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.





MOUNTAIN MOVING FAITH

1 11 2021

Have you ever noticed how many times God meets His people with powerful performances while they are hanging out with Him way above sea level? Mountains are majestic but they can become life changing miraculous monuments when God is leading the expedition you signed up for.    

Let me throw a few examples your way from the pages of Scripture to illustrate where holy power meets plain and ordinary people peaking full force while they were placed on the pinnacle parts of this planet! Noah’s Ark lands up on Mount Ararat after the days of floods in the forecast come to a close. Abraham receives his son Isaac back when God supplies an alternate sacrifice hid in a thicket up in the hills. Moses met the Lord on Mount Sinai and chatted with the Holy One as one talks to a friend. David tended sheep and wrote some pretty memorable love sonnets while he was out there elevated above the everyday nuisances and noise coming from way down in the town. Elijah experienced a miraculous victory on Mount Carmel when he was both outnumbered and under equipped battling the false prophets of Baal who would have swallowed him whole if he didn’t win the day. Jesus gave three of His Disciples a sneak peak of coming attractions when the Lord was transfigured right before the eyes at the supernatural summit with their Savior. Let’s just say that if you are looking for a divine destination, going up is a wise choice of direction.

Back in the old days, humans believed that the mountains were the sacred home of all they could not understand. Rather than cry out to the One who created the Alps, they said their prayers to the creation and not the Creator. It would be like me sitting on my front porch here on 2nd Street in Shamokin singing songs of selfless devotion to the Coal Mountain that sits on my horizon. Can you hear me chanting, “Come on Your Hilliness! Please remove the hellishness from my wounded heart!”   

But as the Psalms say, it is not the ridges of high altitude from where my true rescue comes from! If I want my love to be lifted up to where it belongs, it must reach higher than what I can see with my earthly eyes! I need lots more than a positive attitude and godlike goggles. I need faith in the One who either has the capacity to either blow that mound of rocks to smithereens or invites me to go on a journey with Him that will literally alter my universe! Going to the altar may be hazardous to your comfort zones! Maybe the real assignment is not relocating to safer terrain but allowing the Lord to turn the obstacle before me to become a launching pad that transforms me.  

The last I checked, even the so called, “Good Old Days,” that the poets wax eloquently about had its share of war, depression, sickness, and disappointments. As the Israelites learned the hard way, just because there may be giants of grief in the land doesn’t mean that the Lord longs for you to back up into your bunker forever. When you choose to not worship God in the specific ways that He leads you; you can expect to be filled with whining as you wander aimlessly in the wilderness. Hasn’t this pandemic kept way too many believers preoccupied and paralyzed by the fear around them that they are ignoring the God who promises to get them safely home to the promised land? Because of the Old Testament Hebrews resistance and rebellion against the Lord, their ancestors died in the desert rather than dining on the milk and honey of paradise. You can’t have it both ways. Either the mountains become a dead end and a death wish or they can be a divine appointment to deeper appreciation of the God who really loves you.  

Let me close with a true story to inform you what a little mountain climbing with the Master can result in. A small congregational church in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains built a new building on a piece of land that was left to them by a  member who had recently passed. Ten days before the congregation’s new home was to open, the local government inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for the size of the building. Unless they immediately doubled the size of the parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary.

Unfortunately, the house of worship with its undersized parking lot had used every inch of their land except for a mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to literally move a mountain out of their back yard. Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all the attenders who owned a “mountain-moving faith”. There was going to be a prayer meeting with punch and purpose. They cried out to Jesus and asked Him to show up as they looked up so nobody would give up on the way!

Sadly, only 24 of the congregation’s 300 members came together! But God doesn’t need a standing room only crowd to crush the giants in the land. The faithful flock prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o’clock the pastor said the final ‘Amen’. “We’ll open next Sunday as scheduled,” he assured everyone. “God has never let us down before, and I believe He’s got something up His sleeve that will blow us all away.

The next morning as the minister who trusted his Lord in a mountain moving sized proportion was working in his study there came a loud knock at his door. When he called “come in”, a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered. “Excuse me, Reverend. I’m from the local construction company over in the next county. We’re building a huge new shopping mall over there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a chunk of that mountain behind the church? We’ll pay you for the dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge if we can have it right away. We can’t do anything else until we get the dirt in and allow it to settle properly.’ And as God designed it, the grand opening of that little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with “mountain-moving faith” on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week. Faith can move mountains! Can it move you?





JOEL’S FALL BREAK SOUL MINING

20 10 2021

As I write this column, I am getting ready to drive to Upland, Indiana tomorrow. It is the beginning of Fall Break for the students at Taylor University and my youngest son Joel attends there. Joel is our youngest son and a true gift to my wife Terri and I.

Our oldest child Rudy was born in August of 1986. Today he is a Pastor in Ebensburg, Pennsylvania where he lives with his wife Lindsey and their three children Jude, Gideon, and Eden. Terri and I were married in December of 1982 and we both wanted children from the get-go. In the early days, we would hide the hurt when people prodded, “Why don’t you two have any kids yet?”  Unfortunately, Terri suffered not one but two miscarriages in 1983 and again in 1984. I remember the night when our second baby was taken so early and how I cried out to God in the emergency room of a Morristown, NJ Hospital. I can honestly say that as I brought all my “Why’s” to Heaven, I heard the Lord whisper back, “The secret things belong to Me and I’m going to need you to trust Me even when you don’t understand why things are happening as they are.”

You can imagine the immense joy that we shared when all was well with our first-born baby boy. I know I was singing that classic Motown song by Marvin Gaye, “Pride and Joy” at the top of my lungs! Our two daughters Leah and Abbie followed in 1988 and 1991. I have a very special relationship with my now adult girls. I not only got to walk them down the aisle at their weddings but turned I around and officiated the ceremonies.

But not all is sunshine, lollipops, and roses in the lives of those who follow God. In 1995, on April 5th, our Son Nicholas Paul was gone in a flash with no rhyme or reason. In 1999, it was déjà vu of the worst variety when Benjamin Phillip on March 7th, came into the world only to leave it before we even got the chance to blink. Terri and I were dazed and confused and felt like big chunks of our heart were ripped right from our chests. I never stopped believing in God. Without faith, what hope would we have to ever see our boys again? We did learn the lesson loud and clear that life is not fair and living here on earth comes with terrible trials and tragic happenings. There are very real holes that nobody and nothing will ever fill this side of glory. I just determined that I would cherish the children God did allow us to raise and look forward to the day when I would be reunited with those I only received a glimpse of.

You can imagine the shock when in late 2002, we discovered that Terri was pregnant again. The doctors all advised abortion as the only option. They showed statistics and expertly rationalized why it made no sense to put ourselves through the horror of yet another heartache. I have compassion for those who have been pressured into doing something that maybe now they regret. I just knew that Terri and I were going to fight for this little life until God declared the race completed. I am a Minister but my prayer that day I said in the Hospital Chapel in Cape May County was rated R for language. I poured out my gut to God and begged Him for grace, mercy, and strength no matter what the outcome might be.

On July 30, 2003, Joel Thomas Sheptock was born. Once again, I held my breath. Once again, I took nothing for granted. The only physical issue that night was that his body temperature was not high enough, but rather than put him in a machine, they gave him to me, and I held him as close to my chest as space allowed.  For those of you who don’t know me, I don’t need you to buy me any sweaters because I am a sweater! I run hot and hotter. I am the guy who sleeps with the fan on in February. I am the one who runs through the snow in his boxers in pure delight. Since I have been taking hormone shots to battle my cancer, the hot flashes have raised my heat to a whole new level. Joel got toasty in a jiffy.

Joel is 18 years old now and is studying to be a Youth Pastor and Worship Leader. He is 17 years younger than his older brother, but they remain close. When he came into the world, he didn’t just have 1 Mother but throw in his 2 older sisters and he had 3. I would tell him there was only one voice that mattered and that was the one who carried him through hell and highwater to get him to life safely. Joel amazes me constantly. He looks at an instrument and begins to play it as if I am listening to a CD. While I am only efficient at breaking things, Joel can put anything back together better than it was in the first place. He was in the top five academically in his high school class. I was in the top 100! What I am trying to say, while others might complain about having to drive 8 hours in the morning to become a chauffer for his child, I count it a privilege and can’t wait to spend that precious time together in the car. They said that he would never be, and we gave God the final word.

In the Bible, the man named Job once said, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord. He gives and takes away.” I know that song well. There have been some seasons when I could have authored another verse all by myself. There have been dark nights of utter agony on my journey with no guarantees of a happy ending. Yet, I am still here and going to get Joel tomorrow! That’s worth celebrating! Before I close, I have rested in another statement made by Job, “I know that my Redeemer lives!” Life may try to steal my joy and hijack my song, but there are lyrics that God knows are safely kept between Him and me. And long after the band of this world has quit playing, I will dance on to the tune that Jesus wrote just for me. Do you know the one He has written just for you?

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.





DOING THE WALK OF LIFE

12 10 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





ANTIQUING IN SHAMOKIN

8 10 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





GLORY DAYS FOR GRANDPA

1 10 2021

SOUL MINING WITH PASTOR RUDY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





WHAT’S GOING ON?

20 09 2021

SOUL MINING WITH PASTOR RUDY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





WHAT IS YOUR STORY?

6 07 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is wrong with me?

Why couldn’t I experience real freedom?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about you?

Will you?





THE OLDIES PASTOR AND THE SOUNDS OF SUMMER!

18 06 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





IT’S TIME…

19 05 2021
Let Go Let GOD Photograph by Jeffrey Platt

SPEAKING IN THE LIGHT WITH PASTOR RUDY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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