IT’S TIME TO GROW FOR IT!  PASTOR RUDY SOUL MINING/ MARCH 4 2022

7 03 2022

Here is my word for all of us today: “None of us have arrived!” We all have room to grow. My Dad used to say that if you were the smartest person in the room that it was time to find a new room. Life is a series of new adventure steps. Things become very boring very quickly when you act like that there is nothing new to learn. Situations can also become quite dangerous when you feign yourself to be an expert in an area that you never even took the time to begin.

Skiing brings out the pride in all of us. Especially when everyone knows they make the better equipment for those that have a more advanced level of ability. Why would  I want to use the kindergarten stuff when I’m ready to graduate to extreme sports? And who wants to go down the “Bunny Hill” when you can live to tell the tale of conquering the “Widow Maker?” Like so many other people tied up by their own pride, I nearly killed myself trying to prove that I was a better skier than we all knew I really was. Only the grace of God allowed me to see another sunrise.

Can you imagine if there were various colors that defined the many levels of lifestyles that it was up to us to choose to live our life today? The “Green Circle” would mean, “Beginner Friendly.” “The Blue Square” would indicate “Intermediate/More Advanced Tests” ahead. The “Black Diamonds” would lead to the “Fasten your Binders, Here we Go” opportunities. The “Double Black Diamonds” signs would point you to the ”Ready To Meet Jesus Today” runs. No matter what road you choose to roll on down, remember that it’s up to you how far you will go and how much you will grow. We are living in a day when it is to tempting to play it so safe, we aren’t even working up a sweat in unwrapping the gift that each day of life truly is.

Even though you might be impressing others on the outside, God always looks at the heart! This is no time to get lazy. We must not become complacent. Comfort is overrated. Being a student is a forever venture. We are not infinite. We are not perfect. We could all do better. The minute we start settling for sleeping in rather than stepping it up, our soul is in trouble. Age is no excuse to mail in tomorrow before you have properly addressed the package! The pandemic may have been a challenge for all of us these last few years to take on new excursions but too many citizens have shut down when adjusting the load on the road would have been a much better option. Let’s stop focusing on what we can’t do and let’s get creative about the hills that are still calling our name to swoosh its trails.

Growing and ‘going for it’ guards us from becoming guilty of the biggest sin in America today and that’s apathy! The nice thing about apathy is that you don’t have to exert yourself to show you’re sincere about it. The bad thing about apathy, however, is everything. God didn’t create us human beings to have others think for us, do for us, use us and abuse us. Each person has so much to offer. We have the entire future unwritten and we can’t muster the energy to even find where we put our pen. Could it be that we are tuning in lullabies when revelry is a much wiser choice.     

Back to the slopes of Vail, Colorado. I was on a ski lift. Others have written songs on the ride up the mountain inspired by the surrounding beauty. I fell asleep. I was in a deep sleep. I missed the entire experience because I was so dead tired, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. They woke me up as the lift was making its turn to return to the bottom. I literally had to jump off and let me tell you, that command to get off and get down snapped me back to full attention. What might have to occur in life to shake us out of our dreaded stupor?

Unfortunately, apathy can be chic. Rolling one’s eyes can look cool but it’s cruel to your heart.  “It Just Doesn’t Matter,” was Bill Murray’s battle cry in the 1980’s. Apathy is counterfeit insight. Political correctness wants to drain the blood from your body. Today’s tolerant movement is quite intolerant to anyone who disagrees. Anyone who doesn’t comply is just defined as stupid for not getting the inside scoop! Apathy holds an important chair in present-day cultural discourse, funded by the appeal of “Hmmm.” I’m sorry but the answer, “You’re right and You’re right and You’re right,” can’t be right! Truth by its very nature demands that everyone can’t be right! And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be wrong.

I heard of a man who had to take an international flight and wanted to sleep. Someone gave him the sedative Ambien, but he was skeptical. He took one pill and nothing happened. He took a second and still nothing. He took a third pill and this time washed it down with a glass of wine. When he woke up, he was sitting in a strange terminal, in a wheelchair, with drool on his shirt. He had slept so hard, the flight attendants couldn’t wake him up when the plane landed, so they just wheeled him out of the plane and left him at the gate.

Apathy is like spiritual Ambien, and because of a passionless population, too many of us have become just like the airline sleeping zombie. Are you so asleep to the reality of the fact that life here on earth is not forever that you won’t even allow the God who made you have a legitimate crack at waking you up? Numbing yourself up to the call of the adventure only makes you miss the wild of the wilderness. Regret is a terrible prize at the end of the race. It is important to understand that awakening is a gift and not an achievement. Sleep happens to us, and wakefulness is given to us in the morning. The one person in all the world that you cannot wake up is yourself. So today I have the honor to wake you up to grow for it! Your life depends upon it!





JUST REMEMBER I LOVE YOU                     

14 02 2022

Love has got to be more than just physically making love or else we’d be in a big heap of trouble right now. This year we will celebrate our 40th Wedding Anniversary but this past year has had me battling prostate cancer. Testosterone feeds the enemy and so as part of the treatment, I’ve been receiving hormone shots which denies the adversary access to my maleness. One of the casualties has been any desire or drive for intimacy. In many ways, I’ve returned to my pre-puberty days. Many women might have declared that to be grounds for divorce. Other ladies might have used rationale to open the doors for extramarital affairs. My amazing wife has stood beside me through every step of this uninvited adventure and together I believe our love and respect for each other has actually grown deeper in this desert.

Did I mention that this season is also the first time since 1986 that we have had no children under 18 in the home? Our oldest Son Rudy is a married Minister out in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania. He and his wife Lindsey have three beautiful children of their own. Our two Daughters are both married and serving the Lord in Florida and New Jersey. The older Leah has three girls including a set of twins and the younger Abbie has twin boys. That makes eight grandchildren for those keeping score. Our youngest Son, Joel, is a college student in Indiana. He is not ready for marriage or children yet. I am not about to push him, but he knows that his Parents love him and support him as he goes after his dreams. I share all of this to let you know that Terri and I have had to come up with creative ways to continue to communicate our love for one another. Our love has not died even if the body won’t cooperate. I feel the need to write about this because I fear that there might be just a tad too much emphasis placed on sex and not enough weight put upon the promises and commitments made when couples said their vows on their wedding day.

Most ceremonies include this pledge, “Through sickness and in health.” When we get married, the majority of men and women are in their prime and getting dashed by an unwelcome disease isn’t even on the radar. Brides are radiant and shine like a brilliant sunrise. Grooms probably will never look any better than they do on that day, because for us guys, it mostly goes downhill from there. But if you live long enough, life has a way of trashing our trophies. Outwardly, we begin over time to fall apart no matter how many grape nuts we might eat for breakfast. Hair gets lost. Weight is gained. Eyes grow dim. Hearing becomes harder. What we choose to allow to happen inwardly truly makes all the difference. On our calendar, the shortest days of the year are in December, but because of our creativity, we still decorate with colorful lights in such the manner that it becomes the most wonderful time of the year. Relationships are very much the same. If we invest the quality of our efforts even if the quantity of what’s available has been drastically reduced, it doesn’t mean that love can’t grow deeper even while the walk we are taking seems lots steeper. But as long as I have my wife’s hand to hold tightly on to, it is a reason to rejoice. I can complain about what we are not or I can celebrate all that we still are. I am not alone. I am not what I once was, but I am still man enough to love my wife no matter what cards this life deals me. And I intend to do so.

I am not discounting the art of lovemaking. The Song Of Solomon assures us that God is the author of sex and at its best, its worth shouting about. I am advocating that there are also many other valuable means to communicate one’s love for their partner. One of the most obvious yet underused avenues is the use of words. Sentences can either be chock full of life or loaded with destructive bombs. Sarcasm is more deadly than most recognize. Criticism that isn’t constructive isn’t healthy. Most of us are starving for affirmation and encouragement. Kindness shouldn’t be used as a reward. The tongue that is dipped in poison creates lips that nobody longs to kiss. Too many spouses could use a little mouthwash to clean up their diction. I long for my words to be a source of life for my wife.

There is more to touch than making love. A hug, holding hands, an affectionate pat can be just what the doctor ordered. In a world that has attempted to hijack contact because of those who have abused the privilege, we are human beings and we can’t live without positive interaction, so I want my hands to be a place of safety and my arms to be that of protection for my Terri. I know that I thrive when I am close to her.

We can show our delight for one another by simple acts of service like when my wife makes me coffee every morning. I don’t expect her to do it, but it means so much to me when she does. Saying, “Please” and “Thank You” go a long way also. God so loved us that He gave and if our Creator wasn’t too proud to do for us, why would we think that we are too high and mighty to wash the feet of the one we share our name with? Love doesn’t keep score. It looks for opportunities to knock it out of the park for our partner. I can’t believe that after all these years and the many crazy ups and downs, she still chooses me. I want the world to know that I love her and wouldn’t want to walk this adventure with anybody else. Love should never be kept a secret. I’ll shout it from the mountain top because I want the world to know. Would you do the same for your sweetheart? I only hope the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

Next Monday is Valentines Day and then Tuesday is Terri’s Birthday. We may not have a ton of money or live in a mansion or drive fancy cars. Our home is right here in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. My body may have betrayed me, but my heart still belongs wholly to my wife. As many of you know, I host the Morning Radio Show on WISL 1480 and you can be sure that I will be dedicating this song to Terri! It is our song! “Believe it or not, I’m walking on air, I never thought I would feel so free, flying away on a wing and a prayer; who can it be? Believe I or not it’s just me!

Love grows as long as you are willing to care for the garden. My prayer is that all of you who are reading this will get even more imaginative with one another. Refuse to lose. I am cheering for your love to win! Happy Valentine’s Day 2022! 





WE DON’T TALK ABOUT BRUNO!

5 02 2022

My 4-year-old granddaughter Lucia had been begging me for weeks to watch the new Disney Movie, “Encanto.” She has recently moved to Florida with my daughter Leah, my son-in-law Jeff and her twin sisters, Adelina and Claire. It is a sad season for me because just a few months ago, we would have been able to watch this film together. Of course, if we did end up going to the Movie Theater, I would have missed a good chunk of it because I would be taking my obligatory nap. Once they turn the lights out, and I sit in those soft seats, it is so hard for me to keep my eyes open! I guess I could be happy that I saved a bundle from the concession stand purchases. When did popcorn become as costly as solid gold? But now with Luci so far away, that date didn’t happen. She saw it without me, and I finally viewed it from my recliner at home.

“Encanto” is all about the Madrigal Family who are quite the extraordinary bunch. Under the leadership of the matriarch Abuela Alma, all of them live together in the magical and miraculous “casita” which is nestled in the mountains of Columbia. We learn early from Alma’s granddaughter Mirabel through song that each member of the family has been given a supernatural gift received by entering via a door with their name on it. These talents range from superhuman strength, unbelievable hearing, the power of healing touch, the ability to talk with the animals, insight into seeing the future and controlling the weather. There is the obligatory Disney Princess named Isabela who is practically perfect in every way and can make flowers grow out of nothing. Isa is my Granddaughter’s favorite. She is not exactly the kindest soul of the household, but she has a sassy spirit and desires a depth that she knows is missing and comes around to be a gamechanger in the end.

Mirabel has no gift. When Mirabel’s time came to receive her miracle, she missed out on the bounty. Mirabel is just your every day teenager trying to make a difference in a world that often overlooks those who work hard, show lots of heart and is kind to everyone no matter what they can or cannot do. Mirabel knows that something is amiss in the world of the Madrigals. The magic is slowly being drained from the home they dwell in and while Abuela Alma refuses to deal with reality, Mirabel will not stand idly by while her relatives begin to fall apart.

If this society needs anything right now, it starves for those men and women and children who will stay true to who God made them to be. From the time we enter this world, it seems everyone wants to critique us, change us, improve us, refine us and eventually put us into our place. Instead of championing what we can do well, we are labeled by our disabilities and our shortcomings. I believe with all my heart that one of the dirtiest words in our dictionary is “compare.” God made each and every one of us something special and we long to ditch that identity so we can blend in with everyone else and by doing so we disappear. Mirabel never disappears. As a matter of fact, she is the only one of the lineage who looks for Bruno who did check out because he became so petrified of using his favor wrong, he never even gave himself the opportunity to get it right. There is a catchy song in “Encanto” that I can’t get out of my mind. Its lyrics boast, “We don’t talk about Bruno, no, no, no!”

Is there a Bruno in your family? Someone who didn’t measure up. Someone who got left behind in the dust. Someone who got written off as dead while there was still a heartbeat. I have felt like Bruno. There have been times I tried so hard to make my family happy, I only set myself up for one disappointment after another because it was never enough. I didn’t do it the right way. I didn’t do it their way. I found myself cheering for Bruno who was still hungering for love and affection even though on the outside he portrayed himself as a hermit. Things are not always as they seem. Maybe we should stop talking about Bruno and do what Mirabel had the courage to do. She talked to Bruno.

The house does fall apart, and everyone cracks under the pressure that has been put upon every member of the family. We discover that Abuela Alma has put more emphasis on what her offspring can do rather than who they are. We also see the danger of favoritism and how damaging loving one child over another can cause. Kids aren’t stupid. And stop using the resilient card because we all need to be loved. We all need to know that we matter and would be missed if we were not present at the dinner table. One of the things that I know God has given me a sensitivity to is when people feel left out, bullied, intimidated and forgotten. Like Jesus did for me, I seem to rally around the underdog because I was that person who almost kissed it all goodbye because I wasn’t feeling the love from the sources that it was supposed to be supplied from. God literally saved my life. I know my miracle was God wanting me when nobody else would or could. Never underestimate the power of love.

I am a living “spoiler alert.” You don’t want to sit next to me at a show because I will talk your ear off about what I perceive is happening on the stage. After I read a great book, I want to shout it to everyone I know not only how good it was but how it ends. I hope I haven’t ruined “Encanto” for you. But I am grateful for a granddaughter who knew that her Pop Pop would love it. I wish life was a musical. I have been known to break out in song just about anywhere I am. But let me close with more lyrics. I love the message of the song, “All of You.”

“But the stars don’t shine, they burn. And the constellations shift. I think it’s time you learn. You’re more than just your gift.”         

You are loved not because of what you do but because of who you are!  





OPEN WINDOWS AND SOUNDS OF MUSIC

5 02 2022

My mother was once a Nun in the convent. She had a deep and devoted faith in God and had hoped to someday be a missionary to work with children in an orphanage in China. Life had other plans and she ended up marrying my dad and had me as their firstborn child. For that last decision, I am eternally grateful. Still, even though my Mother traded in her habit for the home life, the yearning to be wholly available to the Lord to do something extraordinary never left her soul.

Fast forward to 1965 and the premiere of the movie, The Sound of Music. As many of you know, Julie Andrews played Maria von Trapp who was sent to the villa of the retired naval officer and widower to become the governess to his seven children. Music and love were reintroduced to the family and after marrying the Captain, they find the faith and fortitude to survive the loss of their homeland to the Nazis. When that film hit the big screen, Mom became obsessed with the story. At the time she was the mother of four children, and she didn’t take us to see the movie once or twice. She brought us to see it seven times in the first few weeks. When she got us all home, she made us sit down on the living room floor and learn all the songs. To this day, I know every word and can sing it backwards and forwards. And as for the movie dialogue, I have that down too. The one line that has never left me was when Maria runs back to the Abbey because she is overwhelmed and confused. Maria is looking to hide away but Mother Superior challenges the young woman to do otherwise. Before the wise old Sister sings the showstopper, Climb Every Mountain, she tells Maria, “When God closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” I have lived lots of life ever since then, but in the wake of many slamming doors, I have always searched for those open windows.

People make lots of promises. Spouses make vows to one another on their wedding day. Parents pledge that they will take us with them the next time around. Friends swear that they will never let us down. But no matter what, no matter where and no matter who, contracts are broken, and dedications destroyed. Good and faithful workers get replaced in a heartbeat. Older and worn-out individuals are swapped for a younger model. Hearts are busted in two. Souls become inanimate numbers on a page. And the ones left in the dust scamper to attempt to pick up any pieces of dignity so they may survive for another day.

I have lived lots of life these last 62 years. And like Maria von Trapp, it would have been so easy to run away from the chaos and confusion and allow the collapsed covenants on the troubled trail make me nothing more than cynical and hard hearted. But when the misery of midnight might hijack my heart, the morning music from somewhere draws my true self to walk on. When earth shuts down, heaven opens. When lying lips look to deceive the daylight away, the truth of God assures me the sun will rise again. If the hills are alive with the sound of music, I must not get too depressed in the dryness of the desert. Maybe today it is time to tune in and turn on so you can turn up the notes that guarantee you that your story isn’t over if God hasn’t pronounced, “It is finished!”

I thought I was going to pastor the Lighthouse Church in Cape May County until the day I went to heaven. I had the place picked out where my ashes could be laid on the day I graduated to glory. I thought I knew where this song was going because I had sung it so many times before. And in a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, everything changed, and portals were plugged up and the wide-open lanes got lost. I didn’t panic, I prayed and immediately searched for that open window. I wasn’t ready to leave the concert and asked God to write me an encore. This is how I found myself in Shamokin. When the dog barked and the bees wanted my confidence to be stung for good, I simply remembered God’s my favorite and faithful One and suddenly I wasn’t feeling bad at all. I was ready to follow this new divine rainbow and discover the pot of gold lying right here in Coal Township, Pennsylvania.

Just this past week, the Radio Station I was with for the last 22 years informed that my services, while appreciated, were no longer needed. The new management was heading in a different direction. My Wednesday Night program was kaput! I didn’t even have the chance to feel sorry for myself before my phone rang again and John Treese of WISL 1480 was offering me the opportunity to do their Morning Show. I smiled and said a simple prayer of, “Thanks Lord.” If I’m not dead, I’m not done. The window flung up, the shades were drawn back, and God’s hope got in my eyes. When you know the place to look, you can still go and write that book. Human beings will let you down, but God is good at lifting us up if we surrender the temptation to put our fists though the wall and give the Lord a chance to highlight the skylight.

Mom never was that Missionary to China, but she led me to the music here in America. And I can hear the orchestra tuning up for the next showstopper. My heart still wants to sing every song it hears or at the very least, play the wonderful oldies but goodies on the radio. I want my ministry to beat like the wings of the birds that rise from the lake to the trees. Come on Shamokin. Do you hear the sound of music? People will continue to scratch your records but I’m going to crank the jukebox that Jesus blessed me with until my days are done. Forget about that locked door. It’s time to wander over to that wide open window.





TRYING TO FIND OUR KIND

25 01 2022

Have you ever found yourself needing real help and direction, but you were afraid to ask anyone for assistance because you didn’t want to appear stupid? Have you ever been stuck in a study where asking questions wasn’t championed but actually looked down upon? Have you ever battled nagging disbelief, despairing doubts and distinct discouragement but had nowhere to turn to bare the matters of your soul because everyone else looked down at you with those obnoxious superior stares? Have you ever not agreed with the conclusion of the masses but still couldn’t muster the courage to make the crowd one less crowded? You are not alone. And it’s wrong that so much of our culture tries to squeeze us into a mold that we weren’t divinely manufactured to become.  

Billy Joel once sang, “Honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue. Honesty is hardly ever heard and mostly what I need you.” But does telling the truth have to be such a painful exercise that it causes so many to lose the importance of the fact that grace should walk with it hand in hand? If a spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down, why is there so much castor oil in the house? If we are supposed to chew our food 24 times before we swallow, why is there so much shoving substance down one another’s throats going on? And there is nothing worse than when we chicken out of doing it right by getting it oh so wrong!

I am a Christian and I love Jesus with all of my heart. I can’t deny the fact that I am a Pastor. Still I am far from what I want to be. I make many mistakes and am so hard on myself that I never have to worry about ignoring the counsel of others. I just wish our world was better at the way we treat this pool of humanity. It is not a cesspool. It is God’s river of life.

I am not one who has ever been motivated by intimidation and bullying. Threats have only instigated matters and never made them better. Talking down to me has never raised me up but only left me hung out to dry. This pandemic has more often than not brought out the best of who we are. There is too much self-righteousness when humility is in order. There are those who puff out their platitudes with the pride of a peacock when patience might better serve the situation. When we need to be on the look out to protect not only the health but the integrity of those we rub shoulders with, too often we are just rubbing our neighbor’s noses in it. Beating the broken while they are already hurting is too cruel and far from cool and it needs to stop!

Unfortunately, I have seen this bad behavior practiced in the church over and over again throughout the years. Preachers using scare tactics to try to guilt the lost sinners into heaven. Believers choosing outer symbols to prove an inner spirituality that simply isn’t there. Those who claim that because they use the King James Bible, that makes them so much holier than the NIV crowd. Those who chime that you can’t really be a devoted disciple if you listen to that kind of music. The population that seems to believe that the more they wear clothes that are out of style is what puts them a mile ahead of others in the wardrobe of the saints. How about those who just because they don’t participate in sports on Sundays believe that this puts them on a higher plane of consecration than those who sweat on the Sabbath. Nonsense! People try to pick and choose the battles they know they can win so that their sense of self-worth rises when they are surrounded by like minded individuals. God says that holiness is better defined not by the things we don’t do but by allowing His power to transform us into those who look and move like Jesus.

Shaming people is just plain sin. I grew up within a religious system where adults spun guilt like an artist worked the paints. There was more yelling than encouragement. Punishment that lacked discipline was dealt out like a blackjack dealer laid down the cards. It painted a picture of a God who was always mad and enjoying every opportunity He had to squash us down. I tried so hard to do it right and the only times I drew attention was when I got it wrong. I respect the boundaries and I know that there is a right and wrong way to do things but love is a much better environment to grow and excel in than one of judgment and condemnation.

The Bible tells us that God loved us while we were yet sinners. He knows we aren’t perfect. Why would we need Him in the first place if we could ace the test without a Teacher? Most of you are like me and know the areas where we fall short. Most of you are like me and don’t deny the fact that we all need a Savior and not more sarcastic smart remarks from self-appointed superstars. I thought the call on Christians is to share their faith is such the manner that others want to jump in. When did it become a contest to see if we can call people on all the reasons that they should stay out. I want you to come. The truth is that I came to Jesus just as I was and only the Lord can and still does transform me from the jerk I can be. The longer I serve Him, the more I realize that there isn’t an ounce of me that deserves any kindness and yet just when I think that heaven is about to slug me, heaven hugs me. Why can’t we treat one another with a little more patience, understanding, love and respect?

I guess we can blame our bad behavior on the pandemic. Human beings were not created to have to function so tied up and in a prison of isolation from one another. I know it is far from the atmosphere that I like to breathe the air in. Speaking of, I did get vaccinated while I was being radiated for my cancer. I battle all 365 days a year both sinus and allergy issues where breathing without my mouth and nose covered is tough enough. I adhere to the times when I must wear a mask for the good of all. But before someone jumps down the throat of another because their expertise wearing a face covering far outshines all others, why not stop and ask a question or two and treat your fellow man and woman as you would want to be treated. Bullying is not a fruit of the Spirit. Shaming is not a sacrament. But loving and serving your brother and sister is just what the Great Physician of humanity ordered.    





CAN’T BUY ME LOVE!

25 01 2022

This is kind of exciting. I just got an email the other day that informed me it contained the greatest financial offer of my life. I didn’t know the person writing to me, but they claimed to know me. In fact, they warned me that it would be their final attempt to reach out to me. Who knows how many other times they tried? I must have been oblivious of any former attempt to get ahold of me. But now that they had my undivided attention, they let me know the good news that I had been preapproved for a refinance arrangement. Not just approved; I have been preapproved. I have good friends that still don’t fully approve of me, but these total strangers have rolled out the red carpet my way. They approve of me before I even share a detail. But there was a catch. There always is. They told me that this unique arrangement could allow me to pay off my house fast, but I must respond in 48 hours. Otherwise, my preapproved status will be revoked. I hardly even got used to this label and already it is being ripped from me. I guess I wasted my chance of a lifetime as I let that ship sail quickly into the sunset. The mortgage total is still what it was last week, and I got to get back to work so I could pay it off a bit slower than my benefactors had hope. 

To be honest, money has never been a motivating factor in my life. I am a Minister after all. I said, “Yes,” to several callings before I knew not only what I was getting paid but if I would get any remuneration at all. It is not that I am clueless and look to be taken advantage of. It is just that I do what I do for a God who already did so much for me. What is too much to give back to the God who gave His very Self to us? I also enjoy what I do. I love being a Pastor. I love doing Radio. I enjoy expressing myself in writing. I truly get energized by coaching and teaching. I genuinely am interested in helping and walking alongside the people that God has entrusted to my care. I was also taught to work hard and be excellent at my craft no matter what. There is a freedom in serving God. And I may not have the biggest house this side of heaven, but oh what a treasure I have been given in the legacy the Lord has allowed me to live.     

Winning a million dollars would not solve all your problems and make the chaos stop. You can take that truth to the bank. Unfortunately, we get bombarded with so many offers. “Borrow this. Spend this. Buy this. Consume that.” We are so hungry to spend. We start making purchases on belongings that we really don’t need even before we have saved any capital to work with. I work with so many couples who get themselves buried so deep in debt before they even say, “I Do.” Over the top wedding ceremonies and honeymoons in exotic places are not guarantees of a lasting marriage. Why do you think that the number one reason couples fight is money? It is because our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. What happened to the day when you didn’t need to own a flat screen television in every room of the house. Why can’t we eat just one Lays potato chip?

Several years ago, a Movie called “Wall Street” tried to get us to buy into the lie that “greed is good.” Did you know that all human beings were born selfish? We come into the world really believing that the whole universe revolves around us. “Feed me, change me, give me, hold me, watch me and please me.” Real love involves sacrificing what is important to you for someone you deem more important. God actually invested His fortune into buying our freedom by offering His own Son on our behalf. This is mind boggling, but God by His actions communicated that we are more important to Him than even His own life. I can hear the angels mumbling and grumbling, “Why does the Lord pour so much into mankind. Look how they take Him for granted. We angels do everything He asks and yet, people are so prized by Him”

How many of us snub our nose at the eternal gifts God offers us because we are hoping for a quick fix, a temporary buzz, the high of an endorphin rush. When are we going to grasp the truth that it is not only more blessed to give than to receive, but when we do, we come to grips with our true purpose? Love doesn’t look for the perfect payday. Love understands that God has promised to take proper care of me when I go out of my way to take care of others. I have counseled others in ministry that the day they start doing what they do only for a paycheck is the day they need to quit. I’m not saying that we become others door mats to walk all over. I’m just saying that we don’t look to money to accomplish what only the right relationship with the Lord who is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.

So before you blow your precious pay check on more lottery tickets that won’t pay off or waste your last few bucks looking for a high that can only leave you low, why not look up and give it all to the God who has never held anything back from us. The principle is timeless: There is a powerful relationship between our true spiritual condition and our attitude and actions concerning money and possessions. How much do you really need anyway? Do the Owners and Baseball Players really need more money? Do your kids become better citizens by wearing designer clothes? Does that diamond ring promise a never dying devotion to you no matter whatever? We become slaves to whatever we allow to own us. The older I get, the more I desire to live a life that isn’t weighed down by too much stuff. Let me close with the wisdom Lennon and McCartney never provided me in “The White Album.” I’ll give you all I’ve got to give; If you say you love me too. I may not have a lot to give; But what I’ve got I’ll give to you. I don’t care too much for money. Money can’t buy me love” Maybe 2022 is the year for all of us to finally learn that this s a lesson to be cherished.





YOU MAY KISS THE BRIDE!

5 01 2022

Tomorrow I am officiating another wedding. New Year’s Day matrimonies are becoming quite popular. I just wish that Notre Dame was playing their Bowl Game the day before or the day after. Recent history tells me that it might be better to not see what is happening on the gridiron down in Florida and to give my undivided attention to what is happening in a church up in northern Jersey.  

Don’t ask me how many nuptials I have overseen and superintended during my 40 years of ministry. I don’t know the exact amount. I do know that I take this portion of my job very seriously. I can almost hear Heaven’s thunder here on Earth every time I say, “By the power vested in me,” during the ceremony. Those words don’t come off my lips without me taking some serious responsibility. If I don’t believe that he and she are prepared to fight for each other rather than just fight with one another, then I in good conscience can’t bless what is basically doomed from the starting block. Too many couples act like the wedding event and the honeymoon to follow are the most important pieces of creating the perfect romance but real love is learned in the trenches and powerfully practiced in the daily routines of living life. Vows said should be vows reread quite often to be reminded of what you promised on a day when you were surrounded by an adoring audience.     

This is the time of the holiday season when people start taking some personal inventory and reflect upon their successes and failures amidst this last year as they gaze into the days to come. Many individuals choose to make New Year’s Resolutions. I like to call my own venture in this exercise, “New Year’s Revolutions.” The reason I call them such is because it takes some committed passionate intensity to grab the ‘want to’ in the daily battle in seeing our wishes come true. There are so many obstacles that come against us each and every day, hoping that we will fail to prevail and toss in the towel long before we work up any serious sweat. Writing down goals is the easy part. Seeing them to fruition is a whole other story. Joining a gym may help with getting you in shape physically but where do you go when it comes to fine tuning your soul?

When was the last time you married couples did something to deal with the check engine light of your union and communion together? Covering that blinking beacon with duct tape is not an option. If you pretend that all is well while your tempers continue to boil over like antifreeze on caffeine, sooner or later the whole relationship will break down for good. Mr. Goodwrench won’t have a tool to repair what you obviously didn’t care enough to address when hope was still in sight. Pull to the side of the road and determine to give the balding tires of your marriage a chance to retread what up to now you have only begun to dread. Instead of the wedding bell blues, I am encouraging you to do your marriage in review so you can renew what should be revived before it is junked for good.

How many of you married your opposite? You were attracted to the very qualities that you didn’t have but God knew you needed. You found them in another and the two of you could accomplish together what neither one of you could ever do alone. But do you know what happens? Too many men and women spend the rest of their years attempting to alter the one that at the altar they pledged their undying love to. We want to mess with the master plan that if we let things be, the wonderful that was first intended could be realized.

How many of you pursued each other when you were dating? You would move heaven and earth for each other when you were attempting to win their affections. Nothing was more important than being able to connect and talk. Gifts came easily. Spending quality time was a must. The touch of her hand in yours would ignite more than a few sparks. Whatever needed to be done became a top priority. Why is it that once we get married, we act like the thrill of the hunt is over and we display our prize like a deer hunter would hang the head of his kill on the wall in the den. I know that life happens and some things do change. But dropping from number one to number 89 with an anchor is something that we can do something about. Stop taking for granted the one that you promised to give your A Game to. When the waitress at the local diner gets the compliments that your Bride once received, it is time to reevaluate your romance. When you chase after the person sharing your workspace than the one sharing your bed, you know the pilot light of enchantment has frozen a solid blue. Flirtation without honorable intentions is the open door to using rather than cherishing. If commitment isn’t the thing its nothing more than a fling. And putting a ring on it is not to shut it down but to launch a whole new world of opportunity.

When our youngest son went to college this Fall, my wife and I had an empty nest for the first time since 1986. We were married in 1982 because we loved each other. We raised 4 children and now have 8 grandchildren, but the rubber met the road when it was just the two of us under the same roof. Our friendship, which has always been the foundation of our union, was literally rekindled. The sincere chemistry of our union has been rekindled because we really do complement each other. You might say it like this, I not only love my wife, but I like her. I respect her and am challenged by her. I adore my children, but I never put them above Terri. If you are in a funk and need to adjust some things in your home, maybe making your spouse tops in your house would be a great place to start.

Even though I am a Christian Minister, I have borrowed from Judaism for several weddings that I have officiated. It all surrounds the use of the “chuppah.” The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles. The word means covering or protection and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding. The chuppah is not merely a charming folk custom or a ceremonial object carried over from a primitive past. It sets the boundaries right from the get-go that God is not making two families one but two people. Too many people under the chuppah are not the way that marriage was destined to be. When what should be shared between only two becomes the fodder for reality television, and an audience is involved where they are not welcome, things can only be complicated. Even your children, your best friends, your parents, and your social media contacts should not be privy to what must stay between a husband and wife. Who needs to get out of your chuppah? Why not give a great gift to your special someone this January by shutting out the noise of those in the cheap seats and listen to the words of the one you need to cherish most? If speaking is too tough, writing a love letter all over again may be just the ticket to opening what has been locked up for way too long.

Marriage was God’s idea. It is spelled out clearly for all of us in the very first book of the Bible. Stop trying to take this duet and make it a solo performance. I have no doubt that this weekend, both the groom and the bride will be all in. He will look as good as he probably ever will, and she will shine like the princess she is. I’m not worried about the beginning of this race. I pray for their love over the long haul. If they continually propel the fire with fresh fuel, and care just as much about each other as they do about their car not running out of gas, they will be ahead of the game. We are so busy worrying about what’s going on in somebody else’s yard, we neglect our own garden. One of my goals this year is to not only love my wife as we look to celebrate 40 years together, but to love her with my actions, my deeds and my efforts. How about you? And if you are married, you may now kiss the bride again and again and again!





PERFECTIONISTS ANONYMOUS

23 11 2021

There are days that I know I disappoint. Even though I attempt to avoid the negative, I still let down others and I come up woefully short of my own expectations. I curse the fact that I am a “perfectionist.” I am not very judgmental of those around me mind you; but my goals for myself are absolutely sky high and lately I can’t even gather enough chutzpah to make it to the ceiling of my living room! The things that I demand of myself at times are so unobtainable, I literally set myself up to fail long before the journey even starts. Can anyone else relate?

What causes us to buy the lie that we are in control of our own destiny?  What deceives me to believe that I have more power to seize the day than I actually do? Positive thinking doesn’t always alter the landscape or reduce the sizes of the challenges smack dab there on my horizon! My Type A personality has turned out to become a huge failure grade on the report card of my heart. Hey, I once could have had front row tickets to see Frank Sinatra in concert, but my striving to be the best I could be got the best of me and I stayed back at the dorm and studied for the exam. Today, I can’t even remember the class that the test was in. The door to see Ol’ Blue Eyes sing never came again. If I had to do it all over again, it wouldn’t even be an issue. I was just trying to prove that I was a good student and one that couldn’t be distracted by peripheral interruptions.  

I wanted those in charge to like me. I wanted my teachers to validate me. I wanted the Priests and the Nuns to tell me that I was doing a good job. I longed for my parents to love me. I was a maniac on the hamster wheel of mattering. You can bet that I was the teacher’s pet. I behaved like a good boy should when those I called my friends were actually having fun. I’m the guy who battled so much guilt at work, I never took a break or knock off for lunch. I wanted to show everyone that I was no ordinary employee. As I look back, I think all I did was cause a rift between those living all around and me. And to add insult to injury, I wasn’t even happy over who I was. I’m not sure that I even liked me; how could anyone else possible see any redeeming value in me?

I am at a stage in my life where I can’t depend upon endless adrenaline and a steady stream of stamina and an infinite supply of energy that used to seem to be available to me at will. I have gone to my man made well and discovered the source is dry! Now in my 60’s, I’m tired of playing the same old games and compromising my convictions to just make the grade. I run to the proverbial kitchen to cook up a meal of substance and find the cupboards bare! I strive and strain reaching for a second wind that has gone blowing in another direction for another’s convenience. And I stand and look for that someone who will show a little mercy and offer some sweet compassion and give some renewing grace and spare the shaming sentences and stop with the verbiage of disappointment and just be kind. I am tempted to make a cardboard sign and stand out in the streets saying, “Will Work for Love!”

One of the obstacles that almost kept me from ever surrendering wholly to the grace and mercy of God was the utter stubbornness that wouldn’t admit that I was utterly helpless and hopeless when it came to pleasing God.  Why would God want me unless I did enough to make Him see I was an asset to His cause? Yet the harder I tried to be perfect; the easier it was to see that this train was going nowhere fast. If I was ever to be free from the weight of religion that was sinking me to the bottom of the pit quickly, I needed to plead ignorance. I was not as smart as I hoped to be. I was starring in a production that had to be cancelled so a new season could be birthed!

Do you know that you and I will never arrive to an authentic paradise until we give up our amateur architecture ventures? As I talk to new friends who live in Shamokin about the possibility of coming to the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church I pastor so that they may see what God is doing these days in our midst, there is a common reaction and a sudden hesitation that almost everyone I speak to has expressed. It is a feeling of not being good enough or the admission of not having it all together or the fear that they wouldn’t be welcomed or accepted that keeps them away from new life! Shame on any believers who come across as better than or holier than or too good for another man or woman in need of the Savior! I want to shout, “Show’s over Folks, time to let it all hang out so that God can clean us up for good!”

Could it be that we sabotage our own spirituality when we seek to impress God and others with our professionally manufactured resumes? God knows what is really going on and fooling Him is not even possible for even the most talented of hypocrites! Yet here we are, seeing life fly by while we bust our tails off to earn something that the Lord has already graciously provided! I can almost see Jesus wincing in astonishment when we bypass His precious gift of salvation only to choose our own self driven scheme of trying to pass off our mudpies as something majestic. The jig is up. I am what I am, and I can’t stand no more. Popeye used to say something like that right before he reached for his can of spinach to enable him to do what he could not do on a diet of candy and cupcakes. Perhaps instead of being a perfectionist, I could become a sold out disciple of the Perfect One. And what if by loving Him just as I am, I could love others just as they are. And I’ll leave the diet of catechism and cold hard facts for the crowd enamored by their own reflection. I choose to lay down the charade and follow Christ. His burden is easy, and His yoke is light. And I’m tired of trying to be somebody I will never be. How about you?





RIGHT TIME OF MY LIFE

12 11 2021

Let’s face facts. Human beings live like they have an endless amount of time this side of Heaven to accomplish all the things they long to do. By their behavior they exhibit qualities that show no sense of urgency that perhaps there might not be as much time left on the tick tock of life as they assume there is. Too often people get much too weighed down by their past or stricken with an extreme paralyzing fear of the future that they are allowing the present moments of this very day to get away. We just can’t waste these resources like we do. I don’t want to die with the basketball still in my hands when the final buzzer sounds when I could have and should have taken what very well could have been a winning shot.

When I recently left my last church assignment in Cape May County, NJ after spending 24 fruitful and beautifully blessed years serving there, many thought that as a Minister now in my 60’s, I was looking to retire or at least take it easy. I didn’t even entertain the idea of not continuing to do what I have had the honor of doing full time since 1982! I didn’t ask for what in College Football might be referred to as a “cupcake” schedule. I begged for a challenge. I wanted to have to be in a situation where if God didn’t show up, I had no shot of being successful. I was diagnosed with cancer but I wasn’t ready to pick out my funeral songs yet cause I didn’t feel a bit dead. Actually, my heart still has lots left in the tank even if the old body might be breaking down a bit. But the diagnosis was a sobering wake up call to the reality that I can’t waste time trying to please people when I know that my truest joy was discovered in being the person God created me to be. I may not have an infinite amount of minutes at my disposal but I know that it is within my ability to make every moment matter!

Of all the exotic places on the map, the Lord brought me to Shamokin. I have been asked more than once during these last few months, “Why did you come to Shamokin?” I didn’t come to tread water. I didn’t move here to circle the airport. I didn’t pack up all my stuff to move to Pennsylvania to hear why things will never change here. I don’t believe in playing church. I’m not crazy about those who push a religion that does nothing more than reiterate that on our own we can’t measure up. I fell in love with the God who first loved me and when He rescued me, I dedicated the rest of my life on earth to get people excited about the reality of being with Jesus forever. Eternal life is not so much measured by the quantity of what happens after we die but it is better defined by the quality of living and loving we experience now because of who we know! I am here in Shamokin because I love the Lord who loves the people of this city! If God hasn’t given up on us; why would we wave a white flag of surrender and quit on ourselves?

Last Sunday night epitomized what I love about being a Christian. Halloween is known for some pretty dark and horrific themes. Many church people have made the choice to escape their surroundings and retreat to their homes and lock their doors with a double bolt. Not me! I want to take the light where we need it the most! Michael McDonald used to sing, “Taking It to The Streets,” and that it still my anthem in 2021. I got to interact with people of all ages, backgrounds, sizes, shapes, and colors. I have always made it my practice to give out the same sized candy bars that I used to get in the 1960’s when I was a child “trick or treating” in my Jersey neighborhood. I find nothing exciting about the miniscule, “Fun Sized” teeny weenie versions of Hershey Bars and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups. I am not rich in any way shape or form, but I believe in showing others the same kind of courtesy that you yourself would like to receive. Imagine my disappointment when I ran out of candy about 20 minutes before 8PM. I have never run out of goodies before and again it sobered me to the lesson that I don’t want to come up short on living and run out of gas while there are still more miles to go on my journey. Running out made me realize that I need to keep running on with my very best efforts, so I don’t end up running on empty.

If we have a pulse, we still have a purpose. If we aren’t dead, we aren’t done. But we can’t keep losing those sacred seconds that the Holy Spirit wants to make last. And let’s lose the excuses that only prevent us from truly being the productive instruments that God knows we can be. Do we believe what He says? Are we unwrapping each day as the gift it is or are we wasting our hours whining about the contents when we should be willing to work with the ingredients that we have received?

Call me naïve or someone who has his head in the clouds, but I moved to Shamokin to make a difference in every which way I can. This life has tried to steal my song way too many a day but not on my watch. I am a realist. I know the hurt and the pain. I see the injustice and the loss. For all that’s wrong with our surroundings, I can still celebrate the colors of creation that are splashed in brilliance all around us. I don’t know how many more breaths that I have in this body, but I vow to God and to all of you, I will do everything to contribute to the magic that takes your breath away in the best of manners. I don’t see Shamokin as a steppingstone. I see where I am as the right time of my life to celebrate this heartbeat. If I can get you to look up rather than give up, then it is time well spent!      





THE THRILL OVER THE HILL

12 11 2021

My wife and I took a drive from Shamokin to Lancaster this past Monday. While we were in the car, I discovered that “Sirius/XM 80’s on 8” was doing a recap of the Top 40 Billboard Songs from October 24, 1982. Terri is originally from Lebanon where we got married in December of that year. Needless to say, there was lots of reminiscing going on between us as each tune brought back a succinct memory of booking venues, renting tuxedos, Terri picking out the perfect wedding dress and all the things we did as we planned our celebration.

It will be 39 years that we have been together come December 4th. They say the average marriage these days lasts about 8 years. Many use the excuse of still loving their spouse but not being “in love” with them to keep the union alive. I was only 22 when we were wed and Terri just 20. What did we really know? I venture to say that I had no clue what was truly ahead for us as we launched our new family that Saturday at Avon United Methodist Church. It hasn’t been love that has kept us together although I love my wife now as much as I ever have. The true glue was that we took the commitment we made before God very serious and knew that if we were going to build a lasting legacy, faith had to be the foundation strong enough to sustain the weight that life has piled upon it through the years, the tears, the fears and the ever shifting gear.

The Number One song of the countdown just happened to be that little ditty about “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp. I can’t lie to you. The lyric, “Hold on to 16 as long as you can; changes come along real soon make you women and men,” has always hit me in smack dab in the heart. Let’s face it. When we are young, we can’t wait until we get old. When we get old, we long to go back and be kids again. We are way too preoccupied with either the past or the future, we rarely engage fully in the present right before us. The little ones we introduce into the world are handfuls for sure when they are young but when you turn around and blink for a moment, before you know it, there is nobody at home but you and your spouse once again. And if you aren’t paying careful attention, sneeze twice and then cancer or some other unwelcome casualty leaves you all alone with your best days clearly behind you in the rear-view mirror of life.

If life has a ‘smack you right between the eyes experience’, then the chorus of “Jack and Diane,” gave me a sobering sock in the head. “Oh yeah, life goes on; long after the thrill of living is gone.” Wait! What? Can we human beings get to a place where we honestly buy into a belief system where there is no hope or highlight other than to arrive at death as quietly as possible? I know the prime of my life has already been written for the book. I come to Shamokin as a 62-year-old man who is battling prostate cancer and other annoying physical ailments that without a doubt has slowed me down from my younger days. But I am not dead yet! I don’t even believe retirement is good for you because there should always be a new challenge to conquer or a God-appointed assignment to jump into. Life goes on and I know that I might be in the September of my years but just like I love December, I believe my best is yet to come! If I have a pulse, I have a purpose and so do you! If we are not dead, we are not done! And who says that the thrill of the chase is only for the adolescents?

Biblical Hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. But it is much different than “human” hope. I say, “I hope my next report shows the radiation worked.” Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Earthly hope still carries with it a large degree of uncertainty. But not so, “Heavenly Hope!” If God has said it will happen, even though we don’t know when, we can live like it is already a done deal! I used to hope I was going to Heaven, but I had not one iota of assurance that I would. But because Jesus told us that He is the Resurrection and the Life and if anyone would believe in Him, they would not perish, but have everlasting life, there is no doubt about it. My hope of Heaven is a not a “Maybe Baby,” its only a matter of time.

So, life does goes on but the anticipation never ceases. The moment a Believer takes his or her last breath here, the movie doesn’t end, it truly just begins. I can already hear myself saying, “Lord, I don’t think I’m in Shamokin anymore.” And Oz can’t hold a candle to Paradise! So I press on with the heart of a 17-year-old because while outwardly I may be passing away, inwardly you haven’t seen nothing yet! I think we need to remind each other more often that no matter how dark it might be getting today, the sun will come out tomorrow. So I love the Lord and cherish my wife and cheer on my kids and spoil my grandkids and take on each day with one eye on the road and the other eye peeking at the sky! It’s not “if Jesus gets around to it”, “maybe He will return someday;” It is happening and even though I have no way to make it occur, I am not going to miss it when it does. God has my hope on that fact!

When we were kids in school, they used to make us participate in fire drills. There was no fire in the building. There wasn’t a hint of smoke being smelled in the town. We were usually dressed up in our “Gym Suits.” And it was negative 25 degrees outside when they paraded us all to the parking lot. The powers to be just wanted us to be ready in case there was true danger. They wanted to make sure that we knew where to go! Well, how about “Rapture Practice.” Someone blows a trumpet as a test of the emergency Christian system and we all get on the furniture and together say, “1, 2, 3 Jump!” If our Lord comes back, He snatches us up to be with Him. If not, we hit the floor. Therefore I recommend that you don’t climb too high during the dress rehearsal. I don’t want you to forget that there is always a thrill over the next hill! It’s too soon to give up. It is time to look up. Looking up gives me the ability to love my wife with honeymoon freshness. Looking up keeps me making my “Guardian Angel” busy. Looking up means the best is yet to come.

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.