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The proposal #shesbringinghomethebaker

The Proposal: Baker and Addison

“How would it be if I proposed tomorrow night?”

The question of how and when to propose was one my son, Baker, and I had discussed a number of times over the previous three months. The logistics were the problem. While Baker and his girlfriend, Addison, are from the same hometown, they go to universities in two different cities. Also, Baker wanted his sisters home for the proposal, but one works full-time and lives in DC and the other is away at college. Plus, Baker needed to talk with Addison’s parents; but he rarely comes home and never without Addison. Talking with them without her knowledge would be quite a feat.

At the time of his question—Thursday night around 10 pm—Baker and Addison had been home for only about five or six hours. Neither of his sisters were in town and he still hadn’t talked to Addison’s parents.

#shesbringinghomethebakerBaker did already have the ring*, though; in fact, he’d had it pretty much since Summer 2015. Back then, my mother had offered him her mother’s diamond ring. She told Baker just to let her know when he was ready to propose and the ring would be his to redesign in whatever way he chose. So, Christmas 2016, he asked her for the ring; the two of us went to Jewels that Dance in January.

“Addison had specific ideas about what she wanted in an engagement ring,” Baker told us the next night after the deed had been done.

“We made it a game!” Addison explained. “I would show him a ring and tell him what I liked about it. Then I would ask him to guess what I didn’t like about that particular ring. It was really fun!”

“We played it a lot.”

“Because it was fun!”

“It was more fun for her than for me.”

So, using the diamonds from my grandmother’s ring, Baker (in collaboration with the jeweler) designed the ring with the round cut solitaire in the center and six of the diamond accents on the band. Between the accent diamonds, he had the jeweler fashion a palm branch.

“I’d seen people put symbols on their rings that represent their relationship,” Baker explained to the group gathered in our family room post-proposal. “And of course I could have put a music symbol because that is certainly something that is characteristic of our relationship.”

They’d met in the high school marching band. Addison became drum major her senior year, and Baker earned the role the next year when he was in 12th grade. Baker went on to major in music and Addison continues to participate in the music programs at her university and church.

“But really, I wanted something that represented our faith, because as important as music is to us, our faith is certainly more central to who we are as individuals and as a couple,” Baker explained. “The palm branch was an early Christian symbol. That’s why you’ll see it as an architectural motif at First Baptist of Asheville.”

Baker and Addison are both members and active participants of FBCA. Last summer, they were interns there—Addison with the children’s programs and Baker with the music ministry. The church has had a major impact on their lives and their relationship. The palm branch represents both their faith and their home church: a perfect addition!

But back to that Thursday night. Baker got busy making calls and forming a plan. Fortunately, everything worked in his favor. Addison slept late Friday morning—something she rarely does. Her parents’ schedules were flexible enough that he was able to talk with them before she awakened. We already had plans to go out to eat—the two of them and both sets of parents—to celebrate Baker’s 21st birthday (a week late). From that, he pulled together as many of their traditions as he could fit in one day.

Homecoming Dance 2011

Awkward first photo, before they actually started dating. Homecoming Dance 2011.

You should know that they started dating when he was 15 going on 16 and she was 16 going on 17. (They are now 21 and almost 22.) On their first date, they went to Brixx; for their first Valentine’s Day, Baker gave her a bear (dressed—naturally—in a baker’s outfit) from Build-a-Bear. Every year on their anniversary, they go to Brixx; to date, Addison has six Valentine’s Day Build-a-Bears. And not so much tradition as habit—they often have reason to stop by First Baptist.

Hold up. Let’s just pause for a minute and picture 15-year-old Baker going into Build-a-Bear, choosing a teddy bear, going through the whole process of stuffing it, then picking out an outfit for it and dressing it. If that weren’t enough, then he had to walk back through the mall carrying the signature Build-a-Bear box. Yep. He did that.

Anyway, after talking with Addison’s parents Friday morning, Baker went over to Build-a-Bear. He left with an adorable bear—filled to just the right level of fluffiness (he’s an expert by now)—dressed in a bridal gown, complete with veil and sparkly shoes. My job was to order desert pizza from Brixx to have at home for the post-proposal celebration. (We were optimistic about a positive result!) Baker then called FBCA to make sure he could access their Sacred Garden that evening. A dear friend served as Baker’s accomplice; while we were at dinner, she would go to the Sacred Garden to set everything in place. The night before, Baker had contacted several close friends and his younger sister. They would be at our house by 10 pm to celebrate with the newly engaged couple. (Shout out to the world’s best millennials for making the four-hour drive with less than 24 hours’ notice!)

When we finished dinner, we parents said we would wait for the bill, asking Baker if he and Addison would go on home to let our dog out. He agreed, but just needed to run by the church and “pick up organ music he had left there” (wink, wink). Once there, rather than go in where they usually did, Baker suggested they just cut through the Sacred Garden and enter through the door on the other side.

The proposal #shesbringinghomethebaker“What’s that?” Addison asked when she saw something unusual set up in the Garden.

“I don’t know. Let’s go check.”

“It looks like a shrine to a teddy bear!” (The wind had blown Teddy’s veil up, giving it a shadowy and slightly eerie appearance. Not exactly the effect Baker had in mind!)

They approached, Baker went down on one knee, Addison squealed (repeatedly), Baker proposed, and Addison said yes.

“So,” I asked her as I looked at the ring sparkling on her left hand. “How did Baker do?”

“It’s prettier than anything I could have imagined!” she said.

“Yes!” Baker said, clinching his fist in victory.

(Wedding date yet to be determined, but it will be sometime after Addison gets her next Valentine’s Day bear.)

#shesbringinghomethebaker

*Want to know the beautiful back story on the ring? Click here for the rest of the story!

Psalm 133:1

Community: A tale of an unexpected locksmith

It’s one of the few aspects of my life in which I maintain some degree of consistency, predictability if you will. Every six months. Like I’d planned it or something . . . which, let’s face it—we’re talking about me here—so we all know that didn’t happen.

Before I tell you, you have to promise me that you won’t offer me any tips on how to fix this problem. Whatever suggestions you have, I’ve tried it. I might even be doing it right now.

  1. They are on a lanyard.
  2. The lanyard is bright red and thus highly visible.
  3. Of course I use the remote to lock the door (almost) every single time.
  4. My Honda Civic won’t even let me lock it if the keys are in the ignition, so that’s impossible (these days).

I mean, there was that one time before I had the Civic . . .. It’s my husband’s favorite story to tell on this topic. One evening, he arrived at the Y a half an hour or so after the children and I did and parked near where I had parked. As he got out of his car, he thought he heard our van running. He walked closer and sure enough, it was; but when he tried to open the door, no luck. Oh yeah. I had left the keys in the ignition, the car turned on, air conditioning blaring, and locked the doors. (I only did that once, though.)

So back to my most recent keys-locked-in-car episode.

I’d gone to the post office just five miles from where I live. On the way, I was tuned into a great podcast on my ipad. I parked, took my keys out of the ignition, and continued listening. I was so distracted that I forgot to put the lanyard around my neck (don’t judge). When I came to a good place to pause, I grabbed my purse, locked the door, and got out of the car, shutting the door behind me.

“No no no no no!” Yes. Every door locked up tight as a drum, my bright red lanyard and attached keys sitting there on the passenger’s seat.

I went into the Post Office, mailed my letters, then went back to my car and called Triple A. (I get extra points here for having my phone with me AND my Triple A card—mark it down.)

“We’d be happy to help you with that ma’am. It looks like the estimated arrival time on that will be . . .”

About an hour and a half. Good grief. Ugh! What in the world would I do while I waited?

Then I saw the Terminex guy at his truck.

“Hey! You don’t have a slim jim in there do you?”

“As a matter of fact I do,” he told me, reaching back in to grab it. “I got it because my wife locks her keys in the car a lot.” (Smarty pants.)

Anyway, this fella was kind enough to break into my car for me. It took him twenty minutes and after five I started telling him not to worry about it that I’d just wait for Triple A.

“I’m not in any hurry. All done for the day. Plus it’s a puzzle for me now,” he said. “Can’t let it beat me!”

As he worked we joked a bit about his future as a car thief and my proficiency for locking my keys in vehicles. We chatted about the weather, the weekend, and other mundane topics. When he popped the lock, I cheered, he grinned, and that was that. I offered him $20 for his time, but he wouldn’t take it.

“Just let me do something nice for somebody, how about it?”

I protested, he refused. I thanked him, and we parted ways—him to go home to family, me to call Triple A and cancel my request. End of story.

He didn’t ask me who got my vote last November; I didn’t ask him who he supported. Maybe we voted for the same person; maybe we didn’t. But in those moments, the United States of America was truly great and the two of us were absolutely stronger together.

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
Psalm 133:1
8 things to do when church is cancelled

8 things to do when church is cancelled

In my part of the world, frigid temperatures and icy roads have caused many churches to cancel services tomorrow. True for you? Well, don't let that stop you from connecting with your church family. Here are just a few home activities you might consider:

  1. Use the pictorial directory as a prayer list. (Know families who aren't in the directory? Add them too!)
  2. Visit the church website and listen to recorded services.
  3. Write encouraging notes to church family members.
  4. Live close to church friends? Hold home church. Early Christians often included a meal with any communal worship experience. Invite friends over to share food and fellowship.
  5. Use the latest bulletin or newsletter and prayerfully consider upcoming events.
  6. Make a call. (This is one day when using your cell phone during church is allowed.) Who do you know who hasn’t been to church lately? Give them a call and let them know you care.
  7. By yourself? Consider calling a church family member, put the phone on speaker, and hold a virtual worship service. Share scripture, prayers, and even hymns together.
  8. And if you are going virtual, maybe you could have church through some form of video chat. In fact, you could video chat while listening to the sermons your church has online.

Other ideas? Tell us in the comment section.

When the snow melts, you might even continue some of these practices outside the worship hour. But nothing can replace face-to-face connection long-term. So when you have the opportunity, get back to worship. We are better when you are with us.

One more thing. Did you know that whenever a church cancels services, its budget suffers? People just forget to send in their contributions; it’s not intentional. (Which is why I actually use automatic withdrawal—not an ideal solution as I prefer giving my offering at church, but I’m just too scatter-brained to be consistent any other way.) So, here’s your reminder: whether you go to church or not, send your offering. The church finance committee will thank you.

the good samaritan

The Good Immigrant: A Parable Retold

Yesterday, I posted about a recent retreat where I preached on the Good Samaritan eight times in four days. Having studied the text deep and wide, I wrote a modern version of the parable to share with the students in worship. It was a good exercise for me--and I thought you might find it helpful as well--to remember that compassion really can transcend any boundary.

imageThen the president of the Woman’s Missionary Alliance stood up to test Jesus. "Jesus," she said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (And everyone around got all quiet and listened because frankly, they were surprised that she had to ask such a question. Everyone knew that! For heaven’s sake, those words were printed on the city light poles, on banners at the local schools, and on the brand new welcome sign down at the local lake. It was so important, that they’d made it the town mission statement. What was she up to?)

And Jesus said to the her (without any sarcasm in his voice at all), "Well, sister, what is our mission statement? How do you interpret it?"

She answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."

Jesus responded, "Yep! That’s it! Just do that, and you will live a life that glorifies God not just now but for all eternity."

She had another question, though. "But Jesus. Exactly who would you say is my neighbor?"

Jesus said, “Let me put it to you like this:

"A business man was in the habit of exercising after work. At the office, he’d change from business attire to gym clothes, place his valuables in his backpack, and walk over to the downtown YMCA for a work-out before going home. One night, as he headed back to his car over near his office, he was jumped from behind and mugged. They stole all his credit cards, his iPhone, and his laptop. Then, they beat him and left him--broken, bloody, and unconscious--to die.

“Now by chance, the senior pastor of World’s Biggest Church was leaving a ministry meeting in the city and happened to walk right by the unconscious man. The thing was though, he still needed to update WBC’s website and Facebook page before he could go home; he hurried on to his office, asking Siri to remind him to look into the matter later.

“Likewise, the leader of the homeless ministry happened upon the injured man; of course, any other time, she would have stopped. (She would have!) But that night, she was on her way to B-SUB (Bible Study Under the Bridge), and she knew there would be a big crowd waiting on her. She kept walking.

“Then, an Afghan Muslim came along. When he saw the man, his eyes filled with tears, and he knelt beside the man. He noticed the guy’s t-shirt: torn and bloodied, it’s campaign slogan appeared even more hateful. No matter, the Muslim carefully removed his own head scarf, folded it, and used it as a pillow for the man’s head; then he took off his cloak and carefully draped it over him. The Muslim called 911, remained with the man while awaiting the EMT’s, then followed the ambulance to the hospital. Once they arrived and he saw that the man was getting the appropriate care, the Muslim stopped by the front desk. He gave them his credit card information to cover the man’s medical expenses and his cell phone number just in case there were any additional needs he might address.”

So, Jesus asked the woman, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who was mugged?”

And the woman said, “Um, well, in that story, I guess it would be the . . . uh . . . the one who showed him mercy."

Jesus said to him, "Mercy. That’s it. Mercy.”

 

the good samaritan

Good Samaritan Up Close

design (2)Imagine preaching on the same parable, to the same group of 75-100 people, eight times in a row, in just four days. Now imagine that group being made up mostly of adolescents ages 12-18.

Yep. That was me.

Be jealous. Be very jealous! (Seriously. It was fantastic! Shout out to Kaitlin Mundy for the connection.) I loved it! I had a wonderful time with the kids and I gained lots of new insight into Jesus’ parable, The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).

For example, the road between Jericho and Jerusalem—it’s crazy steep; like over half a mile descent in just 15-20 miles. Also, it was widely known as a danger zone; robbers hung out there all the time. And did you know that it was not uncommon for priests and Levites to live in Jericho and work in Jerusalem, travelling that road to get from home to temple and back again? (I didn’t.) Oh, and the answer that the lawyer gives to Jesus? It’s a verse from the Shema (a passage from Deuteronomy that all good Jewish children learned from birth) paired with a passage from Leviticus (equally well known to the associates of Jesus).

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:4

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

Then there’s this: 2 Chronicles 28:5-15 a text that Jesus most definitely knew when he told the story of The Good Samaritan. Read it when you can, but for the moment, let me just summarize it for you. Some soldiers from the North (the Kingdom of Israel—capital city, Samaria) captured a whole bunch of folks from the South (the Kingdom of Judah—capital city, Jerusalem). They weren’t nice to them. God didn’t like that. So God callied a guy named Oded to shake his prophetic finger at Israel and tell them to straighten up, dadgumit. The offending soldiers, Samaritans, responded like this:

“. . . those who were mentioned by name got up and took the captives, and . . .  they clothed all that were naked among them; they clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them; and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kindred at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria.” (2 Chronicles 28:15)

Crazy, right? Could it be that Jesus, a lifelong student of scripture, took an ancient story and repurposed it for first century listeners? I mean, we can’t know for sure, but what a cool thing to consider, right?

Make you want to burst out in song? Go ahead!

“The B-I-B-L-E! Yes, that’s the book for me!” (Join me now!)
“I stand alone on the Word of God! The B-I-B-L-E!”*

I do so love Bible study. During those focused days, I learned lots of little details and interesting facts about The Good Samaritan. I also learned something far more important. You see, I’ve read this parable many times in my 51 years, but only now have I realized that I had misunderstood something about Jesus’ answer. See, in my mind, Jesus said that the people you serve (the people in need--those people) are your neighbors. But that’s not what the parable teaches. No. Jesus says, “Neighbors are those who act with compassion.” Neighbors, according to Jesus, are people who actually see need and respond. Neighbors are those who cross boundaries to show compassion. Neighbors are ones who behave as if your value is equal to their own.

Do you want eternal life? Jesus says to love God so much that your heart spills over with that love and splashes up on your neighbor; because loving others is how you get to experience the Kingdom of God—on earth, just as it is in heaven.

That, as they say, will preach!

*Want to sing the whole song? Here you go. You're welcome.

following christ bearing fruit

Following Christ: Bearing Fruit

My pastor and his wife have been in Ireland for the past couple of Sundays and so, while I'm not usually the one delivering the message, I have been the last two weeks and will be again this coming Sunday. I love to preach and am so grateful to be in a church that welcomes different voices in the pulpit. But this week . . . With the incidents in the US this week, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of this national crisis.
Yet, I am glad to be fully aware of my inadequacy, to be reminded that Christ's strength is made perfect in my weakness. Thus, leaning into that promise, I approached the task of proclamation, beginning with the morning prayer (below). I preached from Colossians 1:1-14. You can find the audio of the message here, or you may download it using the link below.

imageLoving God, Holy Lord: you are our strength and our shield. You are the God of Mercy, the God of Peace.

We ask Lord that in this place and at this moment, Oh God, let your Kingdom come; let your will be done. So that right now on earth, we will experience blessed peace, divine mercy, and Kingdom justice.

Lord we ask that you will remind us from whom our help comes. Remind us that you are the source of all provision.

And forgive us.

  • Forgive us when we fail to recognize our own sins, so attentive are we to the sins of others.
  • Forgive us for failing to hide ourselves in you, so intent are we to step out with false pride in our own humanness.
  • Forgive us for relying only on ourselves: idolizing our own strengths and cursing our weaknesses.
  • Forgive us when we slip into these godless behaviors and forget that only you are holy.

We ask, Lord God, that you would guide us through the temptations of our lives.

  • The temptation of our chosen addictions: substances, attitudes, or actions.
  • The temptation to over-simplify complex issues.
  • The temptation to offer quick fixes and consider ourselves blameless.

Deliver us Lord, from our selfishness, from our knee-jerk reactions, from our mindless pursuits.

Remind us once again that we are called, through your infinite love and unyielding grace:

  • We are called to be your people.
  • We are called to be one people—one unified Body of Christ
  • We are called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with you.
  • We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
  • We are called to love you with our whole hearts.

Bring us into this moment unfettered by our own egos.

  • Still the voices in our heads that cry out for attention.
  • Voices that say, “Make sure you do this, and don’t forget that.”
  • Voices that say, “What’s in this for me?” or “This is a waste of my time.”
  • Voices that say, “I’m not worthy,” or “I don’t belong.”

Instead,

Make us instruments of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that we may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.*

Lord, in your Mercy, Hear our Prayer.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Below, find the audio of Following Christ: Bearing Fruit, delivered at First Baptist Church of Weaverville, NC, July 10, 2016.

*Prayer of St. Francis
The bridge between peace and forgiveness

The Bridge Between Peace and Forgiveness

peace and forgivenessThe question was always, “What if the bridge is turned?”

You see when I was in my last couple of years of high school, we lived on the other side of a swing bridge that spans the Intercoastal Waterway. My school was less than two miles from home, but because it was on the other side of the bridge, I never knew how long it might take to drive to school. If the bridge was turned to allow large ships to pass, you might wait up to 10 minutes for it to come back around. (These days, there’s a big highway bridge that provides an alternative route from my parents' home to the high school, so the swing bridge is not nearly as big of a problem for travelers as it once was.)

Bridges. They make a real difference in the quality of transportation.

According to the NC Dept of Transportation, NC has about 13,500 bridges. We have all kinds of bridges here. We have bridges made from wood, steel, and concrete. We have highway bridges, street bridges and pedestrian bridges. We have suspension bridges, natural bridges, covered bridges, draw bridges and yes, even swing bridges.

Each year, 9,000 of those are inspected by certified bridge inspectors. And guess what? Roughly 40 percent of our bridges are "considered structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.” Now before you go out and trade your Honda for a hover car, know that NCDOT states that these bridges are safe but will “require significant maintenance to remain in service, and limits on vehicle weights may be required.” The price-tag on the repairs? Upwards of $9.4 billion!

Bridges offer convenience, save us time, and open opportunities to us that would otherwise remain closed, but they require significant effort to build and once they are built, the work is not done. That’s when the ongoing task of maintaining the bridge begins. And that task never ends.

Such is the bridge between forgiveness and peace.

(Want the rest of the sermon? Here's the recording.)

disney world

Thank You #16: My Favorite Mother-in-Law

I started dating my husband in 1985 when I was just 19 years old. I met my future mother-in-law that same year. Her son and I have been married nearly three decades and on April 11, 2016 she celebrated her 80th birthday, a birthday doctors never dreamed she would see. Since the 1960's, she has fought a muscle disease that has transitioned through a number of diagnoses: dermatomyositis, polymyositis, and now muscular dystrophy. Whatever the doctors say, we say she's a miracle. Today's thank you note is to my one and only mother-in-law, Joyce Lawrimore.

A Most Excellent Mother-In-Law
(loosely based on Proverbs 31)

An excellent mother-in-law who can find?
She is far more precious than a screened in porch on a warm summer day.

The heart of her daughter-in-law trusts her, confides in her, and heeds her wisdom.
She supports her daughter-in-law’s vocation, and avocation.
She believes in her daughter-in-law, encourages her, and inspires her.

She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
She does not take sides in conflict, but offers support to those whom she loves.
She knows how to apologize. She does not interfere.
(A rare and valuable example she is among mothers-in-law.)

She suffers medical maladies, but does not complain.
She has searched for a cure, found new treatments, and defied the odds.
She is persistent. She is strong. She is resilient.
Her family takes great pride in her.

Her potato salad is the best in the South.
No other mayo but Duke’s is allowed in her cupboard.
Her pecans are roasted to perfection.
Her fresh tomatoes are served free from their peeling.

She adores her grandchildren, but is not biased.
Her grandchildren are the most beautiful, talented, and wonderful children ever born.
She speaks the truth.

She rises while it is yet night, but refrains from judging her late-to-rise daughter-in-law.
She laughs easily, and sees the humor in painted squirrels running through the park.
Toys sing and dance in her living room.

Her faith sustains her; she is a devoted disciple of Christ Jesus.
She studies Holy Scripture.
She prays without ceasing.
She recognizes God’s voice.
She is obedient.

At God’s direction, she donates her electric organ or takes her family to Disney World.
She opens her hand to the poor; and reaches out her hands to the needy.

Strength and dignity are her clothing. (But multiple blankets keep her warm.)
She laughs at the time to come when she will run up heavenly stairs and feast on divine delights.

Her children and her grandchildren rise up and call her blessed;
her daughter-in-law also, praising God for the blessing of a godly mother-in-law.

“Many Mothers-in-Law have done excellently, but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a Mother-in-Law who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Happy Birthday Joyce! I love you and am so grateful for you!