The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair

The Empty Chair…

“The Empty Chair” sits vacant at every home this Christmas.
It sat there all alone in my house and it sits all alone in yours.
The difficult part about dealing with “The Empty Chair” is that it used to be filled…
Filled to overflowing perhaps…
Filled with sounds of laughter…
Filled with striking smiles and twinkling eyes…
Lips that curled a certain way right before busting out laughing and even crying…
Eyes that narrowed in keen observation, eyes that softened and moistened upon saying “good-bye”…
Eyes that lit up with a joy uncontainable upon seeing your face…

The Empty Chair used to be filled..
Filled with hands that you used to hold and stroke and hands that used to hold yours…
Hands that had wedding rings and diamond rings and mood rings and turquoise rings…
Hands that had dug in the dirt, changed the oil, baked the birthday cakes and
Hands that you just knew you would hold forever and ever…

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One of my best friends in the whole wide world has a son named Grant.
Grant is an awesome tennis player!

Grant’s parents named him Grant because they came out to visit me and my wife when we lived in a town called “Grants Pass.”

Supposedly, President Ulysses S. Grant passed through there one time. So… naturally the people decided they should call that particular area of southern Oregon, “Grants Pass.” (Other Oregonians call it Grass Pants!)

I bought my first bicycle with a banana seat and U-shaped handlebars at a department store in Atlanta, Georgia called “Grants.”

The ever profound and soul searching song “Broken Hallelujah” is sung by Amy Grant!

Back in 2001, with my hip hairstyle, while sitting at a sidewalk cafe in the ski resort town of Sun Valley, Idaho two sisters (ages 9, 17) approached me with pen and paper in hand asking me if I was indeed Hugh Grant!

Making my way through seminary would have been much more difficult had it not been for the number of generous “grants” I received through some wonderful scholarship opportunities.

As you can tell, I love the noun and more specifically the verb – “grant”


I love the verb “grant” the most when the word “God” is in front of it.
Special thank you to American Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr for putting those two words together in the most eloquent way.

I have had a rather trying week and the way Reinhold uses the phrase “God grant” has become a mainstay for people like me everywhere who have a trying day, or week, or month or year or life… I am honored to share with you what Reinhold wrote after penning “God grant…”

God grant me 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

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,

Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.


These inspired words are commonly known as the “Serenity Prayer.”

I call it the “Grant” prayer…
There’s more than “serenity”…
There’s courage
There’s wisdom
There’s sin
There’s trust
There’s surrender
There’s God’s will
There’s happiness
There’s forever…
And then, there’s Amen!

And for some glorious reason when I utter the word, “Amen”, peace hovers and then descends upon my soul!

I guess maybe that’s why they call it “The Serenity Prayer.”
Such Serenity May God

Laugh often and Fear not!

#22 “Strange Sign” – 25 Days of Christmas


“And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2: 12)

We have all heard about how God will show us a “sign” by the opening of a “door.”

Not always…

A dear friend was going through a rough time about twenty years ago.
At his wits end, he finally drove himself to the “Funny Farm.” (His words…)

Guess what?
The gate to the “Funny Farm” was closed.
Strange Sign…

Next day at church?
Jesus changed his life!

Swaddling cloths?
Strange Sign…

World changed!!

Laugh often and Fear not!

#4 “The Third” – 25 Days of Christmas


Betrothed to be married, Joseph and Mary
A romance like tale fairy

Yet, before they slept as one in a bed
Mary comes back from a trip pregnant she said.

Joseph whose temper is said to be mild
Has two choices for his betrothed Mary with child

Death by stoning
Or divorce by disowning

An angel of the Lord came to say
“Do not fear, there might be another way

Take her home to marry
For the Savior, the Anointed One is in her womb to carry”

How grateful we are the absurd was heard
Saving the world, Joseph took alternative the third!

Laugh often and Fear not!

Today’s devotional is based on Matthew 1: 18-25

“25 Days of Christmas” – A 100 word daily devotional, counting down the days until the birth of the Newborn King!

#3 “Forty-Two” – 25 Days of Christmas


Fourteen plus fourteen plus fourteen equals… 42

That’s how many generations separate Abraham from Jesus.

If you have ever wondered “Who are your people?”

Check out Jesus’ people.

They were all part of the lineage of the Messiah, the Anointed One

There’s good folks, bad folks, kings, murderers, prostitutes, liars, cheaters, faithful, unfaithful, functional, dysfunctional, run of the mill types and more…

How about your lineage?

Probably looks a lot like Jesus’…

Ordinary and yet, extraordinary.

What’s most important is not, “Who are your people?” as much as…

“Whose are your people?”

May we be first and foremost God’s people!

Laugh often and Fear not!

Today’s devotional is based on Matthew 1: 1-17

“25 Days of Christmas” – A 100 word daily devotional, counting down the days until the birth of the Newborn King!


SpongeBob SquarePants

I walked into Lowe’s yesterday to return a few knobs that we had bought for the kitchen. My delight was hard to contain. “Returning” the knobs meant that I didn’t have to “install” the knobs on our seventy-eight kitchen cabinets!! (We don’t have that many…it would just seem like that if I had to install them…)

Brandi was alone waiting just for me at the Service/Returns desk. Like every other Lowe’s employee, Brandi had her standard issued red apron on with the name badge affixed. I took note of her name as I always try to do. We chuckled about me not having to install the now returned knobs. I was about to turn and walk away when I noticed the bottom edge of a tattoo sneaking out from beneath her right short sleeve. I always try to ask people about their “body art” as usually there are some pretty fascinating stories attached.

Brandi raised her right sleeve for me to see the full tattoo.
The name “Nithaniel” was written in beautiful large script.
Below the name was a set of dates…
Brandi, with a very sad tone in her voice said, “That’s a way for me to honor my son who died when he was two…”
Above the dates and above “Nithaniel’s” name was a colorful tattoo of a smiling “SpongeBob SquarePants”…


The heartfelt words I offered to Brandi seemed so empty in trying to fill a void so vast.

Rare it is in our world for us to wear such heartache and pain on our proverbial “shirt sleeve” like Brandi.
And yet…all of us have such handicaps, hurts and heartaches tattooed all over our bodies. Most, if not all of them find safe harbor beneath our epidermis…

Not so with the paralytic that we find in the second chapter of Mark’s gospel. His friends lower him through the roof to meet Jesus. This was the only way for him to see Jesus. I am not so sure this was his idea, but when you are paralyzed and your loving friends decide to lower you through a roof to see the Redeemer, what are you going to say?

He interrupts the teachings of Jesus as he descends into the living room of this house and his handicap and hurt of being a paralytic is on display for all to see.

Jesus does what Jesus does. He welcomes him. He cleanses the man’s heart and then Jesus says, “Pick up your mat and get on with your life!”

And the paralytic does. He gets up, rolls up his mat and he walks away.

I wonder what is on your “mat” today?
Is there anything paralyzing you, keeping you from moving forward in life?
How many hidden hurts and heartaches keep you flat on your back?

You are not alone…
All of us and I hope you hear me when I shout, “ALL OF US” have things on our “mat” which weigh us down: painful hurts, ridiculous regrets and a history of histrionics.

You don’t have to keep them hidden either.
It’s ok to roll up our sleeves and show off our SpongeBob SquarePants…
It just might be all that’s needed to give permission for someone else to roll up their sleeves too…and allow the healing to begin.

Here’s the good news…
With Jesus we can roll up our sleeves and walk again, unencumbered, unhindered and uninhibited and ultimately roll up our mat!
Let me invite you to lower yourself into the Savior’s presence this day and let Him cleanse your heart, set you free and then run like the wind into the bright future He has for you…

 And he rose and immediately picked up his mat and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2: 12)

Laugh often and Fear not!

You’re Almost There…


This past Saturday I decided to take a hike. (People have been telling me to do this for years!!)
The 11,916 foot peak of Mt. Charleston looms large, looking over Las Vegas, Nevada.
Within a spectacular forty-five minute drive I was at the Mary Jane Falls Trailhead – Elevation 7,800 feet.

I wasn’t properly dressed. With blue jeans, hiking boots and a long sleeve shirt I had underestimated how warm it would be on the trail as I began the one and a half mile hike that would ascend another 1,500 feet.

The trail is well marked, well maintained and well worn.
I marveled at the fact that hundreds of thousands of hikers had helped pave the path before me.

The trail was full of hikers ascending and descending.
The warm “humid-free” air was breathtaking.
The view of the tall evergreen pines lining the trail was an eye-full.
The climb literally took my breath away.

An interesting phenomena started happening about half-way up the trail.
As I was ascending, there were those on the trail descending.
With each passing hiker and with a friendly nod of the head and a brief, “Hey!”, every hiker said exactly the same thing…

“You’re almost there!”


Sure enough, this mantra of “You’re almost there!” encouraged me and motivated me to keep going.
The fascinating thing about this particular hike is that I was never able to see Mary Jane Falls until I actually arrived.

I just had to trust the trail and adhere to the advice of my fellow hikers that I was almost there.
The moment finally arrived where I arrived at the summit of Mary Jane Falls.
The trail opened up and there were a number of fellow travelers taking in the view. As I came over the horizon, the mantra of “You’re almost there!” became “YOU MADE IT!”

I raised my bottle of water in the air to cheer the accomplishment as I breathlessly uttered, “Woohoo!”

This got me thinking…(Stick with me here… My imagination might get a little far fetched…)

My hike was very analogous to the Christian journey…
I am hiking through life and as I ascend the Mountain of God I run across all sorts of hikers ascending and descending.

Those ascending are fellow hikers trying to make their way up the arduous trail.(The living…)
Those descending are fellow hikers who have already made it to the top. (Those saints who have passed on)

A thought that popped into my head on the way up the mountain was, “How high is the mountain that each of us gets to climb?”

My Superman friend Tim’s mountain was only sixty-four years high. He passed by on his way down and encouraged me with his slow deep drawl, “David, you’re almost there!”

How much further would I be able to travel up “my” mountain before I would hit the summit thus ending my hike?

I had just taken a few steps onto the trail when I ran across my friend Hannah Noel. Her mountaintop was only nine weeks high.

About ten more minutes along the way Jacob was running down the mountain with the biggest smile on his face, his peak only being seventeen years high.

And so this is how it went for a full hour.
My cousin Gary…
My youth pastor Gary Lenhart…
My F-15 fighter pilot friend Skip “Hoss” Robertson… (We laughed together as I said, “Fly Skip Fly!”)
My tennis partner Howard…
Members of Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church…
Members of First Presbyterian Church in Klamath Falls…
My grandparents…Nana and Dendy, Momma Jerry and Paw Paw..
My dad…He was still smoking his pipe!

And the list went on and on…
Each of them encouraged me, “You’re almost there! I have hiked the path you are on. Keep going! They are waiting for you at the summit!”

How high is the mountain that you are ascending?
I have no idea and neither do you…
For some of us the peak will be ninety years high.
For others, not so much.
Whatever the elevation our peaks might be…we just keep hiking!

And then the moment arrived…
I arrived at Mary Jane Falls…
I never saw it coming…
I knew I was close but I couldn’t see it until I came around a bend in the trail!
The chorus echoed in my heart and soul…

Hear the good news!
We will hear that victory chant as we walk or run or crawl on to the Summit of God’s heavenly kingdom, exhausted and exhilarated and literally out of breath!

As I sat there for about thirty minutes I had the complete joy of joining in the chorus of “You made it!” to my fellow hikers, many of whom I had passed along the trail.

Then the time came for me to start my descent.
Guess what I had the privilege of saying to each hiker I passed as they were ascending the trail?

“You’re almost there!”

Laugh often and Fear not!