Today I was coming out of St France Hospital and as I crossed the parking lot I happened onto a momma duck who was frantic because her ducklings had all fallen into a drainage hole! As I arrived on the scene the Tulsa Fire Department was rolling up (pictured above) and they quickly removed the drain cover, lowered a man (head first) with a sack into the hole, and retrieved 8 baby ducks...
It was a beautiful sight as the baby ducks were reunited with their mother and she began to lead them away...
Hats off to the Tulsa Fire Department for duty "above and beyond" the call of duty. It was a wonderful scene to behold. Personally, however, I am hoping that momma duck will take a parenting class: first she leads her ducklings across a dangerous drain grid, then (after being reunited) begins to lead them across a busy street! Mercy!
animal assisted therapy
I recently had the opportunity to attend a workshop on Solution-Focused Animal-Assisted Brief Therapy. It was taught by Teri Pichot of the Denver Center for SFBT and provided a wonderful introduction to the many ways animals can be a part of providing: service tasks for the disabled, emotional support for those dealing with life trauma and emotional pain, and assistance to therapists in a host of therapeutic tasks.
I joked with one of the workshop participants, (who directs an extensive animal therapy program) that the picture above was one of me attempting to do "goat yoga." I told her that I just couldn't get the goat to "jump up on my back." But, in reality this picture was taken last year while I was attending the Tulsa State Fair. One of my favorite places at the Fair is the "petting zoo" and I always have my picture taken with several of my friends. That's how I think of them and throughout the years I have had many of them...
moments to cherish
Easter this year was a wonderful time of blessing. For the first time in 3 years it felt like the congregation was "back." Our attendance for Easter still wasn't what it used to be before covid-19, but it was definitely better than it has been in several years. Further, there was a wonderful spirit in our worship, fellowship, and proclamation. Our Choir and Praise team inspired everyone. There was a joy as people greeted each other and we welcomed some who had not been in worship for over two years. Though I often feel like I've "fallen short" in my preaching on Easter Sundays, for some reason this year my message just seemed "to flow." Many said it was the best Easter sermon they had ever heard me share. In so many ways the presence of the Risen Lord was felt. But there was another very special blessing that happened on this day...
We were finally able (after a 2-year delay) to hold our High School 50 year reunion. It was originally scheduled in 2020 but, because of Covid-19, we kept "pushing it back" trying to wait for a safer time. But last month our time for reunion finally came.. Graduates from as far away as California, New York and Florida were able to join us in Tulsa. We had 771 in our graduating class; 144 are now known deceased and over 150 were able to attend the event. Activities included a picnic at LaFortune Park, tours of the Gathering Place and the revitalized Greenwood district, and a concluding dinner and fellowship. All in all it was a wonderful two days.
I've enjoyed each of our reunions. "Tracking" friends that I have known for years (some since grade school) always brings me a sense of amazement. Some, who seemed so "behind the scene" during High School, went on to become prominent leaders and successful in business. Some, who were popular, smart, or excelled in athletics during High School, faced significant life challenges and struggles. Some, who seemed to have little or no spiritual interests during High School, experienced dramatic faith conversions and went on to work as missionaries, pastors, youth and children's ministers. (There were at least 7 who were ordained to pastoral ministry from my graduating class). It reminds me of the truth that life is hard to predict and we never really know what might be coming our way.
All of my classmates have turned 70 now. I have no idea whether or not another reunion is being considered for the future. But one thing I do know, one day there will be a reunion like none of us have ever experienced during this life...
change the world
Lent is a season for personal transformation, but it is also a season for us to do all that we can to help change our world. In my church, one of the ways we do this is by participating in a "Change Our World" love offering. Jars are placed throughout the church in which we can place our "change," (along with folding money and checks). All of the proceeds go to help various mission projects supported by the church. But in addition to giving, there are many ways we can be at work to help bring about change in our world...
season for change
One of the things that is clear, as we study the lives of those who followed Christ, is that, over time, their lives were changed. Consider the amazing transformations: Peter, who was impulsive and denied the Lord three times, became the apostle of steadfastness. (The theme of steadfastness under trial is the main focus of the epistles he penned). John, who was known as a "son of thunder (a man with temper management problems) became the apostle of love (as evidenced in the epistles he wrote). And Paul, who at first was a persecutor of the church, became one of the church's great apostles and missionaries. In each of these cases (and in many others) through their relationship with Christ their lives were changed. As we continue our journey through the season of Lent, I am convinced that our lives can be changed too...
every family needs a break
I was so happy for my son and his family this week. Because of hectic schedules, covid, and calendar conflicts, it has been two years since they have been able to take a family trip together. But this week, they found the opportunity and took a four-day family outing to the Sipapu Ski resort. The fact is, over these past two years, many families have had difficulty being able to coordinate any meaningful family time. But having a "break in the action" is not only important for us as individuals, it is essential for family health. Not every family will be able to go on several-day ski trip, but hopefully every family can find some time to "get away" in some fashion and spend time together. I'm thankful for this opportunity for my family and I'm praying for others that times of family rest, renewal, and recreation might come.
Not every family (child) is able to take a vacation (or go on a ski trip) during Spring Break. So, this year my Director of Children and Family Ministries decided to have a Vacation Bible School in March. By recruiting volunteers from our church and joining forces with the ministry team of Shoulder to Shoulder, coupled with workers from the Salvation Army, we were prepared to host 60+ children from our community.
a christmas story to share
I had an unusual experience the other day; I went into a fast-food store to have a quick lunch and ended up in a conversation with a store manager. We talked about some "general things" then talked about the coming of Christmas and how that would effect his store. (Open till 10 on Christmas Eve but closed on Christmas Day). Then he told me how he and his wife would share Christmas morning. As I listened I was stunned; this is a story to share...
joy in the midst of sorrow
Advent is a season of joy. The theme of joy is found in many of our Advent and Christmas hymns: "Joy to the world the lord is come...." "Good Christian friends rejoice..." "Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant." The list goes on and on. On the third Sunday of Advent we light the candle of Joy on our Advent wreath. In some ways there is an expectation that even those who are "down in the dumps" will have their hearts filled with joy during the seasons of Advent and Christmas. But even though this is a season of joy, for many this is also a season that is filled with sorrow and grief...
Dr. Allen Schneider is a United Methodist pastor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist presently serving the Sapulpa and greater Tulsa communities.