Pondering Florida Shooting

Another school shooting, this time in Florida, 17 killed and at least 14 injured. It happened about 2:30 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. A 17-year-old student recently expelled for fighting is charged with returned to campus in a premeditated killing attack.

Again? That is the first question that comes to mind when we hear about the tragic school shooting in Florida this week.  I was serving as a Youth Leader when the Columbine shooting took place. As a nation, we were stunned that anything so brutal could happen in the US, and even more amazed that it could happen in school.

Does it amaze us anymore? Are we stunned by the news? Or has it become something we have become accustomed to the news?

The discussion this morning I have heard has a note of resignation, as if to say there is nothing we can do to stop this. There is a somber resolve that this cultural slide we are on is unstoppable. There is almost an air of hopelessness.

It is a day when this Vicar sits stunned and saddened by the evil in this world that has devalued life so much that this type of event is not only possible but is repeated.

How do we respond? How do we turn the cultural tide in this country? While I do not have a grand national agenda to suggest I do have an answer.

I Change.

It has to start with me, my response to life what be so strong that there is no question when I stand. My protection for the unborn must be unwavering, my outcry against the level of violence in our movies and video games must be well known. My prayers for the leaders of nations that allow and even encourage assisted suicide must be daily. I need to value to lives of those around me. I need to find delight in the squeal of a child, and joy in holding the door for someone who struggles to walk.

I must Change.

I can no longer leave this in the hands of others, It is mine to change. It starts with looking for signs of hope in the world around me and celebrating them.

Ash Wednesday Hope…

I spotted a sign of hope last night in our Ash Wednesday worship last night. It was in the back row, a family I did not know joined us. This in itself is a reason for joy, but it gets better.  This couple along with their two children age, 2 and an infant joined us for a specific reason. No, it was not because they heard the Vicar preaches a great sermon, or that the confirmation class who helped lead the service moves the congregation to tears. Why did they choose our little congregation? Because our service was at 6:30 pm.

It might not seem like a big deal, but let’s ponder that for a moment. It was Ash Wednesday, and a young family decided that Worship was a high value for them. Mom goes online and begins to look for a church that is holding a service to mark the beginning of Lent, and would be at such a time that they could all attend and still get their children to bed early.

This is a sign of hope, it is a sign of change. This small event happening in a small, nondescript building is what will help move this culture. When this nation and her children return to Worship when they being to value the truths that faith brings.  We need to be a nation that not only welcomes our young families to worship but seeks them out.

A Reason for Youth Ministry

These events also remind me why I spent the better part of 30 years working in youth ministry. This life that I value and honor coupled with my Love for Christ compels me to share Him with all that I can, especially Youth. This shooting reminds us how fragile, and unpredictable our lives are. There may not be a tomorrow to tell our children about a relationship with Christ.

We also need to have an active youth ministry in our churches because these children we are welcoming will grow up, and the church must become an active part of their lives.

Are you ready to change?

3 Keys to Peace

Simeon and the Christ Child - Big Three Series

It has been a hectic time – Christmas gifts to buy, decorations to put up, celebrations to attend, food to bake, gifts to unwrap, trash to recycle, extra pounds to lose, OK I’ll stop there.  Did you feel at “Peace” this Christmas?”  I wonder if the first family of Christmas found much “Peace” that first Christmas.

It was just 40 days after the Birth of Jesus and the young family was back in the temple again.  This time it was for the sacrifice of purification and the dedication of the Christ Child.  Having been the firstborn boy, the Law of Moses called for his dedication to the Lord as Holy, in memory of the rescue of the firstborn in the Passover.  While they are there they come upon an old man, Simeon, who had spent many long years in the temple. Simeon was waiting on a promise that had been given him by God. This promise said that he would not die before he saw the Lord’s Christ.

I imagine that some of the others had differing opinions as to the antics, and all his talk about Messiah. Even on this day they probably shook their heads when they saw him hurry after this poor young couple. Messiah? This couple couldn’t even afford a proper sacrifice, they were getting by with the minimum prescribed in the law for the poor. Luke tells this account in the second chapter of his Gospel:

22  And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23  (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25  Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26  And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27  And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28  he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29  “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30  for my eyes have seen your salvation 31  that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32  a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

33  And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34  And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35  (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
Luke 2:22-35 (ESV)

How is it that Simeon could leave this place in peace today? Three reasons;

  1. He was declared “Righteous” (vs. 25)
  2. He was given a promise (vs. 26) and it was fulfilled (vs. 30)
  3. He was led by the Holy Spirit (vs. 27)

I can only imagine his joy over meeting the Messiah. All it took for him was a glimpse and he had seen enough. He did not live to see Jesus grow up, to become a Rabbi, or to die and rise from the dead. The promise and the prompting of the Spirit that it was now fulfilled was enough.

How can we find peace like Simeon?

Don’t Stop Here There is MORE>>>>

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Simeon’s Story is song

A great new find to share!

I love the story of Simeon and the Christ Child, In fact, I am preaching on this story this weekend at my church and the next blog post is called “3 Keys to Finding Peace” from the Simeon Story.

With all this in mind, I wanted to share this great video I came across today while working on my message for this weekend. Enjoy!


This song is written by Tommy Walker -check out more great music and resources at Tommy Walkers Website! 

Pondering All Alone

The sound of silence is loud

This morning I stopped into a Caribou Coffee for a little quiet time before I start my day. There is Quiet time, and then there is quiet time.  The parking lot was full so I anticipated the buz of an early morning coffee shop. I was not surprised to find almost every seat in the place taken.

When I got my coffee and headed to a comfy chair, yes, there was 1 open. I noticed the silence that filled the room. If it was not for the sound of the baristas making drinks and taking orders there would not be a sound in the room.

Multiple tables, had multiple people seated at them, the stools around the windows we at about 80% capacity. Yet with all the people in the room, no one was engaged in conversation. Every single person I saw was either typing wildly on their smart phone, had headphones plugged in, or were on their laptop. No one was interacting with anyone.  When I commented to the woman seated next to me about this she looked up from her iPad, which was resting on an open and turned on iBook simply looked at me and said, “um, hadn’t noticed” then returned quickly to her iPad.

Wait there is hope on the horizon, I just spotted a guy in a FCA Jacket and another man sit down by the window in front of me. Wait for it… wait for it…. YES there is real live conversation taking place. Two people looking at each other engaged in conversation.

It’s hard to share Christ with a people who are so disconnected from one another….he writes as he sits in a coffee shop on his iPad.

Time to get back to the real reason for this visit, and it has nothing to do with technology… Time to get into conversation with my King…Today I am discussing Second Peter with the author.

BTW stop reading this blog and go talk to someone! <grin>

<>< Craig

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Pondering God Message Monday - Episode 76

Pondering God Podcast returns with Message Monday – A message delivered by Craig McCourt. Today’s message was delivered on Sunday, November 26th on the Last Sunday of the church year. The pdf outline for this message are available HERE


Hurricanes and Sin

Pondering God Audio - Episode 75

With Texas still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Harvey, a new threat Hurricane Irma has risen to the level of a category 5 monster storm with wind gusts in excess of 210 mph.  In Today’s Pondering God Audio episode we discuss sin and its connection to these monsters we call hurricanes.


To help the relief efforts in Texas as they begin the long journey to recovery text LCMSHARVEY to 41444 or visit


Who Made #1

Bulletin Insert Number 6

Last week we shared that Luther was ranked number 3 on the Time-Life millennium list. Time-Life undertook to amass a list of the most important events and people of the past 1,000 years. After several months of “very contentious meetings”, they arrived at the top 100.

So while the good Dr. Luther made number three on the list I know the burning question in your mind is who made number one!  That belongs to Johann Gutenberg, but more precisely the Gutenberg Bible! That is an anniversary worth celebrating as well!

In 1455 Gutenberg marked a milestone in the millennium’s technology revolution when he mastered typeset printing. Gutenberg printed 300 of his amazingly beautiful Bibles, today know as the “Gutenberg Bible.” Today only 48 copies are known to have survived, and they are an amazing treasure.

You might be asking why an event from 1455 is being talked about on the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation? Simple – without the printing press Martin Luther’s 95 theses might have died on the church door where he posted them. But it was the wide circulation of his works that sped the reformation along.

Luther Made The List

Bulletin Insert 5

Luther Made the List

There are lots of lists on which you might find Martin Luther’s name.  Some of them might include; Most Prolific Authors, Great Hymn Writers, Great Lutheran Theologians, Well Know Excommunicated Catholics, just to name a few.

There is one list that came out in 1998 as the world prepared for the new millennium. Time-Life undertook to amass a list of the most important events and people of the past 1,000 years. They gathered ideas from around the globe from scholars, world leaders, and everyday people. They then began to draw the list down and after several months of “very contentious meetings,” they arrived at the top 100.

It might not surprise you at all that Martin Luther was on the list, but it might surprise you that he was ranked #3. The event that put Luther on the list is what we are celebrating this year – the nailing of the 95 these on the church door.

“The Reformation had begun: Political authorities would never again be fully subject to the dictates of a distant clergy, and the map of Europe would be determined by the nationalism that still dominates world politics today.” (from “The Life Millennium”)

What’s the big deal? It’s just an eclipse.

Pondering God in the Air

Yesterday was the day, the day of the big Solar Eclipse. Many people traveled great distances to get a better view of the event, to see it in “totality.” I was not one of those people.  While I remember the last big solar eclipse in the 70’s and I remember making a pin hole box, and also making viewing glasses our of 35mm film my schedule did not allow me to see the big event this year.

I was in the air, flying under the totality of the eclipse as it happened. I got a window seat, and I am an aisle man, just so I might be able to take a photo of the big event. I took lots of “blind” photos as I held the camera at a low angle at the base of the window and attempted to capture the big event. Let’s just say, been there done that, don’t need to try that again in 2099. All this did was  take up a little more room on my memory card, to clear off later.

The woman sitting with me, in the coveted aisle seat, would from time to time glance up from her book and glance toward the window. I couldn’t quite figure out if she was more interested in what the oddball next to her was doing or if she wanted to witness what she could of the eclipse. Finally, after about my 50th attempt to get something with my camera, she said, “I don’t get it, what is the big deal? It’s just an eclipse.” I replied, “I think it is just the rarity of the event that has people excited. I pray I don’t see the next one in 2099.”

That seemed to satisfy her question and she went back to her book, for a few moments. I quietly sat in my window seat and continued to point my camera at something I could not see. I’m guessing it just took a while to register with her, but after a few moments she turned and said, “Why don’t you want to see it in 2099?” I told her I hoped to be with Jesus LONG before that. Suddenly the conversation I had early that morning with my wife came to mind, as we marveled at the wonder of the eclipse, and the amazing God who put this whole thing in motion.

I put down my camera and said, “I think it is the unbelievable clockwork of the universe that makes people want to see this event?” She was puzzled by this statement and gave me a “what are you talking about” look. So I continued, “Doesn’t it amaze you that God, who I know put all this together did it with such precision that can predict it down to the minute? Not just for this eclipse but for the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that. So many people think that this whole universe is just a random shot in the dark from some mysterious big bang, but chaos does not produce such precision, a brilliant designer causes this precision.”

It was back, that “What are you talking about” look. This time it came with a response, “Never given it much thought.” “That,” I said, “Is why the solar eclipse is such a big deal it displays the genius of our God. The Bible even tells us that the skies proclaim the work of God. My favorite verse says of the stars that “night after night they pour forth speech and are not silent. Just a little more proof that God is real and active in His creation. Are you a Christian?” Her response was quick and dismissive, “I was as a child – my parent’s idea not mine.” and she planted her face back in her book to close this conversation.

She didn’t know that I’ve taught confirmation to middle schoolers for 30+ years and it will take more than looking away to stop me from talking, I was on a roll. But before I could say something that might make her wish she had chosen a different seat, I simply said. “I’ll pray that you come to know Christ again.”

Then there was silence.

When we got up to get off the plane she noticed for the first time my t-shirt which on the front reads “God Loves you, but I’m his favorite*” She smiled and said, “I bet you are.” I mentioned that my wife would be upset if you don’t read the back of the shirt (long story for another day) so I offered her a chance. It reads “*Your His favorite too!” followed by Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you with an everlasting love, I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”

I hope I left her today “Pondering God.”

What’s the Big deal? It’s just an Eclipse – or as I like to call it “God showing off!”

Something to Ponder: How does God reveal Himself to you through His creation?

Share your Eclipse experience and thoughts in the comments below.