Welcome to Pastor Jack Buckley's weekly blog and podcast.
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Monday, December 31, 2007
We Interrupt This Blogcast
It's been two weeks and counting since I last checked in with you all, even by podcast. Argh...
Of course this is the busiest season of the whole church year. And what good and pleasant busy-ness it's been! Including: a Sunday morning Christmas pageant; a Sunday night sing-along; a bus ride all across town one evening to sing carols for shut-ins; Three Wednesdays' worth of "Handel's Messiah and the Bible"; and -- at last! -- Christmas Eve's full-house gathering for lessons, carols, and candles. Yay God!
I apologize for the interruptions to our electronic conversation this month. I have 2 credible excuses...
1. Proverbial technical failures have beset our sound volunteers Sunday after Sunday. Argh again.
2. Family preoccupations have been biting into my concentration on more general commitments. I'll explain.
We Buckleys, plus a few of the Hernandezes, plus 5 count 'em 5 dogs, spent a weekend at The Sea Ranch. TSR is a huge rustic resort on the Sonoma County coast, featuring an ocean view from every house, and sufficient open space between houses for quiet privacy. Pure bliss by careful, subtle design. Joanne and I woke one morning to see half a dozen deer grazing in our backyard. Our sudden presence didn't faze them in the slightest. After all, we were just weekend guests; they owned the place!
But our short sojourn there, at that particular time, was bittersweet. Mixed in with the beautiful setting, some gourmet meals, and a lot of relaxed being with each other... We had gathered to honor the memory of Jonathan Buckley Hernandez. That's the name Sharon and Victor gave their unborn baby who died during labor last August. At 5 months gestation, he weighed just 1 pound, 1 ounce. The little guy had been diagnosed in the womb with a host of physical problems which, had he survived, would have made his life extremely difficult. Our Sea Ranch Saturday, December 8, would have been his due date. So we spent some time that morning talking, praying, hugging, and grieving my daughter and son-in-law's loss. In a setting so serene and wildly gorgeous it felt like a little corner of God's Heaven.
With us that weekend was Victor's family dog Pepper. A black Lab, now gone gray, she was 20 years old! She was gimpy and leaky, and now suffered frequent seizures as well. Victor and his mom took turns all weekend lightly lifting her core with a bedsheet so she could take short walks and do her business. Watching that procedure (mostly the short walks part), I felt such a sadness for all three of them and simultaneously great respect for their mutual devotion.
Two days after Christmas, though, Sharon and Victor made the painful decision to have Pepper euthanized. Joanne and I joined them at the Point Isabel dog park, on El Cerrito's bay shore. There, waiting for the veterinarian to arrive, Sharon lay with Pepper by the open rear door of a borrowed minivan. Like two spoons they were, Sharon leaning up a bit to stroke Pepper's twitching head or rub her shoulder and side. Their view through the doorway took in the expanse of San Francisco Bay with the Golden Gate Bridge centered on the horizon. At last, the vet drove up, spoke briefly with Sharon and Victor, and administered the required shots to poor old Pepper. Joanne and I watched the whole procedure, which lasted about 5 minutes. Our sadness lightened a bit when the vet (who looked all of 20) stood up silently with one single tear running down her cheek. So humane, so in touch and deeply touching, in her tender loving care.
I hope you will forgive an aging father's self-indulgence here, briefly lowering his heart and mind into sorrow's warm sweet waters. My kids have suffered two great losses this year. Their faith and love, for God and for each other, sustains them even while they grieve. My faith and love, for God and for each of them, believes their present and future blessings will outweigh by far these and all misfortunes.
And so I pray for Sharon and Victor, for each of you, and for all of us together: A happy, blessed new year touched each new day with the grace and peace of God!
Here's a promise we can trust and live by in 2008:
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord,
plans for your welfare and not for harm,
to give you a future with hope.
posted by Jack Buckley at
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Isaiah 11:1-10; Matthew 2:9-11
I was out of town this Sunday on a special retreat with our family. We huddled up together at The Sea Ranch, a beautiful rustic resort on the Sonoma County coast. Ten humans, five dogs, four home-made gourmet meals, a whole lot of love in the air. A blessed respite, a sanctuary for both body and soul.
In my absence, our youth ministry leader Hea Jung Noh brought the message from God's Word. Not only have I heard rave reviews of her poise and power in telling the gospel truth -- I've also been asked if I couldn't go out of town more often.
Listen to the GODcast!
posted by Jack Buckley at
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Happy Birthday, Buddy Baumann!
Next Saturday my brother-in-law Buddy turns seventy-five years old. Awesome.
Buddy and my sister Patty eloped when she was still a teenager. From Florida they moved to New Jersey, right in the midst of our Buckley clan and not too far from the Baumanns just across the Hudson River.
Life wasn't easy for the newlyweds but they persevered and eventually settled into middle-class married life. And stayed that way to the present day. Unable to have children of their own, they adopted a baby boy named Jimmy and they raised him right.
Patricia dedicated her life to Christ in her late twenties, and she made sure Buddy and Jimmy joined her in church activities as often as possible. Her prayers for them paid off over time. Today all three are committed Christian disciples.
Three years ago, though, Buddy and Patricia suddenly seemed headed for divorce. A secret from his past caught up with him and devasted her. But they took it to their pastor instead of an attorney. He worked diligently with them to find God's grace to help, just when and how they needed it most. And grace prevailed.
Patricia and Buddy now live in Tennessee, a long distance and far cry from their familiar "Sopranos" country. How and why they got there, I'll let Buddy tell you himself. Here's the testimony he gave one day to his new church family in Lawrenceburg, TN.
I was born in Bronx, New York in 1932. My father was German and my mother was a Jewish lady from England. Dad was a hard working man and good husband and father. He died early in his 60s. My mother lived to be 83 and accepted Jesus as her Savior the day before she died during an operation.
I was raised never hearing the Gospel as a young person.
I married for the first time in 1950 and served in the United States Army for three years. After I got out of the army we moved to Florida. Our first daughter, Patricia Ann, was born in 1954. The second daughter Roberta was born in 1957. Things were not good between us and we separated when Roberta was three months old. This part of my life was buried and forgotten. The family moved out of state and I never knew where they went.
In 1958 I met my wife Patricia. We married in October 1959 and moved to New Jersey. I had several jobs and began working in a steel company in 1964 where I worked until retiring on disability in 1992.
My wife accepted the Lord in 1973. In 1974 the Lord gave us our son Jim who completed our family. We went to church as a family but I fought accepting the Lord into my life. Too many things in my life got in the way. Lots of head knowledge over those years.
In 2004, while my wife was at work, I got a phone call from my youngest daughter who was searching for her father over the Internet. I told her she had the wrong person. After hanging up I thought this can't be happening. I thought the past would always be the past. Guilt overcame me and I called her back admitting she had found her father. Now I had to tell my wife and son about this. After 46 years with Patricia, she had to know. It took two days as things kept getting in the way. Both of them were upset and angry that I had never told them of this family. I think I would have lost her if I had before. This now was God's time for me to tell them.
I wanted to visit my daughters who had moved to Tennessee many years ago, but wanted my wife to meet them also. Not sure how to handle this but my wife suggested she drive us down to Tennessee. The Lord was working in our lives in a mighty way. They were very nice and made us feel welcome. I found out that along with my two daughters, I now had four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Three more great-grandchildren have been born since then. God has blessed me, but the biggest blessing was yet to come.
The third day in Tennessee my daughter Pat led me to accepting the Lord as my Savior. This was in September of 2004. You see, all those years I had Jesus in my head, but never in my heart. Now I felt free to let him in. I was fighting God all those years, but guess who won.
We went back to New Jersey and told our pastor who had counselled us when everything happened. He baptized me but I had been washed in the blood of the Lamb and all my sins had been forgiven.
And here I am.
We came down here to a new family and we also found a new family right here at Mars Hill Baptist Church.
Happy Birthday, Buddy! God loves you, and so do I.
posted by Jack Buckley at
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Watch Out For Christmas
Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 24:36-44
Kids love and hate, all at the same time, the long wait for Christmas that sets in right after Thanksgiving Day.
Wish lists show up in your e-mail. Unsubtle hints are dropped in conversation. Cryptic notes appear on refrigerator doors and tucked into bedtime books.
But why oh why do the days crawl by so slooooooowly?!
I remember one Christmas Eve ages ago, when I was sent to bed with one assignment: Go to sleep, go directly to sleep, or Santa Claus would have to fly right past our house with his sack full of presents.
But everybody knows you can't possibly fall asleep under that kind of pressure. Even so, I finally felt myself drifting off. Then, just as I settled in, I heard ever so faintly -- sleigh bells! Right outside our house! Down into sleep I gladly went, content that at long last the long wait was over.
I told that story on my materialistic little-boy self in Sunday's sermon.
Then I compared that impatient waiting and watching for Santa's appearance to the world's long dark night that ended at last with Christ's coming at Christmas. And I explained the symbolism of our Advent wreath and candles.
An endless circle of evergreens -- eternal life. Four purple candles -- royal gravitas, gradually glorified as more candles are lit week by week. Finally, the white Christ candle -- centered right there at the heart of the matter, Immanuel (God-With-Us).
Through the cold, dark month of December we're on the lookout, watching for signs of his coming. Watching.
All well and good. But we also need to watch out! That's what the Bible passages for Advent 1 tell us.
Somebody somewhere decided our Advent season should be not just preparation for Christ's coming at Christmas, but also for his second coming to wrap up human history.
So, according to Matthew... and Isaiah... Watch out! Wake up! Pay attention! This Christmas thing turns out to be very serious stuff. Life-and-death serious.
Hey, I didn't make this up. I'm just the messenger trying my best to tell the gospel truth.
Listen to the GODcast!
posted by Jack Buckley at