Saturday, December 29, 2007

Thoughts for a New Year

“The Brain that Changes itself” … the title of a book dealing with brain plasticity – keeping the brain functional and fresh.

One of the pieces of brain plasticity is moving out of our comfort zones – to branch out, delve into something new, experiment and challenge ourselves.

I’ve been thinking about comfort zones – prisons actually and alluring. One of the most tempting prisons is called Yesterday! The older we grow, the bigger Yesterday becomes, and the more power it exerts over us.

It could be as simple as an unkindness someone did to us, and we can’t shake it. We relive the experience and recall the hurt a thousands times a year. As painful as it may be, it’s one of our comfort zones – we know it well, and within it, we live and have our being, so to speak.

Perhaps it’s our success at age of 55, and from that point on, our children and grandchildren have to hear our “war stories,” the same old jokes and tired platitudes.

Religiously, it might be a conversion story: retelling the same story, with a few embellishments added over the years, forges another chain in a prison called Yesterday.

Many years ago, I vowed: “When I become an older pastor, I will never say to a younger pastor, ‘When I was your age…’.”

Several year ago, I officiated at a funeral for a dynamic woman who lived well into her 90s; one of her favorite sayings: “Was was and is is!” Though confined to bed in her latter years, she remained bright and eager, whispering last words to her son, “Oh, how I want to live.”

Yesterday beckons us with its comfort, but life remains ahead of us – “Come and follow me,” said Jesus, to new horizons and daring ventures. Leave you nets and boats where they belong, travel light with me, and I’ll show you the world.

Stay fresh with Christ … “set your hand to the plow and don’t look back” … keep the brain agile … travel unexplored roads, find a new restaurant, brush your teeth with the opposite hand, make new friends, clean out a closet and get rid of some stuff. Give thanks for Yesterday, but keep on walking and greet tomorrow! Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Never Ending Story

Hebrew 101, 8:00 AM, Professor Lester Kuyper came bounding into the classroom, all smiles and chuckles.

“Students, I have to tell you something,” he said with a face-busting smile. “This morning, I solved a translation issue that I’ve been working on for twenty years” and he proceeded to explain in detail his victory. It was a small thing, but in the history of translation, even the smallest piece is critical.

This memorable moment occurred early in my first year of seminary, and it wasn’t long before we all discovered just how fine a man was Dr. Kuyper with his insatiable love of learning.

We nicknamed him The Student!

“I want to be that kind of a man,” I said to Donna. To honor that pledge, I bought more books than I would ever read, subscribed to journals and professional magazines, attended conferences and did my best to stay current.

April, 2006, I ended 36 years of installed ministry to begin interim ministry. I gave away thousands of books, threw out 40 years worth of sermons, and discarded a four-drawer file cabinet of cross-referenced articles and notes. Donna and I would be traveling light.

But every day, new books appear – younger theologians making their mark, conferences and workshops exploring the kingdom of God, old paradigms giving way to fresh expressions of the faith, a changing world and Presbyterianism rethinking/remaking itself.

Always something new - the infinite love of God never fully understood, the discipleship-life never finally accomplished!

Buildings are finished, but building the heart remains a life-long experience, and then some. Our delight and joy, when we enter eternity, will be as here: a ceaseless discovery of something new. Every day of eternity will be a day of discovery, because God is infinite.

Here on this earth, we anticipate eternity when we survey the world with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, when we read a challenging new book about the Christian life, when we keep the fires of mind and heart alive with good fuel (what we bring) so that the Holy Spirit (the fire and the wind) has something to burn!

The story is never-ending! Stay with it, keep on growing in Christ, expand your boundaries and enlarge your mind with good thoughts, good reading, much prayer and ceaseless appreciation for the life you have.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Roaring Success!

“I’m a failure!” I’ve heard it ten thousand times, and I’ve said it myself!

How easily we translate the experience of failure into a sweeping assessment of our character – “I’m a failure!”

YOU are not a failure.

You go back to the drawing board. You retreat and try another pathway. You learn and grow.

Anyone alive at 30 is already a roaring success, having weathered hundreds of storms, come through conflicts and difficulties, and overcome obstacles.

We get up in the morning, and we have all that’s needed to succeed. We have Christ in our hearts, Scripture beside us, the love of others and the hope of heaven.

At the end of the day, we come home and wipe our brow: “I made it. That means I’m a success. What I did well today, hip, hip, hooray, and thanks be to God. What needs redoing, I’ll try again tomorrow. There’s always a way through, around, above or beneath, and God is at work in all things for good.”

Whatever comes your way, you face it.
Whatever needs to be done, you do it.
However long it takes, you finish it.

You’re a roaring success!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Not a day goes by without some impression of bravery.

Whether it be Brad Pit helping rebuild New Orleans or a daughter caring for an ailing parent – bravery!

The human spirit is a remarkable creation – strong, resilient, filled with faith and determination – created in the image of God!

Everyone of you is brave – you face the challenges of life and death and bear the burdens of responsibility with grace and dignity, though the knees weaken now and then, your hands tremble, and you wonder just how much you can bear.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Our LORD fed the five thousand (Matthew 14:19) after two hard blows: 1) rejection in His hometown (Matthew 13:53) – it says, “they took offense at him,” and 2) the death of John the Baptist, beheaded by Herod at the request of a young girl prompted by her angry mother.

The Text says: “Jesus withdrew privately to a solitary place.”

Even the great Son of God needed time to recover.

But alas, as so many of you know, “time off” was not to be had. The crowds learned where He was and followed Him, and of Jesus, the Text says, “He had compassion on them.”

By the end of the day, when the crowds were hungry, He fed them.

Bravery … He was very brave … and so are you!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Advent 1

This coming Sunday, Advent 1 – the first of four Sundays to pay attention, get ready … align our senses and open our hearts … that Jesus might again be born, and we be born anew.

With good reason, the date of Dec. 25 was settled upon for the birth of Jesus, though none know the date. But think about it.

In the darkest time of the year, the brightest work of God!

I don’t know how it all works, but the strange intermingling of darkness and light, despair and hope.

I think it has something to do with our coming to the wall, when we’ve expended our all, and nothing more to be done … now what?

The strange and wondrous love of God meeting us at the end of our rope.

St. John of the Cross, a 16th century mystic, wrote The Dark Night of the Soul for young monks who had lost their initial fervor and joy. St. John counsels: God is on the move doing His most important work, but for our sake, God conceals it in darkness, and only when ready, does God reveal it to us. If we knew what God was doing in such critical moments of our formation, we’d rush in and muck it all up with our opinions and our desires.

“Wait upon the LORD” is still the best advice. And that’s what the Season of Advent teaches us anew – the power of waiting, because we are waiting for God!

There is, for all of us, a Bethlehem – that little out-of-the way place in our soul, not much in looks or means, but just right for the Son of God.

Wait for the LORD … you will not be disappointed!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

To the Presbyterian Layman

Dear Friends,

I'm in my 37th year of ministry within the PCUSA and feel a confidence and hope greater than I've known in 25 years.

But after reading the latest Layman (which I've read for years), I'm inclined to suggest that Jesus just isn't real for us and our faith but an exercise in delusion - because we can't love one another as He loves us; it seems we can only love our own kind, and even that, at times, appears to be a stretch.

Are we any different than the local condo association squabbling over someone's flowerpots on the front walk?

Some will cry out: But the issues are so important! It's more than flowerpots.

Granted, but the greatest issue is love ... is that not what Paul wrote to the troubled Corinthian community? A community divided by the spirit of one-upmanship?

Until we can walk arm-in-arm, our witness to Christ is compromised. Cling to our confessions, stand on our version of the truth, site passages and quote authors, but our lack of love for one another reveals the breakdown of our inner character and belies our claims of salvation. In an anxious nation, increasingly isolated and angry, our own example is anything but "salt of the earth" and "light of the world."

I know the matters that divide us are serious, but I wonder if our own pride of claiming the high moral ground intensifies and distorts the reality. What will any of us say when we stand before Jesus with these terrible scars on our soul? That I believed rightly in the propositions of faith? That I picked out the gnat in the tea and swallowed a camel called pride? That I sang the name of Jesus even as I scathingly denounced sisters and brothers who also claim His precious name?

If love is "the greatest of these," then we have some work ahead of us. Wasn't it our Lord who asked, "What value is there in loving those who love you?"

I know that Paul and Barnabas separated, but is that not attributable to sin? In spite of Paul’s brilliant faithfulness, was he not "chief of sinners" in his own words?

Well, not much more to be said ... I guess the Lord of the Church will sort it all out, but I think those who are willing to pick up their marbles and play in someone else's backyard will find, in time, the mud there is just as muddy.

The snake is never in the grass, but in our heart.

With joy and hope, because Jesus remains Lord.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

We Need a Master

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Shoemaker … Episcopal priest, co-founder of AA and Faith at Work … one of the spiritual giants of the church, wrote:

“… man needs a master. If he is not to have a fellow-man for a master, with all the harm that comes both to tyrant and to slave in such a relation, he must accept a Master Whose lordship is always just, and always beneficent, while often running counter to human desires.”

Someone said to me years ago, “To be mastered by the Master is to be the freest of the free.”

To give our lives to Jesus … to utterly and forever surrender to Him … that He might master us, for He alone knows us truly, who we are, just as we are, and what we can be. And in surrendering to Him, we are no longer our own, but His, and in being His, our life is truly our own.

Here’s the Prayer of Surrender: “LORD Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, I give myself to you in faith and obedience.”

For a little more info on Rev. Shoemaker, please visit:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ten Rules

Bible Reading – Ten Rules of Thumb

Rule of thumb #1 for Bible reading: Keep it simple, and stay on the easy side of the text.

Most people set their goals too high.

By easy side of the text, I mean what you can understand and take to heart. If something is difficult or perplexing, see Rule of Thumb #2.

Here’s a question: Can you faithfully set aside five minutes a day to read?

Just five minutes - don’t go beyond five minutes, even if you have the time. Exceeding the limit one day subtly sets the bar higher for the next day, and Satan uses high bars to discourage us.

Rule of thumb #2: don’t stumble over a difficult passage, leap over it and keep on reading.

Rule of thumb #3: don’t read to understand, read to get acquainted. Sort of like your spouse or best friend. Ha! We never come to a complete understanding of our spouse, or even ourselves, but the name of the game is to spend time with the one we love. Sooner or later, there’s a hint of understanding.

Rule of thumb #4: let God take His time with you. Sometimes “greed” gets in our way – by greed, I mean the desire to know and understand RIGHT NOW! God reveals to us, but all in God’s own time. Some things will have to wait until eternity. Refer to Rule of thumb #1 and 2. Stay on the easy side of the text and celebrate those things that bless the heart.

Rule of thumb #5: if something in the Bible frightens you, you’re misreading it. Put it down, and repeat the first verse of Psalm 23.

Rule of thumb #6: use a pen. Underline things that seem important. Some code their reading: a heart for things that bless; a star for things that seem important; a question mark for those things that seem odd or make no sense.

Rule of thumb #7: flip open your Bible anywhere rather that tackling a single book.

Rule of thumb #8: begin and end with the “Jesus my LORD” prayer.

Rule of thumb #9: when five minutes are up, close the Bible! That’s part of the discipline, too. Not only picking up the Bible, but knowing when to put it down for another day.

Rule of thumb #10: God makes clear to you your “daily bread” – just enough for the needs of the day. No more, no less. God be praised.


As for a translation, The New Revised Standard is a very good, but if you want to have “fun," try Eugene Peterson’s “The Message”.

By taking just five minutes a day, it all adds up. At the end of the week, 35 minutes (although you may want to give yourself a day off on Sunday) – so, 30 minutes a week; four weeks, two hours. 11 months – 22 hours – some moths have five weeks – oh well - (I’m taking December off of this schedule). Think of it, 22 hours a year – that’s good time.

Like dieting, it’s not a crash course that works, but a steady program over the long haul.

Set your goal small, keep it there, and let it add up.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Knowledge of God's Kindness

How does one acquire knowledge?

Attend a workshop, read a book, go to school, talk to someone who’s an accredited source.

It’s good to know certain things … like … stop when the light is red … too much salt spoils the soup … wash your hands before eating and look both ways before crossing the street. Knowing such things, life is easier and safer.

Faith is knowledge, too … a “sure and certain” knowledge writes our theological granddaddy, John Calvin.

A God-centered, Christ-focused knowledge … acquired much like any form of knowledge: time well spent with a primal source (e.g. the Bible), study in the company of others, conferences, workshops & worship, and lots of conversations with reliable folks.

Through our steady deployment of these resources, faith, like a seed, grows in the deep crevices of the soul, and lo and behold, one day, the little root produces a plant, the plant fruit, and the fruit is good: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Here’s what Calvin wrote: “Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God’s benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise in Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

Look at the anchor words: God’s benevolence, freely given promise, revealed and sealed.

Many years ago, a teacher said to me: “Salvation is too important to be left in our hands. God assumes the burden, the task and the outcome. In Christ, we are utterly saved, once and for all, now and forever more.”

Wow and Amen!

“Thought for the Day” – Nov. 5, ’07 – Pastor Tom

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Positive Life

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out” (John Wooden via Michelle Waldron).

I love to be around positive people – I feel better, I feel stronger and life looks better.

The practice of a positive life is simple, although it’s a lesson I learn a hundred times a day.

Positive life is a choice, a choice to remember: I am who God says I am, I have what God says I have, and I can do what God says I can do.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Positive Life Pledge: Today, I will make the best out of what happens. I will look for the good, and I will find it. I will trust God with the Spirit of Jesus inside of me helping me. Today, when fearfulness rises in my heart, I will turn form it and send it packing. When overwhelmed with burdens, I’ll lay them down at the foot of the cross and give them all to Jesus.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Stop, Look & Listen

In the third and fourth centuries, monasticism emerged in the deserts of Egypt, folks who sought God in the solitude of the sands, who practiced and struggled with the disciplines of prayer and reflection.

The desert fathers reminded one another: “Stay in your cell, and your cell with teach you everything.”

Here’s a lesson for me: be nowhere else but where I am.

Because God is there, and if I look, if I wait, if I honor God with patience and trust, God is likely to disclose Himself to me, right where I am.

God’s promise is profound: to be with us always, and to be at work in all things for good.

Who doesn’t wish to be somewhere else … but the ancients remind us: We don’t have to be anywhere else to find God finding us! Think small, think local, think within the confines of your life – be it a hospital bed, a nursing home, or a difficult job - there you will find God abundantly, if you but stop, look and listen! Jesus my LORD!

Faith, Hope and Love

Faith, hope and love.

Faith in God, the God and Father of our LORD Jesus, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, the One who fashioned us out of the dirt of the earth and blew the breath of life into us.

Hope, indefatigable hope, because the One who created us is at work in all things for good, nudging all of us along the right road – the paths of righteousness.

Love, the consequence of the first two.

With our soul stabilized by faith, our spirit suffused with indefatigable hope, we’re free to love. Anxiety is the enemy of love; anxiety drives self-concern and a reduced awareness of others. But faith and hope set us free, free to give, free to live, and free to love.

Not a bad deal!

God be praised!

Interim Pastor Tom Eggebeen, fellow-traveler & explorer.

Rewrite the Past?

Who hasn’t wanted to re-write the past?

But like a hand imprint in cement, the past is there, unchanging and unchangeable. Like the scars of Jesus. The past can neither be undone nor entirely forgotten.

But if God is at work in ALL things for good, if God can take the cross and all the horror associated with it and channel its terrible energy into salvation for the world, then maybe the past isn’t so severe after all.

Which sets up life for the really good news: we can write our future.

There is always time for new decisions, new attitudes, new choices.

Like the scars of Jesus, our past is our past, but nothing is so terrible, nothing so powerful, that it’s beyond the handiwork of God to channel its energy, negative or worse, into something meaningful and good.

Remember, God is on your side … not merely to please and satisfy, but to make all things new, to use your scars as reminders that God was there, even in the worst of times, and God is with you now, opening doors that you couldn’t open, and creating doors in blank walls, some of which we have to open with faith, hope and love.

Have a good day writing your future and those opening new doors!


I’m having fun preparing this Sunday’s message. Who wouldn’t have fun with a message entitled, “Baloney”?

And that’s my interpretation of our LORD's response to the plea of the disciples: “Increase our faith.”


Because the plea for “more faith” arises out of the message of scarcity, a script from hell – a life of endless, competitive, joyless, questing for what is missing. It’s the original ploy of the snake in the grass – something is missing, God overlooked it, or worse, God cheated you, and it’s up to you to get it for yourself.

The message of scarcity“If only I had more …” (fill in the blank), “then I would …” (fill in the blank).

Jesus is clear: you can trust what resources you have, and you can trust who you are.

Start with the message of abundance: “I came that you might have life and have it abundantly,” says Jesus. Reminding us (with a paraphrase of something Joel Osteen says): “I am who God says I am, I have what God says I have, and I can do what God says I can do.”

Self- trust is the heart of praise. “LORD, thank you for me, for creating me the way you did, for giving me the talents and gifts I have, for shaping the character of my heart.”

Whatever comes your way, you’ll manage it. You have what you need, and you can do what’s needed.

And you’re not alone – maybe that’s the real piece of the puzzle: we have our community of faith, and with that, we have Jesus: “I am with you always!”

Trust yourself, and you will find yourself trusting God all the more!

Have a good day … take care, travel well and do good.

Remember Your Address

Thought for the Day, October 18, 2007


A simple word, a preposition. “I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our LORD.

I live in SoCal … I live in a home on La Tijera Blvd … I believe in love, goodness and justice.

Do you catch the drift? “I believe in” points to values or ideas that I claim, but “I believe in,” like “I live in,” also point to a place where I live.

One of the great truths of the Bible, “we are in Christ” – a place, a destination, a location, our home – you and I are in Christ. He’s our address!

“I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:26).

Yesterday, I had lunch at In-N-Out Burger by LAX. When I left, I noticed some wall posters featuring scenes from the 60s – and a slogan … “Southern California.” I read it, and for a moment, read it as outsider, and than whammo, it hit me, “I live here. I live in SoCal.”

No longer an outsider.

Paul writes: “You are no longer foreigners, but fellow citizens, members of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19

You are in Christ! That’s where you live.

Have a good and productive day … and remember your address!


Courage, the ability to keep doing what’s right in the face of terrible odds.

A man facing a painful death, yet refusing to give in to melancholy and self-pity, who remains upbeat with friends and family even as he’s thoroughly honest with them about the progress of his disease and it’s outcome.

A spouse caring for an ailing mate. Day-after-day, monitoring medications, making appointments, and offering love and kindness mostly unreturned. When the mate is in a nursing home – the faithful trip in the morning, the long hours at the bedside, and the lonely ride home in the evening.

A human resources manager ordered to terminate 300 employees from a profitable division, but just not profitable enough. So the man refuses to do so, and when upper management applies the heat, he resigns.

A pastor who challenged his southern congregation in the early sixties on race, bearing threats of harm to himself and his family, yet remaining steadfast until forced out of the pulpit by an amalgam of church politics and big money.

Parents caring for a challenged child … an inner-city teacher with a class too large and supplies too limited … and a thousand other tiny dramas wherein folks return kindness for rudeness, forgiveness rather than rebuttal and attack, faith when others are critical, and goodness when others only complain.

A Christian, steady in prayer, faithful in worship, humble in service and selfless in praise, willing to go the extra mile, with an open Bible and an open mind, lifting up the name of Jesus with grace and gentleness.

Moments of courage.

So Much More

In a recent article in “O” – four personality types: the feeler, the sensor, the thinker and the intuitor.

Nothing new here, and that’s what catches my attention – with a question, “If there’s nothing new here, are we stuck with the same old sixes and nines, fixed and determined, repackaged every ten years or so by pop-culture pundits?”

Consider cows and kangaroos. They, too, have personalities – some aggressive, some passive; some seemingly more intelligent, but fixed and determined!

The other day, on the pier, I watched a seagull pick up a barnacle, rise ten feet and then drop it – several times, until the shell was broken and dinner was served. Wonderful to watch, but fixed and determined!

Are we no different than animals? Are we locked into basic types and inescapable patterns of behavior? “I’m Irish, that’s why I have a temper.” “I’m German, that’s why I’m stubborn.” “I’m English, that’s why I can’t cook.” Fixed and determined?

For sure, we’re animals, flesh, blood and bone … we’re evolutionary descendants of who-knows-what and cousins to the chimp in the zoo. We have our personality types; we have our ways. But so do cows and chickens!

Is there any more?

His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Thus He has given us, through these things, His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life (Ephesians 2:10).

You are so much more, neither fixed nor determined! And don’t let anyone tell ya’ different!