It’s hard to believe that it was nearly thirty years ago. I had finished preaching at my two churches, and was stretched out on the couch enjoying a nap. My then-pregnant wife, was also napping, and my two-year-old son, was in his room.
Did I mention I was enjoying my nap? Well, I was, until I began to hear the sound of a Spring storm blowing our way. First, there was lots of wind. Then, some thunder. I managed to change positions on the couch and fall back asleep. Until. Until I heard the sound of breaking glass, and I felt a blast of wind blowing over me.
While I was enjoying my nap, my son was fearing the coming storm. He hated the wind back then, and he hates it to this day. The sound of the breaking glass? That was one of Angela’s jar candles. Our son had grown fearful of the wind. With both parents preoccupied, he determined that if he threw the jar candle at the wind, the wind would stop blowing. That explains the crashing of glass. The wind I felt? Our son had left the door open while he went to silence the storm.
Toddlers don’t understand the forces of nature. They believe that somehow, someone can control those forces. Part of maturing is realizing that we can’t stop the storms. All we can do is ride them out. And we can pray. Realizing that we are not alone in the storm helps us to get through the storms. When the storms come, I am often reminded of the picture painted for us in the Gospels: the disciples were furiously fighting to save their boat and their lives, and Jesus was asleep in that same boat. The Lord of creation slept through the storm. Somehow, I find comfort in that.
Forces beyond our control. We have seen them at work. A virus we fight and fear. Economic forces that erode our confidence in tomorrow. Political forces that remind us of how divided we are as a people. Even spiritual forces. Forces that cause us to question the very foundations of our faith.
Forces. They buffet, they blow us away. Forces. They cause us to fear. Forces. They make us question “what’s the use?” Forces greater than ourselves often leave us devastated.
Forces. They won on Friday. The Son of God was placed in a tomb. Forces. A force greater than any could have imagined intervened. The Tomb was emptied on Sunday. Death was given a death sentence. A new force changed everything. The God who slept through the storm now called His Son to step out into a new, glorious day.
See you soon. What we do here matters.
Dear Pleasant View family,
It seems that recently, I have been writing you repeatedly concerning when, where, and how we can come together for worship. Today, I am very happy to announce that we will be able to worship outdoors for a few weeks while we wait for the coronavirus infection rate to drop in our County.
On Sunday, August 23, we will begin offering a Traditional service at our picnic shelter at 11 AM. This service will not replace what we are doing online, but will be an additional option for those who miss being together and worshiping together. If you’re in the habit of coming to our parking lot to catch the 10:30 broadcast, you may still do that. The service outside will not affect the broadcast.
Since the service will be outdoors, you are encouraged to dress comfortably. You are also encouraged to bring you own comfortable outdoor chair with you to place under or around the shelter. There will be church chairs provided, but if you want to sit in something a little more customized for you, please feel free to bring it. It is certainly OK to spread blankets on the ground as well. In short, please come prepared to enjoy the outdoor experience.
Soon enough, this will all be a blur in our collective memories. Until then, I encourage you to keep the faith and focus on what we can do. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you on Sunday!
What we do here matters.
Over the past ten years, I have been dealing with a series of dental issues. Bad genetics have kicked in, and one by one, I have been losing teeth. Now that I’m at the end of this process, I wish I had saved all the extracted teeth and put them under my pillow at once. The tooth fairy would have owed me big time!
On June 15, the last tooth marked for extraction was removed. After twelve extractions through the years, you would think that I would be an old pro in the Dentist’s chair. You would think that by now, these trips to the oral surgeon would seem routine. This trip wasn’t routine. The last tooth in this project decided that it was not going to give up without a fight. The Dentist was a pro, but I heard some doubt creeping into his words of assurance.
With my heart racing, and all the noise and pulling and tugging, I was close to the point of panic. Then, I reminded myself: this will be over soon. I kept reminding myself of this. It would be over soon. And eventually it was.
Most of us go through things that we hope never to repeat. From dental procedures to things far more painful and life-altering, things happen to us that we simply have to endure. The good news is that there is healing that comes after trauma.
Our world is in trauma. A pandemic keeps rearing its ugly head, disrupting our lives and denying us chances to freely associate with the ones we love. A divided nation keeps making it evident that we as a people need healing.
Healing comes. I looked at my last dental extraction site this morning. Everything is totally healed. You can’t even tell there was anything wrong. Time heals. And time will heal today’s gaping wounds in our society.
And we, the Church of Jesus Christ, can be salt and light to a troubled world. I challenge us all to be healers and peacemakers.
See you soon. What we do here matters.
"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Dorothy’s world had changed, and the one thing she knew was that she was in unfamiliar territory.
I’ve a feeling that this world we’re in now has changed, and we know that what was comfortable and familiar has been chased out the door by the coronavirus.
While for most of us, this is a very different world, we wish to get back to what was normal. But we know that whatever normal looked like, it will not look the same after this era of social distancing has passed.
Sundays feel so lonely for me right now. I long for the hugs, handshakes, and words of affection that we share with each other. I understand why things have to be as they are, but it doesn’t keep me from missing what was. I keep reminding myself that this is temporary, but whenever the threat has passed, it will not be too soon for most of us.
In the meantime, we are attempting to stay as connected as we can. I hope you are able to view our Sunday services that are now appearing on You Tube, Facebook, and our church’s website. I am certainly open to any feedback you wish to share with me.
While we’re in this “in between” time – moving from what was to what will be, I will be working to find ways to keep us connected. We still have electronic means of communication, and I hope you’re using these. I hope we’re calling the lonely. I hope we’re checking on the vulnerable, and I hope we’re doing all that we can to help someone who needs something we can do.
If things progress as quickly as I hope they will, we will be announcing a couple of new things that will be available to help keep us connected. Look for emails coming later this week.
Meanwhile, we’re living off the map. We’re making it up as we go. We’re creating a new normal. (How’s that for spouting clichés?)
How about these words from an old hymn? “Sorrow and change in all that I can see. Oh, Thou, who changest not, abide with me.”
Wherever this takes us, we are confident that God is already there.
See you soon. What we do here matters.
From My Perspective – September 29, 2019
Last weekend, my football crew and I were witnesses to one of the most unusual football plays that I have certainly ever seen. It was, in fact, so unusual that its interpretation became a subject for football officials to discuss around the country.
It was a play that was strange enough that you have to see it to believe it. And after you see it, it leaves you scratching your head as to how to apply the pertinent rules.
Now, video of the play is being distributed both to high school and college football officials. (I’m intentionally not talking about the specifics of the play here, because only serious football fans care about a strange football play.)
This created a moment of anxiety for me. As I watched the video, which is being replayed time and again by other football officials, I was keenly interested in what one guy on the film was doing. That one guy was me. Was I standing in the right spot? Was I responding properly as the play unfolded? Did I pay attention to my part of the field, all the while knowing that something strange was going on way downfield from me? I watched my own actions first, of course, and I am proud to say that I think I did the right thing.
You never know, do you? You can be plowing through life, going through the motions, doing your thing, when suddenly, something abnormal happens right in front of you. When those times come, you have to hope that you are doing the right thing. Life never shouts at you, “You better be ready for something different.” Something different just happens. You hope that you are being your faithful self when that something different comes along.
In our scripture passage today, Paul tells Timothy to expect some things out of Christian folks. Some important things that we’re going to talk about today. Because we never know when our faith is going to be put to the test. It just happens.
Welcome to worship. What we do here matters.
My Mother passed down some wonderful values to me, and also whatever musical talent I possess I owe to my Mom. Even though Dad was the preacher, it was Mom who spent most days and evenings reading from the Bible and praying with me. I owe her a debt of gratitude that I’ll never to be able to repay.
My Mom also passed on some other things. Specifically, she passed on some genetic predispositions that affect my health care and life challenges. Mom had uncontrolled high blood pressure. By the time she was in her fifties, she was on eight blood pressure medications, and still got poor control. Trips to Mayo Clinic, Vanderbilt, and other research centers resulted in nothing significantly changing for her. Somehow by the grace of God, Mom lived to be 81 years of age, and continued to be mobile and active in her later years. I inherited Mom’s blood pressure issues, but so far, three medications are controlling mine. I also inherited some bad genetics on teeth. By the time she was in her 30’s, Mom had lost all her lower teeth. With advances in dentistry, I have been able to keep a few of my lower teeth, but they are slowly going away. I’m still hurting from an extraction performed on Wednesday. At the end of the day, however, there’s a lot more reasons to thank Mom than to blame Mom.
As I waited my turn to have my tooth extracted, a man in the treatment room next door was screaming in pain as the dentist did his work. It caused me to pause and pray for him, and as I prayed for him, I was reminded of how Mom lost her teeth back in the days when the dentists simply didn’t have the anesthetics to work with that they have now. “Mom survived this under worse circumstances,” I thought. And so will I. In case you’re wondering, I didn’t yell and scream. Mom would not have approved!
Today’s scripture passage tells us that “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” As we run our race, people in the stands are cheering for us. Those people could include parents, grandparents, dear friends, teachers, and mentors. People who have finished their race are watching you as you run your leg of the journey. They pray for you when you’re getting tired, and they cheer you on when you reach a significant milestone. If you listen closely, you just might hear them cheering you on. People whose names you may not know pray for you while you take your laps around life’s obstacle course.
We’ll talk about this in worship today. What we do here matters.
From My Perspective – July 14, 2019
My brother and I were walking down to the river on the 4th of July. The river runs through his back yard, and we were walking down the stairs towards the water when all of a sudden my brother froze in place, and said, “mmpdhfuveutu!” Now, those of you not related to me don’t know what that means, but when a Gilbert utters that word, make no mistake: there is a snake in the area.
My brother and I were taught by our mother to fear all snakes. Copperheads, rattlesnakes, cobras, garter snakes, and even plastic snakes each held the potential to bring a life-ending bite. “The only good snake,” according to my mother, “Is a dead snake!”
So there we stood. Should we run, should we try to kill the snake, or should we stand there and scream like little girls? We chose the latter option. Then, my brother had a thought. Jess, one of his sons-in-law, knows his snakes, and isn’t afraid of them. While big brother and I stood there frozen in place, Jess was summoned to meet us, in the presence of the copper-mouthed water rattling king cobra that now held our attention. Jess would know what to do.
Jess assured us that we had nothing to fear. (I hated to argue with him, but my mother would have argued with him if she had been there.) Jess identified the snake, told us it was a good one, docile, in fact. Then Jess removed one of his flip-flops, and guided the snake away from the path on which my brother and I had suddenly become cemented. He explained that this snake liked to kill the bad snakes, so you didn’t want to evict this one from the property. Since Jess had successfully dealt with the issue, my brother and I continued on to the river.
So Jess had some special knowledge about snakes that was very helpful in this situation. Jess also doesn’t claim Joyce Gilbert as his mother, so he didn’t panic like Joyce’s boys did. Sometimes, a little knowledge goes a long way.
In today’s scripture, Martha is looking for results, for jobs to get done, and tasks to be completed. Mary, on the other hand, is looking to learn something. While Jesus was around, Mary chose to sit at his feet and learn something. Jesus let the sisters know that learning something, in this situation, was worth more than doing something. Who am I to disagree with the Master?
So, welcome to worship. Let’s slow down. Let’s hear what Jesus is saying to us, in spite of all the other things that scream for our attention. Those things will still be there when our hour of worship is over. What we do here matters.
Every year it makes its trek from wherever it’s stored, and moves into my closet. It’s a blue sweater from thirty years ago that has rarely ever been worn. In the winter of 2018-2019, it was never worn at all. So, why does it take up space?
It’s simple, really. It is the warmest sweater I have ever owned. The label says it’s made of 100% boiled wool. I’m not sure what boiled wool is, but there are probably a lot of upset sheep!
So, it’s incredibly warm. And incredibly itchy. And indestructible. It hangs around, waiting for one of those Polar Vortex days where the temperature starts below zero and never rises above zero. When that day arrives, the sweater comes out of the closet and goes onto my body. Over the past few years, that sweater has been useful at times when I had to be outside, regardless of the weather. I wore it to a funeral once. No one noticed it under my topcoat, but it saved the day for me. My ears almost fell off from exposure, but what my sweater covered, it protected. I remember another time I wore that sweater. The battery on my car died. It was eighteen degrees below zero where we lived at the time. I stood out in the cold, protected by my sweater, and installed a new battery in my car.
It does what it does remarkably well. Still, you can imagine that it takes a certain kind of day for the sweater to display its real value. I’m guessing all our Polar Vortex days are over for this year, so my sweater is going back to storage. I’m hopeful that Spring has sprung!
My understanding of the church is that we all have our gifts and talents, and we all have responsibilities to keep the Body of Christ functioning as it should. From fixers to singers to teachers to encouragers, we’ve each been gifted to do something for the Body of Christ. I hope that each of us will do what we do well. Somebody needs just what you can do. Use those gifts and abilities, and in doing so, fulfill your purpose.
See you Sunday. I likely won’t be wearing a blue sweater, but in case of a cold snap, that may all change! What we do here matters.
I had been waiting for the letter for days. I checked the mail at home. I checked the mail at the Student Center. I was really anxious to hear. Had I won the scholarship competition or not? It was a contest between nine rising seniors. One of us was going to get a cash award equal to one year’s tuition. The rest would receive a rejection letter. Since I already had a full scholarship, this was literally going to be extra money in my hands. I thought the audition had gone really well, and I was feeling really good about my chances.
What I was not well prepared for was the fact that I only had a one in nine chance of winning the scholarship. One lucky person would take the prize, and eight other people, all chosen to audition because we were “deserving,” would receive rejection letters.
When the letter finally arrived, I tore into the envelope, quickly opened the letter, and read the one word I didn’t want to read: “Rejected.” It was just one word on a page, but it said everything that I needed to know. I would eventually read the whole letter. It congratulated me for being a finalist. It congratulated me for my good grades. It congratulated me because the music faculty had chosen me as a finalist. All those words. But it was the one word that I couldn’t get past: “Rejected.”
We’ve all had to deal with that in our lives. We didn’t get the job. We didn’t get the guy or the girl. We didn’t make the team. We didn’t get approved for the loan. We didn’t get voted into the fraternity or the sorority or the club. We didn’t make partner this time. We were denied tenure, again.
Our egos take a lot of hits in a lifetime, don’t they? How do we handle these rejections? Is there any word from the Lord? There most certainly is! I will be preaching from Luke’s Gospel today. The very people Jesus had come to die for were rejecting Him. How did He deal with the ultimate rejection? There’s a lot of biblical wisdom in what I have to share with you today.
Welcome to worship, my fellow rejects. What we do here matters.
Dale has been in ministry for over forty years. He's a teacher, singer, and story teller.