Two Weeks, Two Firsts!

The last two weeks have been quite interesting. In these two weeks I experienced two "firsts" in my life. Many times in my ministry I have traveled to numerous hospitals. I have been in trauma units, intensive care units, preop rooms, postop rooms, regular patient rooms, emergency rooms, and of course many a coffee shop. But never have I been any of these areas of the hospital as a patient. That of course all came to an end two weeks ago!

On the evening of September 9th, I made my first visit to a hospital ER. A rather stubborn kidney stone was the reason for the visit to Lancaster General. I must say I would much rather be on the comfort giving rather than the comfort receiving end of things. This kidney stone episode had the result of postponing my surgery for a week. But finally on September 18th, I got to experience yet another "first" as I was prepped and then went through surgery on my left arm. The staff at LGH did all they could to make it as "pleasant" as possible. What amazed me the most was how quickly the anesthesia worked to put me out. Without warning I was out, only to awaken an hour and a half later with my left arm in a cast and my head full of post anesthesia fog. A little over an hour later I was wheeled out to our car and on my way home!

Going into the surgery, I didn't know how I would respond. As we grew closer and closer to the surgery date, I must of been talking about it more more to my wife. She pointed this out to me. I told her, "as you're driving toward a mountain, the closer you get to the mountain the larger it appears. And so with the it draws closer it appears bigger in my mind." But now having gone through it, I can say that I'm very very thankful for modern medical technology and the staff at Lancaster General Hospital. No it wasn't really pleasant. But the pain level was kept at a tolerable level and the hospital staff did everything they could to help me be as comfortable as possible. If I had suffered this injury 400+ years ago, I would've had to live with it. But thanks to the advances in medicine, I hope to have my left arm back healthy and whole and ready to take on the world in just a matter of a few months.

Thanks to all of you, my friends, who prayed for me through this. I would ask for your continued prayers as I go through the fairly lengthy rehab process. I am also thankful to God for allowing me to go through this experience. I do believe it will help me better minister to those are going through physical problems (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

Thanks for stopping by,

Tomorrow's Not Just Thursday ... It's D-Day!

Not MY doctor at work!
One-hundred and fifty-three days after injuring my left arm, I will finally begin the path toward healing. It was on April 19th that I took advantage of a warm spring Saturday. The mountainous pile of branches left over from the winter's fury had to be broken down and bagged. I had planned to commit about an hour and a half to that task (for I also had the lawn to cut and some other outside things to get done). Not sure if I lost track of time or just got excited to see the pile begin to shrink in size. Whatever the case, I worked too long. The repetitive nature of the task eventually resulted in tearing my distal biceps tendon of my left arm. So for the past five months I have had varied amounts of pain in my arm ... depending on how I was using it. Even though I am not exactly looking forward to the surgeon doing what he is going to have to do ... I am looking forward to taking this step toward the repair and restoration of my torn tendon in spite of the pain it will bring.

Now my doctor is not some sadistic surgeon who can't wait to cut me in order to hurt me. Not at all! He will take his scalpel in hand and do his thing in order to heal me. God often does the same with us. Yes, God does bring trials our way. Not to hurt us ... but to grow us (see Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10). So the next time you go through some sort of trial, don't pray, "God get me out of this!" Instead, pray, "God get me through this ... and while you are doing that ... help me to learn whatever it is I need to learn to become more like Jesus!" That's what I will be praying tomorrow (and Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday . . . !).

Thanks for stopping by . . .

BTW .... My posts will be a bit fewer ... and a bit further in between than usual after tomorrow. Typing with one hand can tend to be a bit slower than using two!

Encouragement Needed ... Encouragement Received!

In the last six days I have undergone five tests ... all related to this kidney stone episode that I referenced last week. The two tests I had done yesterday (ultrasound and x-ray) showed no sign of the kidney stone! Yes! So I am now cleared for my surgery, which will take place this coming Thursday morning. I never thought I would be excited to undergo surgery! But it has been a looonnnggg time coming and this extra week of delay has just made the wait seem all the longer!

Yesterday I attended the memorial service for a dear saint. Jeannette served the Lord faithfully for many, many years. Her service, written and planned entirely by Jeannette, was a testimony to God's grace at work in her life. On the back of the program was a prayer she had written back in the 1970's. God spoke to me in a powerful way through a couple of  her lines. Jeanette wrote,

I choose to ... acquiesce in Your will even though I don't always like it, rely on Your promises even when they look impossible, and trust Your providence even when I don't understand it. I yield to your sovereignty all that I am and have; do with me as You will. 

So ... how did God speak to me? When I read those words, I was just two hours away from my appointment for the two medical tests I had to undergo. The results of these tests would determine whether or not my family physician would give me the green light for my surgery. Jeannette's words reminded me that I was firmly in the grip of God. He in his providence has a plan for me. This plan included when I would undergo the surgery. So this beautiful reminder from the pen of Jeannette was used of God to settle my heart and bring peace to my soul.

Thanks, Jeannette!

And thanks for stopping by . . .

Friday Coffee with PJ - Yet Another Special Weekend Edition

Yikes! Two weeks in a row I have failed to get my Friday Coffee with PJ post done in time! Last week I blamed it on the holiday. This week I will blame it on the wrestling bout I had with a kidney stone (see Wednesday's post for more details!). So ... as you pour yourself a cup of your favorite weekend morning brew (for me it's the same as Friday - and everyday for that matter!) ... here are couple of random thoughts.

1. I could have very easily gotten bent out of shape over the postponement of this week's surgery. For starters, my arm has been injured since April. Even though it does not hurt all the time, it sure hurts enough. So I would like to take the first big step toward its healing!  In addition, I am not the bravest man this world has ever seen (just put me in a room full of cockroaches and you will see just what I am saying!). Just the thought of a surgeon slicing my forearm makes me faint of head and heart! And finally, the type of repair I am having done involves a long healing process. So the sooner I get the surgery done, the sooner down the road I will have my left arm back! So as I said above, I could have very easily gotten discouraged over this postponement. But I did not. How so? Hmm. Have you ever had a kidney stone? So I guess I was a bit preoccupied which did not allow for any time to really think much about the postponed surgery. I also leaned on the reality of God's sovereignty - and this is key! For reasons known only to God, He allowed this kidney stone to get in the way of my comfort and ultimately my surgery. And since God never makes a mistake, I am OK with that. But I am praying that God will, in his providence, allow me to be well enough to go through the surgery this upcoming Thursday. Would you please pray for me along those lines? Thanks!

2. The other day I tweeted a great Paul Tripp quote that I had run across. "No one is more influential in your life than you are, because no one talks to you more than you do."  That is so true. Therefore it is important that your self-talk is saturated in God's truth. You see, the Enemy is a liar and his native language is that of the lie (John 8:44). Since Satan has this world system firmly in his grip (1 John 5:19), the messages we are bombarded with day in and day out are dripping with the devil's lies. Unfortunately, all too often, we buy into these lies. And so we tell ourselves that physical beauty, money (and all that money buys), status, power, fame .... all these things and more will make us a better us! Nothing could be more wrong! We need to combat these lies with the truth of God's Word. As we tell ourselves what really matters in life ... we need to get the substance of our self-talk in line with God's truth. Only the Creator knows what really matters ... and what will help us to live lives that matter - for Him and all eternity. SOOOOO are you getting to know the BOOK? You can't influence yourself with the Truth if you don't know it!  Take a moment and check out our CARPE DIEM Challenge by clicking on the Carpe Diem button to the right. And then start digging!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

A Journey Unforseen and Unenjoyed!

This past Sunday morning began like most Sunday mornings. I climbed out of bed, shaved, spent a lot of time on my hair, dressed and headed for my office. Little did I know the day would be anything like a routine Sunday morning.

All was proceeding as planned (at least as per my understanding of the plan). But, I didn't know the real plan! As our worship service began, everything took a turn that I had not seen coming! Unknown to me, the church staff had been planning for several months a surprise 25th anniversary celebration (to think I was only 33 when I came as lead pastor at Grace!). It was a day my wife and I will always cherish, knowing that those whom we have ministered to over the years love us as we in turn have (and continue to) love them! So ... many thanks to ALL who came, served, planned, gave, etc. to make the day so special. I trust God was glorified as I know without HIS grace in our lives, we could never have accomplished anything of eternal value in our service for Him!

Now, what most don't know about Sunday is the fact that I was in pain. It sprung up in my lower back, left side about mid morning ... uninvited, unexpected, and at times, very distracting. I had no idea what it was. By Monday noon, the growing pain level led me to go see my family doctor. He suspected a kidney stone(s). He gave me a pain med prescription, told me to drink a lot, scheduled a CAT scan for the next morning, and sent me home. By Tuesday late afternoon, I received the results of the CAT scan. It showed no kidney stones. Hmm. Then WHAT was causing the pain? I made an appointment to head back to my family doctor for today. I never made it. By about 5 PM yesterday (Tuesday) I had my wife drive me to the local hospital's emergency room. Five hours, three tests and a lot of laying around later, the ER doctor informed me that I did indeed have a kidney stone. SO ... before sending me home a nurse gave me an injection of some good old powerful pain med (in my buttocks ... I have not had that done since I was a kid!). Ahhh ... quick relief from the pain. Before I knew it I was home and sound asleep in bed

This morning I awoke to no pain (except for the injection site in my buttocks!). So immediately I got excited, thinking that tomorrow's surgery would be a go (to repair a torn distal biceps tendon). That
excitement did not last long. My family doctor threw a huge wet blanket on it! He told me that just because there is no pain, that does not mean no stone! It may have just stopped moving. SOOO ... he told me NO SURGERY tomorrow! Instead, I need to start on a round of antibiotics, drink a flood of water each day, and have a follow up ultrasound and x-ray on Monday. If those are OK ... he will approve the surgery, which I am hoping can occur on next Thursday.

So when I reflect on these past few days, I think of the old intro to ABC's Wide World of Sports Program (first 15 seconds or so). This week has contained a savory taste of the thrill of victory and a some of the agony of defeat! But in it all ... God is in control!

Thanks for stopping by ... and thanks for your prayers for me. I appreciate it more than you know!


D.L. Moody was a man God used in a mighty way. Not because he had money. Not because he had a stellar education (he never progressed past the fifth grade). Not because of family connections (his father, who died when Moody was four, was a poor farmer). No ... God used D.L. Moody because D.L. Moody made himself available to God. In what may be the most well known quotes attributed to Moody, the evangelist described his life's goal:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man.”

A look at his life shows that he did his best to live this out. But that does not mean he did not struggle in his lifelong attempt! Below is a graphic containing another Moody quote. This one really resonated with me. I could not have said it better myself about myself! 

Ahh .... thank God for HIS grace the Holy Spirit brings to me. A grace that continues to mold and make me into the image of His Son (Philippians 1:6; 1 Corinthians 15:10). 

Thanks for stopping by . . . 

Friday Coffee with PJ ... Special Weekend Edition

The title of today's blog is my attempt of putting a positive spin on running behind schedule this week. One reason for this is that I actually took two days off (my regular day off on Monday ... and since Monday was a holiday, I relaxed a bit and took Thursday off as well). As a result, I am running about a day late! So ... pour yourself a cup of your favorite brew and join me for a few random thoughts.

1. Back on August 28th, celebrity Joan Rivers underwent surgery on her vocal chords. This past Thursday she died from complications of that surgery. Her death, coming on the heels of the death of comedian and actor Robin Williams, reminds us that death will one day come calling for all of us. It doesn't matter how much money or fame one might possess. Death is no respecter of persons. The Bible makes it clear that all of us will one day exit through that same door (compare Ezekiel 18:4, 20 with Romans 3:23). The Bible is equally clear that death is not the end of our existence. But there is an "after" to death. In addition to teaching that all of us will one day die, Hebrews 9:27 teaches us that a judgment follows death. Scripture makes reference to two judgments, One is for those who are not followers of Jesus Christ. This judgment is described in Revelation 20 and is often referred to as the Great White Throne Judgment. Those whose names are not found in the Lamb's Book of Life will be cast into what the Bible calls "the lake of fire." The second judgment found in the New Testament is mentioned in 2 Corinthians 5:9-10. This "bema seat" judgment is for believers. That's right! We who have chosen to follow Jesus will stand before him to give an account for how we have lived our lives since coming to faith in Christ. SOOO ... all this to ask ... are YOU ready to stand before God? If you have not made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, it is never too late to do so! Check out Two Ways to Live: The Choice We All Face.  And if you have committed  your life, soul and eternal welfare to Christ, then are you living your life in such a way that he would be able to say to you when you stand before him, "Well done my good and faithful servant?" How you answer both of those questions will have HUGE implications for your eternal welfare!

2. On Thursday of this week, I read an article on Lancaster Online about a Great Dane whose owner (or is it master ... or Dad ... not sure of the term of choice dog owners prefer) had to rush the dog to the vets. It was vomiting and showing other signs of being very, very sick. A quick x-ray revealed a large amount of foreign substance in the dog's stomach. Surgery revealed that the foreign matter consisted of 43 1/2 socks that the Dane had eaten. Now that's quite the pile of socks! No wonder the canine was so ill! Great Danes are big dogs. And as such they need to eat a lot. But they must eat the right stuff ... And somehow, socks just don't fit in that category ... no matter how tasty they might be! So with us, my friends. Not only do we need to feed our bodies healthy foods, we also must be intentional about feeding our minds and souls healthy food as well (I am guessing you know where I am going with this!) ... Of course, soul-food doesn't get any healthier than the Bible! After all, it is the very word of the One who designed, created and even now sustains us. So given this ... how much time do you spend in God's Word each week? Your answer to that question will go a long way toward revealing the health of your mind and your soul.

3, In just five days I will be undergoing surgery (repair of a torn distal biceps tendon). This will leave me without the use of my left arm for a longer period of time than I would like. So even though I am right-handed, I will be limited in the performance of certain activities ... one of which is typing! Therefore, you will see a fall off of the number of posts that I will be posting. And I would appreciate your prayers that all goes well on Thursday!

Thanks for stopping by . . .

"John, Are You in the Cookie Jar Again?"

I can still see it sitting on our kitchen counter – an olive green ceramic cookie jar.  My mom always made sure it was stuffed full of cookies (which was not easy with me, my twin brother and a little brother running around the house!).  Now there was THE RULE (and it was the ONLY rule) regarding the cookie jar.  We could not grab a cookie or two (or three or four) just any time we wanted. We had to have permission first.  I want you to know that I tried to stick by THE RULE.  But that cookie jar had a powerful pull on my little hands.  It seems like any time I walked near it, my hands were drawn to it, like a piece of iron to a powerful magnet.  When this happened, I just went with the flow.  I would carefully lift the ceramic top, reach in and grab the loot, and then as quietly as possible, set the lid back on the cookie jar.  Almost without exception, the noise of ceramic on ceramic alerted my mom that someone was in the cookie jar. (How she could hear that from halfway down the block was beyond me! Perhaps she was a super hero in hiding!). 

This memory came to mind as I was read 1 John 2:28 recently in our Carpe Diem reading.  In this verse we read, “And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.”  I wonder.  How many of us will be caught with our hands in the “cookie jar” of sin when Jesus returns?  Let’s pay close attention to John’s exhortation here and strive to stay in step with Jesus.  Being embarrassed is never pleasant – and how much more so when it will be before the One who gave His life for us! 

Thanks for listening,


An Open Letter to the Church Family at Grace Church of Willow Valley

Twenty-five years ago, I entered the pulpit (and it was a fairly large pulpit back then) at Grace Church to begin what I was hoping would be a long and fruitful ministry (by long I was thinking ten years or so). Obviously, God had other plans. The years have been far more than ten. As for being fruitful, I defer to God on that call.

To mark this occasion ... here is a letter for my family at Grace Church at Willow Valley. If you are not part of our church family, feel free to read the letter, too. These twenty-five years have passed quickly. But my resolve to glorify God as I serve Jesus Christ in this place has not. I hope it has only grown.

September 1, 2014

 Dear Grace Family,                                                                                          

In Psalm 16:6, King David wrote the following words: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” The boundary lines he has in mind here are not the boundary lines of a piece of land, but rather the boundary lines of his life. David believed God had placed him in the place where he was (King of Israel), and he was rejoicing in God’s providence and the blessings he enjoyed as a result.

I can definitely relate to David. I also believe that “the boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” It has been twenty-five years this day since God in His providence led me and my family here to Lancaster County and Grace Church. When I first arrived, I asked the Lord for a ministry here that would last ten years (after serving a church for three years and another for five, I was looking for a pastorate of a little longer tenure). Little did I realize that God would more than honor that desire with a ministry that is at twenty-five years and counting!

In writing this letter to you, my family at Grace, it's my desire to let you know that there is no other place on this planet that I would rather be serving Jesus Christ than right here! You are a special group of people whom I have grown to love dearly across the years. I thank you for all of your loving support that you have given to me and my family. My prayer is that God will continue to allow us to deepen our love for God, nurture our love for others and address our world’s need for Christ – TOGETHER – for yet a few more years!

Together (you, me and God) we can do much!

Pastor John 

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...