Saturday, August 27, 2022

Speeding Through the 80's


I’m worried. I recently got lost in a department store. After wandering from exit to exit trying to find my way to a parking lot, a kind clerk pointed me in the right direction. Then this morning I lost a Google document. I know. My friend tells me it’s impossible to lose a Google Doc. Well, I lost one. At least it’s lost to me.

Such is life in the 80’s. The decade, that is, not the speed zone. In case you’ve forgotten your age, you know you’re in the 80’s when:

--You no longer iron shirts. Touch up the collar and front and they’re good to go. They’re hidden under jackets anyway.

--And the same goes for pillow cases. Oh, that wrinkle-free fabric could use a touch up, but by the time you slip it over a pillow, most wrinkles disappear. Besides, you’ll never see them while you sleep.

--You’re no longer duped by television commercials. That woman jumping rope because she’s taking xyz medication? Have you ever listened to the possible side effects? Who wants to jump rope anyway?

            --You see more of your doctor and your physical therapist (and they see more of you) than you do your old friends (most of whom have now graduated to heaven). And you now have a doctor for each body part. To be honest, a doctor’s visit turns out to be a nice diversion from puttering around the house.

            --You no longer run to answer the phone. It’s in your pocket—if you can remember you put it there. Nine out of ten calls are either scams or automated voices telling you your prescription is ready, so no need to hurry.

            --Visits to the grocery store become welcome social events. You enjoy chatting along the aisles. But you do wish someone would train that young cashier, the one who puts three two-quart cartons in one bag, to look at you. Do you look like you could lift that bag into and out of your trunk? And where’s your senior discount? Look at me, you young whippersnapper.

            --You prefer to watch birds over watching television. Any sex scenes are on the fly. Oh you may still watch a game show or two, but other than those, it’s more fun to read or work jigsaw or Sudoku puzzles. Good for that aging brain too!

            Such is life in the 80’s express lane. And as my husband’s dialysis doctor reminds him, no matter what the challenges, it’s better to be upright than horizontal. Better to see over the steering wheel too. So enjoy the journey, no matter the speed bumps.

Friday, August 5, 2022

Passing the Baton



Through preaching and practice, Brooke Solberg passes the baton of Christian ministry to the next generation. He’s my former pastor, mentor and friend, a city boy who preached at a little country church. By the time he left, 31 people, myself included, had committed ourselves to Christian service.

            A “Festschrift” compiled by the congregation in Brooke’s honor includes the writings of people influenced by Dr. W. Richard "Brooke" Solberg, during his 21 years serving what is now David’s Community Church in Millersburg, Pennsylvania. In his written tribute, a seminary dean recognized Brooke as a young Timothy and wrote, “But you, man of God . . . pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.” I Timothy 6:11.

            And Brooke, who grew up in Brooklyn, had taken that scriptural admonition seriously from the get go. We watched him and his wife Ruth raise four children. In everyday life, they showed our congregation the spiritual maturity the apostle Paul wrote about and inspired us to grow in Christ.

Brooke also inspired us to serve beyond church doors. If someone shared with him a burden they had for ministry, he told them to run with it and supported them in prayer. He helped them use secular skills in ministry within and far beyond the church.

One man offered a sign language class; some of us taught after-school Bible clubs and released time classes. One woman developed a Good Samaritan ministry to offer transportation, meals and support in various ways. In time people left our flock to serve as pastors, missionaries and church planters throughout the world.

Brooke’s faith in Christ as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) showed up throughout our region. He served as a chaplain in the 193rd PA Air National Guard, Middletown, and he combined Harrisburg Hospital visits with playing basketball at the YMCA. Fellow Guard members and basketball players sometimes visited our church, where Brooke preached from scripture, often verse-by-verse.

He became known for saying “watch my hands” as he gestured to illustrate sermon points. Many times he made fun of himself in ways that made us laugh.

            When we asked Brooke about puzzling Bible passages, he always said, “Let’s look at it in context,” and off we went to solve the puzzle.

            Brooke and Ruth saw potential in me and others that we didn’t see in ourselves. I felt challenged when they asked me to organize and lead a Christian education committee. I was, at the time, a public school teacher, and while I was comfortable speaking to high school students, I was terrified in front of adults. The Solbergs led me from small speaking venues to larger settings and helped me overcome that fear.

During the Solbergs’ ministry with us, my husband and I experienced the greatest crisis of our lives, the death of our only daughter a few hours after her birth. The congregation had prayed for us. How could this happen?

            But Brooke counseled, “We ask; we don’t demand.” He and Ruth offered tissues, shoulders to cry on and a faith that did not waver. Their prayers calmed and soothed our souls—and the souls of many in our congregation and in the wider community who suffered losses and sorrows.

In time, Brooke suggested I fill the void left in my life by our baby’s death by taking Christian education courses at a seminary. I was in my late thirties and nervous about returning to the classroom. But with his encouragement, I eventually earned a master’s degree in that field and served on that church staff.

            As a staff member, Brooke respected my input, shared his ideas with me and encouraged me to develop programs. He and Ruth served as close, trusted and experienced counselors. I am grateful my children grew up with their children and enjoyed the Solbergs’ teaching, friendship and leadership.

            After he left our congregation, Brooke served for 12 years at a city church, where many more entered Christian service. Throughout his ministry, he has often served as a guest speaker and retreat leader for other churches and denominations. After retirement he served as an interim pastor for his denomination and later served an inner city church, counseling many who came to Christ after overcoming addictions and other struggles. Now 86, he was named pastor emeritus at Faith Evangelical Free Church, Allentown, and serves part-time as pastor of the older generation.

            More than 100 people wrote tributes to Brooke in the Festschrift. Like Timothy, Brooke’s life attests to a faithful and fruitful ministry as a disciple of Christ. May those of us he discipled continue to pass on the baton of faith and ministry.

(If Brooke's ministry has touched your life, leave a comment below and I'll be sure he sees it. If you receive this post by email, go to to leave a comment.) 


Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Book Review: Resilience


Resilient: Restoring Your Weary Soul in These Turbulent Times by John Eldredge

 Times are tough, but according to John Eldredge “The story of God has been, is now and always will be the story of the world.” To respond to the turmoil of today’s news, we need resilience.

 We need God’s strength to face hardships and challenges. In a world in turmoil with pandemics and politics, it’s more important than ever to concentrate on the fact that God is good and He is with us.

 Eldredge included some ideas I had not thought of in that light. For instance, he compared the Old Testament temple filled with God’s glory to us as Christians filled with that temple glory.

 In the chapter that most challenged me, Eldredge addresses our “unconverted places,” the times when we cave in to pressures or lose our cool. But, he says, maturity is no longer optional.

 I liked the end-of-chapter “Skill” sections that suggested ways to help us grow. I also liked the way Eldredge introduced each chapter with a short story about someone.

 He concludes the book by helping us write a personal prescription to help ourselves respond to the challenges of today.

 Published by Nelson Books in 2022, this book can surely help each reader draw closer to God in one way or another.



Thursday, July 21, 2022

Book Review: The Deeply Formed Life



The Deeply Formed Life: Five Transformative Values to Root Us in the Way of Jesus

This book offers fresh takes on practices you’ve already established, such as prayer and Bible reading, but also approaches topics you may not associate with spiritual maturity, such as sexuality and racial reconciliation. “Instead of being deeply formed we settle for being shallowly shaped,” writes author Rich Villodas.

He calls for self examination and reflection on hopes and dreams or fears and anxieties so that we don’t seal off parts of our lives. He guides readers on looking inward to see what patterns they may have developed from their families of origin.

In discussing racial reconciliation, Villodas quotes Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, a pastor and author: “Reconciliation is an ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance and justice that restores broken relationships and systems to reflect God’s original intention for all creation to flourish.”

Villodas is the pastor of a church in Queens with more than 75 countries represented. Published by Waterbrook in 2020, The Deeply Formed Life is easily read and understood. I like the quotes Villodas included from experts in various fields and also the Afterword with challenging questions such as “What practices is this season (of life) calling me to engage in?”









Friday, July 8, 2022

Let's Tout the Hoot!

 The early morning hoot of an owl blessed my heart. In my mind’s eye, I saw him perched high in a tree, awakening the dawn. On occasion I’ve spotted an owl in the daytime, his fuller body and wider head differing from a hawk. I rarely hear owls, so this hoot was a special treat.

            That same morning I saw the first bluebird of the season checking out our birdhouse. And daffodils poked up green fingers at the edge of our yard. To God be the glory for the good gifts of nature.

Five Reasons to Thank God for Nature:

            Nature reminds us of the greatness of God. In Job 39, God reminds Job of who He is and the power He has. He laid the earth’s foundation, fixed limits for the sea, and created creatures great and small, wild, and tame: owls, donkeys, eagles, and puppies, to name just a few.

            Only God knows the path of a thunderstorm and how mountain goats give birth. Only He governs the instincts of animals from the ostrich that doesn’t have the sense to nurture her young to the horse that charges into battle.

            Nature gives us something to explore and talk about with children and grandchildren. At a hunting camp, we walk down trails, dictionary in hand, identifying wildflowers. At home, we consult “the bird book” to identify visitors to our feeder. The rare indigo bunting or yellow-breasted sapsucker have been special treats.

            When grandson Scott was three-years-old, I held him on my lap, pointing out squirrels leaping from branch to branch, high in the trees. I asked him if he would like to do that. With all seriousness he replied, “Mommy said ‘no.’” I treasure such memories.

            Nature offers us opportunities to care for the earth, as God commanded in Genesis 1. We tend our lawn, recycle plastics, paper, and books. Under fluorescent bulbs, my husband, Bill, grows flower plants from seed. He then plants and tends a flowerbed.

            Nature offers opportunities to exercise. Gardening, caring for yards, and raising crops all keep us in shape physically. Taking walks, canoeing, kayaking, or playing outdoor games all offer exercise.

            Along the Susquehanna River in our capitol city, beds of flowers spread between spaces with equipment to do push-ups, chin-ups, and other sorts of exercise.

            Nature entertains us in our senior years. As Bill and I eat breakfast we watch the birds at the feeder. We once spotted an eagle soaring above our home. We enjoy seeing deer running through our yard and nibbling our flowers. Well, maybe not so much the latter. But we only chase them when they chomp on one of our tomato plants. We decorate our porch and deck with hanging baskets and planters. All this brings peace to our souls when we look out our windows or sit on our front porch rocking chairs. To God be the glory!

Ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind” (Job 12:7-10 NIV).

            Whether we live in an apartment with houseplants, in a house with flowerbeds in our yards, or on a farm with fields of golden grain, let’s thank God for nature and enjoy the treasures He has created. To God be the glory!