Posted in family, Life

Hiding Easter eggs: Leveling up

We had five of our grandchildren at our house for Easter Sunday supper and of course, an Easter egg hunt. I can just throw a bunch out on the lawn to keep the younger ones (two and fours) busy. The oldest is almost eight, and I had to level up my egg-hiding to challenge him.

This one loves to climb, so I used some tape to put one of his up high on the play fort. I’m not sure his mom was real happy about the altitude, but once he spotted it, he got up there with no problem.

A little more tape held some eggs underneath the deck of the play fort, just out of plain sight.

He quickly saw the one hanging from a tree with a pine needle pinched between egg halves hanging from an old bird-feeder hook.

The ones that stumped him? One was under an upside-down flower pot. Not hugely creative, but worked. The other was on the ground, under a pile of pine cones, with just the slightest hint of blue showing. I had to give him a couple of clues for these last two. Grandpa is still just a little cleverer than he is!

Posted in faith, family, Life

The excitement is building: It’s almost Easter!

Growing up, Easter was as exciting as Christmas. I had a hard time getting to sleep the night before. My brother, sister, and I all woke up way too early on Easter Sunday morning. Why? We couldn’t wait to get our Easter baskets! The church was always a part of our family life, but we never missed out on all the other good stuff, too.

I have no idea where the tradition came from, but every Easter our baskets would have a string tied to them. It was a treasure hunt. The string would wind around furniture, through different rooms, and finally lead us to a small present. The only specific present I remember receiving was a Matchbox bulldozer. I know, that has nothing to do with Easter, but I thought it was really cool.

In addition to the hard-boiled eggs we had dyed the day before, our baskets were filled with jellybeans, malted milk balls coated to look like candy eggs, a few marshmallow bunnies, and sometimes a solid chocolate bunny.

This one comes in sizes up to 64 oz!

My mom always ordered a special dark-chocolate covered coconut cream egg from a local candy store. A little larger than the size of a softball, I remember it weighing several pounds and was unbelievably sweet. Apparently, these eggs were a Philadelphia tradition. My mom always ate most of it, slicing off pieces like she was carving a roast.

When I walked through Walmart a few days ago, I saw four aisles devoted to Easter baskets, candy, decorations, and toys. It’s still very exciting. It’s very exciting for retailers, who predict we’ll spend $23 billion dollars on Easter this year. That’s every kind of chocolate candy you can imagine is wrapped for Easter. That’s why jellybeans come in so many flavors.

But I saw no solid bunnies. Just the hollow chocolate ones. The big coconut cream eggs? I would probably have to order one online. Other Easter candy? We’ve got plenty of that. Don’t worry, I’ll let the grandkids have some, too.

Posted in family

What a week!

This past Christmas we had all six of our grandchildren together for the first time ever. My son flew to Florida with his wife and three children a few days after Christmas to spend a week with us. My two daughters only live about half an hour away, and often had their families here that week, too. The three older grands are five, four and three years old. The younger ones are five, thirteen and sixteen months. Yes, it was a noisy, messy, energetic, chaotic and fun-filled week!

I was able to finish up a play fort swing set in our back yard. God blessed us with a good weather week, and the older grandkids spent a lot of time climbing and swinging. The younger ones were constantly on the move, emptying toy shelves and constantly campaigning for the next snack or meal. I found myself rotating from child to child, pushing a swing, reading a book, rolling a ball, playdohing some playdoh, sticking some stickers, coloring pictures, building legos, changing a diaper, preparing a snack, filling a drink, digging in the sandbox, taking some pictures and enjoying every minute of it. It was an amazing week. For me it was also a fleeting moment, knowing they would never be this size again.

As the reader might suspect, I thoroughly enjoyed that week. I enjoyed spending time with my children, their spouses and their children. I had no idea what a great experience that would be! My wife and I have been blessed beyond measure.

Posted in family, fun

Animal Kingdom

We were up and out the door at 6 am this morning, on the way to Disney’s Animal Kingdom with my daughter, son-in-law, and two of our grandsons. For the little guys, Elijah and Daniel, it was their first Disney experience, so we were all very excited.

The drive through Orlando wasn’t too harrowing, even through rush hour. It’s pretty much one big construction zone the whole way, though. The crowds pouring through the gates were formidable from the minute the park opened.

First stop was the Festival of the Lion King, a wonderful music and dance performance by some extremely talented folks. Eli’s a big Lion King fan, so it was a hit. 

Next stop was a fast pass appointment with Mickey and Minnie!

Eli rode the Triceratops ride at least five times. 

The weather wasn’t too hot, but still perfect for a nice, messy, sticky strawberry popsicle. 

Pluto spent a lot of time dancing around the bone yard…

…while Eli made a lot of trips down a big spiral slide. 

A random nice person gave Eli a long stuffed purple snake won at an arcade game!

Eli capped off his day by scoring a really cool bubble wand. 

We also enjoyed the “It’s Hard Being a Bug” show, the safari, and the “Finding Nemo” musical.

A few tips for those headed to Animal Kingdom in the future:

  • The app lets you know all the wait times. Great resource.
  • The park was most crowded in the morning, then thinned out in the afternoon. Going later is a good idea.
  • A 210 minute wait for the Avatar ride? Three-and-a-half hours? Better use your fast pass or forget it. It must be an amazing ride. (We didn’t even go to that part of the park.)
  • There’s a Starbucks on property! It’s worth going just to see how quickly they can crank out the lattes.
  • Dress your child in a red shirt if you are going to let them eat the red popsicle. And the frozen chocolate covered banana is plenty big to share.
  • It’s OK to bring your own water into the park.
  • You can eat paleo at the park. Grilled chicken salad for lunch.
  • The bars have a nice selection of beers. For $10 each! I didn’t drink today.
  • Even though it takes longer to load up the dinos than the ride itself, the Triceratops ride never gets old. Like the Dumbo ride at Magic Kingdom.
  • Animal Kingdom feels more relaxed than the other parks I’ve been to.

I hadn’t been to a Disney attraction in years. Taking the little ones made it worthwhile.


Posted in bible, family, Ministry

My Good Friday Bible

Today, I dusted off what I call my “Good Friday” bible and took it into the sanctuary in preparation for tonight’s Tenebrae (darkness) worship service. I call it my “Good Friday” bible because that is the one day a year when I use this massive volume. It measures about 12″x9″x3″ and weighs about 8 pounds, easily the largest book on my shelves. It has more than enough power for the end of the worship service when in complete darkness I slam it on the altar, reminding us of the closing up of Jesus’ tomb.

I received this bible from my mom and dad on my wedding day, nearly thirty-four years ago. They, too had a large bible like this at home that had been given to them. I don’t remember ever reading from it much. We had plenty of other bibles that we used for our personal and family devotions. The large bible contained a little bit of family tree names and dates, plus a couple of inspirational bookmarks.

I have slammed this bible on the altar thirty-two times, the number of years I have been a pastor and led worship on Good Friday. You can tell from the cracked binding that this book was only designed to be slammed about twenty-five times.

As I opened it up, I saw the dedication page written by my mom, with the reference to Psalm 18:30-36 and her blessing and prayer, “May your children give you as much joy as you have me.”

This psalm reference contains one of her favorite scriptural images, “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places” (Psalm 18:33 KJV). One of my mom’s favorite books was Hannah Hurnard’s Hinds’ Feet on High Places, “a timeless allegory dramatizing the yearning of God’s children to be led to new heights of love, joy, and victory” ( She purchased and gave away dozens of those books. She knew well the difficult life in the trenches as a mom, wife and nurse. But she also knew joy. She knew the thrill of skipping sure-footedly across the mountains of God’s promises to see the past, present and future from a whole new perspective. I am thankful that she passed that thrill along to me.

By grace, God heard and answered her prayer many times over. My children and now my grandchildren continue to fill my life with so much joy! Thirty-four years later, I understand what mom was talking about.








Posted in family, Life, seminary


img-8295.jpgThis is probably one of my favorite pictures ever, from the early spring of 1986. We were still in our little rental house in Ft. Wayne, IN. I was getting ready to graduate from the seminary and was anticipating my first call to pastoral ministry.

The dark-haired guy is me, probably catching up on sleep after working the closing shift at Subway. The store closed at 2 am, but I didn’t get home till about 4. But I did get to bring home a foot long each shift, our meal the next day. The little guy sleeping next to me is my son Adam, just a few months old. I’m sure he was up the night before, too. The yellow lab is Gabriel, always up for a nap in the bed with us. He was a good source of warmth during the bitterly cold Ft. Wayne winters.

Needless to say, I don’t remember this moment. But I do remember that time in my life, when changes came quickly and often. I got Gabe as a pup in 1980, when I lived in NJ. In the next six years, I moved to Texas, then to Ft. Wayne to begin my seminary studies. I met my wife, got married, moved to Baltimore for vicarage, moved back to Ft. Wayne, had a son, and would move to Connecticut in just a few months. All in the space of six years. No wonder we were tired!










Posted in bourbon, family

Distillery day

Today I went on a field trip with my son Adam to the St. Augustine Distillery. Awesome trip, tour, tasting and lunch.

We arrived just before the beginning of the 11:30 am tour. (Tours begin every half-hour.) About two dozen people had arrived before us, and our tour guide, Michael, quickly herded us all into the staging area of the 100+ year old building originally built as an ice plant. IMG-8223

Michael gave us an entertaining history of the distillery, plus a description of what to expect inside. This location is classified as a micro-distillery. They have won many awards for their bourbon, rum, vodka and gin in that category.

The tour wasn’t long. The first stop was the room where the mash was prepared and the two-stage distilling took place. The second stop was the barrels. The third stop was a tasing room, where Michael donned his bartender hat and prepared Florida Mules and a rum punch for us to sample. Both were excellent. IMG-8227

The final stop was the gift shop, where two more bartenders prepared an Old Fashioned and a gin concoction for us. Again, both were delicious. After that, we had the chance to sample the double casked bourbon and a port casked bourbon. Sales of all their bottled products, glassware, mixers and other cool stuff funded the free tours and samples, so of course, we took some home with us.

After supper tonight, I poured a little of the double casked bourbon for my son-in-law and father-in-law, and we all agreed that it was tasty, complex, and for my money, an excellent whiskey!

We could have had lunch at the Ice Plant Restaurant upstairs, but elected to enjoy some pork and brisket sandwiches at Mojo old city barbecue instead (one of my favorite places.)


Posted in Christmas, family

Christmases two and three

img_8086.jpgToday was crazy fun as we had Christmases two and three. I picked up my son, daughter-in-law and grandkids at the airport last night and got home about 10 pm. We planned to open Christmas gifts with the children this morning and our secret Santas and white elephants tonight. It was way more fun than I anticipated.

Take a pile of gifts and stir in a one, two and three year old and you have a recipe for an energy-filled Christmas “two” morning. We had so much fun with the current Paw Patrol and PJ Masks characters, and doctor kits that we didn’t want to break away for our traditional breakfast of cinnamon rolls, quiche and fruit.

We spent a good portion of a beautiful Florida December afternoon outside, playing hide and seek, swinging and following lizards and frogs. In the evening, we had a rare gathering of my whole family four generations including my wife’s parents, our three children and their spouses, plus the three grandkids. As Elijah began grace by saying, “Our Father, thank you for this food…” I felt incredibly thankful for this rare moment of togetherness.

After a supper of filet mignon, salad and curly fries, we had Christmas “three” and opened the hand-made secret Santa presents we made for each other and chose our white elephant gifts. Our evening was blessed with laughter, personally crafted gifts and the best gift: togetherness. There’s a gift I wouldn’t exchange for anything else in the world.

With family spread out around the country and work commitments that limit travel, time together is a rare moment and precious gift. img_8083.jpg


Posted in Christmas, family, lessons, Life

What do the holidays do to you?

denise-johnson-426641As I was browsing through some stories and articles on Medium, I ran across this curious statement: “The holidays do things to some people.” So I began to wonder, “What kinds of things?” Not necessarily bad things. Hopefully good things, too.

The holidays make some people very generous. They give a lot to those whom they love as well as to strangers and causes of every size and shape. That’s a good thing, right?

The holidays make some some very family conscious. There is an underlying expectation that family will gather to celebrate, making it necessary to get time off, plan travel, pack and head out with zillions of other people to make the journey “home.” That’s good, right? Pretty much, unless you’ve neglected that dimension of your life for the past year, making it feel like you’re in an awkward roomful of strangers who don’t know each other very well.

The holidays are a whole bucket full of stress for some. That’s probably not a good thing. Folks become more and more snippy as the season unfolds. Too much to do, not enough time, and unrealistic expectations sap tidings of comfort and joy from their lives.

The holidays drive some to excess. It’s so easy to spend too much, drink too much, schedule too much, and eat too much. Probably not good.

The holidays sometimes prompts you to reflect on your life, the year past, your relationships, and the stuff you have. Such reflection can generate gratitude, make you dream, help you set goals, and maybe try something new. That one sounds good to me.

What do the holidays do to you?