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I’ll Race Ya!   Leave a comment

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I’ve been reading Matthew 14 this morning and experiencing the story of Jesus walking on water. For me, today, this story is all about Peter walking on water.

First of all, what gave Peter the guts to even ask the question. Scared out of his wits like all of the other disciples, he heard Jesus’ voice. It sounds like a great deal of faith because he asked the ghost to do something he knew only Jesus could do, even though he hadn’t seen that trick before.

Then, he actually attempted to do what the ghost told him. Guts isn’t strong enough a description to describe what he displayed here. The man decided to leave the safety of the boat in a storm and see if he could stand on the water, let alone walk.

But he did, and walk he did too. Sure he lost sight of the moment and started to sink and needed Jesus to rescue him. I’m terribly positive that I would have done the same thing except I have doubts I would have worked up the courage to talk to a ghost then follow its command to get out and walk on the water. If I had made it that far it would have been an indication that the evening’s rum was delicious and plentiful.

All of this reminds me of the book and movie The Shack. There’s a scene where the main character and Jesus were walking around a pond and they get to the water to go back to the house. Jesus starts to walk across the water but the guy just looks at him like, yea right!

But Jesus gives him the ability (been a while since I’ve seen this so forgive forgotten details) to walk on the water so he tests it out and sure enough, there he is walking. So with a childlike eager look, he tilts his head toward the house and smiles. The next thing we see is these two racing across the water—a scene of incredible joy.

It was a stunning scene for me since it seems very much like something I can see myself doing. I’m sure the local fishermen would not appreciate the noise of the running, but I’d make a mad dash, laughing all the way.

It really feels like a look into heaven for me. No more horrible knees. No more pains of a sore back or stiff neck or arthritic hands. It’ll be like being a kid again with no worries—I’m taken care of. This is definitely the place I want to be, even if I admit to being completely clueless as to what it looks like from this side. All I know is that God is there while also being here. I can live with that!

So the next time I experience a storm in life, those pesky inevitable storms that come, I hope to remember this scene and this feeling. Maybe Jesus will give me the opportunity. It will bring me overwhelming joy to point to the opposite shore, give him that look, and say to him, “I’ll race ya!”

Posted January 14, 2021 by David N. Peppler, Sr. in Uncategorized

Gyon   Leave a comment

I have no idea if I have spelled it correctly. I also have little faith that it is an actual word. All I know is that I have heard it a lot over the years, and to this day I am unsure what it means. Language and dialect tend to do these things to us. They separate us and cause us to look at each other differently, sometimes cocking our heads and wondering what on earth the other person is trying to communicate with us.

For example, my Aunt Joan was notorious for using this word, “gyon.” She pronounced it (as I have heard others) much like it is spelled (or at least my attempt at it): a hard “g” followed by “yahn.” She used it much where I would use the word “darned.” If I wanted to know where something was and she was unaware, she would reply, “Gyon if I know.”

I remember countless times asking her what that word meant. Mind you, I would often get the same statement in response, “Gyon if I know.” This is not helpful. I can imagine the day of Pentecost where all of the disciples were speaking languages unknown to them. The people were justifiably amazed at this. There were rumblings among the people, some saying the disciples were drunk. My imagination does not have to work hard to visualize my aunt as one of the disciples that day. I can easily see someone coming up to her and asking how she is speaking in their language. I can even hear her voice as she would utter her response, “Gyon if I know.”

Bless her heart.

What was true when I was growing up is still an issue in some churches today. There is a language barrier between those who have been in church all of their lives and those who are just beginning to explore what church is all about. Church folks will use church words and the explorers just scratch their heads and wonder what language they are hearing or question if they’re still in the same galaxy when they walked through the front door that looks strangely like some portal. They came in, sat on our hard benches, and noticed how some folks appeared to not get “bleacher butt” like they did because the “from here” folk were used to the discomfort. Then someone spoke from a podium with thees and thous and confused the heck out of their children.

I suppose that I will never understand how and why some of God’s really good folks insist on speaking a language that other folks–especially those seeking something incredibly important–will never understand. But if anyone ever asks me why I think this is still the case in some circles, I know what my response will be.

Gyon if I know!

Overflow Leadership   Leave a comment

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I grew up at the end of the age of full-service service stations. My Dad and his brother co-owned one and I could not wait to be old enough to work there. When I turned 13, I was finally given my opportunity. With training on the cash register and gas pumps, checking tires and oil levels, I was placed in charge of the gas customers. There was one rule I had to live by in front of all others–when the bell rang to indicate a vehicle had pulled in to get gas I was never to walk to provide their services.

Principle: Whenever you serve others, RUN!

That principle guided much of my work life for several years, especially whenever customer service was involved. Anyone who had a need was served as quickly as possible because they were the most highly valued person on earth at that moment. While that is a wonderful principle for service, the methodology needs some tweaking for those serving in ministry.

Much of the service of a ministerial leader is built upon the spiritual health of the leader. The better their connection with the Divine, the more authentic the service they provide. This is true for more than professional clergy; it applies to all those who serve others in God’s name and is easily applied to all who serve in caring capacities.

The key to offering relevant service is in how we serve, not necessarily how fast. Pastors can tell you that if they “run” every time someone in their congregation needs some form of pastoral care, they will burn out sooner than later. Yes, there are times when running is appropriate, but to do so as a regular practice often comes from an unhealthy sense of duty, as if you are being graded by your speed. When this occurs, it’s as if you are serving God because of a debt.

You do not owe God anything.

The best way to serve one another is not to see how quickly you can react, but how authentically you can respond. If leaders are to be true vessels for the Lord, then we must do what it takes to ensure we are being filled. Cars don’t get far on empty tanks (or batteries, tipping the cap to electric tech here). Leaders do not serve effectively when drained.

Lead from your strong connection with God. Do everything it takes to tap into the strength God gives you because of how you relate with God. Your connection is uniquely yours, so do whatever practices work best for you, be it meditation, prayer, Scripture/Lectio, silence, etc. Whatever it is that best fills you with the Presence, allow God’s love to flow through you. This is done with great joy because you know that what you are sharing is God’s gift of love for everyone in your path.

The best service you can offer to others comes from overflow and not obligation.

No Sad Songs Allowed   Leave a comment

Birds greet each morning with a song. Even if the weather is less than admirable, their song remains the same. More importantly, their song does not change in tone, mood, or volume, not that I have noticed anyway.

I wager that this is a glimpse of the heavenly. I know that Scriptures talk about no need for a sun since God provides the light, but I often imagine life in God’s presence to still have a lot in common with the life we experience now. I hope there are mornings and afternoons and nights. I hope there are temperatures that fluctuate and that it rains and gets windy and snows. I can almost imagine living in perfect simplicity as if in a country cabin complete with fireplace (and, please, central air).

My imagination can take me to what I’ll call heaven while still having no real clue what it is like. That’s ok with me. I don’t need to know because my soul understands the most important part of all—eternity with God and those who have gone before me. What else do I really need to know? Of course I want to play golf, but in addition to the fun of the game, I can’t wait to see my divots grow back in an instant and have the trees toss my errant shots back onto the fairway. It’ll be fun to laugh with the sand as I whack away fruitlessly to get my ball onto the green.

I won’t need a caddy either because I’ll have something I’ve never really had, knees that are intact and functional. That would be new. It won’t bother me either if I will have lost all of this weight that I can’t seem to dispose of here on earth. I try. Ok, not really. I wonder if I’ll have hair, and this time on the top of my head like I used to have instead of my back and arms and chest. Will my teeth be white (think pearly)?

I try to live my life basking in the joy of God’s presence. Life to the full means life that is joy-driven. It is a happy life in spite of all this crazy old world can throw at me. Sometimes I do really well with this while other times it is work just to muster a smile. My moods change like the wind occasionally just like it is with every other human. My song is not always filled with joy.

But the birds remind me—every morning—that a time is coming when I will greet the new day with laughter, smiles, and the loving glow that comes from an overflow of God’s incredible grace. Even on a cloudy, rainy and cold morning, how can I help but sing?

Burned Out Christmas Lights   Leave a comment

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The Christmas lights I grew up with were so much easier to work with. If a bulb burned out somewhere in the string, it was because the first non-burning light bulb was no longer working. All you had to do was replace that first bulb and the rest of the lights would come back on.

As time would have it, Christmas lights have evolved like everything else. Now when a section of lights goes out, it is not nearly so simple a solution. In fact, it could be any one of those bulbs that might have burned out. It could also be that somewhere in that section one of the tiny wires has broken and the bulbs themselves are actually fine.

Pre-lit trees have been even less friendly to me. Heaven help you if one of those bulbs burn out or you have a broken wire somewhere in the tree. The last time we encountered this, we ended up cutting all of the lights out of our formerly convenient tree and replacing them with strings of loose lights. When replacing problem A with problem C, sometimes it seems best to revert to problem B. It’s a trap!

When I hear the story of the shepherds in Luke 2:8-20, I hear a lot of narratives. One that stands out in my mind today is how the glory of the Lord shone about the whole scene when the angels were delivering the Good News about the birth of Jesus. Biblical interpreters refer to this as a radiant light. It’s the kind of light that would cause you to hold up your hand or arm to protect your eyes. Today, we would put on our sunglasses or hope our transition lenses would soon catch up to the display before us. Think Griswold’s house, you’ll understand.

But this light wasn’t blinding. As soon as the angels left and took the light with them, the shepherds huddled together and decided they needed to go find this child. I love how the text refers to their actions as hurried from there. They excitedly went into the village wondering where the child was, found him and worshipped, and then told everyone they saw the whole story about God’s presence and angels and a Savior. They had all become little lights who received their energy from the big light.

Isn’t that the job of all believers even after all this time? We are the little lights that still have the responsibility of shining on everyone we encounter. The light within us is the light of Christ. Scriptures offer plenty of examples of how we should never allow our lights to be covered or burned out.

Life happens, and this year’s events have certainly made it more challenging to shine. How does one live as a radiant beam when only seeing people in 2-dimensional Zoom meetings or over the phone? Everything is different, and what would be challenges any other time have been magnified many times over. Think of all those who have lost loved ones but have been unable to have formal services to declare that love. Think of all those situations where entire households have been wiped out. This of all those who have been out of work for nearly a year now and face life in the streets if something doesn’t happen soon. Think of all those healthcare workers who are worn to a frazzle. Think of all those who have seen injustice upon injustice because of the color of their skin. What happens when so many lights either go out or are turned off?

Your responsibility as a believer is simple and not designed to solve all the world’s problems. Shine where you are! That’s it. If you shine the light of Christ in the small piece of this world where you reside, then it is hoped that those encountering you will be encouraged to shine their lights. Do the math. If you shine and inspire the next guy or gal to do so, then they’ll inspire the next, and so on and so on. The next thing you know, the whole tree of your community is well lit for all to see.

This Christmas, shine. Sing about that little light of yours. Make it your Christmas song. You know the tune.