Winterville United Methodist Church

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

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Blog posts January 2017

January 30, 2017 “Plumbers and Other Folks of Varying Opinions”

January 30, 2017

It seemed like a milestone moment—like we were finally on the home stretch!  Little did we know the hours of consternation and deliberation that lay ahead!

 

The tile was laid—not perfectly, of course—but we were happy with the outcome.  The tile having been finished, it was time to move on to the plumbing installation. 

 

Late one evening I looked at the tile as it meets the toilet flange.  I realized the flange had not yet been screwed to the floor and decided to look at recommendations online as to the best modes of attachment to the floor.  That’s when the difficulty set in!

 

That search online took me to a host of discussions and YouTube videos on the topic.  The very first I encountered hit me square between the eyes!  The flange was to go on TOP of the tile, but I had cut the tile short—just to the edge of the tile.

 

The first response—well, self-castigation, of course.  How could I have been so dumb?  How could I have missed such an important aspect of tile-laying/plumbing installation protocol?  And more importantly still, what does one do to correct such a ghastly error?

 

I placed a call to Ken lamenting our grievous error.  Then came WEEKS of research, seeking out the best solution.  That’s when I realized that plumbers certainly do have varying opinions about the most basic of topics in the plumbing world! 

 

One YouTube video lauded the benefits of spacers to fill the gap should someone have made the grievous error I had made!  I was prepared to place the online order for the recommended spacers, but then Ken warned, “Well, sure he recommends spacers!  His business is spacers that he devised!”

 

With those words of caution, I searched other sources online, but I would not limit such an important quest to online only.  Instead I went to the local hardware, a source of help with a host of other DIY projects around our old house.  I felt vindicated about my laying the tile just to the edge of the flange when a clerk at the hardware—one who has given decades to the plumbing task—looked aghast at the report I had read about installing the flange ON TOP OF THE TILE.  Despite his incredulity, he showed me an array of spacers and flanges.  The flange already on the floor at my old house, of course, he considered to be inferior, so he sold me a new one.  He questioned the validity of EVER using a spacer—too much possibility for leaks.  The leaking tendency he saw to be dealt with best by appropriate wax rings.  He sold me a new one—a better model!  Then came the discussion between himself and other plumbers in the store about how many wax rings.  Some said two.  One said to install the horned wax ring and then to cut a plain wax ring in half and put it on top!  Of course, online sources said to never, never use two wax rings!

 

I became weary!  If folks can disagree so vehemently about something so simple as a toilet installation, how much more might we disagree on other topics—on matters of faith, on matters of life and death within our families!  

 

I was in at a stalemate.  How could I move forward?  With all the disagreement about toilet installation, how could I make a decision and begin the actual work?  I decided to weigh all the opinions one against the other.  But I decided that in the final analysis it’s a matter of the heart.  Reading, studying, listening—all very important, but I must move forward trusting that my heart is pointing me in the right direction.

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January 23, 2017 “Who Knew?”

January 23, 2017

Who knew that the house a girl grew up in could seem half as large on return visits decades later?  Who knew that the hills and red dirt banks that appeared virtually insurmountable in efforts to scale them in her childhood could appear mere rises in the terrain as seen with adult eyes?  Who knew that the long distances to neighbors’ houses on foot or on bikes for a girl and her brother could seem a few short paces to the adult returning to her hometown?

 

Who knew that Rutherford County, North Carolina—a county once abounding in textile mills—could take one of those plants, “re-invent” it, and have it serve as a technological hub for Facebook—one of a few in the world?  Who knew that the specific textile plant that was the job site for a dad for most of his working life—one that, as it closed displaced thousands of workers, could come alive once again and provide employment in a depressed area?

 

Who knew that Southern Company could find a little community called Sandy Mush, (so named for the sand that blew into the livermush as they cooked it over an open fire) buy some 489 acres, and install 289,104 fixed-tilt, monocrystalline solar panels?  Who could ever imagine so many panels planted where a pine forest once grew—an investment in clean energy for generations to come?

 

Who could imagine a downtown—once thriving with businesses—more than four decades later struggling but hanging on and still displaying its simple, quiet charm with a tree-line median, park benches, and water fountain?  Who knew that an approach to a home-state and hometown, after living most of one’s life in other places, could still manage to tug at the heart and stir feelings of, “I’m home again”?

 

Who knew that one’s ears could, after being surrounded by dialects and patterns of speech from many other places, so easily find comfort in the voices from home?  Who knew how easily one can resume relationship with people from childhood after having so seldom kept in touch?  Who knew how good it can feel to the once-in-an-occasional-while kind of visitor to show up on a relative’s doorstep, have her struggle for a bit with recognition, but then TO CALL HER NAME?

 

Who knew?  Well, we all knew.  We know—we have always known—that some things will change—change in ways we would never have imagined.  But other things will never change—no matter how long we are away.  I am thankful that love shared with important people in our lives will never change.  No matter how long we are away we can renew our conversation with one another and our love for one another any time that we may meet again.  Most of all I am thankful that my relationship with God is like that.  Sometimes I may wander further away than is good for our relationship.  But whenever I show up God calls my name and welcomes me home!

 

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January 16, 2017 “Child of God”

January 16, 2017

It is a beautiful arrangement of “Jesus Loves Me.”  It begins with a countermelody with the words, “We are all God’s children.  We are all God’s children.  We are all God’s children; we are one in the Lord.”  Then the choir begins singing familiar words, “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world.”  Finally the words we learned in childhood and stored deep within our souls make their appearance, the choir singing with gusto, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

 

It was the perfect song for a perfect day—a perfect day in the life of the church.  What makes a perfect day in the life of the church?  Well, most any day is a perfect day in the life of the church because we are all God’s children, and we are gathered to share fellowship with one another, to love and support one another, and to praise our God who gave us the gift of life and of relationships.  But on this particular perfect day we were to experience one of God’s special means of grace.  We were to baptize a little one into the life of faith, to declare our love to her and to her family and to pledge our willingness to nurture her in the Christian way until she could profess faith all on her own.

 

She was a beauty, held in the arms of her parents—dark hair, big eyes, beautiful white dress chosen especially for this day.  She smiled with all the charm any baby could muster, and she occupied herself with first one thing and then another all through the words of the liturgy, unaware of the heart-wrenching emotion filling all those gathered at the front of the church and sitting in the pews nearby. 

 

Then came the moment—that moment they had rehearsed, prepared for with due diligence.  I have seen the importance of it all through my ministry—the act of holding the baby before his/her big day, the practicing a rocking motion or whatever it is that calms the little one, speaking to him/her gently all the while.  But we all must know that no matter how much rehearsal we may do, how much rocking or gentle words we may have readied, little ones are always in charge.  And so it was on this day.  Hannah did not like being taken from her mother, did not appreciate water on her head, did not want to be paraded around the church to meet her new family—the church.  And so she did what babies always do.  She cried out her protest as diligently as she was able.

 

I was reminded of the Psalms and all the gentle words of praise and assurance in the life of faith that the Psalmist so often lifts up, “The Lord is my shepherd…” or “I will lift up my eyes to the hills from whence comes my help.”  But the Psalmist also was noted for lifting up powerful words of protest to God when circumstances of life were not those that were desired.  Perhaps the most poignant of these is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”

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January 9, 2017 “Milk, Bread, and Eggs”

January 9, 2017

Milk, bread, and eggs—if they appeared as a category in Jeopardy anyone who grew up in the South would immediately supply the winning answer, “Things to buy to be ready for a snowstorm!”  If there were any uncertainty as to the validity of the answer just make a trip to the grocery store in the LATE stage of preparedness for a snowstorm—you know, twelve hours or so before the first flake falls—and you’ll have tangible evidence—empty shelves of bread, empty cooler space where milk used to be, open shelves containing nothing more than cartons filled with cracked eggs rejected by first and second-stage-preparedness shoppers!

Faith has much to say to us about being prepared.  I had a college friend whose favorite category with regard to faith was the “readiness” topic—being ready for the Second Coming of Christ. I admit, however, that at the time it was not my favorite category.  His language of gloom and doom sent shivers down my spine and made me want to pull the covers over my head in bed so as to be totally oblivious to his end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenarios.

After all, I was a young adult.  The picture of my life that I saw in my head was one of meeting the right—Wright man (pun intended)—getting married, having children, enjoying life together, loving God, loving one another, loving people in the world around me.

Thanks be to God!  That picture became a reality for me.  And in my senior years I am learning to say, “Hey, preparedness is a good thing, and it doesn’t have to be gloom and doom!”  Instead,  preparedness can be about leaning into the plan that God has made for each one of us since the beginning of time.  It can be about that sense that as God peers into our lives He finds us loving one another, caring for one another, and enjoying the life He has provided.

I’ll keep going to the grocery store to buy milk and bread and eggs each time a snowstorm is in the forecast.  After all, I am a true southerner!  I don’t know how to prepare in any other way.  But as I prepare for end-times or for the end of my time on this earth, I will love my life, love the people around me, and, despite mistakes I have made along the way, I will relish hearing the voice of a gracious God saying, “Well, done, good and faithful servant!”  Thanks be to God I no longer have to pull the covers over my head in bed! 

 

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January 2, 2017 “Sidewalk Chalk”

January 1, 2017

The package arrived by UPS just in time for the Christmas visit with the grandchildren.   The contents—as seen on TV—had been beyond resistance from the granddaddy who had ordered them.

Giant sidewalk chalk—quite a treasure in and of itself—but imagine a sturdy holder some 36 inches in length that allows its user to stand comfortably while crafting sidewalk art instead of crouching to wear out knees and legs!  Why grandparents can become sidewalk artists themselves instead of leaving projects to the younger generation!

So the holders filled with the giant chalk made their way to the park, clutched by proud grandchildren sure that they were the coolest folks anywhere near Winterville!  But sidewalk art was only part of the fun that day.  There were monkey bars for demonstrating skills.  There were swings accompanied by cries, “push me higher—higher!”  Then there was the slack line tethered between two trees, a newly-acquired Christmas gift for one of the parents.  As nearly as I can tell its purpose is to make adults look stupid as they struggle painstakingly across, with children gliding along effortlessly, giggling all the while.

But back to the sidewalk chalk--I began thinking how no one gets upset about chalk.  Magic markers—yes!  Paint—major problem!  But there’s no problem with sidewalk chalk because with the first rain it’s gone and a clean canvas emerges, waiting for more art!

Funny—because those sweet memories are never-ending!  They never wash away!  They epitomize the expression we often use, “Etched in stone!”

I believe God smiles in heaven each time we have a sweet memory etched into our hearts that stems from good times together.  May we bring lots of smiles to the face of God during this new year!

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