Thursday, March 26, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Don't Forget to Pray

Acts 1: 12-14
"12 Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city. 13 When they arrived, they went upstairs to the room where they were staying. Those present were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew; James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. 14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers."

After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples were told to return to Jerusalem and wait.  Jesus had told them that they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit but I am sure they did not know what they were waiting for.  While they were waiting they all prayed together, men and women. And they prayed constantly.

How are we spending our time during these days of waiting?  Are we praying? Here is a small. list of things we could pray for:
 Pray for the members of our congregation.  Use a directory and pray for one page of members per day.  Pray for their health and safety during this time. Lift them up to God but name. 
Pray for the health care workers who are treating the sick.  Ask God to guide them and let them feel His spirit.
Pray for all those people who are sick with the corona virus that they be made well.
Pray for the families of those whose loved ones have died.
Pray for our nation’s leaders as they struggle to make decisions that will protect us.
Pray for the people of other nations as they struggle as we do.

Let us spend our time of waiting in prayer for one another, for others, for this nation and for the world.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Note to the Congregation During the Pandemic: Remember to Stay Connected

1 Corinthians 12: 12-14
12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by[c] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

In the scripture above, the Apostle Paul is reminding us that we Christians belong to the same body.  We may have different gifts; we may look different; we may approach a problem from a different angle; but we are all part of the body of Christ.

It is important that we stay connected with other members during this time of social isolation.  Please call each other. Let others hear your voice. Encourage and support one another. For those that you cannot speak to directly, send them a note by email or by mail.   Let them know that they are in your thoughts. If you are on Facebook, visit the pages of members and let them know that you are praying for them.  

We are made up of many different people, but we are all of one body.  The body of Christ.

May the love of Christ be ever with you,

Monday, December 9, 2019

That Christmasy Feeling

My wife, Melanie, and I recently put up our first Christmas tree in our new home.  We always have a real tree that we buy from a tree lot; a tree that has been recently cut in the mountains and transported to Charlotte.  This year we bought a tree that is nine feet tall, the tallest tree we have ever bought.  It would not fit into my CRV so I asked the people at the tree lot to tie it on top of my car.

On the way home from the lot I thought it would be smart to stop and check the tree to make sure it was not loose.  I pulled into a parking lot, opened my car door, got out of the car and shut my door.  As soon as the door shut the rope used to tie the tree snapped.   When I tied the two severed ends together it was too short to fasten to the car.  So I rolled the window of the car down, put the rope into the window, got into the car, rolled the window up, wrapped the rope around my hand and held on while I drove the remaining seven miles home.

We made it home with the tree, although, all the way home,I had visions of the tree flying off the car and onto someone’s hood or through their windshield or hitting someone standing in their yard. Needless to say, the tree had not yet given us that Christmasy feeling.

In the driveway I unwrapped that thin, rotten, sorry (and some other names) rope from the tree and began to slide it off the car towards me.  At this point, I did not know how much that tree weighed.   I realized how much it weighed as it began to roll off the car into my arms.  The sound of it hitting my side mirror and knocking it to the ground filled my ears.  

And there I stood.  Tree on the ground.  Mirror wires dangling from the car.  No visions of sugar plumbs.  No sounds of angels singing.   No Christmasy feeling.  

I put the tree stand on the tree and took it inside.  I stood it up.  It was crooked.  I tightened one side and loosened another side of the stand.  Still crooked.  I loosened it more; tightened it more; loosened it; tightened it.  Finally I loosened one side so that it couldn’t be loosened any more, stood up and pushed the tree in the direction it needed to go.  Tightened it.  Looked at it.  Almost straight.  Good enough.  Walking away, looking at it, I quickly calculated the cost of the tree with the side mirror of the car added into the calculation.  Plus labor.  I did not feel Christmasy.

We added the lights.   One strand wanted to blink, not all the time, just once in a while.  We yanked it off the tree.  We discovered we did not have enough lights for a 9 foot tree.  Melanie ran out to CVS for more lights.  I took a break and listened to Christmas music while she was gone.  She returned.  Traffic was horrible.  Crowds of people were everywhere.  She bought 600 more lights.  We put them on.

And then, standing there in the dark, the tree glowed.  The Trans-Siberian Orchestra began to play the Christmas Canon, and a miracle began to take place in each of us.  “On this night, on this night, on this very Christmas night...” sang the children, as we began to hang the Christmas ornaments; ornaments our children had made; ornaments we had purchased on our travels; ornaments given to us by special friends or family members; ornaments of sleds and mangers and angels.  After we finished we stood staring.  It was beautiful.  This tree.  This first tree in our new home took our breath away.

And the children sang, “This night we pray our lives will show, this dream he had each child still knows, on this night, on this night, on this very Christmas night.

And we felt more than Christmasy.  We felt the miracle of Christmas.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

My Ebenezer

Thirty-two years ago in February 1987, my wife, Melanie, and I moved into a new home.  Well, the house was actually 12 years old, but was new to us.  It offered us more living space, a big yard, a large garage, a deck, and a swimming pool.  Our daughter was four years old and Melanie was five months pregnant with our son, so the move was timely.

We lived in that house until January 31 of 2019.  Our children became adults there.  We raised dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, turtles, gold fish and probably an assortment of other critters that I cannot remember or don’t want to think about.  I taught my children how to swim there.  In the back yard, I hung a tire swing in the oak tree; I planted a vegetable garden almost every spring; we played kickball, and croquet, and bad mitten.  The back yard was where we had cook outs on the grill and sat on our deck and later on our patio and had dinner.

Inside, our gathering place was the den where we watched our favorite shows on TV or used the computer.  Our son liked to use the stairs to send his hot wheel cars whizzing down a track from the top to the bottom.  And at night I would either carry the kids in my arms upstairs to their beds or shew them up as I ran behind them.

A lot of love happened there.

Seeing the house empty, and walking out and locking the door, never to return, was hard.

As I was leaving, I saw the large stone that had sat in our front flower bed for all the years we lived there.  On impulse, I decided to take it with me.  It weighs about 100 pounds so it was not easy to lift into the trunk, but I was determined that it was going with us.  I unloaded it into the flower bed of our new house, in our new 55+ neighborhood.  It has been sitting there since February 1, 2019.  Seeing it each morning fills me with joy.  Seeing it at night under the porch lights gives me comfort.

Today I read that the word Ebenezer means “stone of help”.  It struck me that the rock that I had carried from our old house to our new house is just that.  Somehow that stone, sitting inanimately, and motionless, speaks to me and moves me from present day to yesterday and back.

So, if you are ever in our neighborhood, stop by.  And on the way in, say hello to Ebenezer.  He sits in the front flower bed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Paper Products

Years ago, at a church I attended, we used to have a lot of meetings.  Some of the meetings would include a meal or light snacks.  Frequently, the person in charge of the meeting would arrive early only to find that there were not enough cups or plates, or spoons or a combination of all or everything.

This problem affected those meetings and was recognized as a problem but no one seemed to have an answer or care if there ever would be an answer, because they were involved in larger issues, things that were of importance to God.

Things went along this way until an older couple decided to own the problem and to treat the problem as if it were a special ministry from God that they were called to do.  With them this small problem was not a problem but a blessing, because it gave them the opportunity to serve the church in a special way.

They never announced what they were doing, they just went about solving the problem quietly and unseen.  Suddenly, meetings had enough paper supplies; more than enough.  The supply room shelves, which once were empty, were now always full.  At first, no one knew how this was happening.  It was like Christmas morning when you opened the supply room door.  

One afternoon as I was on my way home from work, I stopped in at the Church and went to check to make sure we had enough supplies for an upcoming meeting.  As I entered the building I saw them, working silently, stocking the shelves with supplies that they had purchased.  It was as if I was watching a holy sacrament being performed.

I did not interrupt them.

I knew the answer to my question.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

It’s the Small Things

I recently read an article written by a person who had corresponded with a man in prison serving a life sentence with no chance of parole.  In his last letter, this man realized that he had just a few years to live and that he would never see the outside world again.  The letter went something like this:

“ I deserve to be here.  I have wasted my life.  When I think back on it, its not the big things that I think about, but the small things that I miss the most.”

“I miss the rain.  The feeling of it falling from the sky and down on my head. And the way rain smells as it falls in the trees.

I miss church choirs and church bells.  Sunday mornings.

I miss dragonflies over ponds.  And fish jumping.

I miss fried trout over a campfire.

I miss gardens and farms with fields that stretch as far as you can see.

I miss animals like dogs and hogs.  And birds.

I miss toast with homemade jam.

I miss picking berries on bushes and seeing a cornfield full and ripe with a small breeze blowing.

I miss coffee on the porch when it rains.

I miss people talking to you for no reason; people you can trust with what you say.

I miss waking up and hearing people you love talking in the kitchen.

All these things...that’s what heaven is.  All these things.  And that means that there are no small things, are there?  Nothing is little or insignificant.  Everything is huge and holy and so stuffed with miracles that the miracles leak out and give us hope for this world.  And maybe for ourselves.”

In the end, it is the small things that will save us.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Unofficial Goat Supervisor

I retired today (for the third time).  Everyone asks, "What are you going to do next?"  I have a number of things in mind.  Travel, write, get involved in ministries at church.  But a recent development has presented itself that has me really excited.

Our new neighborhood has hired goats to clear out an area where the trees are not going to be cut down and where someone with a weed eater would have trouble.  The first set of goats that were placed under the trees apparently were not hungry and lay under the shade of the trees most of each day.  The second set of goats were hungry and cleared the area of underbrush in no time at all.

Just when we were thinking that the goats were a good idea, the goats rebelled, led by a small female Spartacus who pulled down the electric fence with her horns and led the goat herd toward Albemarle Road.  Who knows what the plan was once they reached that busy road.  Maybe they were going to catch the bus into downtown Charlotte or ride toward the greener pastures in the town of Albemarle.  Or maybe they just needed a break and were headed to Stooges Pub and Grub down the road about a quarter of a mile.

At any rate, before they managed to get out of the neighborhood, neighbors saw them and ran after them.  Being unfamiliar with the techniques of goat herding, a scene looking a lot like something out of  an episode of the Little Rascals ensued before all the goats were rounded up and put back into their pen.

So, I have now appointed myself as the unofficial goat supervisor of the neighborhood.  This should keep me busy for a while and is a worthy profession.  Each morning I will walk past the goats and make sure they are hard at work and not lounging in the shade or plotting anarchy or pulling the fence down.

A working goat herd is a happy goat herd I always say.