Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog


A professional team of Indians from various tribes, playing together as the Hominy Indians (from Hominy, Oklahoma), took on the 1927 World Champion New York Giants in an exhibition game that many assumed would be rather dominating for the champions. The Giants had just gone 11-1 during the regular season, absolutely dismantling most of their competition. Over their twelve games, the champions scored a total of 197 points and held their opponents to just 20 points over that stretch.

On December 27, the Indians and Giants engaged in a ferocious contest in front of over 2,000 fans. The Hominy squad defeated the NFL champions and won by a score of 13 to 6, in what became one of the most unexpected upsets in football history. [Look at a trailer of a documentary film about the Hominy Indians vs. NY Giants game- Playground of the Native Son (Official Trailer)

Making the unlikely defeat of the Giants by an American Indian team all the more startling is the story of the reign of terror against the Osage that was taking place at the same time! The New York Times bestseller Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann tells the terrible true story of how a vast oil deposit found on an Indian reservation in the 1920s precipitated fraud and murder. The Osage had become the richest people per capita in the world. But the U.S. government -- supposedly to protect the Osage from mismanaging their new-found wealth -- assigned white guardians to oversee the oil revenues. Abuse and fraud became rampant, as did homicide. One-by-one, it seemed, the Osage were being murdered. It became known as the Reign of Terror. "There were shootings, there were poisonings, one man was thrown off a speeding train, there was a bombing," said Grann. "The terror was enormous, because nobody knew who would be next. But also, nobody was doing anything to stop it".  See a CBS News piece There is a Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio & Robert De Niro based on the story in the works.

A word about Hominy:
Osage Chief Pawhuska was responsible for naming the settlement called Hominy though he almost certainly intended to have the town named Harmony but was misunderstood. The chief grew up next to a mission founded in 1821 by the United Foreign Missionary Society of N.Y., supported by Presbyterian, Congregational, and Dutch Reformed churches. The name of the mission was Harmony and the 41 members of the mission family (25 adults, 16 children), were teachers, mechanics, farmers, and ministers who sought to bear witness to God’s intention for people to live harmoniously in community together.

A word about Pawhuska:
About 20 years ago, I pastored the Presbyterian churches in Hominy and Pawhuska, so both of the above stories shocked me when I first heard them. You may know of Pawhuska since it's become famous again as home to Ree Drummond, Pioneer Woman, an award-winning American blogger, New York Times bestselling author, food writer, and television personality During my years in Pawhuska I had a number of extraordinary experiences as God's people impacted the community in powerful ways. In the late 1990s pastors in the community began praying together. Soon there were communitywide praise services, cooperative youth initiatives, a Holy Week Passover Seder meal attended by nearly 15% of the town's population, and an outreach mission called “Hearts and Hands: Putting Love into Action.” Since then, over 50 low income homeowners have had their houses repaired and safety issues addressed by church and community members every April. Truly a mission of HARMONY!

The world we live in is desperate for change! Pinnacle’s Wednesday series on Transformation made it clear that one way the world changes is when people in community live outwardly in ways Jesus calls his followers to live. Our nation and world need God’s people to live out a mission of harmony perhaps as much now as anytime in recent history. Do you believe that a small band of Jesus’ followers can change the world? I do! Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

There are giant obstacles to peace and harmony in the world - terrorist acts, mass violence of all kinds, our own political leaders instigating people against one another. But, we must believe that peace is indeed possible and the Spirit will show us the way to live in peace and harmony wherever we are. I believe that with God’s help, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we can defeat the GIANTS in the land… by at least 13-6.

Feliz Dia De Los Muertos


One of the pleasures of living in the American Southwest is the influence of other cultures, and from our Mexican neighbors, we have come to appreciate Dia de los Muertos or “Day of the Dead.”

This holiday, that sometimes spans several days, involves gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and to assist them in their spiritual journey.

The date of this celebration coincides with All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day. Traditions of the holiday include building private altars, known as ofrendas, and honoring the deceased with marigolds and their favorite foods. Often altars include pictures of the deceased and some of their possessions or other symbols of their life.

Believing that the dead would be insulted by mourning or sadness, Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of the deceased with food, drink, parties, and activities the dead enjoyed in life. Dia de los Muertos recognizes death as a natural part of the human experience, a continuum with birth, childhood, and growing up to become a contributing member of the community. On Dia de los Muertos, the dead are a present part of the community, awakened from their eternal sleep to share celebrations with their loved ones. 

In festivals, parades and exhibitions, the deceased are portrayed in skeletal form, and the most famous skeleton figure is Catrina, who was originally created as a parody of an upper class female. Dogs and cats also join the party and appear as four legged skeletons.

Many of the people I have loved were a lot of fun, and would enjoy being remembered in this way. My brother could belt out a Sam Cooke song like no one I have ever heard, and he was simply the best dancer I have ever enjoyed. My best friend, David, could make me laugh until I was doubled over, and he would bring his saxophone to the party. My father always had a twinkle in his eye and a witty word to add to the mix. I think all of them would like to come out and play for Dia de los Muertos. I would invite all of my dogs.

Yes, losing a loved one through death often leaves a hole in our hearts, but I like the idea of taking a moment to remember them in their most joyful, playful, and vibrant states.

As one anonymous author writes:

To the living, I am gone.
To the sorrowful, I will never return.
To the angry, I was cheated.
But to the happy, I am at peace.

Feliz Dia de los Muertos!


Isn’t this the greatest time of year…? The crisp fall mornings have arrived, new flowers are beginning to bloom, bird’s songs seem more joyful, the grass is a deeper shade of green, days are shorter but time outdoors is longer. For those of us that live in the Valley we have such joy knowing we made it through another summer!

Fall brings some of my family’s favorite times.  We are avid football fans and this year we are enjoying high school football to the extreme. We cheer on the Wolves at Desert Mountain as Eli plays on the freshman team, Ethan on the varsity team, and Ellie in the marching band. Three in high school is so fun!  Our youngest, Emily, is in 8th grade and will play with the high school band this Friday for the home game vs Mountain Point. And we, like many of you, cheered on our Arizona Cardinals in their overtime win this past Sunday. So many things to be thankful for!

I invite you to join us next Sunday, October 15th, for our celebration of the nationwide week observing Children’s Sabbath. At Pinnacle, our darling vocal and bell choirs, children ages 3-12, will perform and provide their talents and cuteness:) This week is hosted by the Children’s Defense Fund, and we will share some very difficult facts facing so many: children each day are born into extreme poverty, many suffer abuse and neglect, an astonishing number drop out of school, too many children are going to bed hungry and must fight for their lives with each breath. We are tasked with the plea to stop, pray and recognize how we can help.

This fall I urge you to join me to take the time to smile, enjoy the fall days, and live in the moment. Prayers are imminent for those that are not as fortunate and may not be seeing the true gifts we have right outside our doors. Rest assured and know this is the life God planned for you!



Images of Puerto Rico, Barbuda, the Virgin Islands and others among the places so devastated by recent hurricanes are startling, to say the least. Forces of nature remind us how fragile life is and how tenuous is the hold on what any of us have. We realize how dependent we are on the things most of us take for granted today: electricity and all it allows us to do, a dry place to sleep, medical care, jobs to go to or systems to rely on, family or friends.

What happens when, in an instant, those things are taken away? To whom do we turn? For whom do we wait? On whom do we depend? And how do we turn to tomorrow without the kind of despair that prevents us from putting one step in front of the other?

Having never experienced anything of such magnitude, I’ve no right to attempt an answer to those questions—except tentatively and humbly. For at such a time, folks do the best they can. And, for sure, they turn to, wait for, and depend on anyone who is there to help. And in a remarkable tribute to the best in the human spirit, so many in such situations also turn outward and help each other. They do depend on the government. They do accept help from private relief organizations, both religious and non-religious. And they do figure out how to make their way in a world that is suddenly totally new. And they do more.

The truth of what we see in the Caribbean today shares a family resemblance with the truth all of us need to learn in one way or another. And so it also shares a family resemblance to the hope that we can all also learn. Whether it is the sudden loss of love, a diagnosis out of the blue, the death of one you love, a disappointment you thought you could never bear, a remarkable joy that unsettles how you thought you knew the world, in any and all of these things, life teaches us the truth of fragility. Nothing we have is permanent. Nothing we know is unalterable. Nothing we love will be with us forever. Except . . . Except . . . the power, knowledge, and courage of God.

We can pray that despair might be turned into glimmers of hope, not only by practical expressions of care, but also by the spiritual power of prayer, of letting go, and in mutually sharing the burdens and needs of the moment.

We can be help.

We can show faith.

We can pray for strength.

We can give thanks to God in all things, for what can never be taken away. And that includes who we are as children of God, what we can do in care for each other, and how God comes to us when we open ourselves—even when the rain falls.


Some people say that church is a sanctuary to escape from the world. Others say that it is a place of activism. Some a place to make friends and others it is just what we do on Sunday mornings. It might be the feeling of peace you get when you walk into the space or something else completely. The church might be the only place you experience Jesus all week (hopefully not) or it might be the place you go to serve God. Probably it is a combination of all those things. What is it that makes church, Church for you?

It seems like Church is supposed to be a perfect place where all we talk about is God. The feelings of peace and joy are the only feelings we should experience. We expect it to be a place of comfort, reassurance and seek out God to help us during a difficult experience we are having in our lives.

Fortunately, church can be all of those things. But church can also be messy, imperfect, sad, difficult, frustrating, and sometimes hurtful. We are human and we don’t always treat each other the way we should treat each other. We fail to love our neighbor as ourselves. And we don’t always understand what God is doing in the midst of a really difficult moment in our own lives. And sometimes it feels too personal to share with our pew neighbor.

A friend of mine likes to tell the joke about a couple who goes looking for the “perfect” church. He meets with the pastor at a new church a goes through the long list of what he thinks is a perfect church which includes worship experience, Bible study, mission, community etc. The wise pastor sits back and says, if you find that perfect church, don’t join it because it won’t be perfect anymore. We all bring our life baggage with us. And if we are honest with ourselves, we all play a part in the perfection and imperfection of what makes church, Church.

As a pastor, I see the beauty of the church as a sanctuary, somewhere to go out from into the world, a holy place, and a group of beautifully broken people. Sometimes it is easier to see the brokenness than it is to see the perfection.

This past weekend, I saw perfection. At Pinnacle we begin our year with a Roundup and Activities Fair, a way to reconnect with folks who have been gone all summer, laugh, play some games and get to know the ministries of the church. It always is a fun event but not without its bumps in the road, and this year it felt like there were many. I don’t need to list them off because that isn’t why the story is important. What is important is how we made it through all the bumps into the perfect weekend event.

We did it with the help of church. Members and visitors who brought their pop-up tents for us to borrow that day. New and long-time members carrying tables and chairs out onto the green, committees planning and organizing fun booth activities for young and old alike, deacons active and inactive showing up to grill, set up, serve, and clean up, children baking cupcakes, friends sitting around tables laughing, teens showing up really early to get everything ready, leaders stepping in to solve problems, and flexibility. This is church.

All of the hard stuff got set aside. The grief, loss, frustration and struggles with church and the people in it got blurred and what came into focus was that we were church together. Amen.