true that the hope that carries us through difficult times—pandemics and so much more—is often fortified when we have regular reminders of where our hope comes from?

The word “hope” is in the Bible some 164 times, according to one official count.  Most of those appearances are in the Psalms, as we might expect.  Care to guess where the second most occurrences is?  In the book of JOB, if you can believe that!  Job, which is the story of a guy by that name who lost everything—so much so that his wife tells him to “Curse God and die,” before she herself dies (her death is not in the version of Job in our Bible, but is tragically told in another Jewish version from the story, written in the first century, called “The Testament of Job.”)

Hope is so important, both in our daily lives, and in our spiritual lives—even when it is a hope in the midst of Big Questions… perhaps even moreso in times of Big Questions, as the book of Job conveys.

What reminds you of your true source of hope?  Or for a couple of those really Big Questions—have you found a true, dependable source of hope, and how do you keep hold of that hope when you’re on the edge of losing it?  The good news is, my hope wasn’t lost too long—I found it within a few days—it had just been misplaced.  And I think that’s how we often lose our hope—we misplace it—put it in something too prone to failure.  The scriptures give us some 164 direct reminders, and how many songs and hymn remind us “He (GOD) never failed me, He’s never failed me…”?  But that’s not always enough.

Sometimes it can certainly SEEM like God has failed us—but at those times—is it really GOD who has failed us, or some messenger of God?  Whether pastors, fathers, mothers, friends, I’ve know too many who HAD been bearers of God’s grace and hope, but who HAVE then failed in that high calling—but that tends to be a common problem for those of us stuck in human skins.

Next time you’re on the verge of losing hope—make sure you’ve not misplaced it!  Hope is one of the greatest gifts of God’s grace, and too precious a thing to lose!  Make sure you put your hope in the right place!

Keep being a blessing of hope—even when WE too often fail!  Rev. Jim

Pastoral Ponderings- Wii Want to Play!

Pastoral Ponderings- Wii Want to Play!

“Wii want to play too!” say the cats when I’m on the Wii fitness program.  You might remember the Wii video game system—about the only video “game” I play these days isn’t really a game, but their fitness tracker.  Not quite a game, but it is a fun way to make sure your wonderful culinary creations don’t make me get too big for my britches!

But those Wii images that are so fun even cats want to play, are they really there, or just illusions?  In a sense they’re NOT there—no cute little Wii Mii (that’s what they call the characters we make to represent us) wearing the goatee, no colorful letters or bouncing images cats love to chase—they are only illusions caused by light, or more accurately, controlled electrical impulses that provide the illusion of something else.

Yet those less than real images elicit real behavior and physical reactions—from the playful cats chasing the light (or falling off the cabinet!) to a real understanding of changing body weight, to eliciting a significant loss of weight because of the illusion of rewards it brings (you get a stamp each day, and you can beat weight goals those illusory electrical impulses help you set!)

What’s really real, and what do we experience that is more akin to illusions that shape our lives?  Maybe I should add this to the Big Questions series, cuz it feels pretty big.  But since what is unreal can still shape behaviors and bodies—like the electrical impulses shaping the bouncing images that I see on my Wii– maybe a better question would be something like how can we make sure that whatever shapes us is at least shaping us in Godly directions?

I think I’ll cheat here with this one and give some clues from our upcoming message on who God is.  The passages we will be using highlight two foundational realities—God is love—from I LETTER of John, chapter 4;  and from the GOSPEL of John, chapter 14,  that when we see Jesus, we see the Father.  I think these are clues to point toward how we could be shaping what influences us, so when we make sure that whatever is shaping us is making us more loving, that’s a Good thing and a God thing.  And when whatever we’re doing is giving us a better look at Jesus, that too is a Real and Good thing (even if it comes from silly cats!).

Stuff around us does in fact help shape us—whether it is real, or as illusory as images on a screen.  The GOOD news is that we get to shape much of what shapes us, and we can control our reactions to even more of those externals we can’t control.  Like I don’t have much control over the hundreds of dollars we just spent on fixing the car, but I CAN control my attitude in response to that bill, like I can be thankful it wasn’t a whole lot more, considering the mileage on that car!

So maybe like those cats, Wii could play a bit more with what goes on around us—as long as our playing helps us get closer to the love God calls us to!

Keep being a blessing- Pastor Jim

Pastoral Ponderings—Contrails

Pastoral Ponderings—Contrails

As I gazed out the window with the sun starting to brighten the sky this morning, I noticed the sky full of contrails from aircraft passing overhead.  Contrails are those cloudish trails that sometimes mark the path of high flying aircraft.  They happen so much we don’t even notice them, but those paths are still there all the time, a lot like “invisible ink” painted by the aircraft, made visible to the naked eye only under particular weather conditions.

Interesting to note they didn’t exist until the 1920s, as they are created by the exhaust of aircraft at high altitudes—which of course weren’t flying that high until then.  To those whose interest is piqued by odd things (guilty!), they are fascinating enough just to the naked eye.  Without even thinking about it, my mind started guessing at the routes and destinations of the flights causing those contrails this morning, wondering about the lives of those who left those marks behind. But throw a little science in the mix, and spiritual insight becomes as plain as the dawning day.

Contrails form when the exhaust of high flying aircraft, dust particles and water in the air, all come together under certain weather conditions to form a path of ice crystals hanging in the sky.  Sometimes these paths of aircraft become visible for many miles around, but most of the time those paths are invisible, despite the aircraft still following the same routes.  And of course the conditions making them visible “just happen,” they’re not something the pilot has any control over.

Has the insight hit you yet?  Whether on the trail from Easter as we are now, to Easter, or whenever we start straying far afield, we leave our own form of contrails that sometimes becomes visible, while other times no one will ever see the trail we follow.  So what trail are we are leaving that at times can be seen for miles around?  And is that trail one God would be happy to show off, or one that could lead others astray?

Quite the irony that I had just been reading in a church leadership blog along the same theme as I had just been talking with my son in the past few days about church dynamics.  His church is a bit of an oddity these days– it is enviously FULL of young adults and families.  Asked I, What about churches attract, and what chases off younger folk from any given church?

In his observations and a young adult insider, it comes down to the trail– the spiritual contrails you might say—that church folk leave behind.  Both he and the blogger’s research I follow agree—it usually comes down to attitude, and how attitudes are expressed.  Hypocrisy, acting or sounding too “religious,” and a “holier than thou,” judgmental arrogance church folk sometimes express are all key facets of what chases young folk away.   And relevance—why waste my time on something that is irrelevant to the rest of life?

The contrails of aircraft–and our spiritual contrails as churchy folk– are only visible sometimes under certain conditions, but those conditions could happen at any time.  So how do we make sure our spiritual contrails point in the right direction when they ARE visible?  Perhaps by practicing the presence of God, as the book study Karol is leading right now suggests.

That’s probably easier said than done.  But next time you see contrails in the sky, make it a reminder that the trail WE leave behind, is also one often visible for mile around—so make sure the trail you are leaving is one you would hope others can embrace and follow too.  That’s what it means to be a disciple, a follower of Jesus!

On the trail with Jesus—Rev. Jim

Lenten Ponderings—Give us Barabbas!

Lenten Ponderings—Give us Barabbas!

Barabbas is usually given just a cursory glance, if even that, as we go through our Easter remembrances, despite the rarity of being a feature in all four Gospels.   But he’s been jumping out at me recently.  I started this post last year, but didn’t get very far, as it is a more challenging one.  I’ve read over the Gospel passages featuring him many times over the years, but they’re ever vibrantly new too.

I recently realized for the first time some notable facets of the Barabbas that’s really gotten me thinking.  He is the one whom Pilate released instead of Jesus.  It never struck me before that Barabbas is identified in three of the four Gospels as an insurrectionist, who was also guilty of murder in the revolt for which he was arrested.  He was quite possibly a Zealot, and as such, likely knew one, perhaps two of Jesus’ close followers.  Knowing the speed at which Roman justice worked back in the day, he had probably had a role in very recent riots, riots likely even related to the same crowds in Jerusalem that week who both welcomed Jesus into the city a few days before, and jeered “Give us Barabbas” rather than Jesus.

And get this—some reliable ancient manuscripts include his first name as well—the name “Jesus.”

I’m reprinting an excerpt from a post from blogging pastor Chris Gilmore to help think through this Lenten pondering:

And us, all these years later, we (still) want Barabbas.


When given the choice between the mercenary and the Messiah we often choose the wrong Jesus. We may say all the right things and claim the right beliefs and have the right bumper stickers, but the way we do politics and conflict and church and relationships and whatever else reveals who we have really chosen.


We still want the violent insurgent.  We, like the crowd that day, have little patience for the slow Kingdom coming.  We want movers and shakers. Those who get things done.  Those who cause our enemies to tremble.  We have no time for a Kingdom that is like a mustard seed, small and slow and making its way little by little. We prefer kingdoms of tanks and trains: get on board or get run over.


We want to be first, not last. To be catered to, not to serve.  We want conquerors on stallions, not peacemakers on donkeys.  We want people to pay. To get what they deserve.  We have little use for mercy. And no use for meekness.  We want brash and bold and big.  We still want Barabbas.


(Link for full Gilmore posting on Barabbas– )

And with his first name also being Jesus, you could say we’re still calling out for Jesus—just the wrong one.  The bold, brash, Zealot Jesus, not afraid to run over those who disagree.  Yet it is Jesus the humble who wins in the end.  The Jesus whose power is made real through sacrifice and grace, rather than anger and sword.

So in the words of the old game show, “will the real Jesus please stand up?”  Or perhaps more appropriately, “will the followers of the Real Jesus please stand up?”

Pondering the Jesus story—Pastor Jim

Lenten Ponderings- Whales and Veggietales

Lenten Ponderings- Whales and Veggietales

What’s the connection between Star Trek, whales, Veggie Tales and Palm Sunday?

Not much.

BUT there is some, when it comes to trying to wrap our brains around the challenging paradox of Palm Sunday.

I don’t usually use my ponderings as a commercial for the upcoming Sunday, but if I do this time, it will push me not to chicken out on going this direction with my sermon, and when Palm Sunday is always quite the challenge for me, I need a little pushing sometimes.

Palm Sunday is also celebrated as Passion Sunday, with that clash, that paradox of the triumphal entry, celebrated by the same crowd who just a few days later became the mob yelling “Crucify him, crucify him!”  If that’s not enough to make your head spin, throw into the mix that somehow this paradox, even Jesus on the cross, is usually talked about as all a part of God’s plan, and my poor little brain wants to blow a fuse.

Hence my wanting to explore the paradox of Palm Sunday, and bring in some other perspectives that also deal with had to grasp cosmic disaster as we have both in the Star Trek whale movie (Star Trek IV), and Veggie Tales, which boldly proclaims that “God is bigger than the Boogie Man,” regardless of what form that Boogie Man comes in.  I’m not really sure what’s going to come of this, so I guess I should tune in on Sunday morning too!

Let’s talk as we try to figure out this crazy paradox—Pastor Jim

Lenten Ponderings—Easter Egg Hunt!

Lenten Ponderings—Easter Egg Hunt!

Have you ever pondered Easter Eggs as a Lenten or spiritual practice?  Our EASTER EGG HUNT set for Saturday, April 8 at noon with hot dogs and more, reflects recent traditions, and is a great way to connect with the community—invite neighbors and friends!  Share this note with whomever you can!

But decorating eggs far predates Christianity, and NOT as just a children’s thing!   Across cultures has often represented new life and fertility, but with the Christian adoption of the tradition, HOLLOWED decorated eggs also represents the empty tomb of the Resurrection, with red dye being most common where Christianity started the tradition in Mesopotamia, thence to Eastern Europe and Siberia, representing the blood of Jesus shed on the cross.

In some traditions, the painstaking time and detail put into painting eggs provides meditative and prayerful focus, a kind of kinetic prayer.  Have you ever tried it?  You start with raw eggs, poke a hole in each end with a pin or small drill, and blow out in insides through the holes.  When I’ve tried, some have worked, some haven’t—so be ready for scrambled eggs or omelets!

Some swish around and scramble the egg innards first with a longer metal wire to make it easier to blow out—straightening out the kinds of wire tools that often come with commercial dying kits works well.  Emptying the egg first is the secret to the egg not spoiling for the long painting, and even keeping the egg for years, or as long as you can keep it from being crushed!  The colors and symbols painted on the egg can be guides to the meditative prayer you use while painting, and the finished product can be an icon for years to come of a powerful time of prayer, or of God’s physical presence experienced through the “sacramental” use of the egg.

If you do give it a try, I’d love to see the final product of your painted egg, and hear about your prayer experience through the process!

I look forward to seeing you and your friends at the egg hunt, and it would be extra exciting if you brought a painted egg to share!  Keep being a blessing—Pastor Jim

Lenten Ponderings—Ordinary

Lenten Ponderings—Ordinary

Goofy cats posing for the camera.  It’s a pretty ordinary sight around here with three extra cats we’re watching these days, two of whom are wonderfully photogenic!  But so ordinary.  I just realized this ordinary morning that we are just over a week from Palm Sunday, our remembrance of one of the most EXTRA-ordinary days in history.  And just like the ordinariness of the cute cat today, the folks around Jesus at the time of that very first Easter probably thought it a rather ordinary time for them as well.  Sure, it was the time leading up to Passover, but that celebration had been a part of life for more than a thousand years anyway, so was it really that out of the ordinary?

One of the things I miss most about having kids in school is that when they were there, they were always preparing for, anticipating and leading up to something special.  Getting ready for a visit from a leprechaun, or even turning an otherwise ordinary day where someone recognized a fun happenstance—like a date of 3.14—into a special “Pi Day.”  But now every day can easily slip into the ordinary.

Yet the ordinary is precisely when and where Jesus bursts in on the scene, turning the ordinary into an encounter with the Eternal—IF we have eyes to see.  Even what might seem the dramatic of court intrigues and a harsh legal judgment and execution were pretty ordinary in a lot of peoples’ eyes in a time when Roman law as quick and firm.  So for many people even around that very first Easter, it might have seemed a pretty ordinary week, if they weren’t close enough to see the Resurrection.

Yet it was a moment that changed the course of history.

We churchy people get a front row seat on the 50 yard line or center court as we come together with eyes wide open to see, and be a part of the Eternal breaking into, and changing the ordinary forever!  Or, depending on what we’re looking at, we might just see the changing weather and have an ordinary smile for anticipating another ordinary Springtime in Ohio, or just get an ordinary little giggle with pictures of goofy critters.

Where is your focus through these ordinary days, so your eyes might get a glimpse of the extraordinary, the Eternal, in these coming days?  Are your eyes open, is your heart open for a visit from the Holy Spirit to transform this ordinary season into a front row seat for this eternal victory?

Getting ready—Pastor Jim


Lenten Ponderings— The Clock

Lenten Ponderings— The Clock


Yesterday was my birthday, but I’d rather not be reminded that “time keeps on slipping, slipping, into the future.”  I imagine those of you who are more chronologically gifted than I might be laughing at me and my musings in this direction—please keep it up!  I need to be reminded of the silliness of these thoughts!


I was reading over Ecclesiastes this morning—you know, the one with that memorable section about there being a time for everything under the sun.  And right after that most memorable section is a wonderful line—“God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Eccl. 3: 11), and in verse 12, the further wisdom, “I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy do good while they live.”  Ecclesiastes actually has some version of that line four or five times through the book, highlighting the wisdom to enjoy the work of your hands, to do good, and to honor God and keep His commandments.  Almost too simple.  I guess sometimes we just think too much.


There’s a clock in my office whose job it is to mark the time in a quiet reminder that time keeps moving on.  But this clock has never worked since the day I got it (maybe that’s why it was on clearance?).  It’s a cute little clock with silhouettes of both a batting cat and a mouse hanging onto the pendulum.  At times like my birthday, a part of me would want to be like that clock and make time stand still.  But I was reminded just recently that despite it’s being broken, the time it keeps IS right—twice a day at least.  What a price tag though, to keep time standing still—to be broken and only in the right twice a day.


I guess if we want to be in the right more than only twice a day, and find the beautiful that is in God’s timing, then we’ve got to keep moving and embracing the different facets of beauty that come with the different seasons of our lives.  So go ahead, laugh at me in my silliness, but make sure I hear you and your laughter to be reminded of the full range of beauty God provides!


I learned a song years ago that’s been floating through my head this morning based on that line of God’s bringing beauty through time—“In His time, in His time, He makes all things beautiful in His time.  Lord my life to you I bring, may each song I have to sing, be to You a lovely thing, in Your time.”  My sense of time may be a bit off—but when I keep putting my time in God’s hands, He makes all things and all times beautiful, when it is His time.


No matter the time, or in all the time—Just keep being a blessing—Pastor Jim

Lenten Ponderings—Diamonds in the Snow

Lenten Ponderings—Diamonds in the Snow


How often do we look out in our lives desperate to see signs of new life and renewal, looking for a springtime of the spirit, when all we see is frozen mud, frosted with snow?  Yet for those who have eyes to see, that same frozen field often has the sparkle as if of thousands of diamonds.  Do you see them?  CAN you see them?


There’s an old story about two old men sharing a hospital room for weeks on end eager for any sign of hope.  The one was by the window, and could easily see out, while the other was positioned so he could not see.  The one by the window each day described scenes out the window of children playing in the park across the way, girls collecting flowers, couples walking hand in hand, beautiful clouds and sunshine, all in an effort to cheer the other who was growing more bitter in incapacitation by the day.


One night, the man by the window woke up choking, but had knocked the buzzer button away and couldn’t reach it.  The other man saw his struggle, reached for his nurse call button, but then hesitated and thought to himself, “It looks like he’s about to die.  If he does, then I can be moved to the window to see the hope he is describing, but if I call…”  Sure enough, within moments, the man by the window choked out his last breath.  When the nurses checked on him later, it was too late, and after the bustle surrounding death, the other man asked to be put by the window.  When he was moved, he eagerly looked out the window, only to be shocked to see a solid wall just across the garbage strewn alley.


We really see what we are looking for.  Whether seeing acres of diamonds in the snow or frozen mud, whether seeing the hope of inspiration and imagination, or a blank wall, we see what we look for.  Several of our Bible writers spent time in prison under worse conditions than the worst of our prisons, yet even from such cells, saw an abundance of blessing.  What do you see?


It’s all there—it just depends on where you focus.  My favorite Bible passage these days is Philippians 4: 8, where we are encouraged to “think on these things”—whatever is beautiful and of good report.  Not that we pretend there is no ice or mud, but when we focus on the sparkle of diamonds, and help others do the same, that’s where we find blessings enough to share.


Those who have eyes, let them see.  Pastor Jim