Musings from a Pastor, Educator, Wife, and Mother





Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Meditation on Creation (Haiku's for daily praise)

While in seminary I had the pleasure of taking a class that was co-taught by two of my favorite professors, Dr. Carson Brisson and Dr. Rebecca Weaver.  The class was called "Writing The Faith" and in it we read various creative texts on religion and spirituality.  From those readings we were to be inspired and given prompts to write creatively on our own.  Right up my alley!  The poem below is an offering from that class.  I've tried to define the Hebrew words that are utilized in the poem, although not as eloquently as Dr. Brisson would have done. He would have given a story for each word!

 
"Sabbath is not for the sake of weekdays but weekdays are for sake of Sabbath. It is not an interlude but the climax of living."--Abraham J. Heshel
 
 
(Sunday)

blessed, hallowed, rested

the Lord claimed that it was Good

honor Elohim[1]!


(Monday)

toh-vu-va-vohu[2]

separating light from dark

Night and Day praise God!


(Tuesday)

Firmament and sea

Adonai[3] called the dome Sky

glory to our Lord!
 

(Wednesday)

soil rose from water

Earth and Sea, vegetation

Creator, we praise!


(Thursday)

Spoke--let there be lights

Sun, Moon, and millions of stars

sing your majesty!


(Friday)

winged fowl, swimming fish

filling the waters and Earth

gracious your bounty!

 

(Saturday)

Remes, Behemoth[4]

in Your image we are raised

Hallelujah Lord!

 



[1] A name frequently used for God in the Hebrew Bible. Elohim (plural of El) the first name used for God in the Old Testament.  “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.”
[2] The Hebrew word for the Chaos out of which God created all things.  “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  
[3] Adonai, a name for God.  Often used together with Elohim.
[4] Remes: Hebrew for the “Creepy-crawly, tiny things that move along the earth. Behemoth: a giant beast. "And God said, let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: livestock, creatures that move along the ground, and wild animals, each according to its kind." 

 


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Movement


May 15, 2016, Pentecost

Gen 11:1-9

Romans 8:14-17

Movement

 

Movement.  In the desert.  A flurry of activity from a cookie-cutter civilization.  Movement toward a common goal.  Build a tower.  Build a grand tower brick by brick to scrape the sky. To stand so high you watch clouds float by.  Movement. Upward mobility, the type of which would bring a great name for a people unto itself.

Movement. In the desert.  The Lord came down. Always down, to meet the people of God’s creation.  The humanity which he brought with the breath of life. The humanity he had named.  They dared to make a name for themselves. Only God names.  Movement.  The Lord scatters the people. God divided their tongues.  No longer one language, no longer one culture, no longer one people.  Movement. Scattered like dry leaves from a strong wind. 

Movement.  Generation after generation the people scattered upon the earth. Divide, then multiply. Then divide again.  All strive to make a name.  All strive to hold their own power.  All strive to be like God. All strive to be favored by God.  And all fail. Until….

Movement.  The Lord came down. Always down, to meet the people of God’s creation.  The humanity in which he had breathed life, the humanity God named--Emmanuel. God with us.  Only God names.  Movement.  Jesus walked among us, gathering the scattered; healing the lame, feeding the hungry, speaking the Word.  All strive to give him names.  Son of Man, Son of God, Messiah, Rabbi.  All strive to give him power. Make him King.  All strive to be like God.  All strive to be favored by God. 

Movement.  A walk to death, a place on the cross. A final breath. A burial. A stone rolled away.  A stranger on the road, a stranger on the beach. A savior, who once was dead and now is alive. Raised to the God who always comes down, to be seated with God at the throne of grace.

Movement.  Shifting eyes and sweaty hands. Feet shuffling on the dusty floor of a cramped room.  Disciples of a Rabbi who had gone ahead of them. The students must become the leaders. When the day of Pentecost had come they were gathered in one place. But that was as far as they’d come.  As far as they could go.  They no longer knew movement.  They were stagnant. Weighed down by the crush of fear. 

Movement.  A strong wind. God’s breath, the very Spirit of God tore through windows, whipping the robes and sashes of the people. People gathered yet scattered. It filled the house.  Divided tongues of fire rested on each head.  Movement.  Once frozen in fear, now thawed.  Filled with the Holy Spirit they knew the words to speak.  They spoke in other languages. And they began to comprehend. Amazed. Astonished. Movement.  God’s people scattered. God’s people gathered.  Children of God. Heirs of God. United with Christ-- brothers and sisters.  Go out. Go out. Go out.  Movement. 

 

 

In his book, “WorldChanging 101,” David LaMotte talks about the difference between a hero narrative and a movement.  Is the arc of history through which we weave the account of Jesus’ ministry a hero narrative or a movement?   A hero is extraordinary. A great person, an extraordinary human encounters a crisis and does something dramatic.[1]  Doesn’t sound unlike Christ does it?  He was extra-ordinary: fully human but also fully divine.  Jesus entered humanity and encountered a crisis of faith and sought to dramatically reclaim and reform the ways in which God’s people understand God’s divine love.  So, Jesus is a hero, what do we do now? We are not heroes, we cannot do the extraordinary.  Let us just wait for Christ to return.  It can’t be long now, he’ll be back.  Surely, when we see the world in crisis: war, poverty, illness, violence: surely the hero will come save us soon.   Let’s just huddle together, here in our safe sanctuary. And wait. 

Except that we can’t.  The triune God did not send the Paraclete, the Advocate, The Holy Spirit to us so that we could sit on our hands and wait!  You see, Jesus’ story is not a hero narrative at all. It’s a movement.  A movement that began when Jesus walked along the shoreline and gathered the twelve. It continued with the tongues of fire dancing over the heads of the first gathered Christians that continues in us today!  I am arguing, as LaMotte does in his book, “that the function of heroes is to inspire others.  And when a lot of people move a little bit, the problems begin to be addressed.” 

If we turn back to our Genesis reading today, the story of the tower at Babel, we find that there wasn’t really anything wrong with the people in the story.  They were multiplying at a great rate.  They were decent folks, nothing indicates otherwise.  But they were also scared.  They didn’t want to become divided, they wanted to be bound together by a common mission, and they wanted to build a fortress of protection, a great city that would give them notoriety.  God saw that if they were forever one people with one language and one culture they would never grow, they would never learn anything new as a homogenous people. They would grow stagnant.   And so, as God willed, God added diversity into the mix.  And ever since we have found humanity in a struggle to understand one another.[2]

Babel has come to represent for people, our individualism and the right to better ourselves.  According to Douglas M. Donley, our own Babel today is “Our First-Worldness, our materialism, our economic and military domination.  Our Babel component is everything that built up the Berlin Wall, The U.S./Mexico wall, the disputes between Pakistan and India,[ the horrors of Isis], the plethora of denominations that seek unity only by throwing others out! Our Babel component is the fact that most Americans can only speak one language and we expect others to learn ours.  We grew addicted to Babel.  We grew up believing that Babel is the God of true spirituality.  Rugged individualism is the stuff of Babel.  Individual thought is the stuff of Babel.”[3]

Donley goes on to express that Babel isn’t all bad.  It is where we gain our cultural diversity, as I believe God desired it. For if there are no words great enough to encompass our God into a neat and tidy box, why should the humanity created in God’s image be any different?  Due to Babel, we get to push outside of our own understandings, if we have an openness to learn.  But Babel can also be that which makes injustices thrive.  Once we became a humanity divided our sinful nature caused us to feel driven to make distinctions between the haves and the have nots.  It made us feel like we could condemn “the other”.  It’s how wars begin.  We tend to look to ourselves rather than God.  And what we end up with is confusion. 

If Babel is a representation of humanities brokenness; of the infinite trials that humans have created in an unwillingness to accept our diversity in God’s image…. Then Pentecost is a snapshot of the opposite.  “The Spirit at Pentecost moved among them and they no longer saw each other as people to be suspicious of, but as fellow children of God.  They had a new freedom, and a chance to be a different kind of community.”[4] Pentecost is the ideal hope that we cling to and should strive to achieve as Christians. Note: it doesn’t say the Spirit moved among them and made them all think and feel the same way. But they saw each other and heard each other.  The gift of the Holy Spirit is what binds us together, what breathes new life into us, and emboldens us to go forth from the safety of our polished pews into the world.  Pentecost is that which gives us the individual flames of our faith that together can become a raging fire.

As Bob Fiedler would so often say, “Here’s what I’m thinkin’.”  I believe that the Holy Spirit was given to dwell in us so that the Bible would not simply be a book of myths and legends from long ago with no impact on our lives today.  I believe that often times we long for the Hero Narrative of Jesus.  The one where we imagine he will come back and clean up this mess we have made because we didn’t want to accept that all of humanity is in God’s image.  I believe that even though the Spirit of God dwells in us, we keep it as a low-burning ember, locked deep inside our souls because we love the power-- the Babel Tower--more than we love one another.  That is the brokenness of humanity that the Bible reveals to us time and time again. Maybe that’s why we don’t long to drink of the word deeply.  Maybe that’s why we don’t find lifelong learning to be a necessary component of our faith journey. Maybe this is why the word Evangelism terrifies us. The thought of sharing the story of our own faith with another person would require accepting that Jesus is not the only one called to enact change. We have to have a story too.  Because it’s tough to accept that the Bible is not a Hero Narrative but rather the cornerstone of a movement. 

As David LaMotte so eloquently writes, “If we cling to the myth that large scale change is effected by dramatic heroic actions, we risk missing opportunities for real impact.  As it turns out, movements are more effective than heroes.  And movements don’t need a lot of leaders; they need lots of participants.  In the end, the real power lies with us: normal people making small decisions to engage.”[5]

On this Pentecost Sunday I am asking you how you will engage?  This is the part of the sermon where I usually pat you on the back and tell you all the good things you are doing.  But I’m not going there this time.  Because the Holy Spirit wasn’t a gentle breeze blowing through a comfortable sanctuary scented with flowers and the warm glow of candles.  The Holy Spirit was like a tornado, a mighty, rushing, wind.  It blew the people back.  It stirred the air around them.  It caused the hair to raise on the back of their necks.  It made them edgy and uncomfortable.  The Holy Spirit didn’t make the mission of the people gathered easier.  It made it harder.  Where is your conviction?  What kind of movement is God demanding of YOU as a proclaimed follower of Christ?  I can’t tell you exactly what it is. But I can tell you what it’s not.

  It is not okay to let our world be overrun by hatred.  And it is not okay to throw a blanket over all people of Islam (or any religion) because it’s too difficult to try to understand the true meaning of their religion. It’s not okay to dismiss other cultures because it runs contrary to your own. It’s not okay to fight violence with violence.  It’s not okay to say my voice doesn’t matter so I will say nothing instead. It’s not okay to close doors in the faces of others because we cannot agree on a definition of love.  We need dialogue, not denunciation. It’s not okay to allow citizens to be hungry and homeless. It’s not okay to turn a blind eye because it’s not in our zip code. It’s not okay to let innocent children experience violence in their homes or empty plates at their tables.  And it’s not okay to assume that the only reason that happens in our society today is because their parents are drug addicts or deadbeats who cannot hold a job and self-righteously proclaim they’ve done it to themselves.  Just like it’s not okay to be brushed off as an upper-middle class congregation who focus only on their own busy lives, folded into ourselves.  We would hate that description of our families, of Covenant.  But, to be outside of something, looking in, it is easy to judge.   Do you see the dangers of choosing not to learn, not to understand those things which make us different from one another? Every time we allow ourselves to be overcome by indifference or ignorance we demonstrate to our children and grandchildren that the faith we hold in Jesus Christ who commanded us to LOVE—is null and void.  Our God whose character cannot be described fully in any language because She is too deep and too wide created us in Her own image.  Thus we are not made to be identical.  God believed in God’s creation enough to allow us different languages, different cultures, with inquiring minds, so that we might, by valuing the varieties in our humanity, learn to see God in one another and experience God more deeply than we would otherwise.

The truth is that we are both Babel people and Pentecost people.  To be inheritors of God’s grace, to be children of God, means that we are called to the mission of God just as Christ was.  A people called. Called to spread the good news of grace.  Called to attend to the people of every nation, every situation. Go out. Go out. Go out.  Movement.

 

 

 

 






[1] David LaMotte “WorldChanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness”, (Montreat: Dryad Publishing, 2014)


[2] Bartlett & Taylor, Eds.  “Feasting on the Word” (Louisville: WJK Press, 2010)


[3] Bartlett & Taylor, Eds.  “Feasting on the Word” (Louisville: WJK Press, 2010)


[4] Bartlett & Taylor, Eds.  “Feasting on the Word” (Louisville: WJK Press, 2010)


[5] David LaMotte “WorldChanging 101: Challenging the Myth of Powerlessness”, (Montreat: Dryad Publishing, 2014)

Friday, May 13, 2016

Pentecost


The flame--

at the core of you,

it flickers, dances.

Ignites and invites.

 

Holy fire--

fed by God’s own breath.

Burning, churning, yearning:

it calls from within.

 

Kindled Spirit—

spreads its warmth.

It sparks, grows.

Engulfs and refines.

 

 

Loren Kemper Tate Mitchell

May 13, 2016

Friday, May 6, 2016

Fresh Wineskins: A Challenge for Continuing Education

It has been about a month since my last blog post, which saddens me greatly.  But, it does mean that I have been busy fulfilling this great calling to ministry in other ways! What I have been thinking about a great deal, and recommitting my efforts to, is that of Continuing Education.

36 Jesus also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and sews it on an old garment; otherwise the new will be torn, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39
--Luke 5:36-38

In the passage referenced above, Jesus declares that the kingdom he is ushering in is greater than any other before it.  What Christ was teaching was brand new, it was radical.  Jesus' ministry and teachings are built upon the foundations created by the prophets that came before him but his teachings cannot, and will not, conform to the traditional patterns of the law and piety that have previously occurred. 

In Jesus' time, goatskins were used to hold wine.  As fresh grape juice was fermented within the skins, the wine would expand and thus the new wineskin, which was pliable, would stretch.  However, a used wineskin, that had already been stretched would break.  A challenge for us as Christians, particularly when it comes to congregational life, is to be ready for new skins and new wine.  We love our traditions, familiarity and comfort are paramount.  Thus, we often fight to preserve our old wineskins.  You might argue that aged wines are more delectable than new wines.  Fair enough.  But, what happens when you've used up all of your portion?  What happens when the supply from which you draw becomes soured over time?  You cannot simply begin to pour all of your new wine into the vessels as they currently sit.  No, you must be at the ready with new skins to accommodate the new wine. 

An important commitment for leaders in ministry--whether for pastors, educators, youth directors, chaplains, elders, deacons-- is continuing education.  In the same way that you would want your physician to be up to date on the most current medical procedures, you want your spiritual leaders to be open to deeper study of the Scriptures and learning new ways to engage in ministry.   I like to think that as church leaders, our time spent in Continuing Education--whether away at a conference, or reading the books in our libraries--helps us to let go of the old and be remolded into new wineskins.  It renews our spirits and refreshes us that we might be vessels of Christ's good news! The education that we receive is then fermented into nourishment for those around us who thirst in their lives. 

I can certainly do a better job of engaging in continuing education.  It is difficult for me to travel very far for a long period of time and leave my young family behind. But I can certainly continue to read and share in thoughtful dialogue with my peers.   Because you see, I find that we can never know all there is to know about God.  So, lifelong learning is a really important part of being a Christian.  I desire for my congregation to embrace this truth.  I hope each of them will engage learning more about our faith in a way that is meaningful to their spiritual journey.  As I ask this of them, I commit to doing the same.    I don't want to become old and stale.  The present culture in which we reside demands that we open ourselves up to new experiences. I don't want to break under the pressures of a changing world, I want to be strong enough to stretch and grow with it. I want that for my faith. I want that for my Church.  I want to take every opportunity presented to me to experience the new things God is doing in my life, my community, and the world.  What about you?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mary's Jar

Mary's Jar
 
 
His shadow fell across the doorway; calmness seemed to settle on the air. As the men took their seats around the table and began to converse, I wiped my sweaty palms on my shroud and retrieved from a dusty corner the jar I had been saving.  I knelt beneath the table without words.  Though his feet were covered with flecks of golden soil, his skin had been smoothed by the coarse sand.  There in the dusk light I opened the jar of nard and its bittersweet scent filled the stifling air.  I poured the contents over my Lord's feet; wiping the grime from between his toes; scouring the sand from his heels; rubbing his toenails to shine.  Bowing before him I let down my auburn hair and wiped clean the dampness on his skin.  Then, never looking into his eyes, ashamed for the tears in my own, I arose. 
 
 
 
 
Loren Tate Mitchell
2/3/08

Thursday, March 3, 2016

From Volunteer to Disciple


Today the staff members of Covenant prepared and hosted a luncheon in honor of our volunteers who aid us in major weekly and seasonal functions of the church.  We had representation from the counters of the offering, the holy-days decorating leadership, folks who maintain the music library, and front desk volunteers who answer phones, greet guests, and get caught doing all sorts of odd jobs for us! Without these individuals many things that seemingly "just happen" would fall into chaos or simply not be done.  We are so very blessed to have them. 

Having an interim minister brings a very different dynamic into the church.  In both staff and congregational responsibilities there is much work to be done. Having an interim pastor means that we have another person who is able to help us step back and reflect on who we are.   That is not to say we are unhealthy or completely dysfunctional as a church, but rather it is to say, we can strive to improve in many ways.  We can breathe new life into this Body of Christ. 


One of the things we have begun to talk about as a staff and also in conversations with elders and deacons is how we empower our congregation to take ownership of the ministries of the church.  Again, we already have a lot of involvement from membership in so many aspects of Covenant's life. But how can we strengthen our efforts?  How can we become a more cohesive, vital, reflection of Christ to one another and to the community?  It may help us if we can shift our thought processes and our language about ministry from volunteer to disciple.  

 

vol·un·teer

ˌvälənˈtir/

noun

noun: volunteer; plural noun: volunteers

1. a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.


I do not wish to diminish the spirit of volunteerism.  To freely offer oneself in an effort to aid another individual or group when work is to be done or help is needed is a wonderful thing.  A volunteer donates of their own time, talents, and resources to the benefit of others. With that basic definition, it works.  However, I wonder if our language has not become so saturated with the idea of volunteerism that it somehow falls flat? It is a term used secularly for all manner of organizations. It runs the gamut of volunteering to be the carpool parent for a week to being a volunteer firefighter (two very different tasks might I add).  Our children are encouraged to volunteer as part of their extra-curricular activities, sometimes ad-nauseam because it will look so good on their college applications! Ah, we've stumbled upon something.  How fine is the line between volunteering for the sheer benefit of another person and doing it for your own self-benefit or even self-worth?  Does it matter?   Or, when does volunteerism become  an obligation? Are you pressed into service because you think it is what you ought to do, or because you wonder how others might perceive you if you don't volunteer?  When your time is already so limited, does the church become a burden on you because you are often encouraged (hopefully not badgered) to do something? 

 

I am wondering if, in the church, perhaps the idea of being a volunteer needs to be taken a bit further.  We aren't called upon to be volunteers for Christ.  No, we are followers of Christ, we are disciples.  

 

 dis·ci·ple

dəˈsīpəl/

noun

noun: disciple; plural noun: disciples

1.      a personal follower of Jesus during his life, especially one of the twelve Apostles.


 
 
In the gospel of Luke Chapter 9, we have the well known story of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  It is the end of a long day of teaching and a crowd of people have gathered in the countryside to hear Jesus.  The disciples approach him and say, "Rabbi, let's wrap this day up and send these folks on their way."  Jesus says, "You feed them."  In astonishment they reply, "Lord, we have only five little loaves of bread and two pitiful fish, what shall we do, walk into the nearest village and shop for this mob in the marketplace?" Jesus tells them, "You make the people sit down." And so they gathered the crowd into groups of about 50.  Let us be reminded here that the gospel tells us there were 5,000 men. It does not count the number of women and children also likely in attendance.   Jesus took the bread and the fish, blessed and divided it and said to the disciples, "You, distribute the food." Everyone ate their fill.  In fact, 12 baskets of extra food were collected when all was said and done.  Twelve, the number for fulfillment.  Jesus Christ had completely fulfilled, in the sight of thousands of witnesses, the very message that he was preaching.  And he did so using the hands, the feet, the bodies of his disciples.
 
 

 
Jesus' disciples were honored to follow in his footsteps.  He was their beloved teacher and by being invited to be his students they were truly in training to be teachers just like him.  In all things they were learning to serve with a Christ-like heart.  Today, as Christians, we are also disciples. We are called as well.  Jesus said, "Come, follow me, and I will make you fish for people."  In the story from Luke we see that Jesus empowers his disciples to minister to the people gathered there.  It may have been easier for Jesus to simply do all the work himself, to make food simply appear in the hands of the people gathered, rather than argue with the disciples. (Sometimes Pastors, and DCE's, and Youth Directors, think it is easier to do it all themselves too, but nothing just appears, it takes a lot of work and forethought).   But, Jesus knows that he has to teach his followers by empowering them to serve. He directs them, "You feed them. You settle the people down and give instruction. You deliver the needed goods to them."  Jesus relied on God to provide the necessary provisions. But Jesus relied on the disciples to carry out the mission. 


 When calling the disciples, Jesus didn't say, "This will be so easy, you barely have to do anything, just come and give me two hours of your time."  Jesus didn't say, "Hey, this will look really good the next time you go in for an interview."  In fact he says, "drop everything, take up the cross, and follow me." Discipleship is, to my mind, a response to an invitation of Jesus.  To utilize the gifts given to me in an authentic way to further the gospel message in a broken world.  It is a change of mindset to consider that opportunities --not obligations-- for service arise in the church (and community). There are special tasks to which an individual or group of people will feel led by the Holy Spirit to engage in to keep the congregation active and evolving.  Instead of dreading the phone call from a fellow church member to serve on a committee or tune out an announcement for a mission opportunity to sign up for, prayerfully consider how you can best be of service to the Lord through the ministries of your church. What are you being called to do as a disciple?

 

An honor to be called by Christ. And a joy to follow in The Way.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What's The Deal With Natural Disasters?

Wow, we've had some really bizarre weather patterns as of late!  In the last 24 hours I've seen torrential rain and thunderstorms, sunshine and double rainbows, violent wind gusts, tornadoes, and snow flurries.  Sometimes you have to wonder just what God is doing up there! I think his weather machine is out of whack. ;)

In all seriousness though, when I heard that a tornado had touched down in Appomattox County yesterday afternoon, my heart immediately sank as I reached out to my beloved friends in that community to find out if folks were safe.  I am thankful that they have met no bodily harm and that for those whom I know personally, damage can be repaired.  But not everyone faired so well, life was lost, homes destroyed, tangible memories ripped from people's possession forever.  It is good today to hear of the clean up work that is taking place. It is good to hear of people coming together as a community to support one another (as the people of Appomattox have always done in times of heartbreak) with water and supplies, with makeshift shelters, with the support of prayers.  The power may be out, the town may be literally sitting in the dark, but a great light shines in their collective spirit. 

We often beg the question: Why do bad things happen to good people?  Or to phrase the question as Donald McKim does in his book Presbyterian Questions, Presbyterian Answers, "Does God will evil and suffering in the world and in our lives?" 

As Presbyterians we believe (or are taught theologically) that God is Good and that all which God creates is good.  In Genesis 1:31 we are told "God saw everything that God had made and indeed, it was all very good."  1 Timothy 4:4 says, "For everything created by God is good."  

In simple terms "evil" is what opposes God.  We use the term evil in multiple ways, to describe groups or individuals that are in opposition of God's purposes.  For an example of what God's purposes are we can look to Christ, who is described as the "image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation" in Colossians 1:15.  What we are questioning today is "natural evil".  Natural evil are those things that occur in creation which bring tragedy and devastation to the human experience.   

We do not believe that God's wills evil or that God wills suffering to happen in the world.  We do believe, however, that God can use such situations for the ultimate good.  That is to say, God did not send a tornado through Evergreen, Virginia yesterday to bring a small community to their knees in repentance for a sinful life.  Such a tragedy is not the result of any immorality on the part of humankind.  It was not God working through nature to create a tool of punishment in any way shape or form.  Nor is any other natural disaster used for that purpose in any other place in the world (remember Haiti...Katrina...Joplin). It is just what we are calling it... a natural occurrence in creation. However, God is already using it for the good, as is being witnessed by organizations and individuals who are coming forward to show love and compassion to their neighbors in a time of great need. 

As Don McKim writes, "We do not know reasons for evil or suffering.  What we do believe by faith is that God will be with us in the midst of our sufferings and that God's grace and power of love will enable us to endure, even in the 'darkest valley' (Ps. 23:4). So we are sustained.  We believe God can use the evil and sufferings we encounter and do within us, 'far more than all we can ask or imagine' (Eph. 3:20).  This is our comfort and our hope."

I hope you will join me in prayer for this little community in the heart of Virginia that has in the past few years had far more than its share of tragedy and grief.  But do not feel pity or sorrow for them, they would not want that.  From my few years living within the community I feel that the citizens that make up Appomattox and Evergreen, they would welcome your prayers, they would appreciate your assistance, but they would foremost want you to know their strength.  Not only their physical strength as a community, but their spiritual strength as well.  

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God."
--2 Corinthians 1:3-4