Winterville United Methodist Church

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

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Blog posts March 2017

March 27, 2017 “The Test of Time”

March 27, 2017

When I was in school and studying works of literature I learned the definition of a classic as “something that withstands the test of time.”  I am convinced—classic or not—that a good love story will stand the test of time!

My daughter grew up watching the animated Disney version of Beauty and the Beast.  She loved it so much and watched it so often that any member of the household could sing the songs.  We discovered in our sleep images of dancing teapots and teacups and candelabras and clocks from having seen the movie so often during the day.

Beauty and the Beast is reborn in a new version and is currently playing on the big screen.  No doubt it will capture the imagination of many additional generations of children and moms and dads. 

The story has that poignant mix of the struggle and suffering of a beast locked away in a hidden castle by a spell cast upon him combined with the hope and possibility for a new life made possible should someone come and love him.  Belle, of course, is the beautiful young girl who over time comes to love the Beast despite his gruesome exterior.  She is able to look into his heart to discover something there that is gentle and lovable.  In addition she is moved by how he comes rushing to her aid when she is threatened by wolves lurking in the forest or by how he wards off Gastón who wants to capture her and make her a pretty armpiece to support his narcissistic personality.

At this time of year we particularly focus our attention on a different kind of love story.  It is a classic, for certainly it has withstood the test of time. 

It is a story that began with a motley group of followers who saw in their friend something that captured their imagination.  They walked with him, listened to his stories, witnessed amazing things that he did for persons in the world around them. 

Finally, they walked with him to a lonely spot on the outskirts of town.  It was there that there saw him suffer and die an agonizing death on a cross.  It was because he loved them that he willingly laid down his own life.  It was because he loved them that he chose not his own path through life but rather chose God’s path. 

It’s a love story like no other.  The motley group of followers first told the story, but generation after generation after generation has done the same.  Finally, the story comes down to us.  Will we tell the story so that generations beyond ourselves will treasure it as well?

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March 20, 2017 “This Old House”

March 20, 2017

As I flip the channels and discover This Old House, I always stop and see what the particular episode has to say about my own efforts in renovating an old house.  The first thing that I see portrayed in the show—validated in my own experience—is that things in old houses are never perfect! Corners are not plumb.  Floors are not level.  Walls have wavy imperfections. All of these present particular challenges in renovation efforts.

The second thing that I always realize as I watch episodes of the show is that I am not Tom Silva.  Neither am I Norm Abrams, Steve Thomas, or Bob Vila!  If I spend the rest of my life trying to acquire their skills and expertise I will fall miserably short! 

The third thing I learn as I watch the show is that one failed attempt at a project necessitates a little research and additional efforts in different directions.  Products, systems, and efforts that work in new houses often need adaptation when applied to century-old structures. 

The fourth thing I have learned is that it is important to seek help when needed.  There’s always another expert—another person who has spent his/her own life figuring out solutions to exactly the problem that currently needs to be addressed.

Ah, the lessons I have learned firsthand while trying to renovate my old house!  I have struggled beyond belief with overcoming my expectation that things be perfect and with my frustration when jobs turn out less than perfectly!  Take for instance the effort of hanging the first two kitchen cabinets—the walls were wavy.  The floors were not level.  I spent hours—days—in frustration about spending so much money on cabinets only to have them turn out less than perfectly hung.  It was not until exerting monumental effort to hang a few more cabinets that I stood back and concluded, “Hey, they look pretty good!”

No, I am not Tom Silva, nor Norm Abrams, nor Steve Thomas, nor Bob Vila!  I don’t have to be.  I am Shirley Wright—wife, mother, grandmother, minister—one who has devoted large segments of her life to other efforts, but at the same time I can dabble with renovating an old house, one that doesn’t have to please anyone OTHER THAN KEN AND ME!

I have learned to be patient.  I can never set a time-clock such as the professionals might use and have my projects be completed on time.  Sometimes projects extend weekend after weekend after weekend.  Yet, when I set the goal and keep the goal before me, eventually I finish and can celebrate what has been accomplished.

I have learned to make frequent trips to Habersham Hardware or to Lowes’ to ask for help.  It’s amazing how many skilled folks there are in the world who ENJOY sharing their expertise.  It is only through the sharing from many of these folks that I now have a finished downstairs bathroom in my old house!

You may have realized by now that all of these are lessons that are important to learn about life—not simply about renovating an old house.  We are not perfect, and many of us struggle our whole lives with issues about not being perfect.  God’s desire is simply that we admit our shortcomings or our downfall or our mistakes along the way and let him help us use those to promote growth in our lives.  We need learn to be patient with ourselves.  God allows us the opportunity to make mistakes and to start all over again—both in relationship with him and in relationship with others.  But God calls us to never give up—never give up on life, never give up on relationship with him and or with others, never give up on efforts to make the world a better place.  God reminds us that we all need help from time to time.  We need to learn to lean on one another, to listen to one another, and to share our areas of expertise so that we can help each other have happier, more fulfilling lives! 

Today I give thanks for my old house—for the shelter that it provides, but also for the lessons that it has taught me along the way!  I give thanks for lessons that I have learned and continue to learn about imperfection, about patience, about persisting when things get tough, and with seeking need when it is needed.

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March 13, 2017 “The Wedding Cake—Inside and Out”

March 12, 2017

Wikipedia says that the wedding industry in America was worth 53.4 billion dollars in the year 2013.  Amazing!  Who would imagine that we spend that much money—perhaps even more in 2017—on weddings?  But when we think about the individual “pieces” of the industry—the clothing industry, the venues industry, the photography industry, and on and on—the costs add up!

I remember our own family’s involvement in planning a wedding and of trying to help the day live up to all our expectations.  I remember particularly our process of selecting the bakery.

It was important to go to various bakeries and to hear their “pitch” about the various sizes and shapes and descriptions of cakes they could make.  We heard about various kinds of layers and about the different kinds of icings they could put on top.  It was my first time to learn about fondant icings and to begin to understand how hard they are to make and why they, therefore, come at a premium price-tag.

We thought we had done our due diligence.  We selected the kind of layers we wanted, the kind of icing we wanted, the kind of design we wanted.  We left the cake-topper in their hands trusting that they would take great care of it and place it on top of the cake when it arrived at the reception venue.

The day came.  The cake arrived.  It was beautiful.  It lived up to our every expectation—lived up to our expectations insofar as looks are concerned.

The problem was that when we put the first bites into our mouths we had to fight back grimaces and make every effort, in polite company, to actually swallow what was there instead of spitting it out!  How could anything that looked so beautiful on the OUTSIDE be so terrible when we put it INSIDE our mouths and tried to swallow it?

Jesus had many words of warning about things that look good on the OUTSIDE but that fail miserably in terms of what is on the INSIDE.  Jesus had many words of admonition about folks who “talk the talk but fail to walk the walk.”

Lent is a time of year for self-examination.  It is an excellent time to pray the prayer, “Lord, help me not to simply talk the talk but to also walk the walk.  It is a time of year when we can look deep inside to see if we see there signs of the grace and love of Christ lived out in the world toward fellow human beings.

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March 6, 2017 “Daring Daffodils”

March 7, 2017

It was a lazy Sunday afternoon—a wonderful time for a drive along curvy mountain roads, soaking in the sun and the sights.  There it was—it burst before our eyes avalanche style!  We had to find a spot beside the narrow road to turn around and take in the sight more fully.

We parked in front of Serendipity Stained Glass on Scenic Highway 197 north of Clarkesville.  There are many beautiful pieces of art to see should one actually enter the shop, but on this day God alone provided His handcrafted beauty—hundreds, thousands of daffodils sprinkled densely down the hillside toward the road.  They were waving in the gentle breeze displaying their quiet, unassuming grandeur.  Their pops of golden color invaded visual space as if to say, “God’s in God’s heaven—all’s right with the world!

I remembered a sermon I heard decades ago—a sermon from the pulpit of the Decatur First Baptist Church.  The Reverend Dr. Peter Rhea Jones took his inspiration from the many daffodils dotting the expansive grounds of the church.  It was early in the season—the time of year when so often we watch the daffodils appear only to have them frozen by an unexpected chill in the weather.

Dr. Jones was a master of words, and he crafted a sermon title much like some build houses or fashion pieces of furniture.  His title for the sermon I remember so vividly was, “The Daring Daffodils of Decatur!”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all pattern our lives after the daffodils?  Wouldn’t it be world-changing if we were all a bit more daring in terms of our outreach to people around us—people who are struggling and need a listening ear or a helping hand?  Wouldn’t it revolutionize relationships the world over if we saw everyone as God sees them and if we lived out patterns of love toward others in the way Jesus taught us to love.

Take a look at the daffodils.  Remember the “Daring Daffodils of Decatur” or of Winterville or Athens or Atlanta or wherever you live.  Ask God to help you be a bit more like the daffodils—being a bit more daring in your acts of kindness toward others that you encounter along your daily path.

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February 27, 2017 "Purpose"

March 1, 2017

So many times in life we struggle with purpose.  When we are in school and sick of a full day’s work but come home to still more assignments, we might say, “I fail to see the purpose of homework!”  As we move into jobs and find ourselves doing mountains of paperwork we often say, “I fail to see the purpose of so many reports!”  But we know that there are deeper issues of purpose with which we wrestle.  There are issues about the deeper meanings of life.

In The Purpose of Dogs,” Bailey wrestles with his purpose as he comes back to life many times, each time as a different breed.  But in the end, he concludes that there are three important purposes for any good dog while on earth. 

The first is:  Lick the ones you love!  It’s important for people, too, right?  Well, maybe not lick—but certainly hug, kiss, tell others that you love them!  We can find ourselves so busy or so caught up in other agenda items that we completely fail in doing those important things.  We can get so busy with tasks around the house that we forget to take appropriate time with children to hug them or to tuck them in at night or to share time with them that’s free from prompts to do their homework or to work harder for good grades.  We can get so worried about paying the bills or taking care of broken items around the house that all our time with a spouse is filled with stress-producing interactions.  Time to stop and lick—no hug/kiss—the ones we love!

The second is: Save someone if you can.  For Bailey the “saving” means pulling out of the water a person who is drowning.  You and I may have those opportunities for the literal kinds of saving in our lives.  Far more often, however, our saving may be listening to someone, ascertaining what the needs are, working to help with whatever that person’s need might be—in short, showing concern.  Showing concern goes further many times than we ever realize in completely changing the other person’s experience in life!

The third is: Be here now.  Bailey had the chance to be male and to be female, to be a Golden Retriever and to be a dachshund and to be various other breeds.  As people, our lives often feel far more dictated, more prescribed, for us than sometimes we would desire.  We can find ourselves always looking into someone else’s yard, so to speak, and declaring the grass greener on the other side of the fence.  But God’s desire for each of us is to find the good in our own lives, to see the opportunities spread before us, and to make the most out of the lives given to us—to be here now! 

Bailey discovered some important purposes for a dog’s life.  The lives of human beings might be far richer should they discover the same sense of purpose in their own lives!

 

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