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!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Greetings...

It was Palm Sunday and because he had a sore throat, five-year-old Johnny stayed home from church with a sitter. When the family returned home, they were each carrying several palm branches. The inquisitive boy asked what they were for. "People held them over Jesus' head as he walked by", was the response. "Wouldn't you know it," little Johnny fumed, "The one Sunday I don't go, Jesus shows up!"

This is one of my favorite Easter stories, for it blends humor with a misunderstanding that we all share. In this day and age, every single one of us finds ourselves caught up in our daily struggles, only to "miss" events that are happening all around us. As I approached Easter this year, I was once again faced with the task of presenting a familiar story from the Bible, one that everyone knows, and many could recite by heart. How do you make an age-old story that everyone knows fresh and unique? After all, it is Easter that defines Christians and the Christian life. Yet, we are so familiar with the story, that we tend to overlook the significance of the event.

For me, the answer was so obvious, I almost missed it. Simply put, you don't. There is nothing to change, no fresh new facts to present, no overlooked observations that weren't recorded or misunderstood. Christ walked purposefully into Jerusalem, knowing he would not leave alive. He bore the weight and humility that only the Roman soldiers could administer, and yet not a word did he speak. He suffered pain and anguish, not only from the beatings and anger, but from his willingness to take my sins upon himself. Yes, he suffered as no man had suffered before or since, and yet he did it willingly because he loved me. And when all was said and done, he defeated death when he rose again, and because he lives, you and I will live also.

As Easter approaches, I have tried to slow down and take a closer look at my family and look at them with new appreciation and examine my life in the context of how I show others that I love them.

Specifically, two events have occupied my thoughts these past few days. First, my son Ben was baptized in his church this past Sunday. Over the past year or so, I have watched with fascination and a parent's pride as Ben has become more involved in his church and in his walk with God. I have seen and heard the excitement in his actions and his words as he describes how God has blessed him, and how he appreciates the opportunities to serve God more. Kinda makes an old man happy, to see his children develop a love and a trust in God.

The second event actually hasn't happened yet. It is with eager anticipation that we await the birth of another precious grand-daughter. Our eldest daughter, Bethany, is expecting most any day now (her actual due date is May 2, but I don't think she'll last that long!) Nola and I have been especially blessed with two amazing grand-daughters, Alexa and Kaitlyn, and can only imagine how our newest family member, Jillian, will impact our lives.

This Easter...slow down, breathe deep, look around, and make sure you don't miss all the amazing things going on all around you. Tell someone you know that you love them. And most of all, make sure you don't miss Jesus when he walks by!! :-)