Saturday, January 28, 2017


I’ve not always been a pastor. My first full-time job was at our county’s court house while working part time at law office that eventually became my full time job while going to night school to become a paralegal where I worked 7 years. I remember the first paycheck I received from full-time employment and the joy of writing a check to pay my tithe (donating 10% of your income to the church you’re attending as taught in the Bible) then going shopping for clothes with my sister at Hills Department Store in the Lincoln Knolls Plaza.

While I had been an active volunteer at my church throughout the 7 years working at the law office, one day I became a full time employee at the church in a clerical role that included bookkeeping. (that career transition is another story).  As bookkeeper, every Monday morning, I sat at the computer for several hours entering the data from contribution envelopes received that previous Sunday. That’s the way donations got designated to the category as marked and the contributor got a giving statement at the end of the year for tax purposes. It wasn’t unusual to end up having an encounter with God that would bring me to tears during that Monday morning process. These envelopes came from people I knew well and I got an inside view into how they worshipped God with their finances.

Who would think a person would have a spiritual encounter with God to the point of tears while processing tithe envelopes. But it happened often.
  • A mother of young children going through a divorce and continues to tithe plus keeps her commitment to give $20 a month to missions. “Oh, Lord, please help this family,” I would pray.
  • A widow received life insurance proceeds because her husband just died and she tithed on the proceeds. That will make you cry.  Because she’s grieving?   Because the church is getting blessed?  Because she’s trusting the Lord at an incredibly difficult season of her life? Yes, yes, and yes.
  • A prosperous businessman. a gainfully employed laborer at the nearby auto factory, a two-income family,  (you fill in the blank) continues to just throw chump change at God’s work or never gives. “Lord, help them to grow spiritually and learn to trust You with their finances.”   I would pray for the non-tithers with compassion because neglecting to tithe always comes back to “I can’t trust God to do more with my obedient  90%  than I can do on my own with 100% of my income.”
  • We had a retired missionary on staff and I knew what he earned weekly because I also wrote the church checks.  When I came to his envelope, it would be marked up, first with his tithe, then on the front and the back with missionaries to which he donated. That would make me tear up every time. That also contributed to the passion I carry for missions to this day.
  • When our senior pastor would say from the pulpit “please join my wife and I in giving to…”  then he’d name the cause, he was modeling good leadership publicly. Then I would get to see it modeled privately on their offering envelope as they followed through and gave as generously as anyone. Friends, that’s leadership.

I remember a day in October, 2002 while opening the mail that I opened an envelope containing a check from our network office to help us start Rockside Church where I now serve. It included an offering from a missionary who wanted to help us start our church. The soberness of that moment that we were now on the receiving side of other’s sacrificial giving caused me to stop in my tracks and sob. (it also causes me to use coupons for church purchases to this day, but that’s another story too).

Three decades later from those Mondays as a bookkeeper to the church I now pastor, someone else gets the blessing of processing contribution envelopes and mailing out giving statements and I choose not to look. But money still makes me cry as I see the faithfulness of God in the lives of people when they trust the Lord with all of their lives … including their money.

Monday, December 14, 2015

my movie review of "the Letters"

Last night I saw the movie The Letters. I recommend it and will offer my “two cents” on it:
·         I noticed Mother Teresa responded to those who opposed her, both within the church and outside the church. She went to God in prayer first; defended for the glory of God but not for her personal reputation; showed bravery in the face of enemies even when she was afraid; Spoke boldly when needed; asked for help from the men in her life when needed.
·         Mother Teresa was able to work within the religious system she was in (diocese of the Catholic Church) and still obey what God was asking her to do personally which was to leave the cloistered convent, care for the sick and dying of Calcutta and eventually start a new congregation/order (church planting).  I have hope that our denominations and institutions can partner with people who are hearing God’s direction for their lives.
·         I found it interesting that those evaluating her life for sainthood were so surprised and taken back with the darkness/depression/doubt Mother Teresa battled that were expressed in her letters.  That’s really pretty normal considering the challenging assignment she was carrying, physically and spiritually. Their response may speak more to their own lack of understanding of mental health, having an easier assignment or unfamiliarity with the transparency of Mother Teresa’s letter writing.
·         She didn’t set out with a goal to build and establish all that she did but rather sought to be obedient to God day by day.  That’s a different leadership model than we often find in ministry today.
·         Everything about her life started with prayer. How different things might have been had it not been for that significant train ride to a prayer retreat.
·         I don’t remember any use of the Bible by Mother Teresa being shown.
·         It was interesting the use God made of the waiting periods as letters were exchanged and how different that is today with our instant electronic communication. Sometimes it would serve me well to not be able to hit “send” so fast.  What might we be missing from God and His building of our patience and character with today’s instant communication?

The acting was good by Juliet Stevenson. The pace was slow at times but overall, well done and worth seeing for sure!

Friday, September 4, 2015

My movie review of WAR ROOM

What did I think about the movie WAR ROOM? Well, I can’t just give a thumbs up or down on this one because I want to tell you what I liked about it and what I didn’t like about the movie. If you go see it, watch for these points and make a few notables of your own:

I liked how true friends held each other accountable and called one another out in love.  Michael got in the face of his friend, Tony while they were working out in the gym and asked him straight up questions, even when he got push back about it. Miss Clara said to Elizabeth something like “we have an hour together are you going to sit there and complain about your husband or are we going to talk to God?”  That kind of loving honesty made a difference.

If we only pray our personal preferences and how we think things should turn out in our limited knowledge, we’re treating regarding prayer like a vending machine.  Elizabeth was taught by her mentor to write out scriptures and agree with God’s nature and will expressed in the Bible when praying.

The pastor’s role was very minimal, almost non-existent. I liked that. At the beginning of the movie, The Jordan family sat through the Sunday service as nominal Christians, sporadic in attendance, far from God and going through the motions. They  The pastor has a part, but the bigger role goes to YOU as a Christian friend through the week.
were exposed to God by individuals in their daily lives (client, friend, mentor, co-worker) in response to believing prayer.

Sure, God is present everywhere. But a designated “war room” Miss Clara used for years was space the next owner of that home sensed as special territory.  The prayer closet Elizabeth designated and developed over time was an important part of the story.  At a tipping point of courage, Elizabeth declared her kitchen and dining room and entire home as space where Christ was King and satan was no longer welcome.

The viewer could be left with conflict over two issues. #1 “Why doesn’t God answer my prayers that quickly?” To that I would say, may God give us patience to walk out in real time what a movie only had 120 minutes to depict. It’s the movies!  #2 “What do you say to the person who prays like Elizabeth yet doesn’t get the desired outcome like the movie shows?” That’s a hard one. It helps to remember that individuals still have a free will to choose. It happened that the characters in this story yielded to God’s appeal to them in response to believing prayer.  Here’s the win for any Christian who wars in prayer.  Anytime we draw nearer to God in prayer, that right there is the win for us!  Sometimes the outcome isn’t what we want. Sometimes it’s not what God wanted.   And when it is not, we still win because we’ve gained a relationship with God in prayer that helps us walk out whatever the circumstances that are in our story.

Bottom line, I loved WAR ROOM and hope you go see it while it’s still in the theaters to give support for more movies with a message!

Monday, August 31, 2015


When I worked in a law office in Youngstown, I remember just wanting to get out of the office at lunch time.  There was so much to pray about and so much I needed from God by mid-day. I often would get in my car with my packed lunch and Bible, drive to a nearby church parking lot and spend my lunch hour praying. Had the sanctuary of that Church building been open, I would have gladly gone inside to pray, especially on those cold Northeast Ohio days when I’d have to keep my car running to stay warm.

At least in the movies, many Catholic churches seem to keep their sanctuaries open for the next passerby wanting to pray.  Seems like a great idea to me!

So we’re trying something we’ve never done before. During September on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11 AM to 1 PM, our church’s meeting space (sanctuary) is open to the public to simply seek God in prayer and worship.  Our sanctuary fronts Rockside Road in an office building surrounded by 35,000 business professionals. What a perfect opportunity to slip in whether for 15-20 minutes or the whole time and talk to God and hear from Him.

With minimal structure, we’ll simply provide live worship music, a chance to pray and meditate and hear brief encouragements about God. Bottled water and coffee will be provided and you’re welcome to bring your own lunch to eat and spend your lunch break with God.  Bring a Bible or borrow one from our table. Listen to God’s voice and pour your heart out to Him.

Think about this with me! How might September be different for you personally and for the business community of Greater Cleveland if we carve out mid-day breaks to hear from God and seek Him?  I can’t wait to see what God does with this idea of His!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Depression in December

For those of us in the people-helping arena, it's no secret that depression is highest in December more than any other month of the year. Here are a few tips that I've found helpful.

1)      LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS.  They may be justified and good expectations. But that space between your reality and your mental expectations is where depression lives. Holiday movies, facebook posts or Christmas newsletters create a snapshot of high points that can't portray the full story that includes challenge and investment.

2)      MAKE NEW MEMORIES WHILE HONORING THE PAST. Nostalgia can become a dangerous trap if we get locked into yesteryear.  Glance back, remember, thank God for what was good, be realistic about what was not … then be fully present today. Today is a gift for fresh experiences and new memories.

3)      WATCH FOR SOMEONE YOU CAN BLESS.   You have something to offer that will touch someone. Watch for it.

4)    FIND SPACE TO FEEL.   If you try to ignore or stuff your emotions, they often come out sideways in other forms (e.g. anger, shutting down, addictive behaviors, illness).  Another option is to go off and find some space to feel. Whether it's reflective journaling, listening to music, having a good cry or taking a crisp winter walk/run, finding space to feel can bring freedom, mostly if Jesus is invited to join you.  While you talk with Jesus listen to Him and let Him GIFT YOU with His extreme love for you. It was out of love for you that Jesus came on that first Christmas and He's alive and waiting to be invited into your space.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Comin' Home, Comin' Home, Lord I'm Comin' Home!!! (Welcome, LeBron James!)

I am absolutely thrilled about today’s news that LeBRON JAMES is coming home to play for Cleveland!  The "team" I’m on prays for Cleveland  around 7 areas* and one of them is SPORTS & ENTERTAINMENT.  Why? Because it matters.  All things are spiritual, even NBA basketball.

Just as God used both believing and unbelieving Kings in the Old Testament to accomplish His purposes, God continues to advance His will and respond to believing prayers through the lives of people from all walks of life.

When God calls people to make a difference in this world, He’s not just looking for pastors, priests and other clergy.  God is calling mayors, musicians, moms, marines (okay, I’ll leave the m’s) teachers, beauty pageant winners, nurses and, yes, even basketball players to make a difference with the talent and opportunities given to them by God.

In today's Essay by LeBron James, he addresses  his understanding of his calling when he says “But this is not about the roster or the organization. I feel my calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously. My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I’m from.”

Just a few other notables from his essay released today that caught my attention. It appears that  …

1) LeBron is growing and changing as a person. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn’t realize that four years ago. I do now.”

2) LeBron is grateful … “Miami, for me, has been almost like college for other kids. These past four years helped raise me into who I am … Without the experiences I had there, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing today.”

3) LeBron knows being a great athlete and a better man are not one in the same. “ … I became a better player and a better man.”

4) LeBron cares about his family when he says 'But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it woudl be like to raise my family i nmy hometown."

5) LeBron  set a good example of resolving conflict well, face to face, offering and receiving forgiveness. He writes "i've met with Dan, face-to-face, man-to-man. We've talked ti out. Everybody makes mistakes. I've made mistakes as well. Who am I to hold a grudge?"

That’s about LeBron. Now how about us, the fans of Cleveland.  

Have you ever seen a city more hungry to hold high a King of Hope, more wanting to worship a hero, more certain we need a savior? Those are good desires when aimed at Creator of the Universe, our Almighty God through his Son, Christ Jesus. But they’re dangerous when misdirected. How many more Judeo-Christian play-on-words can marketers use? (The Return, King James, Witness, For6iven, The Kingdom Restored, Coming Home, the Chosen One, Believe.)   So what’s on us, as fans, to keep in focus?  Well, let’s remember a few things.

  • Let’s remember LeBron James is a 29 year old dad/husband/son … just a man.  He’s a young man who has, for the most part, done a good job at navigating the trappings our culture imposes upon professional sports personalities.  So on our part as fans, no more name calling, no boo-ing and no Messianic expectations of a mere mortal.
  • Let’s remember that IDOLATRY offends the Lord. It’s one of the 10 commandments.  LeBron is a great athlete to be admired, a man to be prayed for … but certainly not an idol to bow down to.
  • Let’s remember there’s only one King who’s the Savior of the world and His name is Christ Jesus.
  • Let’s remember it’s only a game. NBA is entertainment, not our life! Unless you’re employed by the industry, it might be time to get back to work. Don’t let this consume you.  We all have a calling from God and it’s probably not to be a full-time NBA fan.
 There's no place like home ... and we're not there yet. 

*Seven prayer mountains: Sports & Entertainment, Business, Government, Media, Education, Family, Churches & Faith.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


I rarely click on videos people post on facebook, but this one caught my attention. Maybe it’s my love and history with choirs. When I played it, I was deeply moved to tears and played it a second time (also something I never do).

What was it about this college choir on a plane singing “Give Me Jesus” that got to me?  There’s no place like a delayed plane on a tarmac to cause a large quantity of busy and diverse people to come to a screeching hault … together.  And in that pause, a message of simplicity about Divinity intersected via music.  Amazing.

But it was more than that.  Those lyrics … “you can have all of this world, just give me Jesus” …  pierced soul that has been wearied by this week’s current events.

On Tuesday, it was the Supreme Court’s hearing of the case against Hobby Lobby about whether first amendment (religious liberties) applies to for-profit corporations.  Then World Vision captured the attention when they changed their employment policy regarding hiring gay married couples then reversed it 2 days later. Right now, the theaters are playing NOAH, SON OF GOD, GOD’S NOT DEAD all at the same time. Attention (good and bad) is being drawn to Christians.  Debate is ensuing among Christians.  People I love and respect on opposing sides of issues. With blogging, facebook, texting, etc., words fly more fast and freely than any time in history.   We will never again be at a loss for one more opinion or perspective on any topic.  At times, it’s exhausting!  It causes me to long for greater revelation of the person of Jesus Christ and to just be with Him?  “Just give me Jesus.” I think I’ll hit play one more time. “…. Just give me Jesus.”