Posted in friends, Ministry

A great friend from the past

Photo by Nina Conte on Unsplash

I had the most pleasant surprise yesterday. After the noon Ash Wednesday worship service, I was hanging around talking to my organist when I caught sight of a man I didn’t recognize walking through the narthex. Nothing out of the ordinary. People wander in all the time. I walked up and introduced myself, and as he shook my hand he said, “Jim Werner.”

Wait a minute. This name is familiar. This name is in the mental database. OMG, Jim Werner. I shared a house with him thirty-eight years ago in Neptune, NJ. Are you kidding? No way? That’s a name from like three lifetimes ago. Yep, it was Jim. He was on his way to Jacksonville, looked me up, stopped by and by the grace of God found me.

Suddenly, a flood of memories from my past overwhelmed me. In 1980, with a whole year of experience of work at Bell Labs under my belt, Jim asked if I would like to share a house with him. Apartment life wasn’t working out very well for me, so I jumped at the opportunity. Jim was a fellow tenor in the choir with me. His family was an influential part of the church Less rent for me. A more affordable home for him. A win-win.

That opportunity was a life-changer in many ways. I could get my first dog, a yellow lab named Gabriel who got along famously with Jim’s Irish setter named Shannon. Jim worked nights, I worked days, so we rarely saw each other during the week. His bright idea to buy a wood burning stove to heat the house afforded me the opportunity to learn how to operate a chain saw and cut and split firewood. I absolutely loved doing that.

I was running 70-80-90 miles a week in preparation for marathons while he had family and friends over to party. His supper would often be no more than a few slices of toast, while I ate a variety of vegetables. Both of us slept on mattresses on the floor because neither one of us had a bed frame. Hey, it was comfortable.

Jim’s family (mom and dad plus three sisters) became my surrogate family as I learned how to live on my own. We were very different from each other, but were also very good for each other.

You never know who God is going to put in your life to help shape your future. But somehow, he always knows who you’ll need.

Posted in Devotions, Lent

2020 Lenten devotion #2: The blood of Abel

Photo by geralt on

Photo by geralt on
“Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell.”

“When they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.’” (Genesis 4:2-5,8-10)

Like a glass of red wine spilled on a light-colored carpet, a scratch along the side of a car or a welt across a slapped face, some sins cannot be hidden. There is no hiding Cain’s murder of his brother Abel in a field where no one sees. Heaven can hear the screams. 

How does God respond? He simply asks, “What happened?” Of course he knows. But he wants Cain to say it. To speak the words. To confess. Why? Because “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us” (1 John 1:9). God has always been that way. Drops of blood from his own son’s whipped back, thorn-crowned head, nail-pierced hands and feet and spear-pierced side have also splattered on the ground. With the assurance of forgiveness, his blood drowns out the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:24) and the stains, scratches and scars of all my sins, too. 

There may not be a chalk outline on the ground for each one of my sins. But God knows. So do I. Amazingly, he always listens when I tell him what I’ve done. Even more amazingly, he forgives. 

Thank you, Lord, for drowning out the voice of my guilt with your words of grace and forgiveness. Amen.