Pinnacle Presbyterian Church

Echoes Blog

Tellers of the Story


Some time ago I received a film catalogue through the mail which was addressed to the “Head Story Teller.” My administrative inclinations left me wondering for a while to whom I should direct the catalogue until I realized that I was supposed to be, like it or not, the Head Story Teller.

My primary responsibility is to express the Gospel through music and to encourage others to share their gifts and talents in a similar fashion. In both endeavors, I am basically sharing the story of God’s love for His people---for you and me. That story began thousands of years ago when the nomadic ancestors of the Israelites perceived an order and reason behind the universe as they knew it. The story reached its climax in the life and example of a carpenter from Nazareth whom we profess to be the Christ, God’s Anointed One. The final chapters of the story are still being written as successive generations of Christ’s followers try to live their lives according to the message he proclaimed.

The truth is that every Christian is called to be a teller of The Story. To be sure, in every age, some have been able to tell it more persuasively than others, but the imperative to share it rests with all of us. One does not need to be a priest or trained theologian to tell The Story. Some of those who have shared it most effectively have been unschooled but able to tell The Story with simplicity and with a power and persuasiveness which comes from the heart.

It should be said that when telling The Story, words are no substitute for deeds. What we do, not what we say, is always the most compelling witness we can make. Emerson was right when he pointed out that what we do often speaks so loudly to those around us that they can scarcely hear what we have to say!


As long as I can remember there have been “ways” to lose weight.  One of my earliest memories was Richard Simmons and his commercials for Jazzercise, as well as ads for weight loss pills in the ’80s that promoted giving you a tapeworm, that would eat up to 1200 calories a day, so you could eat what you want and still lose weight.  Don’t believe me that this was a thing? Google it. 

Americans are obsessed with quick lose weight schemes.  The top three New Year's resolutions? lose weight, workout more, and eat healthy.  Today we are still looking for the solution to quick weight loss. There are things like Paleo, Keto, Beach Body, as well as hundreds of other “plans” to help you lose weight and look good. Many diets today involve healthy eating and requires those trying to lose weight to keep track of what they are eating.  Whether it is counting calories, fats, carbs or proteins or simply counting the meals you eat in a day and when you eat them. 

One of the ways I have tried to lose weight, off and on, over the past few years is macronutrients.  Macronutrients is a program where you calculate the amount of fat, protein, and carbs you should have each day and then try to consume that exact amount each day.  The more weight you lose, the more your numbers change.  For instance, I am supposed to consume 242g of carbs, 240g of protein and 71g of fat...every day.  It is a lot and takes a lot of meal preparation and calculations to make sure you get the exact numbers you need.  The thing I like about it is your day is 24 hours long.  If today I come up 40g of protein short and 100g of carbs over my plan, I don’t cut something or add it tomorrow.  A new day means exactly that, a fresh start.  I can’t fix what I did or didn’t do yesterday, all I can do is start all over today, and try my best to hit my numbers today.

I mention this as I feel like we often do this in life.  We like to keep track of the things in our lives to make us "feel good."  The things that people did to us and the things we did to them.  At the end of the day, we look at how we treated people compared to how we were treated. And we add up the score and see where we stand.  If how we acted today wasn’t as “good” as we think we should have acted, often we try to make up for it the next day.  Likewise, if someone treats us poorly, we hope the next time we see them it will be different, but often we have our scorecards and can't let go of what happened in the past.  We allow it to dictate how we see and treat that person going forward.  It is strange how a single encounter, good or bad, can determine if we give someone the benefit of the doubt or not.

What if it wasn’t that way.  What if we lived life one day at a time.  For 24 hours.  What happened yesterday, happened, and we can’t change it, but what we can change is today. 

The other day I had one of those parenting days where one of my children just wouldn’t stop.  The listening skills didn’t exist.  The non-stop antagonizing their siblings.  One of those days that you think they are doing it just to make you angry.  As the day had grown long, I had finally had it. I lost my temper, yelled and went into a “dad monologue” with all three kids having to sit through my ramblings for what probably seemed like 2 hours, but in reality, was like 5 minutes.  When we got home, there was to be no electronics, just brushing teeth and going straight to bed.   However, you know that didn't happen.  The moment we walked in the door the negotiations started.  I thought I was going to lose my mind. 

Finally, after everyone was in bed, I had time to reflect on my actions, and how I let one thing roll into another, and into another, until it ended where it did.  The next morning, when I woke the kids up for school.  I went in, climbed into bed, and said, “I am sorry for my actions yesterday.  I know you did some things wrong yesterday, and we will still need to deal with them, but I shouldn’t have acted the way I did.  I will try to be better today.”  You know what I got in return?  “It is ok dad; I forgive you.  Today will be a better day for both of us.”

If you think I am making a point about how I am a great dad and always say the right things, you are misreading this blog, because that is not what happened at all.  What I am trying to say is that even when you get so angry that you go into “monologue mode” either internally or externally, every day is a new day.  Now I still had to deal with things that had happened the day before, but I didn't let it define my relationship or my actions.  We often let what has happened in the past control how we act or treat others in the future.  We often like to say that “other people” made me do it, but other people don’t control us, not our actions or our emotions.  We are the only ones who control our actions.  We are the only ones who have control over what we say, do, and how we treat others. 

When tracking macros the only reason you track, is to make sure that you are staying on track to reach the goal that you have set.  You don’t track your numbers to be better than anyone else. You do it to make yourself better and to become the person you want to be.  As Christians, we should have an idea of how we should live our lives and how we should treat each other.  Jesus tells us that he is the way...and living a life as he prescribed is the only way to live a spiritually healthy life.  We just celebrated Easter, a day that changed all others, as it gave us a new beginning.  Paul tells us that we are no longer a slave to sin, but a new creation, the old is gone, and the new is here!

Today is a new day.  We have 24 hours to do the best we can.  If we mess up, which we will, the good news is tomorrow is a new day.  So the question we have to ask ourselves is,  will we continue to hold on to things in the past or live into the newness that we have as Easter people? 


Fifteen years ago I studied music at a uniquely international school, the Conservatorium van Amsterdam in the Netherlands. The students came from the US, Canada, Mexico, Columbia, Argentina, Portugal, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India, Afghanistan, Iran, etc. Some of us spoke English well, and some not so much; some had strong accents that were hard to understand. I especially remember one day when we met to rehearse a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach with a large choir and orchestra. When the conductor lifted her hands and we played the first measure, all language barriers disappeared. We sounded like one voice, as if we spoke the same language, thanks to our common ability to decipher the musical score and to translate it into beautiful sound.   

Signing up your children for the music programming at Pinnacle, like handchimes, bells, choirs, drums, give the kids opportunity to learn that beautiful language. Studying music from an early age is an important part of children's physical, social and mental development. Learning to read and understand music and its underlying theory facilitates learning other subjects. Kids become disciplined, acquire a skill, become part of a community they can be proud of, manage performance skills, and practice cooperation, sharing, and compromise. These increased social skills can make them better members of their community. Performing gives children the opportunity to serve others instead of being served. 

David Allen, Melissa Trafficante, Sonja Branch, Hillary Mackowski and I are committed to follow in the footsteps of all the wonderful musicians and leaders who came before us, and we are excited to continue growing the music program at Pinnacle. While you listen to the kids performances on May 5 and 12 in the church, please consider signing up your children for the following school year of weekly classes which start in September 2019. Please don't hesitate to contact me at if you have any questions.  

Christmas or Easter


Do you prefer Christmas to Easter? If so, that’s understandable, after all the Christmas story has a newborn baby, a young couple in need of hospitality, a glorious star, angelic choirs and woolly sheep... what a cast! In contrast, what does Easter have to offer? A stone rolled back, an empty tomb and neatly folded linens, three women running to tell others about what they’ve seen yet do not understand.

Another way of looking at the holidays is this: at Christmas we say “hello” to Jesus, but at Easter we say “goodbye”. For, in a way, Easter is about “parting company” with His disciples. When Jesus rose from the dead He was not merely resuscitated like Lazarus, He went beyond death to an intrinsically new life. After appearing to the disciples and others who loved Him, the Lord was received into heaven and sat at the right hand of God, saying “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7). The disciples went out and preached the Good News, empowered by the promised Holy Spirit. And so it is today! Yes, in one sense, Jesus is always with us, but in a deep way, Jesus goes before us beckoning us to be His disciples.

After Christmas the world would never be the same. After Easter, we as Christ’s followers will never be the same!

NYC Pilgrimage 2018 - The Farminary


The Fran Park Center for Faith and Life is celebrating Earth Week with many learning opportunities and part of this week’s offering is a lecture from Princeton Theological Seminary’s, Dr. Nate Stucky.  Many Park Center supporters had the opportunity to meet Dr. Stucky for the first time at his “Farminary” when we journeyed over last November, on our pilgrimage to the east coast.  We enjoyed the experience so much we invited him to come to Scottsdale to teach us more about his mission. Please join us on April 24th staring at 5:00pm to welcome Dr. Stucky with a dinner in our fellowship hall.  Following dinner, we’ll head over to the sanctuary to enjoy his lecture under the massive plastic bottle art installation.   The lecture’s topic is “Does God Waste Anything?”  Join us!  

by: Joanne McDowell

Dr. Nate Stucky, Director Princeton Seminary’s Farminary, asked – “Where have you most felt God in your life?” The answers were different for each of us, but often touched on the common thread of nature, God’s creations and an actual physical place indoors and outdoors.

My thoughts that morning we met with Dr. Stucky were too numerous to sum up in one sentence, but I mentioned a nature preserve near my home in Colorado and the mountains, in general. For me, mountains aren’t one specific place, any mountains usually bring me closer to God. Actually, that’s dirt, rocks and earth in piles anywhere… and rivers, streams, birds and animals that inhabit them too. To me – this is when I am closest to God… in nature. God came to Moses through the clouds on that mountain and He frequently speaks to me from my own backyard overlooking Pinnacle Peak.

God has also reached me in buildings from time to time, like the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France or, the York Minister in England or the Sagrata de Familia in Barcelona. Sometimes when I’m staring at the magnificent cross in Pinnacle Presbyterian Church in Scottsdale, Arizona I feel the closest to God.

But, when we toured the Farminary and saw the fields, the barns and the gardens, the lake and the trees around which Nate has built a “church,” I was reminded of the fields around Bethlehem and Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and the banks of the Jordan where Jesus walked and preached. Here he shared meals with his disciples and the multitudes. What Nate Stucky has started there at the Princeton Seminary’s Farminary has the potential to bring a different, but holy expression of God at work in today’s world. We can still turn to nature to find God’s magnificent works and to learn and listen for how He is touching our lives.

With all the references in the Bible to the vine and branches, to harvest and to the calamities of nature, the possibilities are endless! I know the outdoors is where God finds me most often – with my eyes on the sunset, my hands in the dirt or my feet on rock ground. Like Elijah, I’ll be in the cave, listening for the still small voice that comes to me among God’s perfect creations. AMEN.

PS. Did I mention that both my Grandfathers loved the earth and soil? One was a farmer in Iowa and one raised flowers (gladiolas and peonies) for the Iowa State Fair. My love of the soil and the mountains goes way back, all the way to my formation.

Click here to read additional reflections from the NY City Pilgrimage