43 Things I Love About My Wife Gloria

USYesterday, was our 43rd wedding anniversary. Some of you were there (Lancaster, PA; June 26, 1971) and are still alive! As a tribute to my wife, Gloria, I wrote this and want to share it with you.

G od-lover, great (wonderful) grandma, giver, glad to help others, grateful when people help her, good cook, genuine servant, gold and diamonds are not important, glued to her marriage until death do us part.

L oves her husband and kids and is loved by them, longs for meaningful conversation, loves to take back roads and explore, loses things but they usually turn up, likes to stay up late but not get up early, lavish prayers said daily on behalf of her kids and grandkids, laughs at her husband’s jokes (most of them).

O utdoor girl, overseas in Africa is where she has wanted to serve, overlooks her husband’s faults, opens her home to the stranger and refugee, open-handed to those in need, oppressed by the computer.

R ank means nothing, raspberry lover (especially black raspberry pie), reads good books (especially about missions), redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, regularly reflects on God’s Word, rather not do housework, really rather be hiking or kayaking, regrets living so far away from her dad.

I nterested in just about everything having to do with her kids and grandkids, intelligent, ibuprofen-free, incurious about sports (except baseball), inflexible in her convictions.

A lways faithful, asks a few questions, an accomplished pianist and marimbist, appreciates working together on anything, always likes apple butter, an amazing ESL teacher, age has enhanced her beauty, a woman who fears the Lord.

Happy 43rd my dear. May our sacred journey continue; may God continue to make our marriage a blessing to others and our love for each other more a refection of His love.

Death Be Not Proud…

death be not proudThis past Monday, Gloria and I (and our daughter Bethany, and granddaughter Hope) had the privilege of attending the memorial service for Pastor Jerry Bricker at the College Church, Northampton, MA. Jerry and I were associates in ministry there for 12 years, along with Tim and Ros Christensen. Jerry’s life was a tribute to God’s amazing grace and his influence was deeply profound.

Jerry came to Christ one Easter Sunday at CC. He responded to the gospel and God saved him out of a life of alcohol and drugs. He was given a thirst for God that could not be quenched. He began working as the janitor at CC. He attended Berkshire Christian College in Lenox, MA and realized his calling to pastoral ministry. We took him on as our assistant minister and then as my associate, serving alongside Tim. The three of us were together in ministry for over a decade in the 1980’s and 90’s and made a great team. We did not always see eye-to-eye, but we always stood shoulder-to-shoulder in our respect for one another and our love for our people. Those were days of challenge and growth, and we saw much fruit in our labor together in the unique environment of Northampton, MA—a place that birthed the Great Awakening and heard the preaching of Solomon Stoddard, Jonathan Edwards, and George Whitefield.

Jerry grew as a pastor, preacher, and theologian who loved the doctrines of grace. He was awed by God. While overwhelmed by his own sinfulness, Jerry was filled with joy at the love and mercy of God. He was ever desirous of living a holy and useful life. He married, and he and Mary Ellen began their journey as a very effective ministry team that continued right up until Jerry went to be with Jesus last week. However, their ministry was attended by much suffering, especially because of Jerry’ health issues; the kind of suffering that few of us have ever experienced. Soon after they were married, Jerry had to go on dialysis because of kidney failure. There were days he came to work with eyes so bloodshot-red that they made your own eyes water just to look at them. Yet he never complained about the “hand he had been dealt.” He believed that God was sovereign and that his suffering was designed to purify and perfect, not to punish. Jerry’s attitude embodied the Psalmist’s in 119:71, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.”

God graciously provided a new kidney. God blessed them with four very special children: Rachel, Grace, Molly, and then Ben. They loved their dad and knew that he loved them. He worked hard as a pastor, and even moonlighted to supplement his salary so that his kids could go to the Jonathan Edwards Academy, which Jerry and Mary Ellen helped to found. He also became and remained the pastor of our second church plant which was named Christ Church located in Greenfield, MA.

The specter of infirmity did not leave him for long. As Mary Ellen struggled with her health; kidney issues continued for Jerry. There was cancer, surgeries, treatments, and more cancer—throat, brain. His wonderful church loved and supported him and his family. Jerry kept preaching, his sermons ever deepening because more of God’s majesty was being revealed in his own infirmity. When you sat with him the conversation wasn’t focused on his issues, but on you and how you were doing. Besides his hope of eternity, he hoped that he would live long enough to see the birth of his grandson. His hope was fulfilled this past May and even got to hold his little Elijah.

In the end, he struggled with death, which took his family by surprise. Perhaps we expect a godly man who loves Jesus to pass from this world peacefully—and some do. However, we need to remember that death is still the enemy and we are all a bunch of amateurs. Our experience will be unique to us and the circumstances of our infirmity (along with the amount and kinds of medication we are taking at the time). In Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian had a completely different kind of experience than his friend Hopeful as they crossed the River of Death. Christian was filled with terror, while Hopeful felt the bottom of the river right away and was able to walk across. He called out to Christian to take courage and not to fear. “Brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good!”

Jerry was not a flash-in-the-pan man, but a faithful and solid man. He was only a year younger than me, and so his death is a vivid reminder that I will soon follow him across that river. Such a thought does not disturb me, but challenges me to pray with a renewed sincerity “Lord, teach me to number my days that I might apply my heart to wisdom.” (Ps. 90:12)

Please continue to pray for Mary Ellen as she grieves “in hope.” Pray also for her adult kids who are facing life for the first time without their dad. Pray also for Christ Church in Greenfield, MA as they grieve the loss of their founding pastor and brother. May the Lord give them wisdom and lead them to another pastor who will love them as Jerry did.

God and the Gay Christian

The above is the title of a new book by Matthew Vines. Christianity Today asked a friend of mine, Christopher Yuan, to write a review of the book. Christopher is a teacher at the Moody Bible Institute, a speaker, and an author. Yuan’s book, Out of a Far Country (A Gay Son’s Journey to God, A Broken Mother’s Search for Hope), tells of his experience as a gay man who did not grow up in a Christian home and the impact of the gospel on his life. I think that Christopher’s review of Vines’ book is pivotal and want to share it with you. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/june-web-only/why-matthew-vines-is-wrong-about-bible-same-sex-relationshi.html?start=6

Word Play…Puns and S’more

play on wordsI love language and the way our brains process the words we use. God has given both to us so that we can learn, communicate, and laugh! If English is not your first language, you may have trouble with some of these. However, they may also help you learn the language better:

I tried to catch some fog, but I mist.

What do they do with chemists when they die? They barium.

Jokes about German food are the wurst.

Smaller babies may be delivered by stork but the heavier ones need a crane.

A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.

I know a guy who is addicted to brake fluid. He thinks he can stop at any time.

I knew a girl who was so cross-eyed that when she cried tears ran down her back. They claimed she had bacteria.

I stayed up all night last night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me…

The girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I had never seen herbivore.

I’m reading a great book on anti-gravity and I just can’t put it down.

They told me I had Type A blood, but it was a Type O.

PMS jokes aren’t funny. Period.

People die all the time; then I realized I could wake up dead tomorrow!

What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive vocabulary? A Thesaurus.

When you get a bladder infection, you know urine trouble.

I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then all of a sudden it hit me!

My pastor is a vast suppository of theological knowledge. (Note the malapropism?)

Haunted French pancakes give me the crêpes.

Velcro- what a rip off!

My new theory on inertia doesn’t seem to be gaining momentum.

It is tough to do inventories in Afghanistan because of the tally ban.

A cartoonist was found dead in his home. Details are sketchy.

An invisible man marries an invisible woman. The kids were nothing to look at either.

And finally, there was the person who sent twenty different puns to his friends, with the hope that at least ten of the puns would make them laugh. No pun in ten did.

Maybe s’more next week…