Clayton at 23

Happy Birthday Son! It has been a whirlwind. I blinked and my baby boy was all grown up. You are still one of the best chapters in the book of my life and I like to reread it over and over as it makes me so happy.

I have always hoped to raise kids who are strong and who love hard with everything they have. I didn’t want them to just desire stuff but I wanted them to be real and hopeful and grateful. I prayed for their friends, their mates and their daily choices. I asked God to make them into people who willingly give away whatever they do have to those who need it. I wanted kids who see the world with their heavenly father’s eyes, who wipe away the tears of their friends, who carry the stretchers of those who couldn’t carry themselves to the feet of Jesus, who have faith enough to trust every day, who weep with those who weep and who laugh hard and often and worship the Lord with their whole life. And God answered my prayer beyond even what I asked – twice!

I tell my students that I don’t expect them to do something that I am unwilling to do myself so I answer the same discussion prompts and complete the same assignments. So, in the same way, more than simply raising amazing human beings, I wanted to be like the person I was praying my kids would become. I know I have not always been the mom you needed, but Clayton, you, and your sister, have been the answer to to my hope and prayer, and much more, even beyond my wildest imagination.

My proudest moments are telling others that you are my son. You are godly and kind and more like your father than I can say. I pray that this year will be a good year and that you will continue to lean in to God’s strength for the journey, that you will face challenges with confidence and grace, that your choices and friends would continue to bring out the best in you and that you will keep me in the loop. I love you!

Mom <+><

Sure Pastor is a title. So is doctor. So is Shepherd. So is Mrs. So is wife or husband or president.  Taking away the title does not change the reality of the role. Conversely, assuming a title that is not earned or bestowed does not make it a reality either. Perhaps titles are confusing or perhaps they are limiting, but that is part of their function. If someone says they hate titles, it does not change the fact that titles exist and have a powerful impact in our culture and lives. For example, if I assume the title of Doctor and practice medicine, I will eventually be arrested and sent to jail. By the way, isn’t changing, erasing or making up a new title is more “entitled” than living within the context of what is?!

Every follower of Jesus is called to be a minister. Not a single disciple of Jesus is exempt from the task of making disciples, being ministers of reconciliation, and serving others. However, some are called to a specific ministry of pastoring and others are not.

Of course every Christian has the right and the duty to share the gospel, but I do believe that some are called to vocational pastoral ministry, which requires a level of commitment and training not common to all. By comparison, all saints are to exercise all the gifts but each are apportioned different manifestations of the Spirit for the common good (1 Cor. 12:4-7) to equip the saints until we all attain to the unity of the faith (Eph. 4:11-13).

I do not believe the gifts are distributed in lists of pink and blue, male and female, young and old. It does not matter whether or not I give someone the title of a pastor or a ministry director or a shepherd because I do not do the calling to ministry nor do I distribute the gifts! No human does! Ordination and the title associated are a cultural and biblical recognition of the calling and gifting of God  on an individual’s life to vocational ministry.

I am proud of some of my titles: Aunt. Wife. Mom. Daughter. Friend. Pastor. Minister. Professor. I look forward to some of my future titles and the images and roles that they will bear like grandmother. There are other titles or roles that I wish were not mine and I try to ignore like widow and secretary because they have negative connotations but they are still realities in my life.

Worship has come to mean singing, but technically music is only one form and part of the broader definition. Similarly, using the word shepherd instead of pastor, even though pastor means shepherd in the original languages, the understanding and definition of a shepherd is no longer understood in our modern non-agrarian society. The title and role of a pastor does carry with it a broader description of function.

I think of the scene in the movie, A Few Good Men, where there is an exchange between Jack Nicholson’s character, Jessup, and the judge.
Jessup:I would appreciate it if he would address me as “colonel” or “sir.” I believe I’ve earned it
Judge: Defense counsel will address the witness as “colonel” or “sir.”
Jessup:[to Judge]I don’t know what the hell kind of unit you’re running here.
Judge:And the witness will address this court as “judge” or “your Honor.” I’m quite certain I’ve earned it.

[Sidebar comment – calling men pastors and women ministry directors is not really an issue for me. The real issue is calling anyone a pastor or shepherd who has not earned the title!]

So, I am wresting with a comment made at work this week. I do not want to diminish the call of God and the title I have earned. But is that prideful, stubborn or sinful? Am I “stuck” in an obsolete past? Are my ideas irrelevant? What am I misunderstanding? And if we are now calling all the current pastors and ministry directors shepherds, does that make me a “hired hand”? (John 10)

Never a Shadow

Today is Ground Hog Day. It is also Tim Hummel’s Birthday and the Appleton’s Anniversary. Emily Beth Elwood was born this morning, And on the high church calendar it is Candlemas Day.

Most of the time Punxatawny Phil is wrong in his prediction about the weather and the seasons changing. But I had a thought this evening about shadows. The Bible says that with God there is never a shifting shadow! How amazing is it that God is completely trustworthy and unchangeable. With Him there is always an “early spring”. God’s light is shadowless and can never be overshadowed. “God is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

Once again I am reminded and grateful for God’s faithfulness and complete reliability in a world full of shifting shadows and instability.

Jest in Time

I am reminiscing about the season of my life that Tibby and I launched a business and ministry. It was 1988 soon after her dad died and a class we took at Scottsdale Community College when the idea was born. Our mission was to help people learn how to invite more laughter and play in their lives, in their families, in their work places and their faith.

We researched the subject, defined vocabulary, studied scripture for a theological basis and laughed endlessly. We were not a comedy act but we were funny and creative in our delivery. We formed a business plan, hired an accountant, joined the local chambers of Commerce, made a promo video, business cards and brochure.

We had so many great opportunities. We challenged dentists to architects. We trained teachers. We inspired parents. We played with students to grandparents. I could go on, but for now I am reflecting on the strong conviction that God is a God of joy and that when we invite laughter and play into our lives we reflect His image and design for us. That reality has impacted my own life, relationships and ministry.

New Year New Choices

I must say that last year I was very successful at meeting my resolution, which was to not make any resolutions! LOL

This year however is different. There are only 250 days or so until I hit a big birthday and I feel like I have some things to address as I say goodbye to this decade of my life. It definitely has been the hardest years but that is not meant to be a complaint. It is just a statement of fact.

So I am attempting the classic resolution of losing weight. I am reading through the Bible with the focus on discovering the beauty and joy of the Lord. I am working on a writing project and I am trying to read a few more books. Perhaps I am taking on too much all at once but I need to try.

The big landmark birthdays are more than just another ring on the the tree of life; I am not expecting depression but I guess it might be more introspection about what I have done with my life and my mortality. Maybe not. I don’t know, but I want to be in top condition emotionally, physically and spiritually for when the magic date hits the fan.

I guess someone might look on and think that I am trying to reinvent myself and to some degree they might be right. On another level I would say that I am just trying to figure out a path through a new chapter that is uncomfortable, natural and forces new habits to live it successfully. After all the empty nest, the loss of career ministry career and widowhood are the scenery on this leg of the journey. In other words I am finding new ways to enjoy the life God has given me to the fullest and since I have never been here before I want His perspective and hear that I am enough.

Running my race to win….

Moving on.

Dear Christina,

I remember when I first met you. You were a friend of Kelsey’s and you were willing to give up a week to help her as she led a mission trip with students. You were beautiful with kind eyes and an inviting smile. Since that time I have come to know you in a very different way and today I have the joy of  declaring that you are my beautiful friend with the kind eyes, the inviting smile and the intentional heart. I have mixed emotions about you moving “upstairs”. While you are gifted and called by God,which is just understating the obvious, I am selfish and I want you to stay down here in this space.

One thing I have learned over the years is that although it is difficult to embrace, change is something with which I must learn, on an ongoing basis, to live. Because you are not really leaving, this is sort of the farewell where nothing really needs to be said, in part because our adventures don’t have to end. And that is a good thing. At the same time, nothing will be quite the same, so it is tinged with a kind of sadness. Of course no one wants their group of friends and colleagues to be exactly the same over a course of years, but a selfish part of every person wants it all to be repeated out of nostalgia, kind of like putting it all into a little jewelry box that when opened up has the familiarity of the ballerina spinning just the way it was when you last opened the lid.

I guess the main reason saying “goodbye” is difficult is because life will never be the same since we are closing the door on your HSM chapter, thus committing it to memory. It will no longer be an organic, living thing. I think goodbyes are a certain brush with mortality. It is like time running out and so we must make the most of every conversation, every encounter since it might be the last.  I like to live my life imagining that my next reunions are just around the corner and that, though a chapter might close, the stories will never come to an end!

Christina,when I was younger I had mentors who were all older than me and spoke into my life, modeling grace and holiness, displaying redemption and joy. I guess I always pictured mentors as older because the Bible offers the mandate to older believers. And even though I do believe that wisdom comes with age (sometimes),as I am growing older and after years of ministry with young people, I think young people can be very wise (1 Tim. 4:12). In other words, generally there isa connection between age and wisdom, but not necessarily!  I bring it up to you because you are younger(duh)and you are one of my mentors. I want to be like you “when I grow up”. I am in awe of your intentionality, the depth of your faith and the way you lead others by your words and your character to live lives of holiness and integrity.

Thank you for habitually pointing to Jesus. Thank you for being a joyful way of knowingHim better. May God bless you all the days of your life and may “your tribe increase”.

Jim learned to play the guitar on this Broadway Harmony. I am passing it on to you because,like him, you have led me into the Throne room in creative and lovely ways. I am grateful.   With love, Miriam 

Gethsemane, Israel

PS See you Upstairs!

Happy Christmas 2018

Happy Christmas 2018

So I got an Apple Watch this year. Did you know that you can use it to take pictures from your iphone?  Can you tell that I am learning how to use this feature in our family selfie?!

For those of you who are not on social media, or don’t live nearby and see any of us on a regular basis, you may be out of touch with what is going on in the lives of the Mohlers! Here are some of the highlights (and low points) our family experienced this year:

Clayton graduated in May with a degree in Accounting from Biola University. He works for an accounting firm in Irvine (HVCT) and makes his home in Fullerton. Clayton’s travels were varied as he traveled to Houston, Chicago, Ukraine, Utah and Arizona this year. He is happily single, but has been busy celebrating his friends who have found their life partner!  His soccer career is over but he finds ways to keep kicking!

Emily and Connor are both on pastoral staff as youth directors at Crosspoint Church in Chino.  They have 2 cats; Louise can high-five and Gene will play fetch. They have passes to Disneyland and are enjoying their 4thyear of married life! Emily and Connor made trips to Northern California,Oregon and Arizona.

I still live in Downey and commute to EvFree Fullerton; it takes about an hour each way, due to traffic. I am grateful for a great place to live, a car that runs great and a job! When I am not working or driving to work I am usually hangin’ with friends, watching(Dodger) baseball or wandering Disneyland or the internet! Though I usually have too much month at the end of my money, I managed a few short trips toNorthern CA and Arizona, although most of those trips were for weddings or funerals.

The days are long and the years are short.  It feels like I was just writing this annual letter for 2017! Jim has been a resident of heaven for over 8 years now and has been joined by more than a few family members and friends this year.  Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning! My to-do-list is growing as is the stack of books on my nightstand as I now navigate life with a really empty nest.

It is my privilege to count you as one of “my people” and I am grateful you are in my life! May God bless you in 2019.

With Joyful Hope, Miriam Mohler

Gratitude 2018

Day 1 Nov. 1 – Every year I challenge myself with the discipline of thanksgiving and gratitude. So here I go:
The Bread of Life thanked God for food. (Mt. 15:36, 37) I too am grateful for enough food to eat everyday.

Day 2 Nov. 2 Jesus gave thanks for a God who listens. I too am grateful for that God hears every cry of my heart. John 11:39

Day 3 Nov 3 Jesus thanked God when facing the cross (Luke 22:19,20). Thank you Lord for salvation because he faced the cross.

Day 4 Nov 4 – I’m thankful for friends (John 12:13ff) as Jesus was! And that He calls me friend.

Day 5 Nov. 5 – I’m thankful for the future (John 10:10) and the hope of glory (Col 1:20)

Day 6 Nov. 6 I am grateful for true freedom! (John 3:32, 36)

Day 7 Nov. 7 Today I am grateful for forgiveness, like David.

Day 8 Nov. 8 Like every woman Jesus encountered. I am grateful for equality!


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Day 9 Nov. 9 – Like Paul, I’m thankful for the abundance of material blessings (Phil. 4:19)

Day 10 Nov.10 – Like the Israelites, I’m grateful for the power and joy of shared memories.

Day 11 Nov 11 – I am grateful for all who have bravely defended this country – so much more than imaginable. I am trying to live worthy of your sacrifice. Thank you!

Day 12 Nov 12 – Life is not meant to be lived alone or for self. I am grateful for those who make my life better including doctors, first responders, firemen and police officers, and other public servants. I am humbled that I matter to you.

day 13 Nov 13 – I am grateful for clean water and for the Living Well that never runs dry

Day 14 Nov. 14 – I am grateful for laughter. It is an instant vacation, a splash of confetti, an effective weapon, an internal jog, a restorative act and the best part of everyday!

Day 15 Nov. 15 – I’m grateful for gifts, both material and immaterial. It is a blessing to give them and it is a glad surprise to receive one; I am so blessed that someone thought of me and that I matter to them.

Day 16 Nov. 16 – LIke Ruth, Today I am thankful for the reminder of faithful love and commitment in marriage made so many years ago as I witnessed the wedding of Stephen and Stephanie today.

Day 17 Nov.17 – Like the leper who returned I am challenged to be thankful as a way of life. (Luke 17)

Day 18 Nov. 18 – I am grateful to witness the public expression of faith through baptism tonight.

Day 19 Nov. 19 – Like Moses, I want to worship gratefully (Ex. 15). “because a thankful heart is a happy heart. I’m glad for what I have. It’s an easy way to start!”

Day 20 Nov. 20 – I am grateful that there is always something to be thankful for.

Day 21 Nov 21 – I am thankful for perspective. Gratitude changes perspective. But feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. While we cannot will ourselves to feel thankful, we can choose how to look at the world. Being grateful is a choice, an overarching attitude that endures and is immune to the gains and losses in our lives. Gratitude provides a perspective that helps us see life in its entirety and not be undone by temporary situations.

Day 22 Nov. 22 May I be like the man with the Legion, he couldn’t stop telling all that God had done for him (Mark 5)!

Day 23 Nov 23 Like Mary, I am grateful that God chose me to carry the Christ (Luke 2) everyday.

Day 24 Nov. 24 Isn’t life an amazing thing?!

Day 25 nov. 25 I am thankful for today

Day 26 Nov. 26 I am grateful for my children who continue to startle me with their kindness, their hope and their humor.

Day 27 Nov. 27 I am thankful for my family. My siblings. My cousins. my aunts and uncles. my grandparents. What an awesome thing to belong to people.

Day 28 Nov. 28 I am thankful that God loves me in spite of me.

Day 29 Nov. 29 I am thankful for my parents on this, their 61st wedding anniversary. I am blessed to be part of the family they created.

Day 30 Nov. 30 I am grateful that being thankful is a way of life and not just an exercise. May it be so.


It depends on how you look at it

Today I am thinking about perspective. Perhaps it is because of all the tragedy around me, around the world. Perhaps it is because I have stuff, relationships and a job. Perhaps it is because I am so tired of the consumer mentality in my own life. And perhaps it is because as I get older I have a very different outlook than I had before.

This week many Americans will gather around a table with an abundance of food, family and material stuff. They will be thankful that they are not homeless, or that they are not starving. They may even be thankful for enough money and time off to consume more material things on Black Friday. They will be grateful to live in a free country and that they are not marginalized refugees at the border. They will be grateful for the homes that did not burn down, the people and animals that escaped the inferno and the terrorists that were thwarted. And they should!

While Christians do not have the corner on the market of thankfulness, and many even focus on what they lack, there is something that makes thanksgiving for the believer different than anyone else on the planet. The distinction is in the fact that Christians (and others who believe in God) have Someone to thank! The essence of thanksgiving for me is gratitude to a God who loves and cares for individuals.

There is so much to be thankful for, but it often doesn’t feel like it with so much sorrow and grief going on around us. How do you tell someone to go in peace without being the hands and feet of Jesus and caring for their needs? How can someone really believe that God is for them when their house burns down or their friends are murdered in a public place? I think it is the circumstances of our lives that make it so difficult to maintain an attitude of gratitude.

Like all of us, I have many blessings and I have heartache too. One thing I have realized in the last few years is that I am capable of changing my perspective. Instead of thinking about what I don’t have, I am learning to count my blessings. I am waking up and consciously asking God, “What do you have for me today?” Rather than saying ”there but for the grace of God go I” (which is a terrible thing to say anyway), I am saying, “because of God’s grace I go”.  Additionally, I repeat the corollaries, sometimes aloud like a mantra: “I get to drive home because I have a home to go to and a car to get me there”. “I get to pay bills because I have heat, light, a roof, food, clothes, etc.” I get to go to work.” Do you hear the subtle difference? “I get to…” instead of “I have to…” Burdens or opportunities. The reality is that there is more than one way to look at things and I can control my mindset, even if I cannot control my circumstances. There is always something to be thankful for. NO.MATTER.WHAT.

It is too easy to slip back into an ungrateful perspective. Once ingratitude takes root, it gains momentum every time I compare, every time I turn my focus from contentment to what I don’t have, what I cannot do, how I look or what others think. Thankfulness is the only hope for happiness. Joy is found in a grateful heart. And the ultimate, meaning behind every expression of gratitude is found in a relationship with a Person who has a plan and gives meaning to life. When I am thankful to God and see everything as an instance of God’s goodness, it changes my perspective. It creates a sense of eternal purpose. It increases my faith. It builds contentment. While the events of the day are often overwhelming and a troubling moment can alter everything, remembering that God’s lovingkindness is new every morning and that He never ceases to work toward His purposes are blessings that build assurance, hope and faith. Knowing that God will never leave or forsake me, that He will fulfill His purpose in me, and that He loves me unconditionally is the perspective I long for.

Perspective doesn’t make things easier, but, for me, it makes things bearable. Gratitude does not come naturally in a crisis. It is easier to feel grateful for the good things. No one feels grateful when they lose a job, a life partner, a house, health. But feeling grateful and being grateful are two different things. While we cannot will ourselves to feel thankful, we can choose how to look at the world. Being grateful is a choice, an overarching attitude that endures and is immune to the gains and losses in our lives. Gratitude provides a perspective that helps us see life in its entirety and not be undone by temporary situations.

The Heaven Reflection

A Jimbo Reflection (a birthday reword of The Rainbow Connection with gratitude to Kermit)

Why are there so many thoughts about heaven
And what everyone’s doing today?
Jim’s so happy, singing and playing
Heaven’s so hard to convey
This life is short; the next is forever
I know it’s real – wait and see
Someday we’ll praise Him and worship together
My honey, my family, and me

God said that each prayer would be heard and answered
When prayed to the Morning Star
Think of a place with no more cancer
I really look forward and far
Watching and hoping with anticipation
Jim’s on the porch with my tea
Someday we’ll have it, the last resurrection
My honey, my family, and me

All of us under his mercy
We know that it’s his deep grace

Have you been loved forgiven and cherished?
I’ve heard God calling my name
In His sweet arms He carried Jim Mohler
Others He’s carried the same
Home and to rest safely they’ve made it
It’s somewhere that I’m going to be
Someday we’ll be there, all in the throne room
My honey, my family, and me

La-da-da, de-da-da-do


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