HS Winter Retreat


For the past 28 years, I have had the privilege of putting up the Manger scene every November and taking it down every January.  (Sometimes, when it was 5 below zero, or raining or snowing cats and dogs the ‘privilege’ part was a little questionable!)  I took-over from my friend and elder-partner, Bob Weber – now home with the Saints in Heaven. Someday, someone will take-over for me.  (You may consider that a request for help!)

Once, when we put up the Manger, I lost my wedding ring and we searched the straw for hours, trying to find it, but to no avail.  Miracle of all miracles, when we took it down in January, with 12 inches of snow on the ground, we found my ring!  God is Good!  But, where else would you expect to see a miracle, if not at the Manger of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

When we see that manger, it is a reminder of 2 important truths.  It Reminds us that THE BIBLE’S ACCOUNT OF JESUS BIRTH IS LITERAL AND RELIABLE and that CHRIST WILL LIVE WHERE ROOM IS MADE FOR HIM.    Here in the manger is visible proof that God does keep his promises, that God  loves each of us and all the world.  God is faithful and loving!  1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us we pray!
Cast out our sin and enter in; Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels and great glad tidings tell;
Oh, come to us, Abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!

HS Winter Retreat


November 13, 1909, Cherry, Illinois (Mendota-area).  259 men and boys die underground in a coal mine fire; the 3rd largest mining disaster in America’s history.  Eight days later, 21 are rescued.  This month marks the 102nd anniversary of that tragedy.  (Google the Cherry Mine disaster for the details, or read Karen Tintori’s Book ‘Trapped The 1909 Cherry Mine Disaster’ for an amazing account of the story.)

Kathy and I drove out to Cherry for the 100th anniversary of the event.  Not much to see anymore except the waste piles from the mine, and an old foundation or two.  Some signs document the event, but not much else; not much else except the cemetery.  It is an odd thing to walk thru that cemetery and see the gravestones of those mostly-Italian miners; row after row of tombstones with the same death-date.  Some of the bodies weren’t recovered for months, but nevertheless their markers carried the same date.  This cemetery was created because of that tragedy – and originally was for the miners-only; although today, many of their descendants are buried there with them.

Just as in the days of Noah when almost all of mankind was wiped out – literally on the same day – we look forward to a future date when this world and all life in it will end.  1 John 2:17:  ‘The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.’  Those 21 survivors of the Cherry Mine fire, trapped in darkness for 8 days, described their feelings upon seeing the light for the first time after they were rescued, as if they were viewing the Glory of Heaven itself.  They talked in terms of re-birth; or new birth – given a second chance at life.  As we recount our blessings this Thanksgiving Season, let us put our personal relationship with a loving God who called us into His marvelous light, at the top of the list.  We were dead, but now are Alive in Christ!   Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise Him all creatures here below.  Praise Him above, you Heavenly hosts; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Amen!

HS Winter Retreat

The Dash

Job 5:7  ‘Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.’  Job 8:9 ‘for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow.’   Job 14:1  ‘Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.’  You gotta hand it to Job, he sure could throw a wet blanket on life’s party!  Course, you can understand that given his situation.  Remember the story – Had everything, was on top of the world; then God took it all from him.  You can understand why he said the things that he said.  Funny thing though, this is what the first Chapter of the story tells us:  ‘In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.’   Job lived by this philosophy:  ‘You only control the Dash’.

Ever look at a tombstone?  They usually have a date the person was born, and a date the person died, separated by a ‘dash’.  We only control the dash – the time in between.  We do not control how God chooses to bless us, or challenge us, we only control our Attitude to the situations God lays before us.  It has been said:  ‘The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.’  

It’s times like these that ought to lead us to surrender everything to Christ.  Even after loosing everything, Job said this in Chapter 19  ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.’  What a great profession of Faith in our Risen Lord!  So, when your eulogy’s being read with your life’s actions to rehash…Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spend your dash??  (‘The Dash’ is a famous poem by Linda Ellis and can be read at this website:  http://www.sba.muohio.edu/snavely/415/dash.htm )

HS Winter Retreat


When I was a teenager, I was in the Boy Scouts.  My dad was the scoutmaster of our Church-sponsored Troop – Troop 150 in Mishawaka, Indiana.  My appreciation of nature; and accumulated outdoor skills were developed and nurtured during those 8 years as a Scout.  I learned to swim during that time, and – as a result of that training – saved a little boy from drowning once.  I earned lots of ‘merit badges’ for practical things I still use today.  Over those teenage years, I achieved the rank of ‘Life’ scout – falling short of my goal of ‘Eagle’ scout because of entry into college.

Parents, I would encourage all of you to consider Scouting for your sons and daughters.  The values learned through scouting last a lifetime – learning accountability, self-reliance, teamwork and discipline are all good character attributes for any of us.  Adults, I would encourage all of you to consider participating in Scouting as adult leaders.  Hours of sacrifice to be sure; but the rewards are worth the effort.  I was there, first-hand, to see what it meant for teenage boys to develop a close relationship with my dad, their Scoutmaster.

In a way, I can picture the relationship between Jesus and his disciples much like scouting, in the sense that this group of men were being molded by Jesus for a mission of service and outreach in the world, in much the same way that Scouting leaders teach young people to become responsible citizens.   Proverbs 22 says  ‘Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.’  While we think of this verse in terms of Bible-based training, our kids should be associated with role models and leaders and peers outside the home and church that exemplify the best in Christian behavior.  (Scout Promise)  On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.)

HS Winter Retreat


Did you ever do target practice before?  Shooting at something with a gun?  My Aunt Sherri (2 years older than me) used to have a b-b gun when we were kids, and we’d target-practice all the time.  As a teenager at Boy Scout Camp, they had a shooting range with 22 caliber rifle targets.  My brother used to get in trouble there, because not only couldn’t he hit the bullseye; he couldn’t hit the target!  He’d accidently shoot the clothespins holding the target and the instructor would think he was doing it on purpose.  My brother was a lousy shot!

What’s a bullseye?  Everybody knows it’s the center of the target – the spot you aim for. As Christians, we have a bullseye too.  Our bullseye – our center – what we aim for – is Christ; to be more Christ-like; to have an intimate relationship with Christ – to make Christ the ‘center’ of our life.   If we want to be in the center of God’s will, we need to be in the center of His Word.  

Did you know the Bible has a ‘literal’ center – a bullseye, if-you-will?  The shortest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 117; the longest is Psalm 119.  The ‘literal’ center of the Bible – Psalm 118.  There are 594 chapters before and after Psalm 118.  Add 594 + 594 and you get 1188.  What is the center verse in the Bible – the ‘bullseye’?  Psalm 118:8.  What does that verse say?  ‘It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.’  We spend so much of our life hitting the clothespins and falling short of the bullseye.   It’s time to refocus, re-aim and seek the bullseye – Our Lord, Jesus Christ!  Remember, when things get tough, our relationship with God doesn’t get us around trouble, it get’s us through it!

HS Winter Retreat

Praying Hands

Ever hear of Albert or Albrecht Durer?  They were brothers and both were promising artists..  Both wanted to go to college, but couldn’t afford it, so they hatched a scheme.  They flipped a coin; looser went to work in the mines to help pay for the other’s schooling.  Albert lost the toss and went into the mines; Albrecht went to school.  He became famous; a wonderful artist.  Time came for him to go home, and return the favor.  Long story short – Albert was unable to attend school because his hands were so broken and racked with arthritis he couldn’t hold a brush anymore.  This inspired his loving brother to produce one of the most famous artistic creations the world has ever known.  We call his work ‘The Praying Hands’.  (A replica of his brothers hands.)    The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look and remember, no one ever makes it alone!

Christ Have Mercy, How to Put Your Faith in Action’ (by Matthew Harrison) talks about relationships!  We were made for a relationship with God and with each other.  James 4 says ‘Come near to God and he will come near to you.’  My daughter graduated Salutatorian from her High School class and there was a lot of haughty talk about her accomplishment until I reminded her it was a rather small class!  She lost sight of the fact that self-made people often worship their creator.  (Think about that one).   I would urge you to do two things this week.  First, make a list of 10 people who helped you become who you are today and thank God for their presence in your life.  Second, pick someone who helped you in your life, and send them a thank you card.  Thank You Lord, for all the people You have placed in my life; the people who have befriended me; who have nurtured me; who have helped shape my character!  Ephesians 4:   ‘….walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’

HS Winter Retreat


One of my hobbies is collecting rocks; I’ve been doing it since I was 7 years old.  My dad would humor me on vacation by stopping along the side of the road to let me pick-up rocks.  I couldn’t convince him that you had to go to special places to find special rocks!  When Kathy and I got married, we spent our honeymoon camping in Colorado, collecting rocks.  Most vacations we take are spent collecting .  I’ve written many articles on rocks and I have put together many rock collections for kids and teachers – some of those ‘kids’ are now adults and still have their collection!

When I look at all the rocks in my collection – the beauty; the crystal symmetry; the order; the awesomeness of their variety and form, I am reminded of their Creator – the ultimate ‘Rock’.  David says in 2 Samuel 22:  “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.’  Isaiah 26 says this:  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.’  It’s a common misconception that the rocks of the earth are solid and enduring.  The truth is that sun, rain and wind will reduce every rock to rubble over time; but Isaiah says that the Lord is the eternal Rock!  Recall the words of Psalm 78:  ‘They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.’  And the words of Matthew 7:  ‘The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.’

So, the next time you go rock-collecting; remember that our Lord is the Rock eternal; that our Lord, the Rock is also our Redeemer and when we build our house with Him as our foundation, the storms of life cannot destroy us.  ‘Rock of Ages, Cleft for me…..let me hide myself in Thee.’

HS Winter Retreat


Did you ever consider how rich you are?  You are credited 86,400 dollars every morning!  That’s crazy, you say?  Well, you have 86,400 seconds each day to spend, as you see fit and every one is more important than dollars!.  Every night-time writes off as lost whatever you have failed to invest to good purpose. Time carries over no balance; it allows no overdraft – each day is a new account!  You can make more money; but you can’t make more time!  Treasure every moment.  You can’t save time, you can only invest it.  Invest wisely.  God gives us all our resources; he requires us to manage them.   Manage your time sensibly and Enjoy your time – Celebrate life, live each moment to the fullest, it is a gift from God!

What is valuable in life?  Spending your time on something that will outlast it.  What outlasts your life?  The life of others, for one.  One hundred years from now, it won’t matter what car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much you had in the bank; nor what your clothes looked like.  The world may be a little better place because you were important in the life of a child.  Well, you say, all my kids are grown – or I don’t have any kids.  Yes you do – they are called the Our Savior Church family!  Take the time to know them!

Ecclesiastes 3 says:   He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men… 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.’  Godliness is the result of a disciplined spiritual life. But at the heart of a disciplined spiritual life is the disciplined use of time.  Ephesians 5:15-16, paraphrased in The Message –   “So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!”

HS Winter Retreat


I like February – February has my holiday – Valentines Day!  My middle name is Valentine!  No, seriously, my middle name IS Valentine – Robert Valentine Harringer Jr. – that’s me.  My dad was born on Valentine’s day in 1922; he’s Senior; I’m Junior.  Some of the guys in college used to call me ‘Valentine’ as a nickname.  I didn’t mind it, although I think their motives were less than sincere!

While the history of St. Valentine is shrouded in mystery, it has come to be a celebration of love; commercialized with sentimental cards and copious amounts of candy.  When we were kids, we used to give Valentine cards to all our classmates and teachers – it was a nice; if somewhat corny tradition.  We’re all familiar with the classic rhyme, ‘Roses are Red; Violets are Blue; Sugar is Sweet and so are you.’  Here’s one of the more sillier rhymes: ‘Chocolate is brown, hearts are red – if you won’t be my Valentine, I’ll ask another  instead!’

Valentine’s day ought to be a reminder of God’s unfailing love for us!  God’s ultimate Valentine was becoming a sacrifice for us.  There is no greater love than this!  It’s a love that has produced a priceless salvation available to all mankind!  John 3:16 is really the best Valentine’s verse that anyone could ever receive:  ‘For God so loved YOU that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life!’  Or, think about it this way:  If God had a refrigerator; YOUR picture would be on it!

HS Winter Retreat

Cement – 3rd in the series

OK, I admit it. When I came to this point in my writing I was stumped. After all we have been looking at how God builds us as His temple. We have a plan in place and have dug out a hole. The question is now what? What is the next step in the process and what does it mean?

Well the next step is to build a foundation. To make it strong and able to stand up to the things of this world that is going to push against it. In simple terms you need concrete. Cement is powerful stuff. It is able to withstand all sorts of temperatures and weather patterns. So we need something just as powerful in our Spiritual Body. But what was it?

My mind was drawing a blank and I almost missed seeing the most important thing of all. The cement that we need to build our house upon: God’s Word. That is right the Bible, itself, is the cement that we need. After all a short look through it gives us hope and strength to endure through all sorts of things The Bible is in fact a rod and lamp unto my feet. (Psalm 119:105)  It is the word of God that David speaks of in psalm 23 Verse 4 where he calls it “A rod and a staff.”  It is this wonderful book that provides protection when the winds of this world blow against it.  It is the foundation that needs to be strong so we can handle the tough matters of life. A foundation built upon the cement of faith, in Christ and cemented if you will in the words of Christ. The living Word of God is what Jesus spoke of when he told the parable of the wise and foolish builders. (Matthew 7:24-27, Luke 6:47-49)

It is this word that we live on for more than our daily bread. Man cannot live on bread alone, but on the very word of God” Jesus tells Satan at his temptation in the dessert. So how do we do this?  That answer is simple: we spend time in the Word. We do so on a daily basis with our personal devotion and on a regular basis with the people of Christ. Time in the word should not be skipped by anyone. Mixing cement to build our foundation takes time. Time that we need to have. You have to mix it and smooth it out and form a foundation to build on. God’s word is that for us. After all when it comes to dealing with things in this life the Holy Bible has all the answers and that is a foundation we can build upon, because it always points to Christ and his rock solid promises