PJ

PJ

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On the Road Home!


Later today I will throw my things into the trunk of my car and hit the road for home. Even though this has been a good experience here at the ICPC annual training seminar - it will be great to be heading home!

All of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, who are trusting him and him alone for our salvation are also on the road home. You see we are merely aliens here on this earth. Our true home is heaven. Peter reminds us of this when he refers to us as "strangers in the world" (translations other than the NIV translate the Greek word for strangers as "aliens"). Oh how easy it is to lose sight of that. We all must WORK at reminding ourselves that we are on a journey - we are on the road home. Doing so will help us to avoid becoming so earthly minded that we are of no heavenly good!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thank God for Cops (and their many sacrifices)!


Yesterday at the Annual Training Seminar sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains, I sat through four different workshops - each running approximately an hour and a half. The first, taught by a police Sgt. who is also a licensed psychologist discussed the problem of burnout among law enforcement officers. The second workshop addressed the topic of an officer being killed or injured and the steps chaplains could take to help fellow officers in the department cope. The two afternoon sessions dealt with the process of death notifications and the unique challenges police officers face on the home front. All in all it was quite an enlightening day.

As depressing as these topics were, they had to be discussed. Why? Because police officers burn out, suffer injuries (some are fatal), are responsible to make death notifications and often run into problems at home (I heard one instructor state that the divorce rate for police officers is well over 70%!). After sitting through the six hours of training yesterday, I emerged with a new appreciation for our law enforcement personnel. They sacrifice a lot to keep average Joe and Mary citizen like you and me safe. When you count your blessings today - please thank God for the men and women in blue (or black) who patrol our streets. They are the "thin blue line" that stands between us and chaos.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stressed Out?


The first workshop I attended yesterday was titled, "Stress Management." Sure enough, the instructor faced stress right off the bat. For ten minutes he struggled to get his laptop computer to communicate with the projector. He asked for help from the group and one tech savvy chaplain got up and after a few additional minutes,resolved the problem and off we went. That reminded me of Murphy's Law #43 which states, "No matter how well prepared we are - the 'unprepared for' will inevitably show up!" And when this happens, we feel STRESS! So I thought it was somewhat humorous that at the beginning of a workshop on managing stress, we got to see first hand how the instructor dealt with stress (and I would have to say he handled it very well!).

I wish I could say that I always, or even usually, handle stress well. But often I do not. I get worked up, overly anxious, grumpy, mad and, well, I think you get the picture (and it's not pretty!). So how should we deal with stressful life circumstances that crash into our lives, often unexpected and always unwelcome? The Apostle Paul gives some helpful insight. In Philippians 4:6-7 he writes, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." There it is my friend. You want to be able to effectively defuse stress in your life --- then take the situations, circumstances, people who are causing you stress and give them all to God. His shoulders are broad (much, much broader than ours) and HE can carry the heaviest of loads (and never grow weary!). When we stop pray (with an attitude of gratitude thrown in) -- Paul says that we will know peace! Now there's a prescription for stress relief!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, June 25, 2007

I Made It!


I am typing this blog posting in the lobby of the Grand Amway hotel in downtown Grand Rapids - a really beautiful hotel, built by the owners of Amway (hmm - I haven't heard much about Amway lately, come to think of it!). The conference is soon to begin. I wanted to place a brief post to let you all know that the 650+ mile trip was pretty much uneventful. I got in about 5 PM last (Sunday) evening.

Please pray for me as I take the first two of my 12 basic "courses" today - with the rest to follow on Tues, Wed, and Thurs. I am planning to leave about 3 PM on Thursday and drive part way back - and then finish the trip on Friday. If I get the chance, I will post to my blog throughout the week and let you know how the conference is going.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Off to Grand Rapids, Michigan!


Tomorrow I will be leaving for a training conference being conducted in Grand Rapids (the original plan was for Sharon to accompany me, but that plan was changed as a result of my daughter, Kate's accident). The conference is being sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains (of which I am a member). Beginning at 9 AM on Monday and running through 3 PM on Thursday, I will be taking a total of twelve workshops, each one lasting approximately 1 1/2 hours. Workshop topics include "Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome," "Crisis Response," "Suicide," "Stress Management," "Death Notification," "Burnout," "Substance Abuse" and other similar topics (sounds like an uplifting week, don't you think?). I am grateful for the opportunity to attend because it will help me to be better equipped to serve as both a police chaplain for the West Lampeter Township PD and as a pastor here at Grace Church! And this is something God is always interested in - us getting better equipped to do HIS work!

If you read this blog during my time away, would you please pray for me. Pray that God would work through the workshops and those who are facilitating them to help me and others to minister more effectively to those in law enforcement and those in our communities who are in the midst of crisis situations.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, June 22, 2007

Too Much to Handle - Part 2 . . .


Little did I realize earlier this week that when I wrote about trials, I would be called upon to heed my own counsel. It all happened yesterday afternoon about 2 PM. I received a call on my cell phone from a stranger informing me that my daughter, Kate was in an accident. The caller was quick to assure me that Kate was OK - but I will tell you that the fifteen minute drive to the accident scene seemed to take an eternity! When I finally arrived, my eyes took it all in ... police car, two ambulances, a crowd of people, a banged up SUV and Kate's once shiny now smashed Dodge Neon. I immediately jumped out of my car and rushed to Kate's side. She was lying on a back board while a pair of EMT's were examining her. She assured me that she was not badly hurt and was shortly loaded onto the ambulance for the trip to LGH. After exchanging info with the police officer who was investigating, I climbed back in my car and drove to the hospital. Once there, Kate went through a series of xrays and a CAT scan, all which came back negative. As of this writing, she is still in LGH for observation purposes. Hopefully she will come home no later than tomorrow (Saturday). But through it all, Sharon, Kate and I are experiencing the truth of the verse I quoted the other day, Isaiah 43:2 where God makes this promise to us, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Thank God for His comforting presence!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thank God for TERRA FIRMA!


I have not been out on the open ocean very often in my life ... in fact, I think it's only been twice. Both experiences included some bouts of nausea (a.k.a. "sea-sickness"). I cannot adequately express to you how RELIEVED I felt to get back onto terra firma following those two marine adventures! After rocking and rolling with the waves of the sea, I was absolutely thrilled to have solid (a.k.a. "unmoving") ground under my feet!

That's also how I feel when I think about God's Word. As we go through all the turmoil and the "ups and downs" of life - it is quite reassuring to know that we can take a stand on the rock solidness of God's Word! As the apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). No matter what good work we are engaged in, the Word of God is SUFFICIENT to thoroughly (NOT partially) equip us for that work! Thank God for that!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Too Much Too Handle!


Last night a couple of lines of powerful thunderstorms marched across Lancaster. Loud rolling thunder, brief high wind gusts and torrential rainfall were par for these storms. At one point, I decided I had better go downstairs to check my basement. All was fine until I got to my back door. There I found some water seeping in. I opened the door and found a small pond just outside the door. The drain located there was working - but the rain was falling so fast that it could not keep up with the volume of water (at one point last night, we received an inch of rain in a 25 minute span - now that is some rain storm!). As soon as the rain let up, the drain was able to catch up, and the threat to my basement was over!

Life can often be like that. We get hit by some sort of unseen, unexpected crisis. It comes with such force we just don't see how we will ever survive. The circumstances are of such a magnitude that we are overwhelmed. At these points, is there any hope? Absolutely! For starters, just like my drain and the rain last night, usually even the most trying of life circumstances will eventually "let up." Trials come and trials go - but, except in a few cases, they rarely stay forever (and even if they do stay with us all of this life - that is NOT forever!). So all of us can find strength when facing difficulties by cultivating the attitude, "This too will pass." But even more important than this is the reality that whenever we suffer, we never suffer alone. God has promised us, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2). So whenever we are going through it - even if we feel that we are soon to be overwhelmed and swept away - take heart, your God, the Creator of ALL is with you. You can count on HIM to get you through!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Guilt - Good or Bad?

It was just over a month ago when Lancaster County residents were once again stunned to hear that a multiple homicide had occurred during the early morning hours while most were asleep. And it was just a week ago today that the alleged killer, Alec Kreider confessed his horrible deed to his dad. Two days later, his father contacted the police. By this past Saturday, the 16 year old was in custody.

What was young Kreider's motive to kill three people, one of whom was supposedly a good friend? We don't know. Authorities have been silent to this point on a possible motive. Until they tell us what they know, we will remain in the dark (and perhaps they do not even know at this point!). But here is another question for you - one that I think I can answer: What caused Kreider to confess to his dad? I believe it was, in one word, GUILT. You see guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body. Pain alerts us to the fact that something is WRONG with our body. So pain is really a good thing. Consider leprosy. Leprosy is a disease that attacks the nerves, eventually deadening them. So when a leper injures a foot or a hand for example, he may not feel any pain. As a result, the wound goes unattended, infection sets in and the leper ends up losing a toe or worse, a foot. So it is really a good thing that our Creator wired our bodies with a built in alarm system. What he did with our bodies he also did for our souls. Each one of us has a conscience. This conscience lets us know when we have done something that will harm our souls - and it does so through this feeling of guilt. If we are not careful, if we constantly ignore these feelings of guilt, we can eventually sear our conscience (see 1 Timothy 4:2). When this happens, we feel no guilt - and that is not a good thing!

Now before you get all upset with me, I do acknowledge such a thing as "false guilt." Sometimes we feel guilty over things that quite frankly we should not feel guilty about (like the guilt a godly parent feels over the ungodly choices of a prodigal adult child OR guilt we feel over a sin that has long been forgiven). But for everyone who suffers problems from "false guilt" there are far more of us who suffer because we do not pay attention to our "guilty consciences." My prayer has always been that God will keep my conscience sensitive - sensitive to his Spirit's pressure (which will mean feeling guilty when I sin!). The good news for a follower of Jesus is that when we do feel guilty because we have sinned, if we confess that sin (which is causing the guilt) to God, then "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Praise God that he is a God who is QUICK to forgive! Let's all learn to listen to our consciences when they tell us we are guilty. Let's turn from (the Bible's word for this is "repent") our sin and turn to God and HIS ways! Our souls will be much healthier if we do!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reminders . . .

We all need reminders. Why? Because we all have such good "forgeteries!" (And the older I get the more effective my "forgetery" is becoming!) Last week I was able to take a week of vacation. I had a great time. The first two days of the week, my wife Sharon and I, along with our youngest daughter, Kate (who is already a college graduate - where does the time go? - I will tackle that issue in another blog posting) traveled south to Maryland and West Virginia to visit the historical sites of Antietam Battlefield (Sharpsburg, MD) and Harpers Ferry, WV. On Wednesday, I spent the day with my son in Philadelphia. We hoofed it around Center City where I pointed out to him my old college campus (of which only the men's dormitory remains!) and other locales that Sharon and I used to frequent. We also traveled to the base of William Penn's statue which sits above City Hall (it's a really cool view of the city from that vantage point!). We topped off our day in Philadelphia by watching the IMAX film on mummies and going through the King Tut exhibit (both at the Franklin Institute - where I just happened to work for a few months just after I graduated from college). The rest of my week off was spent primarily around the house, getting some projects done - with a trip to Harrisburg to watch the Senators play thrown in on Saturday.

Now, I began this posting by talking about reminders - so here are some important things I was reminded of during my time off. To begin with, I was reminded of the importance of relationships. It is not that I had forgotten, but spending time with my family just reaffirmed to me that time spent with people is truly time well spent. Most likely, all of us can enrich our lives by turning off the TV (I spent very little time watching television last week) and playing a game with our kids, going for a walk with our spouse or just hanging out with a friend! I was also reminded of the need to "unplug." I alluded to this when I mentioned that I watched very little TV last week. When we took our trip south, I left my laptop at home (even though I knew the motel at which we were staying offered free Internet access). So there I was, far from home and my laptop sitting on my desk in my home office. Guess what? I survived! And it felt good! I think all of us can benefit by stepping away from the computer from time to time. And in place of surfing the net, let's spend time seeking our God. Finally, I was reminded of how blessed I am to be shepherding the flock of believers at Grace Church at Willow Valley. Sharon and I worshipped with another body here in Lancaster County yesterday. The music was good, the sermon, I thought was a great one, the people were friendly - but it was not home! If you are a part of the family here at Grace, thanks for making Grace such a wonderful place! So, bottom line, I am back in the office. Physically rested, spiritually refreshed - and reflecting on these three important reminders.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gone on Vacation!


Starting tomorrow (June 18th), I will begin a week of vacation. I looked up the word "vacation" in the dictionary and found this defintion: a respite or a time of respite from something. Now the word "respite" is not a word I typically use, so I consulted a dictionary again and found that "respite" means an interval of rest or relief . So putting those two definitions together, I see that a vacation is an interval of rest or relief from something. In this case, the "something" would be the daily grind of my work. Ahh. I think I am more than ready for that! I plan to spend some extra time with at least two of my adult children this week (along with my wife of course!). So as I am getting some needed respite, please pray for me. I'll be back next week with some more food for your soul!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Just How Did the Dinosaurs Die?

Mystery solved. At least that is what two paleontologists are saying. For nearly a century paleontologists (a..k.a. fossil experts) have been puzzled as to why so many of the dinosaur fossils that have been unearthed have shown dinosaurs which had been buried with their heads, necks and feet arched in a bizarre backward manner, twisting their body into a very unnatural posture. According to two noted dinosaur experts, this distorted posture shows that the dinosaurs were suffering "in violent death throes as they perished - asphyxiated by volcanic ashes or ash falls, poisoned by unknown toxins or DROWNED IN SWAMPS OR DEEP WATER LAKES" (emphasis mine). Hmm. Do you think maybe the drowning occurred as a result of the Nohaic Flood? Something catastrophic like a flood the proportions of the Genesis flood could certainly explain dinosaurs dying violent deaths. I for one am not surprised at these paleontologists findings. I have a hunch God isn't either!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Hungry?

Last night I wrapped up the final class in a five-week degree completion course at Lancaster Bible College. The Degree Completion Program at LBC (and many other colleges and universities) is designed to help working adults to earn their college degree. It is a great opportunity for many who would otherwise never be able to finish college. But it is demanding. Juggling work, family and ministry responsibilities while reading several hundred pages of texts, writing research/position papers and preparing oral presentations is no easy task. And once the students are done with one course, they have a week "off" before beginning their next course. Well, it's not really a week off, because they usually have a paper to write for the class they just finished and reading and other prep work to do for their next class. So I think you can see why I say it's demanding. I have the utmost admiration for these adults.

What motivates these men and women to go through such a tough program? I guess the answer varies from student to student. But there is something that most of them have in common. They are hungry. They are hungry to learn. They are hungry for their college degree. But most of all, they are hungry for God and His Word. They remind me of the way a newborn child craves to be fed (and WILL let you KNOW it!). Peter tells us that all of us need to be like a newborn child when it comes to the Word of God. He writes, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (1 Peter 2:2).

Hmm. Sometimes (far too often, in fact) I am NOT all that hungry for God's Word. How about YOU? Are you hungry for God and His Word? How often to you open it and read it? Are you striving to OBEY what you read? Or would you rather sit down and watch the latest episode of 24 or Dr. Phil? My prayer for you and me is that we will become increasingly hungry for God's Word.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Thankful for the Providence of God

I want to go "on record" as being very thankful that our God is a God of PROVIDENCE. Simply, this means that God has a plan and He is working that plan! Life, although at times may seem random and arbitrary in what comes our way - is anything but! There is an invisible hand moving the pieces of life's puzzle so that, at the end of the day, the puzzle is completed in line with his wisdom and will. As the Apostle Paul states so clearly in Ephesians 1:11 God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." Now I don't know about you - but for me that thought brings me a lot of comfort! And it gives me the courage to get out of bed each day and face the day ahead!

As I reflect on God's providence, I am grateful for a number of blessings I have enjoyed in life due to the providence of God. In his providence, God allowed me to be born into the Smith family in Harrisburg, PA on March 12, 1956 - the second (and unexpected) twin! Having been born in this prosperous country, I never had to experience the suffering of what many children throughout this world must endure. In his providence, God led me to a church in Lewisberry, PA where eventually, on a weekend youth retreat, I responded to the gospel and was radically changed. It was there at Camp Penn that I found Jesus Christ (or should I better say, Jesus Christ found me!). In his providence, God led me to PBU where I met the love of my life. Sharon and I began our dating relationship in the middle of my sophomore year and her freshman year. Two and half years later, we were married! In his providence, God blessed us with three children - all of whom bless us to this day. In his providence, God led me to Grace back in the summer of 1989. Little did I suspect then that I would remain here eighteen years (and counting!).
I think you get the point -- at least I hope you do. God has a plan - a plan for you, for your loved ones, for our church, our nation and our world. AND He IS working that plan! Praise God for HIS PROVIDENCE!

Thanks for listening,
pj

Friday, June 1, 2007

Things Aren't Always the Way they Seem!

For retired school teacher Henry Benner, it was just a routine errand. Transport the life-sized dummy of a young girl over to the Hans Herr House in West Lampeter Township (the figure had been donated to the Hans Herr House by the former Dutch Wonderland wax museum which shut its doors last year). So Henry wrapped the figure in a blanket and placed it in the trunk of his car. What he did not for see was the startled response of a passing motorist. This particular motorist thought Henry was placing the body of a real child in the trunk of his car. So the motorist dialed 911 to report that an "older white male" was seen placing a "child wrapped in a blanket" into the trunk of his car. The motorist was just being a good citizen. And can you blame him/her? After what has transpired here in Lancaster County across the past 18 months or so, you and I would have probably done the same! As East Lampeter police followed up the report, the truth came out and Henry? Well Henry just chuckled. The New Era quotes him as saying, "I think it's hilarious. I'm an old, retired bachelor." The moral of this story - things aren't always the way they seem!

We all need to keep this in mind. Ingrained deeply into human nature (and I should qualify by adding the word "fallen" and say "fallen human nature"), is this tendency to jump to conclusions. To make hasty judgments. To find a person guilty before even hearing the evidence. Yep. I just described me! And if you are honest, I also just described you! So what can we do about this tendency? How can we fight it? Let me suggest you practice what is called "The Judgement of Charity." This is the practice of simply giving another the benefit of the doubt. What might seem like a comment that was intended to hurt you - might have simply been someone putting their mouth in gear before their brain (there I go again, describing me!). Or maybe they are going through a brutally awful day. So instead of growing bitter because you think someone is out to destroy you - give them the benefit of the doubt. Because things aren't always the way they seem!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, June 28, 2007

On the Road Home!


Later today I will throw my things into the trunk of my car and hit the road for home. Even though this has been a good experience here at the ICPC annual training seminar - it will be great to be heading home!

All of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, who are trusting him and him alone for our salvation are also on the road home. You see we are merely aliens here on this earth. Our true home is heaven. Peter reminds us of this when he refers to us as "strangers in the world" (translations other than the NIV translate the Greek word for strangers as "aliens"). Oh how easy it is to lose sight of that. We all must WORK at reminding ourselves that we are on a journey - we are on the road home. Doing so will help us to avoid becoming so earthly minded that we are of no heavenly good!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Thank God for Cops (and their many sacrifices)!


Yesterday at the Annual Training Seminar sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains, I sat through four different workshops - each running approximately an hour and a half. The first, taught by a police Sgt. who is also a licensed psychologist discussed the problem of burnout among law enforcement officers. The second workshop addressed the topic of an officer being killed or injured and the steps chaplains could take to help fellow officers in the department cope. The two afternoon sessions dealt with the process of death notifications and the unique challenges police officers face on the home front. All in all it was quite an enlightening day.

As depressing as these topics were, they had to be discussed. Why? Because police officers burn out, suffer injuries (some are fatal), are responsible to make death notifications and often run into problems at home (I heard one instructor state that the divorce rate for police officers is well over 70%!). After sitting through the six hours of training yesterday, I emerged with a new appreciation for our law enforcement personnel. They sacrifice a lot to keep average Joe and Mary citizen like you and me safe. When you count your blessings today - please thank God for the men and women in blue (or black) who patrol our streets. They are the "thin blue line" that stands between us and chaos.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Stressed Out?


The first workshop I attended yesterday was titled, "Stress Management." Sure enough, the instructor faced stress right off the bat. For ten minutes he struggled to get his laptop computer to communicate with the projector. He asked for help from the group and one tech savvy chaplain got up and after a few additional minutes,resolved the problem and off we went. That reminded me of Murphy's Law #43 which states, "No matter how well prepared we are - the 'unprepared for' will inevitably show up!" And when this happens, we feel STRESS! So I thought it was somewhat humorous that at the beginning of a workshop on managing stress, we got to see first hand how the instructor dealt with stress (and I would have to say he handled it very well!).

I wish I could say that I always, or even usually, handle stress well. But often I do not. I get worked up, overly anxious, grumpy, mad and, well, I think you get the picture (and it's not pretty!). So how should we deal with stressful life circumstances that crash into our lives, often unexpected and always unwelcome? The Apostle Paul gives some helpful insight. In Philippians 4:6-7 he writes, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." There it is my friend. You want to be able to effectively defuse stress in your life --- then take the situations, circumstances, people who are causing you stress and give them all to God. His shoulders are broad (much, much broader than ours) and HE can carry the heaviest of loads (and never grow weary!). When we stop pray (with an attitude of gratitude thrown in) -- Paul says that we will know peace! Now there's a prescription for stress relief!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, June 25, 2007

I Made It!


I am typing this blog posting in the lobby of the Grand Amway hotel in downtown Grand Rapids - a really beautiful hotel, built by the owners of Amway (hmm - I haven't heard much about Amway lately, come to think of it!). The conference is soon to begin. I wanted to place a brief post to let you all know that the 650+ mile trip was pretty much uneventful. I got in about 5 PM last (Sunday) evening.

Please pray for me as I take the first two of my 12 basic "courses" today - with the rest to follow on Tues, Wed, and Thurs. I am planning to leave about 3 PM on Thursday and drive part way back - and then finish the trip on Friday. If I get the chance, I will post to my blog throughout the week and let you know how the conference is going.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Off to Grand Rapids, Michigan!


Tomorrow I will be leaving for a training conference being conducted in Grand Rapids (the original plan was for Sharon to accompany me, but that plan was changed as a result of my daughter, Kate's accident). The conference is being sponsored by the International Conference of Police Chaplains (of which I am a member). Beginning at 9 AM on Monday and running through 3 PM on Thursday, I will be taking a total of twelve workshops, each one lasting approximately 1 1/2 hours. Workshop topics include "Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome," "Crisis Response," "Suicide," "Stress Management," "Death Notification," "Burnout," "Substance Abuse" and other similar topics (sounds like an uplifting week, don't you think?). I am grateful for the opportunity to attend because it will help me to be better equipped to serve as both a police chaplain for the West Lampeter Township PD and as a pastor here at Grace Church! And this is something God is always interested in - us getting better equipped to do HIS work!

If you read this blog during my time away, would you please pray for me. Pray that God would work through the workshops and those who are facilitating them to help me and others to minister more effectively to those in law enforcement and those in our communities who are in the midst of crisis situations.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Friday, June 22, 2007

Too Much to Handle - Part 2 . . .


Little did I realize earlier this week that when I wrote about trials, I would be called upon to heed my own counsel. It all happened yesterday afternoon about 2 PM. I received a call on my cell phone from a stranger informing me that my daughter, Kate was in an accident. The caller was quick to assure me that Kate was OK - but I will tell you that the fifteen minute drive to the accident scene seemed to take an eternity! When I finally arrived, my eyes took it all in ... police car, two ambulances, a crowd of people, a banged up SUV and Kate's once shiny now smashed Dodge Neon. I immediately jumped out of my car and rushed to Kate's side. She was lying on a back board while a pair of EMT's were examining her. She assured me that she was not badly hurt and was shortly loaded onto the ambulance for the trip to LGH. After exchanging info with the police officer who was investigating, I climbed back in my car and drove to the hospital. Once there, Kate went through a series of xrays and a CAT scan, all which came back negative. As of this writing, she is still in LGH for observation purposes. Hopefully she will come home no later than tomorrow (Saturday). But through it all, Sharon, Kate and I are experiencing the truth of the verse I quoted the other day, Isaiah 43:2 where God makes this promise to us, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze." Thank God for His comforting presence!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Thank God for TERRA FIRMA!


I have not been out on the open ocean very often in my life ... in fact, I think it's only been twice. Both experiences included some bouts of nausea (a.k.a. "sea-sickness"). I cannot adequately express to you how RELIEVED I felt to get back onto terra firma following those two marine adventures! After rocking and rolling with the waves of the sea, I was absolutely thrilled to have solid (a.k.a. "unmoving") ground under my feet!

That's also how I feel when I think about God's Word. As we go through all the turmoil and the "ups and downs" of life - it is quite reassuring to know that we can take a stand on the rock solidness of God's Word! As the apostle Paul wrote, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17). No matter what good work we are engaged in, the Word of God is SUFFICIENT to thoroughly (NOT partially) equip us for that work! Thank God for that!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Too Much Too Handle!


Last night a couple of lines of powerful thunderstorms marched across Lancaster. Loud rolling thunder, brief high wind gusts and torrential rainfall were par for these storms. At one point, I decided I had better go downstairs to check my basement. All was fine until I got to my back door. There I found some water seeping in. I opened the door and found a small pond just outside the door. The drain located there was working - but the rain was falling so fast that it could not keep up with the volume of water (at one point last night, we received an inch of rain in a 25 minute span - now that is some rain storm!). As soon as the rain let up, the drain was able to catch up, and the threat to my basement was over!

Life can often be like that. We get hit by some sort of unseen, unexpected crisis. It comes with such force we just don't see how we will ever survive. The circumstances are of such a magnitude that we are overwhelmed. At these points, is there any hope? Absolutely! For starters, just like my drain and the rain last night, usually even the most trying of life circumstances will eventually "let up." Trials come and trials go - but, except in a few cases, they rarely stay forever (and even if they do stay with us all of this life - that is NOT forever!). So all of us can find strength when facing difficulties by cultivating the attitude, "This too will pass." But even more important than this is the reality that whenever we suffer, we never suffer alone. God has promised us, "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2). So whenever we are going through it - even if we feel that we are soon to be overwhelmed and swept away - take heart, your God, the Creator of ALL is with you. You can count on HIM to get you through!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Guilt - Good or Bad?

It was just over a month ago when Lancaster County residents were once again stunned to hear that a multiple homicide had occurred during the early morning hours while most were asleep. And it was just a week ago today that the alleged killer, Alec Kreider confessed his horrible deed to his dad. Two days later, his father contacted the police. By this past Saturday, the 16 year old was in custody.

What was young Kreider's motive to kill three people, one of whom was supposedly a good friend? We don't know. Authorities have been silent to this point on a possible motive. Until they tell us what they know, we will remain in the dark (and perhaps they do not even know at this point!). But here is another question for you - one that I think I can answer: What caused Kreider to confess to his dad? I believe it was, in one word, GUILT. You see guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body. Pain alerts us to the fact that something is WRONG with our body. So pain is really a good thing. Consider leprosy. Leprosy is a disease that attacks the nerves, eventually deadening them. So when a leper injures a foot or a hand for example, he may not feel any pain. As a result, the wound goes unattended, infection sets in and the leper ends up losing a toe or worse, a foot. So it is really a good thing that our Creator wired our bodies with a built in alarm system. What he did with our bodies he also did for our souls. Each one of us has a conscience. This conscience lets us know when we have done something that will harm our souls - and it does so through this feeling of guilt. If we are not careful, if we constantly ignore these feelings of guilt, we can eventually sear our conscience (see 1 Timothy 4:2). When this happens, we feel no guilt - and that is not a good thing!

Now before you get all upset with me, I do acknowledge such a thing as "false guilt." Sometimes we feel guilty over things that quite frankly we should not feel guilty about (like the guilt a godly parent feels over the ungodly choices of a prodigal adult child OR guilt we feel over a sin that has long been forgiven). But for everyone who suffers problems from "false guilt" there are far more of us who suffer because we do not pay attention to our "guilty consciences." My prayer has always been that God will keep my conscience sensitive - sensitive to his Spirit's pressure (which will mean feeling guilty when I sin!). The good news for a follower of Jesus is that when we do feel guilty because we have sinned, if we confess that sin (which is causing the guilt) to God, then "he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Praise God that he is a God who is QUICK to forgive! Let's all learn to listen to our consciences when they tell us we are guilty. Let's turn from (the Bible's word for this is "repent") our sin and turn to God and HIS ways! Our souls will be much healthier if we do!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Monday, June 18, 2007

Reminders . . .

We all need reminders. Why? Because we all have such good "forgeteries!" (And the older I get the more effective my "forgetery" is becoming!) Last week I was able to take a week of vacation. I had a great time. The first two days of the week, my wife Sharon and I, along with our youngest daughter, Kate (who is already a college graduate - where does the time go? - I will tackle that issue in another blog posting) traveled south to Maryland and West Virginia to visit the historical sites of Antietam Battlefield (Sharpsburg, MD) and Harpers Ferry, WV. On Wednesday, I spent the day with my son in Philadelphia. We hoofed it around Center City where I pointed out to him my old college campus (of which only the men's dormitory remains!) and other locales that Sharon and I used to frequent. We also traveled to the base of William Penn's statue which sits above City Hall (it's a really cool view of the city from that vantage point!). We topped off our day in Philadelphia by watching the IMAX film on mummies and going through the King Tut exhibit (both at the Franklin Institute - where I just happened to work for a few months just after I graduated from college). The rest of my week off was spent primarily around the house, getting some projects done - with a trip to Harrisburg to watch the Senators play thrown in on Saturday.

Now, I began this posting by talking about reminders - so here are some important things I was reminded of during my time off. To begin with, I was reminded of the importance of relationships. It is not that I had forgotten, but spending time with my family just reaffirmed to me that time spent with people is truly time well spent. Most likely, all of us can enrich our lives by turning off the TV (I spent very little time watching television last week) and playing a game with our kids, going for a walk with our spouse or just hanging out with a friend! I was also reminded of the need to "unplug." I alluded to this when I mentioned that I watched very little TV last week. When we took our trip south, I left my laptop at home (even though I knew the motel at which we were staying offered free Internet access). So there I was, far from home and my laptop sitting on my desk in my home office. Guess what? I survived! And it felt good! I think all of us can benefit by stepping away from the computer from time to time. And in place of surfing the net, let's spend time seeking our God. Finally, I was reminded of how blessed I am to be shepherding the flock of believers at Grace Church at Willow Valley. Sharon and I worshipped with another body here in Lancaster County yesterday. The music was good, the sermon, I thought was a great one, the people were friendly - but it was not home! If you are a part of the family here at Grace, thanks for making Grace such a wonderful place! So, bottom line, I am back in the office. Physically rested, spiritually refreshed - and reflecting on these three important reminders.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gone on Vacation!


Starting tomorrow (June 18th), I will begin a week of vacation. I looked up the word "vacation" in the dictionary and found this defintion: a respite or a time of respite from something. Now the word "respite" is not a word I typically use, so I consulted a dictionary again and found that "respite" means an interval of rest or relief . So putting those two definitions together, I see that a vacation is an interval of rest or relief from something. In this case, the "something" would be the daily grind of my work. Ahh. I think I am more than ready for that! I plan to spend some extra time with at least two of my adult children this week (along with my wife of course!). So as I am getting some needed respite, please pray for me. I'll be back next week with some more food for your soul!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Just How Did the Dinosaurs Die?

Mystery solved. At least that is what two paleontologists are saying. For nearly a century paleontologists (a..k.a. fossil experts) have been puzzled as to why so many of the dinosaur fossils that have been unearthed have shown dinosaurs which had been buried with their heads, necks and feet arched in a bizarre backward manner, twisting their body into a very unnatural posture. According to two noted dinosaur experts, this distorted posture shows that the dinosaurs were suffering "in violent death throes as they perished - asphyxiated by volcanic ashes or ash falls, poisoned by unknown toxins or DROWNED IN SWAMPS OR DEEP WATER LAKES" (emphasis mine). Hmm. Do you think maybe the drowning occurred as a result of the Nohaic Flood? Something catastrophic like a flood the proportions of the Genesis flood could certainly explain dinosaurs dying violent deaths. I for one am not surprised at these paleontologists findings. I have a hunch God isn't either!

Thanks for listening,

pj

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Hungry?

Last night I wrapped up the final class in a five-week degree completion course at Lancaster Bible College. The Degree Completion Program at LBC (and many other colleges and universities) is designed to help working adults to earn their college degree. It is a great opportunity for many who would otherwise never be able to finish college. But it is demanding. Juggling work, family and ministry responsibilities while reading several hundred pages of texts, writing research/position papers and preparing oral presentations is no easy task. And once the students are done with one course, they have a week "off" before beginning their next course. Well, it's not really a week off, because they usually have a paper to write for the class they just finished and reading and other prep work to do for their next class. So I think you can see why I say it's demanding. I have the utmost admiration for these adults.

What motivates these men and women to go through such a tough program? I guess the answer varies from student to student. But there is something that most of them have in common. They are hungry. They are hungry to learn. They are hungry for their college degree. But most of all, they are hungry for God and His Word. They remind me of the way a newborn child craves to be fed (and WILL let you KNOW it!). Peter tells us that all of us need to be like a newborn child when it comes to the Word of God. He writes, "Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation" (1 Peter 2:2).

Hmm. Sometimes (far too often, in fact) I am NOT all that hungry for God's Word. How about YOU? Are you hungry for God and His Word? How often to you open it and read it? Are you striving to OBEY what you read? Or would you rather sit down and watch the latest episode of 24 or Dr. Phil? My prayer for you and me is that we will become increasingly hungry for God's Word.

Thanks for listening,

pj

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Thankful for the Providence of God

I want to go "on record" as being very thankful that our God is a God of PROVIDENCE. Simply, this means that God has a plan and He is working that plan! Life, although at times may seem random and arbitrary in what comes our way - is anything but! There is an invisible hand moving the pieces of life's puzzle so that, at the end of the day, the puzzle is completed in line with his wisdom and will. As the Apostle Paul states so clearly in Ephesians 1:11 God "works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will." Now I don't know about you - but for me that thought brings me a lot of comfort! And it gives me the courage to get out of bed each day and face the day ahead!

As I reflect on God's providence, I am grateful for a number of blessings I have enjoyed in life due to the providence of God. In his providence, God allowed me to be born into the Smith family in Harrisburg, PA on March 12, 1956 - the second (and unexpected) twin! Having been born in this prosperous country, I never had to experience the suffering of what many children throughout this world must endure. In his providence, God led me to a church in Lewisberry, PA where eventually, on a weekend youth retreat, I responded to the gospel and was radically changed. It was there at Camp Penn that I found Jesus Christ (or should I better say, Jesus Christ found me!). In his providence, God led me to PBU where I met the love of my life. Sharon and I began our dating relationship in the middle of my sophomore year and her freshman year. Two and half years later, we were married! In his providence, God blessed us with three children - all of whom bless us to this day. In his providence, God led me to Grace back in the summer of 1989. Little did I suspect then that I would remain here eighteen years (and counting!).
I think you get the point -- at least I hope you do. God has a plan - a plan for you, for your loved ones, for our church, our nation and our world. AND He IS working that plan! Praise God for HIS PROVIDENCE!

Thanks for listening,
pj

Friday, June 1, 2007

Things Aren't Always the Way they Seem!

For retired school teacher Henry Benner, it was just a routine errand. Transport the life-sized dummy of a young girl over to the Hans Herr House in West Lampeter Township (the figure had been donated to the Hans Herr House by the former Dutch Wonderland wax museum which shut its doors last year). So Henry wrapped the figure in a blanket and placed it in the trunk of his car. What he did not for see was the startled response of a passing motorist. This particular motorist thought Henry was placing the body of a real child in the trunk of his car. So the motorist dialed 911 to report that an "older white male" was seen placing a "child wrapped in a blanket" into the trunk of his car. The motorist was just being a good citizen. And can you blame him/her? After what has transpired here in Lancaster County across the past 18 months or so, you and I would have probably done the same! As East Lampeter police followed up the report, the truth came out and Henry? Well Henry just chuckled. The New Era quotes him as saying, "I think it's hilarious. I'm an old, retired bachelor." The moral of this story - things aren't always the way they seem!

We all need to keep this in mind. Ingrained deeply into human nature (and I should qualify by adding the word "fallen" and say "fallen human nature"), is this tendency to jump to conclusions. To make hasty judgments. To find a person guilty before even hearing the evidence. Yep. I just described me! And if you are honest, I also just described you! So what can we do about this tendency? How can we fight it? Let me suggest you practice what is called "The Judgement of Charity." This is the practice of simply giving another the benefit of the doubt. What might seem like a comment that was intended to hurt you - might have simply been someone putting their mouth in gear before their brain (there I go again, describing me!). Or maybe they are going through a brutally awful day. So instead of growing bitter because you think someone is out to destroy you - give them the benefit of the doubt. Because things aren't always the way they seem!

Thanks for listening,

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.

Thoughts on how biblical truth impacts all of life.