Ponderings for September 10 2019

I was driving down a beautiful winding road the other day and I actually saw the beginnings of autumn color changes in the leaves. One day soon, they will be a vast array of amazing oranges and reds and yellows. Right now, though, it’s sort of like: “Really? I’m not ready for the fall!”
 
Our lives and families can be like that as well. The kids are going back to school; everybody’s back from the summer and the load at the office is already piling up; church life is in full swing; and the Browns are playing again and—well, never mind!
 
Trinity, too! Like Baker Mayfield, who is now presented with so many talented receivers (see, I haven’t given up on them!), the fall has arrived and our church calendar is full with many ministries starting back up again. Our teenagers look forward to a new year full of fun and meaningful expectations. Moms and their “tots” expect a strong, new season. We’re introducing an exciting new paradigm for Sunday morning and children’s classes. The women have great options of discipleship and a retreat. I hear there is a race coming to our campus, too! And there are many other colors and many other leaves. Choose wisely. Choose purposefully. Choose spiritually.
 
And keep praying!
 
We have introduced the fall with our family theme of prayer. It’s basic, necessary, and…maybe even overlooked? Are you praying WITH Trinity this month? It’s a good discipline as we face the future and seek God’s pleasure in what we do.
 
I know life is busy and it’s tough to find the space to pray…sort of. And that got me thinking of that lame excuse I sometimes use for not praying. See if this sounds familiar:
 
“I am just too busy to pray.”
 
We live at a crazy pace. In our work or our play, we’re always “on” and then moving to the next thing. And when we’re not “on,” we’re on our phones or our computers or we’re watching sports. Little time to think or meditate. Little space to ponder or pray.
 
Really, Paul?! I say prayer is vital, absolutely important, and yet…I’m too busy?!?
 
My son-in-law drives a Tesla (an electric car). On our trip this summer, I never heard him say, “I’m too busy to stop at the charging station.” He is not foolish enough to skip the necessary charge that he needs to reach his destination. And yet, how often do I do just that in the journey of my Christian living? I am just way too busy to slow down and stop for energy. Sounds rather foolish, doesn’t it?
 
Jesus spoke of my excuse of busyness as he corrected the busy Martha while praising the meditative Mary: “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her” (Luke 10:38–42). This was not necessarily a rebuke to industrious activity but rather a caution not to act without praying and spending time at “Jesus’ feet.”
 
Enjoy all the things coming at you this fall. Be active. Don’t hold back. Choose well as you participate in the great things that Trinity is offering at the start of this year. And don’t forget to pray WITH Trinity.
 
I’ll see you around the corner. Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for August 29 2019

Random thoughts while Sue and I put the finishing touches on an anniversary trip to New York City:
 
Forty years…whoa! I know it’s cliché, but wow, did the years fly by at warp speed. Good years. Hard years. Those years can be mean and, if you’re not careful, you can grow hard with them. Don’t. If you’re married—keep at it. It’s worth the hard work. If you’re not married—don’t turn it into an idol you just have to have, but, on the other hand, let me tell you it can be a wonderful gift from God.
 
Don’t believe stereotypes like all New Yorkers are unfriendly. Not so! Sue and I didn’t meet one unfriendly person here. We got lost, we asked directions, we were blocking traffic while reading maps and guidebooks. And they were as friendly as can be! Don’t believe stereotypes (about any person or people group). They’re all made in the image of God and deserve dignity and our respect.
 
Art—everywhere, art. So many museums in New York! So much beauty and so many famous works (paintings, architecture, statues) all in one city! Not really into art? Ponder these words: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—think on these things (Phil 4:8). A good grid to evaluate the art you experience.
 
Mortality—that, too, was part of our New York trip. Not only because Sue and I have been at this marriage thing for forty years and the clock is ticking, but because mortality was here in other ways, too. We went to The Dakota, John Lennon’s home in New York. We stood right at the apartment entryway where he was murdered in cold blood. We visited the 9/11 Memorial. Two huge reflective pools are there, honoring the 2,753 who died in the World Trade Center attacks. Mortality. I am grateful for and believe more firmly than ever that our Lord Christ vanquished mortality by his death and resurrection. And he freely offers eternal life to all who would trust in him. “O death, where is your sting?”
 
This Sunday we begin our next sermon series, Pray WITH Trinity. We will all be choosing one day a week in September to commit to prayer. Watch social media and come on Sunday prepared to pray WITH Trinity.
 
See you in a few.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for August 13 2019

I want you to meet my friends, Steve and Lisa (or, for that matter, Craig and Judy, their ministry partners). On a weekly basis, Steve and Lisa lead a meeting of those who have recently experienced the sting of divorce. Steve and Lisa supply boxes of tissues and words of empathy and a very safe place for these wounded, single-again people. Steve and Lisa and Craig and Judy love these folks and their ministry.
 
Tony and Karl remind me a bit of David Spade and Chris Farley. They play off each other really well—a perfect balance of gravity and levity. And they have this really odd quirk: they love junior high students! No kidding. And every week, they take the vast truths of Scripture and make them entirely accessible to our young teens. Talk about finding their niche!
 
I ran into Bob and Bonnie at Panera a couple weeks ago. A friendlier couple you may never meet. As we were shooting the breeze about the Cleveland Indians and shoulder surgery, Bonnie mentioned that “it’s our turn to greet at the main door this Sunday!” Talk about folks who are cut out for and love their ministry! Bob and Bonnie won’t know how to contain themselves when the Gathering Space opens and they get to greet in that beautiful new space!
 
Speaking of the Gathering Space, if you didn’t know otherwise, you would think Tom works here. He is often on Trinity’s campus when I get here in the morning and then back again and again throughout the day. Tom has been charged with the ministry of new construction oversight. He is managing the details and quality control of the entire building project. Essential—that is what I would call Tom’s contribution to Trinity and our new construction.
 
I walk into the worship center on Wednesday evening to say hello and goodbye to everyone in there working on their craft together to make our worship beautifully, well, worshipful. Mark and Alfredo and Chris and Kathy and Tim and Heather are all led by David to go over that bit for the fifth time to make sure they have it right. That’s dedication. That’s the nature of ministry. Without it, where would we be?
 
The names go on and on: Kristen, Randy, Frank, Nancy, Joe, Josh, Olivia, Bella…
 
Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God produces each gift in each person. A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4–7).
 
It is people that make Trinity go. It is people like you that will make Trinity go even further. Join the team! Get ready to hear more this Sunday!
 
Proud to serve with all these!
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for July 31 2019

Hello, Trinity people! Can you believe it’s just about August?! Still a good bit of summer ahead, but that is quite a big wake behind us! Where does the time go?
 
There is a phrase that we like to use on staff to remind us to remember the past faithfulness of God and our own good work of planning as we plough ahead into the next big thing: “River crossed, bridge forgotten.”
 
So, as to not forget some recently crossed bridges, I write:
 
About Boundaries: Remember that series and book we read right after Easter? Boundaries are and will ever remain a prevalent issue in all of our relationships. On a regular basis, I am reminded of and am reminding others of the importance of maintaining boundaries. Don’t forget, boundaries define what is me and mine (responsibility-wise) and what is yours. I remember Dr. Henry Cloud’s words: “Your boundaries are necessary for you and helpful for the people you love. Even when they hurt.”
 
River crossed, bridge noted.
 
We just finished a series called “Making the Grade” in which we examined our Lord’s letters to seven real churches in the first century. We learned that the Lord cares very intimately about every individual church, including ours. And that behavioral or doctrinal compromises on our part are not tolerated by Christ. Loving, Christlike character and unwavering biblical beliefs must always be the church’s signature. Christ calls us to be willing to stay on mission even to the point of suffering for Him. And he requires of us a sincerity and a passion that dispels all apathy and lukewarmth. As we have said throughout the series: If the shoe fits, wear it!
 
River crossed, bridge honored.
 
Randy Verdi, one of our Trinity Elders, left for Haiti this morning. He will be building a bakery in the name of Christ and for the sake of the people there. He asked us to supply shoes for the many in Haiti in need of adequate footwear. Boy, did we respond! Randy thanks us by writing: “Thank you for your generous giving of shoes to those in need in Haiti…Your generosity will go a long way in allowing them to see the love of Christ!” Among the poorest of the global poor, the annual income per capita among Haitians is $1,750. Our gifts of shoes are quite needed and will be well received. (Randy wrote a beautiful letter of thanks that we will post in its entirety for your reading.)
 
River crossed, bridge gratefully remembered.
It is a joy crossing rivers of opportunity with you. And it is humbling to see the bridges that the Lord provides for us on a regular basis.
 
See you on the other side.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for July 24 2019

Today would have been my dad’s 95th birthday. He’s been gone over twenty years. I can still hear his voice. As an unspoken tribute to him, my brother and I have been texting funny (to us) things that he would often say. I just texted, “I hate indecision!” Robert texted back, “Don’t be ridiculous!” I can still hear Dad’s thick Italian accent.
 
Anyway, let me clear some things off my desk for our Ponderings today (*insert stream-of-consciousness warning here*):
 
Thank you to the many who said “I want to serve” at the Back to School Bash in early August. What a great way to love Lake County. And what an encouragement to me and the staff to see so many from Trinity want to be a part of that day. Yes! We see an “open door” and we seize the opportunity. I love it!
 
The Gathering Space is almost completed. The finishing touches are being applied. I can’t wait to see the full fellowship of people (new and old) that will be gathering in there every Sunday and other days as well! On the evening of August 25, we will have a pizza reception as the “grand opening.” Mark the date down!
 
It’s exciting to see the Indians competing for the pennant again, isn’t it?! I sure hope they don’t trade important players now.
 
“Wisdom begins in wonder.” Those were Socrates’ words. Our August message series captures that in title and sermons. As we probe various themes in Proverbs, we will encourage you to join us in the discipline of reading one chapter of Proverbs (there are 31) every day in the month of August (#31in31). And then—post your learning and insights on our Facebook page!
 
My granddaughter Mila loves coming to Trinity when she is visiting from Cincinnati. At lunch today she tested me, asking, “When did God begin?” In all of my theological correctness I, of course, responded that God is eternal; he had no beginning. “I know that,” was her response with a smile. I believe they spoke about that and other concepts in Mrs. Dengel’s class on Sunday. Mila really likes Jaden, the teenage assistant. And she adores the Guerra family, who have taught her so many times as well. Those who serve with our kids are a big reason why families call Trinity their home. I would love to see the number of “faculty members” increase. To keep up with our growth, we really need it, too. Would you consider serving in our all-important children’s ministry? Contact me. I’m serious.
 
On Sunday we conclude our “Making the Grade” message series on the seven churches in Revelation. I want to say that although no church is perfect, I am grateful for how we measure up in faithfulness in both Word and deed. As we explored the specifics of a FAT church last week, I am rather encouraged that Trinity is indeed faithful to the uniqueness of Christ, available to the open-door opportunities God puts in our path, and true to the Scriptures in all that we believe. Now, lest we rest on our laurels, this Sunday we will be confronted with the charge of “lukewarmth.” Churches and believers alike are often challenged with that sense of apathy and dryness that can develop over time. By God’s grace, let’s identify it and run from becoming lukewarm. I am confident we will.
 
See you Sunday.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for July 16 2019

“Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!” 
 
I heard that song all day long as Master Creator LEGO Camp kicked off yesterday at Trinity. Many excited kids are having a truly fun and Christ-centered experience this week as they sing about the awesomeness of being part of the Lord’s team.
 
“Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!” 
 
We all experienced the power of that song Sunday afternoon as we enjoyed a fabulous picnic and baptisms at the lake. All those who are part of the Deacon/Deaconess team served us so well! The food preparation, the organization of all the details, and the behind-the-scenes work by everyone involved was awesome indeed!
 
The meaning of this song was seen so clearly on the first day of LEGO Camp as the entire Trinity staff pitched in to put on a wonderful program for the many youngsters. From rallying the children en masse into the big room, to working the registration tables, to teaching the classes, to planning the entire event—your Trinity staff was great. It is so cool to be part of that team!
 
On August 18, we will hear from that same staff as they describe their hopes and dreams for their ministry areas in the year(s) to come. Lives will be blessed as those plans come to fruition and Christ will be glorified as the church accomplishes his loving will “on earth as it is in heaven.” It will take a full and committed team for our ministries to accomplish everything we can dream of. It would be awesome if you were part of that team. Would you begin praying how you might in fact be a part of the Trinity ministry team? That would be more than cool—it would be (all together now) awesome!
 
“Everything is awesome! Everything is cool when you’re part of a team!” 
 
What a privilege it is to be a part of and lead this beautiful team called Trinity Church.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for June 25 2019

Where do you live? Mentor? Concord Township? Chardon? Maybe Painesville Township? Each of our hometowns comes with a unique distinction, doesn’t it? My parents came from Rome, Italy, a city known as the Eternal City! Cleveland used to be called the Comeback City. My daughter lives in the Queen City. Do you know which city that is?
 
On Sunday, we will continue our series called “Making the Grade.” As we study and apply Christ’s letters to seven historical churches in Asia Minor, we will examine the letter to Pergamum. Do you know the nickname that the Lord gave to the city of Pergamum? “Satan’s City.” Yuck, talk about bad PR. And you though Vegas had it rough with “Sin City.”
 
“I know where you live,” the Lord tells them. “Where Satan’s throne is.”
 
We will look at the spiritually dark details that earned Pergamum its dubious title. And we will delve into the implications for the Christ-followers who lived there. How does the church earn a passing grade when it is living in the middle of “Satan’s City”?
 
This week and as we prepare for Sunday, let’s be encouraged that Christ “knows where we live.” No matter how dark or dismal, or how immoral or oppressive, the Lord knows where you live. Like the believers of Pergamum, Christ knows our diabolical circumstances and the loneliness that comes from trying to live with his ethics in a world of upside-down ethics. And, like the Christians in Pergamum, he promises to be with us, too.
 
Here’s what I want you to know: Christ knows exactly where you are right now! Stop and think on that for moment. Whatever your address or present circumstances, the Lord knows where you live. And more than just being cognizant of where you are, Christ strategically and providentially has you there for his purposes. We are all to bear witness to God’s grace and love. We are all to deliberately love Lake County. We are all to be a light to dark Pergamum.
 
I’ll see you on Sunday and, in the meantime, we can all rest in the fact that the Lord knows where we are.
 
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for June 12 2019

Hello, Trinity family and friends. I sit here typing this in my hotel room in London. Heading out soon where it is barely in the 50s and pouring down rain—and it’s the middle of June! Yuck!
 
From what I can tell, it seems like you’re having a nice week weather-wise there. (Earthquakes aside! I wonder if all of our paintings on the wall at home are crooked.)
 
Not sure where you are reading this Ponderings, whether at home or at work or thousands of miles away on a business trip, but I hope you can appreciate the life and place where you are right now. See it as a gift from God’s hand. And maybe don’t complain too much, like someone I know…in the rain…in London.
 
We sometimes pray “your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” What if you were the answer to someone’s prayer like that today?! That by your love and kindness and Christ-like grace, the heaven and good will of God that someone really needs to experience today could come in the form and actions of you. Keep your eyes and heart open. You can be just what someone needs today.
 
We will come together on Sunday and celebrate Father’s Day and the unconditional love of our Heavenly Father. His presence will be evident among us through his Word and our worship and fellowship. And still, in the meantime, his presence and “kingdom” can be very real to many as we choose to love others and let the Spirit of Christ live through us. Kingdom behavior = random acts of Christ-likeness (I just made that up, but I kind of like it)! 🙂
 
Anyway, I’ll catch you on the other side. See you this weekend. Hope I don’t need an umbrella.
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for June 4 2019

Happy June, Trinitarians! As I write, the sky couldn’t be bluer—a good thing! And as I write, the contingency plan for working without power tomorrow is being bantered about. One more step toward the completion of the Gathering Space—a very good thing!
 
So, this Sunday is historically and globally recognized as the Feast of Pentecost. In essence, it is a commemoration of the Church’s birthday—a great day indeed. In honor of that, I have composed a “creed” of what it is we believe about the Church in light of the Day of Pentecost:
 
We believe that the Church, the Body of Christ, was birthed and designed to be God’s vehicle of hope for the world.
 
And we believe that just as the Holy Spirit indwelt all believers on the original day of Pentecost, he does so now on the very day anyone trusts Christ as Savior.
 
And we believe that just as God miraculously empowered the disciples to proclaim his Good News in multiple foreign languages on that day, he still compels us to take the Gospel to every nation and people in their native tongues and culture.
 
The Church lives on
Happy Pentecost!
Pastor Paul

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Ponderings for May 14 2019

I’m sitting here with my laptop and a warm cup of coffee, convincing myself that Ohio will see warmer days and sunshine again…soon…I hope!

Boundaries. Everywhere I go, everyone is talking about boundaries around Trinity.

Letting my six-year-old stay up until 10:00pm is a boundary issue, isn’t it?
It probably is.
 
Not giving my adolescent that new game he so covets is about boundaries, yes?
Maybe so.

Lots of parenting and boundary issues, aren’t there? And I guess boundaries for our kids prevents them from becoming spoiled and even helps them realize they are not the center of the universe. But I think the bigger deal about boundaries and parenting is the issue of freedom. Freedom, really? That’s really the issue for all of us. And that’s why our heavenly Parent gives us boundaries. They enable us to live life as we were designed. Back to our children for a moment. Boundaries liberate kids. When your child knows your boundaries for him are clear and firm, he will have the confidence and security to explore life and experience all the areas and nuances within the boundary lines. When they test the boundaries and push on your lovingly imposed borders, in some way, our kids are making sure the boundaries are still in place. Trust me on that. That is how God parents us. And a very clear boundary that reveals this is the Sabbath rest. The pause button after six power days is more than a day of rest—it establishes a boundary for reflection and rhythm. Abiding by the boundary of the Sabbath gives me the liberty to go full bore, knowing there will be a time to brake. I am able to spend some days without real reflection or rest, knowing there is an ordained boundary line coming where I can take a breath and assess my life and work. Just like with our kids, God’s boundaries for us may seem unreasonable and unjustified. But a sign of maturity (for all of us children) is when we realize that our Parent is truly wise and has our best interests in mind. See you Sunday when, among other things, we will discuss how God’s boundary, though seeming rather restrictive, is actually liberating and faith boosting.

See you on the other side.
Pastor Paul

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