Thursday, November 3, 2016

God says, "Here I Am!"

What current events in the media just now worry you?  I will not seek to bring my personal observations to bear regarding these, but I too have such worries.  I have wondered if Scripture speaks clearly to them.  In my daily devotions, this did…
            “I say, Here I am!  Here I am!  To a nation that did not call upon my name.  I have stretched out my hands all the day to a rebellious people who walk in evil paths and follow their own thoughts—people who provoke me continually to my face.”  (Isaiah 65:1-3)
            God, talking through God’s servant Isaiah thousands of years ago, may have a word for us as well. “I say, Here I am!  Here I am!”  This is a word to boost our spirits and make our conscience free.  It suggests that the number one expectation God has of us is to “call upon God’s name”.  How?  We pray.  We discipline ourselves in private devotions.  But even more important is to worship God.  That is what calling on God’s name is, worshipping God, in God’s house, on God’s day of rest.  When we gather to worship God, not only do we place ourselves in God’s presence, but we allow God’s will and ways to influence our thoughts about the issues of the day, even when they are as complex as our current issues are.  So come to worship.  God calls us to worship.  God says to each and every one of us, “I say, Here I am!  Here I am!”
Next, we hear of God stretching out God’s hands all the day. It tells us God takes the initiative.  If you or I were to try to stretch out our hands all the day long, we could not do it. God has the strength and the tone and whatever else is needed to bridge whatever gap we have allowed to happen between God and us, no matter what path we have wandered down, no matter what kinds of thoughts we have followed.
Picture God stretching out God’s hands to us, as far as God can, all the day long, and not just to us, but to all the people God has made.  Even to those who are walking in truly evil paths, to those who are following only their own thoughts, to those who provoke God continually to God’s face.  To each one, God says, “I say, Here I am!  Here I am!”    God goes to whatever lengths it takes to reach the ones God loves.  And God urges those whom God reaches, to do likewise.
            If you form the mental picture of God extending God’s hands all the day long for all of us, and all of these, then you soon form one particular picture, the mental image of our Lord Jesus Christ, upon the cross, with His arms extended for everyone, everywhere in every time and season. “I say, Here I am!  Here I am!”  Jesus loves the world that much.  Jesus loves those we love that much and Jesus loves those we don’t love that much. By any stretch of the imagination, we find that Jesus is the only One who can reach that far, to everyone for all eternity. “I say, Here I am!  Here I am!”

‘See you in church,

John A. Dalles, Pastor

Faith of the Presidents: Grover Cleveland

Did you know that U.S. President Grover Cleveland (1837-1901, 22nd and 24th President) was a Presbyterian and the son of a Presbyterian minister?  Like many other ministers, the Rev. Mr. Cleveland supported a large family on a small salary. His children went to work as soon as they were able. Grover worked in a store in Fayetteville, N.Y., where his father served his final church before his death.
            Later, Grover went to New York City, where he taught for a while in a school for the blind. Here he became acquainted with Fanny Crosby, the noted hymn writer. He moved from New York City to Buffalo, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar.  While in Buffalo, he remained on the roll of his father's old church in Fayetteville.
            After Grover Cleveland entered the White House, he gave more attention to the Church, he also married Miss Frances Folsom, a lady of great personal charm.  Duirng his second term, he became prominently religious. In a Thanksgiving Proclamation, Cleveland recognized the Lordship of Jesus Christ, something no other President had ever done in a presidential proclamation.
            Cleveland was an advocate of "practical Christianity" that is, putting the ideals of Christianity into action in one’s daily life.  Perhaps the most poignant moment to try his faith was when the Cleveland’s daughter Ruth died (the “Baby Ruth” candy bar was named for her).  On January 7, 1904, after Ruth’s death, Cleveland wrote to a friend:
"I had a season of great trouble in keeping out of my mind the idea that Ruth was in the cold, cheerless grave instead of in the arms of her Savior. It seems to me I mourn our darling Ruth's death more and more. So much of the time I can only think of her as dead, not joyfully living in heaven. God has come to my help and I have felt able to adjust my thought to dear Ruth's death with as much comfort as selfish humanity will permit. One thing I can say: not for a moment since she left us has a rebellious thought entered my mind."
            Later, his sister was heard to say that she knew "his boyhood's faith brightened his dying hours." 
            Being a faithful Christian is a life long journey.  We draw upon our beginnings in the faith every day thereafter.  Some days, the way is challenging, and we are burdened by grief.  Yet, God comes to our help, just as he did to President Cleveland.  God helps us adjust our thoughts, even in our bleakest hours.  God offers us comfort, and shields us from rebellious thoughts.  Just as boyhood faith served Grover Cleveland all his life long, may your faith in Christ brighten all of your hours.


John A. Dalles, Pastor

Faith of the Presidents: James Buchanan

Lancaster, County Pennsylvania, where I grew up, is filled with history and in addtion to the beautiful farms that are so neatly kept, such as the one shown here, one of the other high spots of Lancaster is "Wheatland", the home of James Buchanan (1791-1868) the 15th President of the United States.  

James Buchanan was Secretary of State and Minister to England. The only President born in Pennsylvania and the only bachelor President, Buchanan was a Presbyterian by family background. All of his life, he worshiped regularly and gave to many different denominations.  Yet, Buchanan did not join the Presbyterian Church until he retired to private life. Here is how it happened:

In August of 1860, Buchanan’s last year in the White House, he was vacationing at the Bedford Springs Hotel, a fashionable summer resort in the Pennsylvania mountains.  There, the Rev. Dr. William M. Paxton, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New York City, was a guest at the same time. Buchanan knew the pastor, and so one day he invited Paxton to the Presidential suite, where he opened his heart. The President confessed, 

"I think I may say that for 12 years I have been in the habit of reading the Bible and praying daily. I have never had any one with whom I have felt disposed to converse, and now that I find you here I have thought you would understand my feelings, and that I would venture to open my mind to you upon this important subject, and ask for an explanation of some things I do not clearly understand."
The President then asked Dr. Paxton what a religious experience is, and how a man might know he was a Christian.  The minister gave responses that led Buchanan to say,

            "Well, sir, I thank you. My mind is now made up. I hope I am a Christian. I think I have had some of the experience which you describe, and as soon as I retire from my office as President, I will unite with the Presbyterian Church."

Soon thereafter, on the 4th of March, 1861, President Buchanan kept his promise and was received into membership at First Presbyterian Church of Lancaster.

Today, expect to find people in your life who want to know if they are a Christian, and who are eager to hear Jesus’ words of life, from YOU!


John A. Dalles, Pastor

Your Assist is Needed!

Recently a concept has come my way in conversations with members of our congregation and other faithful Christians.  In a sentence, it is this:

The task of our church and every church
is to assist people of all ages
become full-fledged disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The idea of assisting people is entirely Biblical.  The commandment from Galatians that we are to bear one another’s burdens to fulfill the law of Christ is the best example but there are many others.  We know that God is at work in people’s lives, so of course the primary “assist” comes from the Holy Spirit.  People have their own insights, gifts and abilities, but no one can “go it alone”.  Every person needs that inner drive that comes from God.  Also, they need fellow believers.  That’s where our “assist” comes in.
Think about it in basketball terms. An assist is a pass to a teammate who then scores.   When someone “assists”, they themselves do not score.  But without the “assist” it might never happen.  We are all called to that for one another.  We set up the shot, as it were; we help those around us.
How have you been “assisting” others to become full-fledged disciples?  Make a list of at least ten things you have done in the past month that have been “assists” to others.  Look over that list, and then say to yourself, “How will I do the same, in the month ahead?”  Make a new list and keep it before you these next 30 days.  And as you answer that question, here are twelve practical applications of the concept for you to consider for your upcoming month’s list:  I will…

1.     Have a living relationship with God and others, in Christ. – John 14:6
2.     Develop my own and other’s spiritual discernment. – I Cor. 3:2
3.     Put faith in action daily: learn, pray, relate with and serve others. – I. Cor. 12;27
4.     Take the Word of Jesus with me wherever I go. - Col. 3:16
5.     Celebrate and share the glory of God in worship every Sunday. – Ps. 95:6
6.     Make people glad to be with me, offering holy welcome to everyone. – Rom. 12:13
7.     Study the Bible’s Christian ideals and use them in my life. – Ps. 119:105
8.     Value every person for who they could be in Christ. – I Thes. 5:14-22
9.     Apply my best energies for those who need mercy and justice. – Matt. 5:7
10.  Pray alone, pray with others, pray for others, pray unceasingly.  – I Thes. 5:17
11.  Bring my friends to church. – Ps. 122:1
12.  Be joyful and enthusiastic in all that I do. – Phil. 4:4

Your pastor and your friend,

Dr. John A. Dalles

What Must I Do to Be Saved?

In one of the most telling encounters in the New Testament, a terrified jailer, whose prison had been reduced to rubble by the power of prayer, knelt before Paul and Silas and asked them this question:  “What must I do to be saved?”

As recorded in Acts 16:31, they responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved; you and your household.”  The answer Paul and Silas gave the jailer was clear.  Then, it was the jailer’ turn to decide.  “Will I believe, or not?  Will I act upon that belief, or not?  Will I live as I have ever lived, imprisoned within the walls of the jail I oversee, or will I accept the freedom Christ brings?  Will I stay the same, or will I be changed by the power of the Living God?  Will I throw myself upon my sword, fearful of those who seem to have power over me, or will I choose life abundant and eternal?”  All of these questions, and others much like them, flashed through the jailer’s mind as quickly as the first frightening tremors of the earthquake, and with even more force.  Sometimes it takes an earth-shaking event to move us from complacency to conviction.  Then, by the grace of God, we may begin to live reconfigured lives.

What is remarkable is this: The jailer asked the right question.  Notice, he did not ask:  “What must I do to be lost?  It is fair to say the jailer knew the answer to that.  “What must I do to be lost?”  “Nothing at all.”  The jailer had been there; he had done that.  He understood that to become lost, to be lost, to stay lost, all one must do is nothing at all. One cannot be healthy, one cannot be happy, one cannot be prosperous if one does nothing at all.  To remain lost, is to remain sulky, or surly, or cynical, or superior, or defeatist, or fearful.  But to be saved, one must believe in the turned-around limitless-love and grace of Christ Jesus. 

God wishes your life to be worthwhile.  This is a truth we know; yet, a truth we need reminded of every day.  God went to infinite pains—even death on the cross—for your life to be worthwhile.  God is still seeking, moving heaven and earth, for your life to be worthwhile.  If you want what God wants—if you want your life to be worthwhile, you must start now, to train yourself in the daily exercise of believing in Jesus Christ.  Do not allow yourself to dwell on anything that is not good.  Believe God’s will for you is good.  Let no thought of failure, disappointment, trouble, criticism, spite, jealousy, or condemnation of yourself or others have any place in your life.  Believe God’s purposes for you are positive, constructive, and kind.  

Give yourself a week of unbroken, mental discipline to get your mind set in this new direction.  See what a difference a week makes. Then, make that difference the guiding force of the rest of your life, if you want what God wants.

Faithfully yours,

Dr. John A. Dalles


Reinhold Niebuhr, Author of the “Serenity Prayer”

Did you know that this coming year is the 125th anniversary of the birth of one of the finest theologians America has produced?  To be specific, I am speaking of Reinhold Niebuhr, whose dates are 1892-1971.  

Reinhold Niebuhr is perhaps best remembered in the world at large for one specific prayer that he authored.  Many people know his prayer, even if they do not know that someone actually wrote it and that the someone was Dr. Niebuhr.  His prayer has come to be known as the “Serenity Prayer”.  In its original form, it goes like this:

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
courage to change the things which should be changed,
and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."

What a gift!  This prayer has whispered its quiet strength to those in need.  This prayer has given encouragement to those who face challenges.  This prayer has given countless persons the ability to continue although circumstances are still difficult and disappointing.  This prayer has found its way in to wallets and pocketbooks and on to refrigerator magnets—wherever we need a small but powerful dose of responsible Christian living.  If good old “Dr. N.” had written nothing else—that one prayer would have been more than enough to secure his fame.  His witness to us in those few lines would be reason enough to revere his witness as a Christian.  But, he did so much more. 

Reinhold Niebuhr was born in Wright City, Missouri, on June 21, 1892, the son of Gustav and Lydia Niebuhr. Gustav was an immigrant from Germany and became a ordained minister of the German Evangelical Synod after graduating from Eden Seminary at St. Louis. His mother was a daughter of German Evangelical Synod missionary, Edward Hosto.  Gustav and Lydia had four children, Hulda, Walter, Reinhold, and Helmut Richard (Hulda and H. Richard are also famous in theological circles). His works include, Moral Man and Immoral Society. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1932; An Interpretation of Christian Ethics. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935; The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness: A Vindication of Democracy and a Critique of Its Traditional Defense. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944.

One other quotation from Dr. Niebuhr might peak your interest and spark your further reading of his works.  It speaks to our age every bit as clearly as when he wrote these words two generations ago…

"The tendency to claim God as an ally
for our partisan values and ends is ...
the source of all religious fanaticism."

Today, when you read about the excesses that are caused by forms of religious fanaticism, you might want to remember these other words of Dr. Niebuhr’s.  And as a corrective to them, you might wish to pray his Serenity Prayer. 

With grace and peace,

John A. Dalles, Pastor

Thursday, October 13, 2016

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)

May you discover anew the blessings that are all around you.  May you live in joy and expectation to look upon God's creation for new blessings that await you.  May the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always.  Amen. 
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  (Genesis 12:1-2)

We remember God’s call to Abraham, back before he was renamed by God, when his name was Abram.  This call from God came to Abram when he was settled in a place and surrounded by people he had known a long time. Abram was seventy-five years old, when God called him, and he responded, and  made a new start.  Abram ventured out into the unknown.  Abram followed God.  

What Abram did can be held up as our example, as we begin a new day.

First, let us hear what God has to say.  It may be that God has been trying to be heard for some time.  Now may be the time we pay attention.  What God says is more important than what anyone else says.  God is usually doing something new in our lives.  So when God says something new, it fits with a day that is new, and a desire to do God’s will.

Next, be ready to go or do something that is outside of the routine.  This does not suggest that every person will get this particular message.  In fact, in other times to other people God has called them to stand fast, remain firm, and keep doing what they have begun until it is completed.  However, Abram is among the many that God called to do something unfamiliar, and it may be that God has such a plan for your life.

Finally, notice that there are many blessings about to happen.  In Abram’s case, he would become a great nation, would be blessed, and his name would be great.  There are very few of Abram’s contemporaries that you or even eminent historians can name, unless they were associated with Abram, members of his family or people he met.  Also, see that Abram will be a blessing.  What he does will benefit others.  We like our efforts to benefit others, it gives our lives meaning, and at the end of a day, a sense of having done things well. 

As you venture into today, into tomorrow, keep the picture of Abram in your mind’s eye.  Let God propose to you what you can and will do with the all that awaits.

Yours in Christ,

Dr. John A. Dalles, Pastor
"Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward.”  - Hebrews 10:35

          The letter to the Hebrews was written by a faithful leader of the early church, to Christians who had been Jewish, before they became followers of Jesus.  We don’t know who the writer was.  This verse is talking about confidence in a Christian context. Confidence is generally described as “a state of being certain.”

Jesus was confident of who he was, and of his purpose, and of his abilities.   He came to save sinners.  From his first miracle onward, he changed the expected course of people’s lives and of events.  He transformed situations.  Jesus healed them.  Jesus found them and made them the center of his attention.  Jesus called them to something higher and more challenging.  Jesus taught with simplicity, and clarity and wisdom.  Jesus was confident of his abilities.

Jesus was confident, of who he was, and of his purpose, and of his abilities.  Hebrews says.  We should be, too.  All who call themselves Christians are engaged in the adventure of being confident.  Christians are confident, of who they are.  They are people who have been set free from sin and death by Jesus, and know that because Christ lives, they shall live also. Christians are confident of their purpose.  They are to do what they have seen Jesus doing, and say what they have heard Jesus say.  And, Christians are confident of their abilities.  So that in today’s challenge and tomorrow’s, in good and in difficult times, they will not lose hope, but be confident.

This passage goes on to say, “When you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”  The rewards come after the successful completion of your faithful living.  God has something for you to do today.  It may be to speak out against some injustice.  It may be to teach someone Jesus’ truth.  Don’t toss away your confidence. The unfolding of God’s plan depends upon it.  The world’s future depends upon it. And if these things were not enough, your future depends upon it.

Yours in Christ,

John A. Dalles, Pastor
Recently I had a chance to hear a motivational speech by Silver Medal Olympian Noelle Pikus-Pace. Among the many fine things she had to say, she also held up a small bound book and told us that she kept a “Goals Journal.”  The bound book was her daily Goals Journal.  Over the years, it has helped keep her focused on what is most important each day.

Noel told us that she tries to have three goals for each day.  Any more than that, and she feels overwhelmed.  That too is a great reminder.  One of the keys to personal happiness is that we do not expect too much of our selves.  When there is too wide of a gap between self-expectation and our ability to meet the goals we have set, feelings of inadequacy are inevitable.  

Soon thereafter, I was talking with someone else who was at this same event.  Speaking about daily goals setting, she said, “I do that, but mentally”.  It was good to hear that there are more ways than one to keep goals before us: sometimes, by writing them down, sometimes by carrying them in our heads and in our hearts.  Wherever they are, these goals give our lives meaning and purpose throughout each day, each week, and each year.

The key feature of keeping a cluster of goals, is to surround them and infuse them with prayer.  Conversations with the Lord about what we hope and intend to do does several things.  First of all, it allows us to determine whether our goals happen to coincide with God’s goals for us.  Most often, they do coincide and we sense God at work as we try to meet those goals.  Sometimes, however, our goals are not in line with what God intends for our best good.  When that happens, God will let us know.

Second, God will assist us in reaching these goals.  This is exactly what we hope will happen.  We want to have God’s Holy Spirit’s energy, focus, direction and inspiration in order to meet and achieve the best possible results from our goals.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” is how the Bible talks about this.

Third, God loves to see us at work when we are “about our Father’s business”.  So prayer is a way to hear back from God how we are doing.  This summer, why not try the “Three Goals” approach to each day.  You very well may find that this spiritual discipline helps the day go better than expected.

Yours in Christ,

Dr. John A. Dalles, Pastor
Not long ago, I got lost searching for a place I wanted to get to.  I had GPS instructions, but they were not exactly correct.  In fact, although they were followed explicitly, the car ended up on a long hillside in a rural-meets-outer-suburbia location that was all wrong.  And being in the car, I was just as lost as the car was!  I imagine many of you have at one time or another found yourself in a similar situation – maybe it was when you were a kid and got lost at the mall.  Maybe it was sometime in the past several weeks.   The worst part about being lost isn’t that you cannot find your way back (there are lots of ways to do that), but it is the feeling that you have been cut off, alone, and unable to reconnect with your friends or your family. 

Scripture reminds us that we are never as lost as we think we are.  Even though there are many situations that make us seem like we are spiritually out in the boondocks –  facing some kind of trouble, seeking a job, dealing with illness, wrestling with injustice, or missing someone we love – to name but a few.  We know how it feels – heartache, loneliness, grief, fear.  So how good it is to hear someone say something like this:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 37-39).  

The Apostle Paul wrote those words to Christians in Rome who were up against tremendous challenges.  He wrote them because they were true, and because they would build people up, and because they would help people reboot their lives in a Christ-like direction.

Have you wound up in a place that you do not recognize?  A remote location where everything seems unfamiliar?  A place where the road seems to narrow down from a broadly paved superhighway to a gravel wagon track?  When you reach such a place, allow the words from Romans to center you.

If events have made you feel far from God, if you are lost or hurting, physically, emotionally, spiritually, let God do for you what you cannot do.  God will always be there.  In Jesus Christ we know this is true.  Have every ounce of faith in the Lord and Savior.  Christ is there for you.  Christ can make you more than conquerors.  Let Him.

Yours in Christ,

John A. Dalles, Pastor

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” - Matthew 5:14-16

This is a beloved passage from The Sermon on the Mount. Keep in mind that he had a wide range of listeners there.  Of course, his disciples were present.  There were others who were close to Jesus who also followed him, but who were not numbered among the Twelve.  We can picture them, eager to hear what he has to say.  And there were people of different ages and circumstances in life, who gathered to hear what he had to say. 

First: Jesus gives them all a wonderful compliment by calling them the light of the world.  Normally, if you were to ask anyone what the light of the world is, they would say what?  The sun, probably.  The sun provided both light and heat to our planet and everything that is on it.  This is a rather spectacular statement Jesus is making, comparing the people gathered there to the sun.  God is light. Jesus is light. And, as Jesus says, so are you!  Are they the ones who provide light and warmth in the world? 

Second: Jesus calls them a city built on a hill.  This is an uplifting comment, to be sure.  What does a city on a hill do in the landscape?  It draws us to it.  Remind me to tell you about the one we visited in France.  You have possibly been drawn to cities on hills (Rome, San Francisco, etc.).  During the Olympics, we were watching Rio, and the many hills there.  Cities on hills are almost always of interest.  People pay attention.  They cannot be hid.

Third: Jesus compares them to a lamp that has been lit.  People light lamps when it begins to get dark, when the sun is going down, at night, or when things are very dark and stormy.  We have had some days like that recently, where even in the middle of the day, it gets very dark.  Putting a bushel basket over a lamp renders it ineffective.  It stifles the light.  We might want to ponder what things stifle the light that God’s people shine forth. 

Jesus  encourages them to let their light shine.  The message that Jesus offers here is inspirational. It is as if Jesus is saying to them: “What you think of yourself is much more important than what people think of you.” And adding to that, “What I think of you is even more important than that.”  The message that Jesus offers is motivational. He wants them to act on the idea: “Be a little more YOU.  And a lot less what others have said you are.”  Jesus knows who they can be, and is prompting them to live into that reality.  In Christ, to do more, to be more, to give more, to serve more, and to love more. 

So there they are: Light of the world.  City on a hill.  Lamp on a lamp stand.  It would be good to hear Jesus' words as less of a requirement, and more of a blessing; as less of a command, and more of a commissioning. When we hear Christ’s teachings in this way, they are invitational.  Come and be this.  Come and live in this way. 

Yours in Christ,

John A. Dalles, Pastor
            22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.” - Acts 26:22 & 23

In this section of Acts Paul is making his defense.  He is speaking boldly and frankly, we sense that his viewpoint is one of strength, not of timidity.  He understands that this is an opportunity for him to witness to the Gospel and to reach people he might not have been able to reach otherwise.  

Paul is standing and testifying to “small and great alike”.  He is well aware that there are some very important people with him, people who are very good friends of the Emperor.  He also knows that the people who serve the court, and who look on at what is happening, have stories to tell.  Small and great alike are worthwhile to Paul because they are worthwhile to God.

            Paul stresses the continuity of God’s help and that his current predicament has not gotten in the way of what he is being called to do.  Sometimes we turn it around and allow our predicaments to stifle and stop our initiative.  We need Paul’s example, here.  Paul uses the example of the prophets and of Moses – examples which would be clear to every person in the room, small and great alike.  Paul does not even have to elaborate.  He simply mentions their names.  If we said, “I am saying nothing beyond what Thomas Jefferson and George Washington said…” we understand something of the importance.   Great figures of the past who represent our shared ideals are being evoked in the present moment.  Paul indicates that Jesus is the fulfillment of what the prophets and Moses said would happen.  His message is one of light, to enlighten all believers. 

Here are some questions to ponder as you put this passage to use in your own life:

Would you say that God has helped you to this very day?  What are some examples you can think of, when God has done this for you?  Can we say that God has helped Wekiva Presbyterian church to this very day?  Again, what things standout for you?   What is Paul’s purpose (clue it is in the second half of verse 22).  What is the purpose of each Christian?  Why is the message “to small and great alike”?

Yours in Christ,

The Rev. Dr. John A. Dalles, Pastor

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Hello Friends,

We are all coming to grips with the awful, senseless acts of violence that were leveled upon our friends and neighbors this past weekend here in Orlando.  The tragedy is beyond comprehension, and the sorrow that each family affected now faces is a heavy burden for them to bear.  Our hearts and our prayers go out to them, and our hope is that through these and the prayers of so many others around the world, God will bring them comfort.

We believe that when one person suffers, we all share in that suffering.  The death of one person is a loss to one and all, and the violence that comes out of hatred, while unspeakably terrible, is also devoid of all meaning.  No matter what was in the mind of the killer – one thing we know – it was totally wrong.

We grieve with the parents, neighbors, and friends of all of these innocent people who were struck down, and those who are suffering terrible injuries; they were and are people of peace.  We uphold with gratitude all who came to their aid, the police, the EMTs, the surgeons, nurses, and hospital staff members.  We pray that they all know that we stand with them, and admire all that they did, and continue to do, to help.

As the days and weeks unfold, we will learn more.  But what we know already is this:  Life is greater than death; love is stronger than hate; hope is more beautiful than despair; the building up of a person or community is far greater than tearing it down.  So today and each day, offer your life, your love, your encouragement, and your good work, trusting that God will see us through.

In Christ’s love,

John Dalles, Pastor

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Papa is with God...

Papa is with God.  He left us last night just before ten.  Mimi had been with him most of the day, and the rest of us had been with him for much of the evening.  When we got to Hospice, the change from yesterday was surprising and dramatic. He did not eat anything yesterday, was mostly sleeping, having more labored breathing and only responded with effort when prompted.  

We all left to go home around 8:30, and took Mimi home and then did a few helpful things there.  We were at our house maybe a half hour when the phone rang and it was the nurse from Hospice, named Hope, who told us that she had just gone into his room to check on him and he was gone.  It was about ten of ten.  We drove over to Mimi’s and told her in person, and asked her if she wanted to go back to Hospice to see his body—she said no, which was the right decision.  We also asked did she want to come to our house to sleep or have one of us stay there and she said no.  

So today will be one of making arrangements.  I do not know what Mom will decide.  I have some ideas, but will see what she is thinking, and go from there.

I am so grateful that he had such a good day on Sunday, so that everyone had interaction time with him, and he was able to truly enjoy them being there.  He had three good meals, and really loved his vanilla pudding at supper time Sunday. Taylor was there for part of the day and in addition to all the family, some dear friends, too.  He was obviously feeling much better than he had on Saturday in the hospital, and was sitting up in the bed smiling.  Of course people often do rally when the end is near, and this must have been what was happening on Sunday.  But we just thought he had found some new strength that might sustain him for some little while.  

I was reflecting with Judy that on Saturday when he was so uncomfortable and we all hurried to be there, he did say his I love you and good bye to each one of us.  He had also told Judy that he did not want Mimi to see him die or after he was dead.  it is good that the kids especially will now have that memory of his speaking to each of them, and telling them he loved them.

When he was admitted to Hospice, they gave Mimi a booklet about what signs pointed to the fact that death was near, starring about three months out.  Last night when we got back from being with Papa, after we headed home, she did a breathing treatment before bed, and as she was doing it, she was reading the booklet. Then, after we went over to tell her the news, she told us she had been reading the booklet and that she could see times in the past three months that pointed to what was happening, including his loss of interest in the political news, which he had been following eagerly up till then.  He also had told her that he had a goal of reaching his 94th birthday, which he did.  She said, “I’m mad at myself that I did not read the book as soon as they gave it to me (Saturday night)”.  I asked her if she would have felt any different about things had she read it sooner.  She wasn’t sure.

The Hospice people were very good with both of them and all of us.  I will say that the daytime nurse did not give us any clues that the time was as close as it was.  The night nurse who came on at 7 spoke of his labored breathing as “part of the process” which we all understood.  But she also said that his vitals had not changed, giving us the indication that while the end was approaching it did not sound as if it would be anytime soon.   So it made sense for us to go home.  I think maybe he was waiting for us to go, to leave us.

Mimi said several times over this weekend and again last night “We’ve had ten wonderful years here in Florida” and as we were talking with her on the phone when we were driving back to our house the last time last night she said, “You wish you could go on to the end together… but you can’t."

So we will go through the day step by step today.  Thanks for your prayers as we do so.

With love, 

John and Judy

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Isabel Roberts at Greenwood Cemetery - Orlando

Yesterday there was a ceremony honoring Isabel Roberts at the historic Greenwood Cemetery in Orlando, Florida.

Civic leaders, architects, historians, and many others who have an admiration for Ms Roberts and her life's work came together to dedicate a new grave marker at the site where she was buried alongside her mother Mary Roberts and her sister Charlotte, in 1955.

As a part of the program, I shared a talk called "Remembering Isabel Roberts".  It was a brief biographical sketch about her life, education, and work, in the Oak Park Studio and as one of the two partners in the Orlando architectural firm, Ryan and Roberts.  The next photo shows me with the grave marker.

For 61 years, Isabel Roberts' final resting place has gone mostly unnoticed.  Which parallels what happened to the awareness of her contributions to the architectural environment in the Chicago area and in Central Florida.

While in Frank Lloyd Wright's employment in his Oak Park Studio throughout its creative years, Isabel Robetrs is known to have designed the prairie style windows in a number of Wright's homes.  She was one of two of his last employees who kept the Oak Park Studio open as work that was on the boards was completed, after Wright went off to Europe with Mrs. Cheney.  In her application for membership  in the AIA, Isabel Roberts listed her own home and the K C DeRhodes Residence in South Bend, Indiana, as her work.  Isabel was an architectural designer.

There is no reasons to doubt the truth of her claim, as her fellow architects from Chicago state in letters of recommendation written on her behalf.  Hermann Von Holst (who oversaw the work at the Oak Park Studio after Wright departed) and John Van Bergen (a noted Chicago architect who was the other continuing member of the original Oak Park staff, after Wright had gone), both offered clear reference to Isabel's gifts as an architect.  Most importably, so did Wright himself, in a letter that begins with a breezy "To Anyone, Anywhere" and goes on to say that Isabel is an architect.

In 1920, Isabel moved from River Forest, Illinois, to St. Cloud, Florida.  There, she entered into an architectural practice with Ida Annah Ryan, the first women in the USA to receive a masters degree in architecture (from MIT).   Throughout the 1920s, they created some of the most notable buildings in the Orlando area, in both the Prairie Style and in the Mediterranean Revival idiom.  Some are now gone, some are still there, including the partners' own home and studio, and The Matilda Fraser Residence, one of the finest homes from their hands, built for a educator and women's suffrage friend of Anna Idah Ryan's who, like Ryan, moved from Boston to Orlando in the 1920s.

There are other fine examples of their work in St Cloud, including this Prairie Style house:

Most of this was long forgotten, because no one was around to tell the story.  Some of it was forgotten because as time progressed, the accomplishments of all of the Oak Park Studio draftsmen (five men and two women) were subsumed into the celebrated genius of Wright himself.

It is still a challenge for women in the field of architecture.  Think what a challenge it was for Isabel Roberts and Idah Ryan a century and more ago.  Their work - although still there as a reminder of their creativity - became obscured over time.

The placing of the grave marker on Isabel Roberts' grave is one step in helping our collective memory.  Another would be to identify those works of Ryan and Roberts which are still standing, and gracing our communities, so that they receive the recognition they deserve.  If you know of such structures, please contact me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

John and Anne - A Series

It started with the photo of them by the ocean when they were in kindergarten and first grade...

There are photos from each year.  Mostly at the beach.  Mostly the same pose.  Here are a few from down the years:

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Remembering Lee M Belknap

Yesterday Judy and I went to say farewell to a dear friend.  Lee M. Belknap was Judy's minister of music growing up at First Presbyterian Church in South Bend, Indiana.  He was also my colleague when I served that church as associate pastor in the years 1982 through 1987.  We both have so many dear memories of this good man and faithful servant of the Lord.  It was a tender and special day yesterday.

The memorial service was held in Lake Wales, so we drove down in the morning, and arrived with some time to catch our breath before going into the church for worship.  As one might expect, the Sanctuary was still adorned for the Christmas season, with two trees in the Chancel filled with white Chrismon ornaments, made out of satin, like small pillows, and very attractive.  Atop each of the trees was a descending dove, made of pearl beads.

The family were gathered together in the front row.  At one point in the worship service both of Lee's children spoke, Cherry and Kurt.  Judy grew up with them both, sharing junior choir, Sunday School and Camp Redbud memories that go way back.  They both spoke eloquently about their father and their mother Marie as well, who entered the Church Triumphant 14 years ago.  We sang a number of hymns as you would guess, since we were honoring a man who spent his life leading choirs and bell choirs, and teaching vocal and instrumental music.  The organist also played some favorite hymns and selections of Lee's, including Handel's Largo.

We were last in the receiving line, and so missed the chance to visit with the only other representatives of First Presbyterian Church of South Bend, who must have been at the very front, and scooted out before we could catch their eye.  But we did have a chance to visit with Kurt and Cherry and their families, and they talked about Marie and Judy's mom, Dottie, teaching Sunday School when they were very young, as well as about Lee and choir.  At one point the two of them plus Judy sang a rousing rendition of a song called "Announcements!" that Lee had taught them, back in Indiana.  I wish I had had my camera ready for a video of that!

Lee and I had many a great conversation over they years, and thoroughly enjoyed working together.  In retirement, he loved being part of a church that offered great music in praising God.  As we drove back home we reflected on many moments from those days, as well as from yesterday, and felt so blessed and thankful to have shared a part of the journey with Lee, Marie and their family.