Vacation Bible School starts in a mere few days! I am going to take a wild guess and say that I am probably not the only one working like crazy to finish all the last-minute preparations before we hold our kickoff party on Saturday and decorate the school on Sunday. This week found me making dozens of small mosquitoes and one large bug we've dubbed "Skeeter" from pipe cleaners as a part of our mission project display (more information to come about this next week). Needless to say, it was a time-consuming and tedious task.
Fortunately, I had help from a rather insistent toddler at our house. Dozens of mosquitos sat on our table completely finished except for needing to have googly eyes glued on to them. All of it was too much for him to keep his hands out of, so we worked together on it. I would put a dot of glue on each of the two spots where the eyes would go, and Seth would hand me the eyes one by one from the bag. Needless to say, my pace was a bit too slow for his level of patience, and he was ready to hand the next one saying incessantly, "Here! Here! Take it!" When I finished the one I was working on and finally took the one he had in his hand, he looked at me excitedly and said, "Good job!" He even clapped a couple of times for the job I had done.
It made me think about all of the times that we thank folks for the work they are doing for God's ministries here in our church and community. We often make note of the big things - the large programs that need overseeing and the events in which we participate. But there are so many little, thankless jobs that need to be done week in and week out to keep the ministries going. Like little eyes that need to be glued on to make a small display, there are countless unseen and unnoticed little tasks that go into making something like our VBS a success year after year. Whether it is a short prayer for the kids and the leaders, five dollars in the offering plate for VBS, time spent making decorations or preparing to lead a class, or vacuuming the gym after it's all said and done - whatever it may be that you have done or will do for VBS and our other ministries - it is an important part of what we do in the name of Jesus Christ. So I want to take this moment to join with Seth in saying "Good job!" for all the little things you do to bring God's work in our community to life.
Good job, thank you, and blessings on the journey, Jim
Living in Community
A Mother's Fierce Love
This spring, we have had a rather persistent robin take up residence at the parsonage. It started several weeks ago when I woke up to find it building a nest on top of a blade of the ceiling fan on the back deck. It hadn't made much progress yet, so I simply turned on the fan on a low speed to show the robin how foolish a spot it had chosen. After about half an hour, the robin gave up and moved on, or so I thought. The next morning I woke to find the robin working quickly to build a nest. It had made a bit more progress this time but still not too much to turn the fan on. I left fan on most of the day this time. We would repeat this process a couple of days later when the robin discovered the fan sitting idly still that morning. Three times the charm apparently, so the robin finally gave up and moved on - to a precarious ledge beside the front steps. Her persistence - even if a bit foolish - had to be admired, so we decided to let her be. As she finished the nest, laid her eggs, and began to watch her little hatchlings, we tried not to disturb her too much, not lingering on the steps too long. The boys - especially Seth - have enjoyed taking a peek at the little birdies every day.
Then the storm came this past week, and with its strong winds the nest fell off its narrow perch. Thankfully, the babies survived the fall and huddled beside what was left of their home right there on the front steps. They were not too far off from hopping around and trying to fly, so we decided to leave them there and to use our side garage door instead. The mother robin still attended her babies and kept a watchful eye on them from the birdbath or the edge of the gutter. On Saturday, I had gone to check the mail and turned back to the house. Then I saw it! A squirrel had bounded up onto the steps to investigate this strange sight. Quick as a flash, the mother swooped down from the birdbath and dive-bombed the squirrel. Squirrels may be fast, but I have never seen one high-tail itself back to the safety of a tree as fast that one did. Even so, the robin enraged to protect her offspring was faster still, chasing the squirrel all the way across the yard and up the tree, dive-bombing it every leap of the way. Having treed it as well as any hound might do, she flitted back to the small birds resting there, saw that they were okay, and returned to her perch to guard that which she cares for more than her own life.
That is the persistence of love - the willingness to do what seems foolish to the world, to never forsake that which you love, to even lay down your life for it. Jesus, before he was arrested and crucified in Jerusalem, declared to that same "city that kills prophets... how often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings" (Matthew 23:37). May we never lose sight of the persistence of God's love for us - a love that never forsakes us and never falters in the face of danger, even to the point of dying for us.
Blessings on the journey, Pastor Jim
Living in Community
More Lessons from the Garden: Sharing Grace
A couple of years back, I returned from a summer trip and was eager to see how the garden had fared during my absence. When I had left, the tomatoes were starting to climb their cages, the green bean bushes were just starting to fill out with leaves. As I approached the garden, I saw that the tomatoes were coming along well despite the weeds that had cropped up while I was away. As I got closer, I could see over the tomatoes, and there it was! Where there should have been five beautiful rows of green beans stood a crop of scraggly stems decimated to two or three leaves each. My heart sank. For those of you who have heard me speak of my strong dislike for store-bought "squeaky" green beans, you know this was quite a loss for me. Something had made a rather large meal of an entire crop of my garden - my favorite crop.
As I stood there, I remembered a story I read several years back that was written by a woman remembering how she would help her Native American grandfather plant his garden. As she described the experience, she noted some of the odd things that her grandfather did. For instance, if a volunteer plant had come up in the middle of the garden, he would leave it there run his rows around it. The volunteer plant was to be respected as grace from the land. He also did not worry much about the deer or rabbits that would come for a snack or a meal or two in his garden. He always said that, if you didn't have enough to eat after the critters were done with their portion, you should not blame them but yourself for not planting enough to share in the first place.
It was hard to agree with his rather uncommon viewpoint as I stood there looking at those pitiful green beans, yet, looking back, I think there is some wisdom to it. He saw the grace in the harvest - that the earth should give us anything, even if we did some work for it, is pure grace. Tilling the earth and planting seeds does not entitle us to what the earth give us - life. That is grace from God. It is grace for us just as it is grace for the rabbit or deer that happens to come across a rather lush plot of green beans when no one is looking. It is grace, and grace is meant to be shared, not hoarded.
It reminds me of the parable Jesus told of the farmer who hired folks to work in his vineyard, some early in the morning, some at noon, and some late in the afternoon. When quitting time came and the farmer paid each worker a full days' wage - enough to put dinner on the table that evening - those who were hired earlier in the day were angry that those who joined the work later got the same pay. The farmer responded, "What does it matter to you if I show them grace? I have still given you what I promised."
Those green bean plants recovered and produced a crop, perhaps not the bumper crop I had hoped for, but a good enough crop nonetheless. That is grace - that we should all have what we need - and grace is meant to be shared, not hoarded.
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Living in Community
Praise in the Park
We had an awesome time with Praise in the Park this past Sunday. After a delayed start due to a tree limb cutting off power, we sang praise to our Creator, honored our 2015 graduates, talked about what is next for us as individuals and as a congregation, and joyfully welcomed our confirmands as new members in the body of Christ. It was quite a joy to share in baptism and confirmation in the river with these awesome teens! These kids worked hard throughout the class, had great discussions, and planned a fundraiser to help save lives from malaria. Because they exceeded their goal, they earned the right to each throw a pie in my face after our worship. Through the generosity of several donors, we as a congregation are able to give a subscription to Devozine - a teen devotional magazine by the Upper Room - to each of our confirmands. I am very proud of each of these youth - Austin, Baylor, Brenna, and Chandler - and know they are and will continue to grow to be great leaders of God's people. Please pray for them as they begin this next step in their journey with God!
For more sights from our Praise in the Park, check out our Facebook page or our website.
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Living in Community
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!
8525 Water Street
PO Box 116
Port Republic, VA 24471