Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The OLYMPICS and GRACE by Frank Black


(F. Black)


          Those of you who know me well, know that I’m somewhat of a “sports trivia nut."  And I’m particularly an Olympics freak – I watched everything from badminton, to men’s and women’s wrestling and rugby, fencing, shooting, basketball, kayaking, gymnastics, track and field, and on and on – some 42 different sports and 306 events.  [Yes, I’m retired and can do this.  Even Lou Ann really “got into it.”]  I know some of you could care less, but bear with me and the analogy I’m presenting.


          First, if you don’t know, I’ll have to describe for you the ruling of “False Starts” in some Olympic events (sprinting events and swimming events particularly).  A ‘False Start’ is when a runner or swimmer in their events starts early or even flinches after the race starter says “SET” (remember: “ready, set, go”).  Anyone who starts early, flinches, or in any way distracts another racer after the starter says “set” is immediately disqualified!   That’s right. No second chance!  A world class athlete, after years of rigorous training, dieting, expenditure, and personal sacrifices, is OUT.  They’re finished for that event.  Can you even imagine the emotional agony, the anguish, the disappointment, the failure and loss for them?  Is it fair?  I personally don’t think so, but my opinion carries no weight with the Olympic Committee.


          So, where am I going with my analogy?  I’m making the case that “False Starts” in the Olympics are the exact opposite of God’s grace.   I think the “Why?” may be obvious:  In the Olympics you get one chance and one chance only.  With our Lord we get no end to the number of chances (of ‘false starting’, of fouling up, of sinning).  It’s called GRACE.  Our God is the God of second chances – and many, many more.  Isn’t this absolutely FANTASTIC for us!  Absolutely!  Our God is a God of infinite patience and forgiveness towards you and me.  God is NOT wanting us to fail or “false start," not wanting to condemn us.  No, he wants the opposite.  Because of His love for us, He forgives and forgives, waits and waits on us, and despite whatever the ‘dirtiness’ is in our lives, He’s there to say “WELCOME!"  This is called GRACE.


          For those who have thought or continue to think that God doesn’t want me or I’m not deserving of God because I’ve done such and so à  YOU HAVE IT BACKWARDS.  I can just assure you that, YES HE DOES WANT YOU!  [Remember, it’s the opposite of the “False Start” rule in the Olympics.]  No matter what your circumstance, no matter how long you’ve done or been whatever, no matter what others have told you, our God of love and forgiveness and infinite chances wants YOU.  He will accept you willingly and lovingly with all your ‘baggage.’ Don’t be stopped from prayerfully and lovingly approaching God by any of your life’s circumstances.  It’s never too late.  Isn’t God’s Grace beyond marvelous!! 


          Matthew 20:1-16  tells us this truth.  It’s Jesus telling the Parable of the workers.  The workers who came last and worked only one hour got the same pay [reward] as did those who had worked all day.  So it is with those of us who decide to follow our God and His Son at any time.  The timing has nothing to do with the ‘pay’ – the result – our reward.  It’s the same for all.  Again, it’s called GRACE.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Caring for our Children by Carolyn Jackson

August, 2016

Dear Church Family,

As parents, grandparents, and others that are caregivers, we have made it a priority to keep our children safe and healthy.  We make sure to teach them right from wrong and how to be alert in traffic.  Medical checkups and dentist appointments are at the top of our lists when caring for our children.  When it comes to our children’s eternal lives, are we as diligent with their care?

The remodeling of the Children’s Wing is almost at an end.  The Bible classrooms are in use as well as the Kid’s Praise Worship Center.  Our teachers are educated Christian servants with a passion for teaching God’s Word to this generation of children.  The teachers are using many different learning styles and activities to help teach the children of God’s love for His people.

We ask your help by bringing your family to Bible class and worship.  The Children’s Wing has Bible classes for ages 3 years through 5th grade.  The Kid’s Praise Worship Center is for ages 3 years through 3rd grade.  Bible classes begin at 9:30am and Kid’s Praise runs from 10:30am until approximately noon.

Kid’s Praise begins with songs of praise and thanksgiving.  The teaching staff is served communion, and the children are given the opportunity to give to the Lord’s Church.

Please join us in prayer for our families.

Carolyn Jackson

“Write these things for the future so that people who are not yet born will praise the Lord.”  Psalm 102:18

NOTE from the Elders:

The elders have asked Carolyn Jackson to serve as the interim lead for the Children’s Bible Class and Kid’s Praise programs until we find a permanent program director.  She has graciously agreed to shoulder the responsibility.  She has our full support and encouragement as she takes on this important task.  Please be supportive of her efforts.  We agree with her sentiments in the letter above.  There is no greater responsibility that we have as parents than the spiritual training of our children.  We urge you to take advantage of these programs.  Better yet, jump in and lend a hand.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Kindness of Strangers by Greg York

The Kindness of Strangers          


…let us not grow weary in doing what is right,

for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

So then, whenever we have an opportunity,

let us work for the good of all,

and especially for those of the family of faith.

 Galatians 6.9-10


As I write this in the early morning hours of August 3, I am in my mother’s room in the Palliative Care wing of Baptist Hospital East in Louisville. If the phrase “palliative care” does not immediately register a connotation for you, here’s what that means: we have crossed the point where therapeutic measures will be taken. It is now about comfort. It means that, while we still do not know how long this leg of the journey is, at the end will not be a return to the status quo ante, at the end will not even be something that could be described as a partial recovery; at the end of this particular journey will be the end of my mother’s life this side of eternity.


As that reality has gained its current state of crystal clarity this week, it has become more and more apparent that what she is facing is not something for which a new med or a good night’s sleep is a solution. I think I had been suspicious (afraid?) of this outcome since she suffered a stroke on July 14. Her health had been in fairly sudden and rapid decline for about two months, but the stroke was the heaviest blow.


Since then, it’s been a journey of ups and downs, confusion and even some levity, and during much of that time my mother and all of us were (with apologies to Tennessee Williams) dependent upon the kindness of strangers. I’ve thought in these last couple of weeks and particularly these last couple of days of the many “strangers” (people previously unknown to us) who impacted this journey. Specifically, my mother has received (with very few exceptions) extraordinary nursing care. We have been blessed beyond measure to be in the care of nurses and nursing assistants who tended well to her physical and medical needs, but who did so with (is there any other word?) love. Even though we were not the “patient,” they also dealt with my father, my sister, and me with honesty and compassion and (yes, here’s that word again) love.


I know you don’t know any of them, but I want to list the names of these strangers who loved their way into our hearts as a way of honoring them: Kathy, Shellie, Kirstan, Rebecca, Marisa, Amie, Karla, Robyn, John, Ly (pronounced “lee”), and Torie (whose prayer over my mother and for my Dad as they were preparing to move to Palliative Care was one of those moments when the veil is torn back and heaven and earth are briefly, tantalizingly one). Cheri and Vicki and Katie in Palliative Care have already been amazing medically and emotionally. Dr. McCracken (who in my state of advanced years looks like he needs a note from his mommy to practice medicine) did an amazing job of walking my Dad through the medical realities as he made the decision about palliative care, a walk filled with compassion and honesty.


Sitting with my mother over many nights the last three weeks, I’ve had a chance to think about many things. As I considered the kindness she was receiving from so many “strangers,” and as I considered the influence of my mother on my life, my mind kept going back to one “stranger” whose kindness I remembered afresh and whose kindness I have been reminded anew to be grateful for. I wish my mother had been where we could have talked more about this, as I find my memory now not as clear on this as it should be. Anyway, the story as I remember it:


My mother did not have the greatest of childhoods. Her parents divorced in a time when there was more stigma attached to that for children than there is today. Responsibility for younger siblings thrust on my mother at an early age. She and various combinations of siblings were bounced around from relative to relative on both sides of the family at times. It was never a stable situation financially for her. That said, I don’t know that she would have described it as an unhappy childhood – you just don’t know better when you’re living in the midst.


By the time she entered junior high (as it was called back in those long ago days), seventh through ninth grades, though, she well knew she was not one of the blessed, one of the elite. One day in Home Ec class, someone of more social standing openly mocked my mother. (Yes, there were “mean girls” even in the late 1940s!) I’m sure that for a split second my mom’s self-esteem was exploding into a million pieces. But in that split second, the teacher intervened in a way that simultaneously affirmed my mother’s worth and sent the other girl sprawling down off of her high horse of false superiority.


But more, that teacher, Pearl Davis, became from that moment a mentor to my mother, taking her under her wing, encouraging her academically and socially through the rest of junior high and even on through high school. She saw potential in her and affirmed that on a consistent and ongoing basis.


I remember Pearl Davis as a much older woman because some times when we’d go to Lexington to see family when I was a child, there would also be a visit to Miss Davis for her and my mom to reconnect. My memories are of a distinguished but warm woman. I know also there were regular exchanges of cards and letters between her and my mother over the years. I want to say (I have vague memories of this…) that when I would accomplish something in the early years of my schooling, a congratulatory note from Miss Davis might soon arrive. I imagine the same was true for my sister.


I do not think I have thought of Pearl Davis for many years. The visits stopped probably when I was about junior high age. Maybe I just got to an age where I didn’t tag along anymore. Maybe Miss Davis had died. I just don’t remember. After Miss Davis and her influence on my mother returned to my mind these last couple of weeks, I’ve thought many times, as I said earlier, that I wish my mom were in a state that I could pull up some more details out of the well of memory.


It occurs to me that despite the fact that in many ways Pearl Davis is a stranger to me, she is a big part of why my mother is who she is, and thus is a big part of why I am who I am. I do not think it is overstating it to say that Pearl Davis made a difference for good in my mother’s life and that, in turn, made a difference for good in my life.


Who is your Pearl Davis? Be sure to tell them thank you.


To whom are you being Pearl Davis? You never know how far your influence might go. And that is particularly so when your influence on them is influenced by Jesus Christ’s influence on you.


We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves.

If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord;

so then, whether we live or whether we die,

we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14.7-8