Me with my lovely wife, Kathy:

Thursday, March 19, 2015


Yesterday was my first full day of, what I’ll call by default and surrender, “retirement.”  I live in a blue-collar, carry your lunchbox, and wear a hardhat community.  When I announced what I was going to do—step down from the lead role at the church I have pastored for forty+ years, assume a supporting role there, and engage in some other ministries on the side—almost every one, after my careful explanation said, “You are retiring.”  J  What I have in mind for this next phase of life just doesn’t fit very well in a lunchbox.  Most of the guys I know work hard until they are done, and then they quit.  An uncle of mine, former high-iron worker, gun smith, cabinet builder, and contractor, told me a few years ago he wasn't working any more.  He was “drawing,” as in drawing a pension.  Uncle Jim’s explanation is an apt way of putting how most folk in my community see it.  It's a binary thing.  So, even though I’m not “drawing,”  Since I quit doing what I used to do, I guess, in that sense, I am retired.
Part of my first post-what-I-used-to-do day was spent caring for some odds and ends.  That was a lot like a lot of Mondays have been for decades.  I went to the bank, Post Office, and the insurance office.  A car had broken down and I had to make arrangements to have it towed and get it fixed; again, nothing new there.  I've never owned an automobile that didn't break down now and again.  Some of my errands were personal, some related to work.  I found myself engaged in a dialogue in my head.  I was asking a conjured up lunchbox/hardhat guy, "Tell me this.  If I'm retired, why do I still have a job?"  He just got his bologna sandwich out and while chewing gave me that look reserved for fools who don't get it.  
As well as those mixed-bag kind of tasks, I visited an inmate at the local jail.  If I weren’t still a pastor I couldn’t have gotten in, and more importantly, I might not have gotten back out.  I payed a call on, read scripture to, and prayed with a dear lady who is dying with cancer.  I spent a couple of hours working on our church’s website and doing some other cyber-work—part of my new job description—my wife and I had supper and serious conversation with a missionary couple, and I got ready to leave on a short-term mission trip—again, part of my new job-description.  I figure that since my new church job calls for about twenty hours of work a week, I came close to getting half-a-week’s work done in one day, yesterday.  Not bad.  Today, or tomorrow--I’m crossing so many time zones I don’t what day it is—I’m on my way to do a short term stint as adjunct faculty at Pacific Islands University, a school with a definite missionary emphasis.  Again, I've done this kind of thing before.
So, so far everything is exactly the same except it’s different.
I received a really timely article the the other day.  It was in the week building up to March 15, the day when I officially stepped down from the role I have filled, or tried to fill, for the past four decades.  Ten things for Old Preachers.  I think you can see how the title grabbed me immediately.  Let me digress a moment.
Back when I was a student at Appalachian Bible Institute there used to be a wonderfully Godly, kind, and wise old preacher on staff.  To tell you the truth, I never did know what Mel Seguine’s job was.  As far I was concerned all he need to do was just be there.  I don’t think I was alone among the preacher-boys in thinking, “When I grow up I want to be like Mel Seguine.”  The other day I looked in a mirror and thought that in one insignificant way I have grown to be like Mr. Seguine.  My hair is now white, like his was.  I pray that I will become like him in ways that are far more important. 
That brings me back to the article.  When I read #4, I thought of Mr. Seguine, and I thought that, in large measure describes what I hope to do in this next phase of my life.

Embrace the transition from king to sage. Too many leaders have undone their good work by resisting this transition and clinging to power. As we age, “strategic ministry” shifts from a position and office to an attitude and role. We need sages freed from leadership responsibilities, who have a fresh passion for the gospel and enthusiasm for the next generation of leaders!  (

I don’t want to run things, though, from time to time I expect to be in charge.  What I want to do is help others run things, and help prepare those who will run things.  I don’t think I have stepped down.  What I have done is step over into a new role.  In a lifetime of ministry I have learned some things, much of which is not contained in books, or found online.  Some of what I have learned was taught to me in the school of Hard Knocks, an institution that I’d like to help others avoid. 

When Pastor Doug, the newly installed Senior Pastor at CBC, and I discussed the transition that we completed this last Sunday, one topic of conversation was what our new titles would be.  I don’t think he’ll print it on his business cards, but I kind of like the “Right Reverend Boss Man,” as a title for Doug.  We never discussed this one, but how about this as new moniker for me, The Sage?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

This was the conclusion to this morning's message based on the book of Job, If God Is Good And God Is Great, Then Why Does Life Hurt So Bad?

Back when I was in college, Vicky Fought, my English teacher passed out a story that she had found in a magazine.  I lost my copy of that story, but I’ve never forgotten the gist of it.  One of the goals of my ministry has been to remember the lesson of this story. I want to put some present day flesh and skin on those fifty year old bones and share that story with you today:

Behold a preacher ascended to his pulpit and looked out on his congregation.  Two-hundred eyes looked up at him, and in the eyes of the100 could be seen the eyes of the world. 
The preacher sipped his honey and tea, and his voice was smooth as his words emerged from between his brilliant white smile.

Let us Pray.
Amen, said the 100, but there was no joy in their “Amen.”

The preacher, drawing inspiration from his tea, said,
Lord, we thank you for our health our ability to walk, and dance, and enjoy the wonders of creation, eyes that see and ears that hear. . .
The preacher was so enamored with his eloquence that he didn’t notice as a blind man felt his way down the aisle, and a woman, hard of hearing, went out into a world of silence.  Crutches clicked and wheel chairs quietly rolled.  Those who ate their food painfully, and others who nightly fought their beds to win a few moments of sleep, together with a man who just that day had read the bad news from an MRI, stepped out into the darkness--eight in all.

Taking a sip of tea, the preacher went on with renewed sweetness in his voice,
Lord, thank You for family and friends, those who love us, bring joy to our lives, and on whom we count as the years pass . . .
Residents of foul-smelling nursing homes far from families long-forgotten, the abused, the battered, the put-down, the abandoned, the lonely man who eats in isolation at the corner restaurant, and the old woman who lives behind closed shades, one by one, never making eye contact with one another, each going his own way, a dozen in all left the little group.

But the preacher, impressed with the power of his prayer and warmed by his cup, gave no heed and plunged on . . .
Lord, we may not be as wealthy as Trump or Gates, but we thank you for the material blessing that you have poured out on us—houses and cars, clothing and food, things that make our lives enjoyable.
With holes in their shoes--or none at all--clutching their rags against the cold wind, stomachs bloated by hunger, and minds warped by need, 20 more stepped into a world where they had no home and no prospects.  Some in groups and others all alone, as they had for millions of nights, they shivered in the darkness, and both hoped for and dreaded the coming day.

But the preacher enraptured by the music of his voice continued . . .
We are grateful for virtuous lives, lives that point the way for others to follow, not like the masses out there . . .
Those that struggled with addictions of demonic proportions, a boy who sought out dark corners in his world so he could view that which was darker still and hated himself for it, a woman who secretly hated her father who came nightly to her room, those who struggled with thievery, prostitution, laziness, covetousness, lying and adultery, a quarter of a hundred in all, seemed to vanish through the cracks in the floor, and they were no more a part of that assembly.

Not because the people were leaving, for in his self-induced bliss, the preacher was unaware, but from sheer enjoyment of his own fluency, the preacher sped on . . .
How grateful we are, God, for the justice we receive—the fairness and equity of our world.  We live and work and enjoy the fruit of our labor . . .
But before the words were out, the downsized, and the outsourced, the disenfranchised, and the persecuted, the ghetto kid stuck with a public defender who advised pleading guilty to a crime he didn’t commit, the children whose parents drank up their welfare checks, the Christian from Iran, and the Jew from Iraq, quietly--they had learned to be silent--stepped out into the world awaiting the next blow fate will deal them.

Lord, You are the God of beauty, and we thank you for the loveliness you have bestowed on us, pleasant faces and forms agreeable to behold . . .
Hoping no one would notice, the cross-eyed, the bald, and gap-toothed, together with the fat girl who endures daily bullying, and the skinny guy who avoided the rest room at school, the misshapen both real and imagined, clinging to the shadows, hoping no one would see, melted into the darkness and its momentary relief.

The preacher looked out as he his prayer oozed toward its finish and saw that the room was empty—no eyes looked back, no heads were bowed.
He rushed to the door and flinging it open he surveyed the darkness.  He hurled his empty teacup into the night and cried in a voice no longer smoothed with honey,
Where have they gone Lord, Where are the 100?
And the voice of the Lord replied,
Because you have spoken of things that I did not promise, they have forsaken you.
When did I promise that in this world my children would be comfortable and well treated with kindness?  When did I say that the way I asked my children to walk would be an easy road?  Look at how they treated my Son.

And the preacher cried out,
Then, O Lord, what will you give us?

And the voice replied,
I will give you myself, and that is enough.

And the preacher called out into the darkness with a voice that was cracked and raw,
Oh, people, forgive me. I have promised you that which the Lord did not.  He has given us Himself, and if we have nothing more that is enough.

Slowly, eyes appeared from the darkness, as they passed the preacher they gave a light of their own—the flicker of hope.

Behold, the preacher ascended to his pulpit and looked out on his congregation.  Two-hundred eyes looked up at him, and in the eyes of the 100 could be seen the eyes of the world.
And in a voice plain and simple he said,
Let us pray.
And with joy the 100 said,