The Church Is Not A Place

“Religion that is contained only within a church building is a weekend hobby, not a personal faith.”

James Lankford

Thanks to the wonders of Disney+, I recently watched the three Marvel Thor movies: Thor, Thor – The Dark World, and Thor – Ragnarok. I’m not sure if it’s my Scandinavian heritage or simply my love for good story along with some action, but I really enjoyed watching these movies.

There is a scene towards the end of Thor – Ragnarok the really hit home. I’ll let you watch the scene here and then I’ll explain.

The church I attend has not met in the church building since March when the Pennsylvania governor began setting restrictions on meeting in large groups. Since then, my church (Christ’s Church of the Valley) has been “meeting” through live-streamed church services every Sunday morning. The production quality has been amazing, and it is nice to see familiar faces and to hear familiar voices through the preaching and the worship songs.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who would say I look forward to meeting together again in person.

Back the the Thor movie clip…

Thor’s father, Odin, provides a very good reminder. Just like Asgard, the church is not a place. (In the Thor movies, Asgard is Odin’s kingdom and Thor’s home.) The church is wherever it’s people stand or gather.

I have been blessed to gather virtually with a group of guys every Friday morning. This is the church.

I was blessed this week to share my story with a group of men from my church (G3 – Guys’ Growth Group) who have been meeting weekly for fellowship and Bible study. This is the church.

Almost every Saturday morning since the pandemic started, my wife and I have been meeting with a group of friends to go for a walk. This is the church.

In my talk this week to the G3 group, I shared a verse from Hebrews:

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

The fourth discipline in the 7 Week Stretch Challenge is to engage in key relationships. This was a truth before the pandemic, and it is still true during the pandemic. We, the church, are called to meet together – to encourage one another, to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

While I long for the day when our church can physically meet in the building many of us call church. I am reminded of the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility we have to find ways to meet as the church whether it’s in the building, virtually, or somewhere else.

I leave you with this passage from the book of Acts. This is a description of the early church. In the passage, it’s clear the “Fellowship of Believers” was not based on a building.

“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

Acts 2:42-47 (NIV)

A Long Overdue Update

“There is nothing so stable as change.”

Bob Dylan

Life has been rather busy the past several weeks.

Leanne and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Ocean Grove, NJ. This provided an excellent opportunity to stop, to reflect on and celebrate our marriage, and to consider next steps for our lives together. In this busy season, this is exactly what we needed.

The following weekend, I made a trip to Catawissa, PA to “camp” with three of my buddies. This was our annual gathering that has been going on for nearly 30 years. The trip always provides an excellent opportunity to pause life, to reconnect and catch up on our lives, and to enjoy the great outdoors. We fished in the Susquehanna River and Roaring Creek. We played a few games of corn hole. We ate some great food. I even finished reading a book (Playing for Pizza by John Grisham). And we simply enjoyed sitting around.

When I arrived home from this trip, it was time to kick it into high gear for our move. We packed all our belongings into the moving trucks on Wednesday, July 22nd, and we officially closed our nearly fifteen year Centennial Street chapter. The next day, we officially started a new chapter on Snoopy Lane (still in Schwenksville, PA – actually in Lower Frederick, PA).

Our first week in the new house has been all we could ask for and more. We love our neighborhood. We have met so many genuinely nice people, and we have begun making new friendships. Leanne has enjoyed several walks with one of the women in the neighborhood. And we enjoyed our first Friday night neighborhood Happy Hour this week.

We have been busy unpacking and figuring out where everything goes. Yesterday, Isaac and I spend quite a bit of time painting the garage, hanging utility hooks, and organizing the garage. We still have a few things to do in order to finish up the garage project (hanging the bikes, getting a garage door opener, and painting/sealing the floor); otherwise, we are happy with the progress on this project. And I’m looking forward to the next projects.

I’m sure there is a lot in which I could share. I have had so many thoughts and reflections that have gone on through this experience. Perhaps, I will share more in the days to come. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of the experiences that left a mark on me.

A couple nights after we moved in to our Snoopy Lane home, Leanne and I were sitting outside our garage when a young neighborhood family stopped by to say hello. The oldest boy (I think he is 8 years old) asked Leanne and me if we knew Jesus. His exact words, “Do you know Jesus.” This led to a conversation that made it clear we did, and it is a conversation I have thought about over and over again since then.

I think his mother was a bit embarrassed by her son’s question when we were just getting to know her family. I think we set her mind at ease by our response. What makes it so easy for a child to have such “boldness” when we are all called to share our faith? People can debate about the best ways to share our faith with others which is a subject for another conversation.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

I Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)

This little boy challenged me and encouraged me. I want to confidently share my faith with boldness, with gentleness, and with respect.

I’m looking forward to the opportunities we will have in the coming days, weeks, months, and years to connect and grow in our community.

Yesterday, I officially joined VLAUGUST, a private Facebook vlogging community that encourages participants to post a vlog once or twice a week on a specific theme. This year’s theme is “How To Be Still.” I posted my first vlog this morning. In my post, I shared about my history of struggling with the notion of being still. As part of the post, I shared Psalm 46 – specifically Psalm 46:10 that reminds us the “Be still and know that I am God.” I’m excited to see how this challenge will stretch me.

God continues to stretch me for which I am grateful.

Hope you are doing well!

A New Beginning

Every day I feel is a blessing from God. And I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.


A new beginning.

A fresh start.

A clean slate.

Kind of scary.

Kind of exciting.

Kind of great.

Moving past yesterday.

Moving through today.

Moving into tomorrow.

It comes with joy.

It comes with uncertainty.

It comes with sorrow.

Every day is a new beginning.

Every day can be a blessing – a gift.

This is the day the Lord has made.

I will rejoice and be glad in it.

I am thankful for a new beginning – a fresh start – a promise of good things to come!

See, I am doing a new thing!

    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

I am making a way in the wilderness

    and streams in the wasteland.

Isaiah 43:19 (NIV)

Thoughts on Change

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Change happened. Change happens. Change will happen.

Change is hard. Change seems impossible. Change is possible.

Change causes anxiety. Change causes euphoria.

Change can be overwhelming. Change can be just what we need.

Change is often feared. Change is also welcomed.

Change may not be what we want, and yet change may be exactly what we need.

Change moves from the past into the future. Change can make a world of difference by making the world a little different.

Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Change can actually be very, very good.

We are all watching change happen. We are all changing. We are all on the brink of change. We are all in need of change.

We need change that matters. We need change that makes the world a better place not just for us but for everyone. We need change that shines hope on the hopeless. We need change that shines light on the darkness. We need change that brings freedom to those in chains. We need change that amplifies love and quiets hate.

Are you ready for change? (Am I?) Will you be the change our world needs? (Will I?) What changes to you need to make? (What changes to I need to make?) When will you break from your ruts and embrace change? (When will I?)

The time for change is now. While change may be uncomfortable, it is worth it!

Be the change our world needs!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

For those of you who struggle with change, I’d encourage you to lean on God’s love which does not change.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

Treasures – Temporary Or Timeless?

“Treasure your relationships, not your possessions.”

Anthony J. D’Angelo

When I was 12, I flew all by myself to Minnesota to stay with my Grandma and Grandpa Miller in Minneapolis. While I was there we visited my Uncle Wes and Aunt Carol who lived in a more rural area north of Minneapolis.

While bailing hay with Uncle Wes and my Grandpa. I found a moose shed – the antler of a moose that had fallen off for the season. I took it from Uncle Wes’ farm back to Minneapolis and on the airplane back to Philadelphia. The moose antler has gone with me from Mt. Holly, NJ to our first house in Schwenksville, PA and then to our second house in Schwenskville, PA. I haven’t seen it for a while, but it did come to my mind a month or two ago when I received word that Uncle Wes had passed away. I rediscovered it yesterday as I was cleaning out my basement in preparation to move again in just over a month.

Honestly, I shed a few tears yesterday as I said goodbye to some things that remind me of my past. I said goodbye to my pennant collection that had faded away. These reminded me of my love for baseball along with some of the amazing places I visited as a kid like the real Field of Dreams in Iowa. I said goodbye to several old photographs that had collected wrinkles, creases, and dust in an old footlocker I got before my freshman year at Grove City College. One of the photos was of my housing group, AEX, as we posed for a Christmas photo in Harbison Chapel in December of 1993. These along with many other items were a reminder that I am extremely blessed…EXTREMELY blessed!

I’m so thankful for family, for friends, and for all the special memories made over the years.

As my wife and I pursue this path of downsizing, I’m reminded of how temporary our stuff is. We can’t take any of it with us when we are done with this life. We must remember to hold onto our stuff lightly and hold on to the memories and invest in relationships. These are the things that matter. These are the things we can take into eternity.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Jesus – Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)

By the way, the moose shed is going to a good friend. I know he will give it a good home.

3 Challenges For You This Week In Response To What Is Going On In Our World

2020 has been perhaps the craziest year of my life. We’ve dealt with COVID-19. We saw one of the biggest dips in the stock market along with one of the biggest swings in the unemployment rates in history. We saw the rise in popularity of a crazy Netflix show called Tiger King. We are navigating the primary election season for what is sure to be a crazy fall election. And we are witnessing the deaths of several Black individuals and the protests along with some rioting and looting that followed the most recent killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer.

These most recent events in particular have left me reeling. We do not watch a lot of news at our house as it hasn’t historically been healthy for our minds and hearts. And yet, I realize there is an importance to being informed.

I’ve done a lot of reflection this week, and I’ve also begun with more investigation and self-education. I’ve talked to people who have different opinions than me, different backgrounds than me, and different skin colors than me. I still have a long, long way to go. Knowing full well that I have family and friends with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives on what is going on in our country these days, I have three challenges for all of us in the coming week.

3 Challenges for You This Week

  1. Examine your own heart. We all have work to do in our own hearts. I love what King David says in Psalms 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” I also think of King David’s words in Psalms 139:23: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Is my heart and my mind aligned with God? Does my heart break for the things that break the heart of God? Am I doing what the Lord requires of me (“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8).
  2. Do your research. Don’t just depend on your own go-to-resources like FoxNews or CNN. Seek to understand. Check out the movie “Just Mercy” that is streaming for free on many platforms right now. Watch the “13th” documentary on Netflix. Don’t just rest there, look for resources that help explain the position of others with whom you may not agree. Do your homework.
  3. Talk to someone who is different than you. If you are white, talk to some Black people. Seek to understand their perspective. If you are a Christian, talk to someone who is Jewish – talk to someone who is Muslim – talk to someone who is an atheist. If you are conservative, talk to someone who is liberal. If you are a Democrat, talk to someone who is Republican. Go into these conversations prepared to listen and learn. Resist the temptation to convert others to your viewpoint.

Our country and our world is divided. And I believe we stand at the precipice of great calamity or a great change. Hate is not the answer, and love takes work as it often takes us out of our comfort zone. Choose love.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”

Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)

5 Questions That Will Take You To The Next Level

So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.

Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:7)

Can I ask you a question?

To late, I just did.

Learning to ask questions is the key to opening the door to countless opportunities, experiences, and relationships.  Kids typically do a great job asking questions.  If you have ever been with a young child, you’ve heard this question over and over again:  “Why?”

Kids are curious.  They want to learn.  They want to grow.  They want to try new things.  And they seem to know that asking questions is the key to getting what they want.  Kids also don’t let the fear of sounding stupid stop them from asking questions.

Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, most of us forget the power of asking questions.  We lose our curiosity.  We don’t want to appear like we don’t know all the answers.  And we’re afraid we might be told “No” when we ask for something.

I’ve learned something recently:

The answer will always be “No” if we don’t ask.

This is why we must learn the discipline of asking questions.

In the writing and speaking world, there are many opportunities available to those who ask.

If I want to speak, I have to ask.  If I want to write on someone’s blog or platform, I have to ask.  If I want to be on someone’s podcast, I have to ask.  Sure I may get an invitation from time to time without asking, but this is not the norm.

You may not be a writer or a speaker, but you still have a lot to gain by asking questions.  When you practice the discipline of asking questions, many things happen.

  1. You get to know people better when you ask questions.  Where were you born?  What do you like to do in your spare time?  What do you want to accomplish in the next five to ten years?  What’s your favorite color?  How did you get to where you are today?  When you ask questions, you get to know people.
  2. You come across as more interesting when you ask questions.  Questions are the gateway to great conversations.  And when you have conversations, you automatically increase your “I’m interesting” factor.
  3. You show people they matter when you ask questions.  When people ask me questions, I feel valued.  When you ask questions, you show others they are valued.  By asking questions, you have the opportunity to show people they matter.
  4. You learn new things when you ask questions.  Be curious.  Questions will take you to all kinds of new places and new information.  I’ve learned a lot about blogging as a result of the questions I have asked other bloggers.  In my career, I grown a lot and seen new opportunities as a result of asking “How can I do this better next time?”
  5. You clarify your path forward when you ask questions.  Sometimes we get stuck.  We develop a type of paralysis, because we aren’t sure how to proceed.  Asking the right questions can give us clarity on the direction we should be taking.
  6. You can move more quickly when you ask questions.
  7. You become a better leader when you ask questions.

“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.”

Francis Bacon

I have used a set of questions that have helped me grow personally and professionally. If you begin using these questions, you will grow as well. These questions require an open mind and a willingness to take action.

5 Questions That Will Take You To The Next Level

  1. How are you? This seems so simple, but people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Asking this question provides an opportunity to connect at a deeper level. I have learned so much by asking this simple question. When it comes to leadership, I have learned when my team members are going through a tough time or when they have something to celebrate. I have learned more about my customers and about the things that make them tick. Start your conversations with this simple but very important question.
  2. How can I do this better the next time? Asking for feedback is the best way to learn. Especially if you will be doing similar activities again, this question can lead to massive growth for you and can lead to tremendous loyalty with those whom you ask this question. As an engineer, I used this question repeatedly to become a better engineer – to put out designs that were more useful for my installers, my start-up technicians, and my customers. As a leader, I use this question to grow in my leadership.
  3. What else can I do? Asking for more work when you have a lull in your current workload is an excellent way to demonstrate work ethic. This question demonstrates to others that you are a team player and you are not lazy. When I was fairly new to my company, this question led to my assignment on a high profile four year project that propelled my reputation and my career. I learned so many things by simply asking “What else can I do?”
  4. Can you help me? Asking for help takes humility. Many of us don’t want to appear as if we can’t do it ourselves. Here’s the reality, we can’t always do it ourselves. Sometimes our knowledge and skill limit us for the time being. We need to ask for help to expand our knowledge and skill and to make sure our task is executed as necessary. Sometimes our schedules limit us, and we need to ask for help because we cannot get to everything on our plate. More recently, I have realized that this question is a very important leadership question. As leaders, we must as for help in an effort to delegate. Delegating tasks to others gives them a chance to expand their experience, it prepares others to take on more responsibility in the future, and it frees up the leader to address other issues and tasks.
  5. How can I help? When people come into my office, this is the question I try to ask. What can I do to make your job/life easier? What direction or assistance can I provide that will keep you moving forward? This question breaks down walls. This question is the key to collaborative solutions. Everyone faces obstacles, and these obstacles seem smaller when there is help.

One thing worth noting, once you’ve asked your question(s) make sure you stop to listen.  The real learning happens when we listen to what others have to say in response to our questions.  And if you’re asking yourself the question(s), make sure you take time to reflect and process your responses to your own questions.

Guard Your Heart

The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”

Marcus Aurelius

I had a bit of a mishap this morning.

After my 6AM call with my men’s group and before my 7:30AM call with my Rotary club, I thought I had enough time to trim my beard, take a shower, and get dressed for the day.

I was right on all three accounts; however, things didn’t quite go as I expected.

I took the hair trimmers out of the linen closet in our bathroom. I removed the cover from the trimmers, and I proceeded to begin “trimming” my beard. To my surprise or perhaps horror, I realized I had failed to put the appropriate guard on the trimmers before I started my “manscaping.”

I called into the other room to alert my wife to my predicament.

I couldn’t just leave it as it was, and I couldn’t put the guard on now as the beard hair length had already been determined. What should I do?

I left the guard off of the trimmers, and I essentially shaved off my beard leaving a layer of stubble across my face. I’ve had the beard for a couple of years, so my face looks a bit different now. Perhaps, I even look a little younger without the beard.

My morning mishap with the beard trimmers left me with a lot to ponder.

In general, I am a fairly guarded person. I’m not great at spontaneity, and I typically think before I speak. Most people would label me conservative or at least rather serious. Sometimes I’m envious of people who let their guards down with more ease than I do. They can get their feelings out there for others to hear.

On the other hand, the Bible talks about the importance of guarding our hearts.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)

Guard rails are there to protect us. They protect us from going of the right path, the right road, the right trail. They keep us out of danger.

When the author of Proverbs talks about guarding our hearts, he is telling us to protect our hearts above all else – to make sure we are keeping the bad out and allowing the good inside. He reminds us that what comes out of our heart is a direct result of what we permit into our hearts.

Paul seems to echo the writer of Proverbs:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

We must guard what goes into our hearts and minds.

I recently came across an excellent resource initially spoken by Earl Nightingale and now available as a short book. In The Strangest Secret, Nightingale says “We become what we think about.” It’s a call to be intentional in our goal setting, but it’s also a reminder to make sure we are thinking about good things.

As a result of Nightingale’s challenge, I began writing a goal on a new index card every day, and on the back of the card I write out Matthew 7:7-8:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

What guard rails have you but in your life? How are you dealing with the thoughts and ideas that come into your heart and mind?

These thoughts are the result of my morning mishap.

My beard will come back. I’ll be more diligent in making sure I am using the right guard for the trimmers. And I’ll be more intentional in guarding my heart and mind.

Until Further Notice – Grant Grace

“Everyone is flailing through this life without an owner’s manual, with whatever modicum of grace and good humor we can manage.”

Anne Lamott

We are blazing a new trail.

We are walking down a path unseen by our generation.

There is not an owner’s manual that tells us exactly how to handle the COVID-19 pandemic. Sure, experts and leaders are making educated decisions and suggestions regarding how to proceed and what could happen next.

Not everyone will get it right.

Not every leader will make the right decision.

It’s easy to second guess our leaders as we sit at home. “He should have done this.” “She shouldn’t have said that.” It seems easy to be the quarterback when we are sitting on our butts on the sidelines. It’s not so easy when we are in the middle of the game with our opponents coming at us.

It’s time for granting grace to our leaders. Those leading in our companies are trying to make the best decision possible for their employees, their customers, and their shareholders. They may or may not get it right every time.

Those leading in our communities, our regions, and our country are trying to make the best decisions possible for their constituents. They may or may not get it right every time.

Those leading in the medical world are trying to make the best decisions possible for their patients. As we have seen, they haven’t been able to save every patient.

Grace is an ingredient we all need in our lives. And we must learn to give it as well.

Until further notice, grant grace!

Prayer: Remind me of the grace I have been given. Give me wisdom, courage, and empathy to understand and to grant grace to others.

Ponder & Discuss: To whom do you need to grant grace? (Share your thoughts in the comments.)

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”

Acts 20:32 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Enjoy Family Time

“The only rock I know that stays steady, the only institution I know that works, is the family.”

Lee Iacocca

The COVID-19 disruption has been exactly that – a disruption. Normal life as we had known has been completely disrupted. It’s like someone jamming a stick in our bicycle spokes while we are moving down the road. Our bicycles have stopped and thrown us off the path we were once traveling.

Disruption isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it can force us to reevaluate and consider how we might want to do things differently.

One of the things that happened for me as a result of COVID-19 is that both of my kids came home from college to finish out their academic year under my roof. While I know my kids are missing their friends, their independence, and their own routines, it has been a blessing to have them home again.

We have eaten meals together. We have played games together. And we have taken long walks through our community together.

When the world restarts (hopefully soon), I hope we will learn from the disruption we are all experiencing. I hope we will spend more time together as families. I hope we will take time to slow down.

Until further notice, enjoy family time.

Prayer: Remind us that our disruptions could be Your divine appointments. Teach us to treasure our families.

Ponder & Discuss: What has this disruption made possible for you and your family. (Share your thoughts in the comments below.)

“May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.” For the sake of my family and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

Psalm 122:7-8 (NIV)

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