Ponderings for October 25 2019

Wow, its been a while since I “pondered.” Or, at least, since I jotted down a Ponderings to the Trinity community. It just wouldn’t come. I would go to write something and then it was too blah, or too obtuse, or nothing at all. Then life happens and a week goes by, and then another week. Writing a Ponderings is like working out; you get out of the routine and then before you know it, you’ve missed a few weeks and it’s really hard to get started again. But you have to! That’s true with any number of personal habits, isn’t it?
 
So here goes…
 
“Blessed to be a blessing.” That has been God’s M.O. for blessing and tangibly loving the world and the needy for thousands of years (check out Genesis 12). For me and for us, that means God blesses us with so much (materially and spiritually) not just to enjoy or hoard but to share with and “bless” others. To live “Christianly” and to carry out a vital core value of Trinity Church is to consistently look outward when “counting one’s blessings.”
 
This Sunday we will be modeling this as we introduce and welcome our new partner church, International Fellowship Church. We seek to bless this primarily Nepalese congregation (think the Himalayas and Mount Everest) as they seek to bless the international/refugee population of Cleveland with the Gospel. I am eager for us to experience on Sunday a deep spiritual time of worship as we participate together in the fellowship of communion and baptism!
 
It won’t be long until our society announces the coming of Christmas and the holiday season with the scheduling of office parties and gift exchanges and the buying of presents. Not to be outdone, our church has already begun preparations with musical rehearsals and fun children’s plays and all things joyful. Let’s go!
 
But let’s also not forget that for many, this season is the opposite of joy. With the memories of lost loved ones or the pain of fractured families, this is not an easy time for some. What can we do to tangibly bring the love and peace of Christ to our neighbors and friends who are dreading this coming Christmas season? Maybe your small group or fellowship–or you and your family–can devise a plan to reach out and “bless” someone this season. Let’s go!
 
On November 1 and 2, we will be hosting “Surviving the Holidays,” a ministry of hope and support for those dealing with sorrow and grief through divorce or the loss of a loved one. Consider inviting someone who needs it. Or come yourself if you need it.
 
Whew. That was hard work getting back in the Ponderings routine.
 
See you Sunday!
Pastor Paul

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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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