Beyond the Church

“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence. (1 John 3:18-19)

Jesus tells us in several places in the gospels that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. This teaching is reinforced by Paul and other writers throughout the New Testament. In John 15 He also tells us that we are to love each other as He has loved us, and that when we do what he commands we are his friend.

Who is your neighbor? It is your fellow worshipers that gather with you every Sunday, even the ones that you rarely talk to or even know their name. It is your fellow Christians that gather in other churches on Sunday that you may never meet. It is your doctor, your teacher, your students, the clerk in the grocery store, your Uber driver, the barista at Starbucks. In short, everyone you meet or see today is your neighbor.

How do you love yourself? What actions do you take to show that you care for yourself? Are you willing to love your neighbor in the same way? You have at your disposal time, talent and treasure. Will you use those things to show true friendship to a new neighbor who walks through the doors of your church? Will you make a conscious effort to invite a neighbor to church and thus create the opportunity for new friendships?

Lord, show me a neighbor I can love as you loved me. Help me to be a positive influence with my neighbor, and most of all, may I have the courage to invite that neighbor to come to God’s house where He will be welcomed as a friend. Amen.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Grape Jelly

“This is my commandbe strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord our God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9 NLT)

Uncertainty, and fear of trying the unknown is a very real thing, even . It can be reluctance of trying something new, or fear of major life changes. Recently a preacher spoke of how he loves to eat grape jelly on biscuits and gravy. Let’s just say the overall reaction was not positive, with most reluctant to consider even trying it. The following week, several members of the congregation did try it and said it was good, or at least not as bad as they had feared. One had said no for 39+ years and finally tried it, having to admit that it was not bad at all.
Have you ever felt that God wanted you to do something for Him that was out of your comfort zone? Did you fail to do it because of your fear of trying something new? It is so easy to rationalize not doing something by simply saying, it’s probably not God anyway, it’s just a random thought. We don’t do it and so we will never know what might have been the outcome if we had just trusted God and His promise to be with us wherever we go.
I can assure you that if you endeavor to serve God whole-heartedly, He will at some point challenge you to undertake something that you have never done before. I encourage you to look to Him at that moment and be strong and courageous, accept the challenge and just do it. Your life may never be the same again.

Lord, challenge me with something new. Show me how you want me to be your
disciple in an unexpected way. I will look forward to the ways you will bless others through my obedience, amen.

Being Real Chapter 1

Let’s start with the basics.  Either there is a God or there isn’t. “In the beginning God created…” (Gen 1:1)  That is a big statement. “God created the heavens and earth – all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness.” That’s Gen 1:1 in The Message translation. Now I know that it is modern to believe that there is no God responsible for creation. Most scientists would have us believe that sometime in the ancient past there was an accidental ‘big bang’ that ultimately resulted in an elemental life form. Then, somehow a series of random environmental circumstances caused that piece of ‘life’ in the primordial ooze to start evolving into more complex life forms until, wow, a human!  So, in that belief system I am not a creation of an almighty powerful God but simply fortunate that all of my amphibious, reptilian, avian, simian ancestors were in the right place at the right time to somehow morph into a higher life form, eventually leading to a human being standing up on two legs and thinking for himself.  I’m sorry but that version just requires too much faith. Rather, I choose to exercise a lesser amount of faith and just take the Bible at its word. God decided He wanted an earth so he made one. He thought about how he wanted to populate it and ended up making elephants, lions, dogs, monkeys and even bacteria and insects.  When that wasn’t enough He decided that there needed to be someone to look out for all these creatures so He made Adam and Eve and caused them to have the ability to reproduce themselves.   He literally took a handful of dirt from the ground and formed it with His hands and breathed life into the first man, Adam.  Then, after deciding that Adam couldn’t make it on his own (sorry men), He took a rib from Adam and formed a woman named Eve.  Now there were living souls on Earth, in the garden. Hence, in 1946 here comes me, an ancestor of many generations of the created Adam & Eve. Consider carefully, which version of how you got here is easier to believe?

So who created God? Where did He come from?  This is a question that is often posed by non-believers.  I have a well thought out answer that should be adequate for our purposes – I don’t know!  Uh-oh, does that mean that the whole belief in creation falls apart?  Not at all, somewhere along the line we have to exercise faith in something.  In the big-bang/evolutionary model, can they tell us where those first particles came from that miraculously banged up against each other and created the universe? Can they tell us how somehow an inert piece of ‘stuff’ suddenly took on life? No!  If God has to have a provable beginning, then why don’t those swirling masses of gas and particles have to have a provable beginning?  I just find it a lot easier to believe as the Bible says in Revelations 1:8, “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come…” (New Living Translation)  I don’t have to understand where God came from, it is enough for me to see how everything around me points to the fact that it must be true, God just is and He made all of this!

Don’t Fear To Look Back

I have been writing short devotionals for my church bulletin for awhile now. I am going to be posting video versions of them here. I welcome your comments – good idea? bad idea? No one should have to see this, just stick to writing?

Mr. Toads again?

My recent experience at Hart Park, where I kissed the trail and finished my hike with my face covered with mud, has not killed my desire to run the trails. toad-logo-for-mr.-toads-1Parkinsons may have taken my ability to safely run trails, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t hike them. And so I will. I use my trekking poles and that keeps me stable enough to feel confident on the trail.

This morning I am supposed to go to Hart Park with my step-daughter but it may not work out. I am in what is referred to as an ‘off’ period with my Parkinsons which leaves me feeling weak and unstable. Nevertheless, there will be better days.

Now, what you may ask is Mr. Toads. This refers to an annual trail race put on by our local running club, and it is called Mr. Toads Wild Run. And believe me, it is wild. There is a 20K distance and a 5K, but they both start and end the same. The start is 1 mile of a steep uphill climb to the top where the two races split. The 20K continues on with lot’s of miles of rolling hills, including at least one challenging climb. toads_2014_map_5kThe 5K becomes mostly level until it reaches a steep downhill where it joins up with the 20K runners again. This downhill leads to the entrance to Mr. Toads Gully which is truly wild. Downhill, constant curves with berms on both sides and very narrow, making it difficult to pass. After exiting the gully, about a half of a mile, it is a fast downhill to the finish.

I have done the 20K version and the 5K in various years. I think the 20K is definitely not in the cards for me, but this year I plan to do the 5K. It will be my first race I have ever done with trekking poles, but I am confident I can pull it off. I will have plenty of support from my step-daughter who is going to run it. It will be her first trail race.

This race is not until December so I have plenty of time to train. As with everything else, I leave it in God’s hands.Walking Parkinsons


Published by mistake

I recently started working on a post called Who Am I Really? Imagine my surprise when I realized that I had published it instead of saving it for completion later. Bottom line, it wasn’t finished!! I have a lot more to say on the subject, so I guess the published one was Part One, and, stay tune for Part Two.

Who Am I Really?

Today I had occasioSummerhairdo2018_preview.jpegn to use a public restroom. As I finished washing my hands and turned to leave I was faced by a large mirror. It wasn’t a full-length mirror but it was large enough to see myself from the waist up. I was immediately struck by the image that I saw staring back at me. It was not because it was a particularly attractive image, not at all. It was because the question immediately came to mind, who is that guy? I have been around this earth for 72 years, so I certainly understood the concept of a mirror, and I knew that I was looking at a reflection of myself. 

Stay with me now, this may be a way of thinking that you are not familiar with. I know that I never thought of my image in this way. I am known as being somewhat introspective, and this was one of those prime examples. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I wondered, is what I see the real me? Or is what I think the real me? Is that flesh and blood bald-headed body covered with clothing and wearing glasses Chuck? Or is everything I am thinking and feeling the real Chuck? 

If someone were to ask you if you knew me, your brain would quickly peruse your memory banks and come up with an image. Oh yeah, you would say, I know him. But do you really know me, or just know the package that contains me. You may have spent a lot of time talking to me so you think you know the real me. You have to realize, however, that the things I say to you may not reflect how the real me thinks. I may have said to you what I knew you wanted to hear, or I may have given you an opinion about something that was not really what I believed, but I just didn’t want to hurt your feelings.  See the possibilities here?

A wise woman said, “It doesn’t matter what you say, what you do, or what you believe, what matters is how you do it, how you say it, how you go about it.” (Pastor Tara Thomas Smith) 



Return to Hart Park

Today it was time to find out if I could still go for a hike in the hills. Ever since I started losing stability and balance due to Parkinson’s disease I have had to give up running and only do fast walking if I have my rollator with me. Whether or not I could tackle the hills of Hart Memorial Park had yet to be tested.

I had used these trails many times in training runs as well as races, so I knew what to expect as far as the extreme hills. In fact, I picked the hike I intended to do because it included a steep 1-mile hill right out of the parking lot. What I didn’t expect was the mud.

Jason and I met up in the parking lot and we set off for what should have been a two-mile loop up the hill and then down through what is known in these parts as Mr. Toads Gully, the site of the annual Mr. Toads Wild Run 5K and 10-Mile trail races. For the first mile, I felt really strong and powered up the 1-mile hill with my trekking poles in 20 minutes. Considering how muddy it was, that wasn’t so bad. The problems started when we topped out and bore left to what should have been a trail leading down to the gully.

Now, as I said, I have run and hiked these trails many times. There was no excuse for me not to know exactly how to get to where I wanted to go. Not so much. That’s right, I lost my place in the geography and we wandered a bit trying to get back on track. I finally decided we were better off just back-tracking and returning back down the 1-mile trail. The problem was, I lost track of that also! Fortunately, Jason had his GPS running, so we were able to get back on track and follow our trail in reverse to get back to the parking lot.

The problems were not over. While hiking the steep downhill in the mud I put my foot in the wrong place and quickly found myself face down in the mud. Half my face was covered in mud as well as most of my sweatshirt and jeans. I had a small cut on my forehead which was putting out more blood than it should have. The worst part though was the severe injury to my pride. I had been doing so well overcoming my Parkinson’s and its limitations and then suddenly fell on my face like a newbie right in front of my good friend. But, he was gracious and we finished our hike without further incident, although we logged 4 miles instead of the planned 2!

So is my little incident going to keep me from going back to Hart Park? Not likely! I will, however, wait until the weather dries up a bit. I think my wife is right, also, that I should try to always go with someone else.

I Can’t Do That

“Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. (1 Peter 3:15 NLT)

It is not unusual for Christians to be hesitant about sharing their faith. We seem to have a natural reluctance to talk about God with people whom we feel are not believers. We can talk about Him at church and when we are with Christian friends, but to talk to a non-believer about our faith in an unseen God is a scary thing.

Paul says we must always be ready to explain our hope. Why do we hesitate?

  1. I don’t know enough about the Bible
  2. I am just learning myself, how can I share with someone else?
  3. I don’t put things into words very well
  4. I am naturally shy
  5. I don’t do well with strangers
  6. I am afraid they will make fun of me
  7. They may know the Bible better than I do

I have good news for you! God does not expect you to be a Bible scholar, able to quote a long list of scriptures. He is more than aware of your perceived short-comings in your ability to speak or interact with strangers. He can help with all of that. God only wants you to honestly share what He has done in your life. Just make a simple statement such as, “I believe Jesus died on the cross to save me from my sinful life and restore my relationship with God. Accepting that, He has changed my life and I am happily following Jesus every day”.

Any follow-up discussion will be led by the Holy Spirit on your behalf. He will give you words and insights which will allow you to be an effective witness as you testify of what He has done in your life.

 Lord, thank you for accepting me as one of you children. Please help me be an effective representative of your love for all. Amen.