It happened again, & other musings during the holiday season…

It happened again, just a minute ago. Answered a phone call at work – the caller immediately launched into the story of their current seemingly hopeless life circumstances, & their great need for help. Meaning financial help. After listening for a minute, I answered, “I’m sorry – we don’t have…” The caller interrupted with a string of expletives, a few more choice words, & hung up.


I work as the pastor of a church, & these types of calls (& drop-in visits) are a fact of every day life – even more so during the holiday season. The requests come from people I don’t know & have never met. People in genuine need. Desperate people. They need rent money. Gas money. Food money. Money to get the electricity turned back on. To reactivate their cell phone.

It breaks my heart.

And at the same time I think of the people that we have been able to help… & just about every time (I’d bet 95%,) it has been someone we have at least the beginning of a relationship with – whether it be through church, extended family, &/or the friend of a friend. And that makes me happy, because we can be a part of not only helping someone with a specific need, but also walk through life with them to see them come out the other side.

Until the next drop-in. The next phone call. And the expletives. And nasty words. Accusations of “church corruption” & a “god who doesn’t care about people.” In the role that I serve in, I am often the first line of contact with people requesting financial assistance – & I make the decisions I make based on the policies our church financial council has put into place, an understanding of our current church budget, & what our current financial obligations are. And it tears me up.

A few years ago, a dear friend of mine talked to me about the significance of good stewardship – basically acknowledging God as the One who provides all of our needs from HIS resources. A steward doesn’t function with their own resources, but is acting on the behalf of others. And as such, WHAT we do with our finances & resources, individually & as a church, is viewed through the lens of being a good steward – especially since we don’t function with unlimited resources. And that means being willing to say, “No.”

I think about Peter, Jesus’ disciple, when he was standing outside the temple on the way to prayer. A guy who couldn’t walk hit Peter up for money – & Peter didn’t have any. His response was, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have I’ll give you. In Jesus Name, stand up & walk.” (Acts 3:1-7, The Message.)


I think about when Jesus’ treacherous disciple, Judas Iscariot, freaked out when Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus’ feet with an expensive perfume in preparation for His crucifixion & burial. How he said the perfume should have been sold & the money given to the poor. (The kicker in his case was that, as the keeper of the disciples’ communal purse, he wanted to have access to the money.)

But the point of that story is what Jesus answered him, simply saying, “The poor you will always have with you.” (John 12:1-8, The Message.)

It makes me think that poverty & the poor are by-product of a broken world system, one where the rich get rich, & the poor suffer. That the results of sin in our world put people through hell on earth, where they suffer injustice & lack.


So I pray. A lot.  I ask God for clarity & for wisdom – to be able to know who & in what situations we can help. And to keep a soft heart instead of letting it get calloused & crusty… & falling prey to the wrong of lumping those people into a category instead of treating them with the love & compassion that is due to people created in God’s image.

Jesus on $ MONEY $

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus challenged those that wanted to follow Him to recognize that God’s peoples’ priorities, values, thought processes, & actions run completely counter to those of the prevailing culture. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in the passage we’ll be exploring this week, Matthew 6:19-34.

Here’s what I mean. The desire to acquire MORE – money, possessions, & stuff is a part of the human condition. From the time we’re toddlers we learn that MORE is better. Jesus, however, encouraged His disciples to consider a new type of value system. He said:

“Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.

In essence, He is reminding His followers to remember that we’re living in a different way by different values – rather than investing ourselves in acquiring treasure here on earth, treasure we could only have temporarily – by following His example & applying His way of thinking/acting, we can do something that will have an eternal impact.

I’m challenged to continually review my own priorities & values (especially in this area) & to ask the Holy Spirit to help me discern where I’m on/off track so that I can realign myself with Jesus’ way.

A Sunday Snow Day, & other musings…

When I went to bed last night, I saw that there was some snow. Checked the local forecast, which happened to call for a rain/snow mixture, tapering off around midnight. Ok. Beings as I usually leave the house around 7:30 to head to church, I mentally figured I’d give myself a couple extra minutes for the morning drive.

Woke up this morning to the surprise of Snow, with a capital S. 9″ to 12″ worth.

Snow like I haven’t seen since the January 2005 blizzard that threw Reno into a 2-week long funk of Snow Days for school-aged kids, & transportation issues galore.

Brother was already on it – he’d been calling & texting the house, trying to awaken me from my slumber. He was wondering – “Are we going to cancel church today?”

Shaking the cobwebs from my brain, thanking the LORD for a coffee machine that has a Magic Timer that allows it to be set to go off at the Desired Time in the a.m. Looking outside again. Consuming the nectar of the java bean. Watching the Snow fall, with flakes the size of silver dollars. Goodness.

Checked in with a couple of friends to get a report on other parts of the Reno/Sparks metroplex. It was just as bad (good?) all over. Ok. We’re canceling.

When it comes to canceling church, today was a no-brainer. Lots of Snow (with more falling,) little-to-no notice of the storm, messy roads… the only thing that really runs through my brain is, “Can we get the info communicated in time to those that need it?” Between email, Facebook, texting, & the 411 Mass Email Program that Mr. H is masterminding, I think we were able to get the word out.

Sitting inside with a full belly, hot coffee, & myBean, I’m pondering the falling Snow. The accumulated Snow. Thinking back to the last time Hillside canceled church & had a Snow Day. It was the 1st week of January, 2005, & we got absolutely slammed on a Saturday. I can remember struggling for about 30 seconds over the decision. Mostly because of a feeling deep inside that you really CAN’T cancel church. Almost like it was doing something bad.

So I prayed & asked God for clarity – was this sense from Him, or was it not? The gentle encouragement I received quickly was that I was feeling Fear, something that was most definitely NOT coming from Him. Fear of what people might think of me for canceling church. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown.

So I rejected the Fear. Smacked it away like it was a ping-pong ball. Said, (out loud even!) “I will NOT be afraid!”

And BOOM! It was outta here.

Not too long after the 2005 Snow Day, I was at a ministerial meeting & the topic turned to the big Snow that we’d recently had. When it came to my turn to talk, I shared that rather than try to ‘have church’ we’d decided to take a Snow Day. Talked about my confrontation with Fear, & how I responded.

One of the guys said that he would never, ever, ever cancel church, no matter what. I asked why, & the answer blew me away: “Because you can’t receive an offering if you cancel church.”

Another guy agreed, & added, “If you lose a Sunday offering, you’ll never get that money, cause it’s not like the people are going to give it the next week…”

Hmmm. So the reason to have church, to not cancel, is so that people can give money? And that if they don’t have the opportunity on that Sunday to give the money, that money is lost?

Ok. That sounded a lot like more Fear to me.

We can talk a great game about God being our provider, & sing the songs, quote the verses, but when confronted with Snow & people missing an offering opportunity, Fear shows up.

I’ve GOTTA believe that God is my Source & my Provider, for everything I need, in every area – & not look to or put my trust in people, offerings, or Publisher’s Clearinghouse, for provision. Because He has promised not to abandon us. Or forsake us. Or forget us. So say BOOM! to the Fear. Booyah. Hope that didn’t end up sounding like a rant. But, goodness!

And the neighbors are out riding their snowmobile down the street. Marvelous. Now THAT brings me joy.

TheWeez is off to Hawaii for 11 days. Lucky girl. Which means we’re down to 2 children. More like 2 mostly grown men. And probably less Taylor Swift playing in the house… One of the results of theWeez leaving is that theBean has gone into cleaning mode… in & around theWeez’s room, the loft area, & the upstairs.

Me? I’m watching the Olympics. Pondering going outside to watch the neighbors some more. Shovel a bit. Thank God for always watching out for me. & enjoy my Snow Day.