Winterville United Methodist Church

Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

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Blog posts April 2017

April 24, 2017 "Up Close and Personal"

April 25, 2017

Many of us have admired giraffes from a distance.  It’s is obvious that they have long, slender necks and that as a result they can gracefully soar above most other creatures on earth.  But rarely have many of us had opportunities to know giraffes from the up-close-and personal viewpoint.  All that ended for me last week as I had the chance to visit Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee, Florida with Ken, my daughter, and granddaughter!

We road through the various sections of the facility as if on safari.  It was a wonder and a delight to see animals in terrains resembling their natural habitats—animals that we rarely get a chance to see.  An ostrich pecked at our windshield as if demanding food.  Huge numbers of zebras proudly displayed their one-of-a-kind patterns of black and white.  Giraffes strolled along as if to teach us the no-care-in-the-world mode of living.

Near the end of our visit we discovered an area allocated for feeding giraffes.  In order to achieve our up-close-and-personal stance we had to ascend a ramp onto a tall perch that put adults on eye-level with the eight-foot animals.  We eagerly paid multiple $2.00 increments for 3 lettuce leaves for the feeding task. 

I held two-year-old Lily Mae as she held the lettuce leaves out to the giraffes. She was a bit reticent and even in my arms she was barely able to get the lettuce leaves close enough for the giraffes, but never-you-mind!  The giraffes had a masterplan for dealing with such challenges!

We discovered that giraffes not only have long necks, but they also have incredibly long tongues that are agile—that can twist and turn.  They are designed for pulling the leaves high off the acacia tree—the leaves that grow above the thorns found on lower parts of the tree.  But in this instance, the long, twisty tongues could maneuver the lettuce leaves right out of the hand of a delighted two-year-old with her grandmother experiencing great joy and wonder in the process!

So often you and I think that we know SO much about God.  But often we experience God only from a distance!  We spend little time in prayer, little time in worship, little time seeking understanding of who God is and what God desires to do in the world.

But God always wants to change that for us!  God invites us into an up-close-and-personal relationship!  Then and only then can we truly begin to know God, to feel God’s love, and to understand what God has to offer us in our lives!

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April 17, 2017 "A New Chapter"

April 17, 2017

In 2010 I had finished the project part of the work toward my DMin degree.  The writing of my dissertation lay ahead.

In one respect the writing process was daunting—talking about the grief experience and how the lament psalms did or did not provide hope and help for members of my grief support group.  In the other respect, however, the writing became simple and easy.  After all, there were chapter limits—that which confined my writing.  There even was a maximum page limit.  Chapters could never click on endlessly.  Neither could a hundred pages become two hundred, three hundred or more.

Sometimes life has a way of defining chapter limits and page limits. Sometimes we get difficult diagnoses and despite the best medical treatments, good dietary regimens, hope and faith and trust, chapters of our lives are confined to certain limitations.  That’s tragic.

But the real tragedy is when you and I live our lives as if chapter limits and page limits had been set for us when they have not.  The real tragedy is when we let loss of jobs, disappointments, setbacks, and even downward turns in matters of health to cause us to see ourselves as “in the final chapter,” as having no possibility of a new chapter for the future.

Just as all hope and possibility for a future disappears the Risen Christ shows up.  He offers us the possibility of a new chapter in our lives—the opportunity to live out love and hope with people around us, the opportunity to put a positive stamp on the world.  May we each live fully into the new chapter God wants to write with us in our lives.

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April 10, 2017 “Give Thanks”

April 10, 2017

It was a beautiful day—a bit of a nip in the air but beautiful nonetheless.  The work—if you want to call it work—began early in the day.  Adults, volunteers from the life of faith, gathered on the church lawn.  Tubs and bags held their bounty—candy-filled eggs to be strewn around the playground and the various sections of lawn flanking the church.  Before long the church yard looked as though a plane had flown over and spread the eggs in all the colors of the rainbow so thickly that it was almost impossible to walk without crushing one of the treasures.

Soon “eggspectant” (excuse the pun) children, their parents, and grandparents showed up for the fun.  They sat first with an adult-sized Easter bunny on the steps of the church.  For a time there was a reprieve from eggs and Easter bunny themes despite the fact that they sat on the Easter bunny’s lap or scooted as close to her as they could get.  The reprieve came in the form of a story—the true meaning of Easter.

The children knew well the story handed down generation after generation from the time of Christ.  They could answer all the questions.  They seemed to feel the sense of hope and anticipation just ahead on Easter Day.  They understood the connection between empty plastic eggs and an empty tomb as Jesus came forth out of the grave!

Today I give thanks for the life of faith.  I applaud and celebrate adults who will give of their time on busy weekends to create special moments in the lives of children.  I give thanks for the hearts of children that are open and receptive to the old, old story.  I give thanks for Christ willing to go to the cross and for God’s redemptive power to raise him to life on the third day! 

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April 3, 2017 “Moving on to Perfection”

April 3, 2017

I have taught EVERY kind of piano student since beginning to teach in 1973.  I have taught students whose mothers said, “I never learned to play so you are going to learn!”  I have taught students who begged their parents for lessons long before they actually enlisted me as a teacher. I have taught students who never touched the piano from one lesson to another, and I have taught students who played constantly from one lesson to another.  I have taught students who simply wanted to play through a piece and checked it off as having been learned however cursorily, and I have taught those who wanted to play and play, practice and practice, until they could play without stops and starts—errors along the way.

Matthew, my grandson, came to his piano lesson this week.  Before I could ask him to play a particular piece, he pulled out his hymn arrangement book and said he wanted to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” for me.  He said, “I want to play it until I can play it perfectly!”

Wow—music to a piano teacher’s ears!  Not literal music—but music in the form of words—that a student, a grandson no less—wants to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” until he can play it perfectly!

John Wesley constantly spoke of that kind of commitment to the Christian walk.  He never once saw the faith as a matter of a one-time decision to follow Jesus.  Instead he saw that day by day the Christian must pledge himself/herself to following in the footsteps of Jesus.  He, in particular, saw the person of faith as on a path of being made perfect—made perfect in love.  One of the historic questions as ministers are ordained is this, “Do you expect to be made perfect in love in this life?”

It’s a daunting question.  Being made perfect sounds impossible for us to achieve this side of heaven.  But God’s desire is that we be in constant pursuit of the love of Christ lived out in our lives.  We need all be more like Matthew, “I want to practice it and practice it until it is perfect!” 

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