Archive for January, 2014

Thinking about God
January 29, 2014

Last Sunday we attended New Joy Brethren in Christ Church in Ephrata, PA, where I spoke on missions vision and the work of Brethren in Christ World Missions. In the song time we sang a song that was new to me (where have I been?) and that resonated with my view of God.

The song is Sovereign by Chris Tomlin and others. In it we worship God as ultimate sovereign, not in some icy distant sense, but as a loving, sustaining God whom we can trust fully because of his unfailing love.

Sovereign in the mountain air
Sovereign on the ocean floor
With me in the calm
With me in the storm

Sovereign in my greatest joy
Sovereign in my deepest cry
With me in the dark
With me at the dawn

In your everlasting arms
All the pieces of my life
From beginning to the end
I can trust you

In your never failing love
You work everything for good
God whatever comes my way
I will trust you

This song fits with what we learn about God in the Bible and with the way I am experiencing God in my life.

Big or little?
January 25, 2014

Do you sometimes feel your work for God is big? Do you sometimes feel your work for God is small? Do you also realize that God is working out his larger purposes around us and through us, and that our analysis of big or small is not the main point?

Mother Teresa once wrote: I am just a little stub of a pencil in the hand of God, who is sending a love letter to the whole world.

How simple – how beautiful. You can be that stub of a pencil. God can send his love letter through you. Every day can be a day of holy living.

Transforming Harrisburg
January 24, 2014

On January 23, 2014, JoLene and I attended the Groundbreaking Ceremony for new townhouses in the Allison Hill section of Harrisburg, PA.

These townhouses are a project of the Brethren Housing Association (a ministry of the Church of the Brethren) and Pinnacle Health. Six blighted homes on Hummel Street and Haehnlen Street (really an alley) will be demolished, and five townhouses will be built, in which homeless single mothers will get a second chance at life.


For 25 years Brethren Housing Association (BHA) has helped women and children out of homelessness through rehabilitated housing. In so doing, the BHA and its many partners in the community have been a stabilizing influence in a distressed neighborhood.

On this bitterly cold day the groundbreaking went forward, on site and outdoors, with many community leaders turning shovelfuls of dirt that a workman had already loosened with a backhoe. Without his preparatory work who could have turned any dirt with a shovel on a winter day like this?

About 50 people attended this event. Part 2 of the event was a business luncheon at the Church of the Brethren on Hummel Street. At last we got warm! As part of the program a mother who has already been helped by the services of BHA told her story of moving from homelessness and helplessness to a new life for herself and her children.

If you want more information about this project, or if you would like to make a donation, you may  contact Steve Schwartz, Executive Director of BHA, at:

The Church of the Brethren cares about people’s spiritual needs, presenting faith in Jesus Christ as the way to true life, both now and in the world to come. They also care about the whole range of human need, reaching out to help in all kinds of practical ways. This multi-sided ministry is a sign of the kingdom of God.

My wife and I live in Harrisburg, and we are pleased to see ways individuals and agencies are working together to see people’s lives transformed in ways that bring long-term good.

Winter Birding 2014
January 24, 2014

On Saturday, January 18, my son-in-law Ed and my grandson Yohannes, age 17, and I went on a field trip in Juniata County, PA. It was the Juniata County Winter Birding Trip, led by Aden Troyer, an Amish man, and Chad Kauffman.

We met at Lost Creek Shoe Shop near Mifflintown. Aden and his family own and  operate the store. This is an old-fashioned (gas lamps, not electricity) but well-stocked country store, with a lot of fascinating products besides shoes and boots. Horse gear, for example. And binoculars, including some high-end Swarovski binocs that cost $3,000. I didn’t even ask to hold that pair!

There were 14 of us on this adventure, in five vehicles. It was a very cold day. From 1:00 PM until dark we drove the country roads, stopping frequently to get out and check out the birds, and getting warm again as we rode to the next site.

We were hoping to see some winter birds such as Short-eared owl, Lapland longspur and Pine siskin. Unfortunately, we saw none of them. But we did see some species that I see very seldom: Red-headed woodpecker, Northern harrier, Raven, Wilson’s snipe and Red fox. Yes, I know that last one is not a bird, but it was a notable sighting. Yohannes is a keen observer, and he is the one who spotted the fox, walking slowly up a grassy slope into a woods.

We saw four Bald eagles at one time, sitting in trees. One was a buff-colored immature bird that kept our experts guessing for a while, but then they all agreed it was a bald eagle.

I would love to post internet photos of some of the birds we saw, but so far the images I have found are copyright protected, so I will not post them. You can, of course, go online, enter any bird’s name and see marvelous images for yourself.

I do have a photo Yohannes took of the fox. The fox is far from us and not highly visible, which is exactly what every fox aims for.


Aden Troyer has published a book called Birding Thrills, An Amish, Nature-Loving Family’s Birding Journal. His wife has created the bird drawings in the book. Of course, I had to buy a copy and am enjoying reading it.

The Store also sells bluebird nesting boxes, the kind with a slot opening, intended to discourage House sparrows from occupying the box. So I bought two of them. I already have about 20 nesting boxes set out here and at Messiah College and at Roxbury Holiness Camp, but some are dilapidated from long exposure to the elements, so I need some replacements.

Winter birding is not my forte. Call me when spring and summer come.