The Morgan Church Devotional

a pastor's thoughts about...uhm...stuff

Location: Morgan, VT., United States

follower of Jesus. husband & father. friend. pastor.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Few Unfinished Thoughts

There’s a sadness that comes silently
Slithering through the grass
And hisses very quietly
As it politely asks
Questions that will undermine
Questions that cast doubt
Questions that don’t bring the rain
Just leave you with dark clouds


Were I to focus on a defect
I could be the actor
And play the devil
Who casts grey skies and doubt of what is certain otherwise

Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Parable

A Christmas Parable

There once was a man, a wealthy man
A man who had both been born into money and
Who worked very hard at building his wealth

His factory was the sole economic source for
the people of the valley

He was, overall, a kind man
He thought he treated the people right…
Although as a business man who was concerned with the bottom line, he had made a few enemies in his time

One day this man, now old, looks out his window
This window overlooked the valley
Where poverty reigned
He often wondered why the people of the valley
Lived in such squalor…
Why they remained poor…

And, moved with compassion…a desire to help them change
He gathered up 4 of his latest gadgets
He called it the “prospero6000”
A machine designed to eliminate poverty
It worked differently for each person

But it did work

He stood up…dressed in his overcoat, hat and
He made his way to town

He thought to himself that he didn’t want to be recognized as the old man on the hill so he pulled his scarf close over his face
And his hat down
And began pulling his wagon to the town

All the way praying the people would be open to receive his gift

He came to the first door
Knocked…waited. Knocked again. Waited some more.
Knocked a third time.
And just as he was about to leave

A bitter and angry man appeared at his door.

The old man offered his gift to the bitter man
The bitter man just stared
Another time the old man offered the gift
And, never breaking his stare, the bitter man slammed the door

He was a poor man…and in his poverty he became bitter
Blaming God and the old man
And every one else for his poverty

The old man, a bit sad, but still determined, began making his way to the next house.

He knocked and waited again. Soon a man came to the door
Not quite as mean as the first man
But not happy either…let’s call him disinterested

The old man offered his gift, and, surprisingly the disinterested man took the gift. And immediately shut the door.
He didn’t care much for gifts
Even tho he was poor…
He took that gift, unopened, and thru it on his junk heep
And it sits there to this day

The old man made his way to the third home and barely knocked b4 the door opened.
He offered his gift to the amiable man who answered the door
The man readily took it…thanked the old man with a handshake and a smile and closed the door.
He looked at the gift…called his family over
Opened it up
And confused as to what it was
Put it up on the shelf

They take it down now and again
And use it for a paper weight or a door stop
But mostly it sits up on the shelf

The old man made his way to the fourth home
And b4 he could knock the door opened and the old man was greeted with a hug from a friendly man
The friendly man recognized the old man…he had been helped b4
He felt the old man was his friend
He gladly accepted the old man’s gift, hugged him, thanked him
Called his family over and opened the gift
They knew immediately what to do with it
And they became very prosperous

In fact, they gave their machine away to other people who needed it and wanted it.

There is a poverty in our world that doesn’t have to be.
It is a spiritual poverty
And just as the old man was moved with compassion and decided to do something
So is God

Now this poverty has lots of symptoms
Emptiness…bitterness…anger…hatred…jealousy…hurt… depression…infidelity…abuse…alienation…dissatisfaction… disaffectedness…feelings of frustration feelings of failure…failure…anguish…sickness…alcohol and drug addiction…murder and mayhem and so on and so on

Those are symptoms and our world is full of them
Maybe you have a few of those symptoms
Or you’ve felt the effects of them

They aren’t the sickness, though
The sickness is sin
We are products of a fallen world
And we are, therefore, born out of fellowship with God

That is the sickness…and we look for remedies
And our remedies cause all the symptoms

But, in reality, God knows our plight
Knows our problems
Knows our sickness
And He sent the Remedy

His Name is Jesus
We’re celebrating His birth tonight
He was born in a stable and laid in a manger
The shepherds came…the wise men came
His mom was a virgin
It’s all true…the story is.

But it’s not the end of the story.
The babe became a boy
The boy became a man
The man was the Saviour of the world
Who died for your sin
He became our sin
He suffered the punishment that was due us
To cure our sickness
To heal our souls
To relieve our symptoms

Who are you tonight?

The bitter man…angry with God for some perceived slight?

The disinterested man…even tho you are spiritually poor, rejecting the gift that will make you well

The amiable man…
Taking the gift but not using it for it’s real purpose…

The friendly man…the receptive man…who willingly and happily takes the gift and is blessed and begins to bless others

Your choice. Choose well.

Thanks to Bill for being the old man
Now, we have a part to play

Lighting of the candles

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A Well Rounded Year

this was an interesting year for me. i've never thought much of "synchronisity"...but sometimes you have to wonder.

in august, my wife and i celebrated 10 years of marriage.

in october i had my 20th "birthday" as a christian.

come january 2nd, we will have lived in/around morgan, vt and pastored at the morgan church for 10 years.

here are some things i've learned:


"good love, there ain't no denying; bad love somebody isn't trying" (from "frying pan" by victoria willaims)

for us it has been no denying. i sincerely love and appreciate my wife more today than when we were just married. she's smart. she's sweet. she's beautiful. she's determined. she's fun. she's...lot's and lot's of other things.

i think we've "worked" hard at being happy in our marriage. i put the " " around work because it isn't really's like fun work. like how some people view gardening. or how a musician views playing guitar.

dina and i are mutually committed to making this work. there is nothing either of us want more. and there is no length that either of us wouldn't go to to make it work. right hon? hon? hon? are you there?

seriously, i would chase that girl around the earth begging and pleading and promising and doing anything i could do to win her back, if i ever was fool enough to lose her in the first place. i have a deep seated and substantial belief she would do the same.

dina and i were friends for about 6 years b4 we started dating (long story). we are still friends...only better friends. i could bore you to death with how much i esteem her and her friendship to me.

i believe that any couple can have the same type of relationship we have. it's based on mutual selflessness and forgiveness (in the times that one of us isn't selfless). get with it, brother. get with it, sister. sit down together and sincerely look each other in the heart and make a promise you will live by:

i will be selfless with you. i will ask for forgiveness when i fail to be selfless. i will offer forgiveness to you when you aren't selfless (even if you don't ask me).

following Jesus:

"and on the road to salvation, i stick out my thumb and He gives me a ride" (from "elijah" by rich mullins)

i marvel at God's unfailing love. indeed, it extends to the heavens. i want to be faithful. i want to follow truly and fervently. i want to be pure and holy and full of love. i want to be like Jesus.
sometimes i get it right.

but, o the times i don't!

but what i've learned from God is this. He covers me. He forgives me. He receives me. He does.
i spent years trying to convince Him that i was worth loving. but i finally realized i would never be worth it, but He loves me anyway. that's the point where our relationship starts. His benevolent love and abounding grace. we start at the ground level...every day.

i used to try to please Him so that He would love me.

i've learned to try to please Him because He loves me.

there is a world of difference between those two prayer for you is that you discover the difference.


"There's an oasis in the heat of the day, there's a fire in the chill of night; a turnabout in circumstance makes each a hell in it's own right" (from tip of my tongue" by mark heard )

i don't know if there is a job like pastoring a church. it is deeply, richly and amazingly rewarding. what a priviledge and honor to be invited to the nitty gritty of people's lives. what a great thing to share God's word with people (whether it's in a sermon or with our lives) and see the light go on. it's great.

growth. hope. change.

there is no reward greater than being a part of that. the difficulty is when someone resents that...i can't explain it. if i could, i don't think i would. but it happens.

if you attend a(nother) church. be kind to your pastor. pray for your pastor. say good things about and to your pastor. defend him/her. let them know you are for them...bc someone is doing the opposite.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Center Candle

there is an object lesson in the Advent wreath that shouldn't escape us.

there are 4 candles around the wreath (usually) representing hope, peace, joy and love. they are (again, usually) 3 purple and one pink.

at the center of the wreath sits a white candle which represents Christ.

we all want to have hope.
we all want to have peace.
we all want to have joy.
we all want to have love.

but when we spend our time seeking those things (as opposed to having Christ "at the center" of our lives) we often don't find them...or we settle for things like them.

the distortion of hope is "wishful thinking" or "dreams"...nothing wrong with them, per say. but they accomplish nothing. there is a great proverb that says "he who works his land will have abundant food; but he who chases fantasies will be poor". hope comes from actively putting your trust in God's promises. it comes from seeking Christ first above and before all things. it is the certainty that, regardless of what comes your way, my hope is secure in Jesus.

the distortion of peace is financial security, personal blessing, and ease of life. again, fine in and of themselves, but they are not God's peace. you might add a lack of conflict being a distortion of biblical peace. .. the bible tells us we can have peace all the spite of what goes on around us. peace is a promised "wholeness" comes from trusting God is in control.

the distortion of joy is happiness. nothing wrong wth being happy. we could use a little more happiness in our world. it is an unhappy place. but happiness gets very self focused. i'm happy when things go my way. i'm happy when i get what i want. i'm happy if...blah blah blah. when things don't go my way and when i don't get what i want--i am distinctly unhappy. joy is different. it comes from a deep and personal relationship with Jesus and a conviction that He is in control of your life...that He is "at the center"...just like that candle in the Advent wreath.

the distortion of love is sex. nothing wrong with sex...ahem. let's not get into but our world is preoccupied by sex. it no longer is just an expression of passion and love between two committed (married) people...maybe it never really was. but at least we had the idea it was supposed to be, even if our own lives didn't match up with it. sex has become the focal point of just about everything. even when it isn't very sexy. we need to love like God loves...without personal gain, without personal advantage, without manipulation, without wavering...with sacrifice, with grace, with blessing, with commitment. when we love like that...everything is better...including sex.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Santa’s Single Character Flaw

Most of us have at least a few character flaws. We have tempers and tantrums; we gossip and sometimes we even tell (ahem…little white) lies. But Santa, well, it seems as if Santa is pretty much perfect. I guess you could say he over eats, but he’s been around for a long time, so I suppose it hasn’t hurt him too much.
But, all things being said, Santa does have one very noticeable character flaw. Santa Claus is a procrastinator. He is. He puts off his one job per year until the last minute and then scrambles to get it done.
I recently read that if Santa left the North Pole and started in Kyrgyzstan and travels against the earth’s rotation (this, they say, is the most effective route), he would need 34 nanoseconds (per home) to deliver presents to the world’s 2.5 billion homes within the 48 hours of Christmas Eve-Day. Now, I don’t know what a nanosecond is, but it doesn’t sound like a lot of time.
Wouldn’t it make sense for Santa to deliver gifts to children all through the year? Think about it, he could start in Europe in January; go to Asia in February…well, Asia’s big and February is short, so he might take March for Asia as well. He could swing over to Australia and New Zealand in April. Do you think Aussie kids leave Santa a vegemite sandwich near their stockings? He could come over to the Americas in May and June and then be done with it! And he’d still have 6 months of prep time!
You see, if Santa would co-ordinate a little, his life would be a lot easier and stress free. Why leave the job to the last minute? Why leave yourself with 34 nanoseconds per home? Why deliver presents to 2.5 billion homes around the world in just one day?!
Santa Claus procrastinates. Now, I know what you’re thinking, chimney calling the coal black (I didn’t get this in till its due date); but, the interesting thing about Santa is he’s always on time—me? Well, let’s not go there. Santa is never late and he rarely (if ever) forgets anyone.
In that way, Santa is a bit like God.
God is always on time. We may think He’s going to be late, we may think He has forgotten us, we may think we’ve been left on our own, but it’s not so. God will not be late, He will never forget us, He will never abandon us. He promised us so!
My favorite Christmas verse in the Bible is not a traditional Christmas verse. It comes from the book of Galatians 4:4 “but in the fullness of time, God sent His Son...”
In other words, “at exactly the right moment, God sent exactly the right person, to do the exact thing that needed to be done”.
My comfort in difficult times is that God has promised me a few things:
1. He would never forget me “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5)
2. He would always love me “Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38)
3. He would take what ever bad I’ve been through and make it work for my good (Romans 8:28)
So, if you are going through a difficult spot this Christmas season, find comfort in God’s promises. You can find them in the Bible; you can hear about them in church, you can see them played out in the lives of His people. Believe them; they are for you, too.
Our Christmas Eve service is at 6:30pm, please join us!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

A Lesson From My Son

so, the DeSena band was practicing this afternoon. we had run thru "Away in a Manger" with dad directing (counting out the measures and bringing us in); and we were about to do "Silent Night"...i started counting it out and joe stopped us saying he wanted to direct us and count us in to start the song...i told him, no, that i was the leader/director.

joe got very upset with me...and passionately (as only a 6 yo can do) he said to "but daddy, it's justlike the beatles!!!"

i think i laughed harder than i have in ages.


hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune with the words and never stops at all and sweetest in the gale is heard and strong must be the storm that could abash that little bird who kept so many warm...

i memorized that poem years ago...not bc i had to for school...or bc i wanted to to impress a girl (well, maybe it was partly that--but i guess it didn't work)...i memorized it (like i memorize most things) by accident. i read that poem. i read that poem. over and over and over, i read that poem.

bc that little bird inside my heart has been beaten down a few times. it's funny how it see the storm brewing on the horizon--but you figure you'll be ok. chances are it will dissapate b4 it gets here. but still it comes and you feel the beginnings of wind and rain and maybe some sleet...but you'll be're under a tree. then the lightning starts and you realize you aren't in a safe place. you look for somewhere to run...somewhere safe...somewhere dry... somewhere...somewhere...somewhere.

b4 you know are in the midst of the storm. and it's a doozy. and it kicks your ass like there's no tomorrow.

we often hide in things that aren't safe...we hide in drugs...we hide in alcohol...we hide in sex...we hide in dreams...we hide in human love...we hide in food...we hide in busy-ness...we hide in work...

we hide. but we're not safe.

bc storms are storms and storms bash birds. and sad is the person who's little bird is bashed on the rocks.

there is a nautical term i love. i know it not from seafaring (God help me, i get sick in the bath tub), but from crossword puzzles. it is means to return to safe harbor...away from the danger of the storm.

we have a hope. no matter how dark it gets. we have a hope...founded on God's promises and apprehended by faith. believing the unbelievable. walking onthe water...

our hope is God Himself. and when we hope in Him, we are not dissappointed.


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Doing the Disconnect

there are a number of ways to "disconnect" from God...

and only one way to stay connected.

things that lead to disconnection (in no particular order):

being spiritually lazy

being self-centered, self-focused, self absorbed, or plain ol' selfish,
ignoring your personal needs and burning out

not praying
not reading
not witnessing
"having to pray"
"having to read"
"having to witness"
"having to do" anything

ignoring the thing that God keeps speaking to you
doing 100 things you think God might be saying to you

the one thing you can do to keep from the big disconnect:

depend on God's promise(s).

i struggled for years with distortions, distractions, disruptions and occasational (and temporary) disconnections.

i spent times not praying, reading or sharing my faith. i spent other times praying, reading and sharing so i wouldn't feel so crappy.

i've been way to busy and way to lazy and i've felt crappy both ways.

i've shut my ears to what God was speaking and i've tried doing all kinds of other things...maybe trying to impress Him or earn some favor with Him...or something...but always ended up feeling crappy.

then something changed.

first off, i started believing God didn't want me to feel crappy. crappy is not a part of God's plan or intent for the believer. they may have troubles (i'm up at 1am bc i can't sleep...). they may have to experience His discipline. they may go thru great tribulation. but they don't have to feel crappy while doing it.

so, if God didn't want me to feel crappy, why did i feel crappy? why did i see promises of hope and peace and joy and love and fail to experience it? were they real? were they true? were they for me?

i always believed they were real.
i always believed they were true.
but, i guess, i didn't always believe they were for me.

and that's what changed. i decided i should start believing God's promises.

i believed that God loved me and sent His Son to die on the cross to satisfy His wrath.

i believed that God didn't send Jesus to condemn me, but to save me.

i believed He bore in His body all of my sins (all of them...even the ones i hate to admit to).

i believed that He forgave all of that sin.

i believed that He still forgives my sins.

i believed that there is nothing i could do to change this (with the exception of outright repudiating it in a conscious and deliberate manner).

i believed i was adopted into His family and called His child.

i believed i am loved with an everlasting love.

i believed. well, not always.

i often didn't believe it. i often struggled with it. i spent time going thru the torture of feeling helpless to earn God's love and desperately trying to over and over again.

so, i just pretended to believe it. i just accepted it was real and true, and real and true for me, too. and when i had doubts i just said, but it's true. it's there in the book in black and white (and red).

i know "pretended" sounds funny...and i would gladly insert a different word...if i could think of one. but i can't.

i read those promises and acted like they were true.

guilt? well, sure i have some. but i feel it's sting and confess it (my sin) to God and i believe Him when He says He forgives it.

confusion? yep. it happens...but i walk in the promise that He orders my steps and live my life intending to be a blessing where ever i find my self.

bad days? ugh. well, they come along to. i take what i can learn from them...try to grow...accept God's grace and then i move on.

there is a huge problem with "disconnect" breaks my heart to see lives ship wrecked...i think a good many would be saved if we just started believing God.