Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Twas two weeks til Christmas...

Twas two weeks til Christmas,
and boy what a mess;
I'm nowhere near ready,
and I'm feeling the stress.

The attic is empty,
the decorations are down;
But they remain in their boxes
while my wife wears a frown.

The tree is still packed
in its un-opened box;
Lights, tinsel, ornaments
are stacked up like blocks.

"I don't have the time,
I'm too tired," I say
"Decorating will wait
I've no time for today."

Meanwhile I thread
my way through my house;
Quietly, carefully,
quick as a mouse.

Around all the boxes
unwrapped gifts galore;
But not bought in malls
nor found in a store.

No traffic, no crowds
no human interactions;
A point and a click
completed all my transactions.

My gifts came to me
from all over the globe;
While I shoped in comfort
in PJ's and robe.

On Postman, on Parcel Post,
On DHL and FedEx...
Deliver my packages
and save me the backaches.

Bring me toys and games
and techno what-is-its
Bring all on my wishlist,
each item and tidbits.

Without leaving my house
you can hear me exclaim;
"I've maxed all my credit!
Amazon now knows my name!"

So me in my Lazy-Boy
and ma with her knitting,
Had a long, deep discussion
and now we're admitting...

Our house is a mess,
we're not ready yet;
For decorations and purchases
that we'd like to forget.

Do you think that just maybe
this Christmas that we
might forget all about
lights and tinsel and trees?

Instead of a toy
or a scarf or a glove,
Do you think, that just maybe,
this year we might give Love?

Christmas all started
when God came to earth,
Immanuel, God with us,
now we celebrate His birth.

Christmas day is fast approaching
and I've still lots to do;
But I send you my love,
Merry Christmas to you!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Riding for Vietnam???

Every once in a great while, an opportunity presents itself that has the potential of impacting your life and the lives of others on behalf of Christ. Just a few weeks ago, a Christian Biker brother made me aware of a once-in-a-lifetime mission trip to travel the historic country, to see the amazing sights, to visit Vietnamese people from all walks of travel over 733 miles from coast to highlands, from countryside villages to thriving humanity-packed cities...all on a motorcycle!

This trip is designed to see the United Methodist Church and our ministry in Vietnam first-hand, to experience Vietnamese culture, to teach and witness the "Good News" of Jesus Christ, to worship with brothers and sisters from the other side of the world and to witness baptisms and renew my own baptism, to engage in ministry with people of villages and emerging United Methodist churches, to be renewed spiritually, and to meet former Vietnamese soldiers and Viet Cong who have given their lives to Christ.

I will be traveling to Vietnam with the Shawnee Valley Mission team of southern Ohio from April 7-21, 2010. We will fly via Cincinnati to Chicago to Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon). Once we arrive, we will purchase motorbikes there, and spend 6 days riding from village to village, meeting and worshiping with Vietnamese pastors and lay people, witnessing and sharing the Gospel of Christ, and experiencing the landscape, culture, and people of Vietnam. The motorbikes we purchase will be donated to Vietnamese United Methodist pastors when we return home, the bikes to be used in their ministry in Vietnam.

I don't mind telling you that I am excited about this adventure. What an amazing opportunity to be part of the missionary work of the Church, and to join other Christian Bikers traveling to such a historic land to be a witness for Christ.

I would ask for your support in helping this mission become a reality. First and foremost, I would ask for your prayers...for me, for the members of the mission team, for the Vietnamese brothers and sisters we encounter, for the United Methodist Mission in Vietnam, and for God to change and renew the hearts and minds of all who are involved in this endeavor.

Second, I would ask for your support (if possible) raising $4,000 ($2,500 for airfare, hotels, meals, and misc. transportation...and $1,500 to cover the cost of a motorbike that will be donated to a Vietnamese United Methodist pastor). My church, St. John's UMC will be the collection point for all funds donated to this trip. Checks can be made out to: St. John's UMC - Vietnam Mission and sent to the following address:

St. John's UMC
205 North High Street
PO Box 8
Columbus Grove, OH 45830

Jesus said, "Go and make disciples of all nations..." This is our mission, my mission, and the mission of the church. Help us make this dream mission a reality. Thanks you for your prayers and support.

In His Service....
Gary Ginter

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Chat With God

A couple weeks ago, our weekly Bible study group got into a lengthy discussion about prayer. While we all agreed that we believe that prayer should be a two-way communication with God that involves both talking to and listening to God, we also came to the conclusion that many feel that prayer is a one-way street. I have a hunch that more often than not, individuals only approach God when they feel they have no one else to turn to...sort of a last resort. Others see God as a kind of Genie in a bottle that exists only to grant our wishes and desires.

My personal belief is that God is no different than anyone else we would comminicate with. His desire is that we approach Him in all situations and at all times. In 1st Thessalonians, Paul advises us, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." Since I spend a lot of time driving, I often "talk" to God as the miles drift by. Further, I have found my motorcycle time to be an excellent time to spend with God...after all, with no radio on my bike, my conversations with God reverberate inside of my helmet as I ride.

One other thing... in Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." What child doesn't desire to spend time with and talk to their parent? We are to place our trust and faith in be obedient to His Will. That requires communication.

And so, in the spirit of communicating with God, I offer this poem for your consideration. It is entitled, "A Chat With God..."

A Chat With God

I had a chat with God last night, a talk long overdue.
About my needs and wants and thoughts; some things I thought He knew.

My presentation eloquent, my list short and concise.
Some things I’d thought He’d overlooked; I gave Him this advice.

I lamented ‘ore my schedule, my precious time so fleet,
And asked if He could meet my needs, then started to my feet.

He listened to me patiently, never said a word;
Then gently, softly, cleared His throat, and this is what I heard.

“My child,” he said, “I’ve given you much more than you can use;
Food and shelter, warmth and life, and things for you to choose.

But two things that I gave you, most important these…
A heart to love, and be loved back, and choice of will, you see.

It’s not my fault you love so wrong, the things that I detest.
Your will is yours to pick and choose; you’ve simply failed the test.

Don’t feel so bad, you’re not alone, for Mankind’s by your side.
I love you child, and I’ll be here, whenever you decide.

I promise I will give you the things I know you need.
So have no fear, I’ll be right here; My Son your case will plead.

He died for you, His choice, you see, because He loves you so.
And I love you too, even more, you see, because I let Him go.

No greater love hath any man, these words should comfort give
My choice, my will, for you, my child is eternal life to live.

Talk to God today. Spend some quality time in conversation with Jesus. But be prepared to listen. He has all the time in the world to listen to you...give Him the same courtesy and be willing to listen to Him. It just might change your life! :-)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Let the Children come...

I enjoyed a rare experience recently as I was honored to baptize my youngest grandaughter in church in front of family, friends, and God. On Sunday September 20th, (which was also my birthday - talk about blessings piled upon blessings!) my family gathered in our church, St. John's United Methodist Church in Columbus Grove, Ohio, as I baptized 5-month old Jillian Christine Saris. It was a beautifal fall day as my daughter Bethany, husband Matt, and eldest grandaughter Alexa (Lexi) presented the newest member of their family to the family of God.

I wanted to do something a bit different to commemorate the occasion, so during my sermon I presented three perspectives of baptism. The first was from the perspective of the church, or the pastor's point of view. Dressed in my robe, I talked about how baptism is a command of God. "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Matthew 28:19 It is where God forgives us of our sins. It is where we are "buried with Christ and raised with Him." It represents our death to our old self and to sin, and our rising to new life in Christ.

Then I removed my robe and put my suit jacket back on, and talked about baptism from the perspective of a Christian. I shared how baptism is a public act of obedience to the Will of baptism washes away the old and prepares us for a new life in God. It is a sign of repentence for us, and a symbol of forgiveness from God.

Finally, I took off my jacket, loosened my tie and rolled up my shirtsleeves...I wanted to share my thoughts on baptism from the perspective of a grandfather. I talked about how giving your children to God is a confirmation of our love for God and for the child. I explained that giving our children to God is a clarification of ownership, declaring that our children, and our grandchildren are truly gifts from God. I shared that giving our children to God is a commitment to raise our children in the knowledge and with the help of God. And finally, I shared how giving our children to God is a claiming of God's plan and promises for that child.

Allow me to close this post with this observation...God truly blesses those who put their trust and faith in him. Nola and I consider ourselves to be blessed beyond measure. We love our children (Bethany, Ben, and Brittany) dearly and would do most anything for them. We have embraced our sons-in-law (Matt and Matt) and have found them to be caring, thoughtful men who demonstrate love and devoted attention to their families. And we deeply love our granddaughters (Alexa, Kaitlyn, Jillian, and a player to be named in March!) Knowing that as grandparents we are an integral part of their lives and development is both humbling and joyous.

Jesus said, "Let the little children come unto me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14

Friday, September 4, 2009

Let's Take a Drive...

Seems there has been a lot of talk lately about drivers and how bad their driving has become. Matter of fact, there have been several letters to the editor in the local papers around here bemoaning the dangers of the road due to the poor driving habits of many drivers. Want to sound off about inconsiderate drivers? Here's the place and here's your chance. It just so happens that bad drivers are on my top 5 list of pet peeves!

For those of you who are not aware, I was a high school driving instructor for five years. I worked for a local driving school in Van Wert, Ohio with students in both Van Wert and Paulding Counties in Ohio. Oh, the stories I could tell. Let me just say that is is difficult to teach students the right and proper things to do while driving when the majority of the drivers you meet on the road are doing other things.

My wife tells me that I am a different person when I am driving...that I have a tendency to snarl and frown and mutter unflattering remarks under my breath. I must admit, I do have difficulty understanding why people do the things they do once they get behind the wheel of a car. I have come to the firm conclusion that turn signals must be optional equipment in most cars, and that speed limits are just recommendations.

Like most endeavors, I do have one very memorable event that happened to me while in my driver's ed car with a student. One of the lessons I taught was interstate to enter and exit interstates, driving at higher speeds, passing other vehicles, cruise control options and so on. My student was a young lady from Van Wert and we were about to enter US 30, a four-lane highway much like an interstate highway. There we were entering the on-ramp, and I'm trying to explain to her the proper procedures for doing so. "Speed up some so you don't enter the four-lane too slowly, turn your left signal on so others will know where you want to go, turn your head back to the left and look behind you (because there is a blind spot behind your left shoulder and you want to make sure the path behind you is clear).

Well, to her credit, the young lady did exactly as she was told. She hit her left signal, she increased her speed, she looked over her left should to make sure her path was clear, and she slowly turned onto the interstate. However, she kept looking back behind her as the car slowly drifted across the right lane, then the left lane, and was heading for the grass that seperated the four lanes. She was oblivious as to the direction of the car, so I slowly reached over and gently grabbed the steering wheel and pulled the car back to the right.

Needless to say, that little episode got me to thinking...what if I hadn't been there...who watches over us...what is the direction of our lives. Just after World War II ended, a US pilot wrote a book about his flying experiences during the war entitled "God is My Co-Pilot". His emphasis was on the fact that God was with him in his plane during every mission against the enemy. It was a divine presence that kept him safe from harm. I recently spied a bumper sticker that stated, "If God is Your Co-Pilot, Switch Seats!"
Bottom line is this...the bumper sticker was spot this life, we face many challenges, including idiot drivers. If we don't allow God to lead, guide and direct us, we too may be heading for the grass between the pavement. He gently nudges us in the right direction, always keeping us in his loving care.

Let me just leave you with these thoughts...please be careful out there. Your driving habits may be sending the wrong signals to those who are trying to do the right thing on the road. But more importantly, trust God to keep you on the right path in life. :-)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Biker Sunday 2009...

Last Sunday our little church hosted its 4th Annual Biker Sunday and Blessing of the Bikes. While our small country church may never have the attendance and status of the larger churches and their endeavors, we have managed to hit our stride in this community. I find it amazing that God allows us at times to combine our passions in a fun way to reach out into the world on His behalf. It just so happens that two of my passions are my church and motorcycles.

What started out as an idea several years ago, has slowly evolved into a busy, fun-packed and rewarding weekend for the members of St. John's United Methodist Church. Allow me to offer a quick summary of events. We begin with our Sunday morning worship service. On this particular Sunday, it is geared toward bikers. As a rider myself, I preach that morning in my jeans, boots, vest, and do-rag. Approximately one-third of the congregation is dressed the same way. Aren't you glad God accepts us as we are, not as others expect us to be!

There is special music, and a special guest who only makes an appearance this one Sunday every year. His is a puppet named Harley, and we laugh at his exploits as he helps us understand how special each person is in the eyes of God, even if you ride two wheels instead of four. The message may be aimed specifically for bikers but all of us can and should learn a thing or two from them...their willingness to participate, their abundant generosity, and their unconditional humor.

Someone once told me, "when bikers meet, bikers eat" and this group is no exception. Following the morning worship, everyone gathered in the fellowship hall for a delicious meal. After all, a biker needs to replenish in order to prepare for the road ahead. Then, after the meal, those with two wheels enjoyed a charity bike ride designed to raise money for missions. This year, all money raised went to benefit the Rally Point Youth Center in downtown Lima, Ohio...a place where the youth of inner city Lima can come to find protection, education, help, and a little fun.

The day warm very warm and humid, yet spirits were high as the bikers wound their way through the countryside. Our destination this year was the 1st United Methodist Church of Wapakoneta, where Pastor R.J. Davis and his biker congregation hosted us with refreshments and friendship. Then back on the road, with Wapak bikers in tow, as we returned to St. John's for home-made ice cream and a ton of door prizes.

When the afternoon finally came to an end, this message reverberated louder than the Harley pipes..."a good time was had by all!" I pause here to thank God for his provision, for his steadfast love, for his care and devotion to our protection, and for his sense of humor. How often can one expect to have so much fun with so many friends, and combine all that with the love of God. We are already starting to plan for next year, and I can hardly wait until until it's Biker Sunday time again!! :-)

Friday, July 24, 2009

How Grandpa lost his power...

Have you ever given any thought as to who really controls the world? There are many theories. Some believe that behind every great man is a strong woman. Others believe that man controls his own destiny. Still others think that men are born for a time and a reason. I'm here to tell you that all of these theories are dead wrong. The most powerful force in the universe is...grandchildren.

This summer of 2009 has been a real education for this old man. Recently, I found a few moments of time to contemplate my life and my surroundings. Here is what I discovered during this period of enlightenment.

First, grandchildren can make grandpa's do the most amazing things. I cite as example the following... When was the last time you took your grand-daughter to the local science museum, and found yourself playing the part of fool? Imagine, grown men (with gray hair) climbing in and out of exhibits, crawling over giant blocks, or dressing up in funny costumes just to see a toddler laugh!
Or how about squeezing yourself into the smallest tiny train you can find (not once or twice, but everytime you find a too-small train to ride!), just to ride around in circles for a few fleeting moments...all because the wee one refuses to ride by herself.

Or how about walking around in circles...leading a pony named Sadie who just happens to be carrying your grand-daughter on its back. Do you have any idea what ponies do as they are walking around in circles?? Let's just say a person should'nt wear nice shoes!
Talk about real about facing a hoard of man-eating goats? We had every intention of feeding them some goat food, but soon realized they had an appetite for shirts, shorts, and anything loose! Okay...I know what your saying. You may have risked life and limb just to please these mighty munchkins...but all it cost you was a few dollars for admission, and all your dignity and pride. Well, consider that these same pint-sized manipulators also figured out a way for grandpa to put a swimming pool up in his backyard!
Swimming pool...$140
Cost to fill the pool...$100
Watching kids and grandkids having a wonderful time...Priceless!

The most powerful force on the face of this earth?? The love of a grandchild for a grandparent. Trust me, love like that can and will make you do the most amazing things! :-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Take me out to the ballgame...

We were in Cleveland over the July 4th holiday, and just happened to find the time and money to catch an Indians game with my son and son-in-law. While the Tribe may be having a less than spectacular season this year, we did see a pretty good game on this particular occasion. The Indians managed to beat Oakland 5-2.

I thouroughly enjoy baseball. When I was a kid growing up in New Haven, you would find my ballglove on the handlebar of my bicycle. Living in a good sized housing addition, it was usually pretty easy to find enough guys (and sometimes a girl or two) to throw together a pick-up game. The elementary school was only a block away, and there were a couple ballfields available.

As I was watching the game Saturday night, I noticed that one of the Indians best players failed to get a hit the entire game, while a new rookie, recently brought up from the farm team had a couple hits and did really well. As you can imagine, it got me thinking. Statistically, baseball players are not normally consistant in their play. By that I mean even the best players don't do that well at the plate. For example, one of the greatest ball players of all time, Ty Cobb, had a lifetime batting average of .367. Consider that the active leader, Todd Helton of the Colorado Rockies, is 24th on this list entering the 2007 season at .334. Tony Gwynn, who is probably the best hitter of his generation, was a lifetime .338 hitter. For Ty Cobb, this translates to only 367 hits out of every 1,000 times at bat. That means he failed to hit the ball nearly 2 out of every three times at bat, and he is considered one of the greatest of all time.

When it comes right down to it, isn't life a lot like a baseball game? We have opportunities, we get chances to make great plays, or sometimes, we just sit in the dugout and watch. And when we do get in the game, chances are we will fail, or at least mess things up pretty good more often than not. And so, statistically speaking, we are pretty much failures in life.

Ah, but there is some good news. God is on our team, and as our coach, he see potential in us. He allows us to make our mistakes, because mistakes help us grow into better people. He doesn't criticize or complain, he helps us find our faults and find ways to improve our abilities for the next game. He leads, guides, and directs not only on the field but off as well.

I may make lots and lots of mistakes...I may even fail to contribute significantly to my game of life. But I know that no matter how bad my batting average is, God still wants me on his team. :-)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I will raise my eyes toward the mountains...

A couple weeks ago, my wife Nola and I took a little vacation. We ventured south toward the Great Smoky Mountains to spend a few days with some good friends, to enjoy the beautiful scenery, to relax, unwind, and to ride our motorcycles!

Back several months ago, a few of us were deep in conversation after church one Sunday about the possibility of taking our bikes down to the Smoky Mountains for a little fellowship, a little fun, and a little riding. We went, we enjoyed, we relaxed, we rode, and I even have the t-shirt to remember the trip by.

Three couples, six individuals made this epic journey. We rented a cabin a few miles north of Pigeon Forge (and about 3/4 mile up the side of a mountain!). Two of us trailered our bikes down while the third couple rode their bike all the way down and back. Each couple took turns with meals and such so that no one spent all their time cooking and cleaning. Each couple took a day and did all the cooking for that day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)...that way we had a wonderful variety of different menu choices.
We did experience a bit of rain during our stay. Matter of fact, it rained most of the way down on Wednesday through Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and rained Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. However, despite the rain we did manage to see quite a bit of the park, including Cade's Cove and Newfound Gap.

While we had plenty of opportunities to see the sights of the park, we also managed to do a little riding. Our original intention was to ride down to Deal's Gap to a section of highway known as the Dragon's Tail. However, the weather and a convention of Kawasaki crotch-rocket riders nixed our plans. Instead, we logged many a mile in and through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Up and down the hills, round and round the curves we went. We spent almost the entire day Saturday riding...the scenery was magnificent, the weather was wonderful, and the company was amazing.
One last thing I feel I need to share with you. A couple days before we left for our little vacation, I was writing an article in our church newsletter about our pending trip to the mountains. I quoted a scripture from Psalm 121:1-2 - "I will raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth."
Do you believe in coincidences? Neither do I. When we arrived at our cabin, we found a mural painted on the upstairs bathroom wall. The content of that mural was Psalm 121:1-2. God does amazing things, even when you least expect it. To the six of us, this was a sign that He was watching over us, even on vacation in the mountains of Tennessee.

To my friends who joined me on this journey, thanks...thanks for your friendship and your love. To my wife who went, even though she refuses to ride with me on my bike, thanks...thanks for allowing me to make one of my dreams a reality, and thanks for being there with me, on this journey and the bigger journey we call life. To God I say thanks...thanks for watching over us, caring for us, protecting us, and for creating such amazing beauty.
Watch for future never know where God will take you...:-)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Call...

The month of May is almost over, and June is upon us. For all you United Methodist Pastor's out there, June can only mean one thing...time for the annual move. Yes, it's that time once again when the Conference decides who stays and who goes, and so pastors and their families are busy packing, getting ready to transport their entire world to another church, another community, another congregation.

It wasn't so long ago that the expectation of a United Methodist Pastor was to serve a particular church for only two to four years. Hardly time for the pastor and the congregation to get to know each other, much less to form the kind of relationship necessary for successful ministry. Reality and experience tells us that it takes five years to build the type of trust and familiarity to really make a difference in the church and the community. I thank God every day that someone finally figured this out, and that pastors are now assigned for periods of eight to ten years or more.

But for those of you who are moving, I offer this little ditty. God works in His own mysterious way, and everything happens for a reason. When God closes one door, He opens another. So, to my colleagues out there who will be moving in the next couple weeks, I salute you, and I pray for your success in your Kingdom Work.

The Call

The telephone rang, the D.S. said,
"Time to pack your clothes, your bed;
July is near, it's time to go,
So pack your things and don't be slow!"

"Another church, another place
Has need of leadership and Grace.
You've been selected to fill the spot,
So pack and move the things you got!"

"This church is special, so take heed,
And don't forget the things you'll need.
Here's a list, short and concise;
So check this list, yes, check it twice!"

"First of all, a willing heart
Is necessary for new start.
A life within His Will succeeds
With feet that follow where He leads."

"Patience with a listening ear
Will never fail, year after year.
Knees well worn from hours in prayer,
Lifting burdens to His care."

"A mind well versed within the Book,
Helping others to take a look.
A way with words, willing to preach,
Heavenly insight, eager to teach."

"Now thus prepared, be on your way.
Get a move on - don't delay!
No one else can fill your shoes,
So go and preach the Gospel News!"

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15:-)

Friday, May 8, 2009

My Mind's Eye...

Okay...time to be many of you out there are "Trekkies"? Confession time...I started watching Star Trek back in the late 60's when I was only 11 or 12. For many years I was satisfied with old re-runs, and have seen my share of "The Next Generation", "Star Trek Voyager", "Deep Space Nine", and "Enterprise". Also have my share of the movies (but will admit that some were much better than others). And today, May 8, 2009 the latest version of the franchise will be unleashed upon the public.

I have always been fascinated by Science Fiction. Love those old Hollywood movies of the 50's and 60' campy and technically unrealistic, yet thought provoking. But it was Gene Roddenberry who caught my attention with Star Trek. You see, Gene's vision for the future was two-fold. First, he was banking on the premise that YES, there would be a future for man, and two, that it would be better than today.

What I'm leading up to is a poor, finite human being, limited in scope by my own thinking, education, and background, I still realize that there is so much we don't know or can't comprehend. Space is vast, beyond human comprehension. Yet, when the day is done, here we are, stuck on this orb we call earth, waiting for something amazing to awaken us.

As so, since it is Friday after all, I offer this little poem for your amusement and your contemplation. And as you are sitting in the movie theater this weekend watching Kirk, Spock, and the Enterprise hurtle through the cosmos once again, just remember're not alone...

My Mind's Eye

Seek me not, for I'm not here,
I'm off to worlds both far and near.
Seeking, searching, reaching far,
Traveling to the farthest star.

Faster than the speed of light,
My mind's eye looks out each night.
To see beyond th ereach of man,
In search of that elusive land.

To leave behind all Mankind's sorrow,
Pain and suffering; no tomorrow.
All left behind, my mind is free,
No earthly woes to bother me.

But rise with me and take my hand,
We'll journey to that distand land.
Kindred spirits, you and I,
Together always we shall fly.

But back by morning you shall be,
Mortal once again to see;
The world you have, the world you hold,
Is yours again to shape and mold.

But if you ever feel the need,
Just trust your heart and then take heed;
To find and love a friend so rare,
Just close your eyes, and I'll be there.

In the immortal words of Mr. Spock,
Live Long and Prosper

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Thank Heaven for Little Girls...

There nothing in the world to compare with a new-born baby...especially when it's your own grand-daughter. On Tuesday morning, April 28th, 2009 at 6:07 am, the world welcomed Jillian Christine Saris, daughter to Bethany (Ginter) Saris and her husband Matt Saris, and little sister to Alexa Saris. Baby Jill weighed in at 7 lbs. 7 oz. and measured 20 inches long.

While Nola and I were not able to make the trip to Akron in time for the delivery, by the time she was 12 hours old, we were there! So small, so tiny and fragile, yet so beautiful and precious in our eyes. What a wonderful creation of God, and how lucky are we to be a part of her life.

Grand-children are a special blessing. Now don't get the wrong idea, because I love my three children...each is different and unique in their own way....but there's just something about a grand-child that captivates your attention. For some reason, we can't help but carry around pictures of them. We can't wait to drive hundreds of miles just to see them and hold them, even if for just a few minutes. And we can't wait to spend money on them and spoil them.

As a grandparent, I am amazed by these tiny little humans. So fragile, yet so strong with the will to survive. And I am amazed by my children, as I have watched as both my daughter and my son-in-law have become wonderful parents. I am proud of both of them and the love they shower upon both their daughters (my grand-daughters Alexa and Jillian) only make me love them more.

As a parent, grandparent, and as a pastor, I am equally amazed at the precious gift God has allowed us to raise and love. As I sit and hold little Jillian, my mind can't help but wonder...what will she grow up to be? What will she look like? What kinds of things will she enjoy in her life? and what kind of relationship will she have with her mom and dad, her grandma, and her old grandpa??

God has certainly been good to our family. He has blessed us beyond measure, and for that I thank Him and I praise Him. And for my grand-daughters, I especially thank Him. Yes, thank heaven for little girls...:-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lord, Bless my Bike...

Warm, sunny spring days are hard to come by, so you can imagine my excitement when the weather finally turned decent and the call came to "start up your motorcycles"!
I hadn't had the opportunity to ride yet this year, so I was really looking forward to my first ride of spring. The morning started out a bit cool, but soon warmed up and made for a great day of riding.

So, last saturday found me and a few of my friends in the very small Indiana town of Arcola (a small town between Ft. Wayne and Columbia City) for the 20th annual Blessing of the Bikes. This event started 20 years ago with eight motorcycles, and over the years has blossomed into quite an event. This year, approximately 2,500 motorcycles and over 3,000 individuals converged on Arcola to fellowship, visit, and have their bikes blessed by Fr. Francisco (a little priest from India who sounded like Apu from the Simpson's!) The bikes filled up three parking lots around the church, and lined both sides of the country road for half a mile.

I had the opportunity to meet and make new friends, and spend some time with a group of CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) members from Albion, Indiana. Matter of fact, two CMA chaplains took part in the blessing program and I was impressed with their willingness to participate and their willingness to be a witness to the bikers.

There were so many bikes, each one different and unique...and so many bikers, also different and unique. Bikers come from all walks of life and I have come to appreciate events like this that bring all of us together for a common cause. This event got me to thinking. Now I know we are not to judge others, but I don't think all 3,000+ bikers in attendance that day were Christians. Yet, here they were at a bike blessing, waiting patiently for the Padre to bless them and their bikes. Is it possible that deep down inside of all of us there is a desire to be known by God, to be recognized by God, to be blessed by God? Someone once said, that inside all of us is a hole, a missing piece that only God can fill.

I for one look forward to any opportunities to reach out and share the love and grace of God. Deep down it makes no difference whether we are Catholic, United Methodist, Baptist, or whatever. God loves us for who we are, not what church we attend or what bike we ride. Riding my bike and sharing my witness is only one way, but it is a fun way for me.

One last thing. As he was blessing the thousands of bikes, Fr. Francisco added this little disclaimer...he said that our bikes would only be truly blessed IF we rode them with care and safety! So, Lord, I promise to do my part to ride carefully and safely...just remember to do your part, and bless me and my bike!