Empowering with the Good News…….

….the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus at the intersection of  faith and life

February 20, 2020

I sort of missed the Transformers as a little kid.  I still had Lincoln Logs and was the last kid on the block to get Atari.  But we survived. Barely.  I just really thought the Transformers were/are cool.

If you aren’t familiar with them, they are “more than meets the eye.”  They are robots that change into vehicles and vehicles that change into robots.  I guess they are from another planet and not from Detroit.  But of course in every cartoon and movie, they always win and always save the world.

When they need to show people their power, they change (transfigure) into the right appearance so that they can battle evil and conquer!

Sort of like Jesus.  He goes up to a mountain top, takes some of the disciples who want to just chill and relax with him and he changes (transfigures) to show them his power.  God’s power.  God’s eternal story.  And then invites them back down the hill and into ministry.  And in his transfiguration, he reminds them that he can win over evil, conquer the “bad guys” and carry the day.

He’s the original Transformer.  He’s more than meets the eye.  And he’s already saved the world.

As we approach Transfiguration Sunday, I hope you will remember that for your own life.  You have a special superhero in your life, that’s not from Detroit, but instead from Bethlehem (a suburb of Detroit).  And as you encounter your faith, Jesus, God’s story, remember that it’s actually always more than you think, more than you see, more than your normal, more than traditional church, more than the small minds we use and more than just a vehicle.

For your day today, God is more.  God is transforming and transformative and transfiguring.

Still.  Now.

Lord, thank you for being more than meets the eye.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 13, 2020

“Well done good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of the Lord.” That’s what we say in church when someone dies that led a faithful life. In the fire service though, we say: “Rest easy brother, we’ll take it from here.”

Maybe weird for a pastor to say, but I like the fire service mantra better.

Yes, the church one is from the Bible and I have no idea of the start of the fire service’s phrase and I’m probably supposed to like the Bible-y one better, but still…I like the second one better!

I like it better because they both cover what God has done, but the fire service one invites us into our next steps: taking it from here.

Monday, I had the privilege of officiating at the funeral of John “Jigger” Muchow, life member of Rapids VFC, military vet and active member at Zion Lutheran Church. He modeled service, compassion, integrity, family first and care for his community. Sometimes for Jigger, it was as simple as a smile and laugh as he served pancakes at the Legion or the apple crisp at the church. In his life of service, I believe Jigger was showing us how to “take it from here,” how to live into that lifestyle of sharing your blessings with the world.

So when we consider those who have gone before us, how were they preparing us? How do we “take it from here?”  And those who are still with us, what have they modeled for us as well?

At St. Paul’s Council meeting Tuesday, we took time to recall the people who have impacted, taught and led us and how we have learned what they modeled and now “take it from here.”  We named parents, pastors, work colleagues, coaches and friends.  The saints around us come in all shapes and sizes.  Some we interact with over a lifetime and some God seems to place in our lives briefly just maybe to show us a thing or two.

Who are those “great cloud of witnesses” that have impacted you? What did they model…show you…live out?  Take time to consider that/them today.  Maybe reach out to them and thank them for the interaction, the brief moment or the lifetime of repetition.

And then grab that baton, hang on tight and take it from here.

Lord, thank you for all those who have been modeling faithful life for me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 29, 2020

Yesterday, I got a chance to say “thank you.” And if felt great!

I went to lunch with one of our amazing local EMS providers on Tuesday and got there a couple minutes before he did. The host greeted me and noticed I had my fire service jacket on. After a couple statements back and forth, he shared with me that he wasn’t a part of a hall at all right now but he took some CERT (Community Emergency Response Training) courses awhile back and had to use it recently as one of his customers was choking. He recalled his training and used the Heimlich maneuver to free the blockage and save her life. As he retold the story, he laughed and said: “It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.”

And then I had this incredible sacred moment to just say the simple words: “Thank you for using your gifts.” As I said those words, I felt connected to him, to that story, to that moment, to that save. And I felt better about my day! It felt great.

Paul, the guy that wrote a bunch of the books in the New Testament part of the Bible, started one called Philippeans by saying this to the people that lived there and were starting a church up: “Every time I think of you, I thank God for you.” He STARTED it that way.  A simple thank you for the things they did, were doing, and were yet to do. And in that interaction, he was connected to them. And it was good.

I know most of you don’t do what you do for a thank you.  That’s not why we do ministry.  That’s not why we have kids.  That’s not why we put effort in at work.  That’s not why we coach or teach.  But giving and receiving thanks is about something much greater: connection to one another.  I’m forever connected to a guy in a restaurant because of his story and my opportunity to say thanks.  I’m connected to the people that have stopped to thank me and for the sacred conversations I’ve had with others when I’ve had the chance to thank them.

I want to invite you to thank someone. Someone in your church. Your family that supports you. Your coworker/boss that challenges you. Your coach who trains you. Your counselor who listens to you. Your friend that puts up with you and laughs with you.  Call – text – write – show up – and let then know what that the small or large, one time or over time interaction has meant to you. 

You will bless them by doing it. And you will be blessed by doing it. And it will feel great!

Lord, thank you!  And help me to thank another and be connected through that moment!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 22, 2020

The image above looks so nice right?  “You’re invited.”  There’s butterflies and spinny things and fun looking graphics.  Looks super nice.  Like a five year old’s birthday party?

But what are you being invited into?  What about “You’re invited….into an automatic car wash where the windows of the car are stuck open.”  “You’re invited….into an entire class where the teacher scrapes her nails over the chalk board for 47 straight minutes.”  “You’re invited….into a non-stop showing of televangelists mixed with infomercials mixed with inaccurate weather forecasts.”  Those are the worst.

Or are they?

“You’re invited” usually mean that someone wants you at something that they deem as good.  Fun.  Easy.  Relaxing.  Playful.  Peaceful.

Count me in!  Where do I sign up?  Put me in Coach!

And yet Jesus walks down the road, is identified as the Messiah of the world by John…the very Lord/Teacher/Savior/Lamb that everyone’s waiting on, and he INVITES a couple guys to come, follow him and join the journey….and they just jump in.

Wait what?

When we get “invited” to something, it’s supposed to be awesome.  Like Chuckie Cheese without the screaming kids, infectious diseases and gang fights.  Like Bills games without heart wrenching losses.  Like taxes with only refunds and no payments.  Like parties without having to bring a dish to pass.

Invited is supposed to equal “good/easy/fun/joy/peace,” right?

Except when it doesn’t.  Except when it’s from Jesus.  Except when it’s into a new type of life and relationship and following and decision-making-matrix and light-being and sacrifice-taking and epiphany-ing (made up word) and faith.

We are invited by Jesus into all that.  We are invited, like the first couple guys, to be the next couple people to say Yes, to love More, to follow For Sure, to trust Unequivocally and to see where This goes.

I wish everyday of living into our faith life was like a five year old’s birthday party that we were all invited to with party games and cake and clowns no one was afraid of.  But it’s not.

Faith.  Following.  Jesus.  Invites us into REAL life.  Real parties.  Real traumas.  Real transitions.  Real ministries.  Real crazy.  Real life.

Our life.

But you/I were invited by the one that is already walking ahead of us.  Already on scene.  Already calling our names.  Already showing us the way.  Already giving his life for ours.  That’s the Inviter.  That’s the invitation.

May we all respond: yes.

Lord, thank for your invitation!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 15, 2020

John the Baptist was doing his thing.  Baptizing.  Preaching.  Telling others.  His whole ministry was helping people prepare a new way.  In their lives.  In the world.  He was pretty focused on what God was about to do.

Just then, Jesus rolls up on the scene and he gets to finally say: HERE!  He’s HERE!  “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  Maybe he even pointed at him.  I always picture it that way.

Not everyone in the Jesus story is so clearly pointed.  Or pointing.  Some interact with Jesus and walk away.  Some get to the hard parts at the cross and seem to run.  Some hear the challenge of faith or following and turn in the other direction.

But John keeps pointing.

As I reread his story this week, I wondered: Do I point equally as clear as John did?  When those moments of kingdom-breaking-in-clarity happen, am I pointing them out to others?

Or do I walk away, turn the other direction, hide from the enormity of a moment or just falter overwhelmed by my own humanity?

I want to pay attention to that today.  And I’d like to invite you to do the same.

As you go through today’s daily tasks, family moments, job lists, conversations and free time, who/what will you find yourself pointing at?  How does your faith in this Lamb of God shape your pointing finger?  Your words?  Your actions?  Your interactions?  Your mission?  Your quiet?

I’d like to think my day will be filled with John-like moments, but I’m fairly sure there are some huge gaps in there too.  What’s going on in those gaps?  How can I be more mindful/faithful in those moments to recognize God’s power and presence?

Let’s see what happens as Jesus rolls up into my day.

I invite you into this day of reflection as well!

Lord, help me be mindful and present to see where I’m pointing.  And as I do, may I point more toward you.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 8, 2020

Join me today in praying for peace in the world.

For our world leaders to “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.”

For our military to be surrounded by a hedge of protection.

For our military families to know your peace and comfort while separated from their loved ones.

For each of us to model that peace in our actions with our own neighbors each and every day.

If you are searching for the words for prayer, I offer words from St. Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there is despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
And where there is sadness, joy

O Divine Master, grant that I may
Not so much seek to be consoled as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
And it’s in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to Eternal Life

Still in One Peace,


January 2, 2020

This is that sacred time of the year…filled with peace, relaxation and calm…when I attach my dried out Christmas tree to a bungee cord, hook it to my wife’s SUV and drag it behind the Explorer through the streets of Clarence Center to the Town’s Tree Drop.

And just like that…Christmas is over.  Sort of.

We took all the lights/trees/decorations/mangers/stockings down inside and outside yesterday, not because the church season of Christmas is over, but instead because (1) we had time, (2) we had energy, (3) the ground was frozen enough outside that I wasn’t walking in mud and soft dog poop and (4) “we did Christmas well.”

We did Christmas well this year.  In our assessment, we had more peace than chaos, more laughs than tears, more family time than busy time and more time for faith than frustrations.

We were lucky this year I guess.

But I know not everyone was.  I went to four house fires in the week overlapping Christmas where families lost most, if not all, their possessions.  I had several friends say goodbye to their loved ones who passed away in the same time period.  I watched news footage of church and worship space shootings.  Stories of our military having to amp up because of overseas chaos in embassies.  And the ongoing plight of my Haitian family and friends as political turmoil carries on and hunger and lack of medical care rise to new levels of terrible.

So, is this really the time to pack everything up and put it away?  Feels like we might need it now more than ever.

I’m not sure why, but over the past few years, I’ve noticed that our culture seems to behave better, share more frequently and love more deeply in that time period when the decorations are out.  There are more stories of love, grace, Tim Horton’s orders to the person in line behind you, Angel Trees and year end gifts than at any other time of the year.

Is it only about the decorations?  Are they magic and make us less jerky from mid-November until January 1st?

Or is there a chance that there’s something about the light that they bring with them?  The connection to something bigger?  Something incredible?  Something surprising and undeserved?  An adoption into something more powerful than our own egos and self-pleasing desires?

Paul told the church in Ephesus: “God destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ.”  This is the same Jesus that John began his gospel talking about when he said: “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”  The Love and “God made flesh” came into the world to be a Light to all people.  That Love is what we are adopted into.  Adopted.  Not temporarily placed.  Not linked to for a certain period of time.  Not connected to only when Christmas music is on the radio.

I’ve realized that in NO PLACE, NO WAY, NO SHAPE and NO TIME does Scripture tell us that this Light gets put away and removed from our daily life.  Not even a stone-blocked tomb could contain it or overcome it.

So remember this week…this weekend…and in the days ahead vaulting us into this new decade, even as we pack away the temporary lights, decorations and reminders of Christmas morning…you are permanently adopted into a new Light, a new Love and because of that gift, nothing that we will face, stand by, see in the news or be connected to could possible overcomes God’s love for you through his son Jesus.

Today we are blessed, because God did Christmas well!

Lord, thanks for all the little lights that we soon/did put  away.  Help us see the true Light all year round. Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 11, 2019

So we move into the heart of Advent and at St. Paul’s this weekend we’re going to hear the story from Matthew’s gospel of an angel coming to speaking to Joseph.  With some CRAZY news!

He’s about to find out that the young woman that he was engaged to…Mary…with whom he did not yet have “relations”….was about to “be with child.”

Mary’s prego!  And that’s not culturally cool back then,

So this angel shows up and tells Joe:
1.  Mary’s having a kid.
2.  It’s the Holy Spirit’s.
3.  He already has a name picked out.  (and here it comes…..)
4.  You’re going to raise him up so that he can save the people from their sin.

Yep.  That’s all.

This is where we find the first Biblical siting of the 4-minute mile as Joseph runs as fast and as far from this angel, right?  This crazy calling?  This responsibility?  This ridiculous request?  No one would blame him if he ignored, plugged his ears, rolled over and went back to sleep saying: “That was a terrible nightmare.”

Instead, he wakes up and says:  “OK.  I’m on it.”

Incredible response to an even more incredible calling.  I bet the angel, upon hearing that Joe was all-in, stepped back and smiled, patting himself on the back and maybe said: “Good work outta me.  I’m taking the rest of the day off.”

It’s a good story right?  A good flow.  1. God has a plan.  2. Makes requests through angel.  3. Human responses correctly.  4. Angel smiles.

So what happened in the story of this angel then?  Where’s the smile?

Do you see frustration in the angel’s reaction?  A sense of giving up?  Disbelief?  This angel has a sense of the “good grief” of Charlie Brown after Lucy moves the ball AGAIN and AGAIN, not acting the way he needed or wanted to convert the field goal.

This is probably the angel that speaks to me:  “Steve, do x, y and z”.  Steve: “OK, how about if I try a, b and c instead?”

God has a plan.  Makes requests through angel.  Human does their own thing.  Angel sighs with frustration and rests head in hand.

As I hear Joseph’s story again, I’m not only amazed at his response, I’m reminded of my non-response, my selfish response, my ego driven response and my terrible-listener-response.  I think some of the Bible stories (ok maybe most of them) are about BIBLE PEOPLE but designed for YOU and ME people.

Joseph – listens, trusts, answers and follows.
Steve (and insert your name here) – How do we do?

In our Advent prep, how’s our listening and following going?  As we hear John the Baptist invite us into “Repent/Change/Turnaround”, how’s our listening and following going?  As we watch Mary invite us to sing praise to God in the toughest of circumstances, how’s our listening and following going?  As we learn that dirty ol’ shepherds were invited to share this good news with the world and inviting us to do the same, how’s our listening and following going?

The Advent stories are today’s stories.  The characters of then are the characters of now.  The callings of long ago are callings needed today.  The God of good news, hope and invitation who acted then is active now.  So how’s you’re listening and following going?

Lord, help me to hear you and respond ‘ok, I’m in’.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 20, 2019

If a blank sign was on my office door, what would it read?  Maybe Pastor…Chaplain…Counselor…Janitor

If a blank sign was on my house door, what would it read?  Maybe Steve’s House…Biegner Family…Michelle Allows Steve To Live Here

If a blank sign was on my shirt when I’m talking to Lauren or Drew, what would it read?  Maybe Dad…Guide…Listener.

What does your sign read?  Does it change when you move from place to place?  Relationship to relationship?  And who has written the description?

This weekend in the “church world” we call it Christ the King Weekend.  But oddly, there’s a deep irony in how it got its name.

Spoiler alert: toward the end of Luke’s gospel, Jesus gets crucified. (You can read the text HERE.)  But before it happens, he’s hung on this cross and a sign is posted above him that reads: “This is the King of Jews”  And guess what?  It’s only there to mock him.  “King of the Jews” should be a title of honor but then the people around him only rub it in that he’s hanging there strapped and nailed to a cross.

Here’s how it played out:

  • The crowds watched (a neutral stance?) (verse 35);
  • The leaders scoffed (verse 35);
  • The soldiers mocked (verse 36);
  • Rome announced its public position with an inscription (verse 38);
  • The criminals disagreed over his identity (verses 39-43).

I’m not familiar with 1st Century manners, but that’s not the way you treat a true King.  So what kind of king did he really turn out to be?

As we watch the story unfold, the mocking play out and the irony drip, his final interaction is with these two criminals: one mocks and one recognizes.  Hanging there justly punished, the second criminal recognizes just what type of “king” Jesus is and says: “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Jesus response: “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.”  And in that phrase, Jesus writes on his own sign!  Savior.  King of Justice.  Lover of all.  Forgiver of those that break.  Healer of those that are broken.

Paradise.  Today.  And tomorrow.  Now.  And forever.  For You.

What would you write on Jesus’ sign?  How do you interact with God?  What type of King does he appear to be in your life?  What are the touch points of your relationship?  Give yourself a chance to reflect on these questions this week.  And as you do, look up at your sign that is written on by God, it says: Loved.

Lord, thank you for being the king I didn’t expect and clearly don’t deserve.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 13, 2019

Have any of you ever “short timed” something?

Maybe you don’t want to admit it…but I’m guessing you have…or maybe you have “a friend” that did?

Potential Short Timing Scenarios:
You are in school in the last period listening to the teacher drone on, like Charlie Brown’s “mwah mwah mwah” teacher, and just waiting for the bell reading the same page over and over.

You are at work and waiting for the clock to tick…or the cell alarm to go off…and you just do what you have to do to look awake and alive and productive enough to not get fired.

You are listening to your wife talk and know you are leaving the house in just a few minutes but you need to just nod your head three more times until you can get out without her noticing that you didn’t actually hear and register a single thing.  (The preceding scenario does not necessarily reflect the options of Steve Biegner and CLEARLY does not represent his own relationship, and every morning, with his incredible, awesome wife Michelle)

Any of these scenarios familiar?  So maybe you have short timed something?

You aren’t the first and won’t be the last.  Maybe the Thessalonians were the first?  (There’s a sentence you won’t hear at work today!)

There’s a great letter by Paul written to this church full of Thessalonians (which is maybe a suburb of Cheektowaga or Tonawanda….the Cheektowagians is what their book of the Bible would be eh?) and he calls them out on being “short timers.”

But they are not “lazy, get through the work day, tolerate your teacher, listen just enough to your wife short timers.”  They are the Jesus Is Coming Back Super Soon short timers.  That’s quite a different group.

That group seems to have shut down.  Mailed it in.  Counted all their money before the dealing’s done (Kenny Rogers reference for the day).  Stopped living out their response to God’s grace and love poured out over them.

They’re just sitting back and waiting for Jesus to come back and rapture them and take them to himself and fix all the crap that’s gone wrong and smite all the dopes and put them at the right hand and give them the Super Bowl trophy of Discipleship.

But Paul reminds them while they wait: “Brothers and Sisters, do not weary of doing what is right.”

In other words, don’t short time this.

We don’t know when Jesus is Ubering back in!  We don’t know the time and date and situation and circumstances.  We don’t know if it’s before the test you are saying you don’t need to study for.  We don’t know if it’s before the election or after.  We don’t know if we’ll see the Bills win this Super Bowl.  (Seriously, will we ever really see that??)

We don’t know WHEN so instead….don’t grow weary of doing what is right.  In other words, don’t short time it.

Because Jesus IS returning one day….because Jesus did what he did and died for whom he died for and loved whom he loved and forgave whom he forgave (I’m hoping all those are “whom”not “who” because I just said it three times and went out on a grammatical limb there)….because of all that…don’t grow weary.  Keep loving the ones that need love.  Keep forgiving the ones that need forgiveness.  Keep sharing grace and hope with those that need grace and hope.  Even if it takes a little bit more listening…and little bit of work past the bell…a little bit more energy at the office/school/house/neighborhood/bowling alley/fire hall.

Friends.  We don’t know when.  So while we wait together, buckle up and buckle down.  There’s a little bit more focus that we need.  Don’t grow weary of doing what is right.

Lord, come soon please.  But while we wait, give me strength to do what is right.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 6, 2019

Have you set your intentions today?  Have you given yourself space to allow your mind and body to connect and remind yourself that you are you and that you are loved and that there is purpose, peace, healing and strength in right now?

My mind is a mess sometimes.  (Maybe more times than not)  It races when the rest of my isn’t wanting to.  It goes into overdrive when the rest of me wants to be in neutral.  It’s doing what it’s designed to do…think or process or worry or plan or direct.  Yet it sometimes overwhelms my body and soul and tries to dictate and pull me toward the past or too far into the future.

But the mind the only part of me and it shouldn’t get to completely dictate my day.  Yet sometimes I let it carry me away from the now and take me into the future that causes me to worry or stress or overwhelm.  Sometimes I let it carry me into the past that is gone, that I can no longer change.  And it moves me away from the now.  The present.  The gift of this moment.  The God-right-here-with-me time.

I want to introduce you Erik Gorenflo from St. Paul’s.  He’s been teaching me about setting your intentions to be in the moment and live that moment of peace, healing, strength and hope to the fullest.  Rather than me try and tell you his story, I asked him to tell it…where he writes from his bed at Roswell, where today’s battle…and gift….keep him focused on the moment.

“Imagine being 22 years old and being told you have cancer, being 23 years old and being told you have cancer, again… being 24 years old and being told you still have cancer. All of which after you were told you were cancer-free. This is my story.  

In 2017, I was diagnosed with a form of Testicular cancer the doctors thought would be easily curable.  After a couple months of surgery and chemotherapy, the cancer was gone! (or so we thought)  I decided to keep the recent diagnosis rather confidential.  Being a 22-year-old male, I was a bit embarrassed. I did not reach out for support from even the ones closest to me; my closest family members, my closest friends, not even to the heavens to ask for guidance from God.

23 years old rolled around and the original Testicular cancer diagnosis had metastasized to a large germ cell tumor below my left kidney.  This time around, I did not want to keep my second diagnosis under wraps.  I said to myself… “What do I have to be embarrassed about?  I took on cancer once already and won!  That’s amazing.  Why not do it again, but this time have all my family, friends, and God on my side?”
So I opened myself up and let the support of others guide me through this second battle. I shared my journey through social media and the overwhelming support I received from ones closest to me, and even strangers, was unmatched.  Strangers who were going through their own battle with cancer, strangers who knew someone else going through a battle with cancer, or even something as simple as a stranger who saw my journey and just wanted to reach out to say how much it inspired them.

After months of chemotherapy, the large germ cell tumor below my kidney was gone!  But wait, fast forward to 24 years old me… that same tumor had returned, and the cancer has come back for a third time.  Now I am currently undergoing a stem cell transplant at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, but my spirits and determination to finish this once and for all have not dissipated. I continue posting my journey on social media for all to see with the goal of changing lives.

The driving factor behind keeping a strong mindset, despite the gallons of chemotherapy being infused into my body and continuing to post inspiring content related to my fight against cancer, is the thought that there is nothing I can do to go back in time and make it so I never had cancer in the first place. I can only live in the present and look toward the future.  Sitting around saying “why me?” wasn’t going to help the situation, but figuring out how to take this undesirable situation and improve the lives of others is just one aspect that fuels me and keeps me mentally strong.  The second aspect comes from what I lacked the first time he was diagnosed: Support. The support from family, friends, faith and the church.  Everything from something as simple as bringing me dinner when I was too tired to cook, to prayers for a quick and easy recovery, all of it helped me.  All of which continues to bring me strength and a sense of healing that I did not experience during the first diagnosis.”

Have you set your intentions today?  Have you reminded yourself that you are not alone in whatever this moment brings you?  Have you taken time get out of your head and into your body and soul, and out of your body and into your mind and faith?

The same God that is carrying Erik through his battle is with you as well.  Paul reminds us that we have “inherited this overwhelming gift of grace through Jesus” that gives us the gift to be wherever we are, celebrate whatever is happening, battle whatever needs to be faced and feel God’s spirit present in it all.

As you finish reading this now, if you haven’t already today: Breathe.  Be.  Give yourself the gift of this moment.

Set your intentions for this day, approach this moment with a spirit of openness and confidence in the inheritance you have received, and know as you do it…you are not alone.

Lord, thanks for this moment, for Erik’s healing and teaching, for your presence in it.  Amen

(You can follow Erik’s journey through #gorenstrong on social media.  Yes Erik, in 23 years of email devotions, that’s my first hashtag!)

Still in One Peace,


October 30, 2019

Some mornings are harder to get going than others.  As a runner, I like to be able to pick and choose my run by maximizing the perfect weather, or the perfect time, or the perfect conditions.  Monday and Tuesday morning were perfect.  45 degrees.  Light to no wind.  Beautiful sun rise.  Changing colorful leaves.  And I had planned some relaxed meditative runs to center myself for the day ahead.


But today was different.  Today was a dreary, humid run in the dark morning clouds with wet slippery leaves on my path and to top it off – speed work.  Ugh.  These are runs that are designed to push yourself through various speeds to increase stamina.  They vary from fast, faster and fastest with brief slower recoveries in between.  The type of runs where your legs and lungs say out loud: “Why are we doing this?”

I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it as I laced up my sneakers, walked out into the dark and slipped on the stairs going to the road.  But in the minutes ahead as I warmed up slowly with my coach talking to me in my ears, he said this: “You already chose to start this run, so you might at well run with strength and thankfulness.”

You already ready chose to start.  So run with strength and thankfulness.

Paul wrote to the Ephesian church and told them: “In Christ, we have obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things…marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit…for this reason I do not cease to give thanks.”

In other words – Church – you’ve already chosen to start.  So run with strength and thankfulness.

We’ve started.  Baptismal waters.  Confirmation promises.  We’ve been chosen and have chosen.  We’ve been loved and graced and forgiven and led and gifted.  We’ve inherited all of it!  Inherited a Kingdom that broke into our today.  Again.  And my guess is because you probably aren’t reading this lying in bed, you probably chose to start this day.  And in this day, or tomorrow or the next, whenever you read this (although if you read this tomorrow, it’ll actually be your today..sort of), you’ve chosen to start the run. The day.  The work.  The love.  The vocation.  The relationship.  The search to bring justice.  The compassion.  The forgiving.

And with that inheritance Paul describes, we can run this day, this (insert all those other things I just listed) and more, with strength and thankfulness.

I finished the run this morning because I chose to start.  A ran the speed work because I’ve run them before and inherited strength from them.  I started, maybe not in perfect conditions, maybe not as a perfect runner, but inherited a perfect run.  And was thankful for that.

What will you run today?  As you lace up the shoes you will need for it, remind yourself of the inheritance of God’s love and grace that you have received.  Remind yourself that from that inheritance comes strength.  And even as your “run” rolls on imperfectly, may you be thankful for the experience itself and the Holy Spirit’s presence with you on it.

Nice work.  You started.  Now run with strength and thanksgiving.

(And don’t forget to set your clocks back this Saturday)

Lord, here we go.  Let’s start.  Run with me.  Thanks.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 23, 2019

If you were going to caption this picture, what would you say?

It happens to be in my Top 10 internet pictures that I’ve seen over the years.  I’ve seen it dozens of times and it popped up as my Facebook memory today.  I’ve captioned it several ways in my head – most revolving around the stuck horse quietly saying swear words in his head…. to the cow on the outside throwing a variety of insults at Mr. Stuck Horse.

But most, if not all the captions, are negative.

Why do I do that?  It could be some repressed subconscious thing that Freud would say is my mom’s fault.  But more likely, it’s just that our culture laughs at mean stuff and when you do it often enough and long enough, it tends to stick and become your norm.

Old negative patterns.  Hard to break.

Maybe that’s why the Lord had to speak to and through Jeremiah to tell people about a “new covenant” and invite them into a new heart, a new relationship, and a new sense of grace?

Maybe that’s why Paul wrote to the Roman church and said the old pattern of the Law as your judge and jury has been replaced through the Gospel, the Good News, of Jesus’ love and hope.

Maybe that’s why Jesus invited the Jews and others into a new truth and new life and a new chapter of the story to bring them a new freedom?

Maybe that’s why Luther banged up 95 thoughts on a church door to lead people into a new experience of an old book and an old faith and an old promise that was actually designed for a new word and a new faith and a new promise?

And maybe those references in Jeremiah, Romans and John, stirred up by Luther’s wooden social media post, are still important for me today?  And for you.  Maybe the Reformation needs to still be happening.

Maybe when I look at a picture of a horse stuck in a fence that the cow might just be saying: “Help me!  My buddy is stuck and I want to get him out.”

Maybe the Reformation, which is what all these Biblical references are about, is asking us to still change.  Not just our church or church practices or how we read the Bible.  But how we live out the Bible.

How we live out the moments at the fence.

Maybe the Reformation, and the reminder of God’s newness and hopeful and graceful and forgiving, is about the fences of our health issues, the fences of our neighbor’s needs, the fences of immigrant’s search, the fences of the hungry on our streets and in our schools, the fences of the arguments and family challenges.

What caption would you use on yourself at the fence?  Is it one that lives into the grace, love, hope and newness of God’s current reformation?

Lord, as I find myself at the fence, help me to keep reforming on a daily basis.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 16, 2019

In my role as fire chaplain for Erie County Emergency Services, I do a lot of listening to the fire radio in my car, office and home.  As a call goes out for help, Fire Control from that given town will talk to the responding  units and responding units will talk to Fire Control.  It’s a back and forth that makes the whole process work.  Fire Control sends directions and the responding units let them what who is coming and how the response is going.  It would be impossible to be successful if it was only a one way communication process.

I mean, in what instance would one way communication work?

Try one way communication today in your marriage and see how that goes over with your spouse?  Try it at work today and see how that goes over with your boss or coworkers.  Try it with your friends and stop listening to their responses and see how long they stick around.

My grandfather told me once when I was a young kid and was expecting everything to happen the way I wanted it to happen: “Life is a two way road.”  I guess that goes for communication too.

So why on earth do we expect prayer to only be one way communication?  Why do we only launch things AT God and forget to listen to feedback FROM God?

“Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always and not lose heart.” – Luke 18

And then he tells them about a two way conversation.  A back and forth.  A launch and listen.  A plea and response.

Two way communication.  Seek…and find.  Knock…and it will be opened.  Ask…and receive.

Most Christians develop over time a sense of spirituality and prayer, where we find ways and times and shapes and words to give God all our needs and wants list.  But how is our spiritual discipline of listening?

Yesterday, I had a profound conversation with a man who 55 years ago was actually listening while walking down the road and heard God speak to him.  And over the past 55 years, he’s been trying to figure out what God’s response meant. 55 years of listening and trying to figure it out!  I’ll share more of his story Sunday morning, but it was a clear reminder to me that God is still speaking!  And sometimes, as hard as it is to hear or comprehend, it’s PART OF prayer.  Listening to the other side of the conversation.  Hearing the One we trusted enough to share our hearts with in the first place.  Not losing heart because the One we pray to (or with) is the One that has answered already with a cross and an empty tomb.

Life is a two way road.  A give and receive.  A launch and listen.  Pray always and give yourself and God time to hear the response of love, grace and hope.

Lord, (share your heart with God and then give yourself 2 minutes of silence to listen).  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 9, 2019

“And as the lepers went (where Jesus directed them), they were made clean. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice. He prostrated himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.” – Luke 17

10 healed.  1 returned to give thanks.

That’s a pretty bad ratio.

1 for 10 doesn’t get you into the playoffs.  1 for 10 doesn’t make you a very good cook.  1 for 10 doesn’t get you a passing grade.  1 for 10 doesn’t help you keep you job in sales.

And probably 1 for 10 isn’t where God wants us on our Thankfulness Scale.

How often are you returning to say thanks?  How often am I?  I can speak for myself clearly here with the results: not enough.  I seem to be pretty good at the easy stuff, the blatant “this is super good and easy to see” stuff.  But what about the hard stuff?

What about the days when the healing is harder to find?  The places where we are supposed to go, as Jesus directed us, isn’t attainable?  Isn’t safe?  Isn’t convenient?  Isn’t lasting?  What about the days when we feel stuck on the diagnosis?  The bad news?  The loss and death?  The transition with endless waiting?  In those moments too, God is still working.  Healing is still coming.  Presence and community are still standing.  A future with hope is still being prepared for us.

How often do we return to say thanks during the hard stuff?

I was moved yesterday to scroll through Facebook and after sifting through what can so often be random and bizarre posts about almost nothingness….I found thankfulness.  Thankfulness in and through the hard stuff.

My ministry partner’s Mom, Myrtis Brown, shared her testimony and her thanksgiving for what God is doing in her life:

Then I heard the voice of Lord saying ” Whom shall I send? And who will go for us”? Isaiah 6:8

Every three minutes some where in the U.S. a woman hears the words- “You have breast cancer” I heard these same words , October, 2005. I was terrified and angry. I had just retired from the Chicago Public School after 38 years; my daughters were college age. I was experiencing a new sense of freedom; ready to begin to live My life.”Why God ,I asked, why now? God answered “You have retired from your job, and have raised your daughters; but now you are on Assignment for me.” I answered; “Here I am Lord, Send me”
Celebrating 14 years of survivorship- cancer free. Thanks be to God.!

Amazing.  Thanksgiving in, during and after the hard stuff.  Returning.  Again and again to the One who healed.  Heals.  Returning, thanking and saying: Send Me! in the midst of the hardest of hards.

My hope and prayer for you today is that you will recognize God’s presence and power and healing and love and grace in your now.  Your awesome.  And your hard.  And that you will allow yourself to return, again and again to the One who walks with you through it all.  Like Myrtis, may we recognize the healing done and the healing in progress and with a thankful heart respond “Here I Am Lord, send me!”

Lord, thank you.  Here I Am now.  Send me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 2, 2019

“Rekindle the gift of God that is within you” – the Apostle Paul writing to Timothy

But how?  How, when things are hard or you’re feeling disconnected or a tad overwhelmed or anxious upon anxious are we supposed to rekindle anything productive/faithy/powerful/directing/comforting??

“Well let me remind you of your grandma!” Paul says.  Yes, Tim’s grandmother Lois and then his mother Eunice.  Two women of faith.  Paul tried to reconnect them into a present memory of a past interaction that can currently help Timmy Boy reconnect to the gift that God has already placed within him.

Reconnection.  Memory of past becoming present.  Reminder of faith.  Rekindle!

I appreciate Paul’s reminder to:
a) not be overwhelmed by our current circumstances dancing through our minds and instead, feel in our body and soul again the touch of those who are really important to us and walked in faith.
b) help us bring those past interaction and relationships into our present feeling, getting us out of our heads and into the presence of those Saints who’ve gone before us.
c) never forget that the gift is already there and no thought, no moment, no overwhelm can possibly fully extinguish the unquenchable fire of God’s passion and love for us.

Today, hear Paul writing….speaking….pleading to you.  Hear Paul reminding you that the difficult thoughts, the grief, the anxiety, the lostness, the storms are not who you are.  They are things that come into your head and space and life but they cannot define you because you’ve already been claimed.  Hear Paul encourage you to reconnect and be reminded of your saints that have gone before you and coached you, parented you, taught you and led you through their own faith.

Today hear Paul.  And rekindle the faith that IS ALREADY within you!

Lord, help me listen, be present, be reconnected to you and not _______ and may the rekindling begin.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 25, 2019


This week at the St. Paul’s Campus we are going to celebrate St. Michael and All Angels Day.  It’s one of those days in the church calendar, like Christmas and Easter, but gets waaaaaay less attention.  And maybe that’s because the whole topic is a tad confusing.

What do you do with angels?

A 2016 Gallup Poll showed that 72% of Americans believed in angels and 12% weren’t sure.  So 84% believe something, which is a lot of people!

But what do we believe?  Is it what we are reading from the Bible or is it what we’ve learned from the TV shows Angel, Touched By An Angel or Charlie’s Angels??

As I’ve done a bunch of reading, searching and Biblical scans this week, I’ve noticed some general themes about angels.  They seem to be (a) God’s press secretaries or (b) God’s defensive linemen.

The Gospels show Gabriel and his publicity team showing up to an old Zechariah, whose wife will have John the Baptist as a son; a young virgin named Mary, who will somehow without Joseph’s help have the Christ child; and a bunch of smelly shepherds in the field, letting them know they have to be the first witnesses to the newest and greatest thing God is doing.  BIG messages!!!

Daniel (in the OT under “D”) and Revelation (in the NT under Crazy Hard to Understand Last Book) refer to Michael, the top draft choice defensive tackle angel, doing everything from protecting the Hebrew people to giving Satan the boot out of heaven.

Those are pretty important rolls and ways that God chose to continue interacting with the world!

Most of the other references in the Bible fall under these types of categories.  But somewhere in life, culture, church traditions, etc, angels have taken on a life of their own.

My sometimes loony Office Manager Katie just reminded me of other forms of angels “active” in the world: like hanging a Rosary outside the house in a tree and angels will keep it from raining during a party; St. Anthony’s angels will help you find lost stuff; and St. Joseph, buried upside down in the backyard, will send angels to help sell your house rapidly.


What do you do with angels?

Truthfully, I’m not sure what I do with them.  But reading about them again reminds me that there is something bigger going on than just me, my small self and my mini-perspective.  They remind me that God’s Holy Spirit is in, with and under my going out and coming in.  I don’t know if they would help me sell my house, but they do remind me that I’m not alone in this life and world, that God has been and will be interactive with this world.  Maybe not the way and timing that I want, but with the message the world needs and the protection that comes in various shapes and sizes.

Winged, white, floating, singing, haloed beings?  Ahhhh.  Not so sure.

But God’s presence to continue the message of love and protection for the world?  I can get behind that.

Lord, thanks for all of the ways you care for your world and show us your love.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 18, 2019

Every once in awhile, churches make mistakes.  Actually quite often.  But most of these written mistakes usually happen in a very public format which can turn out to be quite awkward.  Like the sign above.  Or the list of bloopers you can laugh at by CLICKING HERE.

But in one of our texts for this weekend from Timothy, there seems to be another blooper.  Paul seems to be encouraging Timothy and the church to pray for EVERYONE.

“First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” – 1 Timothy 2:1-7

To quote our Youth Director Adam Weber: “Wait, what?”

You want me to pray for who?  (Or whom…whatever the proper grammar is there)

This must be another blooper.  An error in translation from the Greek to the English.  A scribe must have written this down wrong on the original papers.  Clearly, he couldn’t have meant to pray for everyone.  He couldn’t be challenging us to move into a new relationship with “those” people we don’t necessarily like/love/friend/reach/tolerate?!

Clearly a blooper.

Unless it isn’t.

Seems like he’s encouraging this not just to be annoying or make a joke but to bring God’s grace, welcome, relationship, healing, direction and strength to EVERYONE.  A challenge.  A risk.  A discipline.  That leads to blessings.  Forgiveness.  Salvation/Kingdom in the now.  Kingdom/Salvation in the future.  

Could Paul really want us to pray for world leaders we might not agree with?  Seems that way.

Could Paul really want us to pray for those of different faith, no faith, disagreeing faith?  Seems that way.

Could Paul really want use to pray for those who have wronged us, even when we are always clearly in the right and there’s no way we could possibly be in the wrong (unless by slight chance we might be)?  Seems that way.

Could Paul really want Fox News watchers to pray for CNN watchers and visa versa?  Seems that way.

Could Paul really want me as I walk into the stadium this weekend to pray for the Bengals?  And next week…dear God please just make this a blooper…the Patriots?  Seems that way.

Pray for EVERYONE?  Seems that way.

May your day today, your grudges toward others, your judgements without relationships, your stereotypes toward those different than the mirror’s reflection be filled with an interaction and intersection of prayer for them.  Them.  Your siblings in God’s kingdom.  Your different that is OK.  Your opponent on the other sideline.  


Lord, invite me into prayer for EVERYONE today. May it change the world and bless the kingdom.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 11, 2019

9/11 generally is a terrible day.  For many of you.  For me.  For the country.  For a lot of families.  For the fire service.  For emergency services.  The worst.

But today is also a day to remember a calling to be different in the midst of terrible.

And that different has a real purpose.  A purpose that can actually change the terrible.

A change that instead of creating more lost sheep can morph into reaching…saving…loving…welcoming…rescuing the current lost sheep.

Luke relates a story in his writing where Jesus said: “Which one of you, having a hundred sheep and losing one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is lost until he finds it? When he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders and rejoices.”  (Jesus in Luke 15).

Is there one for you to find?  To turn that one’s terrible into something different?

I believe we have a great cloud of witnesses to shape us into this way of post 9/11 living.  Being lost sheep finders like Jesus.

I’m writing today from Connecticut.  Where today my family celebrates my Aunt Ronnie’s life and the power of the resurrection for her and all of us.  She was a lost sheep finder.  For sure in the world, but more often in our family.  She was always the one who bragged about her kids, grankids, nieces, nephews and pretty much anyone she was remotely related to as if they had just discovered gravity itself.  She was the cheerleader of all and the smile and laughter to any lost sheep she ever met.

I’m in Connecticut with my cousins and extended family who lost our cousin Andrew on the first 9/11.  Andy, the FDNY Lieutenant  who was in the North Tower and sent his probies back down the stairs to safety when things were going sideways that morning, while instead, he went up.  Went back up.  Into smoke and fire and soon to be collapsing building, so that he could shepherd others out, to safety.  So that he could find another lost sheep.

I’m returning to Buffalo Thursday to continue working with my new partner Kwame Pitts at Main Street Ministries who this week alone has already sent out 134 social media messages on FB, and other medium I am too old to care about, to find the least, little, lonely and left behind and welcome them into community, hope, love, acceptance and grace.   A lost sheep finder for sure!

And then there is the brotherhood of firematic personnel, EMS, emergency response teams, debriefers and care givers that I pray for, serve with and get inspiration from every day in Erie County.  The ones that save people’s pets.  Respond to hostage stand offs.  Show up for every lift assist.  Fly in with Mercy Flight for the Never Easy Call.  Get quietly profoundly affected by the completed suicides and called codes.  And yet, continue to show up every time those tones drops because there might just be some lost sheep out there.

Today….tonight….as 9/11 rolls around again and reminds me of something pretty shitty, I invite you, as I do, to choose a God of the Lost Sheep Finders.  Even if our post 9/11 culture can sometimes choose/project fear, I choose to see the world for love and good and grace and hope and community and forgiven imperfect people and the face in my mirror and the face reading this.  Lost sheep found.  Lost sheep finding.

There are more lost sheep.  I ask you to join me…Aunt Ronnie….Andrew…Kwame…Erie County Emergency Services…and Jesus…..and let’s go find them.

Lord, thanks for finding me.  Help me search for the others.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 4, 2019

Welcome back to “ps from ps” – a story based devotional based on God’s story, your story and my story wrapped together.

If you’re new to these devo’s, feel free to read, toss, delete, share or give feedback.  Most of the time, the Scripture lessons I reflect on will be heard again in most mainline churches the following Sunday.  My hope is that it will (a) affect your today but also (b) deepen your worship experience on the weekend as you have already heard and reflected on the texts.

Expect poor grammar, mis-spelled words and run on sentences.  I type like I preach and that’s sometimes a very chaotic experience.  My apologies in advance.
So here we go for another season….. hang on tight.

For a few years in between being a pastor in congregations and sometimes while serving in them, I focused on youth who were experiencing tough life circumstances revolving around drugs, addictions, trauma and mental/spiritual health challenges.  So many of them having a loving family or friend group around them and yet making choices that drove them apart from feeling that love and grace so close to them.  

It would break your heart.  I could see that love that was there for them.  Others could see it.  Teachers, friends, counselors and family could see it and be it but sometimes, due to the circumstances of life and particular influences, those youth couldn’t see it.  And they would make choices that weren’t blessing them.  They weren’t choosing life.  In fact, tragically, sometimes they were even choosing death.  

I don’t believe I ever worked with a youth in these difficult circumstances that didn’t have some level of loving infrastructure around them.  Were the families and friends imperfect and sometimes a mess?  Of course.  But it was there…and almost always blatantly and boldly offering life and love to their youth friend or family member that was struggling.  

And yet, sometimes they struggled to choose that life.  Life offered.  Love offered.  Grace offered.  And sometimes those offerings weren’t taken advantage of.

In Deuteronomy 30:18-20 (it’s under “D” in the Old Testament if you are searching for it), Moses is talking to the Israelites and reminding them of God’s promise and gift and commandments and love.  And he invites them to “Choose life.”  Choose life that follows a path into that love.  Choose life turns away from the distractions.  Choose life that lives into God’s direction for them.  And when they choose that life, they will be blessed.

Choose life.

As I went for a run yesterday at lunch, that phrase “choose life” kept rolling through my head.  How many choices do I make every day?  Hundreds.  My language towards others.  My responses to my wife and kids.  The foods that I eat.  The prayers I say or forget to say.  The judgements I make.  Maybe thousands really.

And yet before that run started.  Before I read that Scripture.  Before that day started.  God’s promise and love and grace had already poured out over me.  God had already chosen me.  My life. 

How was that love guiding my decisions?  How was that love molding all of the choices I was making in the day?

My hope for you today is that you know of God’s love for you.  That you understand that before you got out of bed today, you were loved by Love itself.  How will you respond today, this week, at work, on your first day of school, with your kids, in your hood, and choose life?  

Lord, thank you for life today.  Help me choose it in my decisions.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 20, 2019

Do not waste time in things that don’t matter.

Or as the Good Book says: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth….but store up for yourselves treasurers in heaven.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” – Jesus in Matthew 6

My son 18-year-old Drew packed up his car yesterday and drove off to Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center to serve on their staff this summer.  He’ll stop back for a few days…graduation, graduation party, a couple more days to pack up yet more of our stuff…and then off to University of Akron.  And whoosh…he’s launched.

While I am super stoked for him because he is so happy to serve at LCLC, I have the same sort of pit in my stomach today that I had 13 years ago when that big orange tube rolled down the street and swallowed him up.  Despite him just about running into the bus heading to kindergarten, I still wondered: had I done enough?  Had I prepared him for the world?  Had I told him enough times that he was loved, just because he was him?

I thought those same things again yesterday evening as I looked out onto the driveway where his car was usually parked.

Then….and now….I wondered: where had I stored up my treasures?  In stuff that doesn’t matter?  Or in the heavens breaking in through our relationships with family, kids, friends?

I want to encourage you today, like Jesus did, to not waste time in things that don’t matter.  I want to encourage you to invest into the things that do.  I want to plead with you to enjoy each moment with each person and relationship that God has blessed you with.

We are blessed by the heavens-breaking-in-relationships that God has given us.  Store up your love, time, grace, forgiveness and grace into those.

Lord, thanks for all the times.  All of them!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 12, 2019

It’s a We Believe movement for the Golden State Warriors fans.  “We Believe” signs on every seat.  They were down 3 games to 1 in the NBA finals.  But they won the fifth game and now it’s 3-2.  Game Six tomorrow night in California.

They Believe!

As a sports fan, I’ve “believed” in some pretty outrageous things.  I believed that the Bills would come back and win every Superbowl…well, at least three out of four of them.  I believed that after a great first half of the year, the Sabres would make the playoffs.

Sometimes “believing” in sports doesn’t quite work out.  I mean why would I actually believe in these things?  Was there proof out there?  Had I experienced the same exact thing before so I knew it would happen again?

Not usually.  Hardly actually.

But as Christians, we say: We Believe, a lot.  Mainly in the Creeds but also in other places in our hymns, Scriptures, prayers, communion and sermons.  We Believe.

But sometimes that Belief can take hits.  Runs into some rough patches.  Has experiences with the Unbelievable and the Belief suffers.

As we move toward Holy Trinity Sunday in the church year, a time where we celebrate that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we come to an important time when God says to us: We Believe.

We, God, believe in you, humanity.  We, God, will recreate you in your doubts, save you in your mistakes and guide you in your lostness.

We we’re going to use a great song by Newsboys called: “We Believe” as our creedal space this weekend.  I would encourage you to take listen, a few times, and hear the belief of many in the church that emphasizes God’s belief in us.  You can access it by clicking HERE.

Take some time this week to reflect on your Belief, your Doubts, and your journey with both of them.  What do We Believe?  Because as you do that, our God say about you and to you: We Believe.

Lord, help me to have a We Believe Movement.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 5, 2019

It’s a big Saturday this week at St. Paul’s as we host the Fiesta Bowl 2019.  This is a 3-on-3 basketball tournament run by a couple young men and their families.  But it’s not just a basketball tournament.  It’s a fund raising-community builder to raise money and awareness for mental health issues and how those issues affect so many people.  You can check out the background HERE.

Starting a few years back, Nick Revelas took the opportunity to turn a tragedy at his school into a positive, relentless force in the community.

From his website: “We can be a light in a dark world.” Relentless: The Story of How I Overcame The Odds and Beat The System, tells the story of how you can find the light in a dark situation, even with all the odds being stacked against you. Nick Revelas faced bad grades, hundreds of doubters, and a community mourning the loss of a close friend. Despite all the system threw at him, the community came together as one family to bring light to the issue of mental health, and make the Fiesta Bowl a beacon of hope.”

Being Relentless in the midst of trials.

At our Council meeting last night at St. Paul’s, another Nick, Haslett version, shared the devotional Bible verses that are favorites of his:  Hebrews 10:35-36: “Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” and Romans 8:18: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

Being Relentless in faith in the midst of trials.

As I spend the day Saturday at St. Paul’s with Nick and hundreds of youth shooting hoops, I will be reminded to not lose the confidence of my faith, to know I can endure through all trials and whatever is going on for me right now, it will pale in comparison to the gifts of God’s grace that will be revealed.

It’s not just a basketball tournament.

It’s not just words on a page of an old sacred book.

It’s not just a present Holy Spirit for people long ago.

It’s a Relentless Faith to bring light into darkness and be a beacon of hope.

Lord, bless me today with the reminder of that faith.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 29, 2019

Adam Weber in his sermon at St. Paul’s Sunday shared Jesus’ words: my peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.

Are you sensing that peace today?  Wake up with it?  Greet someone else with it?  Share it with someone already who might need it?

Our daily routine in American culture rarely revolves around peace.  Quite the opposite…mainly it’s about managing chaos and searching for moments of peace.  Adam described finding that peace on a visit he made to our partners in Haiti.  The peace lasted all the way….until he got back to the airport, when the chaos of stigmas and rude behavior reared their ugly heads again.

Peace is not easy to find, let alone hang onto.  But when it is found, it can be a powerful thing.

This coming Sunday we’re going to hear the story of the apostle Paul and Silas, who while sharing the peace with people in one village, were thrown into prison.  Chaos!  But instead of letting the chaos rule the moment, they sat in their cell and sang “songs of praise to God.”  Those tunes and lyrics of peace, with an indwelling of the Holy Spirit, changed that jail, released the prisoners and opened the hearts of the jailers.

My peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.” – Jesus

It’s a gift that has already been given.  It’s a gift that is sustained by a present Holy Spirit.  It’s a gift will be there, even when our hearts seem to be bogged down in the chaos.

My prayer for you today is that this peace, which surpasses all human understanding, will dwell in, with and through you.  My prayer is that your baseline today will start and end with those songs of praise to God that will overwhelm the harsh tones of chaos.  My prayer for you today it that this gift of Jesus’ peace will be a corrective force when it feels like some other force is pushing you into your own personal jail.  My prayer for you is that you will know that Jesus doesn’t give the way the world gives, so as Jesus invited, do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.


Lord, may your peace roll over my life today.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 1, 2019

“To this you all are witnesses” ~ Jesus, to his disciples.

So after the first Easter day, Jesus rolls around town showing up and interacting with the disciples who at one point followed him intimately.  Their reactions are so interesting to me:

Doubt, Confusion, Misunderstanding, Proof-searching.

He walks on the road with them, they don’t recognize him.  He opens up Scripture to them, they don’t understand it.  He has a meal with them, and they don’t get that it’s him until he disappears.

But he keeps showing himself to them anyways.  Even when they don’t get it, are confused and misunderstand.

So needed then.  So needed now.

Now, we’re just a few warm spring days past the celebration of this Easter.  How are you doing?  Everything coming together for you?  No confusion?  No doubts?  No misunderstandings?  Did your Easter worship experience nail it all down for you?  (See what I did there?  Nail it all down!!)  Of course not.  We’re still on the road.  Filled with twists and turns and bumps and bruises and hurts and questions.

And he keeps showing up.  And telling us, “You are witnesses to all these things”

Where did you see Jesus show up in your life recently?  Where in your confusion, hurt, prayer, loss, grief and wondering did you sense a presence bigger than the present saying, “Here I am…Witness this!”?

One of my greatest honors in WNY is working with our Erie County Fire and Emergency Services.  Because when the confusion and pain of fires, accidents and trauma happens, God shows up….with lights and sirens and big red trucks (and a few white ones, shout out to HHVFC) and turn out gear and the people in them.  And in those moments, the people in the wreck/fire/worst day of their lives get to know they aren’t alone.  “You are witnesses to all these things!”  It always reminds me that Easter isn’t a once-a-year event.

Easter Day isn’t a fix-all.  It wasn’t then.  It isn’t now.  It was day where God took care of the big stuff, but there’s still a role we play in it.  It’s a process of continually seeing Jesus and being witness to God continuing to show up…alive…in all our crazy-life-stuff

To that, we all are witnesses.

Still in One Peace,


April 17, 2019

“Life is a journey, not a destination”

I wish I had a dime for every time I needed to remember that. I’d have a lot of dimes.  So often, I rush through to the end and forget to “sight see” along the way.  And I can honestly say, each time I have slowed down and looked around, I’ve been blessed.  The destination is almost always a great one, but there is so much along the way.

It’s no different in Holy Week.  Easter is just a few days away and clearly it’s going to be a good one.  You can’t mess this up!  So good to hear again the pronouncement at the tomb.  So good to see that it’s empty.  So amazing to unpack what this means for us now in our dailyness.

But it’s just as important to “sight see” along the way.

“Gather around and let me give you a new commandment.”

“Take this, eat it, drink it.  It’s all of me.”

“Sit here while I pray….for you…and for the world.”

“Let the betrayer come forward and seal it with a kiss.  I can handle this.”

“You say that I am”

“…….” (silence while being mocked)

“Forgive them Father.  They have no clue.”

“Today you will be with me in paradise.”

“(The sound of one last breath)”

If we rush too fast toward the destination of Easter, we can miss the sights of what it took to get there, what was given in achieving it, what was shared along the way.

May your Holy Week slow down, whether in community worship or in reflective time on your own.  May you see the sights…the meal, the garden, the walk, the mocking, the cross, the forgiveness…along the way.  And when Easter comes again, may that destination carry even more grace, peace and hope because of the road taken to get there.

Lord, slow me down.  Help me see.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


April 4, 2019

Doesn’t look like much: two pieces of wood.

And yet, it’s the most extravagant, generous and overwhelming gift ever given.

I approach a lot of stuff in my life with fairly critical eyes and I disappoint myself at how short sighted and empty I am sometimes.  “What’s the catch?”  “Glass half empty.”  “Dear God it’s snowing again.”

Too many times, I’m caught in a Scrooge-like mentality and judge too many moments with eyes of skepticism and minimalistic attitude.  Jesus’ disciples did the same thing.  Maybe you do too?

There’s an amazing and convicting story in John’s gospel about Mary pouring a ton of expensive perfume over Jesus feet and one of his disciples criticizing her for wasting it.  Probably something I might do.  The criticism part.  But the background is, Jesus has resurrected her brother from the dead and he was eating with them now and she wanted to celebrate it.  So she literally pours it all out.  Pours it ALL out. (John 12:1-8)

There’s nothing minimalistic about it.  There was no holding back.  There was only praise.  Only devotion.  Only thanksgiving.  Only worship.  Only recognition of what God has, is and probably will do again.

Do you pour it all out?  Do you sit at the table with the resurrection power of God and hold back?  Has God done it already and it hasn’t changed how you respond?

I know I’ve fallen short in my response.  But as I type, I’m going to change that.  I’m going to pour it all out.  I’m going to criticize less those who do it too.  And try harder to be more like Mary.  Can you join me?

Lord, help me recognize it and pout it all out.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 27, 2019

I want to reflect on something that Nick Stroczkowski asked in his sermon on Sunday at St. Paul’s this past Sunday: How does our productivity based culture impact how we see ourselves, measure ourselves and impact our sense of God’s love for us.

He was reflecting on the parable Jesus told the crew about a landowner that was absolutely done with this wilted tree that wasn’t really producing as it should.  “Cut it down” the landowner said.  But luckily, there was a gardener standing by that said: “Give me one more chance.  Let me love it a bit more, a bit differently and let’s see what happens.”

That’s who Jesus is for: Giving one more chance.  Loving a bit more, a bit differently.  Waiting to see what happens.

That’s what this whole life/faith thing is about: a different type of love from God than they/we were/are used to.  This productivity culture doesn’t measure this way.  It fires.  Punishes.  Demotes.  Cuts down.

But Jesus has, is and will respond differently.  “That’s what Lent, Good Friday and Easter are all about Charlie Brown” (That’s a quote from the children’s show A Charlie Brown Lent which wasn’t as popular as A Charlie Brown Christmas but I’m sure it’s out there on Netflix somewhere).

Hopefully that’s sinking in for you a bit today.  Hopefully the grace you have received yourself is overpowering the voices, the actions, the hatred, the measuring and the judging so that you can see yourself as intended: a tree being worked on and loved by God in flesh.

“Let’s see what happens” said the gardener.

And here comes the test grounds.  We move from this story into a story about two imperfect sons: one that is selfish and spends down his inheritance and one that is a different brand of selfish not wanting to welcome home his brother that was lost.  “Let’s see what happens.”  So far….epic fail.  How will grace that pours over the damage of the productivity culture change us?  How will it affect our actions?  How will the fact that Lent, Good Friday and Easter are all about forgiveness, love, hope and fresh starts guide our relationships and interactions in them?

Let’s see what happens.

But a loving father runs to them both.  Welcomes the first son back with open arms.  Reaches passionately to the second son to be part of the celebration.  Another spot that the “cut down” could have happened, and instead God spreads MORE grace.

While we wait for the gardener’s manure to kick in and turn our lifeless branches to new shoots of growth, the father is running to us.  The father is pleading for us.  The father is hoping that this waiting time makes a difference.

Thanks Nick for reminding us that our culture impacts us and we need to be aware of it.  Thanks for reminding us that an amazing God continues to love and not cut down.  And thanks for getting us ready for that pouring grace to change us for the difficult relational interactions that may be ahead.

Let’s see what happens.

Lord, thanks for the time and grace.  May it make an impact in me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 13, 2019

Look scary?  Could you picture yourself up on top of this?  Sitting right on the top step of the ladder that I’m pretty sure reads: “This is not a step”?

Seems nerve wracking even for those who aren’t normally afraid of heights.  It would be pretty normal to be afraid of this situation.  It’s pretty normal for us to be afraid of many different situations.

In Luke’s gospel, he tells a story of Jesus in or near Jerusalem and some Pharisees come up to him and tell him “Get out of here, Herod wants to kill you!”

So if you heard the king wants to kill you, might you feel like you were balancing on top of a ladder on top of some scaffolding?

But Jesus doesn’t panic…run…or fall off the ladder.  He declutters the fears and returns to his connection to his father.  He knows his purpose is bigger than one threat…one fear…one obstacle.  In fact, he will soon even find the way the use that threat and that fear to fulfill his purpose.

Too many times in our lives, our fears disconnect us from who we really are, who we belong to and who we have been claimed by.  The fears rise up from the pharisaic voices around us and they overwhelm and  overpower the voice of THE Voice that said we belong to God.

I don’t know if you’re sitting on top of this ladder today.  Or maybe you’re on the scaffold somewhere.  Or have a friend or family member that is.  Or maybe those voices today are loud and in your face.

I get that it is scary.  It’s normal.  Just know that the voices, the fears, the threats don’t get to win.  They can be overpowered by the One who already claimed you and loves you…the very Lord that used that threat to give his life for you.  Reconnect to that voice, declutter those fears and come down from the ladder.

Lord, help me hear you more clearly than these fears.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 6, 2019

As we begin Lent together today, may the ashes you receive be a reminder of where you are from and where you will return.  May the Scriptures you hear or read on your own (Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21) let you hear Jesus’ invitation to allow change to become reality in your life, decluttering the stuff that blocks you from God.  And may the meal, the songs, the community around you, inspire you to live into that grace and create more space for feeling God’s welcome home.

Let the decluttering of Lent begin.

Lord, thank you for this invitation.  Amen

Ash Wednesday Worship Times through the St. Paul’s/Crossroads Partnership:
Daemen College – 11:15am-12:30pm – Alumni Lounge
Crossroads Campus – 12pm in the Sanctuary
St. Paul’s Campus – 7pm in the Sanctuary

Still in One Peace,


February 27, 2019

The Transfiguration story in Luke 9:28-42 is one of my favs.  It tells of Jesus revealing to three of the disciples that he is the real thing: God in their presence.  They see him changed (transfigured..hence the name of the story) and they get a few moments to soak it all in.

“Wow.  God is here!  This is awesome.  Let’s just dwell in this for awhile.” other story tellers relate to us about the same event.  I mean that makes sense, right?  Who wouldn’t want to?  Who doesn’t get those glimpses of God…watching the sunset, sitting quietly by a Lake, laughing with family around the dinner table, getting positive medical news….and not say “Wow.  God is here.  This is awesome.  Let’s just dwell in this for awhile.”

But here’s the rub.  Right away, Jesus scoots them back down from the mountaintop and into the lives of broken people searching for healing.

It seems that’s where he wants the modern day disciples too.  Having absorbed these God-realizing-moments, he invites us to stroll back into life where people we know or are around at work, home, family and neighborhood are searching for healing.

When the Daily Bread Food Truck started on fire last fall, I was devastated.  Years of hard work by so many, literally up in flames.  But several weeks after, God invited me to climb the mountain.  To see presence.  To see a community of faith and a story that has been going on since the Garden of Eden,  one in which that beat up little truck and I were a part of.   Money was raised.  A new truck was purchased.  Inspected and ready to go last week.  Sitting in the church parking lot, pretty as can be without a stain on any part of the interior kitchen.  Ah, the mountaintop again.  Staring out my office window looking at Dough Boy 2.0, I might have thought to myself: “Wow.  God is here.  This is awesome.  Let’s just dwell in this for awhile.”

But last night, Daily Bread’s staff was called back down the mountain to serve 100 burritos and hot coffee to Buffalo’s homeless population with the people of Parkside Lutheran.  Sent out to meet people right down Main St. that were searching for healing, compassion, and food,

We’re not meant to stay up on top of the mountain.  We’re not meant to realize God-with-us and then just sit on that amazing news.  We’re not meant to expect people to come to us, be like us, think like us, love like us and live like us.

We’re meant to get in the truck and go.  We’re called to live into the blessings God gives to us that sometimes even arise out of the ashes of our lives.  We’re led to allow the Transfigurational News of God, here and real, to transfigure and change us.  To help us walk or maybe drive right back down the mountain.

Today, may you see those transfiguring moments with God.  And if you don’t, may your faith that they are still happening carry you through.  So that now or soon, you may allow that moment to call you into the lives of those that are searching for healing.

Lord, direct me down the mountain.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 20, 2019

Who is Jesus?

Friend?  Savior?  Human?  God?  Healer?  Magician?

How have you connected to and experienced him?

Inspirational teacher?  Rabbi?  Present Spirit?  Lover of the difficult?  Forgiver?

I’ve been knee deep in this “Who is Jesus?” question this week.  Sunday, our Confirmation students dove into it.  Last night, our God on Tap group discussed it.

Three things were affirmed for me over the two gatherings: (1) there is no one answer and (2) every time we have the answer, Jesus seems to expand it and (3) we have the potential of reflecting many of Jesus’ traits into the hurts of the world through our lives.

One of the things that stuck out last night centered around our reflections on the question: What are some of the first ways you connected to Jesus?  And what are some important ways now?

What was striking was that so many of the images centered around or came from songs.  Music.  The tunes and words in them.

I described my experiences at Vacation Bible School growing up at Resurrection Lutheran in Buffalo.  We met with a neighboring church and everyone gathered in the parking lot and lined up by age or class or something.  And when it was finally time to go into the sanctuary, we started each day with singing “Onward Christian Soldiers.”  I pictured Jesus leading us with some suit of armor and a club,  smashing evil and the Devil so we could walk forward.  You might have guessed that my image of Jesus has changed over the years, but some of the first connection points came from that song.

Other people shared: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  And “Amazing Grace.”  And the list went on.

Made me wonder as I write to you today: Do you connect with Jesus through a song?  Which one?  What are the words and the melody that fill in that image?

So your challenge today is to find that song, listen to it, and maybe sing it (unless your my dad and no one wants to really hear that happen, so just listen to it twice).  Let yourself today reconnect with Jesus – the Jesus of your past who is still with you in your present and promises to stay into your future.

Lord, remind me of you and your love through this song.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 12, 2019

Today is the 10 year anniversary of the crash of flight 3407 in Clarence Center.  As we at St. Paul’s focus on our “calling” over the month of February, I share with you what I wrote this morning about those who serve in and called to share their gifts through the fire service with me in Western NY.

“The people in the picture above are some of my favorite clowns in the whole circus!! This is part of my CCVFC family, which is part of my Amherst Fire Control family, which is part of my Erie County Emergency Management family. And ten years ago, the whole bunch of them, including Buffalo and Airport fire, showed up in weather conditions just like today to serve and do whatever they could. 

Unfortunately, before any of us got onto Long St. that evening, the damage was done. But responder after responder kept coming to take care of their community the best way they were able. 

Their service and care was summed up for me at 1am Saturday morning as walked and prayed through the crash site. I spoke with the Captain sitting behind the wheel of the Airport Crash truck. I told him to get some sleep while the truck was still spraying some foam onto the crash site. His response: “I’m not sleeping. I want the families of these victims to know that someone was always watching over their loved ones.”

That attitude carried through every responder, disaster coordinator, care giver, fire auxiliary, red cross, morgue personnel and national agency representative. 

10 years later, the fire service and emergency management system can still be a bit of a circus. But it’s filled with some of my favorite clowns around and for all of them and the gifts they share, I am thankful and blessed.

Today, join me in remembering those who were lost. Join me in remembering the many and varied good and great things that have come from this tragedy, not the least of which is that every person that hops on a plane of any size is now safer because of the 3407 Family. Join me in making sure you tell your family and friends you love them and then follow through and act like it. And join me by stepping into “your community, your people, your duty” to serve those around you who might be in need with whatever gifts you can bring.”

May you hear that call from God to use your gifts in your specific way today!

Lord, continue to call me to service in your kingdom, even in the most difficult of circumstances.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 6, 2019

I stink at fishing.  In fact in general, I’m not super great at most things that require patience.  Maybe that’s why I’ve grown to like horse racing way better than MLB games.  Horse races take about 11/2 minutes and then you move on to the next.  MLB not so much.

Fishing is more like a baseball game where patience is clearly a virtue and an important component.

I’ve never tried fishing with a net.  Just a pole.  And mainly only from a little dock in the Adirondacks while teaching my kids to catch little sunfish that jump on a small hook as fast as the kids can reel them in and peel them off and toss them back in the water.

Net fishing is different.  A ton more work.  A boatload more prep.  And a lot more skill.  Because you have to know where to throw the net.

When I’m down with our friends in Haiti, we often find ourselves at the shore hanging out with the village’s kids or coming and going from the island in our boat.  It never fails that when I’m there, we will see local fisherman sitting under the shade trees or in their huts working on mending their nets.  As I talked with them over the years, I’ve learned that for every day they are out on the water fishing, they spend four or five days on the shore mending their net.  1:5.  A tough ration.  So you can only imagine what happens if the one day they are actually out fishing, they don’t catch any fish.  That quickly turns into 10 days without food or fish to sell.  That really stinks.

Luke tells a story of Jesus jumping into Simon’s boat to go out from the shore a bit so he can better teach the crowds.  After the lesson, he tells him to go deeper into the water and drop the fishing nets.  And Simon’s response fits right in with that “1:5 ratio.”  They’ve been trying and haven’t caught a thing.  They’ve mended and prepped and dropped already and it sounds like his patience has run out as he stares 10 straight days of no fish right between the eyes.

Yet when he listens to Jesus, the net overflows.  So many that the nets were breaking.

Had Simon not fished here before?  Had Jesus just added some miraculous fish to the mix?  Was it just dumb luck?

I don’t know the answers to any of this.  All I know is that when Simon listened to Jesus, and followed his direction, his timing, his placement….the net overfloweth.

Why didn’t Simon ask Jesus the day before where to fish?  Too stubborn?  Arrogant?  No patience for learning?

I don’t know the answers to any of this.  All I know is that when Simon listened to Jesus, and followed his direction, his timing, his placement….the net overfloweth.

Are you fishing today?  Are you staring a 10 day void right in between the eyes?  Why haven’t you asked him where to fish?  Why haven’t you searched for direction from the One who has it?  Why have you continued to try and do it on your own?

I don’y know the answers to any of this.  All I know is that when Simon listened to Jesus, and followed his direction, his timing, his placement….the net overfloweth.  Maybe yours can too?

Lord, help me be more patience and drop the net where you say.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 16, 2019

Last night at St. Paul’s, we sat around with food, drinks and conversations and tried to figure it all out.  We were together for an hour and named some of the greatest controversies and issues facing our families, culture and world today.  Which one was the biggest problem?  Which one was the most stressful?  Which one caused the arguments and bitterness?  And we found that it was too hard to rank them…too difficult to name which was the biggest.  Some many issues and topics and subjects.

They only thing that we could identify is that WE were involved in all of them.  Jesus’ current disciples.  And therein lies the potential.

In the front end of John’s gospel story, we find Jesus and his mom at a wedding celebration.  And as weddings back then ran for few days, they ran out of wine.  So what does Mary do?  “Son, get ‘er done.  Address this issue!”  She tells the disciples around Jesus to “Listen to him.”

Now Jesus wasn’t thrilled about this at first.  Who is really when as a grown man you are still getting bossed around by your mom?  Besides, he had a bigger purpose he was going toward: a cross.  A life taking and life giving cross.

John didn’t include this response that I’m sure Jesus gave: “Aw, mom??!!  Really?”

But she held firm.  Listen to him she said to the disciples.  And when they did…when they filled the jug with water…just like he said…when they tasted the used-to-be-liquid…they found instead a miracle.  The best wine.

Now last night, running out of wine was not on our list of cultural problems, challenges and issues.  The wedding miracle was just the start for Jesus when he went head strong into hunger, injustice, racism, power struggles and sickness.  And these are just some of the stories with the disciples we know about.  Yet Mom’s words rang true in all those situations:

Listen to him – feed the thousands…we have enough food.

Listen to him – stop arguing about who is the greatest, our calling is service.

Listen to him – don’t criticize those who are also healing, if they are for us, they aren’t against us.

Listen to him.

The same disciples.  Listening to Jesus in the mix of all the same types of problems, issues and stresses that we face today.

What’s your list look like?  What are you seeing today?  Blatant racism?  Dysfunctional church?  Power struggles in the leadership?  People right around us that need food and we have plenty?

How could we possibly walk into these and every other tough scenario?

We are disciples.  Listen to him.  Mom said so.

Lord, help me listen today no matter what I face.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 9, 2019

The Netflix movie “Bird Box” has been quite the rage over the past couple weeks.  It’s one of the “keep you on the edge of your seat” thriller movies that also creeps you out at the same time.  The concept is this: a mother has to lead her kids on a harrowing journey, while all being blindfolded.  Including the mom!  And if they take their blindfolds off, the will see and come in contact with their worst nightmares!!

Yikes.  Awfully hard to make a journey when even the leader is blindfolded.

Have you ever been blindfolded?  Or blindfolded and spun around a bunch of times?  And then tried to walk to a destination?  It’s clearly not easy and sometimes actually hurts when you run into things.  At Lake Chautauqua Lutheran Center, our senior high aged camp does this activity every once in awhile: trust walks.  The trust comes in the hands you hold that lead you on the journey.  But when we want to go a step further with this concept of trust, we let go of hands and lead by voice alone.  Blindfolded, moving forward, left and right and listening for the trusted voice of a counselor, a chaplain, a fellow camper.

Unlike the movie, at some point you always want to rip off your blindfold to see where you are, where you are heading, who is around and what dangers lie before you.  And when you can’t, you become frustrated, feel alone and are stuck trusting more deeply in the voice.

Old Testament prophet Isaiah was trying to lead some lost campers.  People who has been pulled from their homes, their land, their security and were battling sometimes painful object when they ran into them.  What he gives them is a trusted voice.  And more than that, the trusted voice of God.  While he led he told them this: “Do not be afraid.  You are God’s beloved children.”  As they held hands or followed his voice with blindfolds on, he reminded them: I have called you by name.  I have redeemed you.  You are mine!” (Isaiah 43:1-7)

It’s an amazing grace filled voice during their blindfoldedness.

It’s an amazing grace filled voice during our blindfoldedness.

My hope is that you aren’t needing a blindfold at all today.  But if you do find yourself wearing one, whether someone placed it on you or the circumstances of life are awfully fear-causing right now, may you feel the hand of a trusted Savior and a present leading God.  And if you have become disconnected from that hand, may you listen harder to hear that voice, like Isaiah’s campers did.  It’s there from God in the darkness and blindness: “Do not be afraid.  You are mine.”

Lord, let me please hear from voice.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 20, 2018

May the story of that first Christmas break into your lives fresh and new in the days to come.  May you enjoy a sense of hope, joy, faith and peace as Advent clicks into Christmas.  And may you be safe as you travel or receive visitors, enjoying the sacred traditions in our holiday gatherings.

Still in One Peace,




December 12, 2018

For many of you frequent fliers in churches last week, you heard the story of John the Baptist yelling about prepping for Jesus while he was in the wilderness.  And as you heard his story, maybe you gave some thought to your own “wildernesses.”  These are the tough places of life, the transitions and losses, the grief and searches for God.  These are the places we wait.  Where nights of hustle and bustle turn to silent nights…quiet nights…and many times feel like empty nights…where maybe you are feeling like you’re just holding an extinguished candle.

I was preaching at our Crossroads Campus this past weekend and Vicar Adam Arends was preaching at St. Paul’s Campus.  He sent me his sermon and I very much appreciated the song that he feathered into and throughout his sermon.  It was a clear reminder that in those “silent nights,” love will find a way.  God’s love and hope and joy and peace….all of those advent candles…will find you.

Let me invite you to listen to the song by CLICKING HERE.  Then come back….

We will be using this song again during worship at St. Paul’s this weekend.  Because the story doesn’t stop in the wilderness!!  Love does find a way.  Light leads the way.

This week, we launch ahead to the story of Zach and Liz, Mary and Joe.  The entire first chapter of Luke relates to us how in the wildernesses of their doubts (Zachariah doubted and became mute…try that for a few months) and their unexpected trauma/transitions/unexpected “gifts” (try being a pregnant unmarried young girl and telling people some angel is the Dad), love comes to these characters in the story and FINDS A WAY and LIGHTS A LIGHT.

Liz sings about it when this baby leaps in her womb.  Mary praises God that with all that’s going on she has seen this light that shows her that God can always use everything for good.

Even the hardest.  Even the hopeless.  Even the darkness.  Even the extinguished light.  Even the wilderness.

As I look out the window today and see a blanket of snow, and know that the day light is short, and know people today who are grieving, and understand that 85% of people in WNY are under the weather, and realize the news is full of arguments of walls and tales of terror….I’m hanging onto this candle!!!!

I’m hanging onto the candle… that despite feeling like it might be unlit right now, it leads me to a night of hope, a quiet night and silent night where the candle is lit again and launches us into a Holy Night.  A Heavenly Peace.

In that moment, love found a way….so that in your moment today, his love will light your way.

Lord, let your love find a way.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 5, 2018

This picture above is my make-shift Advent wreath.  I keep it on my desk at St. Paul’s for the four weeks of Advent.  Most days, I light the appropriate number of candles as I pray for people or read our church’s Advent devotional that Mary Wolf puts together.

It centers me.  It reconnects me to my faith life as I take on the tasks of the day.

What’s interesting about this wreath is that it’s a total mess.  I created this “work of art” out of four old blue candles I found somewhere along the way and placed them in potentially the weirdest pottery bowlish thing I could fit them in.  It’s in the medium to high range on the Tacky Scale.

As I looked at this picture though, despite the unattractive nature of the wreath, I also noticed the “stuff” in the background: some poster paper with strategic planning on the other side, a bag of books that someone dropped in the office that I’m trying to figure out what to do with and my gym bag containing my running stuff for my afternoon workout.  The “stuff” of life.  Tasks, rhythms, work, vocation…all in the background and foreground of our dailyness.

But in this image, I see all of it through the light of the Advent wreath.  It’s impossible to see the “stuff” without looking through the light that is reminding me of the arrived, present and coming again Christ.

John the Baptist invited people to see that light and to prepare the way of the Lord while he was out in the wilderness.  In the wilderness, people were running away, they were hiding, they were looking for safety and spiritual connection.  They were getting away from the dailyness or at least changing it up.

Impromptu wilderness retreats probably aren’t practical for you and me today, but maybe John’s point can be pulled into our day and our stuff and our office and our school and our home.  Prepare the Way in the way you can right where you are.  Look through the light of the Light in everything you do today.  Prepare for Christ in your strategic plans, your tasks and your daily run.

Today, may you light that candle in your space.  Tacky or not, as you look through it, may it remind you of the light of God’s love coming into your “stuff” again today!

Lord, let me look at today through your light.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 28, 2018


Everyone knows by this point that Biegner Winter doesn’t start until December 1st!  So weren’t my dad and I (Biegner Winter founders, historians and care takers) surprised to be shoveling heavy wet snow off our Clarence Center driveways.  WTH???

It’s super annoying when life, seasons, plans, and even God don’t fall in line and match up with our schedules!

What if Christmas came early and off schedule?  At an unexpected time?  Sunday begins the Advent season in church life….which is roughly six weeks behind the start of the Christmas season in cultural life.  But what if this Sunday…the start of Advent…four weeks from normal Christmas Day…Jesus returned as an 8 pound 6 ounce baby…or as a full grown Jesus wearing a tuxedo t-shirt (both of these references are from “Talledaga Nights,” which I assume everyone has seen multiple times)?

What if in that return our schedules got shot down, messed up and tossed in the trash?  What if Jesus said: “Pack your bags everyone, the Rapture Express is leaving the station!”

What if lists didn’t need to be finished and stressors suddenly weren’t important at all?

What if spending wasn’t the primary objective and 20% wasn’t as big a deal as it was for the last few days?

What is grudges didn’t seems to be a big deal anymore?  What if the forgiveness you’ve been holding out on giving away now suddenly seemed more important to share?

What if the words “I Love You” got skipped and all you wanted to do now is to be able to say them one more time?

What if?

What would it look like if all the stuff we’re about to cram in to our today was put into the perspective of salvation history and God’s plan to overwhelm all our us-ness with gracious, amazing, life changing and giving love.  Just love.

It’s would probably look like what Christmas was designed to be.

As we creep into our untimed winter, our church scheduled prep season called Advent, the increasing demands of cultural calls to get, give and go, may we allow Christ to break into our Christmas today, All of it.  And let that Christmas love start right now.

Lord, break in…even when it’s not according to my schedule.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 21, 2018

On Friday, Tiger and Phil are going head to head.  One on one.  A “pay per view” event where you have two golfers battling against only each other.  No crowd.  No other players.  19 Majors between them and millions for dollars in golf earnings.  Should be interesting for sure.

What might make it most interesting is that the golfers will be “mic’ed up.”  In other words, for probably five hours straight , you’ll hear their reactions to shots, their sports banter, their random verbalized thoughts and more.  Probably a lot of the “more.”  Tiger was already asked by a reporter: “Will we hear some things that normal broadcasts would have to BLEEP out?”  Tiger’s response: “100% chance.”

Normally, we hear athletes before the contests saying all the right things, the mantras, the token answers.  Then after it’s over in the post game interviews, they keep it “politically correct” as well.  But on Friday, you’ll hear all the bleeped out stuff and the “more.”

In the book of Revelation, we are reminded that God is the “Alpha and Omega.”  The beginning and the end.  I’ve been thinking about my beginning and ending and those sacred time stamps in all our lives.  Whether it’s birth or baptism, as we begin the journey of faith, celebrations occur and all is good!  In the endings at funerals, we eulogize one other through sainthood-esque stories and recalls.  (Still haven’t heard someone get up at a funeral and say: “That guy!  What a jerk!”)

But what about the in between?  What about the five hour round of golf that is our life?  How much would need to be bleeped out?  What would the mic’s be picking up as we walk the fairways today?

I’m glad I’m not mic’ed up for every moment of today.  I’m about as imperfect as if gets (Michelle and the kids would be happy to supply you with a list).  But it’s an interesting thought.  What if we were?

If God is our beginning and ending, how do we so often let the middle slip away into bleep-ness?  Culturally as we shift into thankfulness mode, if Thursday is the beginning and next Thanksgiving is the completion of that year, how do we do in between?  On January 17th?  March 10th?  August 26?  Will those days be honored and thankfuling (verb form of thankful) and worth listening to over the mic’s or will so many of these days slip into the oblivion of bleeps that seem to come easier on the boring back nine of the round?

My hope for you (and me) today…tomorrow…and over the next few holes is that you can carry over this thankful spirit.  That you can walk forward with the microphone cranked up and the sounds that are caught are worth listening to.  That the beginning and ending of God’s promise, presence and persistence in our lives is not just at the baptismalish and funeraly days, but everyday.  Every hole.  Every swing.  Every shot.

Enjoy Thanksgiving.  May it be mic’ed up today and tomorrow…from your beginning to your ending.

Lord, may they hear my thankfulness.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 14, 2018

Wow.  We makes things harder than they need to be sometime, don’t we?

Maybe you’re prepping for turkey day right now?  This is a perfect example for me.  When my family comes over for dinner on Thanksgiving, I want to nail it.  I want the gravy perfect with no lumps.  I want the turkey moist and hot.  I want the stuffing soft and flavorful.  I want the pumpkin pie to cut perfectly.

(I’m actually getting really hungry as I type this)

But what happens most time as I prep this meal is that I lose sight of the whole big picture: giving thanks, family, blessings, relaxing, peace.  It becomes more about timing, temps and tastes.  “If I just get this meal perfect, Thanksgiving will happen correctly!!”

Maybe you’re never said that and this is just my own insecurities, baggage and shadow-self?  Or maybe you get it?

Either way, this Thanksgiving prep baggage is fairly reflective of my faith life at some points.  Even in the depth of this thanksgiving-ish time which catapults into the Christmas-y time, I try and figure out ways that I can out-perfect God, that I can out-do and out-grace Jesus.  If only I would….if only things would just….if I just try this, that and the other….  It’s like standing in the Kitchen of Faith and I’m working way too hard on a recipe instead of looking at the beautiful meal God has already cooked up for me.

In the 10th chapter of Hebrews, the author is trying to get the point across to them…to us…to me in the kitchen on Thanksgiving and on basically every other day of my life…..Jesus took care of all of it.  Relax.  Enjoy the blessings of it all.  In church life, we call it grace – God’s underserved love and favor.  Just because you are.  Just because he did.  Just because.

And still we work hard at trying to figure it all out better than Jesus did.  However, he threw the final trump card on Good Friday and gave it all.  So Hebrews says: “therefore my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, let us approach with a full heart in assurance of faith.”

My prayer for you as you enter into this season of blessings is to realize that God has it all figured out for you.  You don’t have to do…cook…be…prepare…live into anything perfectly.  That grace of God still gets poured out for you!

Enjoy Thanksgiving.  Enjoy the entire holiday season and know that God’s grace is better than anything we could prepare.

Lord, thanks for your perfect grace.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 8, 2018

We interrupt the regularly scheduled random thoughts about Jesus and daily life to talk turkey.


I know many of you like to do a little extra helping and giving around thanksgiving and Christmas.  Well, here’s a chance for you.  Because St. Paul’s Lutheran, the Tiger’s Den Food Pantry and the Daily Bread Food Truck have entered more deeply into the needs of our community, we have the opportunity to provide 80 TURKEYS to our families we serve to help provide them with their thanksgiving meal.

If you’d like to help, you can bring a turkey to St. Paul’s Sunday at worship (insert joke here about someone in your family you’re planning to bring to church).  No, seriously, bring a real turkey (large enough for a family of four-five) and place it in the fridge in the kitchen.  Or you can drop them by church Wednesday 9:30am-1:30pm or Thursday after 12pm.  We will be sharing them on Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning.  (The more people that can bring them Wednesday, the better!)

Thanks for your love and care for those in need.

And here’s your Devo’s thought for the day: Jesus loves you and there’s nothing you can do about it!!

Still in One Peace,


October 30, 2018

I am working today out of my East Side of Clarence Center Office (my house).  At lunch today, I decided to go scoop up some leaves in the yard with the tractor and get ahead of the 1,267 trees that are in the process of dropping 1,497,084 leaves on the ground (most of which finalize their decent in December after the town has ceased picking them up from the street).  I try as much as I can to mulch them right back into the grass but at some point have to remove many of them.  I like to mulch because it adds nutrients right back into the soil…like this entire cycle of life that will make the soil richer and help the trees out again in the spring.  

Even as the leaves die, they are bringing life.  And even as I chopped them up, new ones were falling on the grass to bring more life.

Made me contemplate how cyclical creation is.  And to that end, how cyclical our own lives are.

With each national tragedy and loss of life our country/area/town/school/etc experiences, we get to this point when we hear the stories of those who were lost: their passions, their characteristics, the ways they touched the world, the relationships they built, the lessons they taught.  The stories of the lives lost in Pittsburgh have been powerful testimonies of faith and life wrapped together.  

With each story retold, it seems as if their knowledge, wisdom, joy and love of each person is “mulched” back into our lives.  “They were all good and decent people” their Rabbi has said.  But seems like an incredible understatement of how they lived their lives.  

As we approach All Saints Day and Sunday in the church, we reflect on the lives we have lost in the past year and years.  The lives of those who blessed us, formed us, shaped us and related to us.  They mulched their stories right into ours so that our stories would be richer and our “springs” would be filled with nutrients of their faith, hope and love.

I reflected on my good friend Phil Gaines who died this past year of cancer in his early 60’s.  He was a pastor, friend, listener, and southern gentleman if there ever was one.  His life will make my spring richer.  I take heart in Jesus’ words anytime I lose a loved one, congregation member or person I’ve been called to stand with at a grave when Jesus said to those grieving at the loss of Lazarus: “Take the stone away!”  And then he demonstrated his power over even death itself as Lazarus was raised from the dead.  

What leaves have fallen into your yard?  What live and stories of faith that you have interacted with have been mulched into your story to make your spring richer?

May we all in this season of transition, in lives that involve great joy filled relationships and heart wrenching grief….may we know who holds the ending of the story in his loving hands…the One who can move even the stones.

Lord, thank you today for _______________ in my life.  Help all who grieve be blessed by stories that are shared and the promise of resurrection in you  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


October 24, 2018

And just after correcting his disciples again, Jesus gets back on the road and back at it.  Healing.  This time restoring the sight of a blind man.

The blind man was sitting on the roadside.  Most likely not his first day there.  As many passed him by.  Most likely doing nothing.  Wait….they did actually do something….when he called out to Jesus for help, they told him to pipe down.  I guess doing nothing might have been a better option.

Eventually he is heard by Jesus…makes his way over there…and is healed through his faith.

Do nothing.  Do something, but the wrong thing.  Lead someone to Jesus.

I wonder how many times a day we encounter a situation where those are some of the options?

This Sunday at St. Paul’s, we are celebrating the Rite of Confirmation for a few of our young people.  Confirmation is the process of learning about and experiencing our faith and then confirming that faith in the presence of family, friend and church.  It’s taking responsibility for ourselves to live-into-living-out faith in this Jesus guy.  It’s allowing that to change our decisions as we encounter others sitting on the side of the road.  Essentially to no longer Do nothing or Do something, but the wrong thing.  But now to lead people toward Jesus or at the very least, get out of the way of holding them back.

I wonder how this Sunday’s Confirmation will change these youth?  Will it change their day every day?

I wonder how my Confirmation will change me today?  Have I confirmed my faith again today or was my Confirmation just a box I checked many moons ago?  Who will I see on the road today and when confronted with those important choices, will I remember the choice that God already made for me?

Have you celebrated Confirmation?  Or more importantly, are we currently, in live time, still celebrating confirmation?  Confirming again and again, decision after decision, interaction after interaction, side of the road after side of the road….that our faith has healed us and should be still informing the choices we make?

May the Rite of Confirmation no longer be a day in the year or a day from the past, but instead be an active, loving, compassionate verb that guides you through all your interactions on the road.

Lord, help me today find glory and the head table position by serving in your world.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


October 17, 2018

Mark 10: 35 – “James and John, sons of Zebedee, came forward to Jesus and said: ‘We want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.'”

Seriously?  That question to the present Messiah takes a lot of….(pick the right word Steve, pick the right word)…guts!

Jesus has just finished telling a guy that his possessions are blocking him from really being vulnerable, connected and open to a full relationship with God.  The man freaks out and walks away because he’s not able to part with his stuff at this point.  He’s not able to set his priorities aside and follow Jesus’ way of love.

Presumably, Zebedee’s sons have just witnessed this and yet these clowns ask Jesus to “do for them whatever they want.”

And incredibly, Jesus responds gracefully, “What is it that you want?”

I wonder if Jesus was hoping that their answer wasn’t going to stink to high heaven?  I wonder if he was dreaming that they would give the “we want world peace and no hungry children in the world and less bio-hazards and carbon emissions hurting the ozone and a more peaceful political climate and the Bills to not be embarrassing and please tell us the numbers to tonight’s billion dollar lottery pick so we can give it away to Haitian non-profit organizations.”

Instead he gets: “put us at the head table please kind sir.”  Whoops.  They whiffed on the whole Miss America World Peace answer by a mile and a half.

However, Jesus simply corrects them….AGAIN….and reminds them that he’s there to serve.  That the head-table-space is down with the least, little, lonely and left behind.  That greatness is about the other and not the self.  That people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Amazing grace once again from Jesus when they really deserved a slap upside the head.

What are you asking of Jesus?  And how do you think Jesus would respond to our requests?

I guess this is what we call prayer.  What are our prayers about?  Are we looking for magic outcomes where we are the beneficiary?  Do those prayer requests deserve the same correction that J and J received?  Or are they servant requests walking us into the world probably far from those head table spaces.

Take time this week to reflect on your requests to God.  God has clearly invited us to make them, which is down right amazing grace in itself.  May those requests match up with and be worthy of Jesus’ invitation: “What is it that you want me to do for you?”

Lord, help me today find glory and the head table position by serving in your world.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,

October 3, 2018

I want to share some reflections on last week’s text about Jesus inviting us to “remove our stumbling blocks”, be salted with fire and be at peace, from a great pastor and friend of mine in Baltimore, Lauren Muratore.  I really like where she went with this and probably should have scrapped my own message and gone with hers.  Enjoy….and thanks Lauren.

“What are our stumbling blocks?

The things that keep us from being free, from being whole and healthy? From knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are loved?

The things that keep us from loving ourselves and loving our neighbors the way God does?

What are the lies we’ve been told about ourselves and our limits?
What narratives are we clinging to that keep us from opening up to others? Or keep us from seeing others as the God-created gifts to the world they are, too?

We all have stumbling blocks and they are insidious.

Today, we’re invited to work on disabusing ourselves of these oppressive things. “Cut them out,” so to speak, insofar as we’re able. It’s a real invitation to do the hard work of healing…

But of course, if it were that easy—if we could just *decide* to be free of every negative or harmful thought and impulse and memory—then cancerous sin and all its psycho-social stumbling block cousins would be eradicated immediately… 

And we know that’s not the case.

So Jesus steps in on our behalf. Right into our mess and confusion and doubt, and right into the pool of lies we can’t quite climb out of. Right into places of hatred and suspicion and evil. Of illness and anxiety and self-harm. Of loneliness and grief. Of sin and our struggle to be free from it.

Jesus finds the hurting, stumbling parts in each of us and he “salts them with fire.”

He is already about the work of melting away the things that would weigh us down, and though you and I may become exhausted from time to time Jesus will not tire of this work.

Jesus salts us with fire—it’s a promise of radical healing—and then, today, he tells us to “be at peace.”

My prayer is that—even as we continue to work toward healing and wholeness together—you can feel a bit of that peace today.

The peace that comes from Jesus himself. 
The peace that passes all understanding. 
The peace that is more powerful than the lies we’ve been told. 

More commanding than sin.
More formidable than even death.
A peace that washes over us and through us and out into the world.
A peace that takes up the spaces where our stumbling blocks used to be but will be no more.

Thanks be to God.”

Lord, today may I remove them, be salted and sense your peace.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


September 26, 2018

Our last check in with the guys hanging out with Jesus found them arguing about “who was the greatest.”  Turned out that wasn’t what Jesus wanted.

Then, the story continued on and one of those guys named John wanted Jesus to stop another person from “casting out demons in your (Jesus’) name.”  Because he was not following “us!”  Turned out that wasn’t what Jesus wanted either.

What does Jesus want?  Well in this case, while still speaking to them with a kid on his lap, he says that it’s ok to be an imperfect disciple.  Just keep on being “salty.”  While holding a child, who has no training, pedigree, rank, office, ordination certificate or official calling, he tells them not to stop anyone, even an imperfect child disciple, who’s trying their best to do his work.  And better yet, he reminds them their roll isn’t to judge, stand on a pedestal or claim themselves as the only.  Their job is to be salty.

What kind of salt?  Table salt?  Rock salt?  Canning salt?  Kosher salt?  Sour salt?  Movie popcorn-OMG-so-good salt?

He didn’t say.  Jesus just says to stop focusing so much on what others are doing for the good of the movement/kingdom and instead be the salt you are in the world.  Add flavor.  Season the world with your particular style, size, shape of salt that also builds the kingdom of God, shares the love of Jesus and offers life giving grace.

Do we all have to do it one “perfect” way?  Nope.  Be your own brand of imperfect disciple that salts the world with God’s love and grace!

Lord, help me share my flavor of salt in the world.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


September 19, 2018

Are you the greatest? (That’s directed at YOU who is reading this….not YOU directed back at Ali.)

What are you great at?  Something that the world affirms and appreciates?  Something that uses your spiritual gifts and strengths?  Something that touches and changes the world even when no one else is around to see it?

The answers to those questions might be very very different.  Unfortunately, the affirmations of the world and the calling of Jesus don’t always match up.  And maybe that’s a good thing.

I know one thing I’m NOT great at – limboing.  Absolutely terrible.  I’ve tried it several times and due to my lack of flexibility, age and further lack of flexibility, I really stink at it.  I’m 5’11” (listed as 6’3″ in the Program though) but can barely limbo under 5″9″.  And what completely emphasizes just how not great I am at this is when I try it, fall on my butt and then some kid at church does it easier and down at 3’2″ or something crazy like that.

(Pause from reading – go grab a broom stick and two friends and try to see how low you can go….)

OK, probably no one actually did that because you might already know how bad you are at it and don’t want to be embarrassed or humbled or challenged or get hurt (if you’re like me)!  We usually stay away from all of that “stuff” that makes us feel that way and instead talk about, spend time in and dwell on the stuff we’re good at and the stuff the culture/world affirms.

The disciples were the same way.  In Mark 9 they were strolling down the road arguing about who was greatest.  Jesus rolls up on them and asks what they’re talking about and they are scared silent.  They knew that’s not what they were supposed to be focused on.  He basically says to them: “Want to be great?  Hang out with the kids and bring them to me.”  He asked them to bring the ones that didn’t even count in that day and age!  The children.  The least, little, lonely and left behind.  Want to be great?  Hang out with them and bring them to me.

Are you that kind of great?  Are you “limbo-even-if-you-stink” great, allowing the children to embarrass you and be better than you?  Or are you “walking-down-the-street-patting-yourself-on-the-back” great?

I want to challenge you this week to measure your greatness through Jesus’ eyes and his challenge.  Who does Jesus need brought to him today?  Who “doesn’t count” in our culture/school/workplace/church today?  How do we live into that challenge and limbo, even terribly, with them?

Lord, help me live into a different kind of greatness.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 11, 2018

Seventeen years later and this day is still tough for so many and for our country.

I spent time this morning reading scripture, reflecting on the loss and then praying for our first responders in Erie County that I’m honored to support as their chaplain.  And then I thanked as many of them as I could for their current and future service.

The scripture for this weekend includes Jesus telling the disciples in Mark’s version: “If any want to become my followers, let them pick up their cross and follow me.”  The 343 firefighters that died in the Towers that day, the police and EMS crews lost, the hundreds that served day after day at Ground Zero, many of them suffering through illness, cancer and PTSD now because of it, they clearly picked up their cross that day.

My cousin Andy who died in the North Tower was a Lt. at Ladder 1.  He was quoted as saying that day to those in his command:  “Without an order from command, we do not evacuate. And if we don’t get an order from command, if necessary, we stay here and die with our brothers.”  Later in the morning, he sent the men under him out to get to safety, while he went back up the stairs to search for and help more people.

He picked up his cross that day.  What an amazing gift all the responders gave to so many.

While we remember those that did that 17 years ago, I am filled with awe and hope by those who continue to do that today.  Quietly.  Unheralded.  Unassuming.  Professionally and as volunteers.  And I’m thankful for them.

But for the rest of us who don’t serve at a hall or house or station or ambulance, that call from Jesus still goes out – that following Jesus sometimes requires picking up that cross.  And when we pick it up, we usually have to put something else down.  When we follow Jesus way/road/practices, we usually have to let go of one of ours.

After many years of working with first responders, I can honestly say that to a person, they love what they do.  They wouldn’t give it up for anything.  That’s when you know the “cross you picked up” doesn’t have to be a burden, but instead is a gift.

That’s the cross Jesus invites us to pick up: the cross of his love that brings more joy to others around you.  It’s not a “pick up line” (see what I did there?) to make you miserable.  It’s a offer to let go of something and instead embrace a way, a hope, an action or a presence that shares good news with those you come in contact with.

This week, in the shadow of Ground Zero and the many men and women still serving today, I invite you to reflect on and act upon the cross Jesus invites you pick up.  The cross that can heal.  The cross that can rescue.  The cross that saves.  The cross that loves.

I’ll close with the benediction I share with fire halls today that came from Father Mychal Judge, chaplain of the FDNY, that died 17 years ago today: Lord, take me where you want me to go; let me meet who you want me to meet, tell me what you want me to say, and keep me out of the way.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 5, 2018

What are you expecting this fall?  Or for that matter today?  Are you ready to be transformed?

In Mark’s 7th chapter, Jesus heals a couple people of a demon and a lack of hearing and all who witnessed it “were astounded beyond measure.”  Why were they astounded?  Were they not ready to be transformed?

As a Buffalo Bills fan four days away from Opening Day, I’ve been conditioned to lower my expectations through years of disappointment.  However, no matter what rookie is starting in what position and what changes have been made in the offseason and which players have moved on or had mental breakdowns, when I walk into the Stadium on Sunday morning, I am ready to be transformed!!

As sickly messed up as my priorities are around my sports team, why don’t I do that same thing every day in every circumstance in every challenge on every road?  Because as a person of faith, I should expect Jesus to be right there healing, casting out demons and restoring the senses.  The woman in that story that wanted her daughter healed expected transformation.  The people that brought the man who was deaf expectedtransformation.  And Jesus expected to be able to transform.

Today, many of you are changing routines.  School starts back up.  Colleges get into full swing.  Programs and groups begin again.  This Sunday, many of our churches gear up with full programming as well.  In all of it (even in the walk into the Stadium), may you expect to be transformed.  May you open your eyes, your heart, your faith, your soul and be vulnerable enough to recognize Jesus standing there with you and offering healing, grace and comfort that you might not have expected.

This fall, this day, allow yourself to be transformed.

Lord, help me be ready for your daily transformation.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 27, 2018

Are you ready to do something amazing today?  Are you ready to allow yourself to release your whole self into the world today?  Are you ready blow someone’s mind or quietly do something remarkable?

I love to watch Sam Robson sing.  Because he understands his potential and he releases it.  Check out this clip of his rendition of “I Need Thee O I Need Thee” by clicking HERE…then come back.

(You’re listening to an awesome song….)

Amazing right?  One guy.  But multiple talents, melodies and harmonies brought together to create something amazing.

In Mark’s gospel, chapter 5, he heals a couple different people in a couple different ways.  But those who stand by and watch him attempt to heal someone who appears to be dead just laugh.  They laugh.  Because the Jesus they have seen and the limits they know and are trapped and held back by make it impossible for someone, some rabbi, some savior to do something so beautiful.

And Jesus says this is no laughing matter – and heals.  He shows them ALL of the voices that God is coming into the world with to create beautiful harmonies and music and life and healing.

He sings an old song in a new way by unleashing God’s power in his to change the world.  Holding nothing back.  Apologizing for nothing.  Changing a life.  Blowing minds and doing the remarkable.

And as he does, again he reminds them – it’s faith that makes this happen – the healing, the impacts, the potential, the grace, the resurrection moments.

That’s the gift of faith that you and I are given.  Will you tap into that gift today?  Or will you sit back and look at the difficult and just laugh, letting it trap you and hold you back.

Sing your song.  With your full voice.  Make something beautiful.  Blow someone’s mind.  Quietly to the remarkable.  That’s what faith can do.

Lord, help me sing today  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 20, 2018

In Mark’s 4th chapter, the disciples hop in a boat with their rabbi Jesus and wouldn’t you know it…a storm comes up.  The winds blow.  The waves break.  The boat rocks.  The disciples panic.

I would have.  I have.  I probably will again.

But they wake Jesus up and he simply says: “Peace!  Be Still!”  The winds calm.  The seas settle.  And Jesus says to them, “Why were you afraid?  Have you no faith?”

I don’t think he’s yelling at them here.  I think he asking and inviting them to allow their faith to break further into their daily lives and, especially in this moment, the storms of life.

In other words, take your faith in God into your daily storms and it has the power to calm them.  One way Jesus is showing them is to point out that God’s power is bigger than any storm.  Simple as that.

I know that many of you are in storms right now: illnesses, surgery, grief, transitions, relational and emotional roller coasters.  Take your faith there.  Right into it.  And call on that faith to calm the storm.

I often think about the story of Martin Luther being asked what he would do if the world was going to end tomorrow.  He replied, “I’d plant an apple tree.”  In the greatest storm the world would bring, Luther trusted that God’s power was bigger and life would move on.

It’s been a stormy week in the WNY fire service and for many people at St. Paul’s.  So this afternoon, I’m going to plant a garden by the church office as I pray for them.  Just as a reminder that new life will always win, storms will cease through our faith in Christ and healing and peace will come in time.

Today, say to your storms, “Peace.  Be still!”  And then as you move through those storms connected to Jesus, who conquered death itself, hear those words for yourself.  Stay in God’s Peace.  And be still.

Lord, whatever storms we find ourselves in, you are bigger.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 7, 2018

Yes, everything is for your sake, so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.” – Paul writing to the church in Corinth…and us.

Do you remember a time when someone shared grace with you?  Forgiveness?  A fresh start?  I can.  Time after time, friends, family and even strangers have forgiven my stupidity and selfishness and narrow-mindedness.  And every time…EVERY TIME….the reception of that grace felt better than what it was replacing.  Guilt.  Worry.  Anxiety.  Fear.  Loneliness.  Shame.

Giving grace away to someone can change a moment, a story and even a life.  That’s the way of Jesus.  That’s the life we are invited into.  That’s the discipleship that begins in our own baptism, grace flowing, pouring over us.  That’s the joy of Easter living that reminds us that the tomb was empty for a reason and that reason is looking you and me in the mirror today.

Paul was writing to a church community that was going through hard times: self-inflicted and from outside persecution.  They weren’t extremely easy times to be the church.  They were in a playoff drought of sorts.  It was a long time from Easter and Pentecost and they needed a spiritual boost.

So Paul says: Need a boost?  Share grace.  “As you extend that grace to more and more people, it will multiply the praises toward God.”  When you give grace away, like God did for us, it replaces all of those negative presentations of our self.  If we don’t have grace to carry, we inevitably hang onto something else, something less.

So give grace away.  Today.  Now.  Online.  On the road.  In the school.  On the field.  At the table.  In the church.  Around the town.  When you do it will overwhelm them with love and reconnect your heart to the One who gave that grace to you first.

Lord, help me share your grace.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 24, 2018

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

“Let us run with perseverance the race set before us.”

“I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.”

“Be strong and courageous”

Over the past months and for hundreds of miles, I have been repeating verses like these and many others as I’ve logged lots of miles training for the 2018 Buffalo marathon.  Song lyrics, mantras, advice and more have carried me through step and step of training in one of the worst weather winters (springs?) I’ve had to work through.

This will be my sixth marathon, but definitely the most difficult.  And yet, I feel the most blessed now to be able to train for and complete the task on Sunday morning.

In April 2017, I was in a car accident that severed a piece of disc off in my lower back.  Exactly one year ago, I had surgery to remove the broken piece of disc and repair two other herniations.  Post surgery, the good news was that they could remove the sequestered disc.  The bad news was they couldn’t clean up the herniations or my back would be too weak.

As a runner, all this work on my back was pretty terrifying.  As a marathoner, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get the long distances in again.  But as a follower of Christ, I tried to trust in him to make all things new…or at least new enough!

During my first post surgery doctor’s visit in 2017 after hearing that most of the surgery was successful, I asked: “When can I start marathon training again.”  The PA said with a laugh: “Oh, you probably won’t be doing those anymore.”

So, I came home and signed up for the 2018 Buffalo Marathon.

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

One year later, I have one 1-mile run left and a lot of carbs to eat and I’ll be moving toward the Starting Line of Sunday’s marathon.

I’m excited to run with longtime friend Pastor Shawn Hannon completing his first marathon and will be joined by longtime running partner Al Weber for the front Half.  Shawn is running as a fundraiser for his new gym that Hope Lutheran is building for their community.  Everyone runs their own race for different reasons.  Mine (and why I’m writing about it) is to hopefully remind other people struggling to recover from their “life circumstances” that you can move forward.  You can count on God’s strength to get you through.  You will see that cloud of witnesses around you.

A great cloud of witnesses.

I don’t tell you this story to pat myself on the back.  In fact, the opposite.  This year has really been about the people I’ve experienced and been blessed by along the way.  That’s why I’m running.  Because when I hit mile 15 and my right leg starts to shut down (because it’s recovered about 75% from the trauma), I will completely depend on God’s grace to power me through. These Bible verses I quoted and repeat, these readings from church on Sundays or in our devotional readings are meant for these “life training” moments.  The moments of your own recovery and challenge and obstacles and roadblocks.  “Resurrection Power” by Chris Tomlin is a song that rolls through my ears each and every training run and I will probably put it on repeat Sunday.  We don’t sing those church songs just to praise God.  We also sing them to remind ourselves that the power of the resurrection is for us and in us.

My prayer for you is that you will feel that same resurrecting power in your life today and on your own training journey.

Sunday I will complete another marathon.  And I will run the race with perseverance for people who have been witnesses for me along the way: for Al Deacon who is battling MS and confined to a wheelchair, who reminded me once while I was complaining about a long run years ago that I “get” to run; for Steve and Joan Diver, because we marathon in her memory every spring; because of a PA who said I couldn’t; in thanksgiving for Steve Gonsor and Dan Queeno at Buffalo Rehab that literally carried me onto a therapy table during one of my many setbacks in healing; for my amazing kids Drew, who paced me on one of my long runs to keep me going, and Lauren, who had to help me put my socks on post surgery, that they will know that there is never anything that life deals them that they can’t overcome.  And for my incredible wife Michelle, who put up with a lot this past year and was instrumental in my healing while also covering a lot of my tasks for our family.  She didn’t always agree with me reentering training, but she understands me enough to know that I needed to and has supported me on every step  this year!

You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you!

Today, run with perseverance the race set before you!

You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses!

Be strong and courageous because you have resurrection power with you.

See you at the Finish Line.

Still in One Peace,


May 16, 2018

It has been fascinating to watch the reports of the volcanic activity in Hawaii.  It’s a mix of amazing, terrifying and tragic.  But it is proof to me that the world, God’s creation, is very alive and still actively moving, growing and changing.

The challenge arrives when we have planted ourselves statically on top of it!  Those two things coming together are a challenge for sure.  Hurricanes, volcanos, floods and tornados are all part of the Earth doing it’s thing.  Unfortunately our houses, businesses and communities are sitting still amidst an active, moving and changing planet.

I wonder if we do the same thing to our spiritual lives?  We allow it to grow, move and shift for awhile but then we let it solidify: we find a church, a style of worship, a pattern of discipleship or theological framework.  Then we are done!

Here’s the issue:  God isn’t done.

Some thought God was done: Adam and Eve; those listening to the prophets; the leaders in the Temple; even the disciples as they wandered/ran away from the cross.  But God wasn’t done.  Three days later, the volcanic empty tomb erupted.

And then the cracks opened up again a few days later, and the Spirit poured out.  And continues to pour out.

It’s an interesting place to be as people of faith: God is moving.  Will we move with the Spirit or try and fight it and stay statically still?

I’m looking forward to Pentecost this summer.  I’m looking forward to seeing, naming and watching God erupt into our lives again…and again…and again.

Lord, let your Spirit flow!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 9, 2018

Really tough moving forward when you can’t “see” where you’re going.  So do you take a step?  Wait?  Depend on someone/something to help you?  Or just go?

The book of Acts starts off, oddly, with Chapter One.  And in that chapter, there is a quick recap of what has happened to Jesus.  He says a swift goodbye, tells them to hang out in Jerusalem, says the Spirit is coming and then hits the express elevator back up to his Pops.  The disciples realize that they are a man down (see Judas for details) and decide to have a vote on a new guy for the job: Justus or Matthias.

Matthias wins.  And he accepts.  And they are twelve strong again.

But what is so interesting to me about this story is that it happens in this weird in between time.  They are in between Jesus ascending to the Father and the Holy Spirit, who has not arrived on scene yet.

In other words, they are on their own.  Blind.  Directionless.  Waiting for an arrival.  In a bit of a god-present chasm.

And yet:
1.  They vote to bring a new guy on.
2.  And he actually accepts!!!

Matthias agrees to be part of the band of apostles who are about to walk into a ton of persecution and risk and he has no parachute, no cane, no suit of armor.  Just a promise.

The Spirit is coming.

We know now that as soon as we turn to Chapter 2, the promise is fulfilled and the Spirit descended on all of them and the chasm is filled!  “God’s back” they said  For ever and for good.
But at the election, they didn’t know that yet.  They didn’t have proof.  Matthias didn’t have anything more than hearing about Jesus’ words that God was about to do something amazing.
What would you have done?  Would you write that blank check?  Would you step into those shoes?  Or would you want greater insurance and proof and direction.

I’m inspired by Matthias today.  I hope I can step forward into the call of the world’s needs and God’s kingdom as boldly as Matt did.  Just hanging onto that one promise and the now present Spirit.

What have you been elected to do?  Who has asked you to step up for the sake of the world?  Your family?  Your neighbor?  The stranger?  Whatever it is, we aren’t in that chasm anymore.  The Spirit is.  With you.  As that red cane.  That lead friend.  That guide dog.  That voice to steer.

So go ahead.  Take that step.  Someone’s there to guide you.  Say yes to the vote.

Lord, here we go.  Together  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 2, 2018

How does being Christian affect, change or challenge your daily life?

This past Sunday in worship at St. Paul’s, our missionary in Haiti and founder of Grace Ministries Gerson Leon, shared his story of becoming a Christian.  So many of us were born into that faith or raised by a Christian family, but Leon’s story is very different.

He was raised by parents in Haiti that practiced voodoo (as that was the predominate religion in Haiti and still plays a large roll in the culture).  Leon had the opportunity to go to school to learn to read and write at a young age.  So, he was put to work in the Temple by the voodoo Priest to write down the prescriptions or instructions that the priest would give out.

At the same time, he continued his schooling and one of his teachers, a Christian, started to tell Leon about Jesus, how he loved him and died for his salvation.  Leon built a relationship with Jesus and over time said: “I would like this Jesus to be my friend!’  So he prayed and his teacher prayed for him.  He gave his life to Jesus at age 16.

But when he told his parents about this, they were very angry and beat him.  His parents even made him sleep outside so that he would “take it back” and renounce Jesus.  But he didn’t.  Instead, it moved him into action.

When he went to the voodoo Temple the next time after his baptism, the voodoo Priest (not knowing what had happened) told Leon to go away, something was different about him.  Something that made Satan uncomfortable and he drove Leon away from the Temple.

It was no easy go for Leon.  Now his family support and job were gone.  But he never stopped believing and trusting in God’s grace and the Holy Spirit to guide him through this.

As he grew older and shared the story of Jesus’ love with his mom over the years (his dad passed away) and seeing what a difference God was making in Leon’s life, his mom began to believe in the love of God as well!  So much so that she eventually agreed to move out of her home so that Leon could move the school into her house as it’s first school building.

An amazing story of God working through the toughest of circumstances and allowing belief and faith to conquer evil and hatred and doubts.

How does being Christian affect, change or challenge your life?

Maybe your story isn’t this dramatic, or maybe it is?  Maybe yours is like mine and the challenges of faith revolve around how I treat my neighbors, my family, my friends and the people that disagree or are enemies?  Maybe your faith affects what you say, how you spend your time, your efforts and your money?  Maybe your faith is calling you to change your behaviors, thoughts and beliefs?

Whatever it is, live into it.  When Jesus invites us to “love God and love our neighbor,” it’s an active verb.  It’s movement.  It’s allowing the faith we proclaim in church to shape everything we do outside of it.

If you hear that invitation from Jesus again on Sunday or just read it now, allow it to move you, form you, shape you and direct you.

It comes from a savior that I think would like to be friends with all of us.

Lord, help our faith move us into action.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


April 25, 2018

“Abide in me…” ~ Jesus, to his disciples.

This can be challenging.  HOW do we abide in God’s presence?

Jesus says, getting rid of the dead stuff!

I took about 30 minutes at lunch yesterday to rake my front lawn areas before it started to rain.  It’s a yearly ritual that I dread.  When I spend time on my lawn, I want the finished product to be nice looking, lush and full, like you could lie down on it and take a nap on the green, soft grass.  But spring raking is nothing like that.  It seems like I’m actually making it worse.  Chunks of thatch and moss and dog stuff and leaves are uprooted, showing off more brown dirt as an end result than lush green grass.

But as I rake, I just keep telling myself that this will be worth it.  Pulling out the dead stuff makes more room for new life to flourish.  More room for new seed.  More room for water and sunshine to penetrate and do their thing.

Jesus instructions aren’t much different to his followers.  It you want to be better at abiding in Jesus, being centered in faith, being immersed in God’s already present love, get rid of the dead stuff.  And here’s the best part, God offers to help do it!!  God will help us rake.  Jesus wants us to regrow…daily, seasonly..by removing the “dog stuff” in our lives and letting the waters of baptism sink in more deeply to nourish… the light of love and grace warm our new seeds to grow.

What needs to be removed from your front lawn today?  What’s holding back new life that God is offering?  What “dog stuff” have you found yourself ignoring or hanging on to that God is offering to help you remove?

You may only need 30 minutes to address it.  Or it might take longer.  And when you’re done, it may look a little rough at first.  But God’s promise is to help you through the raking process.

Because by doing it, it’s how we abide in Jesus.

Lord, I’m grabbing the rake.  Please help me remove the dead stuff.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


April 11, 2018

“To this you all are witnesses” ~ Jesus, to his disciples.

So after the first Easter day, Jesus rolls around town showing up and interacting with the disciples who at one point followed him intimately.  Their reactions are so interesting to me:

Doubt, Confusion, Misunderstanding, Proof-searching.

He walks on the road with them, they don’t recognize him.  He opens up Scripture to them, they don’t understand it.  He has a meal with them, and they don’t get that it’s him until he disappears.

But he keeps showing himself to them anyways.  Even when they don’t get it, are confused and misunderstand.

So needed then.  So needed now.

We’re 10 warm spring days past the celebration of this Easter.  How are you doing?  Everything coming together for you?  No confusion?  No doubts?  No misunderstandings?  Did your Easter worship experience nail it all down for you?  (See what I did there?  Nail it all down!!)  Of course not.  We’re still on the road.  Filled with twists and turns and bumps and bruises and hurts and questions.

And he keeps showing up.  And telling us, “You are witnesses to all these things”

Where did you see Jesus show up in your life recently?  Where in your confusion, hurt, prayer, loss, grief and wondering did you sense a presence bigger than the present saying, “Here I am…Witness this!”?

I responded to a fire yesterday with several crews around the Eggertsville area.  As I watched them pull a victim out of a burning apartment, put a fire out, deal gracefully with displaced residents and neighbors and care for one another in the process, I was witness to Jesus showing up.  One of the Chiefs got married at St. Paul’s.  One comes to church but also takes care of the parking lot plowing.  One comes to the church to find a listening ear while his spouse struggles with health issues.  And many are men and women whose faith in God looks like active service in their community.  In and through them, I witnessed Jesus show up in doubts, confusion and pain and say “Peace be with you.”

Easter Day isn’t a fix-all.  It wasn’t then.  It isn’t now.  It’s process of continually seeing Jesus and being witness to God continuing to show up…alive…in all our crazy-life-stuff

To that, we all are witnesses.

Lord, thanks for showing up and then showing up some more.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 20, 2018

I can do all things through God who strengthens me” – Paul, to a young church in Philippi.

If you printed my March Madness bracket onto paper, it would be more useful as fire starter paper than basketball picks.  I am one of the 62% of people in the Hunger for Hoops bracket challenge that has already had their finals pick knocked out.  We’re a mess!

It was a great weekend for hoops fans to watch upset after upset.  And while detrimental to most bracket picks, it made for great games and much excitement.  I enjoyed watching all the celebrations of unexpected victories from higher seed teams over their favored competition, including our own UB Bulls ladies team that made it into the Sweet Sixteen last night (an 11 seed beating a 3!).

Here’s what I never heard in those interviews: “Wow, did we get lucky!”  Or, “Holy Moly, we have no right being here!”  Or, “They are really way better than we are and should move on to the next round.”

On the contrary, I heard: “We never doubted.”  “We knew we could do this.”  “We were up to this challenge.”  “We have the gifts on this team to go all the way.”

And yes, I even heard one player say: “I knew we could do all things through God who gives us strength.”

All things.  Every thing.  Big things.  Challenging things.  Unexpected things.  Amazing things.  Exciting things.  Not just basketball games.

What bracket are you in today?  What “game” are you engaged in?  What challenge is sitting right in front of you?  Parenting?  Battling illness?  Classes?  A degree?  Family dysfunction?  Broken relationship?  Cancer?  Forgiving someone?  Your “next?”

Well, today you can.  You can do this with God who is giving you strength.  You need not doubt.  You are up to this challenge.  You have the gifts to win this game.

March.  The month, and the journey of, can turn into madness for sure.  But as we follow Jesus to the foot of the cross and see what he faced for us, may that give you strength in your bracket.  You can do all things, your thing, through that life giving Christ who will strengthen you.

Lord, let’s march on.  Together, we can do this.  Amen

Still in One Peace,




March 8, 2018

We interrupt this normally theologically sound conversation to offer you a couple opportunities to change the world.

1st – The St. Paul’s Spaghetti Dinner this coming Saturday night.  You get to eat great food with some of the best sauce around AND make a donation that goes directly to the youth trying to raise money for the cost of their trip to the National Youth Gathering this summer.

2nd – Hunger for Hoops – We will join the Madness of March to raise a few dollars for the Tiger’s Den Food Pantry.  We use the ESPN Bracket Challenge and you can connect to that link HERE.  Just register for your own free account at ESPN, and jump into the group Hunger for Hoops with the password: tigersden.  Brackets will be available to fill out next week.  The entry fee is $10/bracket with a max of two brackets.  50% will go to the winner; 50% will go to the Tiger’s Den (unless you want to donate all your winnings to the pantry that is!)  Make sure your bracket name includes some version of your name so we can figure out who is who, or let me know.  You can pay at St. Paul’s Sunday or send through PayPal using my cell (716-868-1232) or email (stevebiegner@nullgmail.com).  Also, email me to let me know you registered and paid.

Hope you’ll jump into the fun and bragging rights.  Our last winner was Intern Ryan Bergland.

Email or text with questions.  See you on the weekend!

Still in One Peace,



February 21, 2018

Take my life that I may be, consecrated Lord for thee.  Take my moments and my days…”

My friend Imani Olear in her new book “True Identity” starts off by reflecting on the challenge of forgiveness…for self and others.  As she reflects on her own journey and path and forgiveness praxis, she concludes that both the ability to dwell in forgiveness and the understanding of our true identity as a child of God created to love are wrapped and wound together.  Tightly.  Or at least should be.  Or could be.

She reminded me of that great classic church song, “Take my life,” where when we sing it, we are invoking our God and our self and our actions of life to wind together unmistakably connected and in conjunction so that we beat as one heart.

So how could we not be forgiveness and love all the time?  Because we aren’t perfect.

Insert the opportunity of Lent.

As Jesus is showing and teaching and doing and being and living and breathing out all that is good and loving and forgiving and advocating, he finally tells the boys that he’s on his way to give the ultimate from the ultimate…his life.  And Pete jumps in and says, “Say it ain’t so!!”

Then Lent happens.  Jesus responds to his follower: “But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

He’s not yelling at him.  He’s inviting him.  Jesus knows Peter’s not perfect but wants him to find his true identity.

Get behind me.  Get in line with holy, not worldly.  Get back here outside of your world-self and watch for ways to live into your sacred-self.  Your True Identity.

It’s an amazing transformational opportunity to re-turn.  Consecrated by Lord.

So as we move through Lent (you’re a week in if you missed the starter’s gun going off last Wednesday with the whole Ash-thing), we’re invited to get behind.  To watch.  To re-world.  And through that, take on an every moment, forgiveness finding, love becoming new life that has been there, right in you, since your beginning.

May the blessing of the Lenten journey be for you a time like no other to find that one that you already are through the Lord who made you that Way.

Lord, please help me get behind so that all my moments and days are yours.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 14, 2018

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

You won’t find this on any Hallmark greeting cards today.

Valentine’s Day usually sets guys up for complete failure.  (Especially guys who are pastors on the one out of every 76 years that V-Day falls on Ash Wednesday!)  This is one of those “one-up” days where you seen to have to do more to tell your fav’s that you love them.  Restaurants are usually more crowded with service going down and prices going up.  Flowers seem to magically triple in price while lasting one third as long.  Candy and chocolate are everywhere and as soon as you purchase/give you are reminded that your loved one is trying to drop a few pounds.

So what a great gift today is!!  You can get away from all the token and traditional stuff and go right to the greatest, most under utilized love-phrase of them all:

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lean over this morning to your loved one and whisper those sweet words to her!  Purchase that bag of sugary candy hearts with that gem printed on each on.

Nothing says real, true, lasting, eternal, V-Day love like ashes!!!!

In all seriousness, this IS actually the perfect intersection of secular and sacred days of love.  No, it might not seem to be a great gift to get someone a schmear of ashes in the shape of a cross on their forehead. But it is.

Those ashes.  That cross.  They are invitations and promises mixed together of God’s eternal love and hope.  They are the lasting and eternal promises of God’s connection to a soul, a person, a self, a child of God that will be ashes again one day.  They are an invitation to refocus on God’s love not for a date night, or over a dinner, but for a Lenten season of return and repentance and refocus.

They are words of love.

Let them be a reminder to you of more.  God’s one-up over our disconnection and distraction.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Lord, write that love on my forehead, soul and being today.  Thank you.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 8, 2018

This week is Transfiguration Sunday.  That’s a big church word for change…or transform.

Short story shorter: Jesus takes some of his boys up top the nearest mountain – he turns dazzling white (changes/transfigures before them) – some other dead Old Testament guys show up – the disciples are amazed and just want to hang out there in that super special cool moment – God’s voice yells out, “This is my Son.  Listen up!” – then Jesus scoots them off the mountain and tells them not to say anything.

I know the guy’s reaction sometimes gets mixed reviews due to the messianic spanking that Jesus hands out as he pushes them back down the mountain and into ministry stuff again.  But I don’t blame them.  Who doesn’t want to hang out on the mountain tops?  Who doesn’t want to spend WAY more time at your wedding, your favorite vacation, that playoff game win, the SuperBowl parade, and whatever your mountain top looks like.

I mean have you seen Philadelphia today?  Millions of people are showing up and waiting around for hours to see the team drive by one more time so they can hang onto that feeling of the big win for just a few more moments.  Mountain tops!  So you can’t blame the disciples for wanting to build some tents and just chillax with some pretty important players in Salvation History.

But I think we all know that life is more like the valleys in between the Tops.  Life is way more like those rocky paths that get us up those mountains and the steep sharp descents on the way down.  Even if you look at the image at the top of this email, you can see a couple “tops” and a ton of the rest of life.

But here’s the good news, it’s Jesus that sends us back into that regularity.  It’s Jesus that, before he did that for the disciples, he showed that his power and connection as God-present was with them.  It’s God’s voice that yells out that “this is my Son that is walking down the hill with you, into that valley, that job, that family, that mission, that conversation, that hurt, that sickness, all of that!”

And so we learn from the mountain top…that it’s not all about the mountain top…and more about the rest of life.  And maybe that’s why Jesus says “keep it on the down low.”  Because he wants to show them what’s it’s really about.  A cross.  Not a brilliant light, but a conquered darkness.  A beaten death.  A trampled devil.  A quiet promise to be with him in paradise.

Today, may you reflect on the mountain tops of your life, but may you know that the overwhelming abundance of other life moments might just be what Jesus is directing us to.  So that we will know that he’s walking right with us into them.

Lord, thanks for mountain top and valleys…and for being a part of both.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 4, 2018

I was at a meeting this morning where two things collided:

1.  A pastor reminded me of the verse in Isaiah where we are reminded that God says: “I am about to do a new thing.  Do you not perceive it?”


2.  Two different other pastors told stories of talking to their relatives/friends where they each were engaged in conversations where phases like these were used:
“What/How/Why does God matter?”
“I can do kind things in the world without needing to believe in God”

And in an instant my mind was blown, my heart ached and I felt a tad bit of shame in being part of church.  Especially a leader of it.  What on earth are we up to?

What the hell have we been doing as “church” for these several hundred years, and especially lately, that we haven’t been able to be active/present/real/missional/there/in it to be able to help the world see that those questions and that Scripture verse are directly related?  How are we not doing a better job helping people from 2 experience 1?  And how are the people of 1 mainly seeing the things of 1 within the paradigm of current church?

I’m not saying force 1 into 2, hand it to them in a tract or guilt them into believing it.  I guess I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be a bad idea to model 1 more and share those stories a little more than we do.  And maybe a lot actually.

I get that there are many of you (or people in your lives) that have questions of faith, doubts about part of or all of the whole God-thing…and I’ve been right there with you many times.  I get that “belief” in Scripture is a struggle at times.

I also realize that many of you don’t sense a “belonging” to a church community and your fire hall, bowling league, work/friend group, meeting has brought you a level of community/joy/healing/etc that does the trick.  It’s all you need and there seems to be no voids.  I’ve been there too.

It just seems like we’ve made it a lot harder than it needs to be….that the keepers of 1 have narrowed the view so traditionally and homogeneously that it forces more and more people into a 2 lifestyle.  Church has turned “God’s new thing” into new music styles (read ’80’s music in 2017 and calling it contemporary), new worship settings, different programs to try, some new faith formation technique or pose and pub theology gatherings.  Meanwhile, God’s doing “new things” left and right while we’re inside doing our old “new things.”

Tuesday I spent a few hours on the NYS Thruway in a blinding snow storm praying for volunteer firemen, disaster response doctors and emergency event personnel from the County working through a 25 car pile up that involved 100’s of cars and people.  I watched them cut people out of cars, save lives, bring dignity and grace in the loss of life, escort people across snow fields to warm buses and even push cars back up onto the road.

And here’s my guess: 80% of them aren’t active worshippers at a church.  Was God not doing a new thing through them?  Was this not one of God’s new things because it wasn’t in church, connected to church and have a sweetly designed faith based logo on it?

Whohaw!  I would suggest that Tuesday afternoon I got to watch God show off a 1….with and through some of the very people who ask the questions of 2.

As the new year moves along through the frigid march of the Bills heading to the Superbowl….watch out for God’s new things.  If you are firmly planted in 2, please give 1 a chance again, but in a new way.  Through new eyes.  Plainly and simply through the eyes of 1.  I truly believe you will see it when you broaden that lens.

And if you are already in 1, tell your story.  Share where you’ve seen it happen.  Happening.  Live that story out.  Look around with those who are flipping back and forth between 1 and 2 and talk it through with them.

Blessings in the new year.  May God’s new thing interact, overwhelm and live into your questions, your voids, your faith and your story.  And may we see soon the intersections of 1 and 2.

Lord, bring it.  We need it.  Help us see it.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 13, 2017

“Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.” – John the baptizer.

The gift is coming.  And, the gift has arrived.

In this Advent dance of watching, waiting, being ready and getting prepared, don’t forget to notice the gift that is already here.

John is pointing to a coming gift, but he’s also not so bad himself!  He’s proclaiming, he’s changing lives, he’s baptizing and redirecting.  And those are all good things!

Mary and Joseph are staring longingly into the empty manger waiting for the coming amazing child.  But don’t forget that they’ve been led, had God show them the way, met with angels and even got that sweet spot among the animal for the birth.  The gift is already there.  And the gift is coming.  All at the same time.

On Monday, I talked with someone who came to church this past weekend.  She hadn’t been to church in a long time but someone had invited her several times and she finally said yes.  We talked for awhile on the phone and I asked her if there was anything our church could do to support her on the journey.  She said “No, I’m planning on coming back.  Just being there on Sunday was a gift.”  A gift.

It wasn’t Christmas Eve.  It wasn’t a time we pull out all the stops on the organ.  We weren’t giving away gifts cards this week.  It was just worship.  Sacred space.  Time.  And for her, it was a gift.

Where are those gifts around you…NOW?  Yes, something amazing is coming.  Yes, what is coming will be incredible and may be as wonderful as we hope for.  But what is now is also a gift.  Christ has come already to make this moment of you and me in the kingdom of God sacred space, sacred moments, sacred gifts.

Please continue to wait, watch and prep for the celebration to come.  Just don’t lose sight of the gift that is around you today.

Lord, thank you for what you have done in my life that I sometimes overlook. Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 6, 2017

“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – the beginning of the gospel of Mark

Tonight, on December 6th, the 4th Day of Advent and the 6th Day of Biegner Winter (BW = 100 Days of Winter = Dec 1 through March 10), I will lead a Christmas Eve service.  I do one over at Daemen College for the students as they are moving into exam week.  And when I lead it, it always feels a bit odd…and a bit awesome!

And it’s always more awesome than odd.

The first time I did one of these when I was at Zion Lutheran Church, it took some getting used to.  It was almost as if the “feeling” of a Christmas Eve service could only happen one night and we were stealing that feeling into another random night.  But once we were into it, once we broke open the words from the angels, the listening of the shepherds, the movement of Mary and Joseph and the arrival a of baby, it made perfect sense.

In fact, any night we take that message to makes sense.

I don’t know the exact calendar, but considering Christmas Day is a random day that the old church people picked, I’m pretty sure John wasn’t yelling in the wilderness on Christmas Eve either.  Also, doesn’t appear that there were any candles, creche scenes or decorated Christmas trees.  He just stood there on “any day” and proclaimed.  His version of silent night was a tad different, but his message was the same: God is breaking in in a new way.  Prepare for it!

The beauty of the December 24th Christmas Eve services is that we more easily see God breaking in, we worship more fully, we commune more deeply, we sing more passionate and we live more peacefully.  But what John invites us into is THAT December 24th-ish faith ALL THE TIME!

So what do we need to remove from our Advent routine that is blocking Christmas Eve from happening in your night tonight?  What do we need to add into our day that will help us be at the manger right now?  What do we need to change in our dailyness so that we will hear and accept John’s invitation to preparing, repentance and readiness?

What’s stopping us from being at Christmas Eve….today?

Lord, may it be a silent night and holy night every night. Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 29, 2017

“But in those days, after that suffering, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” – Jesus in Mark’s gospel

Ugh.  I just want to jump to Christmas.  Because Advent seems like it’s off to a terrible start.

The first weekend in Advent starts with a text about the second coming!  No nice fluffy stories about Mary singing, angels angeling, shepherds listening or babies swaddling.

Cultural Christmas started when 102.5 started the Christmas music October 15th, Lowes simultaneously set up displays of Halloween and Christmas stuff and some houses around where I live cranked up the Disney Christmas inflatables already.

Even the graphic that is at the top of this email, when I googled “Advent Images,” came with four Advent candles AND the Christmas candle already lit up!!

Everyone seems to want to already be at Christmas!!  And who cane blame them?  Nights are getting darker, politics are getting more brutal, boundaries are being crossed left and right, missiles are being tested and fired and the Sabres stink.

In fact, it can feel a little like what Jesus is talking about: sun darkening, moon less light and stars falling.

If you’re like me, you’d like everyday to have the Christmas Eve, candles lit, silent light, pretty snow, quiet peace.  But we all know that life is rarely like that.

So maybe Advent is just the place we need to be?  Maybe Advent can speak to our real lives more than Christmas or its Eve?  Maybe in the midst of the crazy that we just walked through with Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, where this incredible pressure to spend, please, get, cross-off-the-list and rush, doesn’t need swaddling clothes of a baby from a long time ago….instead it needs the promise that Jesus is coming again!

Jesus continues his story to tell them how great the day will be, how fulfilled that promise will become and how incredible it’s power to overcome all that is wrong in the world and our lives will be.

Advent.  Maybe that’s exactly what we need.  More often.  The clear reminder that the story that started so long ago in a manger didn’t end there.  That the promises that began with peace breaking in are actually designed for our most chaotic moments.  That the hope that spilled into that holy night is connected to a hope that will culminate in a time to come that will be amazing and healing and awesome and beautiful.

So if your world is dark, your life is loud, your pressure is high, your list is long…do not be dismayed.  Take heart.  Christmas happened for sure.  But maybe more importantly today,  the promises that started with that story are real and coming again.  Feel them break into your story today.  And keep awake toward the light that will come again.

Because Advent…simply Advent.. is finally here.

Lord, help me appreciate the beauty and waiting of Advent alone. Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 15, 2017

“For it is as if a man, going on a journey, summoned his slaves and entrusted his property to them...” – Jesus, beginning a story for the disciples

He entrusted his property to them.  That’s a big risk.  How’d they do?  

How do we do?

For you Bible nerds, this is the beginning of the parable of the talents where Jesus is encouraging people to invest their gifts into the world around them for the good of the kingdom.  But as I read it again this week, the first sentence alone really struck me: he entrusted them with his stuff.  Then he left them.  What did they do?

It reminded me of all those group building activities and camp groups where we would do “trust falls.”  This is where one person crosses their arms, closes their eyes, locks their legs and falls backwards….hopefully into the awaiting arms of the partner they trust.  9 out of 10 times, it worked.  But the one time it didn’t, it’s painful!  They fell flat on the ground if trust was broken.

But those are just games.  What about the REAL stuff we are entrusted with?  How are we doing with those?

When God’s grace is poured over us, when we hear in church that we are forgiven, when we affirm our baptism or are actually baptized, how do we do with that GRACE we are entrusted with?  How do we invest it?  Live into it?  Apply it?

When God’s grace falls into our laps, do we catch it or does it fall flat on the ground in front of us?

Trusted conversations.
The power that men have around women.
Work places.

We are entrusted with many ‘things,” but more than the stuff, what about the grace in each of these aspects of our lives?  

Jesus has called us, and before going on a journey, pours out into our lives grace upon grace.

What will we do with it?

Lord, guide me with all I have been entrusted with.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 9, 2017

What are you waiting for today?  What are you watching out for?  Something amazing?  Or something to go terribly wrong?  Or someone to catch you in the middle of chaos?

Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” – Jesus talking to the disciples about the end times.

Or is he speaking more about the Now Times?

I think we’ve forgotten how to wait and watch.  Maybe Jesus thought the disciples did too?

Our watching and waiting through a lens of expectant faith has been replaced with binoculars focused on the wrong things.  If your life is anything like mine, your “waiting and watching” gets distracted by bills, and health situations, and deadlines, and stressors, and news feeds, and guilt, and and and.  Our lens becomes like looking out the front window, watching mom walk up the driveway knowing full well that the Cat in the Hat and Thing One and Two are running chaotically through our home.

Jesus invites us to close the shades on that window and open up a new vantage point that looks at what God is up to now in our lives.  We are invited to keep awake toward what God is doing, where God’s spirit is stirring and where God’s blessings are pouring.

That’s right into our Now Times!  Sometimes we wait and watch for the wrong things…when the right things are right in our midst.  Right in the present.  Right in our here.

When we get too far ahead of ourselves, when the windows are open toward the things in life that aren’t blessing each moment, when we watch and wait for the overwhelming stuff of Thing One and Two, God invites us to breathe, look around, re-form our lens and Keep Awake for the kingdom that has already broken into our lives right here.

Lord, help me to focus on the right things today.  Now.  Here.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 1, 2017

Each week when I write Devo’s, I search high and low on the internet for the right graphic to go with it.  This week I searched “All Saints.”  I assumed I’d get a bunch of images of churchy stuff, but the first 50 that popped up were from a fairly hip clothing store called: AllSaints.  Who knew??

I started to search again for the churchier pictures but then thought, maybe this is actually the perfect image.  It’s of four random, different people.  All saints!  Not only are they models for an apparel store but they are also God’s saints!

I don’t know a single one of them.  I don’t know if they are nice people.  I don’t know if they go to church, or serve their communities, or make an impact in the world, or are Bills fans.  But it doesn’t matter, they are still saints.

Today (and Sunday in most Lutheran Churches) we celebrate All the Saints.  All the people who make up this life and the life ever lasting that are each a particular combination of saint AND sinner; perfectly odd and different; loved and forgiven; died for and redeemed.  Some of them are still with us and some of them have died already.

As it says in Hebrews: “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses…”  We have had and do have people in our lives that make a profound effect on who we are today.  We have been blessed by the saint/sinners around us that taught us from the good/bad experiences we’ve had with them.

So today I ask you three things:
1.  Honor the saints who’ve gone before you – Take a moment in prayer this week to thank God for those friends, family and others that have impacted, changed and shaped your life.
2.  Honor the saints who are still with you – Take another moment to reach out and thank someone for shaping you, listening to you, walking with you, leading you, forgiving you and loving you.
3.  Remember that you are BOTH saint and sinner – You are loved by God and perfect in God’s eyes, but that doesn’t make us perfect all the time.  Remember that our own sinfulness can have a profound and negative effect on sometimes even those closest to us.  Be aware of your “shadow” as Carl Jung would say, your sinful imperfections that can sometimes do more harm than good.  Pray for God’s guidance and help with that!

Lord, thank you for the saints with me and before me.  Help me share my saintness with the world.  Amen
Still in One Peace,


October 19, 2017

“What do you think…is it lawful for us to pay taxes?” – the Pharisees asked Jesus trying to trip him up.

And in Awesome Jesus style, he doesn’t really answers the question directly.  Instead, he steers them toward assessing their commitments and understanding of ownership.  “If it’s the emperors, give it to him; if it belongs to God, then give it to God.”

So what belongs to God?  And how to do manage the balancing act of figuring all that out inside of a culture that might not feel the same way spiritually that we do?

When I encounter this text in my reading or preaching, it always helps me to go back and take a look at my own commitments.  Where do I spend my time?  My energy?  My love?  My talent?  My volunteer time?  My money?  My laughter?  What am I committed to?

When I start the list in my head or on paper, it helps me to see that I am sometimes giving a bit too much time to things of “the emperor.”  In other words, things that belong to God, I’ve wasted away and not used/given/shared/experienced as coming from or to be used for God.  When I’ve got the list, it helps reform me.  Reshape my actions.  Redirect my money.  Retool my priorities.

What are you committed to?  Do your commitments of your time, energy, gifts, money, love and laughter reflect your faith and spirituality?  I invite you to make a list.  Let that list lead you into a Reformation Life to change and re-format where, who and what you do.

Lord, help re-form me to shape the way I live into life for you .  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 11, 2017

“Which direction do we go?”

I have asked and been asked that question 1039 times: to my parents, by my kids, in the car, at church, on the court, around the corner, with good friends, in times of crisis, when I started my first church, when my kids were born, when I lost people I loved…which direction do I go?

The disciples asked it.  The Israelites asked it.  I’m pretty sure the question might go all the way back to Adam and Eve when they got the boot from the Garden and had to figure out what was next.

But even in those three Biblical scenarios, God always answered: God clothed them as they were sent from the Garden, brought the Israelites out of slavery into the freedom of the promised land and walked the disciples to the edge of the cross and then showed them God’s eternal direction.

At one point in the Old Testament, God stops the show, brings Moses up the hill and gives ten pretty clear directions on which way to go.  Ten pretty good directions that still hold the test of time today.

While on campus last week, I printed the 10 Commandments on papers and asked students what they might add, if anything.  Several students made suggestions: most of them pertaining to a deeper love of one another, but one student’s response struck me.  She picked up the list and read through them slowly in front of our table.  She asked what they were and I shared the background, probably way more than she wanted to know.  And she replied, “I don’t really believe in this God stuff, but looking at this list, they seem pretty good.  I wouldn’t add a thing.”  Even people not operating through a lens of faith can tell they are good stuff!

Martin Luther said the same thing.  He wouldn’t add a thing.  He only encouraged us to live intothese directions instead of setting the bar so low that we just try not to break them.

This past Sunday, I invited the St. Paul’s to live into these Commandments.  One a day.  Two a day.  Whatever pattern you can aim for, growing into the full list.

ONE: ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.

TWO: ‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

THREE: ‘You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

FOUR: ‘Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

FIVE: ‘Honor your father and your mother.

SIX: ‘You shall not murder.

SEVEN: ‘You shall not commit adultery.

EIGHT: ‘You shall not steal.

NINE: ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

TEN: ‘You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

So I invite you to do the same because my guess is that if you are asking the “which direction do I go” question or being asked that question, these 10 Directions might just help you answer.

Lord, thanks for giving me the answers to my directional questions.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 4, 2017

For this morning’s Devo’s I share with you a letter from the Bishop of the Upstate NY Synod of Lutheran Churches and the prayer he invites all of us into:

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

As the realities of a mass shooting continue to fill our screens and ears and lives these days we find ourselves once again at places of feeling helpless and hopeless. Many are asking when this is going to stop. Others are focusing on renewed conversations around gun laws. Still others are questioning how this can continue to happen in 2017. Most are at a total loss and left without words.

Our attention right now ought be in focusing our prayers on and for those most affected by the event in Las Vegas on Sunday evening, October 1. Families have been shattered, a sense of safety destroyed, relationships ruined and lives forever changed by wounds both physical and emotional. Perhaps the following prayer might be a starting point.

Creator God, be with us in these times of trouble:
we are surrounded by images of violence from the mass shooting in Las Vegas.
we are called to wrestle with how to respond to the devastation, death, fear, and hatred around us with compassionate and prophetic love.
we grieve for a cycle of violence that seems never-ending, and for a world that values some lives more than others.
we grieve for the dead and accompany in prayer and love all those who mourn the loss of life and security.
we confess that we who profess to follow Jesus have been unable or unwilling to obey the command to love one another.
we acknowledge we have failed to break down systems that oppress and marginalize because of race, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
we lift up the voices of all who experience oppression, discrimination, and hatred.
we listen carefully to hear the changes we need to make in our own lives and institutions so that we include rather than exclude.
we give thanks for and offer support to the peacemakers and bridge-builders and those who fight hatred and fear with love and understanding.
we give thanks for those faithful witnesses who speak truth to power and call for conversion to Jesus’ way of love.
we are called to imagine what new hope might look like in a world not filled with such violence and fear.
Creator God, be with us in these times of trouble. Amen. (Adapted from the Lutheran Church in Canada)

I long for the day when turning on the TV or Radio doesn’t cause me to wonder, prior to doing so, what went horribly wrong in the world overnight. Christ call us to peace and to be peace in this world torn with anger and hatred and violence. It is not a simple task but it is a noble one and one that we are called to by the one who gives peace and hope and promise.

I look forward to continuing our shared ministry, asking the hard questions and finding our way forward to share the Gospel which gives life and hope and joy.

In Christ,

John S. Macholz, Bishop

Still in One Peace,


September 27, 2017

“By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you this authority?”

It’s Jesus’ disciples and the leaders of that present day church asking this question.

See, right before this, Jesus walked into their temple area and saw a lot of people turning it into a mall and he throws a messianic fit, flipping the tables and chairs, and telling them to get out.  He tells them a parable about their lack of understanding and then they ask the above question: “By what authority?”

You didn’t have to go to the Bills games this weekend to see that the word “authority” was an important word this weekend at football fields all over the country.  And then from those fields the conversation about authority trickled into homes, businesses, bars, neighborhoods and social media interactions.   Hot topic this weekend…hot topic in the temple with Jesus.

But in Jesus’ response, in his actions, in his relationships with those he talks with, heals, reaches, in all of it, Jesus invites them into an understanding of God’s authority of love and a change of directions for their lives.

If those Bible people Jesus was speaking to were already in church (and they were), then they must have been people of faith on some level.  So he’s inviting them into a change of direction to see how the God they believe in IS doing a new thing through Jesus and how that new thing is to be lived out through them.  He’s not writing it on tablets anymore, he’s not tweeting it out from a distance, he’s living it.  He’s modeling it.  He’s teaching it.  He’s healing with it.  He’s gracing through it.  And he’s dying for it.

He’s dying for it.

And on his way to doing that for these people in the temple, he’s inviting them into a change of direction themselves…to no longer do because they’ve always done…to no longer not question (sweet double negative there) because someone says this is how it is…to no longer overlook because it’s convenient to do and be the same thing they’ve always been.

Sounds a little bit like a German monk with a weird haircut 500 years ago.  New understanding of God’s gracious authority and a change of direction into it.

Could it sound like you and me?  When we ask that question in our own faith life, “by what authority?”, are we asking it about something far off, or firmly entranced or faithfully followed out of tradition?  Or are we asking it of our own actions?  Our own motives?  Our own faithful responses to God’s grace for us?

By what authority do I act?  By what authority do I live out my faith?  By what authority do I respond?

When Luther grasped the full understanding of God’s grace and price that Jesus paid for his life, it changed his direction and changed everything.

What will God’s authority through Jesus’ story in the world change for you today?

Lord, help me to change direction today toward your authority.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 20, 2017

Over the next few weeks, Pastor Steve will share some important 15 Minute Moments he’s run into throughout his faith life.  These 15 Minute Moments are the times when you recognize God’s presence a tad easier than other times.  At the end of each story there will be a few questions for you to take 15 minutes to reflect on.


Jonah seems pretty bummed that he’s not in control of God’s plan.  The disciples seem sort of annoyed that God’s grace is handed out in ridiculous and uncharacteristic ways.

Ever get frustrated by not being in charge as you watch storms batter and words/actions hurt and people fighting instead of lovingly peopling?

Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Matthew 6:10

That’s a tough thing to pray.

Do I really want God’s crazy kingdom in my life?
Do I really want to give control to God’s plan?
Do I really want to let someone else be in charge?

Jesus taught that prayer.
Jesus prayed words like that in the garden.
Look where it got him!
Is that where I want to end up?
And yet that’s where God wants me to end up?

If I let go….
will the Lord catch?
will the Spirit guide?
will Jesus show me?
will the future be filled with hope?
will the Father recreate me?

For yours is the Kingdom, and the power and the glory.

Can’t be that bad?
There’s a pretty solid track record.

Most times that I’ve noticed God’s presence,
seemed part of a great plan.
Except for acid reflux.
That one doesn’t make sense.
And crab grass.
But could I be part of that plan.
That kingdom?
Forever and ever?

Longer than the uncut version of the Titanic?
Longer than the problem I’m in the middle of?
Longer than my grief?
My addiction?
My questions?

Alrighty Almighty.

Here we go Jonah.  Here we go disciples.  Here we go Steve.  Here we go you.
Here we go.
Let’s give it a try again.

Lord, Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen

15 Moments of Reflection:
•What parts of your life can you easily see God’s plan and grace as you reflect back?
•What parts of your life do you not let God’ into?
•Who do you know that you can encourage to  push through their struggle by letting go of trying to control it?

Still in One Peace,


September 13, 2017

Over the next few weeks, Pastor Steve will share some important 15 Minute Moments he’s run into throughout his faith life.  These 15 Minute Moments are the times when you recognize God’s presence a tad easier than other times.  At the end of each story there will be a few questions for you to take 15 minutes to reflect on.

Forgive A Lot

“…seventy times seven….” Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel

Is there any chance that Jesus is referring to the passing yards of my Buffalo Bills QB? Probably not.  Is he referring to the payout from the lottery ticket you picked up this past weekend?  Probably not.

Turns out he’s answers the question of the disciples when asked how many times we’re supposed to forgive the dopes around us.  Jesus says: “A bunch times a bunch.”  Ugh.

Our parenting style when our kids were younger involved “time out” (putting the kids in some solitude space for a day…a mean few minutes off on their own) or if it was super bad, sending them to their room.  It was long enough for them to realize they did something wrong and for us as parents to regroup and figure out what was next.  I’m not sure what people with young kids do now for punishment, maybe have misbehaving children read Trump’s tweets for 10 minutes or something.  Whatever it is or was, it created a 15 Minute Moment for us.  How would we approach life when the timeout was over?  When they came back into life from their room?  How would our faith impact it?

The challenge was entering into a space where grace and forgiveness became more than words.  It was 15 Minutes of trying to move from reacting to responding.  From anger to love.  From disappointment to embrace.  From mistake to learning.

Maybe Jesus was thinking the same thing when the boys asked him how many times they were supposed to forgive?  Maybe he wanted to say: “Listen clowns, haven’t you fired enough questions at me about the rules and laws?  Are you not yet waking up to the reality that because God has broken into your broken that nothing is the same ever again?”  But instead he just says: “A lot.”  Forgive a lot.

Forgive a lot.
That’s hard to do.
But God does it.  Time after time.  And my kid’s poor choices are nothing compared to the galacticly poor choices that I’ve made over my lifetime.  And maybe you’re right there with me.

  •  We screw up.  God welcomes back.
  •  We miss opportunities.  God offers more.
  •  We go one way.  God invites us down a better road.
  •  We react with anger.  God responds with grace.
  •  We fight it.  God gives us his Son.
  •  We embrace choices of sin.  God presents new life for the accepting.
  •  We doubt.  God pours the Holy Spirit of faith right over us.

Post-9/11, post-leadership let downs, post-broken relationships, post-racial divides, post-gossip spreading, post-(insert how someone hurt you here)…we are living in a “post world” and yet still given the 15 Minute Moments to allow ourselves to recover, reframe and respond the way Jesus invites us to.  Forgive a lot.

15 Minutes Moments of reflection:
Who are the people in your life that are in need of forgiveness?

Pray for strength today from God to move forward in your journey toward forgiveness.
Are there any/many that you have hurt that the same strength needed to forgive might also help you say “I’m sorry.”

Still in One Peace,

September 7, 2017

Over the next few weeks, Pastor Steve will share some important 15 Minute Moments he’s run into throughout his faith life.  These 15 Minute Moments are the times when you recognize God’s presence a tad easier than other times.  At the end of each story there will be a few questions for you to take 15 minutes to reflect on.

Living it out:
“Instead, put on Jesus Christ…” Paul to the church in Rome…and NY

I’m sure this will come as a huge surprise to most of you reading this…except for those who have actually met me… and those who’ve heard me spell something…and those who’ve asked me a question concerning history, important names of any classic literature…but…here’s the breaking news…I was never a huge fan of studying.

Now, for those of you for are in an academic setting or journey right now…studying is good…Steve was/is just bad at it.

I call myself an “experiential learner” (read: would rather go golfing with someone who already did the assignment and have them tell me the oral report of the book).  I found over my academic career (read: purgatory) that the library and me just didn’t click.  It was a bit too quiet and dark.  Very helpful for naps, not so much for learning.

I was known as “well rounded” by my dad…not great at anything but could survive everything.

I was never a supporter of “tests” but loved the concept of “independent study.”

Long story short…I was never a big fan of studying.  At least, not in the “classic” sense of the word.
For those of you who a church frequently flyers, you’re going to hear Jesus speak about forgiving others AGAIN this weekend.  Like one week wasn’t enough for us to totally learn it??  Probably not.  Because this week, instead of counting how many times we are to forgive, Jesus invites us into practical applications of forgiving: being experiential forgivers.  No more studying.  Yea!!  Now it’s time to do it.  Gulp!!

Paul told the Roman church one way to live into it: Put on Jesus Christ.  Not from a book or a quote or a mantra, but instead the whole Jesus for the whole person in the whole world.

It’s not the language of cramming for a test!  That’s the language of immersing one’s self into God’s active presence through the Holy Spirit.

It’s living with God…not learning about God.

It’s Jesus sent into our lives for real life stuff…not passing high above with a magic wand.
It’s the Holy Spirit poured out over you in baptism, working through you in the world…not a holy ghost blowing by in the wind.

Can you experientially study that and then live it out?  Can you experience the God that has been, is and will forever be in your story in a very real, present, non-quiet-dark-library sort of way?

A guy walked into my office last week and we ended up talking about this same text because of a situation going on in his family.  It became his 15 Minute Moment of the day.  He decided to try out Paul’s advice and “put on” his faith and Jesus-like forgiveness toward the family members that hurt him.

It’s not cramming for a test.  It’s not memorizing verses.  It’s practical application and lifestyle change and risk and challenge for our lives and for the life of the world.

Lord, help me study and experience your presence in my life.   Amen

15 Minutes of reflection:
What does “putting on Jesus” look like practically for me this week?
What are the other things I “put on” instead of Jesus?
Who is one person that I can encourage this week in their journey toward forgiveness?

Still in One Peace,



June 14, 2017

Sometimes a manual would be helpful for the trickier things of life.  Not that I would read the whole thing cover to cover, but it certainly would be nice to have something to refer to.

As Father’s Day approaches, I’ve spent a little more time dwelling on my relationships with my kids, who are now 16 and almost 14.  Great kids.  I’m totally blessed.  But from the moment the nurses handed Drew to me in the hospital to the day-to-dayness of parenting them now in high/middle school, there are seemingly dozens of conversations a week that Michelle and I have regarding their lives.  We make decision upon decision to help steer these two and it would be really nice if there was a proven, definitive answer to each question.

When I was called to be a parent years ago, I never received that manual.

As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. Take no gold, or silver, or copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food. – Jesus to the disciples

Jesus called his disciples to go and change the world and this is pretty much the manual they got – not much.  And yet as they went into the world, they watched God do incredible through them and their faith in God.  Demons fell.  People were healed.  Some places weren’t ready to hear of God’s grace, so they kicked off the dust and moved on.  But their faith carried them through!

The instruction book said – “Trust in God!  And leave the rest up to the Lord.”  “The Manual” came in what he was about to teach them, show them, model for them and say to them.  They wouldn’t end up needing a ton of resources, stuff, books and extras.  The most important thing they would carry into any situation was their faith.

The most important thing we can carry into any and every situation is our faith.

Whether it’s parenting or marriage, relationships or friends, work or play, sports or school, the most important thing you can carry into those situations is your faith.  Listen to his teachings, live out what Jesus did, watch how God is still active in the world and don’t worry about the manual.  You don’t need anything else with you when you go into that situation.  Go into it with faith.

Lord, help my faith to be my manual.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 7, 2017

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me, so go and make disciples and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you and remember I am with you.” – Jesus, in some of his last words in Matthew’s gospel

That’s a powerful connection.  All authority.  In heaven and earth!!  Given to live out.

These verses are part of what’s known as the Great Commission from Jesus to the disciples before he returns to his Father in the Heaven.  It’s his last words of wisdom, his last directive and his last reminder.

Powerful stuff.  But how was it received?  And who was receiving it?

His disciples are the ones who get the charge.  The very ones that followed  him in the flesh and time after time after time, fell short and messed up.  Time after time they got caught in the old requirements of faith. Time after time they measured by old rules and tools.  Time after time they forgot who Jesus was, and who and whose they were as well.

And to those men, that band of merry mess-ups, he gives the gift of reminding them they are connected to an almighty God and they have an opportunity to live that out and live into those teachings everywhere they go.

He tells them to “obey.”  That’s a simple word that for many of us might come across negative or constraining.  But it’s anything but…it’s another gift.  A gift to live into teachings and ways of interacting with the word that will bless self and others every time.  We “obey” traffic signal so we don’t crash our cars and hurt self and others.  We “obey” safety warnings on medicines so we don’t do something harmful to our bodies.  Obeying is an action that Jesus designs for good.  For life.  For freedom.  For safety.  For positives to flourish.

Some simple teachings he invites us to obey and live into: loving God and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  If we live these out today…this week, I fail to see how anything but good could flourish.  If every person lived out this teaching, my online news stream would be different for sure.

Today, may you know that this invitation comes from all-mighty God that knows what’s up and what’s needed.  May you go to the places you are sent, the places the world needs you, the places you’ll go says Dr. Suess and when you arrive, may you obey and live into the gift of following the teachings of Jesus.

It’s meant for you to hear now – a great commission for a great disciple.

Lord, send me and help me and stay with me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 31, 2017

When they saw it happening, all were perplexed and amazed and said: “What is happening?” – Acts 2 as the Holy Spirit makes its grand entrance.

The Holy Spirit confused people then.  And I’m pretty sure still confuses people today.

The bystanders were so confused by what was playing out that they thought the disciples were drunk.  Who knows what that looked like?  Maybe a cross between Tiger Wood’s recent mug shot and a chicken playing the piano, like I saw on America’s Got Talent last night.  Either way, it didn’t make sense.  Amazing things were happening right before their eyes but their brains/hearts/souls couldn’t place what was going on and why it was unfolding.

Still happens today.

Ever hear that childlike question asked: “Dad, how can you see the wind?”  Well, the easy answer is, “Well, we can see how it moves things like trees or windmills or your mom’s hair when she yells to put up the windows in the car and turn on the A/C.”

We can see things move!  We are pretty at peace with the whole wind thing because humanity has studied the science behind it and wrapped our minds around it.  We can’t really see any atmosphere pressure gradient isobars thermic changes (insert any of meteorological terms here because that last sentence didn’t make any sense), but we get that wind happens.

And yet the Holy Spirit moving the original disciples and bystanders, or us today, is a mystery.  Or is it?

I believe the wind of the Holy Spirit is still blowing, still changing, still inspiring, still moving and still confusing…and that last one is OK.

I believe that the wind of the Holy Spirit causes us to move into life in ways that can’t necessarily be explained away or justified by science, but only by the breath of God still launching awesomeness into this world.

The confusing and moving Holy Spirit inspires three men on a train to stand up for someone of a different faith background, even to the point of two of them losing their lives.

The confusing and moving Holy Spirit inspires churches to launch food pantries that will put food on the table for people who need.

The confusing and moving Holy Spirit inspires people to hop on bikes and pedal countless miles around Buffalo while raising money to find a cure for cancer.

But it’s really hard to see if no one allows that wind to move them.    “We can see because it moves things….”

At St. Paul’s on Sunday, Kristen Arends invited people to be thinking about their “elevator speech” (You can read her sermon HERE).  That is, what would you say to someone about Jesus or church if you only had 30 seconds or so, like the time you spend together in an elevator?

So I will ask you to take that question a bit farther…What does your Holy Spirit Elevator Speech look like?  If you were to allow the Holy Spirit to move you so boldly today that it might even confuse the people around you, even for 30 seconds, what would it look like?

Today…tomorrow…whatever day you read this, allow yourself to be moved and move.  Allow yourself to be the answer to the maybe not-so-childlike question.
Lord, through your Holy Spirit, please move me and allow me to move.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 17, 2017

I will not leave you orphaned, I am coming to you” – Jesus

Go ahead and play this link for a minute….

Do you know the tune?  I’m guessing if you are somewhere between the ages of 10 and 80, you’ve seen Star Wars of one of the sequels…or prequels.  And if you are my age and saw the original Star Wars in the theater and then heard that tune months or years later, you got excited that another sequel was coming!  Every time I hear it, I’m reminded of a great story and look forward to the next one coming.

I’m not sure Jesus had a theme song, but it would have been cool if some great theme song was playing in the background when he shared with his disciples that he was not going to leave them alone for long. Because then, every time the disciples heard it again, they would remember the story and the promise and his presence.

After the first Easter, while Jesus is rolling around town and showing people that he was both alive and had conquered sin, death and the devil (acts very worth of an awesome theme song), he also gave them a brief trailer for the next chapter.  The Holy Spirit was going to come to lead them through the next phase of this relationship called Life.

I know I need to hear that music sometimes because Life can overwhelm and distract and separate. Maybe you do too?  That music of God’s continuing in my story and the presence of God’s Spirit in, with and around me is the reminder that something else amazing is now and is coming.  And that is and will be is part of the Promise of God.

God will not leave orphaned.  God has not left you orphaned.  God is coming.  God has come.

Play that theme song today.

Lord, remind me of your presence and promise today.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

pps from ps:  I’m going to be out of the office for a few weeks beginning Tuesday 5/23.  I have some injuries from a car accident in April that need to be corrected and will be having back surgery.  After 5/30, I’ll be available through email and text.  I’ll be at St. Paul’s for Sundays in June though so I’ll look forward to seeing you there if you’re in the 716.  Devo’s will return for a couple weeks in June but then be off for the summer.  Blessings!!  Steve


April 12, 2017

John 13Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper  Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. And you are clean, though not all of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, “Not all of you are clean.” After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.  Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him. If God has been glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself and will glorify him at once. Little children, I am with you only a little longer. You will look for me; and as I said to the Jews so now I say to you, “Where I am going, you cannot come.’ I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Still in One Peace,


April 5, 2017

David Lose, the president of our Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia, wrote recently that he enjoyed being “treated” to multiple readings during Lent where God surprises someone in the story.  In each of these long gospel readings that many of you experienced in church, Jesus surprises Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man who receives his sight and Lazarus, each of them and their communities being disrupted from what they expect.

His thought intrigued me and caused me to read it through several times.  Treated to God’s disruptions.  Really?  Is that a treat?

How many of you in daily life find a “disruption” to be a “treat?”  Sitting in traffic at a light that will cause you to miss a meeting…your car doesn’t start in the morning…you woke up to 9 inches of snow…your kid got sick over night and has to stay home from school.  Are these “treats?”

What if they were?

Across the whole Biblical story, God keeps showing up and doing unexpected things, in unexpected ways, to/for/with unexpected people.  And as Jesus enters those stories in his own unexpected way, the result is always tangle, thirst quenching, God-dripping, grace.  Disrupted to be able to see, feel, touch and experience God’s grace.

No doubt this week, one thing I can predicted for you is that you will most certainly face disruptions.  Schedules will implode.  Tasks will be delayed.  Directions will have to change.  Could God be right in those moments?  Could that change of direction, slowing of pace and delaying of doing actually be a moment of grace for you to notice and see what God is continuing to do to/for/with you?

May you be treated to a grace filled disruption this week.

Lord, treat me  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 29, 2017

I recently read a book called Shoe Dog about Phil Knight’s life and the creation of the company called Nike.  

Towards the end of the book as he reflects back on all he’s done and been through he says this:

“God how I wish I could relive the whole thing.  Short of that, I’d like to share the experience, the ups and downs, so that some young person, somewhere, going through the same trials and ordeals, might be inspired or comforted.  Or warned.  Some young entrepreneur, maybe, some athlete or painter or novelist, might press on.

It’s all the same dream.  Same drive.

It would be nice to help them avoid the typical discouragements.  I’d tell them to hit pause, think long and hard about how they want to spend their time, and with whom they want to spend it for the next forty years.  I’d tell men and women in their mid twenties not to settle for a job or a profession or even a career.  Seek a calling.  Even if you don’t know what that means, seek it.  If you’re following your calling, the fatigue will be easier to bear, the disappointments will be fuel, and the highs will be like nothing you’ve ever felt.”

What Knight shares is a great description of what calling is: more than work, more than jobs, more than pay, more than normal.  Searching for, finding, following and living into that calling is a gift filled invitation from God to people of faith.  It’s a gift to be able to see the things we do, things we say and things we don’t as a way to live into daily discipleship.  Maybe even more than daily.  Maybe moment to moment.

You know when you’ve met a person living out their vocation.  Through St. Paul’s Lutheran and whole bunch of churchy things throughout the years, I’ve been able to watch Mary Wolf live out vocation.  From the time I met her in 1986 at a youth gathering to our day to day work over the past five years, you can tell that the church office is just a tool, a space, a title where she has allowed to herself to walk into the living out of faith in the world…allowing the intersection of her deepest passions and people’s greatest needs.

Maybe you’ve met someone like this.  Maybe you’re there right now.  Either way, you’ve probably been blessed by it too.

Although remember, your “40-hours” a week or your paycheck or your main time allotment might not be your calling, and that’s OK.  Instead, it might be the one or two hours a week you get to truly devote and immerse into that sacred space.  Honor that and grow it.  Seek it even if you don’t know what it is yet.

Knight is right, Jesus calls us into a life where our fatigue is more bearable, our disappointments will fuel us and the highs will be better than imagined.  So live into your calling!

Lord, here I am  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 23, 2017

Joshua Emmanuel baptized at Grace Church, Ile a Vache!
Here’s a clip of this weekend’s baptism at Church of Grace in Haiti…chicks and all!


“He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.” – Psalm 91:4

Ever feel like you got stuck in the mud?

I have.  And did.  And most likely will again.

On the way to visit our newest church launch in Haiti, we tried to get there in our truck, but due to heavy rains 36 hours earlier and Haitian dirt that holds water like a sponge, our truck got stuck!

So while getting out of the truck, calling AAA to find out it would be a 15 day wait for a response and trying to figure out what to do, several Haitians in the community stopped their walk, their work and their schedules and jumped in the mud.  Within about 10 minutes, they had it out of there!!

Check them out! 

After getting the truck out of the mud, we traveled on to meet the pastor of the church, where he shared his favorite Psalm…91.  A Psalm that reminded him and his community, whose church building partially under construction was blown right down in October’s Hurricane, that God never leaves us alone in the storm and when we are stuck, God is right there with us!

Church of Grace in Bwobataw

Your mud may not be this deep or it may feel like quicksand sometimes.  Holding you back.  Keeping you stuck.  Not allowing progress.  Causing you change, delays and reorganizations.  Maybe your mud has knocked your building right down.

I want to encourage you to keep pushing on!  Look at those who come into your story and into your mud and stand with and push with and wait with you.  They are God’s presence for you to know your journey can move forward.  Because I have often found that as we push through, as we allow others support, encouragement and friendship to help dig us out, our journey continues to an interaction like the one with the pastor in Bwobataw,..telling us God has been with, will be with us and will bear us up on eagles wings.

Lord, help me push on and see you pushing with me!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 15, 2017

“Return to the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind.” – 1 Bible 1:1

How’s your Lenten journey going?  How’s your Lenten Discipline…still disciplining?  Still disciple-ing?  Either?  Both?

When we are disciplined…does it help us be a disciple?

Instead of answering these questions online today, I just want you to consider them.  “Ponder all these things in your heart!”  Do the things we do in Lent or spiritually in general or the practices of our faith, do those disciplines help us grow closer to God as a disciple?  Or are we sometimes going through the motions?  Or are there things we do out of some tradition that isn’t connecting?

This week. God on Tap is going to dive into these questions and wrestle with answers.  If you’re in the 14226 area, it meets Thursday night at 8pm at Loughran’s Restaurant in the back room.  All are welcome and it’s only one hour long.  In fact, this week it’s led by special guest host, Vicar Adam Arends,

So take some time on your own this week or join in community and consider these questions of faith as we continue to be search out what it means to be disciplined disciples.

Lord, help me consider why I do what I do!  Amen

Still in One Peace,



March 8, 2017

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your family and your house to the land that I will show you.” – Genesis 12

Crazy talk!  Would you?

Reading through the Old Testament again and coming across some of these Old Testament God stories, I have a lot more respect for ol’ Father Abraham.  He gets challenged!!

Pick up.  Take off.  Go.  And oh yeah, to a place that you’ve never been to and have no idea what to expect.

I’m getting another team of WNY students together to head down to Haiti next week and reconnect with our mission post there.  I’m meeting up in Haiti with one of my old interns who ended up going to seminary and is now an intern pastor at a church in Ohio.  One of the pastors at the church is traveling with us.  She’s never been to Haiti.

Today on our FaceTime meeting she shared a bit of her excitement, nervousness and anxiety, which is more than normal and most people have a healthy mix of that pre-travel.  She said: “I know and have heard it’s going to be amazing, but I don’t know what to expect so I’m a bit nervous.”

Pick up.  Take off.  Go.  And oh yeah, to a place that you’ve never been to and have no idea what to expect.

I can tell people over and over that this place called Haiti that we travel to will be blessed by us and be a blessing to us.  But doesn’t make it less nerve-wracking until you just pick up, take off and go.

I forgot as I read that challenge to Abraham that God already knows how awesome that land will be.  God already knows how that land will be a blessing to them and be blessed by them.  God’s already ahead of them.  God’s before them as they arrive and behind them as they go.

It’s that same God that calls out to you.  It’s that same nervousness in your life over moves, decisions, changes, risks, plans, conversations, relationships and directions that God is speaking to with a voice of already-been-there peace that passes all understanding.  God’s ahead of us and can see clearly and invites us to see through that lens as well.

In your callings today through the highs and lows and decisions of life, hear God’s voice and allow it to replace the nervousness with a sense of already-been-there peace.

Lord, call out to send me… and remind me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 2, 2017

3-2-17 Wegmans Receipt“Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and relents from punishment.” – Joel 2

Yesterday at Ash Wednesday services, I shared my general anxiety and frustration about having to return things at the store…any store!  It seems that every return policy is different and I’m never quite prepared and it is amazingly rare (unlike the picture) that I actually have the receipt.

So I get to the counter and there’s questions about do I have the receipt…or a frequent shopper card…or a passport…or an enhanced license or a green card….or all of them!  And I never have any of them.

So there I stand with my bags of “stuff” that I don’t want, need, can’t use and shouldn’t have tense, anxious and frustrated.

Joel simply shares God’s simple and open return policy: return…all of you…no questions asked…no paperwork needed..and you will find love, grace and welcome…not punishment.

This is Lent.  And this return policy is what Lent is about.

And if you really think about it…this is the whole Biblical story.  God’s story and our story have continually intersected with God wanting us back, to return, to be whole again, to be deeper in relationship, to be one and to be redeemed.

So if that’s who God is and that’s what God wants and that’s what God has been trying to tell us…why do I still have these bags that I’m carrying around?  Why not go to the counter with them and hear God’s invitation and grace?

This season of Lent is an amazing gift to empty your baggage.  Not just the ground curry that you bought my mistake…but instead that things that are keeping you away from God, the fears that we carry holding us back from real change, the anxiety that holds us from taking steps in the direction God is leading us, and the nervousness of coming to God with our whole self and allowing the One who created us to be the One that rules our life.

Because with that emptying into God’s return policy, there is no punishment or harsh judgement.  There is only grace.  Mercy.  And steadfast love.

Lord, thanks for making this return policy easier than we could imagine and exactly what we need.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 23, 2017

2-14-17 Man on ledge“Jesus took Pete, Jim and Jack up a high mountain by themselves”….they saw a bunch of cool God-stuff which showed Jesus’ Messiahness…”And then he led them back down the mountain and told them not to talk about it yet.” – Matthew 17:1-9 Biegner Translation

I’m using the same picture I used last week because as I look at it, the image speaks of mountains and valleys and trying to see your way through them all.  Or maybe even trying to see God through it all.  Which is a lot like life.  For us and for the original disciples.

Jesus’ Three Amigos head up the mountain with him about mid-book of Matthew’s gospel and he reveals to them that he is God!  And human.  And still Jesus.  And Messiah.  And Rabbi.  And then some other Old Testament Bible dudes, who are long dead, show up there too.  Clear it all up boys?

But the boys want to pop some tents, hang out and take it all in.  Who could blame them?  I’d want to do the same thing.  Their minds were just blown by all this God-stuff happening when they thought they were just going to rest for a bit with their teacher.

So with next to no time to recover, Jesus leads them back down the mountain, into the valley of work, life, ministry, hard stuff, daily grind, needy people and says “Keep this on the down low.”

Keep this on the down low?

“It’s good Lord to be here!” – the disciples say.

“It’s better to be there.” – Jesus responds.

It’s better to be there.  Where need is at.  Where hurts are at.  Where sickness needs comfort.  Where hunger needs Daily Bread.  Where outcasts need a voice.  Where darkness needs light.  Where blah needs salt.

Where they need you!  And Him.

Why keep it on the down low you might ask (like I do)?  I think Jesus just wants people to know how much of their pain he’s going to embrace, stand in and overcome before he bursts through the big ol’ tombstone and blasts death right in between the eyes sending it’s grasp as far away as these new planets Bill Nye the Science Guy just discovered.

So maybe we should keep that on the down low too?  And instead of sitting still on Easter, we move forward, down the mountain into the places that need your/His healing, grace, presence, comfort, bread, voice, light and salt.

It’s good Lord to be….there.

Lord, thanks for showing us.  Now help me walk back down.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 14, 2017

2-14-17 Man on ledge

I am the light of the world” – Jesus

Many of you know that I’m a big fan of daylight.  Nothing more annoying to me than when my alarm goes off for me to get up for a run or I’m driving home from work….and it’s dark.  I like light.  I like to be able to see.  I like to be able to notice the things around me.  I like to be able to see things, like deer, coming at me on the road!  Light makes it easier to notice things.

Hayley Israel (one of St. Paul’s awesome youth), in her sermon at this weekend, talked about how for two weeks she knew she had to write this sermon.  She knew the texts and ideas from the Bible, but she was looking for a story to go with it.  She was noticing!  In her process of looking through eyes of faith at things that were happening around her, the light of that Scripture helped her notice things in a new way.

Her story struck me because I’ve started to teach my son to drive.  He got his permit and now I’m often in the passenger seat of the car praying and teaching him about everything on the road.  It’s shines a new light for me on everything out there. I’m noticing road signs that I don’t usually read and explaining them to him.  I’m see left turn lanes and arrows on lights and right-of-way rules in intersections like I haven’t in a long time.  Sitting in the other seat has helped me to notice more things that I have come to gloss right over and/or ignore and/or take for granted.

Like Hayley, I’ve been noticing.

When Jesus reminds us he’s the Light of the World, he’s telling us that he is a new light in darkness and has shattered that darkness forever.  The darkness is no longer the greater power…Light is.  And because of that Light, everything is different.  And it’s time for us to notice what that means for our everydayness.

It’s time for us to notice: that even in the grips of death and funerals, a voice from a pastor in a service proclaims Easter; that when we have the opportunity to forgive someone, it heals and releases the burdens and weight of grudges we carry around; that we are each blessed and have wealth and finances to share with those in the world that don’t; that today someone will walk by you that might really need a smile and greeting from you just so they simple know they aren’t alone; that those who are closest to you sometimes only get the energy that’s leftover from work/life but actually need/deserve the most.  It’s time to notice that this Light is for our normal daily lives filled with stories.

Jesus is the Light of the world…shining that light onto the regularity and normalcy and everydayness of our lives so we may notice.

Like Hayley, what sermon are you now called to write?  What have you been driving past day after day, week after week that you need to notice today in the Light of Jesus?

Lord, thanks for the Light…now help me notice what’s around me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 1, 2017

2-1-17 Slippers

“You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world” – Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel

There’s an awful lot going on in the country right now.  There are many that are feeling displaced, literally and figuratively, by the recents moves from the country’s leadership.  As you read news feeds, social media posts and watch TV news outlets, if you disagree with this new direction, it can seem overwhelming and almost paralyzing.

So what do we do?  What can one person do when something so large and macro seems to too big to move?

Let Jesus’ words to you sink in.  You ARE the salt of the earth.  You ARE the light of the world.  You ARE.  I AM.  They are small words with a power filled impact.

Take a look at this short TED Talk video (4 minutes) and allow yourself to be inspired to be salt and light…..

You and I are already the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  Don’t let anything on the macro level ever let you forget how powerful you still are to touch the life of one.  Let Jesus’ words of your calling into action direct you this day to change the life of even one person.

“Not everyday offers us the chance to save a life, but everyday offers us the chance to effect one.  So get in the game, save the shoes.”

Lord, help me today to save the shoes!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 25, 2017

1-25-17 BLESSED

“Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are the meek….and a bunch more blessings.” – Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning about the word “blessed” and he noted that he doesn’t hear it spoken by many people that aren’t “churchy”.  On many levels, I agreed with him.    You rarely hear people at the Bills games yelling “We are blessed!!!” after a touchdown.  (Mainly because we don’t get that many touchdowns).  You don’t hear it at restaurants when someone drinks a really good beer or eats an incredibly flavorful meal, “Wow, was that spare rib a blessing!”.  You don’t hear anyone say it when they hear a really funny joke, “Oh man, was I blessed by that pun!”

But I actually do hear it at other times: the deeper ones.

I heard it this week from a not-frequent-flyer-churchy guy who had heart surgery and survived a close call and yet now has a new life ahead of him.  I heard it last week from a firefighter that came away from a really hard call that involved a death of someone close to his age.  I heard it from a drug addict who was fighting off the cravings and was doing well that day as he realized the support network he had around him.

Each one of them said: “I am blessed!”

The “blessing” that we realize as culture, both churched and non-churched, is many times only named in the hardest of moments, the most difficult times and the super thin spaces where God’s presence is realized.

I believe that’s what Jesus was trying to teach the disciples in his sermon.  You are blessed.  In all moments.  Not just the high fives and celebrations.  But you are blessed in the hardest valleys too!  In fact, the spiritual path that he’s inviting them into, and us as well, is about re-defining “blessing.”  He will share and live into the greatest example of that blessing as he dies on the cross…so that we may say, “I am blessed.”

As you move through your week, listen for that word.  Not just in the responses of those around you, or the situations where it’s easy to see, but instead in the every-moment, whether that moment be at home, in a hospital bed, during a test, in a rough patch, at a fire or in some strength to say No….because in that moment, God is with you.

And you are blessed.

Lord, thanks for your blessings in the hard!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 19, 2017

1-19-17 TV Dish

“The Lord said, “Samuel, Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” – 1 Samuel 3:10

I wonder if Samuel could hear God right away or if he had to reposition himself first?

Remember the “Can you hear me now?” guy?  (Who ironically now works for a different phone company)  Seems like his point was he had to keep on wandering around all over town to get a good signal in order to be heard.

Have you had that problem yourself…with your phone?  Ever have to leave a room…go outside…stand on a roof of a school, like I do in Haiti…just to hear clearly and speak coherently?

Have you had that problem yourself…with your spiritual life?  I have for sure.  Many times.  Sometimes there’s too much noise, trauma, drama and lamas to hear from God…or speak to God.  (There’s actually never too many lamas, but I felt rhymey so I went with it.)

I’m part of a group that is reading the Bible in a Year.  It’s great.  And it’s been awhile for me to be able to dive into certain areas of the Bible that I haven’t read in years.  (Like about the mighty warrior Nimrod in Genesis….and if anyone knows the background to how Nimnod went from a mighty warrior’s name to a goofy dope, let me know).

Wednesday morning, I sat down in a coffee shop before my first meeting to read my assigned daily readings (and the two other days I had fallen behind) and the next thing I did after I opened my Bible was open my computer.  What?  I had to consciously stop myself, close my computer, readjust and reposition myself to do just one thing – dive into the Word and listen to what it was trying to tell me.  It was a two step process: (1) consciously realizing that I was being distracted and then (2) repositioning to listen.

Samuel was just told by Eli to lie down and listen for the Lord.  “If he calls out to you,” said Eli, “You should say Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”

Sometimes we feel more disconnected from God due to the things going on around us.  But probably even more often, we are distracted by ourselves.  (Like all some teachers from grade 3 through now would add to my report card – “Distraction to self and others”)

Reposition yourself today.  Maybe for a moment of prayer.  Maybe for a moment of reflection on what you’ve just read here. Maybe in the middle of an argument with your family member or a tricky decision at work.  Maybe in the dark shadow of tough medical news.

Reposition yourself to hear more clearly God’s love, peace, direction and hope for you.  The Lord is trying to speak it to you. Can you hear it now?

Lord, speak please.  I’m trying harder to listen!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 11, 2017


“I, an apostle of Jesus Christ….” – Paul, a lot, as he writes to the church in Corinth

Who do you point at?  And who is pointing at you?

I had a funny encounter years ago as I moved back into the area that I grew up in.  It was the day Zion Lutheran Church in Clarence Center was voting on me to be their pastor or hit the road and find another job.  I walked into the Sunday morning service and was greeted by a familiar face, Mr. Paul Graf, one of my high school teachers at Amherst High.

I hadn’t seen the man in years and didn’t expect to see him there.  Obviously, he didn’t expect to see me there either because as he handed me the bulletin, he said: “Biegner, if you would have told me back then at Amherst that you and I would be standing here together today doing this, I’d still be laughing.”

Interesting.  Who did I point to in high school?  What did my life and my actions and probably my behavior point to?  Seems like it wasn’t quite in the direction that the Apostle Paul (similar to the teacher Paul) would have been hoping for.

As Paul begins to speak to the Corinthian church, he tells them over and over that his life and ministry point to Jesus Christ.  And he’s encouraging them to do the same.

Did my life in high school point that direction?  I guess not much, or at least not while I was in Mr. Graf’s class.  I’m hoping I’m doing a better job now because now I’m trying to point my own kids in that direction.  And together as a church, we’re trying to invite a community in that direction.  And the work we do in Haiti, we’re trying to point a whole island in that direction.

Who do you point to?  And who is pointing to you?

Today…or each day this week…take a few moments to assess who you are pointing at.  As a disciple of Jesus, as someone who’s been on that journey for a few days, a whole life, or even starting over in a new way, who do you point to?  In your work place?  Your school?  Your neighborhood?  Yes, even your church?

And hopefully you’ll do better than I used to and there won’t be too much laughing!

Lord, help me point to you!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 4, 2017


“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a future of hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11 (Found under “J” in the Old Testament)

Sometimes we forget that!

What a great few weeks it has been.  Yet as life moves beyond this joy filled holiday season where we gather around so many wonderful traditions, we quickly move away from lighting candles, sharing meals and singing carols that bring smiles.  We move back to school, work, routines, dark nights, debts from over spending, Bills firing coaches and a myriad of other things that drag us back into “reality.”  Our dailyness turns from the celebrations of engagements, family gatherings, parties and joy, back into the laundry list of things that block out the beautiful light of Christmas Eve candles with the soft words of Silent Night in the background.

And we can quickly forget that what God wanted us to remember all year: our futures are designed to be filled with hope.

All too often, we have compartmentalized the compassion, sharing, gift-giving and the Pay-It-Forward mentality in the Tim Horton’s line into two or three weeks of the year.   Don’t we want to stretch that out?  Are we really ready to leave that all behind in our Christmas/Hanukkah/(Insert Your Tradition Here) celebrations of December?

I’m not.  And I hope you aren’t either.  Because that’s not how God designed us.  We are designed to live into a future that is new.  That is awesome.  That is hope-filled!   It is both set out before us and inviting us to mold and shape ourselves.

Now if you’re saying to yourself, “Self, I don’t see God paving some hopeful future!”   I get it.  I’ve been there too.   That’s when we need to drag the joy of the past few week’s traditions into the now of our today!  God works through you and me to accomplish that.  God works through the simple smile, the continuous generosity, the selfless responder, the forgiving parent, the concerned neighbor and the listening teacher.  God works through you.  And me.  And brings a future filled with hope.

May your days ahead be filled with a continuation of what has been so good in recent weeks.  May you share that joy, peace and grace with those you come in contact with.  May God’s hope-filled blessings pour over you and be super easy to see!

Lord, help me to keep living out Christmas.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 28, 2016


Want a better New Year’s Resolution than “be nice” or “don’t eat so much?”  Jump into this option to read the Bible in a year.  Whether you’re in WNY or somewhere else, you can do this!

I will be doing this right along with you…reading and learning and experiencing.  In case you haven’t noticed, I’m no Biblical scholar.  Many pastors are, but as a mission developer, my focus was never church history or the Old Testament.  In fact, many of you reading this are better at recalling OT stories/people than I am.  So, I’m super excited to do this right along with you.

As far as I can tell, the readings take 20-25 minutes per day.  Try your best to not fall behind, but if you do, fight the urge to drop out.  If you need to skim a couple days, do it.  (That’s the whole way I got through high school/undergrad/seminary/counseling degrees!) Don’t let this be a stressful thing in your life.  We will get through it together.

You can grab the reading each day online.  You can order your own One Year Bible or www.oneyearbibleonline.com has a listing of every daily reading.  For St. Paul’sers, Mary will try to include the list each week in the emails she sends out Mondays and include a Tuesday-Monday listing.  I also just noticed today on the website, if you want to listen to the readings while cooking, driving or on your treadmill (I don’t suggest doing all those at the same time), they have audio links on the site as well.

We will get together a couple times a month to discuss, ask questions, etc.  If you have a question, please email me before our group time so I can research the answer and don’t have to just make something up like I do with my wife.  Our Jan/Feb Gatherings will be:
January 15 & 22 – 9am – St. Paul’s
February 5 & 26 – 9am – St. Paul’s

Feel free to invite others to join in and they can use the website for the texts.

Blessings in the last days of 2016.  Remember, if you are looking for a New Year’s Eve service (or you think you’ll have a sudden onset 24 hour flu Sunday morning), we will have one at Crossroads Lutheran this Saturday at 5pm.

Lord, thank you for this past year and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the next.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 21, 2016


“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in deep darkness on them the light has dawned.”

Welcome to the darkest day of the year!  But fear not, it’ll be over soon.

December 21st is that powerful day of the year when, for those of us in WNY, you get less light than any other day of the year.  It’s a frustrating place as you get up in the dark and drive home from work in the dark.

But one of our great cultural traditions is to put Christmas lights up all over our houses and properties in this season.  Some are white, some colorful, some blink, some are inflatable Disney characters and some now are rotating laser light shows.  But they are helpful in the darkness.  They distract us from dark and illuminate something else.  Something brighter and beautiful.

Last night at my home in Clarence Center, we lost power for a few hours in the neighborhood.  I drove home from a meeting and as I passed the school, which still had power, I drove into my section of the neighborhood that was an abyss of black.  No lights.  Complete darkness.  If not for my headlights, the drive would have been terrifying.

I know that’s where some of you are right now, entering or in the part of your life that seems to have lost power and lost light.  Some of you wrestle daily with depression, family struggles, spiritual lostness, loss of a loved one, physical challenges that are overwhelming at times, a broken relationship or enter your own personal “power outage” here.  Whatever it is: it feels like Dec 21st more often than just one day.

On you today, light shines.  On you today, hope is near.  On you today, the light will begin to grow again.

I read that passage from Isaiah and am reminded that God speaks to us in the darkness, not waiting for us to “come out of it” or “get over it”.  God enters and stays with us.  Some of those moments of darkness can be the most valuable moments of our lives.  Painful for sure, but showing us something more that maybe we didn’t notice about that loss/hurt while it was light.  (More on this in January)  But it doesn’t make them any easier.

Being in the darkness isn’t bad.  It’s different.  And sometimes very lonely and painful.  But as you/if you go there  today, remember God’s presence with you.  As you drive through the darkness tonight, remember God’s light, on a lawn, from a candle, in some brief laughter or from a short historic Scripture.

If you are walking in darkness, on YOU God’s light dawns.

Lord, walk with those in the darkness.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 14, 2016



Leonard Cohen’s song has been covered by a whole lot of groups and people over the years, but I especially like this one.  Take a look….then come back….


What I like about it is how the song…band…and crowd progress into the story.  First, it’s just one guy singing.  Then another playing.  Then another.  And then slowly everyone in the bar is singing quietly…”Hallelujah…..Hallelujah….”

You are just drawn into the song.  The story.

It’s roughly halfway through December.  If you’re a church nerd, you’re almost done with Advent.  Either way, someone is soon to sit down at a bench and share the beautiful music of this story again.  And the point of the story is precisely that we are drawn in.  To sing along.  To sing praise.  To have it change our night.  Our date.  Our cup of coffee or beer.  Our life.


May the days ahead be filled with this act of being drawn in.  This week I’m doing an early Christmas Eve service at Daemen College.  I’m leading a faith conversation in a bar.  I’m going to a Christmas party with a bunch of friends that have traveled to Haiti.  I’m going out with a friend and her new significant other.  I’m watching the Children’s Christmas Pageant at St. Paul’s.  And who knows where else I’ll end up.  And in every setting, every space, every community, every moment…I hope to be drawn back in.  To that amazing, simple story where God surprises…God breaks in…God becomes like us so that we can become with God.

Wherever you end up this week…work…family…party…exam…
game…service…alone…community……..may you be drawn in.  To this amazing story.


Lord, hallelujah.  Amen

Still in One Peace,



December 8, 2016






Merry Christmas!

OK, no yet.  Or is it?

For those of you who pay attention, this is the 8th Day of Biegner Winter (it’s 100 days long starting December 1st and going through March 10th).  And on the 25th Day of Biegner Winter, we celebrate Christmas!  We’ve done it for years.  It was nice for the Church Fathers to pick the same day to celebrate Christmas as our Biegner Winter calendar.

But the music is (and has been) playing on the radio.  And gifts are being purchased, wrapped and sent.  In fact, I already celebrated Christmas with my mom while she was in town last weekend!  Does this all not count because it’s too early?

Now this week, I’m getting ready to lead an Early Christmas Eve service on campus at Daemen College next Tuesday…the 12th.  We’ll have Christmas carols, read Luke 2 and of course, light the candles and sing Silent Night.  13 days early, what?

The thing to remember today.  The 8th.  Is that Christmas is not about the 25th.  It’s about the 26th.  And 27th.  And the 8th.  And the 12th.

“For unto you is born THIS day….” ~ an angel in Luke

This day.  8% into Biegner Winter.  While you plan for that day 17 days away.  Now, when you’re not feeling Christmasy at all.  Here, while your schedule is busy and full and stressy.

And tomorrow too.

May you celebrate today the news that God loves you enough to come into your life in the flesh.  May it sink in today that God broke in not for a once-a-year, but for an every.

Including today.  Merry Christmas.
Lord, remind me that your love is an every, not a once.  Amen

Still in One Peace,



November 30, 2016

lighten bag

“You better not pout, you better not cry…”

You know the song right?  Many people sing it this time of year or we hear it on the radio…since mid October.  Go ahead…Hum the rest.  Sing the rest of the words in your head or randomly out loud in your office or classroom.

The chorus…is…terrifying!!!!!

Santa Claus is coming and he sounds like he has no compassion for those who are having a bad day, sad about something going on in life and wanting us to be watching over our shoulder all the time.

“He sees you when you’re sleeping…he knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake!”

Holy Stalker Santa!  I’m now picturing this dark image of a “creepy clown” type of Santa staring into my bedroom window from the front lawn, just watching me sleep!

And here we are in Advent.  Waiting for Jesus to arrive on Christmas.  Waiting for Jesus to arrive again into our world.  Waiting for the plan to be completed.

Do we equate this coming Jesus with this odd version of Santa-comin-to-get-us?  John the often think of him yelling and screaming in the wilderness about this Savior coming and we better get our act together or else!

But there’s more to his story.  If you have a chance today, read Matthew 3:1-12.  And before you read it, get the image of Santa “Coming To Town So You Better Shape Up” Claus and allow yourself to have a clean slate.  Maybe like someone wandering into the wilderness for the first time.

Because he’s not describing a God who is coming to get you.  He’s describing a God who already got you.  He’s describing the God of Abraham who has been active and redeeming the world for a very long time.  And now he’s telling people (and us) he’s coming again in another fantastic way!

In the days ahead, let go of doing your Christmas prep “because you have to” or “because if I don’t I’ll be in trouble” or “because God will smite me if I do this or that or don’t do this or that.” Do your Christmas prep because God already did!  God already saved us.  God already arrived.  God’s plan is already in process and God already loves you!

Jesus Christ is coming to town!  And that’s great news.

Lord, help me prep for what you’ve already done!

Still in One Peace,



November 16, 2016

11-16-16-finger-frameI’m writing this before the election.  If you’re reading this on Wednesday, I’m heading back from Haiti right now so I had to write a bit early.  And it’s very weird to “write ahead” in a faith/life/current events devotional style when a fairly HUGE thing is happening for our nation and it’s outcome could move our country in one direction or the other fairly dramatically.

Although, when I head to my election place and case my ballot on Election Day, I’m still in that same position.  Who will win?  How will the country react?  How will the world react?  Will we notice something huge right away?  Long term?  Nothing at all?  What will the future hold?

I know many of you shared multiple concerns and worries surrounding this year’s election process.  I had them myself.  And in many of our conversations, we asked the question: “What will the future hold?”  The challenging thing is the answer is: we don’t know.  I don’t know what the future will hold….

but I do know who will hold the future!

Psalm 46 is an amazing reminder to us that God holds the future.  Jeremiah reminded us in the 29th chapter that God has planned for us a future filled with hope.  Jesus says from the cross while giving his life that “today you will be with me in paradise.”  And Revelation reminds us of a time coming when God’s plan will be completed and “every tear will be wiped away.”

This is a story that I have been woven into through my baptism and relationship with God.  And you have been too!  This is a story that repeatedly shows me a God who is bringing us back together from differences, trials, separations and fears in a way that is eternal!

I don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know exactly what my kids will grow up to be, what our country will do, what the stock market will produce or if the Bills will ever get their act together to make the playoffs again.  I don’t know what the future holds….

but I do know who holds the future.  And it is in very good Hands!

Lord, thanks for the promise of a future filled with hope.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 9, 2016


As a Church, we just moved through the actual day (November 1) and the Sunday (November 6) that we celebrate All Saints.  So many times…too many times…we only focus on those who have died in the last year in our church communities.  While those are amazing names and memories to reflect on, the day and the idea of being saints is much bigger.

See, All the Saints includes All of Us.  And the relationships between us and those who have come before us, taught us, mentored us, raised us, shaped us and steered us have included some holy and sacred moments.  Too often, we wait to reflect on and share these memories and moments with these people until their eulogy, where we try and sum up a person’s life in 2-3 minutes.  And it’s hard, emotional and doesn’t do those moments justice.

So, let’s start now and be more active in it.  

I’m inviting you this week to do two things:
1.  Name those Saints and the moments you’ve been impacted by them.  And then let them know.  Send that important person, friend, family member, coach, neighbor or insert other relationship here a card or note to tell them.  Text them.  Call them.  Stop by and surprise them.

2.  Come to Exploring Your Stories (our Sunday morning adult discipleship conversation) at St. Paul’s on Sunday at 9am and share that story!  Was it someone who has passed away, moved away or maybe still in your story now?  What did that person share with you?  A teaching?  A Bible verse?  An action in the world?  A value?  

Part of our roll as “church” is to pass the faith on to those coming behind us.  But I also believe our job is to name the faith that is happening right around us!  Or maybe happened in a very sacred relationship with another saint.

Let’s not wait until they are gone.  Let’s let the saints know now.

Lord, thank you for ALL the Saints in my life.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 3, 2016


This is just a pause to breathe and say thank you.  It’s a pattern that Jesus used in his connection to his father.  Through the good times, hard times, joyful times and painful times of ministry, we read about him occasionally pausing and praying to give thanks…and breathe.

Tonight we will breathe together and thank God for the generous giving and support of the WNY community for the amazing people of Haiti.

Our Haiti Relief Open House is tonight at St. John Lutheran Church, 6540 Main St, Williamsville NY from 7-8:30pm.  There will be a ton of great food, wine/beer, drink and plenty of great company sharing stories and updates about our partnerships with Grace Ministries in Haiti.  Some of the members of the medical team that came home last week will be there to answer questions.  A new video will be released.  We will be announcing the total numbers of funds raised through WNY Impact Foundation over the past three weeks.  And our architect Scott Jones will be bringing some initial plans for the new medical center that we will work on next.

I am thankful for so many that have given of time and treasure to this mission and I hope you can be there tonight.

What do you have to be thankful for today?  We need not wait for Thanksgiving Day to pause, breathe and give thanks to God for the many and various ways we are blessed.

Maybe that moment for you is today.

Lord, thank you for so many blessings.  You overwhelm.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 26, 2016


I share some reflections this morning from Pastor Scott Hannon at St. John Lutheran Church in Amherst:

“Admit it. You’ve done it. We all have. In this instance, we’re all guilty.

It makes no matter whether we are Democrat, Republican or Independent, white or black, rich or poor. We all point the finger.

We have made presumptions that, quite simply, aren’t true. We’ve cast judgments on others that are baseless. We’ve thought ourselves higher and better than others. We’ve wondered, “What’s wrong with these people?” “How could they think that?” “How could they support that?”

We criticize, call out and condemn. We’ve knocked down rather than built up. When our heads hit the pillow at night, we fall asleep thinking that we’re the heroes in the story of our lives. We believe that we’ve got it right; and those other guys… they’re wrong. At times we’re even tempted to pray, “Thank God, I’m not like those people.”

In scripture (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus tells the story of two people – a proud Pharisee and a humble tax collector. The Pharisee, he says, stands by himself and prays this way:

Thank you, Jesus! That I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, and adulterers, or even like this guy![he says pointing at the tax collector]

In contrast, the tax collector standing far off at a distance does not even dare to lift his head, but instead, beats his chest and laments to God:

God, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Jesus tells his audience it isn’t the proud finger-pointer who walks away righteous, but the repentant sinner. And in doing so he offers an ancient lesson that is as relevant as ever. We are not to judge. It is not up to us to condemn or even to criticize. Rather, we are to humble ourselves. To remember the adage our teachers taught us in middle school: When you point the finger at another, three point back at you.

In these days where everything is contested, where we make snap judgments on entire classes of people, where we point the finger more than ever – may we heed the wisdom our Lord gives to his first disciples: … all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.

This is Jesus’ counsel to Democrats and Republicans, the rich and the poor, black and white, and the Pharisee and the tax-collector.”

May we humble ourselves today and everyday!

Lord, make me humble today and stop pointing fingers.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 19, 2016

10-19-16-jesus-for-pres“Follow me.” – Jesus, a bunch of times to different people through the gospels

What if?  What if this really happened…Jesus for President?  He isn’t exactly running for president throughout the story in the New Testament, but considering they crucify him in the end, I’m not sure he was winning the popular vote.
It’s interesting to me that what he calls the disciples into (and by association us too) is a life of following…of following this messiah, this mentor, this rabbi and teacher into a lifestyle change…a belief change…a way of being and then living out.

What sort of platform were they invited into?  What sort of policy initiatives do we read about in the way Jesus deals with the lepers, those who are broken, those who are outcast and those who are us?

If you’re like me, you’re not looking forward to more of the same craziness in tonight’s debate…not looking forward to jabs and punches and negatives and smears.  If you’re like me, you’re looking for someone to follow.

It might not help your choice in the upcoming election, but we do have one to follow.  No matter what happens in the debate tonight, the election a few weeks from now or the years that follow…we have Jesus to look to, to learn from, to model, to share and to follow.

In a culture, a system of voting, and a slate on the ballot that seems to do nothing more than divide, we have Jesus to follow…in our daily life, in our beliefs, as our foundation of the kingdom of God having broken in, and as our salvation.

You want to be “stronger together” and “make America great again?”  Here’s an option and what I’m planning to do – “Follow Jesus!”

Lord, thanks for giving us a choice and inviting us to follow you.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


October 13, 2016


“There was a widow that just kept coming…” – Luke 18

This is a great story about a widow who keeps bugging an unjust judge until she gets what she wants.  She’s persistent.  She’s a pain in the butt.  She keeps coming!

It takes a lot of energy to be persistent…to get knocked down and keep getting up.  And I don’t know much about this poor woman, besides that she’s lost someone she loves.  She’s a widow and back in the day, it wasn’t a great spot to be in.  So not only is she hurting and grieving, but the system is keeping her down and pushing her away.  

Yet she keeps on coming.

I’ve been blessed to meet a lot of people in my life.  I meet many of them when they are facing hard circumstances in their lives: death, loss, sickness, marginalization, abuse, addiction.  And the people that have impressed me the most are those that in the middle of the worst of the worst, share how much their faith gets them through.  They are tied tightly to the cross of Jesus Christ.  That the rope they hang onto is not tied onto a short term fix, a fading fad or a “new product guaranteed to (insert newest infomercial lie here).  

They are tied to the cross of Jesus.  With a passion equivalent to this persistent widow.  

What’s your rope tied to?  Does it come with the promise of healing, presence of the Holy Spirit and power to overcome even death itself?  Are you wrapped around some “Osteen-esque” theology of just smile and it will be okay or does your rope wrap around a God who came into the worst to give us the best?

Our tree is the cross.  And on that cross was a Savior that went there to battle and overcome all that you are facing today and to reveal a promise of hope and resurrection that begins now.  Right now.

So whatever you face today…wrap your rope around that promise, hang on, and just keep coming.

Lord, help me tie on to you.  Amen
Still in One Peace,


October 5, 2016


Post-Hurricane Matthew update from Haiti:

I realize many of you are not on Facebook, so here is my most recent update to keep you updated:

A couple more updates: Nora LéonLéon Gerson, the mission team and our friends and family in Grande Plaine, Ile a Vache Haiti are safe. Amazing. Nora talked with her daughter a few minutes ago after getting up the hill to Leon’s mom’s house. The damage to the island is devastating to homes and infrastructure and resources. “Ile a Vache has been destroyed” is how I have heard it from each person I talked to. They have 2-3 days of food at Grace School that they will ration. I talked to the US Embassy and they have no current plan for Les Cayes and Ile a Vache and are encouraging all Americans to shelter in place. Thanks…very helpful guys.

Our driver thinks he will be able to get down to Les Cayes by Friday after water levels recede but that sounds awfully soon from pictures I am seeing of the roadway. But the bridge being out has not stopped him before as often in Haiti people just drive right through the river and streams when they are normal levels.

The motor on the boat was damaged so they are working now to fix it. Otherwise evacuation will be needed off the island.

On a good note, the building structures of the school, church and orphanage are intact. Even the solar panels are still on the roof!! The good news: there is continued shelter, cisterns refilling and a place to charge cell phones.

We are assessing our October medical team’s potential for still traveling to Haiti and will keep you updated. 

While I can’t explain the relief in hearing everyone is OK, I can only imagine what the long tern affect will be on the shape, culture and lifestyle on Ile a Vache.

But here’s what I do know…their faith has been made stronger in this and they are praising God for protection, grace and strength and being spared from loss of life. They are praising God in the storm!!!! Please keep that in mind during your day today as you face whatever you face. They continue to teach me about my own relationship with God!

May we all praise God in the storms of daily life!

Please keep our mission partners in your prayers.  I welcome you to give financially to the rebuilding efforts through St. Paul’s (4007 Main St; Eggertsville NY 14226) or the WNY Impact Foundation (PO Box 46; Clarence Center NY 14032).  100% of the dollars you give will go down directly to the rebuilding efforts and are tax deductible.  PLEASE do not give to large scale, high overhead, high administrative non-profits.  And nothing that is associated with the government.  Even ELCA’s Lutheran World Relief does not currently have any connection on the southwestern end of Haiti.  

Lord, you are incredible.  In the midst of life’s storms, thank you for being there for us.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 28, 2016

Somehow, my whole family has turned into a “running family.”  Drew and Lauren, running for their school teams, Michelle, training for a marathon in SC and me running so I can have an IPA or two and not double in size.  But we all love it.

We have each noticed that while running, there’s a lot of things to pay attention to.  Even if you’re not out training for some certain time or pace, you still are watching out for traffic, thinking about your feet landing, not running into deer on the bike path in Clarence or if we are running in a new place or city, trying to watch for the signs to figure out where to go.

Some of the signs are easy and written in large letters.  Some are too small or the view is blocked.  Those are the places that you usually get lost.  I’ve been a part of several races and marathons where people in the lead or not paying close attention have actually run the wrong way, ruining their whole experience.  Especially when you get distracted by music, things you don’t expect or are just a little more scattered than usual, the lostness stinks!  It’s not unlike the lostness in our faith lives.  It stinks being lost.

In the beginning of the book of Habakkuk (yes, this is actually a book in the Old Testament toward the back) we read the words of a prophet who is trying to figure out how God could see/know the chaos and craziness going on in the world and not be acting in a way that meets the prophets timing/expectation.  “How long O Lord shall I cry out for help?  Or cry Violence!  And you do not help, you do not save.”  And he goes on through the first chapter with this continued lament, striking similar to me of the thoughts and phrases of some people in our own nation experiencing awfully difficult times right now.  “How long O Lord?”

But then he reminds himself of the promise that he has been invited to focus on and wait for.  He says “I will stand at my watch post and watch to see what he will say to me and what he will answer concerning my complaint.”

Then the Lord answered him!  And said, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, SO THAT A RUNNER CAN SEE THEM!”

So that a runner can see them!  When I read that, I thought of all those hard to read little signs, direction arrows, warnings and notes that I’ve seen on running trails, roads and bike paths offering direction or insight.  But so many of them are so small, so obscure, so covered that you can’t see them.

But God wants us to see THIS sign.  Boldly and clearly!  God wants us, running by at the pace of life that we usually go at…with all the distractions, detours and new uncharted territory…God wants us to see the prophetic message and SIGN for us.  His vision of a plan and love for us that is bigger, deeper, stronger and more everlasting than anything else.  God wants us to know as we blitz right past the undeserved grace that is offered to us that this grace is for US!  God wants us to know the whole story and that our little piece of it, our seemingly short disconnected chapter, is part of salvation history where God created the world and all that is in it for good and love.  Part of a story that God reached into through prophets and players and then finally with his own Son and gift of the Holy Spirit to hammer home the point that we are his forever.

That’s the sign.  That’s what God wants us to know today on our run, flying through work, blasting through school and work and sometimes madly moving from thing to thing to thing.

May you stand on your own watch post today and see it.  May you see the sign of God’s grace and hope and connection to all that is blessed and good and graced.  May you know today as you run that your story is part of and enveloped by God’s story of eternal love for you.

Lord, thanks for the sign.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 21, 2016


I don’t know the Bible that well.  Despite having read the whole thing, studying certain areas of it pretty hard and preaching on it for 20 years, I don’t actually know it that well.

It amazes me how many times someone mentions a Bible story, especially the Old Testament, and I sort of remember it and recognize a name of two but often don’t know how it fits into the whole story.  Because the Bible isn’t just a book of Books or a bunches of bumper sticker catch phrases stuck together, it’s a whole story.

And what I most often forget is that my story is in it.  And so is yours.

In fact, I realized at a conference last week that when something interesting, funny or difficult happens in my life, I more often equate it to a story from the TV shows Friends, Seinfeld or SportCenter than I do an actual Biblical story.

Maybe it’s because the Biblical story is getting lost?  Or it’s too long to read?  Or 100 other reasons, but culturally, it’s not our point of perspective anymore.

Maybe we need a quick Biblical Overview review, like this one I found online:

Here is the short account:

God: All right, you two, don’t do the one thing. Other than that, have fun.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
Satan: You should do the thing.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
God: What happened!?
Adam & Eve: We did the thing.
God: Guys

God: You are my people, and you should not do the things.
People: We won’t do the things.
God: Good.
People: We did the things.
God: Guys

Jesus: I am the Son of God, and even though you have done the things, the Father and I still love you and want you to live. Don’t do the things anymore.
Healed people: Okay! Thank you!
Other people: We’ve never seen him do the things, but he probably does the things when no one is looking.
Jesus: I have never done the things.
Other people: We’re going to put you on trial for doing the things.
Pilate: Did you do the things?
Jesus: No.
Pilate: He didn’t do the things.
Other people: Kill him anyway.
Pilate: Okay.
Jesus: Guys

People: We did the things.
Paul: Jesus still loves you, and because you love Him, you have to stop doing the things.
People: Okay.

People: We did the things again.
Paul: Guys

John: When Jesus comes back, there will be no more people who do the things. In the meantime, stop doing the things.

OK, that might be a little too basic, but there’s something to it.

I’m going to challenge myself, and I would invite you to join me, to recapture the use of Biblical story in my/your story.  I believe we all know more of them than we think we do.  What is your favorite?  What is that story telling you that God is doing?  Where are you in the story?  And how does it pertain to the “things” of daily life?

Let’s see where this takes us.  Let’s us where and when we are better able to connect our dailyness to the faith life.

Lord, help me know more about where my story and your story interconnect.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


September 9, 2016

9-8-16-meadowAfter speaking with the disciples, Jesus went up the mountain to pray.  Later that night, he was alone” – Matthew 14

I hope you had an awesome, rest-filled, peaceful summer!

So…welcome back to fall!  Welcome back to schedules starting back up.  Welcome back to increased activities.  Back to school.  Back to longer work hours.  Back to less vacations.  Back to more going on at church and home.  Back to more election talk/news that you didn’t see for the last few weeks.

When the calendar turns over to September (or swiped over on your IPhone), it seems like a lot of things start back up and rest…peace…sabbath…solitude…relaxation…seems to drift away.  

Jesus actually shows us another way…a different way… to live into this transition.  

Years ago, I read Jesus’ story as one of non-stop ministry/healing/miracles and then taking a little break for prayer/retreat.  Then back to work!  Repeating this pattern all the way to the cross.

But author/theologian Frederick Buechner helped me see God’s approach a bit differently.  If you stop reading Scripture through our “work as much as you can culture” eyes, you notice that Jesus actually starts in solitude (see the birth story for details) and remains there as a base line, only to come out of that to do the ministry/healings/miracles that God’s children needed.  Post ministry, he returns to his base line – back to solitude – “Jesus went up the mountain to pray.  And that night he was alone.”  (The whole story of Jesus’ time here, which we don’t have time to go into here, carries this pattern through it with the bottom line being – his base line is one of peace.)

It might be a different approach to reading Scripture and God’s story, but I hope you will see that God’s design for us is not to live in a high level of stress, worry, over-commitment and chaos.  It is to be still in one peace!

So as you potentially move into a busier phase of life with increased schedules and demands, remember that you are designed to be at peace.  Allow yourself…gift yourself…to let the best moments from your more peaceful summer wash over you and call you to a new base line, one that starts each morning from a place of solitude, peace and prayer. 

May your days be filled with opportunities to serve, love, care, do and share.  But may you approach each one of them from the place that God designed you to begin: peace.

Lord, help me start today and each day in your peace.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


July 8, 2016

6-22-16 Love in Sand

In him there is no darkness at all” – I John 1:5

Be transformed into love today.  Please.  For the sake of the world.

I was talking with a friend of mine this morning who is also a pastor.  I told him that I was praying for some Godish-intervention into our world… soon.  Literally closing my eyes and praying hard.  For something huge.  Something of Biblical proportion.  Something of Pentecost or Christmas or Red Sea-ness that we couldn’t possibly miss.  That ALL people could unify around.  ALL people would get.  ALL evil would fall down to.  ALL terror would repent upon seeing.  ALL tribes would look to their left and their right and see similarities and not differences.

And then my praying ends.  And I open my eyes.  And it feels like nothing that big has happened.

The only thing there is my face in the mirror.

So maybe that’s the way God is choosing to work this time.  The face in my mirror.  The face in yours.

Allow yourself to look into that mirror today and be transformed again.  To share profound love.  “Am I supposed to crawl back into my mother’s womb and be born all over again,” Nicodemus asked Jesus.  “No,” says Jesus, “That would just be super uncomfortable for your poor mom.  Instead, be transformed and born again through the Spirit.”  A Spirit of love.  A Spirit of repentance of all your own imperfections and sins, not just the ones you point out in others.  A Spirit that can unite.  A Spirit that can forgive and inspire forgiveness.

Be transformed today.  And allow that Spirit to wash over you… to inspire you to forgive and love in a profound way for the world.  And that might just be exactly how God is choosing to work in a new and huge way.

Lord, let your light shine and transform me!  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


June 22, 2016

6-22-16 Love in Sand

In him there is no darkness at all” – I John 1:5

Happy Summerland!  This is the land and time when we have finally hit that summer solstice and maxed out the amount of sunlight we receive everyday.

In the winter, I crave it.  My Dad and I count the days in the winter to remind ourselves that darkness will eventually give way to more light.

So here it is…finally.  And when I stand outside in the sunshine, or go for a run in it, or work in the yard with the light washing over me, I’m in a different place spiritually, emotionally, hopefully.

That space, that connection, that washing-over is who our God is: a God of light, hope and grace.  A God of love.

In Him, there is no darkness at all.  I hold onto that news when Orlandos happen, when gators strike and sickness comes.  I bask in that when life does slow down and I can clear away the dust and commitments and demands and be in the The Presence of light itself in the world: Jesus.

My prayer for you this summer, in your Summerland, is that it will be filled with those moments of peace, Sabbath and rest.  But in the event that hard times arrive, challenges crop up, transitions that you didn’t want actually begin, when you still miss that person so much…stand quietly in the light of God’s love.  Feel that unbreakable connection.  And remember the promise and depth and width of the Love.

In Him, there is NO darkness.  At all.

Lord, let your light shine!  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


June 13, 2016
6-13-16 Pray WO Ceasing




There is no perfect response to terror like unfolded in Orlando yesterday.  So the playbook for how to move forward is really being written prayerfully in live time.  

For St. Paul’s, we will do several things:
1.  Battle hate with love, not more hate.  On Sunday June 19th, the Sanctuary will be open from 9-9:30am for quiet prayer.  I will be there and if anyone wants individual prayers of healing, I would be honored to join you.  There will be no plan…just quiet prayer.

2.  Our new Dean, Rev. Lee Miller, has invited all the Conference Churches to the prayer vigil that our Network of Religious Communities is taking part in on Tuesday at 7:30pm at Masjid Mahdi; 9610 Colvin Blvd; Niagara Falls NY 14304.  You are welcome to join with other people of varied faith backgrounds if that will be a blessing to you.

3.  I shared the following thought on Facebook this morning (see below in italics) and will be using this same text as we gather for worship Sunday morning and wrestle with what it means to be a Man of Faith on Father’s Day.

“In response to Orlando: 

I’m reading the Gospel lesson picked out for this upcoming Sunday from Luke 8:26-29. Jesus heals a guy with a bunch of demons in him (summary). Then “the man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with Jesus; but Jesus sent him away saying “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

My heart hurts over this most recent act of terrorism and hate. Deep sadness for the pain of the Orlando community and those with connections with and through there. I have no idea what to do on a macro level and grieve that my kids are living into this part of their culture as a norm. 

As a church leader, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to hold another…yes another…prayer service post-violence, racism, terrorism and ignorance for healing and forgiveness and spiritual grief. There’s nothing bad about them for sure. But today, that’s not what I hear Jesus telling the healed guy. He tells him, “Go home and tell people.” Go home and tell them what God did for you. Go home and share love, grace, forgiveness and healing.

So that’s all I can do today. With Michelle Woodward BiegnerDrew Biegner and Lauren. With my neighbors. With my extended family. With my church. With my fire halls. With the strangers I meet. With my FB friends.

So today I want you to know: I’ve been blessed, healed, loved and forgiven by God. Undeserved for sure!! I’m thankful for the love of my family and friends and will try my hardest to love you even more. I’m thankful for my crazy and awesome neighbors, even Tacks CallAaron JuddGregory FlynnKelly Dock Carpino! I’m blessed to be part of the Erie County Fire Service and each of us is watched over by God on every call. And I’m lucky to serve the community and Lord through and with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and Lutheran Campus Ministry.

I don’t care if you are white or black, gay or straight, rich or poor, Lutheran or Muslim, addict or clean…you are my brother…you are my sister. We all have a God of Love. Let’s talk. Let’s forgive. Let’s listen. Let’s love.”

Please know that I am available to you for conversations, prayer, calls and texts during the week to wrestle with this event and join with you as we hold the light of Christ to a very dark act.  

May your day honor this grief and confusion, but may it also put this in it’s place as a just a part of the day.  Hate cannot vanquish love; Good Friday is NOT the final answer.  Easter is!

Be blessed and know that you are loved!

Still in One Peace,


June 9, 2016

6-9-16 Maze





If you stare at the picture above long enough, you’ll see the name of Jesus.  Give it a shot.  Stare maybe….30…45….50 minutes.  I’m sure it will turn up!  (Kidding…you’ll hurt your head too much after 6 minutes and fall off the chair)

Ever looked at one of these things and tried to figure out what mystery word or image will reveal itself after we stare long enough and rock our brain into complete confusion?

I always am jealous of the people that look right at them and immediately see the intended target while I twist my eyes around in 100 different ways and still usually can’t find it.  Or that person who looks at the cloud and says: “Look at that one!  Can you see Margaret Thatcher?”  Or your every-three-year piece of toast that looks to have the Virgin Mary’s image burnt into it.

Some can see them easily and some have a hard time.

Can you see Jesus?  Can you figure him out?  Can you look at the world around you…your own life…the news…your church…and make out who Jesus is?  What he’s done, doing and about to do?

It’s tricky.  But we’re not the first to struggle.  Luke’s 7th chapter, which can be found directly after the 6th chapter and under “L” in the New Testament, has a lot of people trying to figure out who he is.  “Who is this that he even forgives sins?” they ask.  

But in each case, he answers.  Sometimes through a miracle.  Sometimes through a healing.  Sometimes through a story.  Sometimes in his tears.  Sometimes through feeding.

I wish when people asked me how they should move through some situation faithfully or what Jesus would do in a certain situation, that I had a clear, easy answer that fit every occasion.  There’s no one size fits all.  Sometimes it’s tricky.  And sometimes it takes some patience to stare at Jesus and listen and watch and see.  

What I do know is that when we do, when we look at the maze that is our faith in God long enough, there is often clarity.  When we focus on the love, grace and forgiveness that God has shown to us, that image reflected into the world is usually right on.

If you are staring at or trapped in a maze today, may you find clarify in Jesus.  May it be abundantly clear and fast.  But if it’s not, keep looking.  Keep watching Jesus who offers grace and peace which is truly hard to understand and believe sometimes.  And let that lead you through the maze.

Lord, thanks for showing us.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


June 2, 2016

6-2-16 Packing LunchSee, I am about to do a new thing….Do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43:19

It’s getting near the end of the school year.  And at our house in downtown Clarence Center, I make the breakfasts for the kids and Michelle makes the lunches.  Despite the fact that I make three breakfasts (Drew, Lauren and Bill the Dog), Michelle shares a pretty consistent monologue of frustration each morning that making two lunches gets challenging and repetitive.  She’s not a fan of trying to figure out what to give the kids for lunch, especially one our daughter is not the most adventurous eater.  So about this time of the year, Michelle is counting the days that she has left to pack up creative and healthy lunches (whereas I will of course have to continue making three breakfasts all year round….just saying).  It’s The Lunch Rut.

We can easily get frustrated by “ruts” – that is, getting caught in a repetitive cycles of having to do the same thing over and over again.

Does our relationship with God ever get caught up in ruts?  Does it ever wind up looking like a lunch box full of left over Taco Bell sauces and a raw potato?  

Maybe.  But that’s certainly not how God designed it.  Those ruts are on us, not God.  God is constantly doing a new thing.  Do we perceive it or not?  Sometimes not.  Sometimes the ruts are too deep and we can’t see these new things unfolding because we’re blinded by the minutia of our dailyness.

God’s story (see the Bible beginning in Genesis and going through Revelation) is filled with new things: new covenants, new promises, new leaders, new prophets, a new Savior, a new Spirit.  New.

If you are feeling like your relationship with God is in a rut, use this summer to break it open again.  God has already started the process.  Try a week at a new church.  Start a new devotional.  Begin a new spiritual practice.  Take some new time of sabbath.  Pray in a new time, new way, with new people.  

If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to get un-stuck, shoot me an email (steve@nullstpaulseggertsville.org) or text (7168681232) and I’ll see if can help you out or help connect you to someone who can.

So today, may you not be frustrated packing lunches or with your faith journey.  And may you see that God is about to do a new thing in your life….do you perceive it?

Lord, thanks for the fresh start.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 26, 2016

5-26-16 Food Truck





“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” – Jesus

All Day Breakfast and Love

Sue Currie, the artistic designer of the Daily Bread Food Truck, added this important phrase as part of our logo on the Dough Boy (my nickname for the truck).  The important piece of the phrase: and love.

When I lived down South, I really enjoyed sitting down to a local restaurant or chain breakfast joint and having the waitress come over and say “Morning Sweetie” or “What can I get you Love?”  Now be clear, 99 out of 100 times, I had never met this person before but the use of the name “Honey/Sweetie/Love” instantly made me feel more connected and at home.  Politically correct?  Maybe not.  But maybe needed now more than ever?  All day, right!?

This food truck mission that St. Paul’s is stepping into is way more about Love than it is food.  The food will be an entrance point.  The food will satisfy a basic human need for many…don’t get me wrong.  But the Love will feed the soul.  The Love will heal wounds.  The Love will connect us to the stranger.  The Love will fill eternally where the food will only touch temporarily.

What Jesus offers is a meal that fills the soul.  He offers a drink that quenches thirst for the long haul.  That Love rolls up and parks in front of us through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  

May you hear that voice from God this morning: “Morning Love!”  May you know that God says it so that each of us knows the depth of compassion, hope and grace we are offered.  All.  Day.  Long.

Lord, thank you for loving.  Me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,

May 18, 2016

5-18-16 Food Truck





“Whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” – Jesus

“Thank you” was all he needed to say.

This morning I was over at one of our local elementary schools  checking in with some staff about some upcoming projects.  Amherst is a first ring suburb in WNY, but the catchment area for this school presents more like an urban zone than suburban.  It’s an underserved area that houses many people reaching financially to get their kids in a good school district.  It’s an area where many new-to-the-country students/visiting staff to local universities reside.  The school’s population is 48% white and 52% from 44 other countries.  Sixty percent are living under the poverty level and 45% of the kids receive free or reduced cost meals while school is in session.  37% speak English as a new language.  It’s an incredible area filled with the blessings and challenges of urban diversity.

We’ve been partnering with the school for the past couple years for different programs and needs and now we’re looking to take a deeper step into the community.

While I was there this morning, I walked by a dad carrying a violin with the “my kid forget this again” look, which I’ve had on many times.  We stopped for a moment, laughed about it and then he asked me what I was doing over there.  

I explained I was the pastor at St. Paul’s and that our new venture to help people with hunger and food insecurity issues in and around the church led us to buy a food truck to help out.  

Then he asked this profoundly simple question: “Why would you do that?”

I paused (which is rare) and then went into the whole back story of the WNY Impact Foundation buying the truck and a team of awesome, talented people planning the mission and our partnership with St. Paul’s and the incredible church community to help with these efforts cooking, volunteering, and serving….

And as I was babbling on, he put his non-voilin hand on my shoulder, looked straight into my soul and said: “No, WHY are you doing this?”

And I could barely stammer out: “Because I think it’s what Jesus would do and wants us to do.”

After that phrase came out of my mouth, the silence seemed prolonged and deafening.  Then he took his arm off my shoulder,  and silently held out his hand waiting for me to shake it.  And as I did, he just said this:  “Thank you”

And that was all he needed to say.

Two simple words that affirmed being on the right path…not necessarily having all the answers, details or directions, but at least knowing you are stepping into God’s plan.

I believe even more strongly today that Jesus said those words to us….whatever you do for the….because he knew we would encounter them and we would also be them.  All of us.  Being and serving the hungry.  All of us.  Being and serving the meek, the sick, the lost, the lonely, the left behind.

Today, may you hear the words Thank You from another.  And when you hear them, may you know that your ministry is unfolding right there before you in that moment.  And for those many times we don’t hear those words as we try over and over again, may you hear them from Jesus himself, thanking you for living into your future with him.  

Lord, send me to them.  And send them to me  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 11, 2016

5-4-16 God Keeps Promises






If you are reading this, there is a chance you have been to or go to church of some sort.  Doesn’t matter the denomination or site or dogma.  Doesn’t matter if it’s at a camp, in a regular building, at a movie theater, bar or fire hall.

In all these places, backgrounds and styles, if I ask “church people” where they see the Spirit of God at work, more often than not, the answer revolves around their faith community.  “I see God at my church when we…”  “I experience the Holy Spirit while we sing in….”  We often highlight the “we” and often neglect the “me.”

And yet, it is the “me” and the “you” that God sent his Holy Spirit to as described in the book of Acts.  (Read Acts 2)  The Holy Spirit descending on individuals, fire in tongues, dancing on and in souls, changing individual lives.

That’s what God promised.  To stay with you.  To find you.  To come to you.  The community of believers builds up around that amazing presence and celebrates it, but it’s not the only place and way that God’s Spirit moves and breathes.  That Spirit thrives in you.  That Spirit has come for you.

So my hope and prayer today is two-fold:

1.  Let yourself start to see God in and around you.  Just you.  Your life.  Your vocation.  Your family.  Your activity.  Your healing.  Your brokeness.  Your yearning.  Your love.  Because that is how God entered, for you.

2.  If you happened to have tripped over this devotion, and you are not part of church or a faith community and you didn’t think any of this was going to apply to you but yet for some strange reason you continued reading….guess what?  This same God comes for, gives to, falls on, picks up, heals and love you too.  Just for being you.

Where do you see God’s Spirit alive and at work?


Lord, thank you for coming for and to me.  Help me see me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 4, 2016

5-4-16 God Keeps Promises





(I shared this with our local students in WNY today…)

“And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” – Luke 24:49

Wherever you are right now, wherever you are reading this, whatever you are preparing for or finishing up: tests, papers, transitions, worries about the next, relationships that are struggling…all of it…you have a God that fulfills the promise to be with you.

You are not alone.  Promise!

Jesus said those words to his disciples when he was hitting the road from earth and reconnecting with his Father in heaven.  So he reminded them of God’s promise – to always be with them – and sends (clothes) them with the Holy Spirit.

That promise goes to you too!  In your relationship with God, wherever it is, that promise is given and fulfilled.  Have you ever had a friend or family member break a promise?  Hurts right?  Not God…God only fulfills.

So maybe you’re feeling empty right now from exhaustion from school, studying or just too many things that need to get done.  Right now, be refilled!  Be refilled with God’s promise to clothe you in his love and presence wherever you are and whatever you face.  

God always fulfills!  That’s a promise.

Lord, refill me with that promise to face the day and the challenges before me.  Amen

Still in One Peace,



April 27, 2016

4-28-16 sunrise beach





“My peace I leave with you…my peace I give to you.” – Jesus

Do you have that “happy place?”  That place where you go to retreat, get away, find sabbath or quiet?

Or maybe it’s a thing you do…work out, go for a run, take a nap, walk the dog, read a book or have a cold beer.  

Or maybe it’s a thing you use…cross necklace, rosary, lucky rabbit’s foot, security blanket.

What is it…where is it…how is it…that you find peace?

The older I get and the more of life I experience the more certain I am that we are designed to be at peace.  Except much of our lives calls us away from that.  So, Jesus reminds us in Scripture today that peace is a gift from God…given to us…as a part of our spiritual DNA, our operating platform and our baseline.

If you’re like me though, you mess it up and get it backwards – you try and cram a bit of peace into the chaos instead of how God intended it for us – start from that peace and walk into the chaotic moments.

When we start our day, our moments, our movement from a place of peace, we sense the gift of the Holy Spirit first.  That’s the design.  Too often, once I’m need deep in drama and chaos, I reach our reactively for a deeper connection to God’s Holy Spirit to “rescue” me.  Ever prayed that prayer?  

What if your decisions today started with proactive peace?  What is your conversations that might involve tension began at a baseline of peace?  What if your prayers and centering today brought you first to the One who is already next to you rather than groping for an EMS-like Savior to pull you from the quick sand?

Whatever that reminder is for you today….your run, your blanket, your cross, your rest…may you hear through it the voice of the One who invites you into your peace-filled beginning as He walks right next to you on the journey.

Lord, today I am in peace.  Thanks for that gift.  Amen

Still in One Peace


April 20, 2016

4-20-16 Three Boys





“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.” – Jesus, in John’s gospel.

Sounds simple.  But seems to be a challenge for many sometimes.  

I was in Haiti last week with a team of people to look at beginning the phase of adding a medical clinic to our current school, church and orphanage.  And one of the things that always seems a little easier to notice in Haiti….is love.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m looking harder, more open to it or maybe because it just happens more often?  Maybe it’s because I don’t watch political campaigns down there or news about terrorism?  Not sure.  But I notice.

One day last week on a walk back from our late afternoon swim in the Caribbean with the village children, we made the trek up the hill back to the school.  The journey winds over paths that twist and turn, around bushes, crops, houses and animals.  Usually as I walk, I love every surprise around the next corner.  Most of the time that is because around one of those corners last week was an enormous bull.  With horns.  That were angry.  And eyes.  That weren’t filled with love.  And he was chilling out in the hot afternoon sun…right on the path.  

We stopped with all the children, their voices and creole chatter rising in volume and nervousness.  But one of the boys, Andley who is about 9 and 52 pounds soaking wet, motioned for our whole group to calmly move off the path and walk around the bull.  While we adjusted, he simply picked up a rock, walked towards the bull, and stood there poised to back the angry animal off, David and Goliath style, while we all walked safely around.

Once past, on our way we went.  Andley dropped the rock and caught up to the group once the last person had moved safely by.

I thought to myself: I think that’s what Jesus would have done.  And many times, I think that’s what Jesus did… from a cross… and does… through the gift of the Holy Spirit and the invitation for us to love one another.

Love.  In action.  I don’t know what it will look like for you today.  But I hope you will notice.  I hope you clearly see another, maybe one standing in harms way for you, loving you.  Or maybe you will be that one, picking up a shield of protection for another?

But either way, may the things that get in the way of those visions becoming real and present moments melt away.  May the distractions to seeing them unfold disappear.  And may the road blocks that keep you from walking in Andley’s shoes for another be silent in the calm invitation from Jesus to simply love one another.

Lord, help me notice the love and share it with the world.  Amen

Still in One Peace


April 14, 2016

4-14-16 Pay forward





I wanted to share a great story.  This came from a member of St. Paul’s as a follow up to a Pay God’s Grace Forward Sunday a few weeks back (we gave each person a gift card or $5 bill to take and share with someone in need).

Hi Steve.  Tim and I wanted to share this with you.  It took us a while to figure out what we wanted to do with the gift cards we picked up out of the baskets at church several weeks ago when you had them.  I took a Walmart one, Tim took a Tops one.  We finally decided on Friday night to send them anonymously to a man I used to work with a few years ago.  He has gone through many struggles, including being homeless and many medical issues.  He is now fully disabled due to issues with his legs.  Through everything he has gone through, he has always kept a smile on his face, kindness in his heart and has never lost his faith in God.  He does not have much material-wise, but will always try to help anybody he can however he can.  He received the card we mailed on Monday, and here is what he posted on FaceBook.

“I am sitting here in awe!!!  I got a card in the mail today with no return address.  I opened it up and the card read: May your day be filled with sunshine and flowers.  The inside has a handwritten note: May your day be filled with grace and smiles.  There was also a Walmart and Tops gift card.  I have no idea of who thought of me so kindly to do this for me.  I was not having a good day until now!!!  I thank you so much!  Whoever did this has my prayer for God to look over you and bless you. – Vernon”

Sometimes we forget how much a simple gesture can affect someone else’s day.  I knew he would be grateful, but his comment actually brought tears to my eyes.  After seeing this, it not only obviously made Vernon’s day, it also made mine and Tim’s to be able to Pay It Forward.  Thank you to you and to St. Paul’s. 

Kim & Tim Stanley

God’s grace received.  And God’s grace poured out.  As my friend Leon in Haiti says: If you believe in Jesus, do something about it!  Thanks to Kim for the reminder that even a simple gesture as a response to God’s grace can have an incredible impact on God’s kingdom around us.

Lord, help me do something about it.  Amen

Still in One Peace


March 30, 2016

3-30-16 How






I was out on a long run before Easter to work on my Easter sermons and allow the assigned texts to seep in and see what was striking in them.  What I found in Luke’s version of the story was the overwhelming overwhelm on the part of the disciples: the women who went to the tomb and his closest followers.  The very ones that heard his promise the most!  How did this happen?  How would they move on?  How would they see him again?

And no joke, the song “How?” by Regina Spektor came over my earphones.  Weirdest timing.  I listened to it a few times over a couple miles as I ran in the awesome sunshine and was struck how much her story and song could have been sung by a female disciple about Jesus.  It’s a story about lost love and searching for the “what next” and trusting that there will be a “how” of reconnecting at some point.  You can listen to the song here.


Now obviously I realize that she wasn’t writing the song about “how” she was missing Jesus, but it sounded eerily familiar to what the disciples could have been feeling.  My guess is that many of you have lost someone, maybe someone you loved very deeply, and wondering how you would meet again or when that amazing time would come….hoping that what you once experienced could be experience again…somehow.

I believe that Thomas, one of Jesus disciples, might have been feeling that way too.  So when someone told him Jesus was alive, it’s no wonder that he said, “Won’t believe it until I see it.”  So Jesus shows him.  How.  Touch my side.  Feel my hands.  This is How.

Sometimes for us, it’s not that simple.  But I believe that our “how” with the people we have loved and lost revolves around connection through faith, amazing love, dwelling in the stories and knowing that the power of resurrection is bigger than just our entrance into eternal life.  Resurrection is also for the now.  Helping us know that if God can conquer death itself, God can walk with us through the sadness, grief and loss we might feel right now.

I like Thomas a lot.  He’s real with his doubts and grief.  But I also like Jesus, who doesn’t want him to stay there too long.  He wants him and us to know that the gift of faith and love can bridge the gap when we can’t see or touch.  Faith in resurrecting power and in those eternal, never wavering connections can be God’s How.  For Thomas.

For for us.

Lord, help us know how.  Amen

Still in One Peace


March 9, 2016

3-9-16 Sprouts





Happy last day of Biegner Winter!!  God is about to do a new thing!

“Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” – Isaiah 43

100 days of Biegner Winter are now in the books and in WNY we scheduled at 65 degree day to cap it off.  You’re welcome!

Actually, we just keep track of 100 winter days just to remind ourselves that spring, warmth, growing grass, flowers, leaves, birds, etc are coming again.  While this winter was pretty easy going, sometimes we really need to remind ourselves throughout the harsh, cold, blustery days that this is not our “always reality.”

And in celebrating the end of our made up winter schedule, we essentially name the fact that God is about to do a new thing.

Some of our “winters” in life (sickness, transitions, grieving a loss, tough diagnoses, struggling kids, and more) seem like they last more than 100 days.  Maybe you’re in one now?  Well this is why Isaiah is reminding those back then, and us now, God is about to do a new thing.  The storied history of God interacting with this world is full of story after story of God’s creative plan and Spirit lifting us through, recreating, redefining and reimagining the toughest, worst, sickest, and desolate situations.  They weren’t all easy solutions.  They weren’t all cures, Disney endings and Osteen-like “if you just pray hard enough God will bless you with riches” stories.  But as we look back through all of salvation history (which is a super long time), God continued to do new things.

And that promise continues today!  That God is active today.  That Savior went to a cross to conquer even death itself.  That Spirit stayed with and in us to be present through the winters we might be facing today.

“Winter” is over.  Even if you are in it right now!  It’s grip can be.  The God of past, present and future new growth is promising you again: “I am about to do a new thing!”

Lord, please do it again!!  Make the winters of life new again.  Amen

Still in One Peace

Side note: If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of connecting in prayer.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.


March 2, 2016

3-3-16 School





“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
    I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
    I will be with him in trouble,
 I will deliver him and honor him.
    With long life I will satisfy him
         and show him my salvation.” – Psalm 91

Today, I want to simply invite you into a time of prayer.  A time to create space within or away from the demands of now and today.  A place for you to connect and reconnect to the God this Psalm writer is telling us about.

Today, I will be joining with people at St. Paul’s around 12:30pm and praying for our schools.  Your schools.  If you are reading this, I’d invite you to join me in praying for:

…Our Preschools, Elementary, Middle and High Schools, those local to your area, where your kids attend or the one you went to yourself.

…Their students, staff, teachers and administration.

…Our local WNY colleges and universities, or the one you attended if not in WNY.

…Their students, staff, professors and administration.

…Our ELCA seminaries that work to train future leaders of the Church and for the world.

…Their students, staff, professors and administration.

Lord, bless all that we have named.  Thank you their ministry to the world.  Amen

Still in One Peace
Side note: If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of connecting in prayer.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.


February 24, 2016

2-24-16 hay

Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, “Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.’ “ Luke 13:6-9

We need more manure!  (like Cowbell, but different)

How are you doing on your New Year’s Resolution?  Can you even remember what one you made?  How are you doing on your Lenten discipline…adding something, giving something up…still going?  How’s that new workout routine going?  That life-style change diet?

In general, our acts of renewal don’t last very long.  Days…maybe weeks…maybe even a few months…but three years?  Ha!  Hardly ever, right?

And yet, how would we feel if someone walked by us while we were trying to change, grow and bloom and said “They quit…again…they aren’t bearing any fruit…again.  Cut them down!”

For the amount of times I’ve said that I’m going to do this, that or the other or stop doing A, B or C and quit on it, I probably DESERVE to be cut down.  

But not in God’s eyes.  I just need more manure.

See God’s take on our shortcomings, our falling short and our giving up, is to do more…the most.  God says in those moments: You need more manure.  I believe that God looks at our lack of fruit and says “When will they fully understand that they are capable of almost anything, powerful beyond measure and have the potential to change themselves and the world around them?”  Three years isn’t enough in the parable.  Maybe we need more time too?

So God gives more time.  Let’s add some manure.  Let’s change the soil, bless it with nutrients, aerate with oxygen and let life giving and inspiring sunshine pour over it.  And give it more time.

It’s as if God says, what I’ve done in the past isn’t quite enough I guess, let me give them my Son.  Let me die for them.  Let me take on all their sin.  

Let me.  So they can.

I can.

Today is about more time.  More manure.  Another opportunity.  A second chance.  A new effort.  A fresh start.  Which all come from the One who said “Don’t cut them down.  There’s still hope for this one.  Give them more time.”

We need more manure.

Lord, thank you for more time.  Help me to use it wisely.  Amen

Still in One Peace
Side note:  If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of slowing down.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.


February 17, 2016
2-17-16 Station 7



Who is God to you?

One of the Stations of Prayer I just added today is called “Who is God to you?”  The table is covered with a few objects that might hold descriptive properties as to how you relate to and see God in your dailiness.  

Hazard Cones – a God that keeps us away from the hazards of life.  Writing Implements – a God who helps write the direction of our life.  Paper Towels – a God who helps clean up the messes of life.  And there are few more.

Then people are invited to find some other object in church that describes that relationship and add it to the table and write it on the list.

I want to invite you to be a part of that: for yourself, for your family and for the community here at St. Paul’s.  What object would you add?  And why does it represent that relationship.  Do this as a family at dinner tonight.  Bring the objects to the table and have each person share the background as to why they chose that one.  Then pray in thanksgiving for a God who comes to us in so many and various ways.

For the online community, add it to the St. Paul’s Facebook page.  Take a picture if you can.  Or just add the object and description to the comment flow.  

Today, mine would be a Hand Print.  One my wall in the office hangs a piece of paper with the Sunday School kids hand prints on it.  With a simple thank you.  God’s handprint is on me and I have the opportunity to put that same handprint on others.  I’m thankful for that responsibility.

What’s your object?  Pick one out and reflect on it on your own, as a family or share it online.

And together we will be praying to a God who reaches out to us in many and various ways.

Lord, thanks for the hand print and all the ways you connect to us.  Amen

Still in One Peace
Side note:  If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of slowing down.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open.


February 11, 2016

2-10-16 Station 9





“Pick up the pace!”  “Push!”  “Keep going!”

As a runner, you hear these phrases a lot, say them to yourself and sometimes people even yell them out the window of their car as they drive by.  

Faster.  Longer.  Better.

Many times it’s helpful.  You do keep going.  You do speed up.  You set a new personal record.  But sometimes when you push too hard…for too long…you get injured.

I’m working with a new physical therapist, who is also the lead running guru for this year’s Buffalo marathon.  Here was his advice to me: “Slow down!”  “But Steve (that’s his name too), I want to get faster and get under 3:30 this year.  So I need to speed up in my training, right?”

“Wrong, slow down.”  He believes strongly that by slowing down, you will be able to speed up later when you need to.  By not beating your muscles up so badly in training, when it comes time to race, you actually have something left to push when you need to.  (And considering he dropped his marathon time from 4:05 to 2:10 in five years….I’m going to listen)

Awkward transition…..

Welcome to Lent.  Where God says “Slow down.”  

Spiritually we are in “training” as well on a daily basis in our lives.  Everything in the world says speed up, so we do.  And when we push too hard for too long, we get injured, or we injure someone else.  

So in Lent, Jesus says “Slow down.”  

Reflect.  Recenter.  Recharge.  Return to God’s loving relationship with you.  Repent.

Slow down in your training to allow yourself the build your spiritual base back up.  Then when it’s time to run the race, you’ll be ready.

“Let us run the race that God has put before us with endurance.”   Hebrews 12:1

Use this season of Lent to slow down and return to the spiritual training patterns that are healthier for you and therefore healthier for the world around you.  This way, when the race gets the toughest, you’ll be able to pick up the pace at just the right time.

Lord, help me slow down and listen to you as my trainer.  Amen

Still in One Peace
Sidenote: If you are near St. Paul’s Lutheran in Eggertsville, NY, you are welcome to use “Stations of Prayer” as one way of slowing down.  Check out the St. Paul’s FB page for details and times that it is open



February 3, 2016

2-3-16 Like Christ





Sometimes you find things on social media that are actually worth watching.  Take a look at the following clip that Michelle brought to my attention last week:


Wiping tears from eyes….)

How great is that kid?  And how great an impact have his parents, coaches, and role models had on him?

Years ago when my kids played in an Upward Basketball league at the Clarence Church of Christ, as the coach, I got to give out the “Christ-like Player” award at the end of each game.  This is very different from the “everybody who has a pulse and plays gets a trophy” philosophy.  The Christ-like player is the one on the court that shares, gives up for others, passes, stands up for teammates, bring joy and more.  I know parents were always proud when their kid received this award.

I hope the parents of this kid in the video were proud of him.  He modeled Christ.

As we catapult ourselves into Lent next week (you’ll recognize it when your co-worker has ashes on their forehead or if you’re like me, just a blotch of dirt because I forget the cross is there and smear it by wiping my forehead), we see the Christ-like Christ.  The Original One.  The one that stands on the sidelines and finds the least, little, lost, lonely and left behind and gives them the ball.  And his ball…is life.

He did it once on a cross.  He does it now through us.

From the sidelines.  From the kitchen table.  From the classroom.  From the court.  From the driver’s seat.  From the doctor’s office.  From the hard conversation.

Lent is an opportunity to refocus ourselves on being the Christ-like Players.  A new change to reformat our shape around the shape of a cross that reaches from the center to the outsides.  That center is where the beams cross: one beam is the action of God’s time (vertical) and the other beam is our time (horizontal).  And in that crosspoint is the Christ-like player himself.  Giving his life for ours.

May your movement into Lent be your movement into this shape.  May those changes and reformations in your own life help you to see all the players on the floor intersecting with your potential to be an agent of God’s love, grace, hope and compassion.  And in doing so, may we all win the game.

Lord, help me be a Christ-like player.  Amen

Still in One Peace

Side note: If you have kids or are just looking to volunteer some time, the Upward Basketball program is fantastic!  Please consider being a part of it.  The people and program at Clarence Church of Christ, led by Pastor Mike Bowers, have been incredible assets in the lives of so many kids in the Clarence area.  I’m very thankful for all of them!

January 27, 2016

1-27-16 Prison





“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery..” – Galations 5.

I know that most of you reading this are not currently in jail…at least, I hope this is the case.  Otherwise, it’s been a few crazy days since I saw many of you this past Sunday!!

But, we don’t often run into times where we find ourselves “imprisoned” in other ways?  Not with bars, but many other things that end up holding us back, and in and down.

For me, I feel a type of imprisonment when I am not in control…of my schedule especially.  So my recent visit to jury duty last week included a stressful week of build up, wondering how long my schedule would be “out of my control.”  I found myself grumpy and stressed over the thought of having to do my usual duties for multiple jobs and responsibilities with a decreased amount of time.  And then, when after days of being sequestered (it was actually only 1:30pm the first day…4.5 total hours) and the attorney said “You’re dismissed,” I felt a rush of relief and joy come over my type-A, control-freak self.

And yet as I reflected back on the many times I’ve been “imprisoned” like that, or during sicknesses, or family struggles, or because of unforeseen demands, God just responds, acts, heals, and brings resolutions without me.  It always gets done.  God always wins.

I know that Jesus died for our eternal salvation.  I get it and it’s awesome.  But isn’t it nice that he also came into the dailyness of life and still shows up today, so that freedom from imprisonment isn’t just a thing I have to wait for until I die?  

Freedom happens now.  I am free.  And the only bonds that are left on me are the ones I place there and let stay there.  

Freedom through Christ isn’t just for my Sunday morning church experience.  It’s for my jury duty stress.  It’s for the time when I hear about so many friends and loved ones that have cancer or illness very present in their lives.  It’s for the time I watch the news with the kids and see acts of terror unfolding.  It’s for the times when I can’t seem to figure it out, don’t know what to do, can’t see the way out and don’t know the next step.  Even those bonds get broken!  Because that’s right where Jesus is.  Freeing me.

May your jury duty moments be short.  May the freedom that Christ brings and offers help release you from those bonds and stressors in eternal life and in the dailyness of life.  And may you  know that whatever you are facing and feeling trapped by today, that is exactly where Jesus is!

Lord, help me live out freedom! Amen  

Still in One Peace,


January 20, 2016

1-20-16 MLK





“It is always the right time to do the right thing.” – MLK Jr.

Most of the time in my Devo’s, I start with a Jesus quote at the top.  I’m not trying to make Martin Luther King Jr. into the Savior, but I have to believe that Jesus would have agreed with his thoughts here.

In fact, I have to believe that Jesus would have agree with most of his other thoughts as well: dreaming of equality, turning the other cheek, standing up for the beaten down and searching to be light in the darkness.

I hope that this past Monday was more for you than just a day off or a time when you didn’t need to go to the mailbox to pick anything up.  I hope you paused, for even a moment, to remind yourself what MLK reminds us: do the right thing.

When?  Now.  What?  Whatever!  Who?  Yes, with them.  

If you came to St. Paul’s Sunday and walked out with money or a gift card or a note card, hopefully you’ve already engaged that tool.  But now that you might be reading this on Wednesday or later, we’ve had at least three whole days where potential opportunities have been on our radar.

The neighbor who needed their driveway shoveled.  The friend whose family member is in the hospital.  The shut-in church family member who is feeling isolated.  The kid in your house that might need some extra time.  The parent who could use an extra phone call.  The spouse that deserves that apology.

Now is the right time to do the right thing.

The chance are around us all day every day.  Each day, may you start it off knowing that you are already loved, forgiven and poured over with grace.  May that gift from God through Jesus Christ motivate you to know that this is the right time to do the right thing.

Lord, help me see the times and respond!  Amen

Still in One Peace,



January 6, 2015

1-6-15 Richard Rohr





“And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” – John 1:14

Why did God become flesh?  Why did the whole Jesus story happen?  Could God not have done all this salvation stuff through ghosts, angels or palm readings?  Maybe.

But that’s not how it happened.  The Word became flesh.  And “flesh” would never be the same again.

There’s intimate relationship between our humanity and our spirituality.  Too often (especially as Westerners and for me, especially a mainline protestant worshipper), we parse those things out, separating them into different times, sections and experiences of life.  We move heart, soul, mind and body into quadrants that don’t get a chance to touch enough.

We have a tendoncy to be more comfortable with compartmentalization rather than transformation.

This is why I really appreciated Richard Rohr’s reminder today that Jesus came to transform and reform, not to break us apart into compartments and departments. 

“Belonging and believing” is not a bad thing for sure.  However, without transformation that experiences love and let’s that love form and mold us into the needs and hopes of the world, it’s probably closer to a cult or a club.  

THIS is why Jesus came.  To make the love of God into humanity and bring humanity into the God of love.

How can we reflect that transformation today?  How does that intersection and interconnection allow us to fuse our parts and pieces of “self” into the whole of the needs around us, the God around us and the community around us.  

How can the news that Jesus already did it allow us to transform our flesh into the very Word of God itself?

Lord, help me to be transformed!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 30, 2015

12-30-15 Baptismal font




“And the Word became flesh and lived among us….” – John 1:14

Ever open your eyes under water?  For many people, it’s tough to do.  If you wear contacts, have high prescription glasses or are sensitive to salt or chlorine, it’s probably not high on your to-do list.  It can sting, irritate or cause your contact lens to float away.  

What about opening your eyes and looking through baptismal waters?  Ever done that?  My guess is you have: on those days you go to church and someone’s child is being baptized or on Easter Sunday while singing “Christ Is Risen!” or Christmas Eve as you hold a candle and sing “Silent Night.”  At those times, it’s easy to see the world and life through those watery times.

What about Thursday?  Or Friday?  A regular one.  Without the songs and the candles and lilies.  Can you look through the waters then or does life just feel like it stings?

The Word became flesh for days such as these!  God came into the world so that especially on the tougher days, we could still see the kingdom of God broken in and broken for us.  We could still look through the waters, without the sting of death or pain or loss or dysfunction or loneliness winning out.  And instead seeing through those waters the blessings pouring over us.

I’ve started writing in cards to people: “May God’s blessings pour over you and may they be really easy to see.”  We know that God’s blessings are there.  They just get blocked out by other stuff, poor vision and lost contacts sometimes.  

Today, for you, as you transition into the new year, may the blessings be really easy to see!  May the waters of your own baptism be the lens that clarifies those blessings.  May the sting and irritation of other sight lines wash away.  And may your steps into the New Year be blessed by the Word…made flesh!

Lord, thanks for your vision!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


December 15, 2015

12-15-15 dentist




“Prepare the Way of the Lord….make his paths straight!” – John the Baptist elaborating on the prep work

I just had my teeth cleaned.  And I am a horrible patient.  Not because of my time in the chair or just because I start to floss one week before I go see my dentist….mainly because of the five minutes after I leave the office….when I drive directly from his parking lot to the Dunkin Donuts drive thru across the street.

At the end of my cleaning, I usually stand right up and say: “Thanks Doc!  That feels great.  Now I gotta go get some coffee!”

What a jerk head thing to say.  The hygienist and dentist work on my teeth for almost an hour, helping correct the damage I’ve done to them over the last six months and I tell them I want to immediately recover my teeth with caffinated black paint.

How would I feel if people came to church on Sunday morning and as they said goodbye, shook my hand and said: “Thanks Pastor Steve, that was great.  Now I’m going to go home and kick the dog.”  Or: “Nice sermon Steve, I’m going right to rob a bank.”  Or: “Thanks for that blessing and reminder of God’s forgiveness.  I’m heading over to a family gathering where I’m going to hold some grudges and stir up some unnecessary drama!”

It’s about the same as my light speed movement to more coffee.  

Making our paths straight, as John invites us into, is not about a quick fix or a momentary departure from a bad habit.  It’s about a lifestyle change, a longterm attitude adjustment and a walk into the new and discomfort that might just be the presence of tangible grace.  It’s about removing barriers long term.

When my teeth get cleaned, they feel sort of raw…naked.  My gut reaction is to back track and re-cover, going back to old habits and comfort zones.  John invites us into different sort of responses: standing in the new, embracing  that discomfort, re-covering our forgiven souls with grace filled movements and living out this Christmas joy for longer than an hour.

May your Advent prep actual prepare you for good news that is lasting.  And may that good news inspire you to not run toward your caffeinated black paint equivalent.  

Lord, help me to prepare the Way…and help it to last!  Amen

Still in One Peace,



December 9, 2015

12-7-15 cups






Prepare the Way of the Lord!” – John the Baptist, STILL yelling from the wilderness

How is your prep going?  Sometimes it’s not as hard as you might think and may just come out of one word.

Hope.  Presence.  Peace.  Vision.  Breathe.  Patience.

These are just some of the words that people sent me, which they wrote on their cups for this week.  In Sunday’s worship, everyone took a red cup, wrote one simple word on it that could help them truly prepare the way and, after returning home, placed that cup in some place they would see it consistently.  

We reflected on Starbuck’s “removal of Christmas messages” from their coffee cups: snowflakes, mistletoe, and greens.  Yes, the true symbols of God’s incarnate presence in the world to redeem and save it.  Or maybe not.  

John is asking us to still prepare….the right way.  So maybe we needed to write new words, new symbols, faith-moment inspiring images back on our coffee cups?  And instead of heading out into the wilderness to be distraction free (which we know will never happen in our Decembers), maybe we should place that cup right in the middle of all the lists, noise and stresses to help remind us to prepare.

12-9-15 cup on dash





Kitchen counters.  Office desks.  Home side table.  Car dash boards.

12-9-15 cup on counter






People have been sending me pictures of how they are preparing, where they need to see it the most and what they are centering their advent preparations around.  Where is your place you need to hear John’s voice the most?  What is the word, phrase or image that should be written on your cup?

Mine for this week is “Breathe.”  With every breathe of life that flows through me, as I center on that and pay attention to the moment of life I am currently in, I remind myself that this is what God cares about!  That very moment of my life is what God came into this world to celebrate and save.

Feel free to send me a picture of your cup, your word, your place.  And may those spaces, times and images be reminders to prepare for a present and coming again God who loves you very much!

Lord, help me to prepare the Way!  Amen

Still in One Peace,


November 18, 2015

11-18-15 Tying Tie






It appears that I am officially obsolete as a father.

Drew runs for the Clarence Varsity Cross Country Team. Their banquet was Tuesday night.  So to get ready for it, he went upstairs Monday night to get some nicer clothes and a tie ready for school and formal banquet.   Up to this point, I would tie his ties for him and then he would slip them over his head and tighten them up.  

But Monday night was different.  Instead of wanting me to finally teach him, Drew went upstairs and taught himself how to tie a tie through a YouTube video. Then, to make matters worse, Tuesday morning on his way out the door for school, he put on my dress shoes, claimed them as his own and walked out of the house and went to school.

When I said goodbye to him at the door on his way out, I said: “Dude, those are my shoes!”  His response: “Not today.”  So much for going out together and buying him a nice pair of shoes.

It was a laughable moment, but as a dad, you walk away from moments like that and wonder “what’s the next thing he’s not going to need me for?”

The list will be vast and growing larger as the days move on and he jets at warp speed through high school and moves on to college.  But I do know, and he knows as well, when he hits those “untie able” ties and “shoeless” moments, I’ll still be there for him.

I think about my own relationship with God when parenting my awesome and seemingly already completely self-sufficient kids.  How many times have I subconsciously said through my actions, hasty movements and decisions: “I got this God.  No need to teach me.”  And how many times has God been thinking: “That tie could be done better Steve” and “How about I send you in shoes of your own, blessed…paid for…by me?”

I know my list of things I’ve blown through God’s presence and guidance on is vast and long.  Maybe yours is too.

But as I continue to read Scripture about Jesus inviting us to always call on him, the Holy Spirit promising his presence with me and an image of a loving Father in my life to forgive and re-create me, I know I am never alone…even as I stubbornly, self-sufficiently try to do it on my own sometimes.  

While I do it…while I blow past God and walk out the door on the way to school, I can almost hear him say: “When you need me, call on me  I’ll be there.”

Lord, thanks for being patient with me and staying with me through it all.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,



November 11, 2015

11-11-15 Silhouettes






“….whatever you do for the least of these, you do for me.” – Jesus

It’s amazing to think about today, on Veteran’s Day, that so many people fought for ME so many years ago.  And still do today.  And I didn’t know any of them.

I dare say that there isn’t a single person going to an Army enlisting office today and signing up and saying: “I’m doing this for Steve Biegner!”

But, in a sense, they are.  And did.  

We’ve been spending a lot of time at St. Paul’s the past couple weeks reflecting on an Everyday Faith.  Jesus’ calls us to live out faith out everyday.  At our leadership meeting last night, we shared stories of people who were important “faith-sharers” along our journey: parents, teachers, Sunday School teachers, grandparents, pastors and more.   They lived grace, love, forgiveness and hope and modeled it and shared it with us.

But they knew us!  So there was a certain investment in us.

I’m thankful today for those who are serving and have served that possess that same investment. Without knowing me.  Not just in a generic country, but in a home, a place of freedom, an ideal and a lifestyle.  It’s their daily faith in that which allows us to worship, to play, to relax, to laugh, to watch the Bills beat the Jets and more daily shenanigans that so many in the rest of the world don’t enjoy.  

Thank you today to those who have served and continue to serve!  Thank you for doing that on behalf of “the least of these” like me.  May God bless you for the faith you share, the expressions of faith that come from that freedom and for your safety as you serve.

Lord, thank you for all who serve on behalf of the least of these.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,


November 3, 2015

11-3-15 Coins






“…but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” – Jesus’ reaction in Matthew’s 12th chapter about the widow that put her two small copper coins into the offering

She gave everything she had.

I’m struck again by this story about the poor widow putting in a huge offering in proportion to what she actually possessed.
And what strikes me is that this has less to do with money and WAY more to do with an active and daily faith.

It’s not just about Sunday.  If it were, there’s no way she would make that sacrifice for the rest of the week to clearly do without funding for the remainder of life’s “needs.”

All she seems to need is her relationship with God and living into and out of that alone.  

What a great example she is for me today.  And maybe for you too?  Many churches like St. Paul’s spend time in worship focusing on the sharing of our blessings through our offerings to the church.  But faithful giving is so much more than that!  

We had many visitors in church this past weekend and it was as important for them to hear and be reminded of as it was for the consistent frequent flyers of St. Paul’s.  We are all blessed!  How will you live out sharing those blessings?  Members of churches…how will you live it out?  Members of country clubs…how will you live it out?  Members of schools…how will you live it out?  Members of fire halls…how will you live it out?  Members of families…how will you live it out?

The widow is a great example because she’s not some priest or church leader or even Jesus.  She just a child of God at an especially tough place in the world and she relies on God and lives out amazing faith.

How will I live out my faith today?

How will you?

Lord, help me to live out faith.  Every.  Day.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,


October 28, 2015

10-28-15 Reformation







I think we might just need another Reformation.

There was a clear need when the Protestant Reformation occurred behind the leadership, voice and presence of Martin Luther in the early 1500’s.  The culture and church were dominated by guilt, misinformation, human standards over God’s standards and a lack of both understanding and living into the gift of grace.

Maybe we need another Reformation?  If only for the people that are outside of a church community and won’t return due to the fact that they are still seeing these same things happen within some aspects of our Christian Church right now.

This past Sunday during the Reformation Bowl (this was our fundraiser for Lutheran Charities that included a televised Bills game at church, extra worship time, pig roast and tailgate party), one of our local media outlets stopped by and did a quick interview which ran that evening.  Like any news outlet, they told only part of the story and shared the story through the lens they wanted to use.  Fine, whatever.  That’s just how it happens.  They titled the clip: “Keg in church: Local Church comes together to watch Bills game”.

But once the piece went online, Holy Social Media Comments Batman!  It was a mix of positive supporting comments and negative as well.  As you can imagine, most negative comments and people only focused on the fact that a church had a keg in it.  They chose to ignore the extra worship time, the fundraising, the chance to meet culture where it was and the community time that was created.

I’m fine with all that.  As a public figure (usually spending more time outside the walls of church than inside) I don’t mind the negative comments.  What bothered me more were comments like this:

“This is why I stopped coming to church.  All of you ‘church people’ who are so judgmental.”

“Why are you quoting one or two verses of Scripture just to defend your own point?  You are twisting everything.”

“How can you be so negative toward a church trying to make people’s lives better.  THIS is why I don’t go to church!”

And the comments like that went on and on and on.

What bothered me most is that many churches and parts of our culture are still bogged down in the works righteousness, judgmental and divisive tones that Luther posted his theses about in the first place.  We’ve lost grace again!!!!  It’s not one person or a bunch of edicts that are the problem this time.  It’s a lost sense of acceptance of others, love as a first response and finding points of unity rather than difference.

And people who aren’t in churches are noticing.  And through their lack of presence, they are responding to it.

I think we need to reclaim the Reformation.  Reclaim the knowledge and understanding that we are saved by grace through faith.  Faith in a God who already did the heavy lifting.  Faith to trust that the gift of grace is enough.  Faith to let God judge, lead and convict.  Faith that grace can be an operational structure from which to live.

It can.  It really can.  And can be the motivational strength by which and from which we interact with the world around us.  In community.  Online.  On the road.  In school.  At work.  And maybe even at church.

“While I enjoyed a beer with my friend Philip Melanchthon at the Pub, a Reformation took place.” – Martin Luther

Maybe we need to lead another one?

Lord, help me to live out life today motivated by God’s grace.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,


October 13, 2015

10-13-15 Ref Bowl Ticket







The above picture has a bunch of nothing to do with Devo’s today.  But tickets are available and limited for the worship, tailgate and game on the 25th.  Email the church or steve@nullstpaulseggertsville.org and we’ll set aside some for you.
 I can’t say things better than Father Richard Rohr this morning as he reflects on consciously living into our faith.  Enjoy!

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being. 
That is the meaning of divine service, of the service which man can render to God, that light may emerge from the darkness, that the Creator may become conscious of His creation, and man conscious of himself.”

–C. G. Jung
Edward Edinger writes, “Our whole unconscious is in an uproar from the God who wants to know and to be known.” [3] To love is to be conscious, and to be fully conscious would mean you are capable of loving. Sin always proceeds from lack of consciousness. I don’t think most people are sinners; most people are just not aware and not fully living in their own present moment. When Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing” (Luke 23:34), he was absolutely right. Most people are on cruise control, and most of their reactions are habituated brain responses–not fully conscious choices.
We may have moments when we are conscious of our real motivations and actual goals, but it takes years of practice, honesty, and humility to be consistently awake. Whenever you do not love, you are at that moment unconscious. If you consistently choose to defend your state of separateness, then spiritually speaking, you are unconscious, or in religious language you are “in sin.” [4] As has often been said, “Unless you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will think of it as fate.”
Spiritual maturity is to becomeaware that we are not the persona (mask) we have been presenting to others. That is why saints are always humble and scoundrels are always arrogant. We must become intentional about recognizing and embracing our shadows. Religion’s word for this is quite simply forgiveness, which is pivotal and central on the path of transformation.

– Father Richard Rohr

Lord, help me to live in consciousness today.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,


September 30, 2015

9-30-15 Haiti









“God is love”

I read this on my friend’s Facebook this week.  It had followed a couple other “God is…” statements.  Intrigued, I asked her what was up and she shared that it was one of the social media challenges.  

Now normally, those things get old to me when they tell you “if you don’t repost this your dog will die and the tires on your car will go flat.”  This one was different though.  This one made more sense.  After I inquired and she asked my permission to send the background (a crucial parts of these things that is often over looked), she sent me this:

I saw that you liked my “God is…” status. The purpose is to fill Facebook with these daily statements: Day 1: God is real Day 2: God is good Day 3: God is faithful Day 4: God is my strength Day 5: God is my shield Day 6: God is love Day 7: God is alive For seven days, please publish these without explanation or comment. If someone comments or likes your post, send this message and this way we can fill Facebook with these statements. (Please do not write the number of the day, only the statement.) Today will be your Day 1.

So here’s the thing.  I’m heading to Haiti tomorrow so I won’t be able to post all week.  I’m going to post today because when I consider the awesome people I will get to reconnect with in a few hours, the reality of God in them and us together is front and center.  

So I offer this to you today!  If you use social media, consider posting these seven statements.  Forward the reasoning if you want or just make a statement into the world.

Real.  Good.  Faithful.  Strength.  Shield.  Love.  Alive.

God is very all those things.  So post away if you are so inclined.

But also consider – Maybe posting those statements for the world to see or using them as your daily mantra doesn’t even need to be for anyone else in cyber space to see.

Maybe it’s what you need to remind yourself of this week as well!

Lord, help me use a little word to remind me of your huge role in my life.   Amen.

Still in One Peace,


September 23, 2015

9-23-15 Bishops









John Macholz, bishop of the Upstate NY Synod, and Elizabeth Eaton, bishop of the entire ELCA.  I just spent a couple days with them in central NY at a retreat with a ton of other pastors and church leaders from around the State.  It was very clear they both know Jesus.  

They are both very real and very accessible.  Their faith is very simple and not stuffed away in some high ivory tower.  And their leadership style and mission can be summed up in a statement that Bishop Eaton shared when talking about what separates the church from every other non-profit, do-gooder, impact the world sort of organization: “I want you to know Jesus.”

The pope is visiting now in the US of A and seems to have boiled it down to that same statement.  Know Jesus.  And because he has simplified it, people seem to be responding.

How do you share your faith?  How can you live out knowing Jesus?

I have noticed over a few years of church leadership that less and less people care about the background of the Athanasian Creed.  Far less want to hear the difference between consubstantiation and transubstantiation.  And even less ask me to name all the books of the Bible in order.

But I do see people wanting to figure out how to move through broken relationships; how to treat people they are different from; how to wrestle with the death of a loved friend or family member; or how to connect to a place and a God of Grace.  

And what I have to offer them is not some Creed or order.  It’s simpler than all that.  It’s just Jesus.  And that can be enough.

Thank you to John and Elizabeth for reminding me it is simple.   How can you live into that simplicity today?  For yourself and for the world around you?

Be a blessing for the world around you today.  Don’t make it any harder than it needs to be and simply know Jesus.

Lord, help me to know you and share that gift with the world.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


September 16, 2015

A youth baseball team prepares for a game n a huddle. All hand in for a cheer. Green and blue uniforms.









Made the team!  Thanks be to God.

We’ve recently gone through that nervous parenting time when: your kids try out for  a school sport.  Not sure if they will make it, get cut, or even like the experience as a whole.  It’s fairly nerve-wracking as you go through it, waiting for that final list posted on the locker room door.  And then it happens.

Your name is there!  You made the team.  

What emotions go through your soul:  relief?  excitement?  time to relax finally?  peace?

Maybe, for a few moments….but then the work begins!  If you made the team, you just got signed up for maybe some of the hardest work you’ll do all fall.  Sprints.  Stretches.  Pushing beyond.  Trying harder.  Diving.  Sliding.  Twisting.  Hurting.  Sore.  Digging deeper than comfortable.

But that’s what you signed up for!  That’s exactly what you wanted.  I used to tell the kids that I coached in high school, you are about to push harder in practice than you’ve ever pushed before, so you can enjoy playing in the game!

I have a sense that sometimes as Christians when we are reminded of God’s amazing love and grace, when we get the news that we’ve made the team, been forgiven, are being led and realizing God’s presence….we relax.  We let down.  We slide back into comfortable spaces.  Like we’ve reached some imaginary finish line.  

And while that grace and love and strength and guidance is true and real, it’s not the announcement to give in and let down.  It’s the reminder: you are about to have an opportunity to push harder in practice than you’ve ever pushed before.

This team called Christianity is ABOUT the practice, knowing full well that the game is already won.  It’s about the interactions between each of us and the world that give us chance to push harder, be pushed harder.  Maybe Sunday morning is our rest together?  Drew finishes each of his cross country practices at school by jumping in an ice bath.  It decreases swelling, treats the muscles and cools the entire body after a 8 mile run.  Sunday can be that for us.  A place to cool down, to rest, to hear it all again, to decrease the swelling in our soul from the daily grief, stress and strain.

But the rest of the time is our time to practice.

The good news: you’ve made the team!  Congrats!  The game has been won!  But now the work begins.  Let’s get to practice.

Lord, give me the strength to push in practice today.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


September 9, 2015

9-9-15 Red Jersey









This is it!  Time to put on the jersey of choice and define yourself!  Mine will be white and blue this weekend.  Let’s Go Buffalo!!!!

What one defines you?

See when I put the jersey on, wonderful things happen.  I unite with my brothers and sisters around me.  I become insanely passionate.  I cry during the anthem and cheer if a plane goes over.  I rejoice when someone hits someone else hard enough to knock their teeth out.  I hate anyone in a Colts, Patriots, Jets, Dolphins….and the list goes on…uniform.  When they walk up the stairs near my seat, I boo at them.  

OK, maybe not everything on my list is wonderful.  In fact, most of the things aren’t.  And if I was like this all the time, even when I took the jersey off and the game was over, now we have a huge problem.

But some of the things that define us in life seem to last longer than the “game”, becoming part of our DNA, our belief system about who we are, what we stand for and who we belong to.  

When the person who is dealing with addictions is constantly told they will go back to it again even if they quit and are a horrible person for using.  When the mom with ultra-active kids who are struggling with diagnosed behavioral challenges is called a bad parent.  When the guy with a cancer diagnosis only gets strange and pitiful looks once he’s told his co-workers.  

The stuff that our culture defines us by sticks.  It lasts.  It can even seem to affect our very DNA of dailyness.

Peter, one of Jesus’ outspoken disciples, tried to define him as a messiah, one of power and status and conquering success.  Jesus would have none of it.  “Get behind man!”  Follow me.  Watch who I am.  Who I am claimed by.  Who I live out.  Where I go.  And who I have claimed you to be.  Peter was thinking crown and Jesus was thinking cross.

I don’t blame Peter.  His culture led him into it.  Too many jerseys put on by everyone wanting this over that, and these over those.  Pitting expectations over identity.  

It happens to all of us.  But it’s not who we are called and claimed to be.  We are simply simple.  Called to live that life and wear that jersey.  Invited into a team that has all teams, a simplicity that appears too complex to get to.  

What defines you?  And how have you defined yourself due to someone’s pressure to be something you were never intended to be?

“Get behind me.”  I invite you to use those words this week as a response to any one or any thing or any jersey or any impairment or any sickness or any struggle or any separation or any loss that calls, begs, guilts, shames you in being anything but…you.  Loved.  Forgiven.  Claimed.

Lord, help me focus on the one thing.  Simply that and yet not that simple.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,

July 22, 2015

7-22-15 Pickles








Surprise!  These writings will have nothing to do with pickles! 

Have you been surprised lately?

Maybe your kids did something fantastic for you recently? (Or just even listened to something you asked and actually followed through?)

Maybe someone in front of you in line paid for your coffee at Tim Horton’s?

Maybe someone left an amazing message for you and it reminded you that you were loved?

Maybe you were just surprised by a wonderful day filled with sunshine instead rain?

Maybe the Bills will actually be good this season and, as the Chaplain of Section 313 at Ralph Wilson Stadium, all my Sundays will be filled with overflowing joy!?

If we can be surprised by the little, the small and maybe even the trivial, what’s it like when we are surprised by God’s power and presence with healing, forgiveness, strength or direction?  Probably even cooler than a home game win!

In John’s gospel chapter 6 (That can be found under “J” in the New Testament), Jesus surprises his disciples when he feeds thousands of people.  He grabs some loaves, some fish and the banquet had enough for them all, with leftovers to boot!  So after seeing that, the disciples should “get it” right?  They should be able to see that this dude is for real and yet unreal.  That God’s power and presence are walking in flesh and sandals.

Yet that same evening after the mountain side Golden Corral-esque meal, the disciples hop into a boat, get caught in a storm and Jesus walks out to them to calm the whole thing and THEY ARE SURPRISED!  What?  Still?  Should have seen it coming right?

Why are they surprised?  Because they are exactly like me…and maybe you…surprised at the power and presence of God in the midst of the everything and the anything.  They/We get surprised because we forget, or get blinded, or disconnected, or numb to or angry at, or isolated from this amazing news.  See, this is who God was, is and will be.  Surprising them and surprising us…this is where God was, is and will be.

So may you be surprised this summer.  In your hunger, in your storm, in your sickness, on your mountain side, during your vacation and travel, in your church, on your street, on your soccer/softball/baseball/football field and in the very depths of your soul, may you be surprised by God’s power and presence being who God is and right where God need to be.

Lord, thanks for surprising me again, Amen

Still in One Peace,


July 17, 2015

7-17-15 Curve








The Cafe At The Curve begins!

This is just a reminder that our newest initiative at St. Paul’s begins this Saturday and Sunday.  Check out the Facebook page “Cafe At The Curve” for updates and details. 

Or take a look at this recent article in this week’s Amherst Bee.

If you are planning on coming to worship for the next eight Sundays, (which I hope you are!) the Curve will be open!  Cruisin’ Crepes food truck will be serving up food all morning.  Come to church at 9am and have breakfast before church or stay after.  Ed, the owner of Cruisin’ Crepes, is doing us a big favor by coming to the Curve so please plan on supporting his business each weekend.  I told him he’d sell 50 Crepes each weekend, so let’s help him out.  

Plan to stop by on the weekends ahead.

We’ll see you at The Curve!

Pastor Steve


June 17, 2015

Thrivent Logo







It’s time for a summer writing break.  Although, every once in awhile I might shoot out some notes or rants here and there over the summer months.

If you’re in the greater St. Paul’s area for this Sunday, join us for worship and then stay for a few minutes after to plan new ways to spend Thrivent Financial’s money!  Yes, we have to spend it.

With Thrivent being a non-profit investment and insurance company, our role is to help invest their profits back into the world as Action Teams.  You can lead one!  Whether you are a Thrivent policy holder or not, you can help.  It only takes a few minutes to sign up, plan your Action Team and you’ll receive $250 to make it happen.

This Sunday we will have ideas for you if you need some help figuring out ways to impact the world.  Even if you’re not in WNY, you can check out Thrivent.com for more information by searching Action Teams.

Enjoy the summer with a little free money and change the world with it.

Lord, thanks for my potential today.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


June 3, 2015

6-3-15 In Lake


I have to wear a wetsuit for a long swim in Lake Chautauqua this weekend.

As I Googled an image of a “wetsuit”, this picture above is what I got.  Now that is really a wet suit, but not the kind I’m going to wear.  Mine will be made of neoprene and make me a little more buoyant and keep me a tad warmer in the 56 degree Lake.

If I asked someone to borrow a wetsuit, and this is what they gave me, I’d actually find myself in some trouble about half way through the 1.2 mile swim due to hypothermia and generally sinking.

I guess I should be clear when asking for one.

In John’s gospel, chapter 3, a guy named Nicodemus asks Jesus about being in relationship with God and how to comprehend God’s presence in the world.  Jesus says: You must be born again.  Nick replies: “How can you be born again after growing old?  You can’t crawl back into your mother’s womb and do it all over again??”

Wrong wet suit Nick!  That’s not the born again Jesus meant.  The conversation went on and Nicodemus was still pretty baffled by the interaction and explanation that he received.  

Yet despite his confusion, his misunderstanding, what we do know is that Jesus gives him the correct wetsuit.  He invites him to try on the one that will keep him buoyant and that will bring him warmth.  It takes Nick awhile to figure it out, but he eventually realizes how to fit into it.

My friend Al is letting me borrow his wetsuit this weekend (the correct kind) and it took me about 20 minutes to try it on for the first time.  Wasn’t used to it.  Didn’t know how best to wear it, move in it and certainly swim in it.  It took awhile.  But the effort is worth it.  Warmth.  Buoyancy.

Have you been offered that wetsuit?  Or are you wearing a wet suit?  Have you struggled to wear it?  Feel like it’s sinking you rather than helping you?  (Hopefully you’ve figured out to insert “relationship with God” with the word “wetsuit” by this point in the Devo’s or this makes very little sense outside of a long swim in cold water).

The beauty of the offer God makes, despite our misunderstanding it, not fitting into it, not wanting to try it on sometimes or do the swim without it, is that it is there to help.  That wetsuit is there to make our swim more enjoyable.  To fall back on when we are tired and need some rest.  To warm us in the cold waters.  To protect us from some of the dangers.

Check your wetsuit.  Make sure you’re not just wearing any old wet suit.  Wear it.  And enjoy the swim. 

Lord, thanks for the offer of the wetsuit.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,


May 27, 2015

5-27-15 Heaven Hell
Heaven or hell!!!  Decide!!!!!  Now!!!!  During the parade!!!!!

You ever been handed one of these tracts like the picture above?  Very motivating, right?

I was at a Memorial Day parade in Clarence with my family this week and a woman was passing these highly terrifying tracts out.  It wasn’t exactly like the picture above.  Hers had the similar imagery to the right side with a cross going over a lava-like pit allowing you to walk from fiery hell left side to gum-drop-like heaven on the right side.  Not quite as catchy as the Superman Jesus above flying off to the rescue.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of these pieces of junk handed out at public events with equally scary imagery and have yet to see someone react: “Wow, I hadn’t thought about it this way yet?!?!  Please let me quickly pray the Sinner’s Prayer so I can walk that bridge over troubled water cross right into the pearly gates!”

Most times, they just get thrown on the ground.  And make most of Christianity look pretty bad.

I know that my theology and that of the Lutheran Church is probably riddled with holes, despite me/us thinking it’s correct.  I’m also sure Catholic, Muslims, Buddhists, Episcopalians and every other denomination thinks that their take is absolutely right as well.  Until we all get to that Great Kum Bah Yah My Lord campfire one day and sit around it with Jesus while he has a pretty good laugh at our arrogance and close mindedness.

So in the meantime, while here on Earth….while trying to communicate our take on this amazing God…while trying to figure out what we know more than we don’t know…while trying to share it with those who have never known or tried to forget…while walking up on the unsuspecting, unwanting, unneedingmorepaperjunkputintomyhandsduringaparade people out there, isn’t there a better way?

What’s your way?  Does it reflect five or six lines of the Scriptural story or does it take into the count the entire story of God being awesome and amazing and forgiving and patient and promising and grace-filled and more?  

What’s on your tract?  Give it some thought, before you hand it out.

Lord, help my tell your WHOLE story.  Amen.

Still in One Peace,



May 21, 2015

5-21-15 Resting








“Rest in Peace”

How come we only say that to or about people after they are dead and gone?  Why can’t I rest in peace before I’m in a pine box with four nails six feet under?

“Let us go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest for awhile” Jesus to the disciples in Mark’s gospel.  

He’s actually encouraging rest.  He’s encouraging re-centering and recharging.  In fact, if you look at the Scriptures that include the stories of Jesus, rest is actually his baseline instead of something crammed in when he has a chance, like most of us treat the concept of rest.  For Jesus, Sabbath was a time and a mindset.  It was a needed space to START from and END at.  

I know I have a tendency to look at it the other way.  I frame my day through tasks, work, obligations and roles.  Those are the days when I lose track of my center as a child of God much more easily.

The space is there.  The opportunity is there.  The offer is there: “Come to me all of you who are weary and have heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Jesus to you and me in Matthew’s gospel.

Take time this summer to rest.  Not just for a day or a vacation, but as a routine-changing, sabbath-finding, routine-redeveloper.

Start small.  

A quick prayer when your eyes open through a deep breath acknowledging you are alive.  

A few hours when you leave/lose your cell phone so that you aren’t constantly checking in on everyone else’s lives but instead honoring yours.

A stop by a local park to sit under a pavilion on a picnic table and reflect on an amazing experience you had and love.
An extra half hour when you drop the kids off early at the practice or game and instead of reading emails, or writing lists of to-dos, you just read a book you can get lost in.

Or insert your restfulness idea here.

Start small.  But start.  Slow down and invite your soul to catch up to you body and schedule.   Then if you are bold, give yourself a gift and go off to a quiet place and rest for awhile.

Lord, thanks for the invite…… Amen

Still in One Peace,


May 14, 2015

5-14-15 Pews








A recent NY Time article came out and said some amazing news: church attendance is declining.


“Seventy-one percent of American adults were Christian in 2014, the lowest estimate from any sizable survey to date, and a decline of 5 million adults and 8 percentage points since a similar Pew survey in 2007.
The Christian share of the population has been declining for decades, but the pace rivals or even exceeds that of the country’s most significant demographic trends, like the growing Hispanic population. It is not confined to the coasts, the cities, the young or the other liberal and more secular groups where one might expect it, either.
 “The decline is taking place in every region of the country, including the Bible Belt,” said Alan Cooperman, the director of religion research at the Pew Research Center and the lead editor of the report.” – NY Times

When the report came out, many of my friends, both flesh-n-blood and social media friends, were shocked and concerned.

I’m not and I’m not.

I’m not shocked.  If you go to church on a regular basis, you probably aren’t either.  You’ve seen it.  Every church has a life cycle and most denominations do as well.  As Millennials replace the departing Greatest Generation that were every week attenders, you will certainly find more opportunities to have more space in the pews between you and the woman who always makes out her shopping list during the sermon and the guy checking his email.  Without going into a long narrative on the breakdown of the former group, M’s are generally not as active in traditional worship life, like their grandparents might have been.

I’m also not that concerned.  In fact, I’m excited.  It means that we, as church, need to work harder to meet the culture where it is at.  Don’t hear me wrong, I’m not saying we should give into it or assimilate, changing our very DNA.  

What I am excited about is that we have a pretty nice product to share with the uninformed world through a newer/different infomercial than we used before!  We have grace!  We have hope.  We have a way of living that can impact the dailiness of regular life.  We have Jesus’ love for the least, lost, little, lonely and left behind.  

We just need to shape-shift it into a culture that isn’t coming to hear about it like the prior one did.  That’s not bad.  It just is.

On this Ascension Day (the time we celebrate that Jesus was beamed back up to heaven), Jesus invites his disciples to return to the city for a different phase of their following him.  And they did…living out life of worship, waiting for the promises to be revealed and worshipping the Lord.

We are invited to do the same, in a different shape, a changing shape, a new church, a redeveloping mission with the same grace, hope and love attached!  And there is nothing declining about that good news!

Lord, help me shift…… Amen

Still in One Peace,

April 29, 2015

4-29-15 Jungle








“There’s no good answers Dad”

I took Drew to school early today for intramural (insert any sport here) and on the way, he talked non-stop.  He stayed up last night a bit late watching the coverage of the situation in Baltimore.  On the 10 minute drive, he took me through a narrative about how every group involved in this has been put in a crummy situation.  He would start saying how “this group” was in the right…and then quickly move to “But they did” which nullified the initial justification.  It was a twisted, confusing, jumbled mess of a conversation.

But then again, so is the topic itself.  Like so many other topics before this one.  And unfortunately, like so many that will follow.

Twisted up.  Hard to find a beginning.  Searching helplessly for a ending resolution.  Caught in a jumbled mess.

Now I know Jesus never visited Baltimore in his time here, but it seems that he did speak to the situation and to many like this.  And we will get to hear from him again in churches around the world as we watch this Baltimore story unfold on TV’s, iPads and papers everywhere.  He said this: I am the vine, you are the branches.

You look at the picture I included today at the top of these Devo’s and it is a mess.  Because it has grown out of control.  Seems to not have a beginning and an ending and things seem a tad chaotic.  A bit like Baltimore.

Jesus said: I am the vine.  Your beginning.  Your life line.  Your nourishment.  And you are the branches.  My flower.  My fruit.  My image in the world.  And then he invites them to trim it up a bit and allow God to help them do that.  Get rid of the death and dead and overgrowth and unkeptness.  Crop it off.  Rule it out.  Don’t let it come back.  Never allow it to be there in the first place!

That’s when the blooms energize.  That’s when the fruit becomes sweeter.  That’s when life would be how it was intended.  That’s when beatings and riots would never begin in the first place!  A vine.  And it’s branches blooming with life and love.

You may not be in Baltimore right now and neither am I.  But I would invite you to pray for that community and the world with me.  I would invite you to proactively trim some stuff up in your life, your neighborhood, your city…so that the unkeptness never has a chance to overwhelm the basics of love, grace, hope and peace.

Each day when the kids head to school by bus or leave the car, I say: “Go change the world.”  Most times, Drew just responds: “Whatever Dad”.  But today I think he understood a little more why I invite them into that lifestyle.

Sometimes it seems like there are no good answers.  I get that.  So in the meantime while we search, let’s work harder to listen, to trim some things up in our own lives and let that Vine bring us new life.

Lord, make me an instrument for peace in the world…… Amen

Still in One Peace,


April 22, 2015

4-22-15 Jesus n Baby
“The Lord is my…..”  Your what?  How would you end that sentence?

John gospel, chapter 10, has Jesus describing himself as the Good Shepherd.  Psalm 23 also describes the Lord as a shepherd.  So what does that mean for you?  Look like to you?

How do you imagine/experience/dwell in/relate to Jesus?

Is your image like the one above…the Presidential Jesus…picking up babies left and right as he rolls from town to town.  See Joe Biden for details but less creepy and touchy?

Is your image like this?

4-22-15 Thumbs Up Jesus

The Hey There Buddy Jesus…where God’s always giving you the thumbs up?






Is your image like this?

4-22-15 Tough Guy Jesus

The Tough Guy Jesus who takes on the religious powers of the day?





Is your image like this?

4-22-15 American Jesus


The Kenny Rogers Wow He’s Awfully American Looking Jesus that looks just like some of you out there but probably not what he really looked like?






I bet our images of Jesus differ.  Mine and yours come from different experiences of God in our daily lives, our family history, our church background, our cultural biases and about 100 other different factors.

And that’s just Jesus, can you image our images and experiences of God?  Probably even more wide ranging.

So it’s no wonder that Jesus wanted to give a few: bread of life, good shepherd, a vine and more.

My take: God wants to help us see, sense and experience how many roles he plays in our lives, how many ways we can have access to the One and how vast and limitless the list of descriptions and images really is.

The Lord is your…..what?

I’d like you to email me (steve@nullstpaulseggertsville.org), or FB message me, or text me (716-868-1232) and let me know how you would finish that sentence.  How are you experiencing God right now?  What image sums it up?  I might share some of the responses in our community on Sunday morning (without names connected to them of course).  Thanks for taking some time today to reflect on how God is shepherding you and what that looks like today.

Lord, thanks for letting me experience you as my…… Amen

Still in One Peace,


April 15, 2015

4-15-15 Weddings









I’m copying you on an email that my friend and mission partner, Nora Leon send out from Haiti.  This is a recap of our recent wedding weekend and baptismal celebration that took place in March.  So many of you were a part of making this happen, I thought you should know what God is doing through you!  Thank YOU for your partnership!

Pastor Steve

Communiqué #113
to the PEOPLE of HAITI
April 12, 2015


What a glorious weekend it was! What a sight to behold! Witnessing the marriage of 21 couples in a mass wedding on a tiny island in Haiti was the culmination of many months of planning and preparing by Grace Ministries of Île-à-Vache. A mission team and I were blessed to be a part of this incredible weekend!

For years, we have heard of couples on this little isle that wanted to marry but could not afford a beautiful bridal gown, a suit for the groom, rings for the couples or a reception for family and friends. Before plans went into full swing, a marriage seminar was held several months prior to teach the couples about Christian marriage. Following the seminar the couples were asked if they would like to make a commitment to marriage. Many, many said, “Yes! We want to get married!” And with that … a plan to make it happen started to take shape. Through the generosity of many friends, all the obstacles were overcome and a real wedding was made possible. Donations came in many forms. We received gently used bridal gowns and veils and men’s suits, wedding bands, flowers for bridal bouquets, decorations for the church, photographs of the couples, cake mixes and cake pans, candy favors and monetary donations for a celebratory meal for the newlywed couples and a food treat for the hundreds and hundreds of guests.

It seemed fitting that the weddings would take place on March 21 – the first day of spring – the day of new beginnings! Some of the bridal couples walked 5 hours, from the other side of the island, in time to change into their wedding attire prior to the mid-morning wedding. The grooms were like many others, as they sat on a bench out-of-the-way of the brides who were taking much too long to get ready. The brides would eventually emerge from the school classroom where they had make-up applied and the dresses and veils were adjusted to perfection. All ages of brides appeared with a glow on their faces as they were finally able to experience this special day. For at least one couple, which had been together over 30 years, this day was a day that they would be celebrating both with children and grandchildren!

3-15-15 Grooms







The grooms waiting for their brides!

3-15-15 Bride









Sauvnette – one of the beautiful brides!

Preparations for this big event started taking place at least 3 days before the event. The professor for the culinary arts/cosmetology classes of our Trade School was put in charge of many things. He and his students literally worked three days and three nights to get everything ready. They used ONE propane-powered stove/oven to prepare three tier cakes and over 900 cupcakes. They prepared the “fancy” meal for the newlywed couples. They decorated the bridal reception room that was held in a school classroom and also joined the missionary team in decorating the church – a task that would be an interesting combination of Haitian & American decorating techniques. For the brides, they styled hair and gave manicures & pedicures (using a good old-fashioned 5 gallon pail for the foot bath).

4-15-15 Cake









One of the tier cakes prepared by the students of Grace TRADE School!

People from all over the island, as well as people from the mainland and others who had traveled from other countries to witness this ceremony, had begun arriving long before the wedding was to take place. So many people came it was soon evident that a vast majority of them would not be able to fit inside the church. Appointed people were in charge of not letting any guests into the church until the bridal procession of all of the couples and their “parans” and “marans” was in place outside the church and the start of the service was imminent. When the doors opened, the crush of people vying for a seat was a bit daunting. In the end, even the aisles of the church were crowded with people standing tightly woven together and a multitude of people were left to find a place outside where there might be some hope of at least hearing the service. But hearing the start of the service was impossible, both for the people outside the church and those inside. People who could not get into the church were loudly protesting the fact that they would not be able to enter. The service started anyway with several choirs sharing musical numbers and finally the vows of the couples being exchanged.

4-15-15 Guests







Hundreds and hundreds of guests arrived!

No matter what, anything that did not go perfectly on this day did not spoil the day. It was a glorious day for all of these special couples!

As a “maran” for one of the couples, I was invited to be a part of the bridal meal that was served. A not-so-typical meal was served to the couples that usually dine on rice & beans or less. It was at this point in the day that an oxymoron thought began tumbling through my mind. I observed a bride refusing to eat anything of the specially prepared meal, but rather, looking out of the room in search of her hungry children she called them in one-by-one to feed them morsels from her plate. Only when they all had received something to eat did she chose something for herself. There was no food left on her plate, but she was able to salvage chicken bones from some of the other brides and feasted on the marrow of the bones. The luxuriousness of this day and the of eating a special meal was impossible for this mother to enjoy as on a daily basis she struggles to have food to feed her children.

Following the wedding and the reception, we were invited to attend a few open houses in the community. Some families chose to have an additional celebration at their homes for their close family and friends. The homes were small, but the largest room was cleared for the setup up of a very large array of food! I am sure that the family budget for the month was all spent on this special occasion, but nonetheless a celebration like this does not happen very often and families were willing to make the sacrifice to share their joy with their family and friends. Outside the family homes, people would stand under mango trees or crowd on a borrowed school bench to enjoy the food on their plates. It was a joy to be a part of the happiness of the day!

4-15-15 Food







 An array of food was served at an open house in the community!

One would think that no more joy could be packed into one weekend, but what occurred early the next morning only added to the “incredibleness” of the weekend. Fourteen people were baptized in the Caribbean Sea just prior to the Sunday morning worship service. At least one bride was baptized and one of the team members who had been adopted from Haiti when he was a baby was also baptized! What a glorious reminder of yet another new beginning! Again, what a privilege to have shared in this wonderful weekend!

4-15-15 Baptism









An early Sunday morning baptism in the Caribbean Sea!

What a great God we have!

If you wish to view additional photos of this weekend, copy and paste these links to view



Nora Léon
Missionary to Haiti & the Dominican Republic Until next time, God willing …………


Still in One Peace,


March 25, 2015

3-25-15 Sunrise








It’s coming.  My favorite and least favorite morning of the year.  Some ten-ish days from now.  Easter.

There’s nothing Resurrection-ish for me when my alarm goes off at 4am to get ready for the Sunrise Service.  I hate it actually.  Didn’t Jesus die on the cross so I could sleep until 6:15am like normal?  Well, I guess there is more to the story.
But every Easter, up we go.  Off in the dark.  Balancing unconsciousness and conscious action while trying to pour coffee into a cup.
Out the door into the cold.  Into the car and on the road as I put it in Drive and try to contemplate many and various ways to eliminate this service from our programmatic options.  Or make the sun rise at 8am.
Arriving, I walk through the office.  Gather my thoughts, run through my sermon notes, find my bulletin.  Refill my coffee.  Twice.
The “Christ is Risen’s” from everyone named Wolf start to echo through the dim light at church.  I muster a response.  “Indeed.”
I find some robes and walk into the darkness at the front of church, standing near the street.  There’s a fire going at the foot of sanctuary steps and for some strange reason, a multitude of people already gathered there.  And then I start to read the Story again as I walk toward the group and the darkness begins to fade.  I walk up the steps finishing the Scriptural story that a long time ago, in a very similar spiritual darkness, others walked into on that first Easter to find emptiness.  And actually…fullness.  Completed.  Promise.  Fulfilled.
On those steps, I walk into Easter.  The Already.  And the Not Yet.
And the darkness fades away even more.
As you approach Holy Week this year, the individual steps of already and not yet, may your hesitancy fade, your devotion be rewarded, and the parts and pieces of that promise become tangible.  And into those parts, that sometimes come with unimaginable darkness, may the dawning light and hope of Easter break forth like that familiar Scriptural story walking up behind you.  And may your hear the profound words that maybe you’ve heard before, allowing them to break you from your malaise: He is not here.  Christ is Risen.

Still in One Peace,



March 18, 2015
3-18-15 Rings









What God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Usually spoken at a wedding after a couple has exchanged their wedding vows)

As you read this email, our Haiti Medical Mission team is traveling out to Ile a Vache, Haiti to host medical clinics at Grace Ministries and School, as well as a couple clinics in Les Cayes, Haiti.  Over the next few days, they will be able to see a couple hundred children and adults, delivering care and much needed medicine.

They are also making final preparations for the village weddings, 22 in all, that will take place Saturday.  Some of these couples have taken the “traditional” route to marriage, having been recently engaged.  Some, due to not having the financial ability to get married, have been together for 32 and 34 years.  It will certainly be a celebration!

Healing.  Care.  Love.  Compassion.  Commitment.

This is what God has joined together!  Nothing should come in between these things.

When we reach out to heal, we are less “separate” from God.

When we love and commit to that love, we are less “separate” from God.

When we share our resources, donations, wedding dresses, wedding rings, suits, meds and more, as so many people did to make this mission happen, we are less “separate” from God.

May you continue to join together the blessings that you have with the deepest needs of the world.  And as you do, may you sense God’s presence in and through that connection.

Lord, join it all together.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


March 11, 2015

3-11-15 Dollar












“Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.” – Romans 8:26-28 – The Message

Mark walks a couple miles to work everyday on the streets of Buffalo NY.  Between his home and the University, you can imagine what he sees each and everyday.  Today he shares with you a story of a “chance” encounter and how it turned out.

Charles is the janitor in the building where I work on the UB South campus. His large size, extensive tattoos and body piercings belie a gentle and friendly disposition. Charles sometimes works double overtime shifts to earn extra money, going 36 hours straight without sleep. Charles smokes a lot, works hard, and waits for long periods of time for the buses on which he relies, most recently in sub-zero weather. Maybe these factors contributed to the heart attack he suffered last week. A stent was put in and Charles is home and doing OK, but he cannot work for at least a month. Charles does not have enough sick time to cover this period, and so a colleague is taking up a collection to help out Charles. I scribbled a message on a post-it note, and stuck it in my wallet to remind me to bring in some cash the following day. 

On my walk home from work along Kenmore Avenue, I came across a wad of money lying atop of the matted down snow on the sidewalk. 182 dollars to be exact. No wallet. No clip. Just folded bills. Luckily, there was little wind to blow the bills away. The Tonawanda police told me that no one had reported lost money, and so I gave the cash to Charles.

A story with a happy ending, right? Well, I don’t think so. After all, some unlucky stiff is out 182 dollars. A person with a story of his or her own. I don’t think I am being too presumptuous in assuming that most commuting pedestrians on Kenmore Avenue are more like Charles than like me in that they do not forgo a car by choice. What is the impact of that loss? We really cannot know.

People often say that things happen for a reason. I strongly disagree with that view, but I am fascinated by how independent events can be linked, and the stories of strangers become intertwined. Math says that the losing and subsequent finding of 182 dollars is a zero sum game, but it does not really seem that way. Lives are lived within the exchange, and with it a wide range of human experiences and emotions.

A story with a happy ending? Not exactly, but it might be the best ending, and in that sense, a good ending.”  Mark O’Brian, college professor at UB and teacher of Life.

I often wonder what this “Spirit” of God looks like that Paul makes reference to in Romans…walking alongside us.

Mark reminds me.  It can look like us.  Being us.  Doing what we do.  Living out the right thing.  Connecting tricky and bad stories and mysteries…for good.  Being active, present, real disciples of Love that God infused into Life for the life of the world.

Lord, allow me to live into that Spirit.  Amen

Still in One Peace,
ps…and Mark


March 4, 2015

Basketball on Vacant Basketball Court
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Nice quote, right?   Would you believe me if I told you that Jesus said it?  Or Gandhi?  Or Martin Luther King Jr.?

Nope, none of them!  It’s Timo Cruz answering the question:  What’s your greatest fear?

Who’s Timo Cruz?  I’m glad you asked.   He’s the troubled teen basketball player in the movie “Coach Carter.”    In a pivotal point of the movie, after being asked time and time again by Coach Carter what his deepest fear was, he finally blurts it out,  “It is the fear that we are powerful beyond measure and don’t know how to handle that.”

As Jesus leaves the disciples and ascends to his father,  I can picture them fearfully saying the same thing…. Or Jonah…. Or Jeremiah….Or Moses…. Or (insert a boat load of other Bible-dudes here).

Or me.

My playing small does not serve the world.   The church’s playing small does not serve the world.

We are meant to shine as children do.  Isn’t that what was said at your baptism as a lighted (lit?) candle was handed to your sponsors, parents or godparents?

In John’s gospel for this coming Sunday, Jesus walks into the temple and sees them not living up to the new potential that they have in him.  They are living in the old system.  The old fear.  The old darkness.  The old sacrifices.  He “turns over the tables” and tries to liberate them from their fears to be a new light, a new people, a freed child, a lighted torch and one that abides now in him.

Timo’s speech happened on a basketball court.  Same speech echoed through your baptism service.

Can you still hear it now?  Or is fear attempting to extinguish that light?

Jesus came to liberate us from that fear.  And went all the way to the cross to prove it.

So in the shadow of that gift, what’s your greatest fear?

Lord, help me live into that fear.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 25, 2015

the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus trying to stand in the intersection between life and faith.

2-25-15 Ashes to Go
Ash Wednesday….one week old.

Maybe you were able to make it to church last week or maybe the weather kept you away.  Or maybe you grabbed “ashes on the go” outside a church, or in a coffee shop or on the street.

Ashes To Go.  It’s a fairly new cultural trend which allows people to receive the imposition of ashes outside the doors of a church or in some other place in a matter of seconds, as opposed to embedded in a full worship service.

I’m sort of torn about the idea.  On one hand, I love that people are able to connect to a component of their faith life at all in the middle of the week.  With those ashes, they are remembering that they are a part of God’s very important plan for us.  And, I’m thrilled that the “church” is actually outside the building that shelters it.

Yet on the other hand, I wonder of all the things we want to take outside into culture….this is it?  This message of ashes and drive by repentance is what we want to lead with?  And in most cases, it’s not just “lead with”, it’s also the only thing we go outside with all year!

What about Communion?  Or baptisms?  Or speaking to the injustices right outside the doors of our church?  Or just some general good news about the fact that Jesus died for us so that we could live out that salvation and impact the world now?

What do you take outside?  Outside after your church experiences?  Worship experiences?  Meetings at church?

What do you take outside as you leave your homes today and tomorrow and every day to walk into the culture around you?  Do you take an ash-like message, a hope-like message or any message at all?

Last week, we reminded each other that “it was from dust that you came and to dust you will return.”

Today, remember that from that dust, hope arises and lives.  From that death of Jesus, you and I arise and live.  May that cross and message of hope, joy and good news be on your forehead today.

Lord, help me take a full message into the world today.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


February 18, 2015

2-18-15 ashes


As a kid I always enjoyed the season of lent. The church was always dimly lit, with the flutter of candles bouncing around in the background. There were always stations of the cross, incense, and lots of deep mediative prayer and reflection time. My stomach was always so empty and I was hangry (angry hungry) from fasting, but It was always very mystical to me.

As I have grow older, I realized Lent is a way bigger picture then the ritual, fasting and keeping ourselves from many things that we may enjoy. This is a time to reflect and be with God…more often.

Every Lent I find myself right back in that same place. The place is where I have God just as an addition in my busy life. Then once a week, I happen to find that right space, that right time to fit him in.

Maybe you feel this same way? As the first week of Lent begins, we are invited to create a larger space than just once a week.  We are invited to return to God fully.

We do this not because we have to or for ritual or tradition sake, but because of what Jesus has already done for us.  When we have given him nothing, Jesus gave us everything.  He gave us his life.  This is the moment where God invites us back in to be with him…all day…everyday. When I find myself forgetting how to live like that or carry my cross like that, I look at the cross Jesus carried for the whole world.

May we enjoy Lent and all that it brings. May we be filled with the spirit to always connect to Jesus everyday. May we sit in this darkness for a little while to yearn for that day of resurrection on Easter morning.

In Jesus Name Amen,



February 11, 2015

the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus trying to stand in the intersection between life and faith.

2-11-15 boy

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

I’m sure this will come as a huge surprise to most of you reading this…except for those who have actually met me… and those who’ve seen/heard me spell something…and those who’ve asked me a question concerning history, important names or any classic literature…but…here’s the breaking news…I was never a huge fan of studying.

Now, for those of you for are in an academic setting or journey right now…studying is good…Steve was/is just bad at it.

I call myself an “experiential learner” (read: would rather go golfing with someone who already did the assignment and have them tell me the oral report of the book).  I found over my academic career (read: purgatory) that the library and me just didn’t click.  It was a bit too quick and dark.  Very helpful for naps, not so much for learning.

I was known as “well rounded” by my dad…not great at anything but could survive everything.

I was never a supporter of “tests” but loved the concept of “independent study.”

Long story short…I was never a big fan of studying.  At least, not in the “classic” sense of the word.

I don’t think the Psalmist is either…especially the guy who wrote Psalm 111.  It seems that he might not be a studier in the classic sense of the word either.  He’s truly an experiential learner.

He’s trying to tell others of his personal experiences with God.

He’s rejoicing in God’s presence and activity in his life.

In other translations of the Bible, it is written, Great are the works of the Lord, “they are pondered by all who delight in them” (NIV)…”worth of lifetime of study – endless enjoyment.” (The Message)

That’s not the language of cramming for a test!  That’s the language of immersing one’s self into God’s active presence through the Holy Spirit.

It’s living with God…not learning about God.

It’s Jesus sent into our lives…not passing high above with a magic wand.

It’s the Holy Spirit poured out over you in baptism, working through you in the world…not a holy ghost blowing by in the wind.

Can you study that?  Can you experience the God that has been, is and will forever be in your story in a very real, present, non-quiet-dark-library sort of way?

Last week,  guy walked into my office early in the  morning and we had this great conversation about what God was going to do with this day for him, his plans, his finances, his vision, his family…and he walked out with joy and anticipation.

That’s how we can study God…by looking at the Lord’s wonderful work in our lives…calling us to change…calling us to forgive…calling us to trust…calling us to be free…calling us to……..experience.

Lord, help me study and experience your presence in my life.   Amen

Still in One Peace,

February 4, 2015

2-4-15 golfer
“Sometimes you have to make something’ out of nothin'” – Jesus, nowhere in the Bible.

Clearly Jesus didn’t say that exactly.  And clearly the Greek language doesn’t translate anything into “something'”.  Just a Steveism.

But Jesus  certainly did live this out.

For those of you who are reading this and in the northeastern section of the US of A, you might be at this stage…close to wits end with this whole cold and snow thing.  Maybe getting to the point of grabbing the sticks and playing a quick round of 18? Or just disappearing from home one day and hopping on a plane to Miami, while your family sits at the dinner table looking around and saying, “Where’s Mom?”

I feel your pain.  Despite Biegner Winter being 66% over, it feels like it’s dragging on.

So make something’ outta nothin’!

This goofy life-constricting weather coupled with the season of Lent swiftly approaching provide an opportunity for us to make a little more “I’m stuck indoors I can’t do as much outdoors as I want to” time for our spiritual connection to God and the kingdom breaking in around us.

Maybe it’s a new book about faith and life?  Maybe a new group at your church is beginning?  Maybe it’s some quiet time of prayer in the darkness of the morning?  Maybe it’s writing letters to service men and women?  Or someone in the hospital or nursing home?  Maybe it’s calling a friend and reconnecting to that important relationship from your past?  Maybe it’s doing some basic cardio or core workouts at home while that TV is on, improving God’s gift of your body and health and wholeness?

You might not want to chase a little round ball into a snow drift and if you are in WNY you’re going to need an 18″ tee to drive the ball.

But maybe there is something else, something small, something for 15 minutes, something you haven’t done in awhile or something you’ve always wanted to try….maybe this is the perfect time to reconnect in a new way to God and make something’ out of nothin’.

Lord, help me make something’ out of nothin’.  Amen

Still in One Peace,


January 28, 2015

……the rambling rants of a follower of Jesus trying to stand in the intersection between life and faith.
Light vs dark
59% of Biegner Winter is over!  Yes, the simple, globally famous and accepted system, much like the “European” and “American” models for inaccurate weather prediction, has us almost 6/10ths of the way through winter.

Review for the newbies: We (Biegners…ok, my Dad and me) count 100 days of winter, beginning on December 1st and going through March 10th.  Any snow that falls in that period is welcome to stay…any outside of that period must leave within a week.

One of the hundreds of advantages to this tracking system is that it helps us prepare and get excited for the days getting lighter…longer.  We know that when we cross the 50% threshold, each day the darkness gives way to the light more and more.

For me, it’s harder to be in the darkness.  Harder to wake up in the morning.  Harder to go back out at night.  Harder to be inside so much.  It’s harder.

But it’s not bad.  Darkness is not a bad thing.

I’ve been spending a lot of time focusing on the darkness in recent weeks, instead of running away from it…toward some all-encompassing, all-healing light.  And when I’ve spent time in this darkness, I’m still finding God’s presence.  Maybe even to a greater degree.

I find in Scripture that God spoke to people many times in dreams in the darkness, helped people search in the darkness, came to people in the darkness and in the darkness of death, saved humanity from itself.

The darkness is not all bad.  And when we can allow ourselves to spend time in our own darkness, our own Shadow of hurts, disfunction or unrealized needs, our own brokenness, grief and inadequacies, we find a new side and shape and experience of the Holy that the light might blind us from.  And that presence is good.  And the experience can heal.

Your darkness is not a bad thing because your God is there in it with you.  It might be a harder thing, but I encourage you today to not run away from it.  Allow God to speak to you in it.  Allow a God who has created all things from darkness, recreate you.

Winter will end one day.  But God’s presence in your light…and darkness…will not!

Lord, be with me in the dark.  Amen

Still in One Peace,