Wednesday, June 29, 2011
A tradition unlike any other.
No, not the Masters . . .
This is our VBS week. We do not have as many children this year as past years. Not sure why. This year will be the first year our own children actually outnumber our guests. That will make for a new dynamic.
We're using the CPH materials this year - Big Jungle Adventure.
It's not bad, but honestly, not up to par with their regular Sunday School materials. We keep hoping that the VBS programs will be improved to match the Sunday School materials, but so far, not yet. Perhaps this could be a suggestion for CPH - if you want to compete with the big VBS programs from other publishers, that's fine. And these materials probably do a good job of that. But perhaps also include some materials that have a bit more meat for those that want them.
For example, we don't do all the decorating and making the place look like a jungle. First of all because we don't own our building and would have to put it up and take it down every day - much too big a task! Our teachers instead do a great job in their classrooms with props and telling the story and even some decorations. We also don't use the DVD skits and a lot of the other extras, But my teachers (especially of the small ones) would like more ideas of how to teach the children the stories. They come up with their own great ideas, but its not always easy.
And yes, our children have fun. It is vacation, not school. Yet at the same time, to quote from another pastor friend of mine: when we work we work, when we play we play, and when we worship we worship.
Well, its been a pretty good week so far. Enjoying the kids. Always glad when it's done, though, because that means my vacation isn't too far away . . . :-)
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
For a couple of years now, I have tried to send out a weekly devotional note via e-mail that I call "In Touch." During special times in the Church Year I may send more than one a week, but there have also been times where I have been "dry" and void of ideas and didn't send one out for weeks. I am amazed at my brother Dr. Scott Murray in Houston, who sends out a devotion every day! (And ones of great substance.)
Well, today I decided to try something: I am going to write 66 devotions, one for each book of the Bible. Each will be about the book's general focus, and emphasize how this book shows us Christ and the good news of His work for us. So that's a devotion each week for the next 15 months! Hopefully that, and a bit of inspiration sprinkled in between, will keep me going for a while and help me be more consistent with these. We'll see! And if you're interested, go here to sign-up for yourself and receive them. The first one goes out tomorrow morning.
Saturday, June 18, 2011
I love what Maple trees look like from the ground up. When we moved here, we had three of them around our house, and they provided very nice shade and fantastic colors in the Fall.
I hate what Maple trees are underground. They must have the biggest, orneriest roots of any trees! So, once those roots started causing trouble around our house (i.e., splitting our concrete steps and clogging drains), the trees, sadly, had to go. That was two years ago. We planted two dogwoods in place of two of them, and left the third place vacant. We weren't sure if we wanted another tree there.
Well, I am still dealing with the roots left behind by that tree! Oh, when the landscapers took the trees out, they ground out the stumps - but Maple roots are looong and spread far. Shortly after the trees came out, I laid a new drain to help with the water by our front steps. Something like 30-40 feet to the back of the house, and I had to chop and dig my way through some terrible roots!
Well, yesterday was my turn for more agony. That old tree used to be right next to a garden we've been wanting to plant. We have, but the ground is still so rooty that it's hard to dig and plant anything. So yesterday's job was to tackle that garden and try to de-root it. Oh my. I had no idea what I was in for! It took all day, digging, pulling, and chopping, but I am happy to say that our garden is now in much better shape and we have planted a bunch of plants there that I hope will look nice for years to come. Last night I was really sore and tired (and still a bit today!), but a job done right is a job I hope I will never have to do again!
And when we have those ugly looking bushes next to some other steps taken out - trust me! - it will be the landscapers digging up those roots! :-)
On Friday, we read from Numbers 27, where Moses is told he will not enter the Promised Land. He asks God to appoint a successor so that "the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd." Of course, the immediate successor was Joshua, but those words immediately made me think of our true Joshua, who during His public ministry had compassion for the crowds, "because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36).
The parallels between Joshua and Jesus are many, but I had never seen or considered this one before. Then add Ezekiel 34, which speaks of those who should have shepherded Israel but didn't, so God promises to be their shepherd and sends the Good Shepherd. For, of course, the Law (Moses) cannot lead us into the Promised Land of Heaven - only Jesus can do that.
Monday, June 13, 2011
A great day yesterday . . . the Feast of Pentecost with a full Divine Service with processions and incense . . . a narrative sermon which I think turned out pretty well (if I do say so myself!) . . . some visitors that added to our joy . . . welcoming back Grace, who interned in our area last summer and now has a full time job here . . . the wedding of Elizabeth and Rich in the afternoon - not even the severe thunderstorm at the end of the service could remove the smiles from faces . . . and then a wonderful reception with a wonderful family. It made for a long day (which I wouldn't want to do every week!), but a great day. What blessings God continues to show upon us!
Saturday, June 11, 2011
From Starck's Prayer Book (p. 101) on Pentecost:
"O precious Holy Spirit, when You have thus worked in me, when You have proved Your power in my weakness, let me also, like the messengers of Jesus after You rested on them, speak with new tongues, so that everyone may hear that the old, sinful, unseemly words (which are so unbecoming of Christians) have now been removed far from my lips. Let all who come to know me see that I have become a different human being, and let everyone perceive that it is all due to You, O Spirit, dwelling in me."
The new language of the new creation? The Gospel.
Monday, June 6, 2011
I'm a bit late writing about this, but two things in the readings from the Treasury of Daily Prayer last week struck me . . .
#1: The writing for Tuesday (p. 294-95) was taken from one of JS Bach's cantatas, about Jesus' Parable of the Dishonest Manager. It is quite a good sermon. It begins: "Make a reckoning! Thunderous word, which even rocky cliffs split open, word by which my blood grows frigid!" He then continues with the preaching of the Law, that we have not been faithful in our stewardship. Therefore, what shall we do when this thunderous word be spoken to us? Yikes!
Ah, but then the sweet Gospel! "But yet, O frightened heart, live and despair thou not! . . . Behold thy guarantor, He hath all debts for thee released! . . . The lamb's own blood, O love most mighty! Hath all thy debts now canceled and thee with God hath settled."
I hope I remember this is here when I next have opportunity to preach on this parable, and use this as a template for my own sermon!
#2: On Friday, the Old Testament reading from Number 12, in speaking of Aaron and Miriam's rebellion, said: "Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all the people who were on the face of the earth."
If anyone had reason not to be meek, it was Moses! The Burning Bush, leading the people out of Egypt, the signs and wonders done before Pharaoh, dividing the Red Sea, going up into Mt. Sinai - twice, speaking with God face-to-face in the Tent of Meeting. And yet Moses was the meekest man on earth! I think that is stunning. And yet, it makes sense. The closer one is to God, the more one knows his or her own sin, the meeker we must be. How could it be otherwise? Yet meekness is not weakness, but confidence - not in self, but in God. God who will protect, who will provide, who will save. Yet another way in which Moses is a type of Christ.