Friday, July 25, 2014

Are you growing?

As I was walking at the mall today (which I do 5 days a week), I noticed this new advertising campaign that Aeropostale is conducting and it caught my attention.  I admit I have no idea what they are trying to communicate with it.  It doesn't make sense to me.  But it is a great reminder for us.

Here is the way they present it...


It is a great question... Are you who you were a year ago?   And the answer is NO you are not.  Since before we are born, our lives are constantly changing and when we stop changing we die!  And that happens whether we do a thing or not!  It is part of life.    But not so in our relationship with Jesus!

If we don't do things to deepen our relationship with Jesus, it stays the same and may even wither and fade. That's why spiritual disciplines like reading the Bible, praying, solitude with God, practicing sabbath, worship, small group participation (5 Q Circle) to name a few.  The bottom line when it comes to our faith and relationship with Jesus, if we don't intentionally do things to grow, we will be the same person a year from now that we are now!  And that means we are withering.

But by setting forth goals and practicing spiritual disciplines, we can grow to new depths of relationship with Jesus and find that we are sustained through the challenges of life by him.  Recently, I have been engaging in a group/ book discussion group with a couple of church planters and it has given me great insights and caused me to wrestle with some things that if I weren't in the group, I might not think about or through.  For a long while now, like 11 years or so, being part of a small group/ life transformation group has been very beneficial for me and if it weren't for those experiences, I might still be the person I was.

So, who are you and are you taking deliberate steps to grow in your relationship with Jesus?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

What a Wonderful Feeling....

At Community of Joy, we talk all the time about how we are blessed by God so that we can be a blessing to others!  And we do more than talk about it...we try to live it everyday!

Today, I had the honor of being part of a team that was asked to make and donate coleslaw for the Wicomico County School's summer school closing picnic.   We were delighted to make and donate the slaw... and boy is it good coleslaw (it happens to be the famous recipe of Louise Mahan - the same one we serve at our Pork Roast and Fun Fest).  But we did so much more than just make and donate the slaw.  We helped to serve it too and to serve other items of the picnic lunch!

What an awesome feeling it is to be able to be a servant.  It was great NOT to be in charge of a thing and to simply be there to serve the staff and parents that attended!  I can't tell you how many people came up to us and thanked us for being there and donating our time and the slaw.  In fact, we couldn't get out of the school without having staff stop us and say thank you!  

And the really cool thing was that there were three churches there serving today!  Crosspointe Nazarene and Community Christian all had folks there serving Jesus the King and donating their time and some food items.  It was really incredible to see the body of Christ coming together to be a blessing to so many.

I love breaking the traditional mold that the church has put itself in and society expects... that of being moral judges... I would much rather serve and share love.  It is so much more fun and I believe it makes a greater impact on people's lives when we do!

What a wonderful feeling to serve and to be a blessing to others!

Thursday, July 10, 2014


For the past 15 years, I have been working at turning our church outward.  It is easy to turn outward for a one time thing but it is hard to stay outward focused.  There is just something innate about churches that makes them like to turn inward and huddle with each other.  We even expect people to come to us.

One of the ways that we have been working at turning outward is through our Be A Blessing Sundays.  I have seen a spark in the number of people who are intentionally working at looking outward and finding people that they can bless.  

I have seen disinterested people sit up and take notice when someone starts talking about what our church is doing on these Sunday's.  Recently, I was talking with a man I just met and his wife whom I have known for a couple months.  Sadly, they have been hurt by the church.  I have been conversing with the wife and praying for them to find healing from that past hurt.  In our exchange, the husband seemed very disinterested in more than meeting me, especially when his wife told her I was a pastor.  But then I saw his countenance change and he even stepped closer, when his wife started telling him all about our Be A Blessing Sundays.  I find that a lot.  And I don't think it is odd.

It is a natural reaction from people who hear what the church says but don't see it being lived out in their lives.  Who can blame them.  We have things a bit twisted around in the way we do things.  I saw this video last night and it is worth 10 minutes of your time.  It will help you see the value in being outward focused.

I would love to see some of these missional communities form at Community of Joy!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Working Through the Struggle

Normally Wednesday is my sermon writing day, but today, I have been overwhelmed with a cloud hanging over my head.  You see, this morning I awoke to the news that an acquaintance of mine took his life last night just 9 months after his 19 year old son did the same thing and just a few months shy of his 50th birthday.   And I just can't seem to get his wife and youngest son off my mind or out of my prayers.

First thing this morning, I went for a stroll in the garden and hoped that the vibrant colors and beauty out there would help lift the cloud.  But that was only temporary.

But I just can't seem to get past the cloud I feel for them.  So, this afternoon, I went out to the garden in the dripping heat of the day and picked blueberries.   I find that picking blueberries in my backyard is a wonderful time to pray.  So, I spent lots of time praying for the wife, and son, and all the countless other people whose lives have been affected by this horrible tragedy!   

And now, I turn to the Psalms for comfort.  The psalm writer has obviously experienced a tumultuous experience and in this psalm he is offering the hope that we have in God's constant presence even in the midst of struggle and pain.  So, I pray this psalm for all those affected by a deep sense of loss today...(adapted from Psalm 46)

God you are our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.
 Let the oceans roar and foam.
    Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!
May we be still and know you, O God, our refuge and strength!

Monday, July 7, 2014

The Power of An Invite...

Today, one of our musicians at Community of Joy, publicly announced that he has taken a new job in a part of Maryland that is too far for him to continue living here and unfortunately that means that he will be leaving the church.  It is a sad deal for all of us involved.  We will miss Gary and his son, Matthew.  We will miss out on the close relationship we have with them.  We will miss out on seeing them grow in their faith and relationship with Christ.  We will miss out on not having Gary's musical talent and wonderful voice.  We will miss out on not having Gary's leadership around the 5 Q Circle and his excellent ideas that he often shares (the highly successful "lollipop encouragement idea" that we shared at the hospital on our last Be A Blessing Sunday was his!).   I could go on and on about all the things we will miss that are a result of this situation of losing a dear brother in the life of our congregation.

But, as I was thinking about all these things, I was quickly reminded that we wouldn't know what we were going to miss if we hadn't met Gary and Matthew in the first place!  And that brings me to my point.  Had Melissa not invited Gary and Matthew to join us in worship one Sunday many years ago, we wouldn't know Gary and we wouldn't know what we are soon going to be missing.

So, who can you invite to join you in worship this week?  

You never know, that person might just be waiting for your invitation.  And they might just find a place among us and have all kinds of gifts and skills to offer!  But none of that will happen if you don't issue an invitation!

Years ago it was true and I believe it is still true today!  The number one best way for a church to grow in numbers is by persons issuing invitations to people they know.  So, one more time, who do you know that you can invite?   It might just change the trajectory of their life and ours!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Being a Blessing is Contagious....

Just received an email that included this story.  It was someone who participated in both our Be A Blessing Sunday's so far and now has taken the concept to a next level.  Which is one of the hoped for outcomes of this!   I have the person's permission to share the story ....

just did a be a blessing Wednesday!!
I stepped outside for a minute and it is so HOT!
it's our trash pick up today,
so I left 6 water bottles in a cooler for the guys that pick up our trash.
left a note, thank you for picking up our trash, hope this keeps you cool!
I heard the trash truck coming down our street, so I watched to see if they would take it.. he read the note, and zipped open the cooler bag, and was grinning at the drinks in the cooler.. he ran and gave 2 to the driver and 2 to the other guy. They all popped them open and started drinking!!  The outside guys were both staring back at the house, so I opened the door and said THANK YOU!! They all said thank you Ma'am!!
Cost $1.50////  feel good= priceless!!
Not sharing for glory, sharing for you are making a difference in our lives!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Blessings Abound!

Now that I am feeling some better, I am going to try to wade back into the blogging water on a regular basis!

Sunday was Community of Joy's second 2014 Be A Blessing Sunday.  And what a huge success it was!  The idea is that we are blessed by God so that we can be a blessing to others.  But often we live in our boxes, the ones with wheels, the ones where we sleep, and the one where we gather on Sunday morning to worship our amazing God!   When we inhabit our boxes, we miss seeing lots that is happening right in our community under our noses but we are unaware of.  So on these 4 Sunday's in 2014, we committed that the church would leave the building and be a blessing in our community.

Oh the places you can go and the lives you can touch when the church leaves the building... a team went to Wicomico Nursing Home to read to residents...

Oh the places you can go and the lives you can touch when the church leaves the building... a team went out into the neighborhood to pick up trash....

 The trash picked up...
 The cleaned up park....

Oh the place you can go and the lives you can touch when the church leaves the building.  We sent a team over to the Hospital to give out Lollipop Encouragements to the staff there.  We made these at our first Be A Blessing Sunday and more this time....

And the next morning, we found a post from someone who works at the hospital who found one on her desk.     

Oh the places you can go and the lives you can touch when the church leaves the building.  We sent a team of folks over to Giant to return shopping carts and help shoppers...

Oh the places you can go and the lives you can touch when the church leaves the building.  We have a commitment to provide activities in the ministry center for those who are unable to go out or who prefer to work on a project that will go out later. (That also leaves folks behind so that if guests come, they find someone who can explain what we are up to and invite them back next week.  In this case, we had two that came and one who actually sat down and helped with the scrap books for Pinehurst and even stayed for lunch)  So, two groups worked inside: one on a set of scrap books documenting the history of Pinehurst Elementary School and one making more lollipop encouragements that we will give out in August.

Then we came back together at 12 noon and shared stories and the blessing of a meal and deeper connection together.

And to conclude this post, I want to share a story that Miss Tami Brown sent me and said I could share here..."I didn’t want to sign up for the Nursing Home reading, it was too soon, with Mom and Dad just having many days in a nursing home.  I picked the lollipop project, thinking that I helped make them a few months ago, it would be neat to hand them out.  I truly didn’t think about the impact of seeing Mom’s room, or some of her nurses. I could feel myself getting a little teary eyed, but the group I was with was so full of positive energy I couldn’t stay in the teary eyed very long!  One of the nurses, who I felt was a bit of a grump the whole time Mom was there, her eyes lit up with the lollipop, I know she has 100’s of patients and 100’s of patient’s family running through, but I know she remembered me, when she said “How are you doing”?  I said ok, and THANK YOU for all you did and are doing.  Be a Blessing became very personal for me on the 3rd Floor of Layfield Tower.  Thankful to go to a church that pushes us out of the boat (church), where stretching yourself even through tears is the right thing to do!"

Looking forward to the next Be A Blessing Sunday on August 31!  And for the stories that will come from that and from other ways that our folks engage with our community in between these Sundays!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Exciting Times for Community of Joy!

I believe that the Church is designed to be an outward reaching band of Jesus followers... but it more naturally turns inward and huddles. So, the task of leadership is to constantly be reminding it that it is outward focused. To that end, I am excited that the Leadership Team and the 5 Q Circle Leaders of Community of Joy have taken action to work at leading us outward in 2014. As announced yesterday at our Congregational Forum, in 2014 each time there is a 5th Sunday - March 30, June 29, August 31, and November 30, we will host a Be a Blessing Sunday where we will suspend our normal worship gatherings to go out into the community to Be a Blessing. We hope to have several projects each of these days that folks can participate in, including one that will be at the Ministry Center for those with physical limitations. We will conclude each of these Sundays with a fellowship carry-in meal!  One of our first places will be related to the Community Emergency Shelter at the Langler Building... where we will host the final two nights of the shelter there and then spend Sunday cleaning up the facility and getting the cots cleaned and disinfected and put in storage. Exciting times for us as we seek to be the church on mission... Receiving love. Giving love. and Repeating again and again!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

At Present

For the present time, I am taking a break from blogging.  I find that keeping up with social media and all the other tasks of my life currently leaves me little time to effectively blog.  I thought about taking the blog down, but then didn't want to loose the 7 years of history that are recorded here.

I may be back in the near future... only time will tell!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Love: How WORD Transforms WORLD!

Love working together with others to refine thoughts!  Yesterday, I asked for help in refining my thoughts on the theme for Advent/Christmas 2013 at Community of Joy.  I have so many wonderful ideas shared with me that I finally settled on a combination of several of the ideas.  Looking forward to this new series and especially with tag teaming with Rob Rappold on the series.  Rob has been speaking in my absence at Community of Joy as a way of discerning a call to ministry he feels.  We have been meeting together regularly for discipling and discernment.

In one of those recent meetings, Rob thought it might be cool to have me prescribe the theme and passage for a sermon.  So, on Sunday and Monday when this thing unfolded as it did... Sunday a new idea given and a decision to scrap my thoughts altogether and Monday when I put out the plea for help in refining the series title.    Here is what the series looks like as it stands...

Love: How WORD Transforms WORLD!

Dec 1  Origin   - John 1: 1-18 and John 3: 1-21

Dec. 8  Model - John 15:1-17

Dec. 15  Stretch - Luke 6:27-36

Dec 22  Mark  - John 13 and 14

Dec 29 Lifestyle -  I John 4:7-21

It is so much fun to collaborate on things!

Monday, November 25, 2013

When the WORD Comes to the WORLD....

Yesterday, Priscilla Timken shared a Holy Spirit nudge with us at the 9 a.m. worship gathering.  She said that as she was riding her bike to worship, she was given two words... WORD and WORLD... with each pedal, the two words came into her mind... WORD and WORLD.   As she continued to pedal and to ponder the meaning of these two words, she said it dawned on her that the only difference in the two words is the letter "L".

The difference the WORD came into the WORLD to make is to LOVE us!  And to love others through us!

The gospel writer John says, "So, the WORD became human and made his home among us.  He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father's one and only son!"  John 1:14

Gonna scrap what I had planned for a Christmas theme and work with this one... something about it captures my imagination!

Need your help in settling in on a title for this series...  Here are some thoughts that are running in my head...

When the WORD Comes to the WORLD...

Opening the Doors to the World...  (playing off the image of the door in the song With Every Act of Love)

"L" Makes ALL the Difference in the World!

The Power of "L"

Comment here and give me your suggestion!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Community Engagement!

Was/is exciting to see the community in all its fullness coming together to bring the resources of God together with human need.  Today we gathered at the Safe Streets gathering here in Salisbury at St. Paul's AME Church.  The church in our community is coming together and partnering with the police force, the state's attorney's office, and other agencies in the community to accompany and engage so young men/ women in our community who are first time offenders as an alternative to jail time.  It is exciting to see our community leaders working at a redemptive model rather than a punitive model and it is even more exciting that they are welcoming the church into that process!

I am not sure how many churches/ ministries were represented there today, but there were many from all persuasions and racial backgrounds.  It truly was the body of Christ coming together as one!   I am excited to see where things go from here and to be part of this initiative!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Always thinking of ways to engage others deeper... I love the definition of engagement as bringing together the resources of God with human need.

Delighted to see folks at Community of Joy working at this type of engagement and leading others to step into the river!  Pat Marvel is working with homelessness in our community and is looking for men's socks, underwear, long johns, gloves, gently used winter coats, and camping sized propane tanks.   It is cold out now and our shelters don't open till January for the men.  And there are some men who prefer to stay out all year long.  So one way to engage is to share what we have with Pat who will share it with those in need.

Another way we are engaging is through serving God's Kitchen on Saturday - Lachelle Rappold and Karen Townsend are leading our efforts to prepare a delicious warm meal for the folks that come into Grace United Methodist Church's God's Kitchen on Saturday.  You can help by bringing home made baked desserts at 10 a.m. on Saturday or by helping to serve the meal, or clean up from the meal.

Another way we are engaging is through joining with 13 other churches in Salisbury January through March - our turn is for two weeks in February and we work with our neighboring churches - Bethany Lutheran and Beacon of Light... to host 20 homeless men in our facility for  the night and we also prepare them a hot meal, a hot breakfast, and send them out with a bag lunch in the morning.  Rob Rappold is leading our efforts of engagement here.

We are faith based partners with Pinehurst Elementary School and constantly look for ways to engage there.

Our 5 Q Circles are looking for ways to as a group engage various needs in our community too!

A new team has been formed and has already conducted one Bible Study at the Wicomico Juvenile Department of Corrections facility at the request of the youth involved.  This is a great way to engage with a need.

God has given us much... not only to benefit ourselves but to be shared as a way of engaging people in need with the resources of God...  How will you engage our community, world, and individuals we meet along the way?

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Prayer is powerful!  I pray daily for the folks who make up Community of Joy and for our effectiveness in mission for Jesus!  I also pray specifically for those who are in need of prayer for healing, guidance, wisdom discernment.   In addition, I make it a habit to pray for the leaders and the effective mission of christian churches that I drive by wherever I am.  They are not our competition!  They are on our team!  And all that we do is done to help people take their next step toward Jesus!  There is no more important thing to do than to pray for God's help in fulfilling that mission!

Here is the place where I prayed last night!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Something to look forward to...

This photo was taken by my friend, Bryan Bilger from McVeytown, PA this morning.  What beauty!

I am off this week and looking forward to seeing some new sights... some of God's beauty.  I am looking forward to having some renewing times... for myself and with Sharon!