Stretch Your Mind!

The other day while driving my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter from her house to mine, she looked out the window of the car and said, "Papa, that's right and that's left."  Funny thing is ... as I looked in the rear view mirror she got it right ... correct that is! At that point I am thinking, "Man, I did not get my right and left sorted out until I was in 8th grade (OK .. a bit of an exaggeration there, but I am sure it was Kindergarten before I got these most basic of directions down!). I am also thinking ... "No way does she really get this!" So once back to the house I put her to the test. "Ella, raise your right hand." Without blinking an eye she raised her right hand. "Now, Ella, raise your left hand." Immediately she threw up her left. Wow! She does have it down (and I have tested her a couple of other times ... always with the same correct response.).

I must say that one of the aspects of grandparenting that I have enjoyed most is watching my grandkids learn new things ... whether it's learning to crawl or walk or speak (or in this case, learning right from left.) Little children are like a sponge when it comes to learning. And that it is a good thing. But it saddens me to think that as we grow into adulthood, that so many of us lose that "sponge-like" quality. The desire to learn begins to fade. We become content with the status quo. We shift our minds into neutral.

Friends, take a look at where you are right now in life. Don't be content with the status quo when it comes to your mind. Seek to stretch it. Work it out. The Bible has a lot to say about our minds (see Matthew 22:37; Romans 12:2). Let's not be guilty of "dumbing down" our minds. Rather let's seek to grow in a deeper understanding of God and our world.

What are you doing to enrich your mind?

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Pray On in Faith!

As one of my resolutions for this year of 2012, I am endeavoring to read three chapters each week from the Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer. Again and again as I have read, I have been challenged by the words of this man. Here is just one example for you to "chew on."

"The faith which creates powerful praying is the faith which centers itself on a powerful person. Faith in Christ's ability to do and to do greatly, is the faith which prays greatly."

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Spend Time in God's Word!

Last year I read one of Sam Storm's devotional books on the psalms (More Precious Than Gold: 50 Daily Meditations on the Psalms). As I read, I found my mind being sharpened, my faith being strengthened, my heart being warmed and my soul being encouraged. For me it was a great read. Below are his concluding remarks on his devotional meditation on Psalm 119 ... the longest of the 150 psalms and one which should be read on a regular basis (my humble opinion). Please take a moment and read (and then re-read) Storm's remarks.

God's Word is exquisite, sublime, splendid, and sweet. God’s Word is powerful, faithful, righteous, and true. God’s Word is great, glorious, grand, and good. Why? Because in it we see God. Through it, he draws near. By means of its truth, we experience the incomparable joy of knowing him and seeing him and beholding the beauty of his infinite elegance. Hear, O Lord, our prayer: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law!” (Ps. 119:18).

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Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means ... a la carte!

1. J.C. Ryle's 8 profitable ways to read the Bible. 

2. Some interesting thoughts on What is Grace? 

3. Steve Lawson ... on Jonathan Edward's first of seventy resolutions. 

4. Chuck Swindoll with a brief devotional on Job 38, How Big Is Your God? 

5. And on a lighter note ... here is a brief video that made me say "OOPS!"

Thanks for stopping by . . .

An Invite to Cruise

Yesterday I received a mailing from American Express (Amex). Not unusual as I do have an Amex card. From time to time Amex sends out a promotional piece in an attempt to get its cardholders to "sign up" for ... whatever. Yesterday's piece was promoting 7 night Mediterranean cruises on ships of the Costa Cruise Line (does that name sound familiar?). After opening the mailer, I noted that the first cruise listed was on board the Costa Concordia (Now that name SHOULD sound familiar! It's name has been plastered all over the Internet, radio and television news the past two weeks as a result of it's capsizing off the Italian coast). The brochure states that the Costa Concordia will be sailing from February 25 through October 29, 2012. Not going to happen. With the ship now resting on its side ... half submerged in the Mediterranean ... the ship is not going to go cruising anytime soon (click here for an interesting BBC article on how the ship could be salvaged)!

What was the cause of this accident? A tragedy which resulted in the nighttime evacuation of 4,197 people, the deaths of 16 people and the injuries of 64 - with at least 16 still reported as missing (the numbers of missing and dead could be higher as there are reports of unregistered passengers who were aboard the ship at the time of the accident). The investigation into the cause is still underway. One of the more popular theories as to the cause concerns the captain. Some believe he had ordered the ship to sail close to the Tuscan island of Giglio in order to "put on a show." Cruise ships would often do this .... lighting up the ship and blowing the ship's horn to delight the passengers on board and the local population on  the island. Reports have also surfaced that one of the ship's crew wanted to get close enough to wave to someone he knew on shore.

If "showboating" turns out to be the cause, it should not come as a total surprise. We humans are born to "showboat!" When we enter this world, we do so with a will that is bent totally toward the satisfaction, promotion and even glorification of self. The last thing we want to do is humble ourselves before a holy God who demands our submission. Instead, we want to live life the way WE want to live it ... at the pace WE want to live it ... with the people WE want to live it. Until we are willing to "own up" to our self-centeredness, we will never be able to enjoy life as our Creator intended.

Friends, beware of this spirit of "showboating." Jesus stated it clearly and powerfully. If you want your life to count for what really matters ... if you want to experience fullness of joy and pleasures forever more (Psalm 16:11), you must humble yourself before him (1 Peter 5:5-6). Get rid of your pride (1 John 2:16) and realize that apart from Jesus Christ you can do NOTHING (John 15:5).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Thought for You as I Reflect on Joe Paterno

Ever since I can remember, I have followed Penn State football. And ever since I can remember, Joe Paterno was the coach .... that is until a Pennsylvania grand jury report became public (this report detailed a number of alleged instances of child sexual abuse committed by former coach Jerry Sandusky). From that report, it became evident that when JoePa became aware of an allegation against Sandusky, although he did what was legally required, he in all likelihood did not do what was morally required. I am referring to his failure to follow up the accusation of alleged child molestation by Sandusky. Paterno did report to his boss what graduate assistant coach, Mike McQueary had told him about what he witnessed concerning Sandusky and a young boy in the showers. But he failed to follow up with his boss or anyone for that matter. In his own words of regret, Paterno said in his last interview (just two weeks ago), "I wish I would have done more."  As a result of this failure, Paterno was abruptly fired by the university's board of trustees.

I wonder how many of us will utter those same words when we get to the end of our lives. As we contemplate our mortality ... as we prepare to leave this life and enter the next ... as we look toward standing before God Almighty and giving an account of our lives (2 Corinthians 5:10) ... will we also speak these words?  "I wish I had done more showing my children how to love God." "I wish I had been a better witness for Christ at my workplace ... school ... neighborhood ... among my extended family."  "I wish I had given more of my financial resources to the work of God's kingdom." "I wish I had spent more time praying."  "I wish .... I wish .... I wish ..."

As we reflect on Joe Paterno and the great, yet tarnished legacy that he leaves behind, let's learn from what may be his darkest hour. Let's determine not to leave undone what we know we should be doing (James 4:17)!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

An Amazing Man with a Strategic Ministry

I first met Dr. Augustin Hibaile in September of 2007. He visited our church one Sunday. And unlike most visitors who may drive a few miles to join us, Dr. Hibaile flew several thousand miles!  This man has one of the most strategic ministries of anyone I have ever met. In 2005 he left his post as a professor at a Bible institute in the Central African Republic (CAR) and launched a new ministry. The ministry is called CIDEL (Center International for the Development of Ethical Leadership). It is Dr. Hibaile's passion to teach Christian ethics, rooted in the gospel of Christ, to government officials. Initially, his ministry was confined to his own country. But it was not very long at all before Dr. Hibaile was receiving invitations to neighboring countries in central Africa.

In a recent update, Dr. Hibaile shared how three of his CIDEL board members are serving at the highest levels of government within the CAR. In addition, he meets on a weekly basis with the Prime Minister of the country. God is using this man in a remarkable way!

Please take a moment right now and pray for my friend. And if you would like more information, take another moment and visit the website of the Friends of Cidel.  

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Prayer for Your Weekend

Here is a prayer for your weekend based on a Puritan prayer from the book, The Valley of Vision. Take a moment to reflect on this prayer ... and then make it your own!

O God of mercy, God of grace, 
I must confess that all too often
I take your amazing grace for granted. 
I do not thank you, nor do I praise you
nearly enough
For giving to me what I in absolutely 
no way deserve or merit. 

O Lord, I am astonished at the difference
between my receivings and my deservings, 
between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness,
between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit. 

Who made me to differ but You?
What do I now have that I did not receive from Your gracious hand? 

Father, may you bless me so that I will live
Every day, every moment in the full awareness of your grace. 
May I never tire of offering You the thanks and praise
That You, and You alone deserve! 

In the name of the Three-in-One,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 


Thanks for stopping by . . .

An Amazing Video

I stumbled across this video (:23) shot from the International Space Station in one of its orbits over Africa. In it you can see lightening flashes from t-storms over Africa and the Milky Way out into space. Wow! As I watched it (several times!) I was reminded of these words of King David:

"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?" 
(Psalm 8:3-4)

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Thursday A La Carte

It's Thursday ... and that means it's a la carte day on my blog.

1. Do you remember the "man with a golden voice" who was found living on the streets of Columbus, OH about a year ago? Here is a 3 minute video update of where he (Ted Williams) is now.

2. What is technology doing to our brains? Mike Wittmer offers some thoughts in a brief article, your brain on technology. 

3. Wow! Here is a great prayer from Scotty Smith: A Prayer for Gospel Vision. 

4. Ed Welch writes about how the angry person really doesn't see himself as having a problem. He also points out that anger has some very subtle expressions that we fail to see. This is a good read!

5. On a lighter note ... Brian Regan, how come dinosauers don't talk? (1:17)

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Captain You Can Count On!

ROME -- "You go on board! Is that clear? Do you hear me?" the Coast Guard officer shouted as the captain of the grounded Costa Concordia sat safe in a life raft and frantic passengers struggled to escape after the ship rammed into a reef off the Tuscan coast. "It is an order. Don't make any more excuses. You have declared 'Abandon ship.' Now I am in charge."

The above words opened a news article in this morning's Lancaster newspaper. Frankly, I was somewhat stunned that an Italian Coast Guard officer had to tell (and in no uncertain terms) the captain of the disabled cruise ship to return to his ship. I mean, whatever happened to "a captain must go down with his ship." Compare the actions of the captain of the Costa Concordia with those of the captain of the Titanic who was last scene on the bride of the sinking ship after having given the last order to abandon ship. His body was never found. 

Hmm. This got me thinking about our captain. His name is Jesus. He is the King of the universe ... and He is the Master of our souls. When the "ship" of our lives hits stormy weather, threatening to sink us, we don't have to fear. Jesus Christ is at the helm. He is steering us through all the obstacles that lie in our path. And he will bring us one day to a anchorage in a safe harbor. There we shall find awaiting us a paradise that we can right now ONLY IMAGINE! Are you grateful that the Lord Jesus Christ is indeed the Captain of  your soul? (And if he is not ... why not?). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Think Heaven!

Living in consumer driven America with all of its toys, gadgets and creature comforts, it is very easy to lose sight of heaven. And that, my friends is not only a shame ... it is to our great detriment. Please take a moment and reflect on the following quotes before you resume your busy routine.

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:1-2)

"It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this." (C. S.  Lewis)

"Aim at Heaven and you will get earth "thrown in": aim at earth and you will get neither!" (C. S. Lewis) 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Transforming Prayer

One of my nine resolutions for this new year of 2012 is to "pray better, pray more."  Therefore, when I saw what looked to be an interesting Kindle book on prayer on Amazon for just $2.99, I decided to purchase it. One chapter down ... and I am very glad I did. The book is titled, Transforming Prayer: How Everything Changes When You Seek God's Face.   To give you just a taste of the book ... here is an insight that gripped me:

"Prayer seeks the face of God before the hand of God. God’s face is the essence of who He is. God’s hand is the blessing of what He does. God’s face represents His person and presence. God’s hand expresses His provision for needs in our lives. I have learned that if all we ever do is seek God’s hand, we may miss His face; but if we seek His face, He will be glad to open His hand and satisfy the deepest desires of our hearts."

(Henderson, Daniel (2011-01-01). Transforming Prayer (p. 27). Bethany House Publishers. Kindle Edition.)

If you have a kindle (or iPad), I highly recommend the book. Especially if you have that same desire as I do to "pray better, pray more!"  At the bargain price of $2.99 - it's a purchase you don't want to miss out on (no guarantee on how long Amazon will keep the price that low.).

Thanks for stopping by . . .


John 3:16 in Prime Time!

Just in case you did not watch the Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots playoff game last night, below is a  youtube video of a commercial that Focus on the Family aired during the second quarter of the game. I agree with the little girl at the end of the commercial ... "Wow!"

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Want to Get Away?

Several years ago, Southwest Airlines ran a series of television commercials in which people found themselves in very embarrassing situations (one featured a woman fixing her eye contacts while looking into a restroom mirror ... only to realize once she could see that the restroom she was in was a Men's Room!!! -- for another example, click here).

This morning, as I was reading the newspaper, I ran across a story that immediately reminded me of Southwest Airlines' commercials. Earlier this week, the final movement of a New York Philharmonic Orchestra performance was interrupted by the distinctive "Marimba" iPhone ring tone. When the iPhone first began to ring, maestro Alan Gilbert gave a glaring look of displeasure in the direction of the ringing iPhone. When it continued ... he made a verbal request to silence the phone. When that failed, he stopped the orchestra entirely. He then said to the phone's owner, according to WQXR's classical music blog: "You have a phone ... Fine, we’ll wait." At that point, the audience applauded loudly ... and many voiced their desire to see the culprit thrown out of the concert hall! According to the guilty concert goer, he had just been given the iPhone the day before by his employer. He thought he had silenced the iPhone. What he did not realize that even when the phone is on vibrate, if the alarm app goes off, it will sound!  Oops!  Hey buddy ... want to get away? 

I can relate to this guy's embarrassment. This past Tuesday I attended a meeting with a group of pastors. Shortly after the individual leading the meeting began to pray, my iPhone blared forth a song. This surprised me as I knew I had the phone on vibrate. So ... I tried to turn it off ... and after several seconds was successful (or so I thought!). Moments later ... as the prayer continued ... my phone once again blared out in song!  This time I was successful in quieting the phone. But ... talk about a moment when I wanted to get away! 

Life is often like this. It does not often work the way we want it to work. And this should come as no surprise. We live in a broken world that is becoming more broken by the moment (Romans 8:21). When life's brokenness causes us embarrassment or grief or heartache or stress of any kind ... we must remind ourselves of the promise Jesus offers to those who follow Him: 

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  (John 16:33)

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Thursday A La Carte

Thursday means .... a la carte! Enjoy this week's offerings!

1. Will e-readers (think Kindle, IPad, Nook, etc.) one day replace real books? Or will there always be a place for print and paper - even in the midst of our digital age?  Check out this video, The Joy of Books.

2. Movies? Jesus? Some Christians seem to get more excited on the newest offerings from Hollywood than they do about Jesus. Here are some thoughts from John Piper on what to say to a Christian friend who appears to "love" movies but "lilke" Jesus.

3. I have been often approached by upset Christians who have thought that perhaps they had committed the "unpardonable sin." R.C. Sproul gives some great insight into answer the question, What is the Unpardonable Sin?

4. Perhaps you have decided to practice journaling here in the new year of 2012? If so, here are some tips on jounraling you might want to check out.

5. Finally ... on the lighter side. comedian Tim Hawkins sings about his favorite restaurant. 

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Faith and Prayer

If you glanced at my PowerPoint slides from this past Sunday's message, you would have noticed that one of my goals this year to help me pray better, pray more is to read through E.M. Bounds' 8 volume collection on prayer. Now don't get too impressed. E.M. writes in an easy reading style ... and his chapters are relatively brief. My goal is to read 3 chapters each week.

Recently, in a chapter in which he discusses the relationship of faith to prayer, he makes the following comments about faith and prayer which really struck me ...

"Faith grows by reading and meditating upon the Word of God. Most, and best of all, faith thrives in an atmosphere of prayer. It would be well, if all of us were to stop, and inquire personally of ourselves: 'Have I faith in God? Have I real faith-faith which keeps me in perfect peace, about the things of earth and the things of heaven?' This is the most important question a man can propound and expect to be answered. And there is another question, closely akin to it in significance and importance-'Do I really pray to God so that he hears me and answers my prayers? And do I truly pray unto God so that I get direct from God the things I ask of Him?'

E. M. Bounds. Complete Works of E. M. Bounds on Prayer, The: Experience the Wonders of God through Prayer (p. 21). Kindle Edition. 

Good questions, eh?  

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A Prayer for Your Tuesday

Here is a prayer for your day today .... taken from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions.

O Fountain of all good,
Nothing exceeds your power,
Nothing is too great for you to do,
Nothing is too good for you to give.

Infinite is your might, boundless your love, limitless your grace, glorious your saving name.

Let angels sing for sinners repenting, prodigals restored,
backsliders reclaimed, Satan's captives released,
blind eyes opened, broken hearts bound up,
the despondent cheered, the self-righteous stripped,
the ignorant enlightened, and saints built up in their holy faith.

I ask great things of a great God.


Thanks for stopping by . . .

My PowerPoint Slides from January 8, 2011

Here are the PowerPoint slides I used in my message today titled, "Resolved!"

Thanks for stopping by . . . pj

My New Year Resolutions

New Year resolutions often get a bad rap. Why? Because as most of you know (and have probably experienced) ... most New Year resolutions are forgotten by Valentine's Day (if not before!). Since our track record of keeping such resolutions is poor ... we simply don't make them. Ahh ... the path toward guilt-free living!

I believe this is rather unfortunate. I believe the making of resolutions can be an effective practice that God uses in our lives to move us further down the road in our journey of grace. I am convinced that one reason Jonathan Edwards has left such a mark upon the Church was his practice of keeping an ongoing set of resolutions. These resolutions served to keep him spiritually "on track" in the midst of his pressing ministry obligations. I believe the making and keeping (at least trying to keep :)) of resolutions will do the same for us.

Last year I put together a list of resolutions for 2011. Some I kept ... others, well .... But I am determined to once again put together a list of resolutions for this new year of 2012. And I will strive, with God's help, to keep them. Even if I don't do all I set out to do ... even if I were to accomplish just one quarter of my goals - wouldn't I still be further down the road than if I had not made any resolutions at all?  The answer to that question, my friend is obvious.

Here is my list - please pray that I will ... by God's grace and for His glory ... keep them as best as I can!

My Resolutions for 2012

To be read twice each week.

1. I resolve to seek God in all of life, realizing that only in Him will I find the fullness of joy.

2. I resolve to immerse myself in Scripture, knowing that the Word of God is the only reliable foundation for life.

3. I resolve to pray better and to pray more.

4. I resolve to better shepherd my children and grandchildren in their own personal faith journeys.

5. I resolve to better love my wife, seeking to imitate the example of Christ’s love for his bride, the Church.

6. I resolve to be more intentional in sharing my faith.

7. I resolve to renew my commitment as a member of the elder team to shepherd our church family with integrity of heart and skillful hands. I resolve to engage in those things that will move me in that direction.

8. I resolve to better care for my body, knowing that as a follower of Christ my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

9. I resolve to do my utmost to keep the above resolutions all by God’s grace and for His glory

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

A 911 Call You'll Want to Hear!

One of my favorite bloggers posted the video below of a five year old's conversation with a 911 dispatcher. It made me smile and laugh ... and that's a good thing. This life is far too often cold, dark and downright painful. It is NOT the world God designed us to live in ... and that is why we find ourselves hurting so often. Oh for the day when God makes all things new (see Revelation 21:1-5)! But until that time, we need to push forward - no matter how tough the going gets! I find that sometimes, a bit of sweetness (as evidenced by this little girl) lifts my soul. Enjoy!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

The Rise of the Planet of the Twins!

I have not posted since Monday as I have been a bit "under the weather." After a visit to the doctor yesterday ... and starting a round of meds, I am feeling somewhat better today. My voice is gradually returning (it got lost somewhere early Tuesday). I am doing my best to rest it so I will be up to preaching on this upcoming Sunday.

My twin and I at age 2
(can you guess which one is me?
Did you hear that the birth rate for twins here in the United States is up ... I mean up substantially? I am a twin. And when I was born 8 1/2 minutes after my brother ... we were among a pretty select group! In 1956, only about one in every one hundred births were twins. I was reminded about our "special status" when people would always ask my parents, "How are the twins?" My guess is that many of them did not even know our names!!!

Today ... the U.S. birth rate for twins is now about 1 in every 30 births. Quite the increase! And I am not surprised by that as our church family saw two sets of twins born within a couple of months of one another in 2011. Now there are a number of reasons for this increase (check out the AP news article).

As I reflected on this trend, memories of growing up as a twin flooded my mind. Of course, there are memories of stories that my parents and older sisters would tell of us twins' escapades as toddlers (like washing all of my dad's ties in the toilet -- hey, we were just trying to help mommy do the laundry!). But there are also memories of laying in bed at night and playing flashlight tag or just talking about school and friends.

Oh ... and there's one other memory I have that makes me chuckle. My twin and I developed a language that only he and I could understand. That was just fine and dandy when we were just communicating with each other ... but made it difficult when we wanted to communicate with those outside our twin circle. In fact, our speech was so bad that when we hit elementary school, we had to go to speech class every week. There a speech therapist would show us a flash card and teach us to pronounce the word correctly. So ... I guess I learned something from those sessions as I seem to get most words pronounced correctly!

Well, my brother and I had our "secret" language ... but I am so glad that God does not have some "secret" language. He speaks to us plainly in His Word, the Bible. You don't need to decode it ... you don't need to get a graduate degree to  understand it. But you do need to be IN IT!  SOOO ... are you REGULARLY in the Scripture? Do you have some sort of Bible reading plan? And are you working that plan?  If you want to check out some really good (and really diverse) Bible reading plans, go to  If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can even download a free app (it's what I use).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Prayer for 2012

One of the devotional books I enjoy using is titled, The Valley of Vision. It is a collection of Puritan prayers and devotions. Often the Puritans get a bad "rap." However, the one area you cannot "rap" the Puritans is their knowledge of God. You talk about deep!  They did not merely know "about" God ... they knew Him personally and intimately. This clearly is evident in the prayers they have left behind. Below is one such prayer. I recommend that you take a few minutes ... and make this prayer YOUR prayer to God as we launch out on yet another new year.

LORD, high and holy, meek and lowly,
You have brought me to the valley of vision,
Where I live in the depths but see You in the heights;
Hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Your glory.

Let me learn by paradox
  that the way down is the way up,
  that to be low is to be high,
  that the broken heart is the healed heart,
  that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
  that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
  that to have nothing is to possess all,
  that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
  that to give is to receive,
  that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
  and the deeper the wells the brighter Your stars shine;

Let me find Your light in my darkness,
  Your life in my death,
  Your joy in my sorrow,
  Your grace in my sin,
  Your riches in my poverty,
  Your glory in my valley.

Thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ

My apologies for missing the past several Fridays. I was off last week, and the previous couple of weeks I got caught up in the Thanksgivi...