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.
“Confession is good for the soul.” While this saying is not in the Bible, a lot of folks think it is. But I’m confessing today, and hoping you won’t look on me too condemningly for sharing one of my bad habits with you.
So what is this big secret of mine? I like fast food. I often eat fast food for lunch when I go out by myself. There, I’m glad I got that out!
One of my favorite fast food places has had a deal for several years for its lunch-time patrons. The deal includes a small cheeseburger, a regular sized chili dog, an order of fries, a cookie, and a drink, all for $5. This is my go-to meal at this particular place.
Today, I walked in and ordered my favorite combo, and I noticed that the price was no longer $5. It has been raised to $6. Then, the lady at the counter asked me if I wanted chili on my hot dog. “Of course, I want chili on my hot dog,” I said. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“We have to charge extra for the chili and onions now, sir,” she said.
Turns out, my favorite fast food place has really angered me, now. An upcharge for chili and onions? Really?
I took my plain hot dog, sulked back to the booth, and made a note to myself never to eat at this place again.
I understand that it costs a lot more to run a business now than it did years ago. That’s why I didn’t balk at paying a dollar more for my combo meal. But then, they want to charge more for what used to be included? I may be a fast food junkie, but even us fast food junkies have our standards, and we know when they’re billing us for killing us!
Bottom line? It takes more money to do everything nowadays. I can remember my first allowance, when I received 10 cents per week. Back then, that dime actually bought something. Not now.
Do I have a point? Yes. As the guy who has to look after the day-to-day operation of the church, I have to pay attention to numbers and money. Not my favorite thing to do, but it comes with the job. Anyway, it takes a lot of money to keep the ministries of the church going. I am always humbled and grateful to see the sacrifices that people make for the Church and the cause of Christ. In spite of the fact that we are regularly challenged to give more, faithful people like you answer the call. I appreciate it. I appreciate you.
See you Sunday. I’ll be the guy not eating a chili dog! What we do here matters.
ANGELA: Dale, it’s time to begin decorating for Christmas.
DALE: Sorry, sweetie. It’s my busy time of the year at the Church. Can you just do it yourself?
ANGELA: Sure, precious. I’ll go out and cut down a tree, and haul it to the house, and stand it up all by myself! And I’ll buy all the gifts, and wrap them, and I’ll do extra baking and maybe invite the neighbors over for dinner, one family at a time.
DALE: That’s my girl!
ANGELA: You really don’t think that’s going to happen, do you? If I put up the tree, there will not be anything under the tree for you.
DALE: Yes, dear!
The action moves forward. The tree is now standing, though it might be a bit wobbly. Angela blames Dale, and Dale blames the tree, the stand, and the uneven floor. Angela insults Dale at this point, suggesting that he was the direct descendant of Neanderthals. Dale tells Angela that someone with roots in Alabama should never insult someone else’s family tree! The action now moves forward.
ANGELA: Sweetie, the tree is leaning to the left.
DALE: Honey, that tree is standing perfectly tall and straight. Your perception may be off a little.
Dale and Angela retire for the night. Around 3 AM, they are awakened by a crashing noise, coming from the living room. Dale suspects the house is settling. Angela suspects the tree has fallen. When they rise the next morning, it turns out that the tree has, indeed, fallen. This is not unusual. It happens most years. Dale takes the blame for not leveling up the tree, and he carefully levels it this time. Meanwhile, Angela is making certain that this fiasco is not going to repeat itself. She threatens Dale with a slow and painful divorce. At this point, they don’t talk with each other any more than necessary for the remainder of the day. Upon rising the next morning, they realize that the tree has not fallen, and that all the lights work, and the wreath is still in place, and the stockings are still hung by the chimney, with care.
ANGELA: See, I told you the tree was leaning! Why didn’t you just get it right the first time?
DALE: Can’t we just kiss and make up?
They do, and they live happily ever after.
Jesus is coming in three weeks. The house is ready. Are we?
See you Sunday. What we do here matters.