The Wedding Service for Samuel Brennan and Ashely Barker on Saturday, August 17, 2019

On Saturday, August 17, I officiated the wedding of Samuel Brennan and Ashely Barker in Toronto, Ohio. Below are a few pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.







The Wedding Service for Jeffrey Covert and Renee Blake on Friday, August 16, 2019

On Friday, August 16, I officiated the wedding of Jeffrey Covert and Renee Blake at Grand Overlook, Mount Washington, Pennsylvania. Below are a few pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.










The Wedding Service for Larry Weston and Amy Johnson on Friday, August 16, 2019

On Friday, August 16, I officiated the wedding of Larry Weston and Amy Johnson at Coppers Rock, West Virginia. Below are a few pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.











The Wedding Service for Jason Allman and Suzy Vormelker on Wednesday, August 14, 2019

On Wednesday, August 14, I officiated the wedding of Jason Allman and Suzy Vormelker in The Crush House at Gervasi Vineyard, Canton, Ohio. Below are a few pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.







Cove’s Celebration Service - Sunday, August 11, 2019

The members and friends of Cove gathered to worship on Sunday, August 11. Our worship is intended to be a free expression of our love for God and the joy we feel when we accept that love. Of course, there are many ways for us to express that love and joy.


During this service, we continued our series entitled “When You're Hot Under the Collar: Managing Your Anger.”  Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion — but it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships. Are you ready to get your anger under control? Join us for these ten Bible-based messages that can offer us some peace when you're hot under the collar.

Through most of the summer, we'll look at the following topics:

  • June 16 - Think before you speak
  • June 23 - Once you're calm, express your anger
  • June 30 - Get some exercise
  • July 14 - Take a timeout
  • July 21 - Identify possible solutions
  • July 28 - Stick with 'I' statements
  • August 4 - Don't hold a grudge
  • August 11 - Use humor to release tension
  • August 18 - Practice relaxation skills
  • August 25 - Know when to seek help

If you miss one of these messages, you can find a copy and podcast on The Cove Community blog.


The service began with a video.


Instrumental and vocal music are important to our worship. Songs give us the chance to praise God and to help focus our attention on the theme of the service. During the service, we’ll have the opportunity to sing songs that reflect different musical styles. Since God has called into his church as individuals with a variety of tastes, this offers us the chance to display our sensitivity for our fellow worshipers and to grow in our knowledge of how we might praise God. Our first song was On Eagle's Wings

Our prayers represent our communication with God. Of course, as Paul wrote, the Holy Spirit “...intercedes for us with groans too deep for words”; therefore, God already knows our needs. Still it’s important that we put them into words, as well as the regret we feel for our sins and our thanks for all God has done for us.
During this service, there were two times when we prayed together.  During the Our Congregational Prayer, we confessed our sins and hear the assurance that we're forgiven.  We also have the opportunity to lift our concerns and needs to God.  We closed this prayer with The Lord’s Prayer. After we collected the offering, we praised and thanked God for his presence in our church and within our lives. When we collected the offering, we watched a video of Dan Smith performing Baby Got Book.
After our prayer of thanks, Pastor Rudiger shared a message dealing with why and how we might use humor to release tension.
After the sermon, we sang our second song, Jumping for Joy
A podcast of the entire service is below. Next week, we'll focus on how we might develop some relaxation techniques.


Two Ridges Presbyterian Church Worship Service - Sunday, August 11, 2019

Below is a copy of the bulletin and the podcast of the worship service I led in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio on Sunday, August 11, 2019.







When You’re Hot Under the Collar: Managing Your Anger - Use humor to ease the tension

On Sunday, August 11, we continued a series entitled When You're Hot Under the Collar: Managing Your Anger. Do you fume when someone cuts you off in traffic? Does your blood pressure rocket when your child refuses to cooperate? Anger is a normal and even healthy emotion — but it's important to deal with it in a positive way. Uncontrolled anger can take a toll on both your health and your relationships. Are you ready to get your anger under control? Join us for these ten Bible-based messages that can offer us some peace when you're hot under the collar. 

During this eighth message we considered the importance of using humor to relieve tension.


Although it appears as though we’ve got at least a month or so of hot weather left in 2019, we’re nearing the end of our summer series dealing with some of the things we can do when we’re emotional hot under the collar. In other words, after this morning, we’ll only be talking how about we might better manage our anger for two more weeks. And I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve found some of the stuff we’ve been talking about pretty helpful. For example, in my opinion, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded every now-and-then that, when you’re angry, it’s good idea to think before you speak and to calm down before talking about the problem. And when you’re steaming, getting a little exercise and taking a time-out, along with identifying some possible solutions and sticking to “I” statements, well, those are probably four pretty smart things to do. And as we talked about last week, when we’re ticked, nothing is going to be gained by holding on to a grudge and letting that resentment and bitterness sour the rest of our lives. I mean, whether or not we know this stuff already, it’s nice to be reminded of how we might better manage our anger. And I think that’s especially true for Christians, because let’s face it, unmanaged anger can sure mess up an otherwise good witness.


But suppose you’re in a situation in which none of this other stuff has worked, and you’re still looking a person who’s angry even though you’ve tried your best to ratchet down the tension. Put another way, suppose you’re in the same kind of situation that some of those misshaped characters faced in the movie UglyDolls. You see, as they were trying to save their leader, a doll named Moxie, they ran into what may be the ultimate example of pure rage: this huge, mechanical dog, something that probably couldn’t be calmed down no matter how many “I” statements you used. Now, if you were in this kind of situation and you were made of felt and you were facing jaws of steel, what would you do? Well, this is what a character named Ugly Dog did. 


You see, he acted really silly, and it must have worked. The mechanical dog went from snarling to wagging it’s mechanical steel tail. You see, Ugly Dog used a little silliness to ease the tension in a situation that was just oozing with anger. And I’ll tell you, that’s what we’re going to talk about this morning: how we might use a little bit of humor to reduce the stress that we all feel in angry situations. In fact, we’re going to consider three things that we’re either doing or should be doing when we use humor to ease the tension.


For example, first, when we take this sort of approach, we’re actually following an example found in the Bible. You see, even though a lot of Christians look as though the Bible is anything but funny, there’s actually a fair amount of humor found in God’s Word. Let me give you a few examples, and even though they may not be knee-slappers, I think they show that humor was not a foreign concept for the people who wrote the holy scripture. I mean, just think about David. Remember, like we talked about last week, David was on the run from King Saul, who’d developed a grudge against his young protege. Well, this was how the writer of the first book of Samuel described David going to the city of Gath. “David kept on running from Saul that day until he came to where he met with King Achish. The officers of King Achish were also there, and they asked Achish, ‘Isn’t David a king back in his own country? Don’t the Israelites dance and sing, “Saul has killed a thousand enemies; David has killed ten thousand enemies”?’ David thought about what they were saying, and it made him afraid of Achish. So right there in front of everyone, he pretended to be insane. He acted confused and scratched up the doors of the town gate, while drooling in his beard. ‘Look at him!’ Achish said to his officers. ‘You can see he’s crazy. Why did you bring him to me? I have enough crazy people without your bringing another one here. Keep him away from my palace!’” [1 Samuel 21:10-15, CEV] You see what I mean by humorous. Or later in the Old Testament, the Prophet Elijah was in a contest with the prophets of a god called Baal, you know, to see which god was more powerful: Baal or the God of Israel. Well, this happened and pay particular attention to Elijah’s trash talking. “Elijah said to Baal’s prophets, ‘There are more of you, so you go first. Pick out a bull and get it ready, but don’t light the fire. Then pray to your god.’ They chose their bull, then they got it ready and prayed to Baal all morning, asking him to start the fire. They danced around the altar and shouted, ‘Answer us, Baal!’ But there was no answer. At noon, Elijah began making fun of them. ‘Pray louder!’ he said. ‘Baal must be a god. Maybe he’s day-dreaming or using the toilet or traveling somewhere. Or maybe he’s asleep, and you have to wake him up.’” [1 Kings 18:25-27, CEV] Now that’s another example. And even though I doubt that PETA would like it, I have a hard time believing that the person who put down the story of Balaam and his donkey wrote it with a straight face. “So Balaam got up the next morning and saddled his donkey, then left with the Moabite officials. Balaam was riding his donkey to Moab, and two of his servants were with him. But God was angry that Balaam had gone, so one of the Lord’s angels stood in the road to stop him. When Balaam’s donkey saw the angel standing there with a sword, it walked off the road and into an open field. Balaam had to beat the donkey to get it back on the road. Then the angel stood between two vineyards, in a narrow path with a stone wall on each side. When the donkey saw the angel, it walked so close to one of the walls that Balaam’s foot scraped against the wall. Balaam beat the donkey again. The angel moved once more and stood in a spot so narrow that there was no room for the donkey to go around. So it just lay down. Balaam lost his temper, then picked up a stick and smacked the donkey. When that happened, the Lord told the donkey to speak, and it asked Balaam, ‘What have I done to you that made you beat me three times?’ ‘You made me look stupid!’ Balaam answered. ‘If I had a sword, I’d kill you here and now!’ ‘But you’re my owner,’ replied the donkey, ‘and you’ve ridden me many times. Have I ever done anything like this before?’ ‘No,’ Balaam admitted.” [Numbers 22: 21-30, CEV] And so it was with Balaam and his poor animal. Of course, it may be funnier if you substitute another word for “donkey.” You see, Balaam had a talking donkey. And I’ll tell you, the writer of Proverbs wasn’t above dropping a few great one-liners, like when he wrote “a beautiful woman who acts foolishly is like a gold ring on the snout of a pig” [Proverbs 11:22, CEV] or “it’s better to stay outside on the roof of your house than to live inside with a nagging wife” [Proverbs 21:9, CEV] or my favorite, “don’t be so lazy that you say, ‘If I go to work, a lion will eat me!’” [Proverb 22:13, CEV]. That’s better than, the dog ate my homework. And I’ll tell you, when Jesus said, “God will be as hard on you as you are on others! He will treat you exactly as you treat them. You can see the speck in your friend’s eye, but you don’t notice the log in your own eye. How can you say, ‘My friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you don’t see the log in your own eye?” [Matthew 7:2-4, CEV], Now I think he was conjuring up a pretty amusing image to make his point. You see, humor was and is a part of the Bible, and so when we use it to defuse a tense situation, we’re just following a solid biblical example. That’s one.


But I think there’s something even more important than just the example offered in Scripture. You see, when we use humor to ease tension, we’re doing something that can just plain work, something that the writer of Proverbs must have believed when he wrote his little sayings and Jesus must have understood when he offered his short parable about specks and logs. According to an article I read on a website called HelpGuide: Your trusted guide to mental health & wellness [HelpGuide.org], these are some of the benefits of using humor in our relationships. Humor can help us, one, form a stronger bond with other people; two, smooth over differences; three, diffuse tension; four, overcome problems and setbacks; five, put things into perspective; and six, be more creative. As the writers of the article said, “When conflict and disagreement throw a wrench in your relationship, humor and playfulness can help lighten the tension and restore a sense of connection. Used respectfully, a little lighthearted humor can quickly turn conflict and tension into an opportunity for shared fun and intimacy. It allows you to get your point across without getting the other person’s defenses up or hurting their feelings.” You see, when we choose to use humor to lighten the mood, it certainly can work. And that’s two.


But I think that leads to the third point which, in my opinion, is crucially important, and here it is: When we use humor, we also need to use a little common sense. Let me give you a few examples. To be effective, everybody needs to be in on the joke. I mean, give me a break, if I make some kind of snide, hurtful remark and then criticize you for not being able to take a joke, then I’m doing more harm than good. And if I’m using humor to cover up or to avoid talking about some deeper issue, at best, I’m only delaying a final resolution. And I’ll tell you, if my humor is mean-spirited or hurtful to someone else, I may be just exchanging one angry person for another. Over the years, every now-and-then someone who’s just starting out as preacher will ask me for advice. And I always tell them the same thing. When you’re preaching, never make yourself the hero of your own story. People generally see that as bragging, and because of that, it can really interfere with the point you’re trying to make. Let someone else be the smart one or the brave one or the calm one. Well, I think the same sort of thing applies to humor. I don’t think it ever helps to make someone else the butt of the joke. Let that person be us, because when we the more changes. As a matter of fact, I believe tensions come down when people can see that we don’t take ourselves too seriously and that we can actually laugh at ourselves. And for that reason, when we use humor to ease tension, we should also use a little common sense. And that’s three.


Of course, using humor isn’t magic and there’s no guarantee that it will cool the anger. As a matter of fact, in two of the examples I used from the Bible, humor really didn’t work out very well. I mean, David was hunted by Saul until the old king died, no amount of drooling is going to change that.  And after Elijah trash talked the prophets of Baal, the evil Queen Jezebel only wanted to kill him more. I guess you could say that humor doesn’t always work. Still, I believe it’s worth a shot. I mean, when we use humor to ease the tension in angry situations, not only are we following a solid Biblical precedent, we're doing something that can just plain work, if we also work some common sense into our humor. And next week, we’ll talk about how we probably should develop some relaxation techniques if we’re serious about managing our anger.



Sunday’s Sermon - Tomorrow May Be Too Late

Here's a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, August 11, in Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio. You can hear a podcast of the sermon at the bottom of this page or on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.

If you find this sermon meaningful, please consider supporting this ministry by sending an offering to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.


Luke 12:32-40


“Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your father was pleased to give to you the kingdom. Sell those things that belong to you and give alms. Make for yourselves a purse that won’t wear out, a treasure that is unfailing in the heavens, where thieves don’t come near nor moths destroy. For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be. Let your loins be girded and lamps burning.


“And you be like people who are waiting for their lord when he might return from the wedding feast, so that when he comes and knocks, immediately they might open [it] to him.Blessed are those slaves, who when the lord comes, he will find alert. Amen, I say to you that he will gird himself and will make them recline and after he comes to them, will serve them. Even if it might be the second watch, even if it might be the third watch, he might come and might find this, blessed are those.


“But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief was coming, he would not have allowed him to dig through the wall of his house. And you, become ready, because the hour which you don’t suppose the son of man is coming.”


Tomorrow May Be Too Late


Unfortunately, my family won’t be going back to Virginia this summer. Now there are several reasons for that. I mean, I’ve got weddings already booked for every Saturday until the beginning of November. And given the fact that a lot of the work my dad and brother does involve schools, right now is a really busy time for them.My daughter is making a lot of her college visits before school starts.She’s already been to WVU, and last Thursday she toured Pitt, and next Wednesday, we’ll heading to Duquesne. And as the cherry on top of the sundae, in a couple of weeks, Debbie’s off to Indianapolis for a class reunion.I don’t which one, and I’m afraid to ask. And so, we won’t be going to Virginia this summer. 


And I’ve got to tell you, that hits me personally in a couple of ways. I mean, I won’t be able to visit my dad and to see up-close how he’s doing. And I also won’t have the chance to go to my all-time favorite restaurant in all the world, and that’s saying a lot because remember I lived in New Orleans. You see, one of things I look forward to whenever I get back to the Chesapeake Bay is seafood, and in particular blue crabs. Now, if you’ve never had a blue crab, you have missed one of the great things in life. And in my humble opinion the best crab cakes I’ve ever tasted come from a restaurant in Norfolk, Virginia called The Surf Rider. I’m telling you, they’re almost solid crab meat, hardly any breading at all. And so, every time I get back to Norfolk, I want to have at least one dinner at my favorite seafood restaurant. Of course, that doesn’t always happen, because when I come home my dad likes to plan the visit. Just like he did when I was a kid and we’d go on a trip, dad likes to have a schedule to follow. And there have been trips when The Surf Rider wasn’t on the agenda. And although I could always insist on going, he really gets a kick out of taking us places that are important to him, and I’d never want to take that away from him. And anyway, we always have a lot of fun following his plan, even if it doesn’t involve crap cakes with very little breading. 


And so if we’re visiting and if we haven’t gone, I face a real problem when it’s ten o’clock Saturday evening, and we’re heading for home at around nine Sunday morning. At that moment, I face what could only be described as a cause for genuine sadness. You see, given the time, the Mecca for crab cakes is closed and the possibility of going the next day, well, simply put, tomorrow’s just too late.


Of course, I understand that missing this meal isn’t going to alter my life. In fact, it might actually be good for my cholesterol, if I didn’t replace it with good old Smithfield ham or green beans, cooked with salt pork. No missing a certain dinner is really not a big deal; in fact, it’s no more important than missing a certain television show or party or even football game. But you know, there’s one part of our lives where missing something may be a big deal, and now I’m talking about our relationship with God. I mean, if we miss the opportunity to know the love of God or to follow the example of Jesus Christ or to respond to the movement of the Holy Spirit, well, that’s huge, but not just for ourselves. It’s also important for every single person we’ve been called to love and who may never know who God is because we didn’t share him with them. You see, if we don’t appreciate that our time to live the kind of lives we’ve been called to live is limited, we’re going to miss out on more than a dinner.


And I’ll tell you, that’s why I think it’s really important for us to accept the fact that when it comes to our relationship with God, we face three pretty important limitations, because accepting them just may change what we do. I mean, first, simply put, the time we have to live is just plain limited. And although I knew a woman who got one face lift after another because she seemed to think if she looked young, she might cheat the grim reaper, death is just a fact of life. Now I know that’s kind of a “da statement,” but often we really don’t live as though the end could be in sight. I mean, we seem to agree with the main character in my absolute favorite poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” by T.S. Eliot: He wrote, “And indeed there will be time for the yellow smoke that slides along the street, rubbing its back upon the window-panes; there will be time, there will be time to prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet; there will be time to murder and create, and time for all the works and days of hands that lift and drop a question on your plate; time for you and time for me, and time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast and tea.” 


I mean, that’s how we often live, isn’t it? There’ll be time to say those things that we’ve left unsaid and do those things we’ve left undone. There’ll be time to apologize or to forgive, to renew or to restore and of course to repent and to confess. And there’ll absolutely be time to teach our grandchildren about the love of God and to strengthen our relationships within this congregation and to share the gospel to folks in our community. There’ll always be time...that is, until there’s not, something that I saw up close and personal when I visited my mom last August. Good night, in the poem I read a little while ago, even Prufrock comes to recognize that his time is limited. He says, “I grow old … I grow old … I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled. Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach? I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach. I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me.” Like it or not, tomorrow’s too late to start living, because our lives here on earth are limited, and that’s the first thing we need to accept.


And I’ll tell you, because they are, the time we have to decide that we’re going to follow Christ is also limited. And for me, that’s the second thing we need to recognize. Of course, if we want to know about what that decision involves, in other words, what Jesus wants us to do, I can’t think of a better place to start than with all the commands he gave in the passage we just read. I mean, again just listen to what he said: “Don’t be afraid, little flock (command number one), because your father was pleased to give to you the kingdom. Sell those things that belong to you (two) and give alms (three). Make for yourselves a purse that won’t wear out (four), a treasure that is unfailing in the heavens, where thieves don’t come near nor moths destroy. For where your treasure is, there also your heart will be. Let your loins be girded and lamps burning (five). I think you could call that a grand slam plus one. Five things right here we’ve called to do; therefore, we have a decision to make, don’t we? 


And I’ll tell you, I think it’s pretty clear in the two parables that follow the commands, that Jesus wants us to make that decision right now. I mean, think about it. The one about the lord who comes home from the wedding feast and finds that slaves are alert and ready, well, that certainly reminds us that if we want to be blessed, maybe we need to be alert and ready too. And then in the second one, well, if we knew the day and hour we were going to meet our maker, we’d be prepared, right? But when you get right down to it, that’s like trying to predict when a burglar is planning to come through your window. And if both of those stories are true, we’re left with having to be ready all the time. You see, tomorrow’s too late to get ourselves straight with God, because the time we have to decide is limited, and to me, that’s the second thing we need to accept. 


And that leaves the third limitation we all face. You see, because the time we have to live and to decide is limited, so is the time we have to respond. In other words, right now is the time to start living our faith and to start putting our decision into action; to stop just talking the talk and to start walking the walk. And although this is whole lot tougher than just sitting around and doing nothing, it’s something we can starting doing right now, and we can do it as a congregation and as individual believers. You see, right now is the time to start putting aside our fears and worries and insecurities, to stop being afraid, and we can to it because our heavenly father has already included us in his kingdom. I mean, we can worry about our children and parents, our jobs and homes, our money and membership until the cows come home. And in fact, we can become obsessed by what people might be doing or what they could be saying, but when held beside the love God has for his children, which means for us, those things just don’t seem quite as important. That’s one way we can respond. 


And I’ll tell you, right now is also the time to start getting rid of some that stuff we can’t take with us anyway and then using what we’ve got to make the lives of others better, but more than that, to start moving away from some of those things that may be meaningful only to us so that others might know the love and grace we know and maybe to start dumping some of the stuff we treasure so that we can experience a love and know a joy that’s eternal. I mean, so long as we’re hanging onto things that thieves can steal and moths can eat, how can we ever come to appreciate God’s ability and willingness to care for us? My gosh, if I can’t give up one thing that’s important to me and I mean really give it up for the sake of someone else, how dare I talk about my treasure in heaven and how I feel for those less fortunate than me? Now’s the time to change that. And finally, right now is the time to start girding our loins, lighting our lamps and facing the opposition that’s going to come when we start doing what God wants us to do. And trust me, it’s going to come. I mean, when we start demonstrating that we can’t be intimidated from confrontation or pressured into compromising or distracted by threats, in other words, when we have the courage to love God with everything we’ve got and our neighbor as ourselves and it doesn’t matter whether that neighbor sits next to us in the pew or has a house in Steubenville or lives on the other side of the world, Satan is going to bring up the big guns and the forces of darkness are going to try their best to knock us down. And that’s why we need to stand up and face the future together. And this is something we need to do right now because tomorrow just may be too late. Our time to respond is limited.


Now, when I went back to Norfolk last Christmas, I got to have my meal at The Surfrider, and it was every bit as good as I expected. Of course I’m sure that my life would have gone on just fine if I hadn’t. But that may not be the case for us in our relationship with God. Although it’s not something we like to admit, I think we’d all agree that we face limitations. I mean, as we’ve been talking about, the time we have to live and to decide and to respond is just plain limited. And because that’s just the way it is, when it comes to strengthening our relationship with God and serving him in new and exciting ways,tomorrow may be too late.



The Wedding Service for Chester Barnabei and Alexis Buffo, Saturday, August 10, 2019

On Saturday, August 10, I officiated the wedding of Chester Barnabei and Alexis Buffo in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia.. Below is a couple of pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.






The Wedding Service for Colin Durfee and Alanna Ziemba, Friday, August 9, 2019

On Friday, August 9, I officiated the wedding of Colin Durfee and Alanna Ziemba in the Maple Springs Gazebo ,South Park, Pennsylvania. Below is a couple of pictures and a podcast of the service. If you're planning your wedding and need an officiant, please give me a call at 304-479-3402.





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