DOING THE WALK OF LIFE

12 10 2021

When I was a kid, I walked just about everywhere I went. I remember walking a good mile and a half to school when I was just in 1st Grade. But this is not one of those tales we like to tell our children about how hard we used to have it by trudging through the snow and wind with only plastic bags upon our feet as we walked uphill both to and from our destination. I liked walking. I walked to baseball practice. I walked to Church. I walked through the woods for hours with no goal in mind other than to see where the path would take me. Walking in the 1960’s wasn’t as dangerous a quest as it is today.

One of the things I would do as I walked was sing along with my transistor radio. I have never been shy about singing out loud no matter who may be around me. To this day, I can literally remember exactly where I was in route when I first heard the song, “The Long and Winding Road.”

Another of my go-to exercises I practiced while I rambled along on my trek through town was dreaming about the days to come. Even then I would imagine what I would become, where I would live, who I might marry and how many kids would call me Dad. I also would talk to God as my stride became a spiritual experience. I didn’t really know Him personally yet, but I always believed He was there. Growing up, I went to church weekly and attended Catholic School. I tried my best to be good enough but was consistently falling short in the righteousness department. But I knew deep down in my soul that I was never alone on my walk here on earth. I could hear the music of heaven even when there was no stereo in sight.

Do you want to hear something that has always intrigued me? When Jesus was doing His ministry on our planet, He never seemed to be in a hurry. I mean, He was the Son of God after all. You would think that He would try to jam as much activity as possible if He knew His time was short. But He didn’t. He didn’t rent a chariot or ride a horse as He roamed through Israel. He walked. He stopped. He paid attention to those who wanted to talk to Him. He intentionally got away from the thundering noise and clamoring crowds. He used His time walking from town to town to pray and genuinely be wholly present with His Disciples. Maybe the car I drive keeps me from some healthier habits. One of the joys of living in Shamokin is that my house is right next door to the Church, and I keep my car keys at home and scamper lots more via my feet. Could it be that I have marched full circle?

Many times, Believers refer to their faith as “walking with God.” It tends to give us a picture of communion and comradery as we roll. I like to talk to when I am with someone. My wife not so much. But speaking or not speaking doesn’t prevent us from still being together. Could it be that God wants to chat with us more often than we might even realize? Are we missing out on some life changing heart to hearts because we are oblivious to who is standing right next to us as we take another step?

Maybe Steven Tyler was not the first author to pen the words, “Walk this way!” Maybe the Holy Spirit penned the words upon our very hearts on the day that we were born! Like those times in my own life when I had to put my pride aside and become dependent upon that someone who was there to guide and guard me through challenging assignments. Could it be that we aren’t treating the walk of life with the amount of respect that it deserves? Could it be that we are traveling solo when we were never meant to go it alone?

Yes, I am a Minister, but I am also a guy who knows how helpless he is without a healthy dose of amazing grace. Without Jesus at the helm, without Jesus setting the tone, without Jesus by my side- it would have only been a matter of time before I crashed and burned and self-ejected my body, mind, and soul on this chaotic journey through the years. It has been because of a real GPS- God Protection System, I continue to walk on. No prize, no accolade, no human achievement should ever become more important than just walking with the Lord in a loving and lasting relationship! Jesus must be my Coach and only when I come in line and cooperate with His marching orders, do I truly see the beauty of what happens when I put my hand in the hand of the Man from Galilee!

So, are you open to doing the walk of life? Do you really want to be walking on sunshine? Do you want to walk like a man, fast as you can? Then give God permission to make Himself at home in your heart so you can walk like a believer today! Why walk like an Egyptian when they were known for their stubbornness in surrendering even after a plague fest? Don’t walk with the dinosaurs because they sauntered right into extinction! Walk right back to Jesus this minute and bring your heart to Him- don’t send it! Let him set the scenes! Let him direct the script! Let him call the shots! Let him move you as he sees fit! Put on the sneakers of the Savior and sense the Spirit as you walk the road that will one day conclude right into His arms. We aren’t going to an empty house. The Lord has the light on, and we best go quickly right towards the glow.

Rudy Sheptock is the pastor at Shamokin Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and hosts weekend oldies radio shows on WISL-AM 1480. His columns appear in each Friday edition of The News-Item and he welcomes reader feedback at oldieswithaheart@gmail.com.





ANTIQUING IN SHAMOKIN

8 10 2021

I don’t know why, but I have always been drawn to antique shops. My wife and I will be married 39 years this December and I think you can count on one hand anything modern and hip that we own. I love the feel of a room that holds classic furniture, black and white portraits, music on vinyl, games we grew up with and the other gems that came from those wonder years gone by. I can just imagine that if those things could talk, we would hear stories that would knock our socks off. These would include tales from a time when excellence in craftsmanship mattered and men and women poured their very best efforts into their work and people didn’t mind spending most of their hours at home with one another because that was the place where families thrived, successes were celebrated, and future dreams were truly born.

Masterpieces aren’t manufactured amidst an impersonal assembly line. When something is created from a heart filled with love, it tends to last long after the fast jobs done in haste with waste, roll into oblivion! This leads to pointing out the nugget of truth I desire to mine for us today. If we are serious about reaping the fruit that our parents and grandparents enjoyed, we best be intentional about the instruments we use and the ingredients that we include while concocting the food we serve on our dinner tables.

Let me illustrate this by pointing out that the “retro” products we purchase in this generation might display an outer likeness to the original artifacts but upon a closer examination, plastic, cardboard, cheaper options, and the lack of the human touch leave us still yearning for what once was and not what actually is.

Vinyl is back but the record players that I grew up are still your best bet when it comes to hearing the music. Yoo Hoo is still available in convenience stores all over the east coast, but that delicious chocolatey flavor is eluding my taste buds. I have never had a microwaved meal that was anywhere close to my Italian Aunts’ delicacies that to this day, no lunch at Olive Garden is going to compete with. Faster doesn’t mean better. Easier doesn’t add up to value. Cheaper only affirms that you get what you don’t pay for. And while something may look exactly like it once did, only renovating the outside leaves for hazardous results inside.

Have you ever been to Bannerman’s Castle? It sits right in the middle of the Hudson River on an island for all to see. It reminds me of what you might have seen during the days of King Arthur. Mr. Bannerman was known for his dealing in the lucrative business of arms and weapons. But sometime during the1960’s, something went boom big time. An explosion caused the erosion of all that kept things in their proper place. The truth is that you would never deduct this by an outside glance. It all looks wonderful from the river. But the inside is as hollow as the candy bunny rabbit we all get at Easter.

As for me, I want integrity both inside and out. I don’t care how awesome it looks if it is awful at its expected performance standards. I don’t want to spend my hard-earned cash dining at some fancy restaurant where I pay an arm and leg to just look at some dish that won’t even come close to doing away with my hunger pains. I would rather take my granddaughter Lucia on a date to Snyder’s Family Restaurant in Shamokin any day because I know the food will be good and plenty and the people who work there take pride in what they do. All of that simple down-home reality communicates an inner nuance that all the overpriced lattes in the world of overpriced glamour goodies couldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.

Maybe Google doesn’t have all the answers. Maybe the best information is not discovered on the internet. Maybe the smart phone is delinquent and dumb. What if you went past the fast food and invested in a true home-cooked conversation? When is the last time you asked your grandparents to tell you about their adventures? You might just find out that what you experienced with them, no Netflix quick flick could live up to. Just like that old office desk you uncovered at the Thrift Store was made with the best trees the forest had to offer, I think Mom and Dad might just be a better source of advice than the magic 8-ball on Tik-Tok. I dare you to pass on the microwaved mash potatoes and the substitute flakes that come in a box and create the real supper time classic complete with butter and a crater for the gravy to fill overflowing. Let’s fill Shamokin with the best of yesterday’s period pieces; only this time produced with the creativity and wonder of today. We all need some divine intervention to produce a love resurrection in our town and we can’t waste another minute if we are going to win it.     

Rudy Sheptock is the pastor at Shamokin Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and hosts weekend oldies radio shows on WISL-AM 1480. His columns appear in each Friday edition of The News-Item and he welcomes reader feedback at oldieswithaheart@gmail.com.





GLORY DAYS FOR GRANDPA

1 10 2021

SOUL MINING WITH PASTOR RUDY

I was going to call this new column, “Sheptock In Shamokin.” My Grandfather John Sheptock was born in Mt. Carmel in 1900 and was raised in Marion Heights. Like so many others who called this area home, he spent years coal mining in Shamokin. I didn’t know my Grandfather very well as I was only a toddler when he passed away from black lung in 1961. Yet, I have always been strangely drawn to knowing better who he was for I admired the sacrifices that he made to provide for his family and his extremely hard-working ways that I hope I inherited within my own wiring.

Years ago, while speaking at a Youth Conference in Mahaffey, Pennsylvania, I took my oldest son and we toured one of the old coal mines. I didn’t have to worry about making any reservations because we were the only two that showed up for the 3:30 PM tour. As we sunk and submerged deeper into the underground obstacle course, I felt like I was bonding with the man behind the man who was John Sheptock. And when we got to the part of the ride when all the lights were turned out and we were lost in the utter night of the place, I knew at that moment the great lengths that man went so his family could get by. Maybe one of the reasons I am a Minister today is because I want no part of an environment that shuts the sunshine out. There are days even my church office becomes a hindrance rather than a help because there are no windows to open and no fresh air to breathe. And one thing I can say about our new hometown is that one doesn’t have to go far to see the creativity of the God who put His majestic trademark on all that He made. 

Grandpa eventually did move out of Shamokin and made it all the way to Clifton, NJ where he got a job as a Breaker for the Erie Lackawanna Railroad. These are the basis of my Jersey roots. John married Anna and raised four children of which my dad, also named Rudy, was the third in line. I have a faint memory of sitting on Grandpa’s lap but that is about all I can recall. He was quiet, which I am not, and he was not very emotional, which I am and when he did something for you, it was his way of communicating his love. I always knew about the Sheptock roots being in the Shamokin area and part of my fascination with God bringing me here is to discover more about the Sheptock’s who came before. In knowing better where I came from, I believe it can be essential in making better decisions in knowing where you are going. The past is a wonderful place to visit, but it is not the area where you want to settle down.

My past 39 years have been spent serving the Lord in full time service. Yes, I am the new Pastor of the Shamokin Church of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, but I am also an Oldies Disc Jockey on WISL 1480 on Saturday and Sunday. Wherever I have been, I see the whole community as a place to shine the light. I have been a Coach, a Teacher, A Mentor, A Newspaper Columnist, A Husband, A Dad and now a Pop-Pop to 8 grandchildren. I was at my last Church in Cape May County for 24 years. I was 37 when I got there and now 61 as I start all over again. I saw dreams come true and prayers answered. I fought through the loss of my dad to cancer, 2 of my sons to die on the same day they were born, a heart attack, a mini-stroke, 2 bouts of shingles and while I never got covid, I did get cancer this year. I am not one of those who believe that if you have faith, you will be healthy, wealthy, and free from trials and tribulation. I am almost the complete opposite because I’m still here after many punches from this world that could have knocked me completely out.

Why did I leave the Church in Cape May County to come to Shamokin, Pennsylvania? I didn’t come to retire that is for sure. I came because I like challenges. I knew that if my grandfather could mine the coal of Shamokin, maybe the Lord could use me to mine the soul of Shamokin. Life is not about playing it safe or giving in to fear. I love hearing the stories of what was but only to ignite the fire of what will still be. I hate when people look at me and think the best days are behind me. I love when God uses where I have been to totally impact where I am now. I see Shamokin as a place to not just bring glory to God although make no mistake, for me that is paramount.  But I also know my being here is to have my life become a living thank you card to my grandpa. And I don’t want to see people dying from a darkened heart on my watch!

I have heard the stories of what Shamokin was. I have seen the nostalgia ooze through the eyes of the people who have reminisced about the good old days. But I don’t want to just be about the glory days that pass us by where, as Bruce Springsteen reminds us, “it leaves us with nothing but boring stories.” I want to use every minute of every hour of every day of every week of every month of every year that I have left to make a positive impact today and leave an optimistic bright hope and future for tomorrow. How about you? What’s your story all about and who are you allowing to write the big finish?

Rudy Sheptock is the pastor at Shamokin Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and hosts weekend oldies radio shows on WISL-AM 1480. His columns appear in each Friday edition of The News-Item and he welcomes reader feedback at oldieswithaheart@gmail.com.





WHAT’S GOING ON?

20 09 2021

SOUL MINING WITH PASTOR RUDY

So here I am sitting on the front porch of the parsonage which is a home that the church provides its Minister as part of the salary package and the place in Shamokin, Pennsylvania where Terri and I are presently living. The setting is nothing like our home in Cape May County, NJ. Here we hear the roars of engines revving almost all the hours of a day and night. I think it might be a way to show superiority and establish your place of strength in status symbol land on the streets of the town. My truck can blow your cycle away in decibel levels. And you all thought that I was loud!

The Wawa that I used to practically live at to get my daily dose of coffee and conversation is now a Turkey Hill and I still go in there with a goal of meeting everyone. I have a beautiful view of a coal mountain from my vantage point and it is hard to ignore its beauty even if the surroundings are less than magical. I’m sitting on a white rocking chair like the ones that adorn the sidewalks of Cracker Barrel except mine came at a bargain basement price. And I am praying that God would show me why I am here in the literal homeland of my Grandfather and how does the Lord want me to go about shining my light so others will see God in all I say and do.

It’s not easy to start all over at age 61 in a place where you must win the right to be respected, heard and received. I loved being the Pastor of not only the Lighthouse Church in Middle Township these last 24 years, but I welcomed being a Minister in the whole entire community. It is baby steps again as I introduce myself to my new neighbors here in Shamokin. And I have to believe that God has so much more in store as I begin to plant the seeds of the gospel all around me with the eager anticipation that in the not too distant future, I will see and watch them grow.

But as the “Lord’s Prayer” taught us to say in our daily chats with the Father, it’s “Not my will but Your will be done in Shamokin as it is in Heaven.” So I am watching and waiting for the Holy Spirit to open up some holes in the defense so I can plow on through with grace and truth. I can’t share God with people that I don’t care about so my first prayers center around Jesus filling my heart with a true affection for those precious sheep He has now entrusted to my care. And I have to say, God has given me a real liking for those that I now hang around with. I know God went ahead of this transition preparing the way for all of us involved. I don’t have to pretend or put on airs of hot and harmful wind when I come blowing on to the scene. Very quickly I feel a consecrated connection to the lives that God has compassionately placed directly in my path. As a Believer, I am not supposed to walk all over those in my way, but to trust Him to give me the privilege to walk beside my new compadres on the road of life.

Common sense might have preempted this new venture until after I had been pronounced clean from prostate cancer or after I could have negotiated a way to stay close to my precious Kids and Grandkids. I believe that it is both a joy and a privilege to be able to share the work of the ministry with your Family and I am so grateful for that amazing experience of having Leah, Abbie, Jeff, John, Joel, Lucia, Claire, Adelina, Levi and Benjamin gathered all around after Lighthouse Services. The fact that they are all following Jesus and serving Him means more to me than any earthly achievement could afford. And I did promise Jesus at the beginning of my Call to the Ministry that I would go wherever He would lead and do whatever He would ask whenever He might ask it and while this side of Glory it does ache a bit, the greater promises of Eternity keeps me singing as I serve Him in a brand new place.

And Terri and I are still growing together as we are spending more time with one another because when Joel went to College at Taylor, it was the first time since 1986 that we had no children living at home. I love that woman and we have not only been married for 39 years come this December; we have also always worked together all along the way. It is no different now in Shamokin. While the cancer has made certain ways of expressing love impossible, God has a way of allowing me to communicate my unconditional devotion in creative and unconventional ways.

Please pray on Family! Terri and I will also be working with the Teens from 7th though 12th Grades when our “Kidz Klub” is unveiled again on Sunday Nights in October. Trunk and Treat will happen here in Shamokin on Halloween Night. We will be doing a Christmas Night of Worship with Paul Baloche here on Thursday December 16th at 7PM. I take nothing for granted. I am trusting God for candy bars and funds to pay the bills. But I do know this, I am not done yet. God has revealed to me that I am still an instrument that He wants to use and so I plan on showing up as God is blowing up our surroundings with great news of real joy! Jesus is still Lord. His people are still His Light. There is still much to do because we are still here. And wherever my earthly address may be, my gut wrenching cry to the Lord is that He will use us to get a ton more people getting their heavenly addresses in the days to come. As I have shared before, I still plant my feet upon the vision, “The Best Is Yet To Come!” Bye Love!   





WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

6 07 2021

I turned my life over and gave my heart to Jesus in April of 1975.

At the time I appeared on the outside like the young Man who had it all together.

I was a straight A, over achieving, performance driven, affection starving Teenager who while he was a perennial Teacher’s Favorite Student, never felt that he was quite good enough for anything.

I was an emotional keg of dynamite ready to go off at any moment.

The Lord used His word, music, the love of a godly Dad and a new found faith to keep me from ever going over the edge but even as a Christian, I still lived tragically close to daily disaster.

Only a year after beginning my walk with God did I sense His call into full time ministry.

I had only been a Believer a few years when I attended Philadelphia College of Bible to prepare for the mission set before me.

My days at PCB were some of the best of my life. I was getting to study the Bible with some of the greatest Professors on this planet. I made friendships that have lasted a lifetime. I met my wife there and was so affirmed that God had given me the gifts to pastor people.

In 1982, For the first fifteen years I worked exclusively with Youth, and the last twenty four- as the Senior Pastor of the Lighthouse Church.

You can say without hesitation that I have experienced Church Life thoroughly, tasting all of the good, the bad and the ugly.

Like a drug, working as a Leader in the service of the Lord only made my addiction to adrenaline worse.

With each success, it only made me work more and try harder.

Now don’t get me wrong, I believed passionately the message that I shared.

When I was doing what I did, I knew that it was exactly what God created me to do.

Unfortunately, the vehicle that God was using to drive home truth was severely flawed.

In all of my journeys, I was still trying to work my way so that I could earn and deserve God’s love and grace. I never felt worthy. There was always a gnawing sense of shame eating away at my redeemed soul.

What is wrong with me?

Why couldn’t I experience real freedom?

God’s church is still His precious Bride that Jesus gave His life for to literally transform into a holy and blameless bunch.

Humanity has reared its ugly head in the midst of heaven and raised a lot of hell along the way.

I worked for Church Boards that expected a hundred hours a week of productivity. Nobody kept an eye on the workaholic tendency of Pastors like me.

The only time I was brought into the office were those rare weeks that I didn’t meet the quota and was reprimanded shamefully.

I fought hard to make sure my Wife and Kids knew how important they were to me but there were entire summers I’d be missing from their worlds.

The clear lesson being championed was that too much is still never enough and no matter how wonderful the last event was, there were still many more mountains to conquer. If I wanted to matter, I’d better not take off my hiking boots.

The last several years has only revealed to me clearly the depression, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior that I have battled since I was a child has never gone away.

It actually had gotten worse and no amount of activity I compiled upon my resume was strong enough to quiet those gremlins that long to render my heart paralyzed.

If I am grateful for anything, it’s that the Body Of Christ in 2021 is more compassionate and merciful to these issues and recognizes their presence not as a consequence of a bad faith but of a broken human being.

You can be a devoted Follower of Jesus and still be far from perfect and someone who is still in the process of being transformed into the image of our Savior.

What I used to stuff deep down inside so that nobody would suspect that I didn’t have it all together, I can now live out in the great wide open.

I am determined that my story has no phony elements and can be raw and real.

And it is my prayer that in my being authentic and vulnerable, others too can come out of hiding so that the Lord can shine His light of healing and wholeness on them too.

I continue to battle daily even as I write this. It is mostly a radical surgery of retraining my brain to operate fueled by a truth that God’s promises will set us free.

But those danging tapes of non-stop lies that have monopolized my belief system all these years won’t die easily.

Christians are still very much works in progress. If anyone acts like they have arrived, he or she is only putting on a show that needs to go.

Enough with the edited for the Sanctuary images we are tempted to portray.

God doesn’t work with facades. We must be willing to surrender our tainted coping mechanisms and lay them down at the foot of the Cross so that God has sovereign rule and room to rescue, redeem and restore us to our original glory.

Church has got to be a place where we can come just as we are so that God can make us just what He wants us to be.

Sin is not tolerated, but it’s not tastefully hidden either.

When I read the Bible, I don’t see heroes to emulate but men and women who were examples to us all that apart from the Lord we can’t do a thing right.

Nobody needs to hang their heads in shame. Simply come with open hands so God can fill your empty hearts.

Christianity is the story of what God can do in a willing soul that just gives Him room.

This weak soul only becomes strong because I have invited Jesus into the real me!

How about you?

Will you?





THE OLDIES PASTOR AND THE SOUNDS OF SUMMER!

18 06 2021

The calendar is almost ready to hit the spot marking the longest day of the year. Schools are out and the kids are smiling all about. I remember this used to mean all day Baseball Games with Extra Innings after Supper! If we got to hot, we turned on the yard hoses to help to beat the heat. Nobody had to sign us up. We were in. It was the best time of the year!

Yes, summertime is here! It is finally summer- that magic time of year. A time of the season that has been known for its wonderful music. I can’t help but close my eyes and reminisce about the songs that we grew up listening to while lying on our towels with our transistor radios blaring in the heat. Do you remember walking in the sand? As we strolled along together; holding hands, walking all alone. So in love were we two that we didn’t know what to do. It was just the thing to do- summer and romance and crooning the tunes that provided the soundtrack for it all!

So as the sweat begins to roll down on to my forehead and baptize my face by the bucketful, and the humidity starts to drain my system of energy just like a pin would do to the air inside of a balloon- I tolerate it because I can still sing lyrics like, “Hot town, summer in the city; back of my neck getting dirty and gritty. I’ve been down, isn’t it a pity; there doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city. All around people looking half-dead; walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head.” And every day as we experience that thermometer going beyond 90 degrees, even though my body cries out in horror, we can still break out into the chorus that says, “It’s like a heat wave burning in my heart. I can’t keep from crying; it’s tearing me apart.” Let’s face it, the hit list from June, July and August can’t help but make you long to start dancing in the streets.

Here comes summer! If she’s willing, we’ll go steady right away. How about you? What are some of your all time favorite sunshine classics? Now being on the radio every day, I have to tell you that it is hard for me not to be in a daily good mood with such a huge catalogue of records at my fingertips that remind us all of what time of the year that it is.

And I do receive great joy in being able to play the requests and dedications from all of my wonderful hopelessly devoted listeners. I would love to play one for you. What would it be? Would we be going under the boardwalk or celebrating the sand in our shoes? Would be thinking about the county fair in the country sun as we all soak up the hot fun in the summertime? Would we be heading down town where all the lights are bright enjoying the summer wind that came blowing in from somewhere beyond the sea? As you can see- the choices are endless, all it takes is a simple request you can make right here with me for your memories to begin.

So roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer; those days of soda and pretzels and root beer and don’t worry baby, because we’ll be having fun all summer long and everything will be all right! You’re the one that I want as we love those Wildwood days- where the boys are- and one summer night, we will eat and eat at the hot dog stand and then dance around to a rocking band, and when I can, I will give my little surfer girl a hug in The Morey’s Pier tunnel of love! And even though we had joy and we had fun and those seasons in the sun; for some of you, we won’t see until September, so always remember that you still belong to me and we will seal it with a kiss as you save your heart for me. So beach baby there on the sand from July to the end of September in your itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini, let’s go up on the roof until the year 2525 where that summer breeze will make us feel fine and simply have the most wonderful summer of our lives!

Everybody loves somebody sometimes- so why not make this summer the summer of love and all day music and magical moments to remember that we’ll always treasure long after the season fades away?





IT’S TIME…

19 05 2021
Let Go Let GOD Photograph by Jeffrey Platt

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

My move to Cape May County happened 24 years ago, in the summer of 1997. And for me, it was also my return back home to the Garden State. Although I was born and raised in the northern part of New Jersey, I had always felt a holy pull to this portion of our state and I just knew that someday God would allow me the chance to fulfill that calling. It all became reality when the Leadership of The Lighthouse Church contacted me where I was serving as a Pastor out in Omaha, Nebraska. They had asked me if I was interested in coming to join what they sensed the Lord was doing in this area and become their Minister. I knew the moment that I first met in person and got to share ideas with Gerald Stout, Art Hall, Paul Brant and Jim Carpinelli that this was a very special invitation from God with my name upon it. I actually saw in my heart the clear vision of where He was going to take our church before any of it had ever happened! I wasn’t even sure if this group of people could pay me, but it was a clear no brainer for me to tell my family to fasten their seatbelts because we were all heading east!

If you want to know the exact words from the Lord that caused me to leave a big and wonderful Church Family in Omaha to come to a place that not only didn’t have a building, they didn’t even own a copy machine! I was standing on the Boardwalk in Wildwood and the Lord shared John 11:40 with me: “Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

As we get ready to celebrate the 30th Birthday of The Lighthouse Church next weekend, I can assure you that God has kept His promise. We have seen His Glory and His Power in our midst. And as the lyrics of the classic Andrae Crouch songs sings, “If there be any praise, let It go to Calvary.” What God has done before, God will renew and redeem it in an even better way in the times to come! It is just that the Lord will use another Senior Pastor as I believe it is time to pass the baton to a younger Man.

A week ago last Tuesday, the District Superintendent of our denomination the Christian and Missionary Alliance, Kelvin Walker and His Assistant Bryan came down to meet with me first and then stayed for our regular Elder Board Meeting. The simplest way to summarize the day was that we all came to the conclusion that it is time.

I have always known in the back of my heart and mind that this day would eventually have to come. I truly anticipated it to be a very emotional decision and it is. Being the Senior Pastor of the Lighthouse Church is what I have dedicated the very best years of my adult life to as I was 37 years old when I came here and will be 61 years young as I depart.

I have never doubted for a moment that God had my name on this precious work and it has been an honor and privilege to be not only the Pastor of Lighthouse but also a Pastor of Cape May County. I have always made it my goal to take the love of Jesus beyond any man made walls and I have loved evey thing about serving our precious Savior by showing them Jesus  whether you were church bound or not. I believe God has blessed us all beyond what we could have ever hoped, dreamt or imagined when I came back home to New Jersey from Omaha all those years ago.

I am humbly grateful for the many ways the Lord has shown up for all of us through the years as we have experienced together the miracle that has become this unique Body of Christ that still allows no perfect people to join. We have all tasted of so many adventures and God moments that we will have all of eternity to celebrate and cherish these memories together with Him!

As many of you know, I have desired to be very cautious, careful and sensitive to the Lord to know when it was time for me to move on and faithfully let go and get out of the way so that our God could continue to build up this anointed work His way in His will for the days to come. Through 2020, as we all experienced the chaotic pandemic and now in 2021 as I am presently battling through prostate cancer, it has certainly left its mark! In these changing times we are now living in, it has become quite obvious to me that there will need to be many more adjustments and creativity in how to pastor this church in the strategic days that still lie ahead. The Lighthouse Church needs an anointed man in his prime with a sold-out heart to Jesus to answer the call for such a time as this! I need to be realistic about what I know God wants me to do and what I need to let go of and trust God with.

After lots of prayer and soul searching, I believe that now is the time to begin the important transition for the future. I truly thought I could be part of the process to turn it over to the new Senior Pastor, but the Lord has challenged me that I can better serve everyone by getting out of the way and trust God to do what He does best! I firmly believe that my hanging on would only be holding the Lighthouse back and I won’t do that!

For me; I am far from done in ministry but I believe that I must adjust my responsibilities because while I expect to win this battle against cancer, my high blood pressure is a very real threat. I am already seeking the Lord to show me a church and community like Lighthouse was when I first arrived in 1997. A Church that wants to reach its Community and may have experienced some hard times but they believe that it is not over. You wouldn’t believe how many churches there are like that in the C&MA in Pennsylvania alone. Yes, I will be relocating but I am hoping to minister somewhere in between our Kids here and my Son Rudy’s family in western Pennsylvania.

I have a peace and am not worried about it. God knows and it is His Presence and Power we must follow obediently.

For Lighthouse; the Metropolitan District will be officially involved in the search for the new Senior Pastor. The C&MA already has a tried and true structure in place for this and they have given me their word that Cape May County will be a priority for such a time as this.

I tried everything I could to find a way I could stay. I want to move now like I want a hole in the head. But God has made it clear and it has been affirmed by our District Leadership and our Elders here that it is time. Pray please. I will never do anything that would hurt God’s work here. It is not about me or you but it is all about Jesus. Lighthouse is His Church.

Thank you for everything. I love you all. As Barry Manilow sings, “Letting Go Is Just Another Way to Say I’ll Always Love You So.” We are not home yet and there are still many people who need to experience the amazing grace of God and the transformational love of Jesus. There are more adventures to come so we look up before we look out because we know the best is yet to come! For now, it is just, “I’ll see you later!”





McCLOUD AND ME!

5 05 2021

In my Article from a few weeks back, I mentioned the fact that I used to love watching NBC’s Sunday Night Movie Mysteries. Well, it stirred something within me that made me revisit one of the rotating shows of that series. Dennis Weaver who made his claim to fame as Marshall Dillon’s Deputy on the Western Gunsmoke, returned to the small screen as Deputy Marshall Sam McCloud.

McCloud aired on NBC from September 16, 1970 through April 17, 1977. The fictional Deputy Marshal Sam McCloud came to the Big Apple from a small western town in Taos, New Mexico. They had loaned him to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) as a special investigator.

The reoccurring theme in every program was the supposed conflict seen between the good-natured, clear-eyed buoyancy of McCloud and the metropolitan hard-nosed cynicism of the residents of New York City. The signature of McCloud’s character was his Western unflappability and seeming inability to recognize an insult, especially from his NYPD superior, Chief of Detectives Peter B. Clifford, played wonderfully by Actor J.D. Cannon.

At the beginning of every episode, it appeared that Chief Clifford wanted no part of giving McCloud any assignment of substance.

One of my favorite assignments that was given to McCloud was helping a lonely beaver in the Central Park Zoo. But McCloud was not the “Hick from the Sticks,” everyone assumed he was. McCloud always seemed to find himself solving another crime and rescuing the damsel in distress as might be better known in Dodge City! McCloud’s attire, typically consisting of a sheepskin coat or Western jacket, a bolo tie and his signature cowboy hat and boots, allowed for implied comic relief in many encounters with New Yorkers. Under his jacket or coat, he usually wore a khaki uniform shirt with a brown star-shaped uniform patch with gold trim on left sleeve, lettered “Marshal’s Office Taos, N.M.”. There was a yellow circle in the center with the number 33. He wore two collar pins one was “NM” and the other was “33”. McCloud carried a blued .45 Colt SAA Western-style six-shooter with a 4¾” barrel.

McCloud was the embodiment of the American law officer who always sees the good in people but knows the real stakes and he spares no pain to catch the bad guy. The character’s catchphrase which was a must on television back in the 1970’s was, “There Ya Go!” Another memorable moment was when a character played by John Denver, at the end of the show that he guest starred on, traded catchphrases with Weaver. Denver responded “There ya go!” and McCloud chimed in with “Far out!”

Let me bring into the light why I chose to write about McCloud and me in my article today. Many times, others who think that they know you will attempt to pigeonhole and typecast you into who or what they think you should be. They underestimate your talent and don’t factor in the difference faith in Jesus makes in your character and personality. I have tried very hard to never judge a book by the cover because to do so shows laziness. Before you send somebody out to play a position, you should at least do your homework and know what somebody actually brings to the table.

How many times have you pre-judged someone only to find out later that your perceptions were way off base? You probably don’t like when an authority of yours doesn’t give you a fair shake. Why then would you believe that it is acceptable behavior to do this to another?

Just take a look at Jesus. When He came on the scene, He did not look like, talk like, walk like, live like what the religious establishment had pre-ordained Him to be. So, in too many cases, the crowds walked right by the Christ who just happened to be in their midst. Jesus in many ways was just like McCloud. The avant-garde were in tune with the Savior from Nazareth because they were already out of the box that society tries to squeeze us into.

When will Christians ever come to accept that their God is experimental, radical and truly unorthodox with respect to how to get it done here on Earth? Status-quo has got to go. Apathy is a trap you see! Man made boundaries need to be tested especially if God is calling you to go way beyond the tightly woven legalism of an insecure congregation. There are those precious miraculous moments that Jesus invites us to add much needed color outside the lines!

McCloud was always courteous, kind and a good guy but he would not be locked into desk work when he knew that he was called to make a difference outside the walls of the building. As a Pastor, I have always believed that my real call is not to hide safely inside the steel frame of the Lighthouse Church structure. The Lord is calling us to risk it all by loving the unlovely, bringing hope to the helpless and really loving God by being Jesus in skin to all those we come in contact with. I am not looking for the bench. I want the Coach to put me in the game. I want to be challenged because that is the way that I am authentically changed. I will never be satisfied just looking like a member of the clergy, I want to be practicing what I preach in how I behave the Bible.

Remember, our ultimate unconditional obedience should only be given to God. He is the only one I need to submit to with no questions asked. There will be time when a boss, a teacher, a coach and even a friend will try to betray your future with a simple kiss of compromise.  Watch who those lips are kissing up to. What profits a man if he gains the adulation of this present dimension only to discover that he has forfeited his soul in the process. If God puts you in a situation for such a time as this to ignore playing it safe so that you can follow through in radical faith like Queen Esther, then ditch the desk and grab your badge and pony up. This is one time I relate more to McCloud than I ever did to Chief. Titles come and go. Destinies are a matter of the heart!

What script will drive your story?





SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN

27 04 2021

PASTOR RUDY           APRIL 28 2021

I am not always a fan of silence. I know everyone needs some quiet time every now and then, but I was born a communicator. I want to know what others are thinking and the ideas they have to offer. I desire to be in the loop in what makes someone laugh, what makes them cry and how they are dealing with a present situation. I don’t really believe silence is golden. As a matter of fact, I see the lack of response as a negative before I would ever label it as a positive.

I for one am a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. One never needs to wonder what type of day I am having. I will tell you. You might say that I overcommunicate. Maybe it is one of the reasons that I am drawn to social media. I love sharing my faith and my heart on Facebook and Twitter and the like. It has opened doors to meeting people that I would never have known otherwise. I understand that as in every area of life, there are precautions and boundaries that should be carefully laid out, but I must say that I have had some great conversations that have allowed me to change the label from stranger to friend.

I am shocked by the lack of the significant exchanges that could occur but don’t happen in spite of the plethora of avenues available to cultivate authentic bonds together these days. People settle to express nothing deeper than surface cliches and meaningless banter that doesn’t break the barrier that will being them closer to one another. Many have been burned by relational situations that backfired and betrayed them. Words can become like grenades and when sentences that sting begin to blow up the personal spirit, it doesn’t bounce back that quickly. But to commit to being on the peripheral when real life happens in the middle is no way to behave at all.

Have you experienced sending a note, a text, an email, a Facebook message only to wait for an answer that doesn’t come? It’s not that the response rate is just as slow as snail mail. It is that the return volley to your first serve never comes at all. Is it because society has made telling the truth an optional action? Are people becoming colder to the surrounding culture because fear has run rampant where faith used to dwell? The world may be noisier than ever, but are we longing for statements that build up rather than break down? Like Bruce Springsteen sang in the 1980’s, “Everybody Has a Hungry Heart,” the cupboard that holds the daily diet to drive away the grumbling stomach is filled with fast food that teases but never satisfies.   

In the past few months, I have learned the cold reality that cancer is so much more than just a physical battle. There are days that the silence itself is deafening! Oh, the hormones are chanting away a mile a minute, but as I learned back when I was teen, the feelings they cry out don’t always confirm the facts. This makes for an even more challenging adventure as you navigate your way through another difficult day. Kind, encouraging and most importantly, sincere words from family and friends are necessary tools to fuel the chaotic matters of the heart and the soul! Nobody can fix the diagnosis, but company makes the destination doable. Our erratic emotion may conduct itself like the last ride you rode on the roller coaster at the amusement park, but when there is someone laughing, crying, and screaming in the seat next to you, you know you are going to make it. You both know what the thrill was all about and only a glance at your buddy has allowed you to share more than this article could ever say.

But because we feel like we cannot fix the pain, we avoid the contact like a plague. Because things might force the shedding of a tear or two, we try to spy out the exit door as fast as we can. Faith jumps in to even the deep parts of the swimming pool, especially when we see our swimmer struggling. Truth is the only commodity that will set a loved one free. Love holds on for dear life as the hurricane winds try to pry away the grip of your husband, your wife, your child, or your friend clinging on to you. God made us to dwell within community and isolation is a tragedy especially when it isn’t necessary. The Beatles got it right when they sang, “We get by with a little help from our Friends!”

During the six weeks of radiation treatments, I have had to adjust the load on the road of my daily activities. I have two more weeks to go. I must show up with a full bladder which makes going too far from the bathroom the rest of the day is not wise. Needless to say, I have spent much time alone. Some days I feel better than others. There are times that I just want to talk things out. I call it venting. I expect to kick this cancer to the curb. But life will be different for me on the other side. I have always been a Type A personality. My productivity even at 61 would give any 40-year-old a run for his or her money. But I know my times they are a changing. I have no doubt that I have lots left in the tank. My wife and I are about to enter what many call the empty nest for the first time since the summer of 1986. I have 8 beautiful grandchildren. I want to coach them as I coached my own kids. I want to continue to pastor and preach. I love doing radio. I am not running out of ideas to write more articles any time soon. But I am a talker. I need to process out loud. I must communicate and the best way to do so is when it is a two-way conversation. The cat has never had my tongue and the Lord is still my strength and shield. To put it plainly, the enemy will never silence me. Even when I breathe my last this side of heaven, my life will still be shouting praises from the rooftops. 

I share this so if you have someone in your world walking through this valley of covid or cancer or some other disease, keep on talking, singing, sharing, and participating in plugging in to the soul of the one you claim to care so much about. Do not allow what’s going without saying to be left unsaid. Don’t assume that you are treading where someone has wrongly put up a “No Trespassing” sign. God is opening doors and changing lives. Our Lord can do miracles in the midst of the mine fields. As a new praise song sings, God is “Not Done Yet!”

I have cherished every post and prayer from loved ones. I am keeping all the cards as keepsakes of the journey. I am grateful for the Doctors, Nurses and Techs at the Cape Regional Cancer Center. I get radiated to the music of Sirius/XM seventies channel on most days. I sing on the table and while in transit. I do not believe the cancer is good but there is life coming out of this craziness. As a Pastor, God has called me to do way more than just preach on Sundays. It is to walk with the sheep and love on them through it all. Jesus did the same for me. It is the least that I can do to serve Him by reciprocating the gift that He has talked with me all along the way. Silence is not even an issue because when the Lord appears to be out of hearing range, I still have His word on everything that matters in the Bible. This is not a season to be quiet. It is a time to share the happenings of your heart. He cares. I care and there is someone in your world today who needs to know that you care!





TOO MUCH, TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE

20 04 2021
Baseball Hall of Famer Tom Seaver Dies at 75 - WSJ

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT APRIL 21, 2021

This coming Summer, the New York Mets will unveil a brand-new statue at Citi Field, built in honor of the ballplayer the Metropolitans refer to as “The Franchise.” He is my all-time favorite baseball player, and his name is George Thomas Seaver. There is one problem of monumental size that any true Fan of the Orange and Blue cannot deny about this whole so-called honor and that is that it comes way too late. The greatest Pitcher to ever wear a Mets uniform passed away last August 31, 2020. Contrary to whatever claims that a certain NFL Quarterback wants to make, the one and only authentic “Tom Terrific” deserved to be alive to see this day. He should have been given the chance to experience the love and adulation from his devoted fans like me. It is much more than just a shame that the Mets organization waited far too long and way too late to do what they should have done years ago. There really is no excuse other than management was foolish in putting its priorities in the wrong ideals. I have no hesitation sharing that the Wilpon Family could have done something when the Mets left Shea Stadium and opened their new home, Citi Field. The Mets brass should be embarrassed in how they botched this opportunity up in every way possible.   

Tom Seaver was my childhood hero and I looked up to him because he was a man of excellence and integrity both on and off the field. I wanted to be #41 in just about every way. It is why I chose to wear his number every time there was a uniform available with that number upon it. Tom was a thinking man who taught me that my mental contribution played just as big a role as anything that I might be able to pull of physically. I also learned that Tom was not afraid of bragging about his wife and his daughters in the limelight.  I got the picture clearly from this pitcher that being a loyal family man was something I wanted to aspire to. I just wish that the Team that I have rooted for since 1967 took better care of its own.

I should know better by now. I am 61 years old and still want to believe that justice isn’t a fairy tale. But I have seen too many good men and women never given their due diligence for being loyal, honest and hard-working individuals. After giving the best years of their lives to performing their tasks above the call of duty, once the time on the corporate clock runs out, they are given some token gift of bland appreciation and sent off into the sunset, paving the way for the new kid in town. Our Country has forgotten how to honor its elderly and celebrate its history properly. Long gone are the days when the younger would listen to the stories of how its greatest generation got things done. The Nation’s heritage has been reduced to putting the spotlight of social media upon those who have been deemed newsworthy of its 15 minutes of fame. How can we learn if we have abandoned the value of being teachable?

After leading the Mets to 2 World Series and winning 3 Cy Young Awards, the team did the unthinkable when they traded the one, we thought was untouchable. Tom Seaver was unceremonially let go in 1977 for a quantity of ballplayers that truly lacked any star quality because its CEO was a crusty old cheap skate who misread the whole situation and we fans paid for that ignorance. All Tom wanted was to be treated with dignity and respect and M Donald Grant chose to use a Writer in the New York Post to drum up propaganda that backfired if he thought we would believe such nonsense. But the infamous Dick Young went one article too far when he attacked Tom’s wife Nancy in his daily diatribe. The next day, Tom Seaver was a Cincinnati Red and Shea Stadium became dubbed “Grant’s Tomb.”

In 1983, under new ownership, Tom Seaver came home where he belonged. Unfortunately, once again because those in the front office miscalculated the facts, after only one season, Tom was gone yet again. The Chicago White Sox plucked him away and we were forced to see our Tom win his 300th Game at Yankee Stadium instead of Shea. In 1986, while the Mets were on their way to winning their only other World Championship, Frank Cashen had a chance to bring Tom Seaver back in time to be part of the fanfare. He had already brought back Lee Mazzilli who was one of the few shining stars in the lean years of Flushing. Tom wanted to come home and then Met’s manager Davey Johnson vetoed that deal from taking place. What was Johnson’s issue? I claim it was Davey’s fear, pride and insecurity that allowed another chance at redemption pass by. Tom Seaver pitched his last game as a Boston Red Sox and as history would toss in its most ironic of twists, Seaver was in the losing dugout when he could have easily been in the right one.

The knock over the years is that the Mets don’t do a great job of acknowledging their history and taking care of their stars. The biggest slap in the face of Tom Seaver was when the Wilpons gave us Citi Field. Fred Wilpon, a Brooklyn Dodgers Fan, built the new home of the Mets as a shrine to Ebbets Field. There was a huge portion of the park dedicated to a Jackie Robinson tribute, but Jackie never played for the Mets. Tom Seaver came and noticed that there was not even a hint of the 1969 or 1973 Mets anywhere to be found and of course, a total shutout of appreciation for him.

A few years ago, the Mets learned that Lyme’s Disease had taken its toll and forced Tom to retire from public life. It was only then that the Mets began to do what they had failed to accomplish when it could have meant something. Why do people take so much for granted? Why do we allow to what is going without saying to be left unsaid? Why do we not go overboard in making sure our loved ones know that they genuinely are loved? Why is this Tom Seaver Statue being unveiled now when it could have blessed Tom Seaver when he was breathing? Why buy expensive flowers for a cemetery when they might mean more on the dinner table? I am so sorry Nancy, Sarah and Annie that your Husband and Dad got left at the altar when we his real Fans know that there would be no joy without him. I am grateful for how many of my life memories include Tom Seaver. What the Mets failed to do, I will. I keep #41 around me constantly because of the impact Tom had in making me who I am today and the fact that as a Christian, everything I do, I do For One! I do it for the Lord!

So, who needs words of affirmation, today? Who needs an act of service done for them, today? Who needs to receive a special gift, today? Who could use a healthy hug and kiss of affection, today? Who would appreciate you being with them, today? You can wait until it is too late. You do not have forever to get it right. You can miss the sunrise, even if the glare is right before your very eyes. But you do not have to and if you see a good deed left undone, do it. I will not allow appreciation to be left on the stove if the one I love is hungry tonight. Tom Seaver, we are your statues. Tom Seaver, we are your wins. And even though those with the influence struck out big time in saying this, we know that you know when I linger back in times to those summer days of yesteryear, you will always be there. And I do not need mortar and stone because God has constructed a monument of memories in my heart.