Great Pumpkins and Real Faith!

23 10 2017

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I won’t allow the Grinch to steal this time of the year away from me. I am adamant about sharing with you that the darker our culture might become around me, the brighter I want my light to shine. What difference can I make if nobody can see me because fear has me hidden away? How will anyone hear a message of faith, hope and love if I choose to be silent in politically correct times like these? The daily news contains chaotic happenings and acts of insanity almost every day. Our Country is more divided than it has been in hundreds of years. I have begged God to please give me the strength and courage to be able to minister as a living lighthouse looking to provide rescue and redemption. If ever there was a time for we who claim to be Followers of Jesus to start being the church as much as we claim to go to church, it is now. We need to be intentionally looking for opportunities to serve our Lord by reaching out to others. How can Christians show others Jesus if we are nowhere to be found when it matters most?

 The Lighthouse Church will be out and about tonight at the Middle Township Parade. We normally meet for our Midweek Services where we have classes and activities for every age, but not tonight. I can’t see us on the inside when everybody we want to impact is on the outside. I hope to see all of you who are reading this right now out and about all along Route 9 tonight. I know that I will be giving out my fair share of candy, walking along our Church Float which will resemble an “Autumn Hay Ride.” More often than not, I get so involved in the conversations; I end up quite a distance behind the rest of our group. It doesn’t matter though, because I know in the end that what I do is all about relationship!

 We will also be handing out tons of flyers advertising our annual “Trunk and Treat” coming up this Sunday October 29th from 4-6PM. I like to say that it is called “Trunk and Treat” rather than “Trunk or Treat,” because without the Trunks there can be no Treats! I am expecting fifty members of our Congregation to decorate their vehicles in true “Harvest” fashion and then entertain as many children and adults as we are able to in two short hours. There will also be games, food, music, bouncy toys and all of it absolutely free. If the good news of Jesus is free of charge then we need to provide random acts of kindness with no strings attached. We have been doing this a long time and it gets better every year. And yes, I am hoping that those who come through who presently don’t go to church will start the following week at The Lighthouse.

 Every year about this time I tune into “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.” Yes, I admit I am old enough to remember when it was on the very first time. I remember the next day, the good Sisters at Notre Dame School in Cedar Knolls had us singing ‘Pumpkin Carols.” What I love about this cartoon is the passion Linus shows about making sure that he is sitting in the most sincere Pumpkin Patch on Halloween night so that The Great Pumpkin will come with toys, candies and gifts. As Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the rest of the Peanuts gang knows by now, Linus has done this every year but all he gets for his efforts is missing out on what they all call, “Tricks and Treats!”

 Charlie Brown’s little Sister Sally is finally ready for her chance to go out into the neighborhood. Her love for Linus plays havoc with her common sense and she ends up in a Pumpkin Patch where all she experiences is a chill and a beagle. Sally is incensed at her “Blockhead Beau,” because he robbed her of all the goodies and party. Charlie Brown in regular fashion goes out into the neighborhood to only collect a bag of rocks. We kids laughed at that year after year while more compassionate kids actually sent Charles Schultz their Halloween Candy to give to good old Charlie Brown. When it is all said and done, Linus has learned absolutely nothing. Next year, even though there has never been any evidence to the contrary, Linus will be out there again with passion in his gut and hope in his heart.

As God’s people, we’ve got way more than the Great Pumpkin to look forward to in our days to come. Faith isn’t a pipe dream and while we may at times have thick skulls, the Lord wouldn’t call us “Blockheads,” for standing on the Rock. Every time I see Linus, I want his innocence and faith. Our world is like Charlie Brown these days, living life and ending up with nothing but a bag of bricks. But with the determination of Linus and the reality that our God is a sure truth,  this is no time to miss the party. In a season of darkness, we are the ones Heaven will use to ignite the Light and others will want to come along to where we are going. Even the loud mouth Lucy’s of the world can’t spoil our joy. I’ll bring my Bible and you bring your blanket and we will spell security with the letters: J-E-S-U-S!

 





THIS IS FOR ALL THE LONELY CHURCHES…

16 10 2017

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The Beatles were right when they sang, “All You Need is Love,” but then they broke up. Captain and Tennille sang, “Love Will Keep Us Together,” until it didn’t. The band America challenged us to, “don’t give up until we have drunk from that silver cup.” The Supremes added that, ‘You Can’t Hurry Love,” because “Love don’t come easy as it’s a game of give and take. Tavares chimed in that, “It Only Takes A Minute Girl To Fall In Love,” but it takes a lifetime to make it last! Love labors and will require some blood, sweat and tears for it to be experienced and shared. Love is certainly worth the effort but one must not ignore the truth that it doesn’t blossom and bloom without personal sacrifice. If you have been looking for love in all the wrong places, maybe it is time to recalculate so that the Lord can point you in the right direction. There is too much to lose if you wait too late to love and be loved.  

Just this past summer, I was chatting with a woman who was visiting with us and she shared a frustration with her home church. She went on to tell me that after a Sunday Service she would get very excited about what she heard from the Lord and she was looking for anyone within the congregation who might be willing to sit and talk about what she was receiving. As she searched high and low, would you believe there was nobody to be found who would invest some extra time with this individual? This lady went on and made the remark that she felt like at times, her church was one of the loneliest places on this earth.                           

I can understand how this happens. If you want to grow up in the faith, you must be willing to dig deep into the matters of the heart. With those steps, people must be willing to be patient and vulnerable with one another. It also takes lots of faith and trust to soar higher in the stratosphere of relationships. Goals like comfort and ease need to be replaced by seeds of compassion and expectation. It takes a commitment of both regulars and newcomers to be open to knowing one another so we can be growing closer to growing with one another.

But there must be a willingness and plan to break the mold. Families and friends who normally seek each other out in such large crowds need to be open to adding new faces to their circle of cohorts. Rather than just sitting in the same seat week after week at church, participants must be open to rotating around the room to get to know those on the other side of the sanctuary. Small talk needs to be abandoned for bigger matters of life. And while I believe that there is no conscious thought of ignoring others around them, the truth remains that those sitting alone on the outskirts of such happy gatherings more often than not feel ignored and left out. It isn’t anyone’s fault. The blame can be leveled at both sides of this coin but I will bet all the change in my pockets that this is not how God intended his kids to treat one another.

If we are serious about putting into practice a higher love that is ignited by Heaven above, then we need to come to Church with intentions that extend beyond selfish reasons. The woman who I was referring to earlier, had also been thinking about specific ways that she too could be more proactive rather than reactive when it came to setting the temperature in her place of worship. Let me share with you what she emailed to me. Maybe you will try some of these as soon as this weekend when you head back to the body of Christ.

Pray before you go. Pray for God to open your eyes to notice the people around you. Ask God to give you Holy Spirit Radar to notice what is just below the surface. Invite the Lord to use you in somebody else’s life. Don’t be in such a hurry to get out before you genuinely get in.

Eye contact is so important.  You are never fully dressed without a smile Annie. Pray for a courageous boldness to approach strangers.  A quick hello, handshake, and name exchange takes a few seconds, but can leave a lasting impression. If you are an introvert, ask the Lord to make it possible for you to have at least one significant conversation with somebody new before you leave. If you are an extrovert, let the Lord use your personality to seek out those sitting alone or looking like they don’t belong. We never know who needs a hug, a word of encouragement, or a timely prayer. Get used to being used! It is exciting and life changing. It also changes the atmosphere of a big church into a close knit family.

Ask God, “How can I let you love me and to love others through me today?” We want to feel God’s love in our lives everyday; however, we need to be open to receiving His love.  Likewise, we can show God’s love to others if we allow Him to show us how best to offer that love.  Don’t limit God! There are so many more ways we can help others to feel welcomed in church. Just use your imagination and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. You never know who He might direct you to meet. Your new best friend might be the stranger sitting next to you.

I am praying for your church as I ask you to pray for mine. But let’s allow the power of God to change the positions of people from feeling lonely to feeling loved. God is love and anyone who is born of God becomes fruitful in their love for one another. Let’s be the church that fills the places we meet with the kind of genuine connection and caring community that the world can’t provide nor can they take it away.            

So here is your challenge for the week: Think of somebody in the church that you would like to get to know better and invite them to lunch next week.

 





FIRE UP THE CHURCH!

12 10 2017

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There are no gimmicks when it comes to building and being part of a healthy church. I know there are tons of marketing strategies being published every day trying to sell Christians proven and easy “steps” to amazing growth.  But I have come to know that a church is a church to celebrate truly when it’s a church carried to God by those who take seriously their privilege and honor to offer up unceasing prayers on the behalf of one another. The people we share meeting together with to celebrate our common faith must be committed to the priority of praying! Prayer is the engine that should be driving everything the Body of Christ does. If not, then we will only see accomplishments that are done in man’s strength, forfeiting the supernatural power of God in our midst.

 There is nothing worse than a Preacher without conviction or a Leader without a commitment to the subject they are imparting to others. On a Website entitled “The Friendly Atheist,” they posed this question to Ministers: “What Should Pastors Do, When They Don’t Believe What They Preach?” The quotations from the pastors are heartbreaking. In some cases, they’ve been entrenched in their position for so long that they don’t know what else to do. As one pastor puts it, “It’s like trying to switch your major when you’re so close to graduating. Why not just finish up what you started? Once you’re locked into the role, it’s very difficult to leave.”

Here’s what another minister said: “Here’s how I’m handling my job on Sunday mornings. I view it as play acting. I kind of see myself as taking on a role of a believer in a worship service, and performing. I know what to say. I know how to pray publicly. I can lead singing. I love singing. I don’t believe what I’m saying anymore in some of these songs. But I see it as taking on the role and performing. Maybe that’s what it takes for me to get myself through this, but that’s what I’m doing.”

He calls it acting. I call it being a hypocrite. He’s lying to himself and everyone in his church. And to be quite frank, God is not blessing that clergyman or congregation in any way! When I do my midday Radio Show on Fridays on 106.3 The Shore, I have already made this stipulation about my role in advertising on the program. If I can’t be honestly excited about what I am supposedly selling, don’t ask me to push it on others! I am a Pastor and not a salesman and no they are not one and the same!

This past summer, I gave away gift certificates from the Italian Kitchen Express in Wildwood every day at lunchtime. The owner expressed deep gratitude to me because business was the best that it had been in a long time. Some asked me, what was my secret? I simply answered, I loved their cannolis! I affectionately called it, “Cannoli Heaven!” Listeners caught my enthusiasm and wanted to taste what I had already deemed delicious. I was preaching the “Good News of Desserts” and it made others hungry! How much more important it is to invite others to dig in to experience “The Bread Of Life!”                  

I don’t do what I do because I need a job. I am just as passionate about my love for Jesus today because after everything my wife Terri and I have experienced over the last 35 years, if I didn’t own a real and vibrant faith, I surely would not be here! Church is not just sitting through an interesting lecture.  It’s so much more than just singing and a sermon. I always envision Pastors, Elders, Teachers and Leaders as so much more than just another impersonal delivery service. The Good News of the Gospel doesn’t come that way to Believers. It’s not academic. It’s not dry.  It’s not going through the motions. Receiving the Good News, Jesus comes to dwell in us in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is similar to allowing divine dynamite to shake your soul.  And the real way that you can tell whether a church is part of a move from God is that when it is the Lord, you see transformation. When it is just about religious routine, it is nothing more than being given information. And most of us have been around long enough to have heard the difference, haven’t we? 

 It’s a tragic thing that so many times the Bible is discussed and talked about and lectured on and preached on and it is missing the Holy Spirit’s power. If your life isn’t right and you’re not walking in the Spirit and you can’t get excited about the Word of God and preach it in the power of the Spirit of God, then don’t preach the Bible because it’s the ultimate crime to bore people with the Word of God.  Preach something else. The Bible should come in the power of the Spirit or not come at all.

 Charles Spurgeon, when he went to preach on Sundays, always had the same routine. He’d climb those stairs to his pulpit, it was up high, and on every step he’d say, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Spirit.”  And when he got to the top, he knew he believed in the Holy Spirit.  And he preached in the power of the Holy Spirit, energized, and committed to the Spirit. What the world needs now, and what the church needs more than ever is Spirit-filled Pastors, Leaders, Elders and Teachers who are filled by God before they are spilled with God. When God cleanses a vessel, He uses it. When the instrument is pure and the call is clear and the Word is rightly divided, the message comes forth with power, passion, and personal conviction.  And that’s cause for celebration because you’re hearing God speak to you and through you in the power of the Holy Spirit.

 The most effective praying and the most effective proclaiming comes from those who live their passions out. They are the message in human flesh. And the reason we’re so grateful to God for our churches and the reason we will witness God’s blessing is because we pray and then proclaim the Word and set the pattern to be followed.





WAKE UP TO DREAMLAND!

2 10 2017

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Unless you have been hiding in a cave these last few years, you are well aware of the heroin pandemic wrecking havoc within our County here in Cape May and running rampant all over this Country. When I was young, I heard lots about this opium based narcotic, but dismissed it because it was a drug more prominent within the big city urban settings and not so much in the suburbs. Shooting up on heroine was something that shady musicians and misguided addicts did to either enhance their creativity or escape their lot in life. It wasn’t something I ever gave much serious thought to.

And so when black tar heroin craze began to consume the lives of those we live and share space with in our everyday comings and goings, I was confused and quite perplexed. Suddenly we knew that as a church we needed to do something to become proactive and reactive to this rising drug crisis. Several women at The Lighthouse who experienced the havoc that drug addiction causes within a family and community got involved and formed the foundation of what has become the CURE Ministry. CURE stands for “Christians United For Recovery.” Every Thursday night, there are dedicated Christians committed to providing individual counseling, support groups, drug abuse education and positive and godly caring community. Lives have been saved both spiritually and physically while tragically, others have been lost to overdose. I am so proud of our Team of people who have literally set up life guard stations so that those drowning in a sea of substance abuse aren’t left to go under without a fierce fight for their lives.

So why has our Nation’s opium addiction escalated to such an out of control degree? What has triggered this hunger for heroin? Why has the heartland of America fared no better than the metropolitan centers when it comes to saying, “No” to drug dependence? Even New Jersey Governor Christie has challenged the medical profession to develop pain prescriptions that aren’t addictive and a wide open avenue to chase after deadlier poisons!

A man named Dave, who goes to the Lighthouse Church, recently handed me a copy of the Best Selling Book, “Dreamland,” by Sam Quinones. The story begins with a historical look of what was once the reason that those who called Portsmouth, Ohio their home was able to look out for one another in a day gone by. In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, a swimming pool the size of a football field was opened; named Dreamland, and it became the vital center of life in this Buckeye town. When time marched on, and the economy stalled, Dreamland closed down and the nightmare soon began. 

Author Sam Quinones weaves together two classic tales of capitalism heading for a train wreck whose unintentional collision would turn out to be beyond catastrophic. Portsmouth, once known for its Pool was now becoming the place for Pill Mills. When controlling a patient’s pain became a driving passion for the pharmaceuticals, the irresponsible prescribing of pain medications during the 1990s reached its peak in Purdue’s Pharmaceutical campaign to market OxyContin, its new, expensive and extremely addictive miracle drug. Simultaneously, a massive influx of black tar heroin into our Country, a cheap and potent solution to an addict’s slavery to opium all originated from one small village on Mexico’s west coast. Because they were independent of any drug cartel, they franchised heroin like McDonalds franchised French fries. Young Mexicans with their mouths stuffed with balloons of black tar heroin inhabited small town and mid-sized cities across our land. Law enforcement was baffled by this brilliant, almost unbeatable marketing and distribution system. Together these phenomena continued to lay waste men and women who lived in blue collar towns from Tennessee to Oregon, Indiana to New Mexico, and Cape May County to Cape Cod.

Via introducing a memorable cast of characters such as the Pharmaceutical pioneers, the young Mexican entrepreneurs, the narcotics investigators, the survivors, and the clueless parents who denied that their kids could be addicts, Sam Quinones reveals how and why we have the present drug issues that all of us are fighting all over. By reading “Dreamland,” it made me aware that the problem all began because of irresponsible medical professionals who are overworked and under informed and start prescribing pain pills with no plan, no guidance, and very little accountability. Do you really need to numb your pain to such the degree that you risk addiction?


I believe that everyone who wants to make a difference and is serious about being proactive rather than reactive in the midst of today’s drug infested culture needs to read this book. I don’t believe you will hear this story told better anywhere else. It gives you the big picture from the economic hollowing-out of the middle class to the greedy and reckless marketing of pharmaceutical opiates to the remarkable entrepreneurial industry of the residents of the obscure Mexican state of Nayarit. This is no time for Ministers, Teachers, Counselors, Social Workers, and Medical Professionals to hide their heads in the sand and play dumb about a field they need to do their homework and become responsibly educated over. CURE will continue to work with those who need to be set free from the prison of addiction but I also challenge us to study so that we may recognize the signs that somebody is being set up to become another statistic! “Dreamland” has awakened me to know better how to make a difference and not surrender to the war on drugs! I challenge you to read it too.

 





WHAT’S YOUR STORY RUDY???

25 09 2017

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Back in 1979, the music group Supertramp had a huge hit with a record called “The Logical Song.”  The lyrics went something like this:

“When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
a miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.
And all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully watching me.
But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical.
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical.

There are times when all the world’s asleep,
the questions run too deep
for such a simple man.
Won’t you please, please tell me what we’ve learned
I know it sounds
 absurd

but please tell me who I am.”

 Did you catch the significance of that last line?  “Please tell me who I am.”  I wonder if it is wise to even attempt to ask another person or an earthly group or tribe to describe or define the regal purpose of a human life!  Maybe the trouble is that we people all depend way too much upon one another for our labels and our instructions and our road maps to a destination where our lasting legacy may be discovered.  But one thing is for sure and that is deep down inside of each and every one of us we know that we were designed to live a story bigger than ourselves.  There is a nagging, almost gnawing feeling that disrupts the soul and calls and cries out for something so much more than what another daily lap around the mindless track of status quo can ever offer us!  And isn’t it so often in the quiet of the middle of a sleepless night when the noise of our utter despair can deafen our ears- although nobody else may hear a sound? 

 Why has the music stopped?  Why do we who were once so hopeful and full of wonder at youth become so hard and so full of woeful whining as adults?  Is comfort a legitimate goal to strive for?  Is the accumulation of wealth and stuff enough to satisfy the yearnings of a hungry heart?  Is settling into the same old ruts and routine actually more a prescription for spiritual rot rather than being respected as a responsible grown up?  Have we resigned ourselves to just being content to sit in the audience and watch television as others tackle the tales that perhaps we were actually authored to perform?  Is it time to wake up before the credits of our own short years begin to scroll down on the screen marking the reality of my days as “that’s all folks?” 

 I must admit to myself that I use my age as an excuse to not jump in and live as I know I still can!  I am not dead yet so why am I telling myself and believing the lies that my best days are behind me?  That is just not true!  There are still challenges that I believe God has put my name on to go after.  I need to be willing to pack up my laziness and put it back in the basement where it belongs and go up into the attic of my mind and break out my candor and my curiosity and my confidence and kick into high gear once more!  I have understood that what we call “The American Dream” isn’t worth waiting for and definitely not worth wasting my fragile days dying to get to!  I want to be part of an epic blockbuster adventure that is filled with many meaningful and loving relationships. The lives around me are the true treasure of this pilgrimage!  I want to dive into moving and miraculous opportunities that I know I can’t pull off without my constant companionship with the God who made me! I long for and desire a diet of daily digests of new truths and life lessons so that I may learn and know and experience fully which will keep active each and every precious one of my senses that God has equipped me with!  The only way I will know that my day has come and gone is when I stop breathing!  But even that for me will only be a change of venues and not a conclusion to life itself!

 There is much more I can say but for now I will leave you with this thought and that is the only logical thing we can all do is take a close and honest and reflective look into the depths of our souls and answer these questions:  “Do I like who I have become?”  “Would I continue reading my life story if I was the observer and not the main subject?”  “Do I still have time to rewrite and edit where this tale may be going?”  Answer well for your future and how you will be remembered depends upon it!  What’s your story???





BACON, EGGS, ICE CREAM AND LOVE!

18 09 2017

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An elderly couple was beginning to forget little things around the house. They were afraid that this could be dangerous, as one of them may forget to turn off the stove and thus cause a fire. So, they decided to go see their physician to get some help. Their physician told them that many people their age find it useful to write themselves little notes as reminders.

The couple thought this sounded wonderful, and left the doctor’s office very pleased with the advice. When they got home, the wife said, “Dear, will you please go to the kitchen and get me a dish of ice cream? And why don’t you write that down so you won’t forget? “Nonsense,” said the husband, “I can remember a dish of ice cream.” “Well,” said the wife, “I’d also like some strawberries on it. You better write that down, because I know you’ll forget.” “Don’t be silly,” replied the husband. “You want a dish of ice cream and some strawberries. I can remember that.” “OK, dear, but I’d like you to put some whipped cream on top. Now you’d really better write it down,” said the wife. “Come now, my memory’s not all that bad,” said the husband. “No problem—a dish of ice cream with strawberries and whipped cream.”

With that, the husband shut the kitchen door behind him. He emerged from the kitchen about fifteen minutes later with a plate of bacon and eggs. The wife took one look at the plate, glanced up at her husband and said, “I knew you wouldn’t get it right—where’s the toast?”

Perhaps the most familiar verse in the entire Bible is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” For God so loved that it resulted in Him giving. For God so loved, He sacrificed His very Self; holding nothing of worth back from us. For God so loved, He made the first move, not waiting first to see how we would respond. For God so loved that He never worried about what that love would do to His reputation. God actually made us of more importance than Himself and only He could have pulled that off.

We Human Beings, on the other hand, are always worried that we are going to give too much, or be taken advantage of or not be given back at the very least an equal share of what we have invested. We always seem to have our self-interest guarded to the point that it can’t help but mess with any attention we may pay another. Could it be that even at our worst, we still believe that we are the best? And might this preoccupation with our own importance actually devalue the very others we claim to love?

Pride is the killer of love! It won’t allow ourselves to get out of our own way so that we may genuinely give of our very best to another. When we hold on to the notion that we are owed something by someone, we only sabotage the very relationships we claim matter so much. God’s love has no pride. He gave with no strings attached. He acted with no concern of His own reputation. Knowing who He was, He was able to freely do what He did. And nothing and no one could change the intensity and immensity of it being love undefiled by selfish motives.                         

What if we trusted God to the point that we too could act in a manner of absolute self-sacrifice? What if love could be offered freely without knowing an end? No one forced God to do what He did. He did it whether we receive it or not. We can choose to joyfully open our lives to the Lord and trust Him, and walk together with Him or we can lock the front door of our soul and throw away the key. Our behavior doesn’t change the flavor of Divine Love.

What if I began to live like others mattered more than me? What if I loved in such the way that my ego played no part in the equation? What if I treated others not as I wanted to be treated, but only as God has dealt with me? What if love wasn’t such a contest? What if relationship wasn’t driven by, “What’s in it for me?” What did God really get for loving us? Think on that one for a while and see if it ever makes sense. Or maybe that’s just it. Love is not about making sense. It is about giving your absolute best even in your absolute worst. Maybe your best is serving me bacon and eggs instead of ice cream. Maybe the treat is that someone cares enough to serve me at all. Maybe this isn’t about keeping score. Maybe it is more about simply living to giving. God so loved and He gave. It doesn’t get better than that!





LIFE SIMPLIFIED!

15 09 2017

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It was seventeen years ago today that my Dad graduated to Heaven. I was there with him for his final moments on Earth. I adored my Father. He was my hero and friend and while I know that cancer was doing a number on his body, I still hated to see him go. People say that, “time heals all wounds.” I respectfully disagree. Time doesn’t heal squat. Time only reveals how big a hole in our soul that our loved ones leave behind after they are gone. I still dream of my Pop every night. I hear his voice in my ears and I see his face in my reflection. I long for the ability just to talk with him and be able to bounce off of him my daily plans and problems. What I wouldn’t give for ten more minutes to be together. There are moments when I know that eternity can’t get here fast enough.

 Why do we human beings take each other for granted? Why do we have to wait until it is too late to realize the measure of the treasure of what we do have? When will we ever get it through our thick heads that life is about people and not possessions? Why do we whine about all that we don’t have when we should be humbly worshipping God over every simple blessing that we have been given? Why do we miss the chance to dance while the music is playing? Why does it take us to get to the point of regret over all the open doors we missed going through because we were too busy banging on the passage ways that were clearly locked? If today is the day to be fully alive then it is of utmost importance that we don’t get bogged down by yesterday’s failures or overwhelmed by tomorrow’s future worries.

 When I was a younger man, I was always on the move. I felt like if I wasn’t constantly on the go, I was wasting my time. I am pretty much content now just to live, move and be right here in Cape May County. I don’t have to be a world traveler anymore. I don’t need to get my “City Fix,” like I used to. I was just driving to Camden over the weekend to do a Wedding at the Aquarium and the traffic alone made me long to turn around and come on home. I kept going and I am sure that Jeff and Heather were grateful that I stayed the course.

 I think I have finally learned that experiencing genuine joy is not so much tied to where I go as much as it is attached to who I am. And if my joy is anchored in the Lord then I don’t have to worry about anyone or anything taking it away. The joy of the Lord has actually become my strength no matter what I do. The joy of the Lord can even be expressed through my mourning and my tears. I have found his joy in depression, anxiety and dismal times. When I discover that my life is energized and fueled only by my relationship with Jesus, then as long as he ignites my light, my shine should never be dimmed. Everything on this earth comes to an end. Maybe that is why we are always restless and yearning and reaching for more. What if God was the more that we have always been stretching for?

 I have been married for 35 years. I have been in full time ministry the same amount of time. But I can tell you that I am not the same man I was when either of these journeys began. I look in the eyes of my wife and I consider myself beyond blessed by having such a beautiful woman by my side. I know I married way over my head. And I don’t ever want to let a day go by without telling Terri how much she means to me. I am also a different kind of Pastor. Ministry is only as meaningful as I am listening to the Lord’s voice so I may follow his lead. I have been guilty, as many of us have been; of telling God what I was going to do rather than waiting on him to point me in the right direction. And there are moments that I know God is in the midst and even though nobody else may ever know, I know that I am following in the steps of my Master.

 As a matter of fact, the holiest experience of the wedding that I just officiated had nothing to do with me at all. It happened at the reception. Heather and Jeff had taken the time to study dancing before they came together as husband and wife for their first glide across the floor. The song was a classic from Randy Travis called, “Look Heart, No Hands.” And it was just as if Heather and Jeff were the only two in the room. We had all disappeared. And in perfect steps, with the admiration and pride beaming through the eyes of these newlyweds, love was alive and well right before our eyes. I had tears in my eyes and a satisfaction in my heart that these two are so good for each other. I had not just performed a wedding. I had witnessed the miracle of God making two into one. I will never forget this as long as I live!

 My Dad’s most famous words to me were, “Show them Jesus!” Whether I was hanging out at home, off to school, going to work or competing on the ball field, my Father expected me to be like Jesus. I know how to show others Jesus because Dad showed him so well to me. Jesus knew how to make somebody feel like they were the only one in the world who mattered. Jesus did that for me and I want to do that for others. So maybe success can simply be summed up in this phrase, “He is like Jesus.” “She is like her Lord.” I feel like if I don’t miss a beat, I may very well have a divinely assigned front row seat to not miss life while it is occurring. Now go and do it slow, so that you won’t miss God’s daily bread prepared just for you, while you were planning your own menu!