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Musings Archive Jan - April 2010
April 25, 2010

Someone sent me the website address for the Merriam-Webster Word of the Day, and I went ahead and subscribed to the service. Why not, I figured. It's free, and it may be that my friend was trying to tell me something. I can take a hint with the best of them.

However, I cannot begin to tell you how disappointed I have been with the Merriam-Webster choices for the word of the day. For example: the word of the day a few days ago was "tatterdemalion." I have never used that word, and do not remember anyone ever having used it in my presence. It's the kind of thing one would remember, I think. Anyway, the word tatterdemalion describes someone who is unkempt, disheveled looking. Webster tells me that the word dates from the 1600's, but does not pre-date the word "ragamuffin." Okay, so why did we need tatterdemalion if we already had ragamuffin and everybody already knew what that meant?

I would unsubscribe to the service if I didn't always look forward to suffering tomorrow's disappointment.

Until Sunday! Sunday brought us a wonderful word, and that word is "paean." The more musical among us already know what that word means, but for those of us not of a chorded thread, a paean is a joyous song or hymn of praise, tribute, thanksgiving, or triumph.

When I saw that on Sunday afternoon, I knew it was a gift from God, for I had been thinking of how thankful I was for our choirs at St. John, and I was wondering what I could do to more adequately sing their praises. I obviously can't write a paean, but I can take this space today to simply be thankful.

Our Junior and Wesley choirs were wonderful on Sunday as they provided the chancel music. They are well-rehearsed, well-mannered, and delightfully precious to behold. I am thankful for those who so lovingly lead them. These children will remember serving the Lord for the rest of their lives.

But, I really am writing this to give thanks for the chancel choir. Funny thing about singing in the choir: You sit up there long enough, week after week, year after year, and folks start seeing you as part of the furniture. You wear that robe long enough, and folks start seeing you as the man or the woman in the robe - third seat from the left, fourth row. I wonder if he has a name. Does she live here? Would they be around if they didnt sing in the choir?

Well, yes you would. And yes you are. What a joy to look out and see almost all of our chancel choir members at our services on Sunday, both at 9 and ll. You weren't singing in the choir, but you were here. Maybe a lot of people don't know your names, but I know your names, and God knows your names, and he counts you as precious as he does the little children. It was nice to see your faces, and it was nice to see you have street clothes.

Anyway, this is my encomium to you.

Webster's got nothing on me.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary
April 18, 2010

I was right about church attendance. It was off somewhat on Sunday. Please note that I did not say it was terrible. Church attendance is never a terrible thing. It may be higher or lower than the norm on any given occasion, but it is never terrible. Church attendance is always a beautiful thing. This past Sunday, though, it was beautiful as is a singular rose in a vase a beautiful thing.

If you number among those who were unable to be with us on Sunday, you may be interested in knowing that Christ is still alive. Please do not regard that statement as anything more or less than what it is. My tongue is not in my cheek. I am not trying to be cute, coy, or contentious. Christ is still alive!

I have come to know that there are many who regard the resurrection of our Lord as an historical event, like Washington crossing the Delaware, or Napoleon being exiled to Elba. It's something cool to know about, and some of us can speak quite fluently on the subject.

Others of us think of the resurrection as one of those annual things, like the swallows returning to Capistrano, or the St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah. We want to be there to see it.

Still others think of the resurrection as a commemorative thing, like the '27 Yankees winning the World Series, or Elway finally shining in a Super Bowl. It's something we want to remember and reflect upon on the anniversary of the actual event.

But most don't want to see the resurrection out of our controlled context. There would be something wrong with that. Resurrection is an Easter thing, right? Who wants to see the Reese's Reester Bunny on the store shelves in July, and who wants to think about an actual, living Savior imposing on our everyday lives?

It's a tough one, it really is. But, the truth is that Christ is alive whether or not we want to accept that reality.

He is alive and he is mindful of our living.

He is alive and wondering at our preoccupation with other things.

He is alive and waiting to become the single most significant factor in your life.

It would be easier just to think that he pops up on Easter Sunday morning and looks around for his shadow.

It would be easier, but it wouldnt be true.

He is alive, and at your behest would be alive in you.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary


April 11, 2010

This Sunday, April 11, is designated as Low Sunday in the Roman Catholic Church. It is named thus because, even though it is considered a part of the Easter Octave, coming at the end of the cycle, it is considered to be lower in nature to the actual Easter event. That is the official definition.

But, not being Catholic, I personally call it Low Sunday because it pales in comparison to Easter Sunday in terms of church attendance. In fact, it rivals the first Sunday after Christmas as the poorest attended worship hour of the year. And, no, I don't have statistics to back that up. I have me, instead.

I am not writing this to indict those who will not be with us next Sunday. That would be a waste of time for both of us. I can't make you be here, and I find it highly unlikely that many of you would lose much sleep over a reprimand from me. Besides, Sunday isn't here yet, and you might show up. Then I would be embarrassed.

Wasn't Easter wonderful at St. John? The music, the brass, the flowers, the power of the Gospel reading and the energy of the hour, lifted me to a wonderful place in my spiritual journey. I'm sure the same is true for you. If there were skeptics, cynics, or seekers in the congregation on that great day, surely they were lifted to a place of wonder, and to a keen understanding that the people of St. John United Methodist Church worship a God who is very, very good, indeed!

Now we move into that season of the year that doesn't have a designation on the Christian calendar, but it has a lot to do with soccer practice, end-of-the-school-year responsibilities, spring fever, and second cups of coffee on the Starbucks' plaza. This is the season of the year when the local church stands at the mercy of those things that compete with us for your time and your energy.

Well, I understand about commitment, and I understand we all commit ourselves to a host of things. It's what we do. I don't know why, exactly, but its what we do. The problem comes when the church gets pushed to the bottom of the commitment list. Don't let that happen to you. Make room for the worship of God this spring and summer.

It's always a dangerous thing for a preacher to tell his people that they need the church more than the church needs them, and most of the clergy won't tell you that. Then again, most of the clergy I know are taking a vacation day next Sunday in anticipation of low attendance.

I plan to be here, though.

After all, the faithful Catholics will be across the street.

Lo and behold.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary
April 4, 2010

I am writing this on Sunday night this week. I often do, but I am writing on Sunday night this week to keep from worrying about Luanne. She is on her way to Rome, Georgia, so she can be in place in the morning to test a couple of students who attend school there. I always worry about Luanne when she is on the road. I also pray, of course, but you know how we humans are about never quite giving God enough credit for being equal to the task. We are a foolish lot.

Luanne will retire on Wednesday of this week, and will be coming home. It occurs to me that I will now have to find a whole new thing to worry about. Maybe I will be able to come up with several new things. Maybe I'll pick seven new things, one for each day of the week. Or, maybe I'll pick just one new thing, work on it hard, and turn my worrying into an art form. Yes, we are a foolish lot.

I think of how the disciples must have worried. They must have been beside themselves when Jesus made the decision to go to Jerusalem, there to meet an almost certain death. I think how they worried as they watched him make that scene in the Temple, and how they fretted when he seemed to mount little defense as he stood before Pilate. Their worry chased them underground as Jesus hung on the cross, and found them huddled in an upper room even as Resurrection had dawned.

I suspect they were not listening real closely when Jesus spoke to them at supper on the night before his death. "Let not your hearts be troubled," he said. "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and still you dont know me?" he asked.

He told them he was leaving the Spirit of truth with them, and that the Spirit would abide in them, and always be with them.

He told them he would not leave them orphaned, and that he was leaving a peace with them that the world could not possibly provide.

Still, they worried. They, too, were a foolish lot.

And I think of how Mary Magdalene worried on her way to the garden that morning, and how her worry was turned to consummate joy when she realized she was in the presence of the Risen Christ.

This Sunday is Easter Day. We celebrate this week what Mary came to know: No matter our worry, Jesus has the power to roll it away.

Come share in the joy of it.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary


March 28, 2010

It was early in the summer last year when I got to looking around and realized I had by far the ugliest lawn in the neighborhood. I seemed to have more weeds than anyone else, and even the parts that were genuine grass were a timid shade of green. So, in my great wisdom, I decided to attack the problem head on.

I went to the hardware and purchased a product that advertised itself as a weed killer and grass rejuvenator. I also picked up a hand-held, crank-type spreader to broadcast that restorative wonder around the yard.

Upon arriving home on that cloudy day, and thinking I could do the job before the rains came, I went right to work. I filled up the spreader and marched merrily about the yard cranking that chemical curative in all directions. I finished right before the rains came, and made it back inside the house feeling quite proud of myself that I had emerged victorious in the annual man versus turf war.

After the rain subsided, however, I noticed that it had not washed the weed killer off the sidewalk. In fact, there were rusty streaks on the walkway, but I figured the sun would come out and make all of that disappear. I couldn't have been more wrong.

In fact, a few days later, it looked like Mrs. Johnson's first grade class had been let loose on my sidewalk armed with ugly brown paint and bad attitudes. I also couldn't fail to notice that I seemed to have as many weeds, if not more, than before. The only thing that had turned brown was my sidewalk, and I had had no initial intent for it to be among the things that died.

I decided then to just have an ugly lawn to go along with my ugly sidewalk. But then one day, as I was leaving the neighborhood to go to work, I spotted a crew working on the yard at the model home that the realtor shows to prospective buyers in our little subdivision.

To make a long story short, I stopped, made a deal with those guys, and now, as springtime approaches, I have the prettiest lawn on the block. My neighbors have onions springing up, but not me. My neighbors have tufts of little weeds, but not me. My lawn can't wait to spring forth in a dazzling display of "look-at-me," and I couldn't be more proud.

My sidewalk is still covered in scars; they are ugly things, and they will never go away. But, maybe that's okay. They make convenient reminders of those days when I foolishly tried to do things my own way.

Besides, one doesn't really notice them much when a lawn, or a life, has been redeemed.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary
March 21, 2010

I know there will be sighs of disappointment this week as you realize that Gary is not writing this Newsletter as usual. He has, in his absence, asked that I give you an 8th Street and Church Building update. The members of St. John have pledged over $249,000 for the work that needs to be done on our two buildings. As I write this, the plaster people are upstairs in our Sunday School Building feverishly tearing out all the damaged plaster that we have due to roof leaks. The leaks have been repaired, the plaster has dried, and now it is time to replace, prime and paint it. You will no doubt see plastic hanging throughout the church where the repairs are taking place.

The Trustees will be making decisions very shortly about the flat roof over the playroom upstairs. In the last two years we have had that roof repaired three times. As you know, each time we have a leak we incur some damage as a result.

Two years ago when we purchased the Mini Theater the Trustees began receiving bids and selecting a contractor. Once that was done the Trustees took their recommendation to the Church Council for approval. The Church Council approved their recommendation and Phase I (the downstairs of the building) of the work was begun. All work on Phase I has been completed and DCCM now occupies half of the downstairs portion of our building. This ministry gives out food, Monday through Friday, to the needy and homeless in the downtown community. Two medical ministries, St. Vincent of DePaul and Christ Community are in the beginning stages of opening a screening clinic in the other half of the downstairs. They will do medical screenings Monday through Friday also for the needy.

Phase II (the upstairs of the building) was put on hold until the money could be raised to complete the project and I am pleased to report that work will begin this week. The heating and air conditioning units will be installed. Three bathrooms will be reworked and vented, new light fixtures installed throughout, new wiring installed, a new ceiling installed, walls repaired, primed (and double primed) and painted, insulation blown in the attic, joists repaired in the attic, the exterior stucco patched and hopefully a new sign and Cross and Flame ordered for our new property.

One of the ministries that will be upstairs in our building will be a clothes closet to serve the downtown Augusta community. We are already accepting donations of good used clothing here at the church. So as you begin clearing out and cleaning up for Masters', remember us with any clothing that you want to discard. We need men's, women's and children's clothing.

I hope that this has brought you up to speed about our buildings and answered any questions that you may have had. Remember we are called to be servants and we are going to be able to take advantage of some opportunities to serve within the next few months.

And remember, Gary will see you Sunday.

In Christ all things are possible.

Gloria Hamilton


March 14, 2010

Next week will mark 20 years since Mama went to heaven. That seems, and is, a long time ago. Yet, I still to this day find myself wanting to go to the phone to dial her up and tell her something I forgot to say.

In those early days after her death I would satisfy that need for communication by writing my thoughts down on paper. Those thoughts turned into letters, and those letters eventually were collected into a little book I titled "Dear Mama, You Made Me Laugh, You Made Me Cry."

I started out with a couple of thousand copies, but over time they got away to first one person and then another, until I am now down to just a precious few, three or four, in fact.

So, to honor Mama on this 20th anniversary of her death, I have decided to have a second printing done of that little book, and offer it as a gift to you.

Here are the requirements to receive the gift:

You must share with me a story of someone you held dear. It can be your mom or dad, a sister or brother, a friend, a mentor, a pastor, a teacher, a neighbor. It can be anybody, but you must tell me why you miss them, and maybe even what you'd tell them if you could.

You may send your story to me at my home: 253 Orchard Way, N. Augusta, S.C. 29860, or you can email me at garydemore@gmail.com.

You need not be a member of St. John to receive this gift. If you are a reader of this newsletter, or if you are one of our website readers, you qualify to participate.

I will give you a couple of weeks to get your act together before I make my way to the print shop. My hope is that I will have to place a very large order.

I use this space every week to share a bit of my journey with you.

I look forward to hearing a bit about yours.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary
March 7, 2010

"Just what I needed," I whispered quietly to myself, when Luanne told me she was going to retire. Just what I needed - one more church member to complain to me about being on a fixed income the next time I try to raise a little money for the church. I'm just kidding, of course. Nobody has ever pulled out that shop worn line on me here at St. John, and Luanne is not likely to be the first.

(Besides, I've never understood that one, anyway. Unless one is in sales, like a car dealer or a hot dog vendor, isn't everybody on a fixed income of some sort?)

Anyway, this is not intended to be about retirement or fixed incomes.

Luanne and I, as part of the retirement conversation, talked about how blessed we are. So, this is a word about blessings:

Blessings never retire on us, and blessings are about as unfixed as anything could possibly be.

Blessings carry in their pockets wonderful little things like joy and hope and unexpected deliverance.

Blessings are nouns and they are pronouns and they are the adjectives of life.

Blessings are mine and they are yours and sometimes they are ours together.

Blessings are retirements and weddings and the fun of anticipating what comes next.

Blessings are worship and the afterglow.

Blessings are mornings met trusting in the promise that God will mark each step of my day.

Blessings are the journey; the parts I've seen, and the parts I haven't.

Blessings are inexhaustible and ever-expanding.

Blessings are gifts that bring shame to my paltry little efforts at giving back.

Blessings are of God, and they are unending.

I am inspired to a couplet here:
"Blessings unchanging, yet never the same;
Blessings forever, eternal my claim."

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary

An afterword: As of this writing we have received 81 pledges toward our supplemental pledge drive totaling $246,229.92. This is absolutely wonderful! If you have not yet pledged, I invite you into the blessing of doing so.

February 28, 2010

How good was this past Sunday? I left home with meat and vegetables for the covered dish dinner, and returned home with banana pudding, chocolate cake, and apple pie. Sometimes life just has victory written all over it.

And adding even greater joy to my sugary triumph, 196,580 dollars was pledged to pay for the 200,000 dollars worth of needed repairs for our church building and further upgrades for our new mission building. As the week goes by, additional pledges will come in which will easily enable us to reach our goal. Hopefully, the final total will be such that we will be able to start a fund to spruce up the sanctuary with a fresh coat of paint.

Yes, there is always going to be that next thing. I find something exceedingly rewarding in knowing that the Lord has entrusted us with the responsibility of attending to those ever-occurring next things.

But I don't want to get too far away from our supplemental pledge Sunday without saying another word about just how thankful I am for you. It is not an easy thing for most of us to keep going to our hip every time a need arises, but you do so joyously. There was a spirit of delight in the room as the cards were being filled out and turned in. You made me proud.

The day will come around here when the next generation steps up to take their place as leaders of this great church, and when they do, they will clearly recognize that you were the kind of folks who were not afraid to answer the call. So inspired, they will be equipped to meet the needs of their own generation.

But we are not ready for the rocking chair. We have much to do, and you have again made a statement, and made it loud and clear, that you are on board to get it done.

Of course we do it, and we do it gladly; we maintain this place for the edification of all who would come and hear, because we understand that a world that didnt get to hear about Jesus wouldn't be much of a world.

We lift high the Cross, for we can do no other.

I am thankful for you.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary
February 21, 2010

A minister burns a good bit of capital every time there is a financial campaign in the church. Any number of reasons can be cited for that, the first usually being that people grow weary of being asked for money. Another is that there are those who think the current project under consideration is not needed. Still another is that some feel like they have already done their fair share when it comes to the support of the church and its many programs. The list goes on.

For the record, I have never been keen about asking for your money. However, I remember something that Bishop John Owen Smith said in class one day long ago when I was attending the seminary. "Men," he said, "never try to protect the pocketbooks of your parishioners. They are themselves quite practiced in the art. They do not need your help."

There were those who snickered, and others who laughed aloud when the Bishop shared those words, but I was not among them. I had already been preaching and serving a church for 5 years at the time, and I had grown to love my people. I think thats what the Bishop was trying to say: We come to love our people, they become like family, and it becomes increasingly hard to make demands on them. One does not covet putting pressure on family.

Still, the work of the church must be done. Christ demands it of us, and I am convinced you will all respond joyously to this latest corporate call to commitment.

My brother was telling me about a preacher who conducted his financial campaign like this: Everyone attending church on a given day was given a pledge card, and everyone filled one out. However, you did not fill it out for yourself. Rather, you filled it out for the person seated next to you. You decided what you thought your neighbor should give.

How much my neighbor thinks I might be worth financially is one thing, but I wonder how embarrassed I would be if I were to see what my neighbor thought of my level of commitment?

We won't be doing that, of course, but I just thought you'd like to be aware of one more reason why you need to keep me around. That guy could end up here, you know.

Seriously, I expect every member of this church to fill out a card. One is included in this mailing for your convenience. There is not a good enough excuse to ignore this call to serve the Lord by committing to the upkeep of our grand facility.

If you are able, I hope you will be with us for worship at 11, and for our covered dish dinner and time of commitment. If you are unable to be present, I trust you will return your card to the church before March 1.

God has given us the joy of being those who are called to serve. Don't let yourself miss the chance.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary


February 14, 2010

It is Sunday night (Feb. 7) as I write this. It will be a busy and short week for me, as Luanne and I will be away on Thursday and Friday, so if I can get this done, it will be one less thing to do.

The Super Bowl is playing in the background. I heard on the radio that there is a contrarian group out there who refuses to watch the Super Bowl and will do almost anything else to fill up those hours. Some go to popular restaurants that are usually crowded, but are quite empty and running specials on Super Bowl night. Some are watching "I Love Lucy" episodes that are running on this special day in a 12-hour loop. Others are at empty-for-the-evening movie houses and still others are at bowling alleys that ring hollow when that lone ball of the contrarian hits the hardwood.

I would be watching the Super Bowl, save for this letter to you, but when you come right down to it, it really doesn't matter much. By the time this hits your mailbox on Friday, most of us will be hard pressed to remember who won the game. Even fewer of us will be able to remember who lost. There's a prize for the person who can remember the score for more than a few days. They tell us that there are actually eleven minutes of action in a sixty minute football game. I can't imagine who figured that out, but it sounds like something I would have done. But it wasn't me.

To almost change the subject: I saw an older gentleman in the hallway of the church this morning, down on one knee, tying a shoelace for a little boy. It wasn't his child or his grandchild; it was just a kid who needed his shoelace tied. Now, that's something that matters. I am a great believer that we remember the little things in life. I don't mean they stay with us, rather they tend to pop into our consciousness when they are least expected. Those little memories come back quite uninvited, and they remind us of people who cared for us in the small, seemingly insignificant moments of life. And, unfailingly, those little snippets bring us joy.

The memory of a kind word. A flashback of a smile. Somebody laughed when we thought we were funny. Somebody told us we looked kind of pretty. Little things lost in time, suddenly new and shiny and found again.

The season of Lent is upon us. This is the season of the year when we are most reminded that many of the big things in life are not so big after all. Jesus denounced the trappings of bigness. He took shots at power and pomposity. He upset the popular apple carts of his day to such an extent that his behaviors led him to the cross of Calvary.

You see, Jesus' brand of bigness was in the little things. Love your neighbor, he said. Embrace the child, he said. Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the widow, visit the prisoner, and bring release to the captive. The little things, he said, are the very stuff of the kingdom of God.

As in no other season of the year, we move toward the kingdom during the season of Lent. So, I invite you to get little with me. We will move toward the kingdom in the full knowledge that at the end of the journey, ours will be the Victory.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary
February 7, 2010

There are any number of reasons why I continue to be your pastor, not the least of which is you continue to allow me to be.

Beyond that, one of the reasons is that this is a place of relative peace. If you are a newcomer to the church of Jesus Christ, you might think that an odd thing to say. But, if you have ever been a member of a church that has been in business for more than a month or so, you will find areas of deep-seated conflict that seem to be beyond the realm of reasonable resolution. I talk to colleagues who tell me that life would be much better for them if their people could just get along.

Without getting real maudlin about it, we are living in a day of incredible anger and chaos. Even our national seat of government, while never having been the land of Kum Ba Yah, seems to be awash in mistrust and malevolence. Newspapers are filled with stories of family violence, followed by tales of unhappiness in the workplace. Forty-five percent of us, they say, like our jobs. That leaves 55% who do not. Things are not peaceful out there.

Now I'm not suggesting that we sit around at St. John holding hands and singing "We Are One in the Spirit," but I am saying that our church is a place of great joy, and I am saying that you folks work real hard to keep it that way. Thank you for that. It keeps me here.

I also remain here because you are a congregation that gets things done when they need to be done. Back in the fall you voted to allow the trustees to borrow one hundred thousand dollars at the onset of this New Year, the purpose of which was to make necessary repairs and upgrades on our new property acquisition on Eighth Street. Since that meeting, and just in the last few days, we have learned of additional needs that must be addressed.

You may or may not know that our main building is actually five buildings that have been erected at various times over the years, all of which are connected by breezeways. We look like one building, but we are not. Thus, we have five roofs, and one of them is currently in need of being replaced, to the tune of 70,000 dollars. That is pretty understandable, I think. Mama and Daddy had only four children, but at least one of us was always needing something.

We have also learned that the 100,000 dollar figure we originally agreed upon for repairs on the Eight Street property was pretty accurate.

So, on Sunday, February 21, 2010, we will be having a covered-dish luncheon immediately following the 11 o'clock hour of worship to reassess our needs and to make pledges to fund these two projects. We will basically need to double the original figure.

We won't be able to do any of this without your involvement and without your benevolence, so come prepared to enjoy a good meal, and to make a pledge toward the effort. Luanne and I are prepared to pledge the first 10,000. I know you will pray about this, and I know you will respond. Its another one of those things that keeps me here.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary


January 31, 2010

Ask the average Christian to rate his or her church attendance, and the answer you get back will be "pretty good."

"I'm not a fanatic about it, but I'd say my attendance is pretty good."

"I have a lot of family commitments on Sunday, but, on the whole, I'd say my attendance is pretty good."

What got me going on this topic is the person who said to me the other day, "What's the big deal about church? If I go, I go. If I don't, I don't. But I'd say my attendance is pretty good."

Which raised in my mind the unasked question, "Good for whom?"

If I were a layman, my attendance at church wouldn't be good, it would be great. There is nothing more important to me than being in the Lord's house on Sunday. I see it as part of my witness. A lot of people will tell you that they went to church every Sunday when the children were little because they wanted to be a good influence on the kids. That leaves me to believe that the scope of that person's lifetime influence on the world was limited to about 8, maybe 12, years.

I also see my church attendance as one of my ways to glorify God. "I can glorify God at home, preacher." Okay. You do that. I'll be in church on Sunday.

But I mainly go to church on Sunday because my soul stands in need of it. If your life is anything like mine, you get bounced around a good bit during the course of a week. I need to be in church on Sunday. I need to hear the company of the redeemed affirm their faith together. I need to hear an anthem that inspires me. I need to be in church so some preacher can remind me that God loves me. God finds a way to get me fit for another week when I make the time to visit on Sunday. I'm sure your soul gets equally refreshed out there on the golf course. I know it does because you have told me so. Good for you. I"ll be in church on Sunday.

I am suddenly reminded of my cat, whose name was Whitey. Whitey was with me for about 10 years. He wandered up on my porch one day when he was just a little thing. His eyes were just beginning to open, and he seemed to be terribly hungry. I gave him a bowl of watered-down milk, and he was mine. Whitey was always a runt, never weighing more than about 6 pounds. Whitey was also mute. And Whitey was the most faithful animal I have ever known.

He followed me everywhere. If I went to bed, Whitey went to bed. If I went for a walk, Whitey followed me. If I got in the car, Whitey wanted to go. If I went outside in a rainstorm, Whitey would stand there in the rain with me.

But Whitey would get his nose out of joint if I ever went out of town. When I would come home, he would ignore me for days. He would sit over in the corner and pretend I wasn't in the room. He would sleep downstairs when I went upstairs to bed. Were I to walk past him, he would turn his head the other way. It would usually take about a week to work my way back into his good graces.

So, here's the question for the day: If Whitey were your pastor, what response would you get when you walked into the sanctuary on a given Sunday morning? Would he be glad to see you? Would he ignore you? Would you be forever thankful that he was mute? Just wondering.

Being in church is a very important thing.

And great is better than good.

I'll see you Sunday.

Gary

January 10, 2010

There was an interesting piece in the paper the other day that most of us probably overlooked, but it managed to catch and hold my attention for some time. The headline read that the Russian government has decided to double the price of a bottle of vodka. I assumed the article would go on to say something about the price of potatoes going up, thus the increase in price.

But what the article said was that in an effort to stem the rising tide of alcoholism the price increases were being put in place to limit one's ability to buy.

Now, I am not an advocate of drinking. I could make a pretty good argument that, in the long run, the consumption of alcohol will bring you far more sorrow than it will ever bring you joy. However, I find something terribly cruel in this decision of the Russian government. Why didn't they just send out an open letter to the people that read:

"Dear Alcoholic,
This letter is to inform that your government finds your alcoholism to be both regrettable and embarrassing. While we currently have no plan in place to help you with the ravages of your disease, and while we find it cost inefficient to set up clinics to address the underlying causes of your addiction, we have decided to institute a program that will quite effectively add to your stress.

You're welcome,

Your Government at work"


I am thankful that the church does not work as do the governments of the world. I am thankful that the church is here to listen to your concerns, and to address them where and when we can.

I am thankful for the opportunities I have to help you address those things that are going on in your life.

I am thankful for your trust, and I am thankful when you trust in the things of God for solutions to those things that cloud your journey.

We will never double the price. We will never add to your stress. We will love you here.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary


January 3, 2010

The sun was a confounding thing as we traveled east to west on Interstate 20 late Sunday afternoon. I did my best to adjust the visor to deal with the problem, but to no avail. Then, out of what was truly a clear blue sky, a cluster of clouds came up over the horizon. What a blessed relief they were as they began to shadow out the danger and challenge that driving that stretch of road had become.

As the sun continued to descend over the horizon, and as the clouds began to scatter and drift, they progressively became more and more beautiful in what was now a dusky sky. Luanne commented on how breath-taking they were, and was telling me what each cloud "looked like."

I was hoping she wouldnt ask me what I "saw," because all I can ever see is a "horsey," or a "piggy," or a "ducky." I don't read clouds well, you might say.

But the whole experience gave me much about which to think. I thought how the clouds came as such a blessing, and how the shapes they formed became still another - a blessing within a blessing.

I thought how quickly the fear of highway disaster turned to the joy of seeing the beauty of God's creation, and how incredibly good that felt.

I thought how the season we have just been through had been like that - fearful shepherds, a fearful Mary, a fearful humanity, finding joy in the birth of the Christ Child - a blessing that keeps unfolding and has no end.

I hope you will remember the blessing you have known in this Christmas season, and I hope you will let it unfold for you. Find a way, every day, to find the new blessings within the last, always anticipating that God has yet another gift for you.

To be sure, those days will come when the sun will be a blindingly violent thing, but you will find those times to be when Gods blessings will be at their most miraculous best.

Great will be your peace when you allow yourself to abide in the truth of that.

And I'll see you Sunday.

Gary