PJ

PJ

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

I have been on vacation this week ... so I did not put together a post for this morning. In its place, here is a video giving the back story of one of the most iconic (and terrifying!) photos of the last century. I wonder what OSHA would have to say about these guys sitting 80 stories above the ground with no safety harness to keep them from falling should they slip!

And please be sure to take some time to remember the reason behind this season of Advent (John 1:1 and John 1:14).




And just a reminder ... the script is now done! I invite you to join us at Grace on Sunday morning, December 18th for The Steward's Tale.




Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday (and this week I am REALLY glad that Friday is finally here ... more on this below) and that means it's time for a cup of coffee and a few random thoughts. 

1. World magazine writes on a recent CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that indicates world abortion rates are falling. According to World, "Pro-life leaders see the new data as more proof the pro-life movement has changed public opinion about abortion." This is indeed good news. You can read World's article here. Please continue to pray for the work of the many pro-life ministries that are actively advocating for the unborn in so many ways. And if you want to "put some money where your prayers are" consider a gift to Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services

2. If you are looking for an advent devotional that will help you get and stay focused on the true meaning of the Christmas season, I recommend one available from the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Where the Light Shines Brightest (download the pdf here for free). It is a 25 day devotional with devotional thought, a brief prayer, and the appropriate Scripture text. It is very well done! You might also want to consider Desiring God Ministries' advent devotional, Advent is for Adoring Jesus. This would also be a great choice! 

3. Finally, I mentioned above I am glad it is FRIDAY! Yahoo! Huzzah! YES! Why so? Yesterday I had the joy (not really!) of undergoing my medical screening procedure that I get to do every ten years (now I am NOT complaining ... because it could be a life saver if I would have had colon cancer AND I don't have to have it done every five years (as do those who have a family history of colon cancer) AND because I was able to resume a regular diet right away (unlike some medical procedures!). I am talking about a colonoscopy. And if you have been through one, you will know why I am so glad it is now behind me ... in the rear view mirror of life (puns intended). The procedure itself is not bad at all ... but it is what precedes. I will leave it at that. One of my staffers showed me the following song performed by Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins. It is simply titled, "The Colonoscopy Song." FUNNY! (especially now looking back!). So take a moment and watch and listen and LAUGH! Laughter is a proven stress reliever!



Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ - Special Thanksgiving Day Edition

Here it is ... Thanksgiving Day! So I thought I would post my blog early this week to catch the holiday. So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (and just so you know, I am so THANKFUL FOR COFFEE!) and join me for a few thoughts.  

1. Tomorrow is "Black Friday." Many of you will be numbered among the millions flying from store to store looking for the deals that will lighten your Christmas gift-giving budget! Not me. In all the years I have been on this planet ... there was only one year that I went shopping on a Black Friday. That year I was in need of a sports coat. A store at Park City Center advertised a really nice sports coat as a "door buster." The price was one I could not pass up. So at 6 am I walked into the already packed mall. I walked briskly to the men's department of the store ... found my size ... paid for the coat and got out of there as quickly as I could! That has been it. I now prefer to look for the deals online. Doing so is a lot less hectic (not to mention I can sit and sip my coffee while shopping!). So whether you head out the door later tonight or tomorrow ... remember not to spend over your budget - no matter how great the deals might be! 

2. I read the following article a grandson wrote about his atheistic father. You need to read this. My eyes perspired a bit as I read it. It's titled, Evangelism, the Holidays, and My Atheistic Father. The moral of this story is, "Never give up on the power of the gospel to save!" - Romans 1:16.

3. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is the busiest travel period of the entire year. Millions of cars will choke the nation's highways, while millions of others will be taking advantage of lower air fares (as compared to last year's Thanksgiving holiday) to travel to numerous destinations. According to AAA the top destinations this Thanksgiving include the following: 


  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. San Francisco, California
  3. San Diego, California
  4. Orlando, Florida
  5. New York City, New York
  6. New Orleans, Louisiana
  7. Anaheim, California
  8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  10. Seattle, Washington
Note that several of these are top cities for tourism. This indicates to me that many are using their extra time off to head off on vacation. But AAA missed out on the number one destination of Thanksgiving travelers. I think it's obvious that the #1 destination of those on the move is HOME! Thanksgiving is the holiday when families come together ... perhaps even more so than Christmas. This is what makes Thanksgiving such a special holiday (and yes, the Thanksgiving feast with the Turkey and all the trimmings doesn't hurt either!). If you have a close family ... you know how special it is to gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner! 

For those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, the Bible speaks of a feast in heaven that awaits us. It is called "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb" (you can read about it in Revelation 19:6-8). Heaven is our home. And one day ... we will sit down with God's people from all the ages to enjoy the greatest feast of all! Will you be there? If you have questions or just are not sure, I invite you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

4. Even in the midst of trials, one can be thankful. Sharon and I wrote a blog for our church web site on this topic. The title is Giving Thanks in the Tough Seasons of Life. I encourage you to check it out, especially if life has been on the rought side of late. 

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... so thanks for joining me for Friday Coffee with PJ! Pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (just a reminder, mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser ... and it does indeed chase away that early morning fog that so many of us have when we awaken (and looking at its "Best Seller" status on Amazon, I am guessing a lot of other people have discovered that there's no better way to start your day than with Folgers SF Bay Fog Chaser in your cup!).

1. With Thanksgiving Day now less than a week away, I am sure the big Thanksgiving dinner is on your mind. Hmm, I wonder if there is a recipe for "coffee stuffing?" I think I will check ... so hold on .. I will be right back. I promise I will be so quick you won't even miss me! OK .. I am back. Quick, wasn't I! I struck out looking for a stuffing recipe that included coffee. But I did find a recipe that included coffee in the glaze for the turkey. Check it out here!   Now, if you have not yet purchased your turkey for the big meal, you are probably thinking about doing so soon.  So please beware of buying one too big to handle. Take a look at this poor woman's situation!




I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did! 

2. Question: when does a parent stop being a parent? Answer: as long as one has children (no matter their age). Once a parent always a parent! Now, what that parenting happens to look like changes across the years, as it should. As my wife and I have moved into the grandparenting phase of life, our parenting has morphed into the giving of occasional advice to our adult children (and that usually when asked!) and giving ongoing encouragement, AND helping care for the grandchildren (which we LOVE to do ... within limits, of course as we are not getting any younger!). But for those of you who are still very much actively parenting children who still live under your roof, Tim Challies (my favorite Christian blogger) has some advise as he discusses 3 Parenting Myths We Are All Tempted to Believe. I only wish someone had warned me about these when I started on my parenting journey! 

3. This month, our church is on a spiritual journey: 30 Days of Praise and Thanksgiving. For the "praise" aspect of our journey, we are using an excellent tool offered by the Navigators, 30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God. Sixteen days in, and I have benefited greatly by being reminded of God and all that he is! He is indeed worthy of all the praise we can offer him! As for the "thanksgiving" aspect of our journey, we have encouraged people to use a gratitude journal (or simply a list) to record at least five blessings each day for which he or she is thankful. I now have around 100 on my list (which will continue to grow!). WHY this emphasis on praise and thanksgiving? All of us live in a very noisy world. We are bombarded by a lot of voices. Many of these voices are not pointing us toward God and His Son. So ... we need to counteract the messages we are hearing with God's truth. Reminding ourselves of WHO he is (and then praising him) and spending time thanking him for his many blessings is a powerful way to keep us "on track" with God while we continue our journey on this earth. It's not too late to join us. God is indeed GREAT and GOOD ... and that makes him a God who is worthy of our praise and gratitude! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry I missed you last Friday. I was away at a Grace College and Seminary Board Retreat and did not have a chance to write a post before I left. So I made up for missing last week with a rather long post. Thanks for joining me today! And a BIG THANKS to all of you who are serving or have served our country in one of the branches of the military. We salute you today! 

1. As I mentioned above, last week I traveled to Rome .... Georgia that is! Our retreat was held at the WinShape Retreat Center, which is run by the WinShape Foundation, a creation of the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy. Just prior to our first session of our board retreat, the activities director (a Grace College alumnus) told the story of Berry College (the retreat center sits on the property of Berry). The college is named for Martha Berry. Martha had a vision to start a school for the academically able and economically poor children of the rural south. Her dream was fulfilled and continues to this day as Berry College (and through the ministry of the WinShape Foundation at the Retreat Center). As the activities director was telling Martha's story and the story of the Cathy family, I could not help but think of the Milton Hershey School, where my youngest daughter teaches. This school exists today because a man and his wife had a desire to help orphans. After making a fortune making and selling chocolate, Milton Hershey established a trust fund to pay for the ongoing work of his school (currently the school is educating  approximately 2000 residential students and construction of more group homes designed to house enough students to raise the student population to 2500 has begun). Over the years, thousands of financially needy students have been prepared for life. All this to say .... Two men ... Two incredibly successfully businessmen ... unbelievably wealthy ... and their legacy lives on through their generosity. We all can learn from them. "But wait a minute, John, I don't have that kind of money and never will!" I am sure you don't (just as I am sure that I don't). But friends, we don't need a lot of money to be generous. Yes, generosity can be done by giving away money ... but there are so many other ways to be generous (with your time, your gifts and abilities, your home, and yes, even with the "little" money you do have ---- I used quotations around the word "little" because by world standards, even the poorest of Americans have more than most people on the planet!). This morning, I ran across the following verse in my devotional reading. I encourage you to read it ... and then go and live it! 

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). 

2. During our Board Retreat, we began each morning with a devotional brought to us by a different board member. The individual who led on our last morning, finished his devotional reading with the following list of observations from a man who had been around the block and then some. The wisdom he gained through life experience was ... well, I will allow you to finish that thought. 

Observations from a long-time, retiring Christian school headmaster:

A. People never receive too much encouragement.
B. There is wisdom in many counselors.
C. In the big scheme, our lives and our influence are really very small. There is no room for pride.
D. Prayer is the most under appreciated and underused source of power.
E. God gives us people with immense needs to keep us from the temptation of self-indulgence.
F. Remember, each day you control very little, so depend on God.
G. God produces fruit, we plant seeds. Don’t confuse the two.
H. Have more grace in your life. 

3. Finally, I would be amiss if I did not say anything about the outcome of Tuesday's election. Many people this week are thrilled that Donald Trump won the election. Others are contacting their realtor to help them find a new house in Canada. I also know that if Hillary Clinton had won there would also be many dancing in the streets while others would be making appointments to see their therapist. Listen. This is not a first for this sort of thing. We live in a democracy. We have a political process that works (perhaps some of you question that given the choice we had on Tuesday and/or the result). But come January 20, 2017, we will witness the peaceful (I hope) transfer of power. This is what makes our country (among other things) unique among the countries of the world. With the election now in the rear view mirror, here are a few thoughts, that I hope, are worth something . . . 

1). There is no perfect candidate for political office. Yes, I would argue that some are better than others, but if you are looking for the perfect candidate ... you will have to look for the rest of your life. Consider some of our previous presidents ... John F. Kennedy was a known womanizer. Lyndon Johnson bullied people and used profanity like I use deodorant. Richard Nixon was ... well, does Watergate mean anything to you? Both presidential candidates this year brought their baggage to the race. Did one have more baggage than the other? That answer depends on who you talk to. 

2.) I have heard many voice their disgust that millions could cast their vote for such a man as Trump. But I have not heard anyone say the same about those who voted for candidates who support abortion. Of course there are many who see abortion as a woman's right (therefore their position is referred to as pro-choice). And then there are many who are pro-life. But what I find interesting in the whole abortion conversation is that when the unborn is wanted by the mother it is referred to as a baby. But when the mother does not want the unborn it is a "fetus." So is that what makes the unborn a person or a nonperson .... whether or not the mother wants the unborn child? I happen to be pro-life. I believe that human life begins at conception. You can call me old-fashioned or whatever else you choose. But I think it is downright shameful that America leads the world in the number of abortions performed each year (approximately a million). When we discuss protecting the most vulnerable in our society, I can think of none more vulnerable than the unborn. We need to do more as a nation to protect these most vulnerable from the abortionists who would end their lives. The screams of the unborn are silent. We must be their voice! 

3). Now that the votes have been tallied and Trump declared the victor, what should our response as Christians be? For starters we must pray for Trump and all of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who were elected to office on Tuesday (1 Timothy 2:1-3). We also need to stop griping and stop gloating. Instead, we must come together and try to solve problems through civil discourse (i.e. conversation that is marked by politeness and courtesy) as we discuss possible solutions - something the presidential candidates had problems doing. :( In addition, we need to give all our fears and anxieties to our sovereign God, who loved us enough to give his own son for us (John 3:16). This sovereign God has a plan and is working that plan. And yes, that plan includes those who "rule" in our world today (Daniel 2:21). Finally, we must keep the main thing the main thing. And just what is the main thing? The gospel of Jesus Christ! This is the good news that has value not only for this life ... but the life to come as well! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday. Coffee. A few random thoughts. Welcome, my friends, to Friday Coffee with PJ! Oh ... and by the way, here is another article - this time from Consumer Reports - on the benefits of drinking coffee! 

1. What should one of our chief aims as we attend church on Sunday mornings? Obviously the worship of our AWESOME God is at the top of the list (or at least should be). But let me suggest to you another VIP (Very Important Purpose) you should be striving to do every Sunday you walk through the doors of your church facility: ENCOURAGEMENT! And I am not talking about yours ... I am referring to YOU encouraging OTHERS! The New Testament makes it clear that we all need to be on a mission to encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith when we "come together!" Consider: 

Hebrews 3:13  "But exhort (encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

Hebrews 10:24-25  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

So as you head out the door to attend services at your local church on Sunday, do so ON MISSION to encourage those you encounter. And the funny thing about encouraging others? As you do so, you will be encouraged in the process! 

2. Earlier this week, I drove my 5 year old grandson, Nolan, to our house from preschool ... a whopping distance of about 1/4 mile! In that short time we were in the van together, somehow we got on the topic of how his dad works out. I asked Nolan if he ever worked out ... and he replied, "I don't lift weights, I only do cardio!"  Ha! Even this little guy is picking up how important it is to keep our hearts in shape! Well, not only do we need to pursue things in life that will promote good heart health ... we must be just as concerned (if not more so) with the condition of our spiritual heart! In the Old Testament book of wisdom, we are urged, "above all else, guard
your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Now there are many steps we can take to do this. For starters, saturating our heart and mind with God's Word will do this. Knowing and living the Scriptures will go a long way toward guarding our hearts (Psalm 119:9-11)! In addition, prayer flavored with praise and thanksgiving will also do the same (Philippians 4:4-7). Knowing how vital this latter step is, we are launching an emphasis this coming Sunday at our church that will lead us as a church family into a deeper practice of both praise and thanksgiving. The Thirty Days of Praise and Thanksgiving initiative will be worth every minute put into it. God is worthy to be praised (Psalm 18:3) and we must thank him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As we do, we will guard our hearts against such things as pride, bitterness, covetousness, anger and more! 

3. My wife's journey continues. Now that her femur has healed, she is scheduled for a knee replacement revision on Friday, December 16th. The surgery will also involve the removal of the plate and screws used to repair her broken femur. This gives us plenty of time to get "stuff" done prior to the surgery. Your prayers are much appreciated. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Once again it's Friday! So pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I have been serving on the Board of Trustees of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary for about ten years. As a board member, I receive via email each Friday a copy of Equip, the weekly communique that is distributed on campus for students, staff and faculty. In a recent issue of Equip, I read the following about coffee. I found it to be very interesting: 


The 2016 Grace College Organic Chemistry I students under the guidance of Chad Snyder, recently analyzed coffee samples donated from several of faculty and staff. Although not all coffee samples were able to be analyzed it was discovered that some coffees possessed higher caffeine levels than others. This is not surprising nor is it new information, however, the CHM 2620 (Organic Chemistry I) students found trends in caffeine levels that were region or country dependent. Coffee beans analyzed from Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania presented higher levels of caffeine in their beans. Coffee beans from Costa Rica, Tanzania and Guatemala manifested lower levels of caffeine.

Sooooo .... If you really need a caffeine boost, before ordering your coffee, make sure it is made from coffee beans grown in Africa! 

2. Yesterday I had my 10 week post op appointment with the surgeon who performed my ulnar osteotomy (shortening of the ulna bone - the smaller of the two bones in the forearm) and wrist repair. For the first three weeks following the surgery, my arm and wrist were wrapped in a cast. Then I was fitted for a custom made brace. The brace has been pretty much my constant companion ... until yesterday morning! My doctor made my day by telling me I no longer needed to wear it! Yes. For the first time in two months I felt free! And it felt GOOD! 

Freedom is something we all cherish, especially as Americans. But there is a greater freedom than the liberty we enjoy as citizens of our country. Jesus talked about it as recorded in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. He put it this way, 


“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:31-32, 36).

The freedom Jesus is referencing here is freedom from sin ... it's penalty, it's bondage, and ultimately, it's presence. Have you ever experienced this freedom? If you have any doubts or questions ... or would like to explore this more ... I invite you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Today follows 15 days that have revolved around the death of my mother-in-law, Bessie Pietrowski. Yesterday, we laid her body to rest in the Brigadier General William Doyle Memorial Veterans Cemetery located in New Jersey (my wife's dad was a WW II veteran of North Africa, Sicily and Italy). So for those of you who prayed ... thanks! And please continue to pray for my wife as she processes her emotions upon the passing of her mom.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Seeing that today is Friday ... I invite you to pour a cup of your favorite Joe and join me for a couple of random (but I hope) fruitful thoughts. 

1. The destruction and devastation that hurricane Matthew is leaving in its path is downright heartbreaking. For the people of Haiti who have suffered loss of life ... and for the survivors the loss of what little they had ... is heartbreaking. I am sure in coming days, opportunities will arise to give toward relieving their suffering. Please consider doing so. Every gift, no matter how small, when put together with other gifts, will go a long way toward helping these people who have to put their lives back together after having them ripped apart. Our world-wide Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches has set up a storm relief fund through Encompass World Partners' Crisis Response Network to help assist in the relief effort in Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida.  


2. Death. It is something we will all one day face (unless, of course, Jesus Christ returns beforehand!). Yet death is something we rarely think about. Death is something we as a society have done our best to "sanitize." So instead of saying "My Uncle Tom died," we say, "My Uncle Tom passed away."  Now I am not against using euphemisms for death. It does soften the reality being expressed (and even the Apostle Paul used an euphemism when referring to the deaths of believers when in 1 Thessalonians chapter four he referred to those who had died as being "asleep"  - 1 Thessalonians 4:13). But try as we might to push the thought of death to the margins of our minds, the day will come when the vast majority of us will have to watch a loved one die. And that is never easy. Certainly when the eternal destination of that loved one is clear due to their firm and solid testimony of faith in the Savior Jesus Christ - there is a "sweetness" in that moment. And why not? What a thought to know one's loved one with their final breath will leave behind all the trials, pain and sorrow of living in a broken world, only to "awaken" in a place where "every tear will be wiped away" (Revelation 21:4-5)! Calling this to mind will already begin the process of healing our breaking hearts. Yet that sweetness is tempered by the bitterness of the moment. Watching a life fade away, knowing that a dreaded separation is about to occur, is not an easy experience. 

These past few days my wife and I and our family have sat by the bedside of my mother-in-law whose death is rapidly approaching. As she is losing her grip on the barest of threads tying her to this life, it is a huge comfort knowing we are not alone. Yes, we have the staff of the Mennonite Home to help. And yes, there is the presence of the Hospice and Community Care staff. But there is also the presence of our God. And as he works through others and through his Spirit, our souls have been comforted, our faith strengthened, and our breaking hearts are even now beginning to mend ... if only a little bit! :)

My friends, as these past few days have reminded us, death will come calling for us all. When he does, will you be ready to leave this life and enter the next? If you have any questions or doubts, please take a moment and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by ... and thanks for your prayers! 

pj

P.S. My mother-in-law passed away on Saturday (October 8th) at 3:00 am. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

It's Friday ... so it's time to pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a couple of thoughts. 

1. In case you missed it, yesterday was National Coffee Day, and some places were giving away free coffee! Why celebrate coffee? Why not? Is there a better beverage out there? Coffee hot or cold can't be beat. And not only does it taste great ... but it is chock full of great health benefits. So if you missed the fact that yesterday was National Coffee Day you may have missed a free cup. But given the upside of coffee drinking, coffee is worth every dollar you have to spend on it! Oh ... and by the way, today is National Chewing Gum Day. Since people have been chewing gum for several thousand years ... why not celebrate with a chew of your favorite brand? 

2. Long time Los Angeles Dodger baseball fans will no longer enjoy the voice of Vin Scully when they tune in to listen to Dodger games next season. After SIXTY-SEVEN years, Scully, known as "the Voice of the Dodgers," broadcast his last game this week. Scully is one of the most beloved baseball voices of all time. Even non Dodger fans loved listening to him (I know I did!). Among the many tributes that poured in this week was this one: "He makes Los Angeles a better place to live."  That tribute got me thinking. Is Lancaster a better place to live because of me? Is Grace Church a better church in which to worship and fellowship and serve because of me? Is my family a stronger, healthier family because of me? And what about YOU? Are those around you better because of you? For all of us who claim allegiance to Christ, let's be more intentional about being the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)! 

3. I recently read an article titled, Are We Seeing the Death of Congregational Singing in "Contemporary" Worship? One of the statements made by the author referenced the volume of the worship band in many churches. He wrote, "Often the congregation can't hear itself sing because of the sound level of the 'professional' singers and instrumentalists. So people don't sing." Now that may be true of other churches, it is not true of the church I am privileged to pastor. On one recent Sunday, during our "contemporary" service (which is led by a worship "band"), I stopped singing. Not because I could not hear myself sing, but because I wanted to hear our congregation sing. In fact, on the last verse of the song, the band stopped playing ... and oh, how beautiful was the music being made by a chorus of human voices! Here at Grace Church, our philosophy of music includes this dictum: If the congregation cannot be heard singing ... then the worship band is too loud. Maybe that won't work for other churches, but it sure works for us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, December 9, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

I have been on vacation this week ... so I did not put together a post for this morning. In its place, here is a video giving the back story of one of the most iconic (and terrifying!) photos of the last century. I wonder what OSHA would have to say about these guys sitting 80 stories above the ground with no safety harness to keep them from falling should they slip!

And please be sure to take some time to remember the reason behind this season of Advent (John 1:1 and John 1:14).




And just a reminder ... the script is now done! I invite you to join us at Grace on Sunday morning, December 18th for The Steward's Tale.




Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, December 2, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday (and this week I am REALLY glad that Friday is finally here ... more on this below) and that means it's time for a cup of coffee and a few random thoughts. 

1. World magazine writes on a recent CDC (Center for Disease Control) report that indicates world abortion rates are falling. According to World, "Pro-life leaders see the new data as more proof the pro-life movement has changed public opinion about abortion." This is indeed good news. You can read World's article here. Please continue to pray for the work of the many pro-life ministries that are actively advocating for the unborn in so many ways. And if you want to "put some money where your prayers are" consider a gift to Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services

2. If you are looking for an advent devotional that will help you get and stay focused on the true meaning of the Christmas season, I recommend one available from the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism, Where the Light Shines Brightest (download the pdf here for free). It is a 25 day devotional with devotional thought, a brief prayer, and the appropriate Scripture text. It is very well done! You might also want to consider Desiring God Ministries' advent devotional, Advent is for Adoring Jesus. This would also be a great choice! 

3. Finally, I mentioned above I am glad it is FRIDAY! Yahoo! Huzzah! YES! Why so? Yesterday I had the joy (not really!) of undergoing my medical screening procedure that I get to do every ten years (now I am NOT complaining ... because it could be a life saver if I would have had colon cancer AND I don't have to have it done every five years (as do those who have a family history of colon cancer) AND because I was able to resume a regular diet right away (unlike some medical procedures!). I am talking about a colonoscopy. And if you have been through one, you will know why I am so glad it is now behind me ... in the rear view mirror of life (puns intended). The procedure itself is not bad at all ... but it is what precedes. I will leave it at that. One of my staffers showed me the following song performed by Christian comedian, Tim Hawkins. It is simply titled, "The Colonoscopy Song." FUNNY! (especially now looking back!). So take a moment and watch and listen and LAUGH! Laughter is a proven stress reliever!



Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ - Special Thanksgiving Day Edition

Here it is ... Thanksgiving Day! So I thought I would post my blog early this week to catch the holiday. So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (and just so you know, I am so THANKFUL FOR COFFEE!) and join me for a few thoughts.  

1. Tomorrow is "Black Friday." Many of you will be numbered among the millions flying from store to store looking for the deals that will lighten your Christmas gift-giving budget! Not me. In all the years I have been on this planet ... there was only one year that I went shopping on a Black Friday. That year I was in need of a sports coat. A store at Park City Center advertised a really nice sports coat as a "door buster." The price was one I could not pass up. So at 6 am I walked into the already packed mall. I walked briskly to the men's department of the store ... found my size ... paid for the coat and got out of there as quickly as I could! That has been it. I now prefer to look for the deals online. Doing so is a lot less hectic (not to mention I can sit and sip my coffee while shopping!). So whether you head out the door later tonight or tomorrow ... remember not to spend over your budget - no matter how great the deals might be! 

2. I read the following article a grandson wrote about his atheistic father. You need to read this. My eyes perspired a bit as I read it. It's titled, Evangelism, the Holidays, and My Atheistic Father. The moral of this story is, "Never give up on the power of the gospel to save!" - Romans 1:16.

3. The Thanksgiving holiday weekend is the busiest travel period of the entire year. Millions of cars will choke the nation's highways, while millions of others will be taking advantage of lower air fares (as compared to last year's Thanksgiving holiday) to travel to numerous destinations. According to AAA the top destinations this Thanksgiving include the following: 


  1. Las Vegas, Nevada
  2. San Francisco, California
  3. San Diego, California
  4. Orlando, Florida
  5. New York City, New York
  6. New Orleans, Louisiana
  7. Anaheim, California
  8. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
  9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  10. Seattle, Washington
Note that several of these are top cities for tourism. This indicates to me that many are using their extra time off to head off on vacation. But AAA missed out on the number one destination of Thanksgiving travelers. I think it's obvious that the #1 destination of those on the move is HOME! Thanksgiving is the holiday when families come together ... perhaps even more so than Christmas. This is what makes Thanksgiving such a special holiday (and yes, the Thanksgiving feast with the Turkey and all the trimmings doesn't hurt either!). If you have a close family ... you know how special it is to gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner! 

For those who have chosen to follow Jesus Christ, the Bible speaks of a feast in heaven that awaits us. It is called "The Marriage Supper of the Lamb" (you can read about it in Revelation 19:6-8). Heaven is our home. And one day ... we will sit down with God's people from all the ages to enjoy the greatest feast of all! Will you be there? If you have questions or just are not sure, I invite you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

4. Even in the midst of trials, one can be thankful. Sharon and I wrote a blog for our church web site on this topic. The title is Giving Thanks in the Tough Seasons of Life. I encourage you to check it out, especially if life has been on the rought side of late. 

Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, November 18, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

It's Friday ... so thanks for joining me for Friday Coffee with PJ! Pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee (just a reminder, mine is San Francisco Bay Fog Chaser ... and it does indeed chase away that early morning fog that so many of us have when we awaken (and looking at its "Best Seller" status on Amazon, I am guessing a lot of other people have discovered that there's no better way to start your day than with Folgers SF Bay Fog Chaser in your cup!).

1. With Thanksgiving Day now less than a week away, I am sure the big Thanksgiving dinner is on your mind. Hmm, I wonder if there is a recipe for "coffee stuffing?" I think I will check ... so hold on .. I will be right back. I promise I will be so quick you won't even miss me! OK .. I am back. Quick, wasn't I! I struck out looking for a stuffing recipe that included coffee. But I did find a recipe that included coffee in the glaze for the turkey. Check it out here!   Now, if you have not yet purchased your turkey for the big meal, you are probably thinking about doing so soon.  So please beware of buying one too big to handle. Take a look at this poor woman's situation!




I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did! 

2. Question: when does a parent stop being a parent? Answer: as long as one has children (no matter their age). Once a parent always a parent! Now, what that parenting happens to look like changes across the years, as it should. As my wife and I have moved into the grandparenting phase of life, our parenting has morphed into the giving of occasional advice to our adult children (and that usually when asked!) and giving ongoing encouragement, AND helping care for the grandchildren (which we LOVE to do ... within limits, of course as we are not getting any younger!). But for those of you who are still very much actively parenting children who still live under your roof, Tim Challies (my favorite Christian blogger) has some advise as he discusses 3 Parenting Myths We Are All Tempted to Believe. I only wish someone had warned me about these when I started on my parenting journey! 

3. This month, our church is on a spiritual journey: 30 Days of Praise and Thanksgiving. For the "praise" aspect of our journey, we are using an excellent tool offered by the Navigators, 30 Days of Praying the Names and Attributes of God. Sixteen days in, and I have benefited greatly by being reminded of God and all that he is! He is indeed worthy of all the praise we can offer him! As for the "thanksgiving" aspect of our journey, we have encouraged people to use a gratitude journal (or simply a list) to record at least five blessings each day for which he or she is thankful. I now have around 100 on my list (which will continue to grow!). WHY this emphasis on praise and thanksgiving? All of us live in a very noisy world. We are bombarded by a lot of voices. Many of these voices are not pointing us toward God and His Son. So ... we need to counteract the messages we are hearing with God's truth. Reminding ourselves of WHO he is (and then praising him) and spending time thanking him for his many blessings is a powerful way to keep us "on track" with God while we continue our journey on this earth. It's not too late to join us. God is indeed GREAT and GOOD ... and that makes him a God who is worthy of our praise and gratitude! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Sorry I missed you last Friday. I was away at a Grace College and Seminary Board Retreat and did not have a chance to write a post before I left. So I made up for missing last week with a rather long post. Thanks for joining me today! And a BIG THANKS to all of you who are serving or have served our country in one of the branches of the military. We salute you today! 

1. As I mentioned above, last week I traveled to Rome .... Georgia that is! Our retreat was held at the WinShape Retreat Center, which is run by the WinShape Foundation, a creation of the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy. Just prior to our first session of our board retreat, the activities director (a Grace College alumnus) told the story of Berry College (the retreat center sits on the property of Berry). The college is named for Martha Berry. Martha had a vision to start a school for the academically able and economically poor children of the rural south. Her dream was fulfilled and continues to this day as Berry College (and through the ministry of the WinShape Foundation at the Retreat Center). As the activities director was telling Martha's story and the story of the Cathy family, I could not help but think of the Milton Hershey School, where my youngest daughter teaches. This school exists today because a man and his wife had a desire to help orphans. After making a fortune making and selling chocolate, Milton Hershey established a trust fund to pay for the ongoing work of his school (currently the school is educating  approximately 2000 residential students and construction of more group homes designed to house enough students to raise the student population to 2500 has begun). Over the years, thousands of financially needy students have been prepared for life. All this to say .... Two men ... Two incredibly successfully businessmen ... unbelievably wealthy ... and their legacy lives on through their generosity. We all can learn from them. "But wait a minute, John, I don't have that kind of money and never will!" I am sure you don't (just as I am sure that I don't). But friends, we don't need a lot of money to be generous. Yes, generosity can be done by giving away money ... but there are so many other ways to be generous (with your time, your gifts and abilities, your home, and yes, even with the "little" money you do have ---- I used quotations around the word "little" because by world standards, even the poorest of Americans have more than most people on the planet!). This morning, I ran across the following verse in my devotional reading. I encourage you to read it ... and then go and live it! 

So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). 

2. During our Board Retreat, we began each morning with a devotional brought to us by a different board member. The individual who led on our last morning, finished his devotional reading with the following list of observations from a man who had been around the block and then some. The wisdom he gained through life experience was ... well, I will allow you to finish that thought. 

Observations from a long-time, retiring Christian school headmaster:

A. People never receive too much encouragement.
B. There is wisdom in many counselors.
C. In the big scheme, our lives and our influence are really very small. There is no room for pride.
D. Prayer is the most under appreciated and underused source of power.
E. God gives us people with immense needs to keep us from the temptation of self-indulgence.
F. Remember, each day you control very little, so depend on God.
G. God produces fruit, we plant seeds. Don’t confuse the two.
H. Have more grace in your life. 

3. Finally, I would be amiss if I did not say anything about the outcome of Tuesday's election. Many people this week are thrilled that Donald Trump won the election. Others are contacting their realtor to help them find a new house in Canada. I also know that if Hillary Clinton had won there would also be many dancing in the streets while others would be making appointments to see their therapist. Listen. This is not a first for this sort of thing. We live in a democracy. We have a political process that works (perhaps some of you question that given the choice we had on Tuesday and/or the result). But come January 20, 2017, we will witness the peaceful (I hope) transfer of power. This is what makes our country (among other things) unique among the countries of the world. With the election now in the rear view mirror, here are a few thoughts, that I hope, are worth something . . . 

1). There is no perfect candidate for political office. Yes, I would argue that some are better than others, but if you are looking for the perfect candidate ... you will have to look for the rest of your life. Consider some of our previous presidents ... John F. Kennedy was a known womanizer. Lyndon Johnson bullied people and used profanity like I use deodorant. Richard Nixon was ... well, does Watergate mean anything to you? Both presidential candidates this year brought their baggage to the race. Did one have more baggage than the other? That answer depends on who you talk to. 

2.) I have heard many voice their disgust that millions could cast their vote for such a man as Trump. But I have not heard anyone say the same about those who voted for candidates who support abortion. Of course there are many who see abortion as a woman's right (therefore their position is referred to as pro-choice). And then there are many who are pro-life. But what I find interesting in the whole abortion conversation is that when the unborn is wanted by the mother it is referred to as a baby. But when the mother does not want the unborn it is a "fetus." So is that what makes the unborn a person or a nonperson .... whether or not the mother wants the unborn child? I happen to be pro-life. I believe that human life begins at conception. You can call me old-fashioned or whatever else you choose. But I think it is downright shameful that America leads the world in the number of abortions performed each year (approximately a million). When we discuss protecting the most vulnerable in our society, I can think of none more vulnerable than the unborn. We need to do more as a nation to protect these most vulnerable from the abortionists who would end their lives. The screams of the unborn are silent. We must be their voice! 

3). Now that the votes have been tallied and Trump declared the victor, what should our response as Christians be? For starters we must pray for Trump and all of the candidates, regardless of party affiliation, who were elected to office on Tuesday (1 Timothy 2:1-3). We also need to stop griping and stop gloating. Instead, we must come together and try to solve problems through civil discourse (i.e. conversation that is marked by politeness and courtesy) as we discuss possible solutions - something the presidential candidates had problems doing. :( In addition, we need to give all our fears and anxieties to our sovereign God, who loved us enough to give his own son for us (John 3:16). This sovereign God has a plan and is working that plan. And yes, that plan includes those who "rule" in our world today (Daniel 2:21). Finally, we must keep the main thing the main thing. And just what is the main thing? The gospel of Jesus Christ! This is the good news that has value not only for this life ... but the life to come as well! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, October 28, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Friday. Coffee. A few random thoughts. Welcome, my friends, to Friday Coffee with PJ! Oh ... and by the way, here is another article - this time from Consumer Reports - on the benefits of drinking coffee! 

1. What should one of our chief aims as we attend church on Sunday mornings? Obviously the worship of our AWESOME God is at the top of the list (or at least should be). But let me suggest to you another VIP (Very Important Purpose) you should be striving to do every Sunday you walk through the doors of your church facility: ENCOURAGEMENT! And I am not talking about yours ... I am referring to YOU encouraging OTHERS! The New Testament makes it clear that we all need to be on a mission to encourage our brothers and sisters in the faith when we "come together!" Consider: 

Hebrews 3:13  "But exhort (encourage) one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."

Hebrews 10:24-25  "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

So as you head out the door to attend services at your local church on Sunday, do so ON MISSION to encourage those you encounter. And the funny thing about encouraging others? As you do so, you will be encouraged in the process! 

2. Earlier this week, I drove my 5 year old grandson, Nolan, to our house from preschool ... a whopping distance of about 1/4 mile! In that short time we were in the van together, somehow we got on the topic of how his dad works out. I asked Nolan if he ever worked out ... and he replied, "I don't lift weights, I only do cardio!"  Ha! Even this little guy is picking up how important it is to keep our hearts in shape! Well, not only do we need to pursue things in life that will promote good heart health ... we must be just as concerned (if not more so) with the condition of our spiritual heart! In the Old Testament book of wisdom, we are urged, "above all else, guard
your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23). Now there are many steps we can take to do this. For starters, saturating our heart and mind with God's Word will do this. Knowing and living the Scriptures will go a long way toward guarding our hearts (Psalm 119:9-11)! In addition, prayer flavored with praise and thanksgiving will also do the same (Philippians 4:4-7). Knowing how vital this latter step is, we are launching an emphasis this coming Sunday at our church that will lead us as a church family into a deeper practice of both praise and thanksgiving. The Thirty Days of Praise and Thanksgiving initiative will be worth every minute put into it. God is worthy to be praised (Psalm 18:3) and we must thank him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18). As we do, we will guard our hearts against such things as pride, bitterness, covetousness, anger and more! 

3. My wife's journey continues. Now that her femur has healed, she is scheduled for a knee replacement revision on Friday, December 16th. The surgery will also involve the removal of the plate and screws used to repair her broken femur. This gives us plenty of time to get "stuff" done prior to the surgery. Your prayers are much appreciated. 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Friday, October 21, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Once again it's Friday! So pour yourself a cup of your favorite coffee and join me for a few random thoughts. 

1. I have been serving on the Board of Trustees of Grace College and Grace Theological Seminary for about ten years. As a board member, I receive via email each Friday a copy of Equip, the weekly communique that is distributed on campus for students, staff and faculty. In a recent issue of Equip, I read the following about coffee. I found it to be very interesting: 


The 2016 Grace College Organic Chemistry I students under the guidance of Chad Snyder, recently analyzed coffee samples donated from several of faculty and staff. Although not all coffee samples were able to be analyzed it was discovered that some coffees possessed higher caffeine levels than others. This is not surprising nor is it new information, however, the CHM 2620 (Organic Chemistry I) students found trends in caffeine levels that were region or country dependent. Coffee beans analyzed from Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Tanzania presented higher levels of caffeine in their beans. Coffee beans from Costa Rica, Tanzania and Guatemala manifested lower levels of caffeine.

Sooooo .... If you really need a caffeine boost, before ordering your coffee, make sure it is made from coffee beans grown in Africa! 

2. Yesterday I had my 10 week post op appointment with the surgeon who performed my ulnar osteotomy (shortening of the ulna bone - the smaller of the two bones in the forearm) and wrist repair. For the first three weeks following the surgery, my arm and wrist were wrapped in a cast. Then I was fitted for a custom made brace. The brace has been pretty much my constant companion ... until yesterday morning! My doctor made my day by telling me I no longer needed to wear it! Yes. For the first time in two months I felt free! And it felt GOOD! 

Freedom is something we all cherish, especially as Americans. But there is a greater freedom than the liberty we enjoy as citizens of our country. Jesus talked about it as recorded in the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John. He put it this way, 


“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free . . . So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:31-32, 36).

The freedom Jesus is referencing here is freedom from sin ... it's penalty, it's bondage, and ultimately, it's presence. Have you ever experienced this freedom? If you have any doubts or questions ... or would like to explore this more ... I invite you to check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj


Friday, October 14, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Today follows 15 days that have revolved around the death of my mother-in-law, Bessie Pietrowski. Yesterday, we laid her body to rest in the Brigadier General William Doyle Memorial Veterans Cemetery located in New Jersey (my wife's dad was a WW II veteran of North Africa, Sicily and Italy). So for those of you who prayed ... thanks! And please continue to pray for my wife as she processes her emotions upon the passing of her mom.

Thanks for stopping by . . .
pj

Friday, October 7, 2016

Friday Coffee with PJ

Seeing that today is Friday ... I invite you to pour a cup of your favorite Joe and join me for a couple of random (but I hope) fruitful thoughts. 

1. The destruction and devastation that hurricane Matthew is leaving in its path is downright heartbreaking. For the people of Haiti who have suffered loss of life ... and for the survivors the loss of what little they had ... is heartbreaking. I am sure in coming days, opportunities will arise to give toward relieving their suffering. Please consider doing so. Every gift, no matter how small, when put together with other gifts, will go a long way toward helping these people who have to put their lives back together after having them ripped apart. Our world-wide Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches has set up a storm relief fund through Encompass World Partners' Crisis Response Network to help assist in the relief effort in Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida.  


2. Death. It is something we will all one day face (unless, of course, Jesus Christ returns beforehand!). Yet death is something we rarely think about. Death is something we as a society have done our best to "sanitize." So instead of saying "My Uncle Tom died," we say, "My Uncle Tom passed away."  Now I am not against using euphemisms for death. It does soften the reality being expressed (and even the Apostle Paul used an euphemism when referring to the deaths of believers when in 1 Thessalonians chapter four he referred to those who had died as being "asleep"  - 1 Thessalonians 4:13). But try as we might to push the thought of death to the margins of our minds, the day will come when the vast majority of us will have to watch a loved one die. And that is never easy. Certainly when the eternal destination of that loved one is clear due to their firm and solid testimony of faith in the Savior Jesus Christ - there is a "sweetness" in that moment. And why not? What a thought to know one's loved one with their final breath will leave behind all the trials, pain and sorrow of living in a broken world, only to "awaken" in a place where "every tear will be wiped away" (Revelation 21:4-5)! Calling this to mind will already begin the process of healing our breaking hearts. Yet that sweetness is tempered by the bitterness of the moment. Watching a life fade away, knowing that a dreaded separation is about to occur, is not an easy experience. 

These past few days my wife and I and our family have sat by the bedside of my mother-in-law whose death is rapidly approaching. As she is losing her grip on the barest of threads tying her to this life, it is a huge comfort knowing we are not alone. Yes, we have the staff of the Mennonite Home to help. And yes, there is the presence of the Hospice and Community Care staff. But there is also the presence of our God. And as he works through others and through his Spirit, our souls have been comforted, our faith strengthened, and our breaking hearts are even now beginning to mend ... if only a little bit! :)

My friends, as these past few days have reminded us, death will come calling for us all. When he does, will you be ready to leave this life and enter the next? If you have any questions or doubts, please take a moment and check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face. 

Thanks for stopping by ... and thanks for your prayers! 

pj

P.S. My mother-in-law passed away on Saturday (October 8th) at 3:00 am. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

It's Friday ... so it's time to pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a couple of thoughts. 

1. In case you missed it, yesterday was National Coffee Day, and some places were giving away free coffee! Why celebrate coffee? Why not? Is there a better beverage out there? Coffee hot or cold can't be beat. And not only does it taste great ... but it is chock full of great health benefits. So if you missed the fact that yesterday was National Coffee Day you may have missed a free cup. But given the upside of coffee drinking, coffee is worth every dollar you have to spend on it! Oh ... and by the way, today is National Chewing Gum Day. Since people have been chewing gum for several thousand years ... why not celebrate with a chew of your favorite brand? 

2. Long time Los Angeles Dodger baseball fans will no longer enjoy the voice of Vin Scully when they tune in to listen to Dodger games next season. After SIXTY-SEVEN years, Scully, known as "the Voice of the Dodgers," broadcast his last game this week. Scully is one of the most beloved baseball voices of all time. Even non Dodger fans loved listening to him (I know I did!). Among the many tributes that poured in this week was this one: "He makes Los Angeles a better place to live."  That tribute got me thinking. Is Lancaster a better place to live because of me? Is Grace Church a better church in which to worship and fellowship and serve because of me? Is my family a stronger, healthier family because of me? And what about YOU? Are those around you better because of you? For all of us who claim allegiance to Christ, let's be more intentional about being the fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-16)! 

3. I recently read an article titled, Are We Seeing the Death of Congregational Singing in "Contemporary" Worship? One of the statements made by the author referenced the volume of the worship band in many churches. He wrote, "Often the congregation can't hear itself sing because of the sound level of the 'professional' singers and instrumentalists. So people don't sing." Now that may be true of other churches, it is not true of the church I am privileged to pastor. On one recent Sunday, during our "contemporary" service (which is led by a worship "band"), I stopped singing. Not because I could not hear myself sing, but because I wanted to hear our congregation sing. In fact, on the last verse of the song, the band stopped playing ... and oh, how beautiful was the music being made by a chorus of human voices! Here at Grace Church, our philosophy of music includes this dictum: If the congregation cannot be heard singing ... then the worship band is too loud. Maybe that won't work for other churches, but it sure works for us! 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 
pj

Are You Preparing for Eternity?

Our journey on earth is but a breath ... a heart beat when compared to the expanse of Eternity. We all must remember that how we live live in the here and now will impact our experience in the then and there.

PJ's Spiritual Meanderings

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.