Friday, November 30, 2007

God and I Had a Fight

God and I had a fight last Saturday. Didn't mean to. Didn't want to. And it wasn't a knock down, drag out fight. I mean, c'mon, really. When has that been possible with God? You might get knocked down and drug out, but God won't break a sweat.

I actually didn't even WANT to fight with God, it's just that, well, sometimes God asks some pretty awkward stuff, you know? Stuff that looks like it's going to get embarrassing, making you look odd.

Chadd, my youngest son, and I joined a bunch of other Marching Band parents to set up the Christmas tree sale last Saturday. Ever tried to unload and set up 900 trees? A great time working together. After six hours we were cleaning up when Tom, another parent, and I started talking. I asked him how he was doing and found out that he had hurt his neck a couple days before and was in excruciating pain. The day before he had gone to the emergency room because he couldn't stand it and had come home with some humongo pain killers. They really weren't helping much and he had been awake since 2:00 am.

It was at this point when God and I got into it. I had a very distinct impression that I was to pray for Tom. You might know that kind of impression. There are times when "a good idea" comes to mind. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn't. The thoughts are common sense or just me. Then there are the times when a thought pops into my mind and it is not just a good idea, it is a GOD idea. It is strong, definite, significant. And I've learned this is something that I had better do. And that it is not about me (see my last blog for more on that).

"Okay, God. I'm willing, but there are a lot of people around and I don't want to embarrass Tom."

"Pray for Tom."

"Okay, God. I'm not saying 'No' here, I just want to do this properly." (Which is good sometimes, but I've also learned that God is not always real concerned with "properly." Just ask Mary and Joseph.)

"Pray for Tom."

I walked away. I wasn't trying to get out of it, just making sure it was really God and not me. Really.

People began to leave, Chadd and I stayed to make sure everything was cleaned up, to make sure Tom didn't lift anything and to look for an opportunity. Problem was, another guy that didn't seem like the praying type, kept hanging around to help Tom as well. Again, I wasn't trying to shirk, but I didn't want to embarrass him either. And he kept hanging around.

So I did the spiritual, pastor thing. I left. Truthfully, I wasn't running. I just thought maybe it was just me. As we drove away, it refused to shut up.

"Pray for Tom."

I turned around at the next street. "Dad, what are you doing?"

"I think I'm supposed to pray for Tom."

"Okay." I think Chadd was readier than I was.

We drove back to the parking lot where Tom, his wife, his son and the other dad were still talking at a picnic table. I promptly drove right past.

"Pray for Tom." Not mean, not loud, but ever so clear and distinct. This was not me, this was God. He was not going to let me off the hook. The only way to get out of this was to blatantly, intentionally refuse. Here's another lesson I've learned: If I choose to refuse I take a step away from a closeness with God. And I hurt other people. I certainly didn't want to step away from God. Been there, done that and it ain't pretty. And it was becoming increasingly obvious that God wanted to do something for Tom. I certainly did not want to rob him of God's touch. I've been in pain and I don't want anyone to endure it a second longer than necessary.

"Pray for Tom."

We went through the intersection and turned left – the way home. Chadd probably thought I'd lost my ever' lovin' mind. "How many times are we going to drive by before you just do this?" he could have asked, but didn't. Turned around at the next intersection and headed back to the now familiar parking lot. Yep, the whole crew was still there.

With God watching, and Chadd wondering, I finally had the courage to turn into the parking lot, drive up to the group, get out and start walking toward them. They all grinned and teased. "What did you forget?"

"Nothing. Just returning the screw you gave me," I said to the other parent and held out my hand. He smiled, remembering he had given me the gift of a bent screw while working together. Christmas spirit, you know.

Deep breath. (And you thought us pastors had it all together). "Actually, I feel like I'm supposed to pray for you, Tom. Would that be alright?"

"Sure. Every little bit helps."

"Well, I'll be going home now," said the other parent. He left, I put my hand on Tom's shoulder and prayed. Nothing special. I prayed that God would remove the pain, heal the source of the problem and let Tom do the things he wants to do. No thunder or sparks. Frankly, I felt nothing at all. Sometimes, I can sense the Presence of God, but this time I felt nothing except relief that I obeyed. We talked for a few more minutes. Tom and his wife were appreciative for the concern and mentioned again how every little bit helps.

And we went home. Very glad that I obeyed, as much for myself as for Tom. That was Saturday. I've wondered throughout the week how Tom was doing and I've kept praying for him.

Tonight (Friday), Chadd said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot. I saw Tom at the tree sale Tuesday night. I'm sorry I should have told you sooner. He said to tell you that when he woke up Sunday morning the pain was completely gone."

WOW! God actually healed Tom. Just like that.

And to think I almost missed it. I nearly allowed someone else to continue in pain. I nearly lost the opportunity to be used by God to do something signficant. My spirit is soaring this evening. THIS IS WHAT MAKES LIFE WORTH LIVING. An incredible honor.

I've GOT to stop fighting with God.

Gal 5:25 (NIV) "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

Boldly, Herb

(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Me Gets in the Way

This is the time of year when, supposedly, we are filled with the spirit of giving and we become less selfish and more focused on others.

There is much giving. I don't want to discount that at all. It warms my heart, sometimes brings tears to my eyes, to see people giving of themselves to touch others, especially people struggling in some way.

Fact is, I like to think of myself as a generous, unselfish person. I pray regularly, "Lord, what do you want me to do? Where do you want me to go? Who do you want me to touch? Use me." All very unselfish, eh? I find, however, that I usually want to be unselfish on my terms, in ways that are not too difficult. Sure, it will cost me time and money to give and serve, but I get to choose when, where, how and why, right? Oops. I hear warning signals going off.


God (no other way to explain it) began to blow this all up in my face beginning Nov. 1 when I read Oswald Chambers devotional for the day in "My Utmost for His Highest." (I strongly suggest you read it. You can buy the book or access it online at

Chambers identified that God involves Himself in our lives, not for ourselves, rather so that we can become "a thoroughfare for the world on one hand and for Himself on the other"

and that "things happen that have nothing to do with us"

and we must let God have His way in our lives or we will become "a hindrance and a clog"

and "why shouldn't we go through heartaches? Through these doorways God is opening up ways of fellowship with His Son."

and "If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart." [1]

Whoa! I really, really, really thought I had dealt with the self-focused thing, but this is a couple levels up. Guess I made the mistake of comparing myself to little leaguers instead of the pros.

I love this book. God has used it to speak deeply into my life, but on this day I had a few issues with dear Oswald. We had a talk. (Not sure what it means to talk intensely with a dead guy, staring at his book. I may need therapy.)

First of all, Oswald, "can I call you Oswald?" (He didn't answer, for which, looking back, I'm grateful) a "thoroughfare" is a road that people drive on, use to get somewhere with little thought of the road itself. I'm supposed to be THAT for God and others? A path, a way for others to get to God and God to get to people while people hardly notice the road that got them there? Whoa!

Next, Oswald, when things happen in my life, how am I supposed to think they are NOT about me? I mean, it is happening in MY life. Can it actually be true that pain in my life is necessary for God to reach into others' lives and that it is not about my disobedience or obedience at all? Is my response to God a key to Him working in others' lives, though I cannot see it? And can it be true that failure to be a proper "thoroughfare" makes me a hindrance and a clog to others? THOUGHT: Like my car breaking down in rush hour traffic in the Fort Pitt Tunnel, my failure to run properly can clog others from getting to God and how He wants to touch their lives. Whoa!

Now, about that heartache thing, Oswald. Can't we have "fellowship" with Jesus through inspiring songs, good books, Bible reading, etc. etc. etc. without the pain thing? "Sure", God, not Oswald, seemed to respond, "but not to the depths needed." It was how Jesus learned obedience and the reason He was exalted after His death. "A privilege" the Apostle Paul calls it. Whoa!

Finally, Oswald, there's this bit "thank Him for breaking your heart." Okay, it's one thing to appreciate the pain, but to thank God for doing it? Yep. Not FOR the pain, but because of what the pain will do for OTHERS. Another picture. Talk to any loving mom, they are grateful for the honor of birthing a child, but not one of them enjoyed the pain. Worth it? Oh, yeah. Enjoyable? "What, are you crazy?"

Wait, there's more. Oswald and God had been very patient and understanding, and we finally settled these issues with, "Alright, go ahead. Whatever You think is best." More resignation than excitement. Hey, I'm human. God was not done (never is). He reminded me of the prayers I usually pray when I think I'm being unselfish. Read them again at the top of this page. See anything jump out? Yeah, they are still all about ME. ME to do, go, touch, be used.

If I'm to become a thoroughfare, then I must start praying, "Lord, I'm yours. Do whatever you want in me and through me." The word "me" is still there, but with a different focus. Subtle, yet HUGE.

It is a journey to become that kind of unselfish. I feel like I've just taken a step or two. It would be a much more enjoyable journey if you'd join me on the path.

"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." Phil 1:21 (NIV)

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings , becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Phil 3:10-11 (NIV)

Boldly, Herb

(To listen to Herb via the internet go to

[1]Chambers, Oswald: My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year . Grand Rapids, MI : Discovery House Publishers, 1993, c1935, S. November 1

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Time and God and Us

Time and God and Us


How does time happen? 


Moment by moment like frames of a film, rolling out consecutively so quickly you can't really see them individually?


Like those flipbooks we drew in elementary school – individual pictures that have the appearance of moving as you flip the pages quickly?


The obvious answer is that from our human perspective, time happens just like that.   We live moment by moment, measured for everyone the same. An hour for you is an hour for me.  Our only actual option, no matter how frustrating it might seem, is to live the moment we are in.   We cannot relive the past, though many of us rerun the tape in our heads and our hearts. Nor can we fast-forward into the future, though many of us borrow anxiety that only belongs there.


For those of us on the big ball we call earth, time happens moment by moment.  That is how time comes to us, but is that how time actually exists?  Are we imposing our finite ability to comprehend on the infinite?  How do eternal beings experience time?  Or do they experience time at all?  And how does that affect us?


Some of the mind disrupting questions are about time travel, parallel universes and the like.   (Which for some reason enamors me.  "Are we back to the future or forward to the past, Marty McFly?") 


Are those questions rooted in the spark of eternity created in all of us, longings that tell us "There must be something more?"   In reading the October 26-29 entries in "A Year with C. S. Lewis" the dead guy made me stop and rethink.  He states, "We tend to assume the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from past to future just as we do."   (p. 327) 


Are you like me in truly believing that God is eternal, meaning He has no beginning or end, but that He is watching time unfold moment by moment, deliberately moving toward a concrete end.   He knows how it all turns out and is working toward our good as it progresses toward a massive climax.  Makes sense and seems spiritual.


But that is too limited.  The eternal nature of God causes Him to experience time as one massive unit, that "past, present and future" are concepts that simply do not apply.  


Here's where it really hit me, where it moves from ethereal concept to practical impact on my day.   C. S. Lewis proposes that God "does not see humans making their free contributions in a future, but sees them doing so in His unbounded Now." (p. 326) If true, God is not watching time unroll as a motion picture at all, but sees Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address at the same time He sees me accepting a pizza delivery.   Deeper – he does not hope that I will make the right decision with my son so that it adjusts his future trajectory, God actually sees the decision and all the ensuing consequences at the same time.  Whoa!


Even more impactful was when Lewis applied to this characteristic of God to prayer.   What if an event has already been decided and I wish I had prayed for God to intervene?  Lewis contends that is not a reason to not pray.  Indeed the matter is decided, though I may not know how, such a medical test or a job decision or safety for a loved one.  Can the event be changed? No, it has already occurred in the way time happens for us.   But my prayers at 4:00 in the afternoon may be the very reason the event occurred as it did at noon. Why? Because God and our prayers are not limited to the way time happens for us.


To be honest, this has fried a few circuits in my brain as I've spent days digesting it.   But it has also given me great encouragement and motivation to pray, especially about those things that seem to already be done.


I hope it does the same for you.


"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." Heb 13:8 (NIV)  

"I (Jesus) am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." Rev 22:13 (NIV)  


Boldly, Herb 


(To listen to Herb via the internet go to )


Quotes and material taken from "A Year With C.S. Lewis", 2003, Harper Collins, pages 326-329, originally from "Mere Christianity," "Miracles," and "The Screwtape Letters."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving, Heinz Field and Training Camp

Thanksgiving, Heinz Field and Training Camp


Ask anyone what they are thankful for and you're likely to get a common list called "basics of life."   Family, food, shelter, job, health, football, popcorn.  Okay, so the last two might not be high on everyone's list, but this is my article, alright?   Now where were we?  Oh, yeah. 


So what would be on your list?  Those listed are things we should be thankful for.   Absolutely.  But let's drill a little deeper to things that you can't touch, taste or feel.  Friendships (deeper than family because you can have family without friendship.   Just ask anyone who has one.)  Air – don't quickly think about, but where would we be without it?  Time – can't touch it but to have "time" to pause in the busyness of life, ahhhh.   Love.  Thoughts.  Sleep.  What else?


Let's keep drilling.  C'mon, what are you after here, Herb?


I'll bet there's one you didn't come up with.  Times of trouble.   Yep, read it again.  Not a misprint.  Now before you click away thinking I've lost my ever lovin' mind, stay with me.  


The Bible says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4 (NIV) 


Now you might be thinking God has lost His ever lovin' mind.   I would agree if you only read it on the surface.  Dig deeper and we see God is not telling us to be thankful for pain. Those are the people hauled off in trucks by men in white uniforms after they dress you in a shirt with really, really long sleeves.   No, God is saying to be thankful, to count it sheer joy for the opportunity for our faith to develop to strength, to maturity, to completeness.


Imagine, (since football goes with Thanksgiving) you are an excellent college football player, but come April no team drafts you.   Through my connections, I get you a tryout with the Steelers (we're imagining here, okay?). They give you a workout at their Southside facilities and like what they see.   On a suffocating day in July you find yourself unloading your personal items into a dorm room at St. Francis College to participate in the Steelers training camp.  For the next five weeks you are going to endure the most grueling exercises, drills, beatings, and testings of your life.   It's inhumane.  Are you whining?


Keep imagining - how do you feel as you walk into that dorm room?  Something like, "Whoah! This is the most incredible OPPORTUNITY of my life!   I can't believe I'm here.  I can't wait to prove myself and get myself mature and complete (Bible words) as a player."   Yet you are heading into "trials of many kinds." (More Bible words) Why are you "rejoicing"?  Because you know that "persevering" through these you will get better, stronger, more knowledgeable, ready to accomplish your dream.  


Perspective.  The same "trial" that can cause one person to complain causes another to "rejoice."   Why? Because one sees it as opportunity, the other as a problem.


You have a Heavenly Coach who wants to help you take your faith to the next level, but He knows the only way to do it is through spiritual training camp.   Our responsibilities are to first rejoice at the opportunity, then do what He tells us to do. 


Back to our imagination.  It is now September. Instead of a practice jersey, you're wearing the proud uniform of the black and gold. Instead of a practice field, you are standing in the tunnel at Heinz Field.   Instead of doubting yourself, you are confident because you are fit physically and prepared mentally to play in the big time.  You are about to get beat black and blue.   Are you complaining?  No way!  This is another opportunity and it is yours because you faced the "trials of many kinds ," you "persevered" and you are now "complete and mature."


Life is full of big games that we can only be ready for if we "rejoice whenever we face trials of many kinds", persevere and grow to spiritual maturity.   You don't get that without the spiritual training camp.  Not many of us will intentionally go through trials, so our Heavenly Coach must arrange them for us.


Those who whine believe He is hurting us, forgetting us or not loving us.  Those who rejoice know He is doing what is best for us, giving us an OPPORTUNITY.  Which are you?  Which will you be?


NOW, what are you going to be thankful for?  Trials/ training camp.   Yeah.  Perspective.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Chihully and What You Cost

"Chihully and What You Cost"

My wife, Sheila, called me up on a Friday and asked, "Would you like to go to the glass show?"  Several pictures came to mind.   A museum filled with drinking glasses on display – plastic ones, glass ones, ice tea tumblers, juice glasses (4, 8 and 12 ounce), colors of all sorts.  You get the idea.   Another picture:  rows and rows of reading glasses in display cases of every shape, color, size and style.  Neither seemed right, but we've sight-seen strange things before.   However, having been married, lo these many years, I said, "Sure, but… what is it?" 


"Oh, it's at the Phipps Conservatory (read plants and flowers) where a blown glass artist has an exhibition placed among the normal displays.   It is supposed to be beautiful."  Okay, that makes a bit more sense and is a lot more appealing.  Though I was warming up the reading glasses thing.   We went.


The artist is Dale Chihully.  I never dreamed the creations possible with blown glass.   Starts with an incredible blown glass chandelier hanging in the Phipps entryway that whets the eye appetite for what is to come.  Throughout every room blown and shaped glass was placed, lit, hung, and planted in arrays of colors that dazzle and awe.   Huge, small and everything in between.  Solid colors, mixed colors, speckled colors, bright colors, dull colors.   Though I am not a cultured man, I was impressed.


After walking for a couple hours through the displays with the masses, I thought we were done.   Anyone want to guess where we ended up?  That's right, the gift shop.  "You've seen it, now you can buy it."   The primary product was displayed in plexi-glass cases of about 15 inch cubes.  Beautiful creations of glass, molded and shaped into wonderful art for the home or office.   I have to admit, they would add value to any room.  Guess the price.  I've asked many people to speculate and the highest is $1800.   Way low. There was not one under $5000, some up to $7000.  For a piece of glass I would be afraid to set out.  We bought 25.   Just kidding.  I walked away hands in pockets; afraid I might knock one off. That would give a whole new meaning to "Oops!" "Sorry Amber, I bumped your college education on to the floor!"   Made us wonder what that huge chandelier was worth.  Had to be way up there.  The entire display must have been in the millions of dollars.


Question:  how much are those Chihully pieces really worth?   Not the price, the real value. 

Answer:  whatever someone is willing to pay for them.   If no one is willing to buy them, you might as well use them for target practice.  True of anything.  My boys used to come to me excited about how much a sports card in their hand was worth because a price book listed it at a dollar amount.   Truth is, they are only worth that if someone will pay the price.  Otherwise, fasten it against the spokes of your bike to make a motor noise and enjoy it.


BIGGER QUESTION:  what are YOU worth?

Answer:  whatever someone is willing to pay for you.   Some of us think that is nothing, and we feel like we are being used for target practice.  But someone has paid for you.  Do you the price? Here it is:


""For God so loved the world that he gave (read "paid") his one and only Son , that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16 (NIV) 


TRUTH:  The God of the Universe paid with His Son for you.   THAT is how much you are worth.  You are worth the life of the very Son of God.  Doesn't matter how others might appraise you, that is the price already paid for you. That is your value.


Since you are of such high value, what will you do with yourself?  If I had a Chihully, I would protect, treasure, polish, display with pride, value it.   I would not abuse, harm, misuse, chip, treat it with disregard.  Since you are of much greater value than all the Chihully pieces in the entire world, what will you do with yourself?   God has purchased us, we belong to Him, someday we will answer for how we treated ourselves. 


You are of great worth.  Live like it.


Boldly, Herb

(This is taken from a message given by Herb Shaffer on September 2, 2007.  You can listen to the entire message at )


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"What is the Right Response to the Virginia Tech Shooting?"


The nation was saddened, and rightly so, by the senseless shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech University.  Our hearts went out to the students.  Those of us who are parents immediately thought of our children – the deafening realization that it could happen to them hit hard.  We thought of the staff and all that they will deal with, and those at other colleges, for years to come. 

Lives cut short.

Lives traumatized forever.

Lives never to be the same.

A culture altered forever.


But at the risk of being politically incorrect…


Have we stopped to realize that 33 people die on college campuses every week?  That 33 people die in most communities every day?  That many more than 33 people are shot and killed every day in the USA?  That countries around the world have to face this kind of senseless killing every day?


Why are we so devastated?  Could it be that the devastation we feel is not about those on the VT campus, but about us?  That it threatens our security?  That we feel violated? That we feel we have been unfairly interrupted from our bubble of safety? 


What other explanation is there for our response to this tragedy (and it is a tragedy) and the many that occur relentlessly? 


PLEASE DON'T MISUNDERSTAND ME!  I'm not being calloused, but challenging us to gain perspective.  What should our response be?


Jesus' disciples, I think, were feeling something similar in Luke 13.

"Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Luke 13:1-9 (NIV) 


Jesus is saying:  Tragedies happen.  They are part of this imperfect world.  Don't think this is God's punishment, or that it is the worst thing that could happen.  There is something worse than death, death without repenting and having a relationship with Jesus.


If this life is all there is, then these incidents ARE the worst that can happen because it ends the only life that is.  But if there is an eternal life (and there is), then those who were in relationship with Jesus experienced the reward of an unimaginable Heaven and those that did not have that relationship entered into a punishment in Hell that is beyond comprehension.  There is something better than life and something worse than death.


So how do we respond?

What should be our response? 

     1. Live with an eternal perspective.

     2. Pray for and support those hurt, the families and friends left behind, and all touched.

     3. Live as a light, to point those around us to God because someday we all, too, will die.


There is something worse than death – death without Jesus

Let's live like we really believe it.


Boldly, Herb