O Holy Night: Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at 7:00 p.m.

Our Christmas Eve candlelight service will be held tonight at 7:00 p.m., Friday, December 24, 2021, at Christ Community Church in Myerstown, PA. The worship packet is attached below for those who will be live streaming the service. Contact us if you need connection information.

Whether you join us on ground or online, I hope you will be able to participate in this most beautiful service of the church year. Featuring traditional Christmas carols, Scripture readings, and candle lighting, this worship experience will last about 75 minutes and be held at:

CHRIST COMMUNITY CHURCH
Dech Chapel in Evangelical Seminary
121 S. College Street
Myerstown, Pennsylvania 17067

Plenty of parking is available around the building and in the student parking lot. Attendees who are less ambulatory may use the smaller faculty lot along Route 501. The ground floor elevator can then be taken to the chapel, which is located on the first floor. 

I Met the Grim Reaper Today

We had a blast at our church’s first-ever Trunk or Treat event today. After a few days of hard rain, the sun came out this afternoon at just the right time, and the weather was perfect for the entire gathering. That was a specific prayer we prayed, and the answer seemed like a wink from heaven.  🙌

We partnered with one other local church, and we wound up serving well over a hundred children, most of whom wore cute or creative costumes. All told, we had about 275-300 people on site. They came from as far as Reading, Mohnton, and Lebanon. They cleaned us out of all the free children’s Bibles we made available, along with some church and gospel literature, and the balloon animals we were making for the kids. Candy was the only thing left over. No complaints there! 🙂

My trunk was a shrine to the Philadelphia Phillies. Talk about scary! But it led to some fun conversations about never giving up on what you truly love, even if it takes a while for you to realize the dream. 💙 (The Phillies didn’t make it to the playoffs again this year.) That, of course, led naturally to some conversations about God’s persistent love for us in Christ. The sign on my SUV said, “Jesus is my victory. The Phillies are just my team.”

The good thing about having all my ball equipment in the trunk is that toward the end of the day, I got to throw a baseball with a man in our church who was semi-pro back in the day. He was a pitcher in the Cubs farm system decades ago. (The man is in his 70s now, but he can still hurl!) He may not have the pop he used to, but he could still throw a curve ball and a knuckle ball, each with good movement. That was most enjoyable. Except for the blue Cubs hat he wore, announcing the World Series Championship they won back in 2016. 🙂

At one point, someone who was dressed as the Grim Reaper came and stood quietly in front of me. I said, “Do we have an appointment today?” She extended her scythe toward me without saying a word. I said, “Well, thanks to Jesus, I’m ready to go. When do we leave?” She started laughing, and then I gave her a handful of candy as an incentive for her not to take me just yet.

I was proud of our people for taking this step of faith in a new outreach. They’re already talking about next year and some things we can do to make it even better. For now, I’m just going to enjoy the moment. And the leftover peanut butter cups. 🙂

Ship Ahoy!

Some family life updates, etc….

1. We have beautiful chaos chez Valentino this weekend. SamJam’s baby shower is this Saturday, so there’s been a flurry of activity lately getting everything ready and set up. Fortunately, we’ve had a couple of productive days, and all we need to do yet is put the food out and finish up a few displays and activity centers. We’re holding the event in the seminary fellowship hall, which is the perfect size for a group of 70-80 people. The nautical theme my daughter chose is adorable. I wonder if it portends another swimmer in the family. Below are a few snaps of the room in its current state. Hopefully, more will be coming when it’s all complete.

2. We also have several relatives from out of town staying with us right now. It almost feels like Christmas. My sister-in-law is trying to learn French for an upcoming trip to Paris, so it’s fun to have a conversation partner. She’s doing well so far, and her vocabulary is increasing. French is harder to hear and comprehend than it is to read and understand because of all the silent letters it contains. Nevertheless, le français est la langue de l’amour, n’est-ce pas? Je pense que c’est très romantique. I’m very much looking forward to going back to Paris someday. England, too. The sights, sounds, tastes, and smells are magical. The theatres and museums are also amazing. Did I just write “theatre” instead of “theater”? 🙂

3. My students are killing it this semester. It’s a dream come true to teach at a theological seminary, and it’s way beyond a dream to be able to teach at the doctoral level, too. This crop of students is motivated, humble, curious, and wise. I love spending time with them. All told, I’ll be teaching, co-teaching, or assisting in 15 different courses this academic year. That’s kind of ridiculous, but I’m having a blast. Blessedly, there’s not a lot of academic snoot in our neck of the woods. The folks in my cohorts are eager to learn, not showcase what they already know for the sake of self-aggrandizement. As Paul said, “Knowledge puff us. Love builds up.”

4. I structured one of our sub-master courses around the simple question, “Who is God? Who’s asking? And why does it matter?” That’s enough to keep us busy for an entire semester! In another course, we’re drilling down on what it means to be made imago dei, in the image of God. What an eye opener! I can’t wait to post some of my research on that, but, alas, the dissertation comes first. We’re also doing a lot of self-awareness work, personality inventories, and family-of-origin analyses, including genograms. There’s been a lot of vulnerability among the students, and a whole lot of laughs, too. They inspire me to keep learning and growing myself. It’s been a while since I’ve taken the MBTI, so I’m eager to see if any of my PCIs have shifted in recent years. 

5. On Sunday, we’ll be holding a service of remembrance for one of the two church buildings we’re in the process of selling. It’s important to acknowledge and celebrate what God has done in those special places before stepping into the future in a new place. (The congregational unity in this venture has been amazing.) My mind often goes back to similar places and spaces where God made himself known to me or blessed me abundantly through other people—whether through words, hugs, prayers, encouragement, conversation, or music. I have so many of those moments to look back on with delight–especially the hugs! As Michael W. Smith used to sing, “Friends are friends forever if the Lord’s the Lord of them.” Exactly right. So, what we’re really celebrating this Sunday is God and his people—as they intersected our lives at specific times and in specific locations along the journey. We’ll do a similar service of remembrance for the other church next month.

6. Finally, I’m coming to the end of my Madam Secretary binge. For the most part, I’ve really enjoyed it. Next up is a collection of short-series period dramas, like Sense and SensibilityPride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre—all those good BBC productions. (Can you tell I’m ready to go back to England?) Actually, I want to re-watch these highly regarded flicks because my brain can’t hold anything new for a while. It’s already on overdrive from the academic load and the dissertation. Besides, my PCIs may change, but my tastes do not. ❤️📚 💙 📺 💛💻💚

Have a great weekend, everyone, and enjoy the blessings of God this beautiful time of year.

Welcome aboard!
Favor table.
Table setting with activity pack.
Dessert table with forthcoming theme-based cupcakes.
Another activity table. (One not shown here is a table for the game of ‘Diaper Pong.’ Hmmm.)
Stamp a building block for Samuel to play with.
Make a onesie for SamJam.
Banner above the special chairs for the new mommy and daddy.
Guess which member of the Valentino or White family each baby picture represents. And guess who authored the children’s book. 🙂
Cards of encouragement for the new parents.
Bethany showing off her baby shower nails at our daddy-daughter lunch date today.

‘Old Blue Eyes’ singing a tune from Ship Ahoy!

Christ Community Church: Love God, Serve People, Inspire Hope

Yesterday we unveiled the new website for Christ Community Church, which can be found here. The site is about 85 percent complete. Pages still in production include the age-based ministries in the Connect section, as well as the Sermon Archive page, but I thought it best to roll out what we have now since people sometimes look for churches during Holy Week.

This is a most marvelous time of year for believers, isn’t it? I could hardly get out my opening prayer this past Sunday—Palm Sunday. To ponder the death of Jesus is to ponder the loving heart of God. Indeed, it was Jesus himself who connected the two: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16a). This divine giving encompassed the cross, which reduces us all before it raises us all. In fact, it’s that sense of unworthiness that drives us to grace, which we so desperately need from God.

During Holy Week, believers around the world give deep thought to the Passion (i.e., the sufferings) of Christ. Our purpose in doing so is not to be morbid, gruesome, or macabre but to increase our gratitude and enhance our devotion to God. It’s one of the ways we renew our minds (cf. Rom 12:1-2) and “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet 3:18). In short, it’s part of our discipleship. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church, “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2). The cross of Christ was never from Paul’s mind.

Believers are especially challenged when we realize that Jesus was tortured by religious people as well as irreligious people. Pious Jews and secular Gentiles both had a hand in his death. Believers and unbelievers alike totally missed the fact that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor 5:19) during Jesus’ execution. Therefore, it is the Christian believer as much as anyone who needs to contemplate the cross and, in the process, relinquish any sense of self-righteousness (cf. Phil 3:3-11).

So, in addition to playing lawyer over the past two months for the legal filings of the church, I’ve been building a website (using Divi by Elegant Themes on a WordPress managed site). The learning curve was steep at first, but then I finally got the hang of it and started having a blast. That’s why I’ve been off the grid lately, which I don’t like doing. I always love to read what my thoughtful friends are writing, especially this time of year, but the pile has been high. 

Next up are Facebook and Instagram pages. Right after Holy Week.

New Worship Song for This Sunday: ‘Way Maker’

Corporate worship for Christ Community Church continues this Sunday, February 28 at 10:30 a.m. in Dech Memorial Chapel (Myerstown, PA) and online. We will be singing “Way Maker,” a song that is new to our fellowship. All may preview it here to help prepare for worship:

WAY MAKER

Verse 1

You are here
Moving in our midst
I worship You
I worship You

You are here
Working in this place
I worship You
I worship You

Verse 1

You are here
Moving in our midst
I worship You
I worship You

You are here
Working in this place
I worship You
I worship You

Chorus

Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who You are

Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who You are

Verse 2

You are here
Touching every heart
I worship You
I worship You

You are here
Healing every heart
I worship You
I worship You

Verse 3

You are here
Turning lives around
I worship You
I worship You

You are here
Mending every heart
I worship You
I worship You

Chorus

Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who You are

Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who You are

Bridge

You wipe away all tears
You mend the broken heart
You’re the answer to it all
Jesus

You wipe away all tears
You mend the broken heart
You’re the answer to it all
To it all
Jesus, Yeah

Chorus

Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who You are

Way Maker
Miracle Worker
Promise Keeper
Light in the darkness
My God
That is who You are

Verse 4

You are here
Touching every life
I worship You
I worship You

You are here
Meeting every need
I worship You
I worship You

Word and Music by Osinachi Kalu Okoro Egbu
© 2016 Integrity Music Europe
CCLI Song No. 7115744