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The Edge of Despair or Victory?

Today I reach out to all of those who seem torn in life. You feel like you are on the edge of a cliff. Too often you feel like you are teetering between life and death, light and darkness, despair and victory. If you identify with these statements, then you know what I am talking about. If you don’t then please read as I am sure you live with or have a relationship with someone who does.



People who struggle with this feel jittery inside – like they drank too much coffee when they have had none. Non-planned times can be soothing but just as often they ratchet up the fear inside. It is hard for them to enjoy ‘now’ because they are scrutinizing where they have been, wondering if they are ready for where they are going or fearful if they will even make it there.


How do you live when you battle these feelings? In the past 50 years of my life I have had to learn a few important things that have not only helped me survive at times but even thrive despite them. Here you go. I hope they help you or someone you love.


It really is all about Christ. I am not foolish enough to think that there are many other things that help navigate my struggles (exercise, diet, sunlight, counselors and even medications can help) but I am completely convinced that if I did not, moment by moment, have the firm foundation that I am Christ’s and He has a purpose for this dysfunctional human being, I would be lost.


Systems help you move from ‘survive’ to ‘thrive.’ Systems are things that help you focus, bring a smile to your face, and give you that layer of protection when you feel helpless. They can make a huge difference when the darkness seems to press in on you. As I found the things that help me most, I have also found how important it is to write them down. I write out the non-negotiables of my life and the practical ways I can implement them. This is vital to me. My systems may not work for you, but I am happy to share them.


You are NOT alone. For too long I thought that no one else felt the way I did. That was a lie. I have met many that struggle with the same thing I do or a variation of it.


Be willing to share your struggles. The reason I felt like I was alone is that too many feel like if they share they will be deemed lesser, weaker, broken and even contagious. If you struggle, find platforms to share your story. It really is a God Story that will help others feel hopeful.


Never, Ever, Ever quit. Yes, each day may be a battle, or you may go weeks feeling “normal” again, but there will be times when you will feel like it is no longer worth the fight. You might thing the world would be better without you and that you are just too tired to keep at it. LIES, LIES, LIES!!!!! The truth is that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. No, I do not know why you struggle when others don’t, but I do know God has a purpose and a plan and WILL give you the ability and tools to not just get through today but to see God at work in and through you!!


I hope my experience can help you or someone you care about. You may never leave the edge but you can start to enjoy the view😊



Knockdown, drag out

If you come from any church background you may very well have either experienced or heard about a church business meeting that turned into a bloody battlefield. The cutting words, sharp remarks, selfish agendas and bullying is sickening. I have only been exposed to a couple of these horrific scenes and have been determined ever since we started UPCC to be as up front, transparent and interactive as possible as a church. Of course, it all starts at the top. I must set the standard. There have certainly been times I have gotten angry in Elder’s meetings. I have even had to ask forgiveness once or twice, but I believe the other Elders would attest that my track record shows we have a safe, spirited, open and loving environment in our Elder’s meetings.

Today we had an Elder Workshop. We set aside four dates a year to work on agenda items that are too cumbersome for our regular monthly meetings. As usual we had some big issues to discuss. As usual there was not initially 100% agreement on some topics. However, as we concluded the workshop we had seen God work in our hearts, unite our spirits and work in our midst. It was healthy, God focused and productive.

How do you create an environment where you can disagree, share your honest and heartfelt opinions and remain united? Since the beginning we have tried to do a few things that help. We always start in the Word and in prayer. This sets a foundation of cooperation and God centeredness. If we hit an issue that we can not immediately resolve, then we commit to prayer and sometimes fasting and table the item. I have never seen a time where after that God has not brought about united hearts on the issue. Last, you cannot just serve with each other – you have to know each other. Each of our Elders are in an accountability group with other Elders. This cultivates closeness and transparent relationships that carry over to our meeting times.

I would encourage all of you in leadership to make sure you strive to set up standards to practice as you commit to doing His work for your local body and the greater Kingdom. It will not only save you a lot of headaches, it will also create a great foundation to build on for the whole church.


A look in the rearview mirror

I just got back from my bi-annual trip to Off the Wall Ohio. What is Off the Wall? It is a 24/7 real life discipleship ministry. There are about 40 young adults living, serving, learning and growing together in community. I have the privilege of being on the board of this organization, so each year, two times a year I head out to New Philly, Ohio. Two of my sons went through OTW and now live out there, so I have even more reason to go. So, I teach a few classes, sometimes get plugged into church out there, spend time with the students, connect with the leaders and love every, busy minute of it.

As I look back on my last trip. I got back just in time for our “wanna be” snow storm. I had a few reflections I thought I would share.

The greatest gift my children can give me is their time. In a unique situation that only God could put together I got to spend a few days with all four of my kids. Wow!! I love seeing them laugh together, roll their eyes when they hear me tell “my stories” again, share experiences with them and talk with them about the little and big things of life. Cherish your time with your kids. It passes quickly. Be willing to spend money, look silly, drive hours, get up early, stay up late and even roll your eyes at them. It is worth it. You will have plenty of heartache and some glorious memories so grab onto all of them.

You will always be the parent, so keep pursuing. Most kids don’t pursue a relationship with their parents. Some do but most don’t. They can somehow be on the phone all the time but not return your text…. ever. They grow up, but they are still your kids. You want a relationship with them? You call, you text, you write, you give gifts, you drive miles. You be the parent.

Young adults want you to speak into their lives, but you must be willing to go into their world. I love spending time with the OTW students. I love to hear their stories. I love to ask them questions. I love to be in their world. They want to have you invest in them, but they are scared, insecure, uncomfortable and often hurt. So, go into their world, talk less and listen more, you will be amazed at how awesome it can be.

Seriously consider a GAP year. There are a few young adults that have known what they wanted to be since birth. At least it seems like that. However, most kids do not. Why not change society’s view and start encouraging our kids to make sure they get Jesus and get real life before they head off to college. I am not saying never go but one year in an intense, relationship grounding, boots on the ground experience can be life changing and very maturing. It may not be for everyone but are you at least willing to pray and consider it?

Off the Wall is hard but it is easy. The leaders pour into lives at convenient and inconvenient times. They raise their own support, study hard, listen long and guide relentlessly. That is hard, but it is easy when you know it is life changing for so many. The students wear the stigma of not going to a traditional school, get shoved out of their comfort zone, learn loads, serve others and acquire life skills. It is hard but is easy. Anytime you are willing to get out of your comfort zone, you will find out how hard it is but also how easy it can be. So why not trust me and try it? I promise you, it will impact you in Kingdom ways.

Those are a few of my reflections. Make sure you take time to reflect as you have opportunities like I did. Hope my glances will help you in your life.



Forget half full or empty…what if you don’t even have a glass?

Optimist, pessimist, half full, half empty. Probably since the world began there have been debates and opinions about how we view the world. I am not sure we will ever fully get it right, but I do know that there are more than two categories. So, in today’s blog I am going to share a little about the third category and then a little about getting a God view of life.


There are those in life that live in such despair that they don’t view the world through a positive or negative lens but a “life is a dark hole” lens. Every day is a battle to even get up. Overwhelming physical pain, deep emotional pain, dark unrelenting mental health pain. All of these put some people into a category of “survival by their fingertips”. These individuals do not need our counsel, answers or solutions. They just need to know we love them and will never leave them. There will be a time they will reach out to you for more than that, but for now just be there for them.


Now if you are a glass half full or half empty kind of person let me challenge you today. In life there are way too many people who are problem centered instead of solution focused, as an old friend of mine used to say. God has not called us to be the bleak doomsayers of the day. We are called to help people see God’s answers in the midst of a sin-cursed world. Negativity is a perspective that leads a Christian to view the world through the lens of the devil. He says, “This journey ends in destruction”. However, a solution focused mindset always keeps the beauty of the Gospel and my good God’s character at the forefront. This then changes the way I think, act and live.


You will live out how you view yourself. If you are fully embracing that the God of the universe saved you, sent the Holy Spirit to live in you at the point of salvation, and that He has a purpose for your existence on this earth, then how can you not say, “I am here for God’s glory, so how can I help others see and serve Him more clearly today?”



Pancakes & Jesus

I had come to a point in my life where most of my digging in the Word was becoming academic. I was losing the wonder of the Scriptures that I had in my earlier years. How could I change that, though?

At the same time, I was wrestling with that perennial problem, “Wow, does this area of church ever need cleaning!” We had tons of butter (figuratively speaking) and syrup left over from our annual Easter breakfast. That was when it hit me. I could use up the leftover supplies and get refreshed in my enthusiasm for the Word at the same time! You see, I have always found that I do best when I have someone alongside of me or at least with me in my focus. So, I asked a group of guys to come alongside of me. I would make pancakes and sausage once a month, we would all study a section of Scripture and come together to discuss insights, get perspectives and answer questions.

That was how Pancakes & Jesus started. Today was our monthly time to get together and after two hours flew by I was once again in awe of the beauty, complexity, information packed and challenging Word of God.

I encourage you to find what is the best way you can stay fresh in the Word and do it. It has been life changing for me and I am sure it can be for you to!!


This is the day the Lord has made…

Today I was driving through the hilly countryside of southeastern PA. It was a windy, chilly January day. As I drove past the harsh landscape it seemed like some of the gusts were reaching through my window in an attempt to chill me to the bone. The sky was gray and the landscape sat in its winter slumber. It certainly was not putting me in a good mood but then this verse hit me: “This is the day that God made, YOU are commanded to rejoice and be glad about it” (Buckley version😊).


It hit me hard. Each day is a gift from God. Some are exactly the way I like them, and some the way others do but all are exactly the way God wanted them. I get anxious, frustrated and even a little down about certain days purely because of the weather. How sad. God gave today as a gift. He knows that the wind will dry up the recent rain; He knows that winter allows the earth to sleep so that spring will burst forth with magnificent colors and smells.


I have been given the gift of today and so have you. Today will now be what you make of it. You might love the way it feels and looks or even hate it but it is still a gift with a purpose, just like your life is. Today may seem bleak to you even with the sun out. Today may seem spectacular during a downpour. Yes, there are some people that are physiologically affected by the weather but for most of us we just are not looking at the day through God’s eyes. Life might be hard, you may feel bad, but today is still a gift to be cherished. On the days you cannot seem to find the energy to love the day, focus on loving the God who made the day and cherish Him. This is the day that He has made. Take time to stop and embrace it and be glad about it!!


Thanks Bob. You will be missed.

When UPCC began the only paid staff member was, yep, you got it right. Me. Before long the ministry quickly grew, we desperately needed some help and God brought Bob and Hannah Lewis on board. He was working a full-time job but agreed to work with our youth. We started paying him to help one day a week and then as we continued to grow so did his paid time with us. Finally, he quit his old job and became our second full time paid staff member. Bob has worn many hats in his time here. Youth leader, admin king, janitor, building and finance guy and so on and so forth. You know, all the regular wearing of many hats that all pastors do. As he learned the ministry he was always that quiet, behind the scenes support we could count on. I am so very grateful that God allowed him to join us.

As time passed and we crossed the eight-year mark as a church, Bob and his wife Hannah also passed many milestones, their most recent being parenthood. In evaluating their lives, God prompted Bob to start looking for a job that could provide at a higher level than he was getting paid so that they could meet some family goals. He found a job and will be wrapping up his time mid-February here at UPCC. We are so glad that he and Hannah and their little guy George will be staying on as members and Bob as a lay Elder. I am deeply grateful for Bob and although I am sad to see him leave being a paid Elder, I am thrilled that he and his family will still be with us for what we all hope is many years to come. Blessings on you Bob and Hannah. Thank you for all you did. Pray for them as they transition and pray for us as we look to find a new staff member to join our family!!

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