Thursday, July 31, 2008

Church of Scotland Moderator is also a Blogger

It seems as though the Church of Scotland is following Bruce Reyes-Chow's blogging capabilities. David Lunan, the Cof S Moderator, has his own weekly blog. Here's a recent story from the Scotsman newspaper...

Kirk's Moderator goes online

THE Moderator of the General Assembly, the Right Rev David Lunan, is set to break new ground for the Kirk by making his own contribution to the information superhighway.
David, and his wife Maggie, are set to start a "Moderator's blog" where they will keep the world updated as to their latest activities, as well as their thoughts on issues large and small. The blog, which will be updated once a week, went live yesterday. The Moderator's blog is available at

David's blog is at Maybe we should add it to our blogroll????

Introducing Read and Learn Thursdays!

Welcome to Presbyterian Bloggers' new Thursday feature Read and Learn!

Plans for the feature include the formation of book club for the webring, as well as book, movie, television and magazine article reviews plus suggestions for your church adult study groups. Your hosts for this feature are Quotidian Grace (Jody Harrington) and Justice Seeker (Elaine Dowling).

Here's the monthly schedule of topics we have planned:

First Thursdays-- Book Club
Second Thursdays -- Book, Movie, TV and Article Reviews
Third Thursdays-- Adult Study Group Ideas
Fourth Thursdays-- Book, Movie, TV and Article Reviews

We would love to have our fellow PresbyBloggers send us book, movie, TV and article reviews for the feature as well. If you'd like to submit a review for Thursday's Read and Learn feature leave a comment here and give us a contact email for you or email Your suggestions for books for the book club or reviews or for movie/tv show/article reviews are also appreciated.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Joyful News on Ministry

I get to do the happy stuff on Presbyterian Bloggers. The Wednesday feature is about highlighting ministries of Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) congregations.

Here's the deal. I am going to be scouting out web pages of churches looking for joyful Presbyterians doing ministry. Your church could be next!

You don't have to wait until I find you. Tell me about your congregation. Send me stuff. Make a YouTube video. Send some pics. Presbyterian Bloggers wants to feature your congregation, campus ministry, youth group, Presbyterian Women, you name it, having a good time and maybe even doing some good while having it!

E-mail me at johnashuck (at) embarqmail (dot) com and let's give Jesus something to dance about!

John Shuck is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tennessee and he blogs at Shuck and Jive. Contact him with your joyful news at this E-mail.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Moderator Reflects Upon Knoxville Church Shooting

Bruce Reyes-Chow has just written some worthy reflections about the tragic Knoxville Church shootings. You can read them here


I work for a Catholic (capital C) health care provider organization, and we open all of our significant team meetings with prayer. I'm a Presbyterian, IT person, introvert, and find that particularly uncomfortable, but today was my turn to lead the prayer. I considered leading my management team in a round of Johnny Appleseed. Luckily for everyone involved, this Sunday's church service had provided me with the perfect answer in our prayer of confession:

God of hopes and dreams, we confess that at times our hopes and dreams are too confined. We want to create Us and Them, and so all too often we build ourselves up by putting others down. Help us to remember that all are welcome, that each one of us is a child of God. By the power of your Spirit help us to open up our hearts ato serve you and celebrate the gifts of all your people that together, we might plant and grow your kingdom with love, hope, and peace.

It was a very appropriate prayer for our team, as we have a pretty serious internal Them and Us complex on top of the usual IT versus business contention. My wife thought it very subversive of me to use a Prayer of Confession for my Catholic employer, whose doctrine suggests that we can only confess to God through a priest.

It surprised me, but it turns out that I really value my ability to be able to confess directly to God.

Nearly eight years ago, my then-fiancee and I were planning our wedding ceremony and I was adamant (though ultimately overruled) that we not include a Prayer of Confession. I sometimes skipped it in the service. Even as recently as three years ago, I can very distinctly remember thinking that the Prayer of Confession was only for people who didn't realize that they did things wrong sometimes. I knew that I made mistakes, but there wasn't any reason to admit that out loud to everyone around me! And I knew what I should do to be a better person. Why did we have to talk about it?

In retrospect, I can't believe that I felt I was above that.

Now when we get to the Prayer of Confession, I feel refreshed and energized to continue to do better works and be a better person. I was converted. There are probably several reasons why my perspective has changed, but I'm glad I have... I feel forgiven... I feel blessed. I didn't used to.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Devotions: Gone Fishin'

Matthew 4:19-20 "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." 20 At once they left their nets and followed him. (NIV)

I love to go fishing on the man-made lakes of Tennessee. Sometimes, early in the morning, you’ll find me down at Concord trying to catch a big fish. I’ve seen lots of fishing programs with professional anglers, who make the whole process look easy. They just seem to cast out into the water and effortlessly hook those big fish. I am envious of them and want to emulate that. I want to catch a big bass so badly, so that I can call myself a bass fisherman.

So, I go to the fishing store and buy different lures, crankbait, artificial worms, crickets, spinners, and meps. I read books about tying fancy knots, showing me the right size of hook to put on the line. I gaze at local maps and try to work out where those bass actually are. I come totally prepared and feel as though the fish had better watch out – Stushie, Ace Fisherman is in the area – resistance is futile, bass, when I get you on my hook.

But then reality sets in. I snag the crankbait on a log and lose it. My line fankles around my reel and I have to cut it. I cast my spinners into the trees and they end up looking like Christmas decorations on the branches. The worms are the wrong color and I go home with no fish, half my lures lost, and a painful shoulder. The fish in the lake bubble their laughter at me and I leave disconsolate. Yet, when I’m driving home, all I can think about is getting down on to the water again, in order to catch the big one. I’m hooked on fishing.

I love the fact that Jesus chose fishermen to be His first disciples. They were the perfect guys to build a ministry. They never seem to give up and even in bad times, they put their boat out again and again, looking for that big catch of the season. I guess Jesus thought that if He could encourage them to think that way about God’s Kingdom, they would always go out looking for more converts and disciples, more followers for Christ and servants for God.

He chose the right people because Christ’s ministry, which began with 12 followers, has blossomed all over the earth into 2 billion souls. It’s amazing to see what has been accomplished in 2000 years. Perhaps 2000 years from now, the whole planet will be Christian.

And that’s where we all come in at the PCUSA. We continue this fishing ministry of Christ that Jesus gave to our Presbyterian predecessors 450 years ago. Throughout that time, millions of people have come to Presbyterian churches to know the Lord. We are in the catching business and that kind of work is never over until the Kingdom comes.

So, here’s the challenge. The church year is about to begin in September. Let’s all make an effort of inviting and bringing one other person to worship at our churches this Fall. In doing this, we will all be fulfilling Christ’s ministry and showing Him that we honestly care about the people we love and the community that we live in.

May God bless us as we carry on Christ’s ministry.
Stushie is the writer of the Daily Devotions blog Heaven's Highway

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Review . . . Inklings

Ok, in the midst of change, I thought I would pop my head up once more with something I thought too good to pass up. Christopher W. Mitchell from Wheaton College has published a list of his top 5 books written by an Inkling (the literary and social group to which both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien belonged).

Obviously, any such list will include a book by Lewis and one by Tolkien; and most of us are familiar with their complete works at least in passing. What I found interesting were the other three: The Wise Woman by George MacDonald, Orthodoxy; the Romance of Faith, by G.K. Chesterton; and The Descent of the Dove; a Short History of the Holy Spirit in the Church; by Charles Williams.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Blogger's Reformed and It's About Time for a New Reformating

My Fellow Presby Bloggers,

It is have been over a year since my last post (I think) and I have been putting this off for to long. I need to hand over the responsibility of maintaining our little web site to someone else. I think that our community has a place on the web and in our denomination but I am no longer able to take part in it as I once was. If no one steps forward I will have to seriously consider the future of this site. I would really like for Presby Bloggers to continue without me. So I ask all of you who regularly contribute our community to prayerfully consider stepping up to the keyboard and helping this web site become everything I think that it could be. If you think that you might be willing to take on this responsibility please send me an email and Presby Bloggers can get about reforming the web.

Thank You,

Double Standards

People think that the PCUSA is full of hypocrites...

Double Standards

...we are nothing compared to the IOC...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Weekend Screensaver: Psalm 20

Continuing my Book of Psalms art project


This is one of my favorite verses in the Bible: Psalm 20 v 4 - May God give you the desire of your heart and make all of your plans succeed."

Weekend Devotional : Dr. Who

Ever since I started watching Doctor Who as a boy, I have loved the notion of Time Travel. Nowadays, as a Christian, I am confident of placing my future in Christ's hands.

Podcast version here

I love the idea of Time Travel. I’ve watched practically every episode of Doctor Who and I think that the new series is absolutely terrific. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Doctor Who is a science fiction television series that began in Britain in 1963. I remember, as a six year old, watching the very first episode on a grainy black and white TV, whilst eating Heinz spaghetti and chips (French fries). I was absolutely captivated by the hero, Doctor Who, a Time Lord, who travels throughout space and time in his amazing vehicle called the Tardis. The series introduced me to my love of science fiction, as well as teaching me about British and World history.

Ecclesiastes 8:7 Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?

I’ve always wanted to travel into the future and see the wonders of the world hundreds of years from now. I know that the environmentalists are predicting gloom and doom for all of us, but I still believe that human beings have the intellect and innovative capacity to reduce greenhouse gases and invent new ways of creating energy. I’d love to see how the earth will look in five hundred, five thousand, or even five hundred thousand years, and see how humankind fares. I guess I’ll have to build my own Tardis if I ever want to see it happen.

None of us know what each day will bring. We can make plenty of plans and be anxious about the future, but as Jesus once said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

We do not know what the future holds for any one of us, and perhaps we’re better off not knowing anyway. As Christians, we have faith in Christ and the assurance that He holds our future in His Hands. No matter what we experience or endure, Jesus will travel through Time with us. And if we trust Him completely, He will lead us beyond the shores of Time and into the realm of Eternity.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are glad that You are with us throughout each day of our lives. Your guidance and presence reassure our faith and hopes. As we journey through Life and travel through Time, grant us Your mercy and grace, love and leadership. In Your Holy Name, we follow and pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to

Friday, July 18, 2008

Other Presbytbloggers: Carl & His Cancer

Carl Wilton is a pastor in New Jersey. He has cancer and has been blogging his experiences with it for a number of years. Carl’s insight into dealing with cancer gives all of us specialized information that can personally and pastorally help us. If you truly want to know what goes on in the heart, mind, body, and soul of a person with cancer, take time to read Carl’s postings.

Carl’s blog is called A Pastor’s Cancer Diary and can be found at

Certainty Lost, Wisdom Gained?

There are many losses associated with cancer, but among the most slippery to deal with is the loss of certainty. Such is the observation of Glenna Halvorson-Boyd and Lisa K. Hunter in Dancing in Limbo: Making Sense of Life After Cancer (Jossey-Bass, 1995). It’s a book I half-finished reading some months ago (see my April 18 blog entry), and have only recently picked up again. Here’s what these two cancer survivors say:

“We assumed that we had a future; now we don’t know. We assumed that we were safe in our own bodies; now we can’t be sure. We assumed that we had more control over our own lives. If we did the right things, we would be all right. In general, we believed in a more certain world.” (p. 88).

Most of us, in our younger years and well into middle age, live our lives based on certain assumptions. They’re irrational assumptions, but still we hold them dear. We know, intellectually, we’re going to die one day, but we really don’t believe it in our heart of hearts. By the same token, we may know that a certain percentage of the population will fall ill with life-threatening diseases, but we really don’t believe we’ll be numbered among them. We believe that if we do the right thing – or try to do the right thing – a beneficent Providence will reward us with life, liberty and a happiness we scarcely have to pursue.

Read the rest of this article here…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Puppy Love

This is the feel good video of the summer...

...and perhaps explains why some people fall asleep in church...

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Other Presbybloggers

If you haven't visited Whitney's Glimpses of Grace blog, you should make a cyber call. Whitney's postings are often charming and delightful, meditative and insightful. She takes such beautiful photographs and manages to pair them perfectly with scripture, prayers and her own thoughts.

Each time Whitney posts, she lists three things where she recognizes God’s Grace in her life. Whitney is a Celtic mystic in the real sense of the word. For grumpy, old curmudgeons like me, Whitney's blog is a fresh breath of renewal from the Holy Spirit.

Pre-Ordained Meetings

-The session of my home church approving the decision to call me as a mission worker (technically a "supply pastor") for my work in Northern Ireland. This means that, pending a couple of examinations, I will be able to be ordained before I leave in September! Wow! The way it all happened was also very much a "God thing": I was leading worship at Mo Ranch for their Youth Celebration a couple of weeks ago, and a member of my Presbytery's Committee on Ministry was there and heard me preach. We got to talking about my call situation and my position in Belfast, and he took it upon himself to contact all of the necessary parties at Presbytery to figure out how I might be ordained into this ministry. They even held a special meeting just to discuss my call process, and now it's all happening. I can't believe how it's all seemed to fall into place.

-Hearing my Nana describe seeing her great-granddaughter for the first time: "Her hair is so soft, it's like silk. And she's sooo good. Her eyes are blue, just like your Grandmother's, and your Mother's and Aubrey's. She's starting to get chubby too!"

-Finding a perfect stole for my niece's baptism (and most likely also for my ordination service).

You can visit Whitney's blog at

Viva! La Reformation!

A current news article from the denomination’s own press service refers to Bruce Reyes-Chow, Gradye Parsons, and Linda Valentine as our top three leaders.

And all the while, I thought that our top three leaders in the Reformed tradition were the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You may think that I’m nit-picking, but the Reformation mainly occurred because of a rejection of hierarchy in the church. As Presbyterians, we need to be constantly vigilant about this.

BR-C,GP & LV are our top three office-bearers, not leaders. That mantel belongs to the Trinity.

Other Presbyterian Bloggers

Jim, aka the Church Geek, has an interesting post today. Check it out at

Wednesday Roundup
by Jim ~ July 16th, 2008

1.) I love some of the stuff that new faith communities are doing…they are bold challenges and proclamations to existing congregations. Internet Monk singles out one new congregation that is committed to giving 60% of their budget to mission!!…If they can do it, why can’t we?

2.) As always Jan raises good observations and questions about the nature of staffing in the established church today. I’d love for her to be a colleague in this presbytery, as we need to hear more of her voice…

4.) How many of the 100 NEA Recommended books of fiction have you read? I’ve read book #6, but I’m not really sure why it’s considered a “work of fiction.”

5.) Today I’ve decided to point to a few of my recent favorite photos from my flickr contacts. I particularly love the lighting in this one and the depth of field in this one.
Read the rest of Jim's innovative posts at

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Get into the Boat

(This is the first response to the invitation to other Presby bloggers to write to me with their articles. Saralynn sent this from her team blogsite Presbyterian Blogging. It was written by Paul Boal)
"Get into the boat. Go across the lake. There will be a storm. You will not die."

--The Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
June 28, 2008

When I read this letter discussing the recent decisions regarding PC(USA) ordination standards, Rev. Parsons' quote struck me as both inspirational and pragmatic. As Presbyterians, we seek discernment; we consider; we send out to committee for assessment; we pray and ponder. Eventually, we make decisions that formally express to others how we see the Word brought to life in the world around us. When we decide is when I'm most energized, but in the consideration and discernment, I'm most proud.

I hope that Rev. Parsons will forgive me for parsing his quote, but here is my application of that message to the situation we are in:

Get into the boat...
There's a good chance that some individual churches might consider this a crucial time to consider the future of the continuity of the denomination or specifically their own membership in the denomination. No matter how much many of us wish this were the end of the discussion, the exact opposite is true. The point at which decisions are made is a time for renewed dialogue rather than a time to end open relationships. We're all in this boat together.

Go across the lake...
This is a time for us to go on a journey together and arrive at the destination together. We may disagree on the destination, what path to take, who should row and who should steer; but in the end, it is in being together in right relationships with each other (rather than contentious or confrontational ones) that we're able to experience hesed. We must journey together as one.

There will be a storm...
I believe that we can only truly know ourselves after experiencing turmoil and questioning what we think we know? Life is alive because of the storms that we experience: internal strife debating what is right to do, external factors forcing us to make hasty decisions, confrontation with others after intended or unintended offenses, disagreements on which direction is most correct or least wrong. As the narrow margin of the vote indicates (54 / 46), we as a denomination are not of one single mind on the issue. People with many different perspectives will come together, clash, and settle... and change. Come together, clash, and settle... and change.

You will not die...
Change happens only through a journey. And the end of each journey is merely the beginning of another. This action of the GA is about going on a journey together. One that changes the way we discuss ordination and the ways in which God calls us together. If we don't change the way in which we discuss the issues that our current societies must address, then our discussion cannot be effective. The only situation in which we "die" is when when fail to change, when we choose to stop journeying together.

Some churches have begun posting information about their push to intentionally and methodically divide the denomination, creating relationships between our churches that are explicitly more separate. I hope that, instead, we can continue the dialogue together: as a denomination, as individual churches that will be inevitably divided in opinion; as a nation; as communities; and as humans. Times of contention are times for coming together to build relationships that will make us stronger and more able to survive the inherent turmoil in our current situation and the other storms that we are sure to encounter in the future.

As a denomination and through our representatives and leaders, we have discerned and studied and voted and changed. We are at one ending... and another beginning. In spite of our differences on whether the changes are consistent with teachings or not, I would expect us to agree that we are taught to build relationships that bring us closer together rather than further apart (especially in situations that naturally divide us).

(If you want to send articles for this site, write to me at Put Presbybloggers in the subject line of your email.)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Me and My bright Ideas

Okay, Fellow Presbyteers, here’s the skinny.

Somehow we can’t get people signed up to be contributors anymore to the site. However, there is another option. If you will send me your relevant Presbyterian articles, giving links to your blog page, I will post them unedited (except for spelling mistakes) and put a link to your page at the bottom of the posting.

I signed up for this gig about 18 months ago and I’m the only one who has been contributing on a regular basis. That kinda skewers the whole debate process, which I think wasn’t the intention of this website.

So, starting next week, if you send me your articles to and mark the subject line: “Presbybloggers” I’ll start posting them. I’ll also add an image to your posting.

I’m also going to go around the Presbybloggers listed and try to highlight a different Presbyterian blogger each day. That means I’ll lift your article straight from your blog and post it with the relevant linkages.

I hope that this will satisfy everyone and enable us to really discuss issues that face the Denom. I’ll still be the bumptious, grumpy, conservative curmudgeon I have always been, though.

Any questions or further suggestions????

Weekend Screensaver: Psalm 18

Weekend Screensaver. From an art project I'm creating on the psalms


You can check out the set on a slideshow...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Weekend Devotion: Dogmatic Dinosaur

(I've been getting some interesting email correspondence recently. I think I may have offended a few folks and they are trying to get this blog terminated. I'll be sorry if that happens...I thought free speech was part of who we are. I know that I am a dissenter amongst so many, but weren't Calvin, Knox, and Melville?)

If we accept Christ and His teaching, can we adopt a world view that all religions are equal and bring us to God?

Podcast version here

Titus 1:9 He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

Some people wonder why I get bent out of shape when it comes to teaching and preaching Christianity. Why can’t I just evolve like the rest of the world and accept different ideas from different cultures, giving other religions and faiths the respect they deserve? Why can’t I acknowledge that there are many ways to God and that Jesus is only one of them? Wouldn’t it be much easier on myself if I would just let go of my dinosauric doctrines and outdated teachings?

Like Paul, I am the chief amongst all sinners and cannot claim to be perfect in any way. So why do I ‘self-righteously’ insist upon the uniqueness and exclusivity of Christ? What makes me think that I have it all right and the rest of the religious world is totally wrong?

I struggle with this and wrestle with my doubts. At times, I would like to capitulate and be all things to all people, as Paul once suggested. But if I did that, it would be insincere and hypocritical. It wouldn’t be me, and if I cannot be true to myself, how on earth can I remain true to Christ?

Let me put it this way: if Christ is only one way to salvation, then He is a liar, a charlatan, and a cheat. He Himself states “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” If there are other ways, other doors, and other rooms to be eternally with God, then Jesus has lied across the centuries and Christianity is a false religion. So for me, it all boils down to this: Christ is who He insists that He is, or He is the biggest liar in the Universe.

My own experience of Jesus is this: His promises are true and He is true to His words, therefore I cannot accept that other religions can find salvation through their understanding of what God is. If that makes me a dogmatic dinosaur in the world’s eyes, then so be it. I stand alone in Christ, I can do no other.

If you’re having trouble with accepting this, please take time to read one of the Gospels. Each time you read Christ’s own words, ask yourself these questions: does Jesus mean what He says, and if He does, what does that mean for me?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, our world is so different from New Testament times. We have more information about other people and their religions. We have more access to other religious ideas and thoughts. Please show us the truth about God and help us, in this religiously diverse world, to know what You would have us accept, express, and do. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to He writes the daily devotional: Heaven's Highway

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day Devotion

Of all the special days on the American calendar, I love Independence Day the most. I guess that as a free born Scotsman, whose leaders like William Wallace and Robert the Bruce fought and died for liberty, I appreciate the Great American Struggle to win independence for themselves. It was not an easy choice to make, nor was it an easy cause to fulfill. Without commitment and dedication, patience and perseverance, unity and determination, liberty would never have been won.

Psalm 18:49 Therefore I will praise you among the nations, O LORD;I will sing praises to your name.

We forget that they took on the strongest army in the world. We don’t appreciate the magnitude of the struggle. It was like David versus Goliath on an international scale and the rocks inside the slingshot, which fortified the Revolution, were called Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

I sometimes wonder if the revolutionaries really understood what they were accomplishing. Most of them fought for their families and colonies. It was a question of survival against the mightiest power on earth. When the War was over and their new Nation was recognized, I wonder if they really knew what the consequences would be. Their gutsy decisions, haphazard victories, and loyalty to the cause engendered a new beginning for the whole world. They showed every nation on earth that the God given right to be free is the greatest force and noblest quality that humanity can ever experience.

The writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, once wrote “The God who gave us life…also gave us liberty.” In my opinion, that is one of the most truthful statements ever written in the annals of human history.

So today, I will celebrate this precious day by thanking God for the United States, its people, and its freedoms. I will remind myself of the costs and causes of the past, as well as the responsibilities that our liberties lay upon us today as free citizens. All of these blessings are God given rights which we need to cherish and continue to spread throughout the world. After all, Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness should be blessings that every child, woman, and man should know and experience all over this planet.

Prayer: Lord God, we thank You for the courage and wisdom of those who established this nation. We are humbled by their achievements and blessed by their accomplishments. Help us to cherish this day with our families and friends, our neighbors and people. Let freedom ring throughout this nation and across the entire world. In Christ’s Name, we pray. Amen.

John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today's message, please send him an email to

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Wednesday Chuckle: Keeping the Faith

I couldn't resist drawing this after listening to Obama and reading the CNN National poll....

Keeping the Faith

Please feel free to copy onto your own blogs...