GPS Problems

I was recently following my GPS for the quickest route to my next stop when I went through what must have been a dead zone for the phone.  The phone had that “spinning wheel of death” going for a bit showing that it was searching for something.  Keeping my eyes on the road as any good driver would, I had a hard time seeing what was going on, but I caught a glimpse of what looked like it saying “Searching for destination.”  I HAD the destination entered and the route clear—what happened?   I’m pretty sure my destination didn’t move—how can the system lose track of my destination?  Sure, it may have lost the signal for a bit, but to lose the destination?  Pretty crazy!

That’s how God messages me sometimes—right through the digital doo-dad.  While it wasn’t actually a text from God, the message was still pretty clear:  How can we lose track of our SPIRITUAL destination?  I know we “lose the signal” with God sometimes when we get in one of those dry places where it seems we’ve lost touch with God, but that doesn’t mean our destination in God has moved, nor that God has moved or failed us!  One of the songs I’ve been hearing a lot on the radio lately by Sanctus Real is talking about God’s faithfulness, and has the line in the chorus: “When did He break His promise?  When did His kindness fail?… When did He lose His power? When did His mercy change?  Never has, never will, my God is still the same.”

When we start feeling something like that, remember the last time you went to a horror movie, how easily our feelings can be misleading, and just plain wrong.  When the music is just right and they’ve set the mood, it can take only a matter of seconds for our “feelings” to tell us something terrible is about to happen—when we’re just sitting in air-conditioned comfort watching dancing lights on a screen, safe as can be.  Just because we FEEL like we’ve lost touch with God, or lost our destination as my GPS was thinking—doesn’t mean God has moved, or we’ve lost Him, or that God is no longer holding us in the palm of His hand.

Sure enough, my GPS caught the signal again and I made it to my destination.  Neither my destination nor my signal had actually gone anywhere– which is also equally true with God, despite the illusion, or the false feelings that makes it sometimes SEEM like God has left us.  “When did He lose His power? When did His mercy change?  Never has, never will, my God is still the same.”

Still on track—Rev. Jim

Tragedy or Honor? Veterans Day, NOV 11

As an Army Chaplain, one of my most meaningful duties and highest honors has been with families who I help through their experience the Ultimate Sacrifice of their loved one.   Between deployments and across the worst of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve done probably fifty or more memorials for fallen Soldiers, or “Casualty Notification” missions where I’m on the team knocking on the door to deliver the news that the family behind the door will not be having their loved one coming home.  More recently, I’ve also been a part of well over a hundred Military Funeral Honors missions, providing military honors and laying to rest mostly Vietnam era Veterans, with quite a few WW II, Korean era Vets and a smattering of others.

One of those doors I knocked on had one of those blue star flags, indicating one of the family was currently deployed, except this flag had four stars—four members serving, though one had just returned–so the immediate question was “which one?”  One of those doors I knocked on, the younger brother of the one killed ended up a friend of my daughter’s going to West Point together, and I’m still connecting with the parents.  One of those doors was answered by a pregnant young mom with a baby in arms and toddler in tow.  One was for a recent high school graduate whose memorial I led in the high school auditorium where my son attended, and where my daughter the following year started.  Another of those had her story (though I doubt my part) turned into a book that for a while at least, was in talks to become a movie (“Ashley’s War”).  Probably my most memorable of those funerals was for a Korean War MIA whose 60+ year old remains had only recently been returned and identified, yet he was still remembered by old playmates as a favorite big brother of the neighborhood who showed the meaning of service when he went off to war.

Most of the Casualty Notification events were from combat deaths, but some were from accidents or suicide, as also have been too many of the memorials I’ve done.  I’ve heard the word “tragedy” used countless times to describe the deaths of so many promising young souls, and for those whose deaths were by accident or suicide, the word certainly fits.  But while it is a terrible loss when any loved one dies, is the word “tragedy” really appropriate for one who has willingly put themselves in harm’s way for the love of others, which results in what Jesus Himself described as a demonstration of ultimate love: “Greater love has no one than this, that they lay down their lives for a friend”?

God has put each of us on this earth for only a limited time, and while some are older, some younger when that time comes, in terms of God’ view of time, even the most ancient of human lives is but a flash.  No one gets out alive.  But God didn’t put us on this soil in a competition to see who can last the longest, or who can collect the most friends or most toys.  If anything, the contest is to see who can be the most of a blessing.  And if “greater love has no one than this,” isn’t it then a grand prize from God’s perspective, rather than a “tragedy,” when someone reaches their end blessing others in that Ultimate way?  I’ve heard countless friends of those who died in combat almost insulted by the word “tragedy,” saying that their friend would be proud to be called on to give their life in such a way.

At one of my previous churches, I met for coffee each week with a group of WW II Vets, the youngest of whom first arrived in Germany just after the fighting ended.  Yet decades later, he still reflected on that time of service as one of the  highlights of his life.  Many people struggle to make sense of their lives.  Veterans often make sense of their lives in terms of their service, but when they do struggle in this way, it is usually after their time of service, challenged with where to find a place to fit in when life after the military is much more often not about service, but about self.

I saw a commentary years ago about the term “Veterans Day,” and where the apostrophe belongs if it is a day for Veterans.  But note there is no apostrophe—it is not a day FOR Veterans, but ABOUT Veterans.  It is a chance all of us have because of Veterans to reflect on what it means to serve, and what it means to truly give our lives—whether in life or in death—as a tangible demonstration of love for others.

THANK YOU to all our Veterans!  Rev. Jim


Easter and lilies seem to go hand in hand, so as we’re heading on our final approach to Easter, we might want see some lilies in our live streaming service, I just can’t get that old Gospel chorus line out of my head that goes: “He’s the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star.”  Some of you may also know and appreciate that old Gospel favorite, and be surprised to realize it’s not really any kind of Bible verse.  Lilies and other flowers are prominent biblical themes, but the idea of Jesus as “the lily of the valley,” as a direct connection with Easter comes from somewhere else.

“I am a rose of Sharon, a lily of the valley, a lily among the brambles” is certainly a Biblical text, but it comes from The Song of Solomon, with much more of a romantic than a spiritual tone.  Some Bible commentators over the millennia have seen the love described in the Song of Solomon as an illustration of the love of Christ for the Church—“the Bride of Christ,” which is probably where the connection has come from. 

Connections have been drawn between Jesus and lilies as well—the fruitfulness of lilies, which, like Jesus’ illustration of the vine and branches shows how we grow and reproduce while we stay in the vine, and the sweet savour of the lily fragrance, reflecting the sweetness of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  So I’m sorry I don’t have a more solid lily scripture connection to share, but that doesn’t reduce the power Easter Lilies bring as an icon of the new life Easter brings.

Please visit our site daily for and CLICK HERE for our Holy Week Bible Study.  Look for SAFE ways to share and be a blessing this Holy Week so you can keep being a blessing! Reverend Jim


Many churches are saying worship is “cancelled” for the time being. But is it really? While church buildings may remain closed, and the worship that happens inside those walls may be on hold for now, churches—that is, the gatherings of the People of God (NOT the buildings, or what happens in them…), are STILL worshipping in varieties of ways. In that very real sense, while services IN many church buildings, including the Twin Falls Church building are not happening this Sunday, worship is NOT cancelled!

God calls us, equips us, and is PRESENT with us, to worship in all times and places. One of my most memorable lessons in seminary was about what IS worship—whenever the people of God gather to pray and share the scripture together, THAT is worship. So please WORSHIP WITH US this morning—not at our building, but in your homes, while you are walking in this beautiful day that the Lord has made, with us digitally on Facebook with other congregations together (link below), wherever you can!

Remember Jesus’ powerful words—“And remember I am with you always, even to the ends of the earth” (Matt. 28: 20)

Let’s worship!

Pastor Jim

Death and Taxes?

They say the only things you can really count on are “death and taxes.” 

Events of the past week, even the past day, seem to amply testify to that claim.  Not much stability these days.  Borrowing words of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident…”– that most of life is safe, stable and dependable, right?  Not this week.

We proclaim God is all-loving, all-powerful, willing and working toward our good.  But how can we boldly proclaim with St. Paul, we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and who are called to His purpose, when the world is reeling with this virus crisis that seems to be shaking our very foundations?  

What, then, shall we say to all this?  This memorable passage in Romans 8: 28 is followed almost immediately by even more powerful words, starting at verse 35:

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  As it is written, ‘For your sake we face death all day long, we are considered sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  

Perhaps Jesus’ words in the Gospels, saying whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all applies here as well.  A child does not have to understand to accept.  Kids are eager to wrapped in the mama’s love, though they can never understand it, just as they are eager to play with digital doodads without any understanding of how they work.  But we, with our adult “maturity,” instead bring an arrogance that says “If I don’t understand how God’s love/grace/healing/care can work in this circumstance, then it must not be true.”

It is a very good thing that the effectiveness of the computer and internet I’m using aren’t dependent upon my understanding how they work!  So why do I insist that I have to understand the mysteries of God for me to rest in the assurance of God’s grace?

It is times like this that, though I am quite the lover of words, I find my words are woefully inadequate. Yet still I trust.  Perhaps a prayer from one of the most powerful services in our Methodist tradition, summing up many of the truths we followers of Jesus hold dear, can serve:

God of us all, your love never ends.  When all else fails, you still are God.  We pray to you for one another in our need, and for all, anywhere, who (struggle) with us this day.  To those who doubt, give light; to those who are weak, strength; to all who have sinned, mercy; to all who sorrow, your peace.  Keep true in us the love with which we hold one another.  In all our ways we trust you…

Keep being a blessing—

Pastor Jim

A New Hope ~ (beyond the movie)

Kids are excited for a new year and getting back to friends and activities at school.  I’m excited when I DON’T have to write out a date to show how slow I am by still writing “2019.”  Kids get excited about all the possibilities of trying new things.  I get excited when I can find a way to get out of trying yet another new thing.  I can’t even type the right numbers into computers—I meant to type in “Matthew 19” to review the context for this month’s memory verse, and got chapter 26 instead.

My mistake was enlightening, though.  Just a few chapters after our memory verse at Matthew 19: 26– “With God all things are possible,” Jesus is already facing plots to kill Him.  I wonder, if Jesus was still thinking that “With God all things are possible” when facing such threats, or when they finally acted on those threats?  I’ve got to tell you, I really struggle with this passage.

Yet it is AFTER all the plotting, and even success in torturing and putting Jesus to death, and after Paul’s own bouts with torture and prison, when St. Paul reiterates the same theme “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4: 13).  After all, the Jesus who went through torture and the cruel death of crucifixion, just a few days later, rose again to life!  So while I still struggle with this theme, I must say that I struggle in faith, trusting that where my understanding fails, Jesus’ promise prevails.

There have been MANY times in my parental and teaching life, helping kids struggle through all kinds of challenges big and small (and when the kids have been both small and way too big!), when this promise has seemed so empty.  Yet the old proverb springs to mind “Hope springs eternal”—especially in the eager young hearts of kids.  Perhaps it is our job as parents and teachers to feed that hope, to point to the source of that hope in Jesus, even when Jesus Himself went through so much in His love for us.

Each new year brings A New Hope—not just as the beginning of the Star Wars saga, but a new beginning in each life’s saga.  It is both our privilege and duty as parents and teachers, and any with the opportunity to share wisdom with younger souls, to be “the Force” one might say, to guide others into their own New Hope—most truly found in Jesus!

Let’s not get bent out of shape and lost in struggling to write the new date, but instead get lost with eager young souls around us, in the wonder of the New Hope that always comes this time of year!

May the (TRUE) Force be with you—Rev. Jim

Competitive Love

                Fall sports are going strong with every team trying to outdo the other.   Some–like Army’s Women’s Rugby that some of us are following closely these days–are consistently playing champion level games, while others might not be doing so well.  Regardless of performance, all strive for the same goal, coaches encourage teams to BE TEAMS, and to ever strive harder.  Have you ever heard of a coach telling the team, “You’re hopeless, just give it up and try not to get hurt too badly out there”?

                Sports teams—WHEN they are functioning well as a team (regardless of the scores they bring home), are about the best model these days of the kind of relationships God calls us to.  Coaches focused on building a strong team could very well quote this month’s memory verse in their huddles, and make it the team’s memory verse as well– “Love one another deeply. Honor others more than yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) Using the NRSV bible translation makes loving one another into a competition sport and ends with “outdo one another in showing honor.”

                This is a great verse for those of you who have a competitive side, or who have kids who like to outdo each other.  Encourage that competitiveness with this verse—you certainly can’t go wrong if you or the Little Ones in your care are encouraged to compete to “OUTDO one another in showing honor”!  So have that team huddle—whether with the family, your work team, or even the team you might coach—give’em that great pep talk, encourage them, push them, prod them, and end it with this month’s memory verse—“Love one another deeply, OUTDO one another in showing honor– Go, team, go!  Ready, break!

Coach Jim

Family Matters- The Bible and Wrestling

Family Matters— The Bible and Wrestling

              It’s always early in the school year when the memories of junior high wrestling flood back to me.  I was the littlest guy in the class, not very athletic—NOT a good thing in PE wrestling class.  Actually, I was the second littlest—I remember praying through every weigh-in that there would be at least ONE guy smaller than me—and there was, but only by a pound. 

He, however, was the wiry athlete.

I knew him well enough to know he had been trying to prove himself for years in a rough neighborhood, so even though I beat him by a pound, my heart still sank.  Sure enough, the first time we got on the mat together, he humiliated me, hoisting me over his shoulders and spinning me all around in an act worthy of a WWE Smackdown match.

                That single experience is forever seared in my memory. Decades later, it’s something to laugh about, but certainly not at the time. My young soul facing the dark years of humiliation ahead, through middle school and high school!  I was part of the church youth group at the time, but what hadn’t really clicked yet was the part about “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5)

Had I been able to trust God in understanding who I was at the time, perhaps I could have used that experience as an opportunity to connect with some guys I wouldn’t otherwise have had anything in common with.  After all, another good scripture that works great in a Kid Survival Kit reminds those of us fitting the Wimpy Kid syndrome: “I take pleasure in my weaknesses… for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12: 10)

Another of my most memorable experiences was much more recently, at a funeral for a young Soldier killed in action, doing the service in a packed high school surrounded by those who knew him best.  One story at the service was of when he took his own money and bought a pair of those expensive basketball shoes—not for himself– but for a friend who couldn’t afford it, powerfully living out in a high school way, Jesus’ call to love your neighbor.

I remember that wrestling incident as one of the worst experiences of my school career.  How different it could have turned out both then and now, had I used those Bible Survival Tools to turn that experience into a relationship catalyst?  Turns out this stuff in the Bible isn’t just good for Sundays, but when it gets into our hearts, can provide powerful survival tools to help kids bless others, and for the rough times in the school yard (or the office or shop…) as well. 

Helping all generations learn and live the scriptures—Rev. Jim